Second Life gets a Second Chance

So there I was, sitting in the Barking Crab having some very late lunch when I got a call. It was Craig Troskosky, from Text 100, Xerox’s PR firm. He would like to show me more of Second Life, because he felt they’d missed the boat the night before at the party at Fenway, and he wanted me to understand what they were trying to do.

It’s a lot more than I’d thought.

Second Life is not the invention of Xerox, and as Craig explained it to me I started to feel very old and out of touch. How did I miss this stuff? Maybe it’s just that I’m not into gaming.

Second life is literally a second life. It is a virtual world, where you can buy land, clothing, and other items. You can visit other people’s dwellings, and even virtual trade show booths. You conduct trade using Linden dollars, and you can exchange Linden dollars for real currency. There are people who make a nice (real world) side business selling virtual outfits and even hair for people who want their virtual selves to be extra attractive. It’s open to everyone.

It turns out that Frank Romano was a bunny because he’d asked to be, and they actually bought the virtual rabbit costume from someone else in Second life. While I’d thought Xerox was showing contempt for this new technology, they were actually trying very hard to respect it. It just didn’t come across at the party. Evidently the earlier films they’d shown at the party, which didn’t have any sound that we could hear, were meant to explain what was going on. But the sound was bad and it wasn’t very easy to follow.

I asked Craig about what business applications they saw for this, and he mentioned meetings. That is, using virtual worlds as a replacement for video conferencing.

So, in real life the boss says something really stupid and you just stew. In virtual life, you could, perhaps, set off a giant poo bomb you’d bought from the bombiers down the virtual street and make the ambience match the message.

But the serious business applications are there, and they are being used. Training, product demonstrations, and other applications where you need to show 2 and 3 dimensional material all fit to some degree.

We’d been thinking Xerox was just bumbling some new technology trying to be cool, they were actually trying to show us a small piece of the future.

I’m not sure how well this will take off, but there were plenty of folks who said that about blogging, so I’d better be careful 😉

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