The SLENZ Update – No 94, June 2, 2009

Yes Mildred, MUVEs do pay their way …

Another take  on  the  real value

of immersive technologies

Thinkbalmcover

Just what is the business value or ROI (Return on Investment) of using immersive technologies in the marketplace?

It’s not a question that would immediately spring to the mind of most educators and academics  but the answer to it will determine just how great the success or otherwise of the  burgeoning  virtual world environment  will be and  whether it is a flash in the pan like Videotex and Betamax  video cassette recorders  or a platform for the future.

Two highly skilled credible researchers in the immersive field, Erica (right) and Sam Driver (lower right), of ThinkBalm, have just endeavoured to answer the question in a survey of  66 organisations, including Microsoft, IBM, BP, BAE,  and government and non-government organisations, focusing on the value to businesses of adopting immersive internet technologies or virtual world environments.

Their detailed 36-page report, ‘Immersive Internet Business Value Study 2009’,  should give heart to promoters of the value of immersive worlds – although the critics will again be dismissive. It is available here for free download.DriverErica

They point out, however, that not everyone who’s been implementing immersive technology in the workplace can — or even expects to — quantify the business value of the investments they’ve made so far.

But, that  said, various data points collected via survey and interviews indicated that investments in immersive technologies in the workplace are yielding value.

“As just one example, BP expects to deliver tens of millions USD in business value from its investments in immersive technology,” they said. “The company has already recouped the cost of many of the Immersive Internet investments it made in 2008 and 1Q 2009, according to Brian Ralphs, a director in the IT chief technology office.”

They found that more than 40 percent of those surveyed (26 of 66) saw a positive total economic benefit from investments in immersive technologies in 2008 and first quarter 2009, and more than 50 percent of respondents (34 of 65) expected to obtain a positive total economic benefit in 2009.

“Quantification of this value was all over the map, ranging from less than US$10,000 to more than US$1 million,” they said. “The number of respondents who expect to obtain economic benefit of US$25,000  or more in 2009 is more than double the number who indicated they achieved this level for 2008 / 1Q 2009. “

On the other side of the coin they found though that many who had been implementing immersive technology in the workplace did not expect to achieve a return on their investment.

Other key findings included:

  • 94 percent of those surveyed reported some level of success  (” or feels like a success”).
  • 74 percent said they would or might expand their investment this year or next while almost  30 percent of survey respondents (19 of 66) said their organisation recouped their investment in immersive technologies in less than nine months.
  • Learning/training (80 percent, 53 of 66) and meetings (76 percent or 50 of 66) were the most prevalent uses.
  • The top motivation for preferring immersive technology over alternatives were enabling people in disparate locations to spend time together, increased innovation, and cost savings or avoidance of costs.DriverSam
  • Biggest benefit – enabling people in disparate locations to spend time together, followed by opportunity to show innovation and cost saving
  • Immersive technology won out over a variety of alternatives primarily due to low cost and the increased engagement it delivered. The level of engagement meant that “Immersive meetings are more like real meetings than they are like web conferences”.  The leading alternatives were Web conferencing and in-person meetings, followed by phone calls.
  • Work-related use of the Immersive Internet is in the early adopter phase. Before it can pass into the early majority phase, practitioners and the technology vendors who serve them must “cross the chasm.” The most common barriers to adoption are target users having inadequate hardware, corporate security restrictions, and getting users interested in the technology.

Erica Driver, a co-founder and principal at ThinkBalm,  is a leading US industry analyst and consultant with 15 years of experience in the IT sector. She is quoted in mainstream and industry trade press including the Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CIO, and Computerworld. The other co-founder, Sam Driver, is an inventor and entrepreneur whose take on the Immersive Internet is heavily influenced by science, game theory, and science fiction. At the University of Massachusetts Medical School, he was part of a team that discovered RNA interference (RNAi) which was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. He founded Qik Technology to develop intellectual property (IP) holdings in functional genomics as well as Evil Minions Games, an IP and product development company.

The SLENZ Update – No 73 , April 29, 2009

SL:  import-export with ‘SLENZ Shuffle’

The new ‘Arfur Daley’?

slenzshuffle_004

Import-export “expert” bot, SLENZ Shuffle, with creator, Toddles Lightworker

SLENZ Shuffle? Well he might not be the new “Arfur Daley” (of TV Minder fame) but it looks like he might be able to do a good job in the virtual world import-export business.slenz-shippingnode1

He has already successfully “shifted: the lower floor of the  Foundation build on Kowhai, in Second Life, to one of Nelson Marlborough Institute 0f  Technology’s regions on a node on the ONGENS OpenSimulator, set up by Otago and Canterbury  Universities, in the SouthIsland of New Zealand.

A creation of WelTec’s Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker), a  SLENZ developer, he can only export-import an object’s textures and prims, including mega-prims and sculpties, rather than scripts, at the present time but, according to Cochrane (pictured left), it  should be possible “to drop stuff onto an object which wakes up our robot avatar. “

“The robot then exports the objects and with the help of in-world script other items,” he said, pointing to the SLENZ shipping node (right). “Eventually we could get the robot to logout and then login to ONGENS and complete the transfer.

“At present the object wakes up our robot and under the right conditions it exports the object … I’m using the same avatar name in both universes.”

The robot is being developed as part of the SLENZ Project to ensure all project builds and other elements created by the SLENZ team can be  backed up outside Second Life as SLENZ-owned IP.

img_0501The team has  previously trialled other “back-up” methods but found them not to be suitable for the SLENZ needs, mainly because the IP is held in another organisation’s storage.

Cochrane stressed that SLENZ Shuffle could not be used to export IP  developed/owned by Second Life, Linden Labs and other Second Life developers and residents.

Cochrane also pointed out that the creation of the import-export facility is not unique, it is an extended version the existing OpenMetaverse code.

And for example IBM has already done something similar as well, teleporting avatars led by Second Life’s Zha Ewry RL: David Levine) between Second Life and OpenSim.

WelTec currently is running two regions in the WelTec Virtual Lab, and at the Petone Campus, as part of the Weltec programme to trial a varietyof virtual worlds for education under a variety of conditions.

Cochrane  is currently considering allocating space in Weltec’s ONGENS regions for Human Computer Interaction students doing Interaction Design projects.
“Having our own node means we are contributing to the New Zealand Virtual Worlds grid.” Todd said.

The node is currently on WelTec’s 3D server, deep.weltec.ac.nz, but may eventually be connected through KAREN, New Zealand’s tertiary institution high-speed Broadband link.

The SLENZ Update – No 65, April 8, 2009

Coming to a screen near you

Another Second Life may live behind firewall at your work

ibm_002

IBM in Second Life … now trialling stand-alone Second Life

Business and sometimes academic administrators’ worries about the lack of security of intellectual property within Second Life  appear to be about to be put to rest by Linden Labs with the announcement that  the stand-alone version of Second Life solution is currently in the alpha phase.

The Lindens have announced that they already have nine alpha installations in the field in organisations such as IBM, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), New Media Consortium (NMC), Intel, and Northrop Grumman and are planning to go into a limited closed beta phase this summer with general availability later this year.

The server solution is completely disconnected from the main Second Life environment but includes all Second Life’s rich functionality in the box.

There is no word yet about interoperability, but if it is possible to securely TP from Second Life main grid, behind the firewall for a specific task or work, such as prototyping, internal confidential conferences, seminars and work meetings, as well as private training, the new set up, depending on  that magic  word “cost” could prove a boon for Virtual World adoption, giving  enterprises the best of all worlds.

The Linden decision was based on the fact that enterprises, governments, and educational institutions  have consistentlycommented over the years that although they see tremendous promise in virtual worlds and the Second Life environment they could not incorporate  the core of their business into a virtual world unless they could do it behind a firewall.

Some of the most interesting comments/questions on the move have come from Lowell Cremorne in the Australian-based  Metaverse Journal.

He sees the key implications as being the minimisation of  key security and intellectual property issues,  and as being another nail in the mirror world – eg Twinity et al – coffin.

The SLENZ Update – No 59, March 21, 2009

SL training & orientation

Business meetings: a lesson for teachers?

tpma1_003

The experience gained from doing business and holding business meetings in Second Life are sometimes denigrated by academics as not being applicable to the education or learning situation.

However, the recently published IBM case study demonstrated  that  internal meetings  work well within Second Life  while  the work of  Trade Promotion Management Associates (TPMA) has shown  that  even “complete newbies”  from around the world   and a variety of enterprises can have a worthwhile experience on a first time visit to Second Life, if that visit is properly managed.

Amanda Linden, after noting in  her Linden blog that the technical, cultural, and usability challenges faced by the TPMA “brownbag event” had the potential to wreck the  160-avatar/participant Second Life  conference last month,  said it went off without a hitch due largely to the work of Grondstedt Group, TPMA’s in-world partner.

The key to the success? Proper orientation and training.

Grondstedt, Amanda Linden said,  had led all participants – from  manufacturing, retail, and industry analyst firms – through a 30-minute training session and all speakers and exhibitors through a 60-minute training session to ensure that when the conference day arrived, everyone was ready to walk, talk, text chat, and participate in this new virtual event experience.
Her three-question interview with Diane M. Berry (pictured), the CEO of  TPMA, detailed just how valuable  The Gronstedt Group’s  technical experience and know-how, MUVE training, Second Life beach-themed island ownership and  building skills had been.berry-diana-m

The Gronstedt Group, Berry said, had removed all of the technically challenging aspects even though on the non-technical side there was still a lack of knowledge and awareness of Second L ifewhich created a “bit of a hurdle for  speakers and sponsors.

She added, however, that the TPMA meeting had been more productive than any virtual conference that the Vendor Compliance Federation and TPMA had attended or run, including webinars, because “it is such an immersive experience; attendees have the responsibility of responding to their avatar’s surroundings, including other individuals, so there is some “social pressure” to pay attention.

“The entire experience approaches the value of an in-person meeting,” she said, but added, “there really is no substitute for developing relationships through in-person, shared experiences, and I believe these must be mixed into every organisation’s marketing program.”

According to Virtual World News, Gronstedt  estimated the industry savings from the free event  to be more than US$200,000, made up through the elimation of  hotel costs, flights, and other expenses. There also was a considerable time saving involved, despite the need for training.

After holding the IBM Academy of Technology Virtual World Conference and the Annual General Meeting in a secure environment in Second Life, Joanne Martin, president of the academy, said, “The meeting in Second Life was everything that you could do at a traditional conference -and more-at one fifth the cost and without a single case of jet lag.”

The  200 plus IBM participants were offered pre-conference training on the basics of Second Life to make them comfortable communicating and navigating within the environment.

IBM estimated the ROI for the Virtual World Conference was roughly US$320,000 and that the Annual Meeting was executed  at one-fifth the cost of a real world event.
“IBM has been making a significant investment in VWs now for two years. …. it’s time to take it from research to reality, ” Karen Keeter, an IBM marketing executive, said.

But there are risks …

 

Nick Wilson (pictured), of Clever Zebra, has also weighed in on  “why Second Life rocks meetings” but he has also delivered a note of caution about the “very real risks associated with Second Life events and virtual events in general” suggesting ways  one can mitigate virtual worlds risks in “why Second Life sucks for meetings.

Clever Zebra was the first company to hold a large-scale public business event in Second Life and to date is the only group to have successfully run a “tri-reality” event together with IBM and Cornell University.

On the upside, besides slashing meeting budgets,  Wilson lists ease of building, functionality, flexibility and other attractive features of the Second Life meeting environment  which means “putting together elaborate, engaging and highly productive event environments is much, much cheaper than other platforms.”wilsonnick21

But on the downside he suggests everyone planning to hold an event in Second Life  – a meeting or a class – should ask:

  • Are you prepared to have all of your guests logged out of your event, and dumped into a public “welcome area” when they try to log back in? This actually happened to us during a seminar we were giving to paying clients. Needless to say it was not the best experience for anyone.
  • What are you going to do if logins are disabled while engineers try to fix the problem that’s caused all of your guests to be logged out? What if they can’t login for an hour or two, will they come back and participate hours after your scheduled start time?
  • Will your speakers (students/teachers?) busy schedules allow them to hang around waiting for normal service to resume?
  • How will such a disruption reflect on your organisation? Is telling your guests (students/teachers) it’s not your fault good enough?
  • How will such disruption affect the future of your virtual events (classroom?) project?
  • How will it affect your career?

Although directed at business these also are all worthwhile questions for the academic teacher/facilitator. You possibly ignore them at your peril.

 

The SLENZ Update – No 52, March 6, 2009

IBM makes face-to-face

easier with Sametime 3D

Sametime 3D demo

IBM is expediting the “marriage” between “virtual world” Web sites, and “unified communications and collaboration tools” — technology that links such things as voicemail, audible chat, and instant messaging – allowing  geographically  widely dispersed meeting-goers to teleport themselves from instant message chats to virtual conference rooms (http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Ibm-NYSE-IBM-957273.html)

Big Blue announced this week that it now allowing selected clients to test Sametime 3D, a new tool which allows business colleagues not only to exchange instant messages and chat verbally, but also share presentations and ideas in private, prefabricated, reusable meeting spaces located in a variety of virtual worlds. These spaces allow participants to, literally, throw ideas on the wall during a meeting to “see what sticks,” and to vote on, organise, and save the most promising proposals. Avatars can make presentations to one another, socialise, debate, or, literally, examine ideas and 3D objects from all angles.

Along with the new software tool IBM is providing several, secure reusable meeting spaces, including a theater-style amphitheatre, a boardroom and a collaboration space which can each be used for impromptu or scheduled brainstorming sessions, status updates, town hall-style meetings, rehearsals, training classes, and more.

“This project is part of IBM’s ongoing work to redefine the nature of online meetings,” Colin Parris, IBM’s vice president for Industry Solutions and Emerging Business, said “The work that takes place during a meeting is hard enough; people shouldn’t have to struggle with logistics. Whether through improvements to Web conferencing capabilities or with special offerings such as Sametime 3D, IBM is offering new ways to engage and collaborate, making meetings more effective and productive.”

The new software overcomes several challenges that have existed for businesses wishing to hold meetings in virtual worlds: First, businesses can collaborate the way in which they are accustomed, using software they may already have, such as electronic presentations, enterprise security, and instant messaging tools. Second, IBM has prefabricated a variety of re-useable spaces specifically designed for productive meetings, making it unnecessary for adopters to painstakingly build meeting rooms each time they want to meet. Third, these spaces are secure, overcoming privacy concerns manifest in many public areas of popular virtual worlds. And finally, colleagues not wishing to participate in a given virtual meeting can still view documents, presentations and results from those sessions — or even snapshots of a previous meeting.

In the future, the software will provide a variety of ways for participants to circulate reports to one another that document the meetings’ progress. IBM will also make it easier for users to chat verbally and exchange information generated by and for virtual meetings, with traditional computer software already installed on their computers and servers.

The new software, which may be made available by the second half of 2009, uses version 8.0 of IBM Lotus Sametime, and a plug-in designed by IBM Research for virtual worlds. When the software is developed fully, clients will be able to use it to connect any number of virtual worlds, such as OpenSim or Second Life.

EVENT

joykay1

Sunday 8 March – NZST time, 4 pm;  AEST time, 2pm, SL time 7pm, Saturday, 7 March: The Islands of  jokaydia’s Community of Practice’s  monthly Mini Unconference  at joykadia Castle will feature:  Annabel Recreant and Konrad March, updating their work on the Virtual Classroom Project (http://jokaydia.wikispaces.com/vcp09 ); Launch of the Annual jokaydia Community Photo Comp;  Skribe Forti, an Australian expert on machinima and video production for the web,  on Video in a Web 2.0 World;  and a visit to Al Lurton’s latest exhibition over at the Kelly Yap Gallery. (Slurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/jokaydia%20Waters/76/126/44) Further details:  joannamkay@gmail.com.

The SLENZ Update – No 38, January 12, 2009

Full SL instruction ‘pays’

Post-secondary school instructors who conduct classes fully in Second Life are significantly more satisfied than those who use Second Life as only a small supplement to a real-world classes, according to an international research project  from the  University of Florida, reported in the Winter 2009 edition of the International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences.

westbowersWith respondents from 15 countries and 25 academic disciplines, the research paper, “Assessing the Value of Virtual Worlds for Post-Secondary Instructors: A Survey of Innovators, Early Adopters and the Early Majority in Second Life, was done by PhD student West Bowers (K. Westmoreland Bowers, pictured)  Matthew W. Ragas and Jeffrey C. Neely, of the University of Florida’s  College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

The purpose of this study was to assess the value of Second Life among post-secondary instructors with experience using Second Life as an educational tool. Using Everett Rogers’s diffusion of innovations theory, survey respondents (N = 162), were divided into three adopter categories: innovators, early adopters and the early majority.

The number of respondents from different countries and disciplines, the authors said, indicated the considerable potential  virtual worlds,  such as Second Life, had to be adopted across many different borders and in many areas of academe.

The authors said no significant differences had been  found in the instructors’ levels of satisfaction with Second Life as an educational tool or their perceived effect on student learning across adopter categories even though instructors who conducted classes fully in Second Life were significantly more satisfied than those who used Second Life as only a small supplement to a real-world class.

“Overall, personal interest factors, rather than interpersonal communication factors, most influenced respondents’ decision to adopt Second Life as an educational tool,”  the authors said.

It appeared from the research that the instructors, despite their adopter category, found using Second Life in their curricula to be both satisfying and as having a positive impact on student learning.

“This bodes well for further diffusion and adoption of Second Life or a similar kind of virtual world program as an educational tool,”the authors said. “This is consistent with the fact that a commanding 93.8% of respondents reported they intend to use Second Life as an educational tool again.”

Respondents also had indicated that the more Second Life was integrated into the class structure, the more satisfied they were with it. they said.  Specifically, instructors who conducted classes fully in Second Life were significantly more satisfied than those who used Second Life as only a small supplement to real-world classes. For administrators and instructors considering using Second Life as an educational tool, these results indicated that a fully immersive Second Life experience, rather than isolated experimentation, could be the most rewarding.

The paper goes on to discuss the theoretical implications  of the findings and provides practical advice/suggestions.(For full paper:  http://www.waset.org/ijhss/v3/v3-1-5.pdf)

‘Real’ in WoW is really real

golubalex11Resto Shaman (Alex Golub) in WoW
(Picture WoWInsider.com)

Through studying the MMORPG, World of Warcraft, and other virtual worlds  social scientists have come to realise that “real” and “in the same room” are just not the same thing, according to Alex Golub, a Professor within the Faculty of Anthropology at the University of Hawaii.

Golub, who has previously done “immersive” anthropological research with  the people of Papua New Guinea, similar to that done early last century by Bronislaw Malinowski, has been using the same techniques to study the  culture of raiding in WoW.

“My unique angle is that I am doing anthropological fieldwork in WoW, living and playing with a raiding guild and putting in 20+ hours a week keeping them healed and decursed,”  he told WoWInsider’s Lisa Poisso in a recent interview.
With his main research themes “American cultures of self-control, efficiency, masculinity and success amongst players of WoW,” he said, he is studying how guys behave badly in Vent, and how/why people become emo and/or talk about why other people are emo.

“I’m interested in how you get a group of 25 people to keep calm and collected as they try to do something really emotionally important to them, which requires relying on other people when its difficult to see them face-to-face,” he said.

“… everyone in my (WoW) guild knows each other in “real life,” because real doesn’t mean “physical world” – it means “things that people care about,” or as an anthropologist, I’d say, “things that people in a culture care about,”  he said.  “There is a guy in my guild who works in a cheese factory, turning over 90-pound blocks of cheese all day. I bet I know him better than he knows the guys in the control room measuring cheese temperatures or whatever, even if he sees them every day.”

He expects to publish  a book 0n the culture of raiding in WoW in  2010. ( Full interview: http://www.wowinsider.com/2009/01/06/15-minutes-of-fame-anthropologist-digs-into-wow/

In SL the blind may ‘see’

slblind

It may come as a suprise but IBM is developing a prototype Virtual Worlds User Interface for the Blind.   The prototype “accessible rich Internet application” (ARIA)  gives blind users the ability to participate in many virtual world activities.

According to IBM the interface provides basic navigation, communication, and perception functions using GUI (graphical user interface) elements that are familiar to blind computer users.

As a way of enriching the virtual environment with descriptive semantic information, sighted users contribute annotations of virtual objects and places using a scripted gadget equipped by their avatar. These annotations are then made available to the blind users through the special user interface.

Although this interface for the blind is a GUI and can be used by sighted people, the virtual world space is not rendered pictorially. Instead, all information flowing to the user is text-based in order to allow compliance with ordinary screen-reading technology. Recorded verbal descriptions are also played for the user.

Currently, the application interfaces only with the Second Life platform; however, IBM says, as a long-term goal, it might be possible to make this user interface portable to more than one virtual world implementation. If successful, that portability would enable blind users to learn only one client application that is specifically tailored for their needs rather than learning a separate new application for each virtual world.

Read more at:  http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/virtualworlds/

Event

January 25-30: Linden Lab’s Inaugural Education Support Faire, in Second Life, at Supporte /151/152/36, designed  to bring together educators, academics, and students to explore the support mechanisms available to residents who use Second Life to enhance real world educational efforts. The venue is designed around a natural atmosphere with trees, rivers, and beaten paths, highlighting the theme of ‘Ecosystems of Support.’ A final list of scheduled events and participating/presenting Resident Support Organizations will be emailed to the SLED mailing list on January 21.

The SLENZ Update – No 17, October 19, 2008

SL not only option, but …

more positive VW view

Eduserv Foundation report

Second Life is not the only option for teaching, learning and other educational activities in virtual environments according to an autumn 2008 “snapshot” of UK Higher and Further Education developments in Second Life.

But it is becoming more positively viewed as an education tool by UK educators who in general believe that virtual worlds will become a mainstream part of education over time.

The report containing these observations, (http://www.eduserv.org.uk/foundation/sl/uksnapshot102008) summarises to October 2008 an important on-going investigation into the use and uptake of Second Life by UK Higher and Further Education.

The survey’s main goals include: ascertaining the “state of play” of Second Life developments within the Higher and Further Education sector, discovering how these developments are supported, exploring functionality and determining the impact of these developments.

The on-going survey – this the fourth report over 18 months – is funded by the five-year-old, UK-based Eduserv Foundation, which undertakes activities that support the effective application of information and communication technology in education.

The foundation has committed funding to ten substantial research projects related to e-learning, one of which is this Virtual World Watch project.

Responses to the survey were received from staff and research students in 36 UK universities and two colleges, two companies, and the Joint Information Systems Committee’s Regional Support Centres.

With the theme that “Second Life is not the only fruit” in the virtual worlds the latest report sums up the views of a large number of respondents who have either carried out some kind of teaching and learning activity in Second Life, or were planning such events for the new academic year.

These included collaborative learning and design, seminars, workshops, tutorials and induction courses. Several lecturers and supervisors, the report said, used Second Life to hold tutorials, or communicate with remote undergraduate or PhD students; a significant number of universities are carrying out research as to the effectiveness of using Second Life especially in teaching and learning.

“Positive benefits were mentioned by the majority, such as student skill acquisition, ease of communication and the ability to meet peers one would otherwise not meet. Problems such as the amount of work required to run in-world sessions were also reported, the snapshot report said.

As with previous snapshots, the two issues of obtaining funding for virtual world development, teaching and learning, and technical problems, predominated.

But the general reaction of peers and academics to virtual worlds seems to have improved over time. “More respondents reported largely positive, or a mixed, attitude locally and in the wider university sector,” the report said. “Some academics who were previously cautious or negative about the use of virtual worlds in education became more positive after using the technology, or seeing the benefits.”

Finally “Looking ahead, most respondents who chose to answer thought that virtual worlds were more likely to be a “mainstream” feature of UK education, rather than a “niche” or “novelty”.

“However, several of these respondents felt this would be a gradual long-term development over several years.”

Many respondents, the report said, had used, or were considering examining, virtual worlds and on-line environments other than Second Life.

The three most mentioned of a dozen other applications were Google Lively, Wonderland and OpenSim. Lively, however, was found to be disappointing in terms of education-relevant functionality, Wonderland had considerable communication potential, and OpenSim had attractive options for creating a closed virtual environment.

ThinLinx for sustainability?

The question of whether cloud computing and thin personal computers can  increase sustainability in an energy-greedy world is about to be answered  by a small Australian  husband and wife team with their US$100 Hot-E PC.

“… you could put 50 of them in a classroom and they’re only using 3 watts each instead of 200 or 300 watts that normal PCs use,” the thin computer’s creator John Nicholls said recently from his home on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Although initially created with  a focus on the third  world Nicholls says he now envisions future revisions of the Hot-E being used as extra PCs in ordinary homes.

But to me it could develop into the ideal hardware on which to mount the thin software of a Second Life style virtual world client (32mbs) if not via the so-called cloud.

With his wife Jeanne he has developed the line of palm-sized personal computers containing the bare minimum of horsepower with most processing and data storage handled by a remote server accessed over the internet.

Targeting cost- and power-conscious small and medium businesses, schools and developing countries where normal PCs are prohibitively expensive, impractical or draw too much power Nicholls has reportedly claimed  his company ThinLinX, has just partnered  a major, global software company.

The ThinLinX website (http://www.thinlinx.com/) currently sells the thin range for A$250 each but Nicholls says he is now on the verge of launching a new, faster range, with the entry-level model selling for “just under US$100”.

With the on-going improvement in broadband connections companies such as Google and Microsoft have already released software applications that live on the internet instead of locally on the user’s PC.

Nicholls told the Syndey Morning Herald recently  he envisioned future revisions of the Hot-E being used as extra PCs in the home.

“If you had a media centre running in the lounge and it’s got a TV tuner built into it plus a hard drive that stores DVDs and movies … I could see kids sitting in the bedroom being able to watch TV, movies and play MP3s using the Hot-E,” he said.

He didn’t mention the possibility of accessing multiple user virtual worlds or playing MORPGs on-line but given the right graphics card they just might answer the sustainability question posed by some academics about computer use in teaching and virtual worlds in particular.

RL fashion/design & training

In FRI country … Red Chantilly Lace Dress by Xand Nagy. Picture by Callipygian Christensen.
Courtesy Shengri La: Utopian Micronation

Fashion and consumer packaging designers are to be given access to and the use of 3-D tools with the Second Life client interface following the signing of a multimillion dollar  IBM Global Business Services agreement between IBM and the Fashion Research Institute (FRI)  earlier this month

The agreement to implement a first-of-a-kind Virtual World Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Enterprise System also will allow designers to connect to the OpenSim virtual world platform to create packaging and fashion products, provide efficient workflow queues, and allow groups with an interest in the product to collaborate and modify designs. The program will also generate virtual product samples and accurate factory specifications that enable high quality product mass-manufacturing in the real world.

FRI, headquartered in New York, NY, conducts research into technology-based initiatives and develops emerging technologies to overhaul traditional fashion practices and methodologies. FRI’s mission is to reduce the carbon footprint and change the environmental impact of the industry in ways that are sustainable, replicable, respectful of the practitioners, and meaningful for all stakeholders. FRI maintains Shengri-La, a five-island complex in Second Life, and an OpenSim complex.(See blog: http://shenlei.wordpress.com/)

“We’re proud to pioneer the first big business solution that leverages the OpenSim virtual world platform to address economies of scale,” said Shenlei Winkler (Shenlei Flasheart),  CEO of FRI. “The Fashion Research Institute understands how to design real world consumer goods using a virtual world environment, and IBM understands the scaling challenges of global enterprise. Taking on both simultaneously is a winning move.”

This virtual world enterprise solution, expressly created as a product design environment, will offer a fundamentally new work-flow system which will address critical issues facing the design industry, such as ensuring manufacturability of designs and decreasing substantial sample costs by two-thirds. Users of this solution will ultimately be able to enter a virtual world, receive training on the systems, and take a design from concept to prototype — with every step short of actual manufacturing being done virtually.

FRI will offer an IBM-backed and co-developed enterprise solution providing a simpler and more intuitive user interface than currently existing design-industry-oriented software including scalability for businesses of all sizes. Users of the IBM-built technology could see product sample creation costs and time to market decrease dramatically.

The initial proof-of-concept solution expected to go live in in the second half of 2009 will be piloted by up to 20 international design houses. Ultimately this solution will be offered as a design service or enterprise installation, to creative industry design houses of all sizes globally.