Visiting Virtual Worlds: A Short Weekend Road Trip

Visiting Virtual Worlds: A Short Weekend Road Trip


My old boss Skip, used to say that people who spend time in Second Life need to get a First Life.  Well, there has clearly been a lot of hype surrounding virtual worlds such as Second Life.  Perhaps the hype has many wondering about the practical aspects or business benefits of such environments. 


Many associate virtual worlds with gaming and social activities.  Even with this Web 2.0 science project that I?m in, I hear nuances of time-wasting garbage technologies.  There?s no doubt that many of these applications are for social purposes.  But look at these examples:


        Wii Technology Used in Brain Rehabilitation

        Wall Street Turning to Game Technologies to Speed Analytics

        It?s Not All Fun and Games: Virtual Worlds Abound in Useful Business Applications


There are some real applications.  Technology strategists need to get past the hype, begin to look for real applications and find ways to measure the value. 


In Gartner?s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2008 (Whit Andrews, et. al), Web 2.0 and Virtual Worlds are in the Trough of Dillusionment?  ?because the technology does not live up to its over-inflated expectations, it rapidly becomes unfashionable and the press abandons the topic.?  This stage precedes the Slope of Enlightenment where ? ? [f]ocused experimentation and solid hard work by an increasingly diverse range of organizations lead to a true understanding of the technology’s applicability, risks and benefits. Commercial off-the-shelf methodologies and tools become available to ease the development process.?  Nevertheless, Gartner has predicted that by 2011, 80% of all Internet users will be members of virtual worlds. 


As I?ve said in previous posts, I learn kinesthetically.   It?s been my goal to learn about the value of these virtual worlds by actually getting in and trying it. When I was asked by 1105 Government Information Group to do a panel on Second life, I figured I had to learn about it quick.  Frankly, I welcomed the opportunity to moderate and to stop procrastinating about it and learn.  So I decided to go visiting this weekend ? traveling to virtual worlds. 


Here are a couple of virtual spots I checked out this weekend:


NASA JPL: Explorer Island


Explorer Island is founded and maintained by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The island houses many interactive mission exhibits and several meeting places. I picked up a tee-shirt, but I can?t seem to find it.


NASA: Virtual CoLab


The virtual CoLab is a dedicated ?island? in the ?Second Life? online virtual world. NASA CoLab is a member of the SciLands “continent.” Provides educational content and helps to foster communication of NASA?s mission.  I sent my husband a postcard.


NOAA Virtual World


Virtual adventures where you can soar through a hurricane, rise gently through the atmosphere atop a weather balloon or search for a hidden underwater cave on a side trip from a NOAA submersible. This world was content rich, but being a rookie in SL, I seemed to have ?picked up? something I can?t figure out how to put down.


Electric Pixels


Those who know me, know I hate shopping, but since I was in the ?neighborhood, I did stop by a friend?s store.  My friend is a business owner, builder and explorer of Second Life. He owns this particle effects shop in Second Life. These are pretty cool visual effects that people can buy. I didn?t buy anything though. 


IBM ? Innovation in Virtual Worlds


Provides advice to customers about doing business in a virtual environment.  Offers guidelines to its customers about how to conduct business in a virtual environment.  Gives advice for leadership in a virtual environment.  In particular, lessons learned from the gaming industry. 


It was kind of fun doing this exploration, safely from my kitchen table.  I have barely  mastered walking, I got ejected off of someone?s island (I think I got offended, but I?m not sure), and my Second Life client kept crashing.  Though I did run into (literally) someone in the Electric Pixels store and I didn?t interact with anyone.  I do see the practical possibilities here though. I look forward to traveling around some more.


Linda looking at the Earth from orbit


Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center



3 thoughts on “Visiting Virtual Worlds: A Short Weekend Road Trip”

  1. I always have chills whenver I hear these words about virtual worlds. It makes me ask the question of what is it that is really out there? And when I saw these pictures you have shown here, It kinda give me the picture of being somewhere in the unknown. It looks fun and very much adventurous but mixing my religious beliefs with science can give me those chills.
    What I like about is the uses of the advancement in games technology that is being tried and tested by NASA geniuos people to implement it in the real world
    Does these advance video games help in any ways or was it NASA who first have these little toys and then they becaome commercially available? Too many questions for me because I would like to know more about what their accomplishments and what it achieved.


  2. Dear Lorenz:

    All good questions. Now that I have ventured in these virtual worlds, I am wondering how we measure ROI? Will seek those answers and make another post.



  3. yes its an extension to second life. virtual worlds and the rise of virtual communities make these things very surreal


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