Friday, December 22, 2006

A different bandwagon

IBM's Almaden Location in Second LifeI've been experimenting today with Second Life, Linden Labs' virtual reality environment. The environment is socially-oriented and derives much of its value from user generated content through scriptable objects that users can gift or sell through an in-game economy (although 'game' is a bit of a misnomer). There was news recently of Second Life's first virtual real-estate millionaire.

Various 'first life' businesses have also begun to make the move into Second Life: IBM have, for some time, had a dedicated set of Islands for their own use, which they've recently opened up to the public (see picture). Reuters have opened up a bureau dedicated to Second Life news, and Harvard Law School recently ran real classes in the environment.

The key to the success of Second Life is it's social aspect. Think of it as the next evolution of IRC, instant messaging, and collaboration software, rather than a game. This collaborative aspect may hold some possibilities for business intelligence. Academic and consultant Richard Hackathorn argues that Second Life holds some interesting possibilities for data visualisation. While true, I don't think that a "forest of data" is really the main benefit that this kind of environment can deliver. Rather, it's the collaborative aspect, the ability to meet in a virtual environment that relaxes the real-world laws of physics, the ability to share information in a new way that will deliver any benefits that might accrue. Assuming the technical hurdles are overcome, it may be one more way in which creative decisions can be supported.

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