Jun 222009

I was invited to keynote at the IADIS multi conference in the really tough summer environment that is Carvoeiro (a quaint Portugese coastal town & limestone cliff’d seascape on the Algarve). The conference (at the Tivoli Hotel image below) has many strands overlapping probably due to over 1300 submitted papers looking at a massive range of topics. I have linked to each of the main strands below that were excellently edited by Prof. Katherine Blashki, Prof. Pedro Isaías & others. Most of the papers are typically academic (meaning theoretical or retrospective), but a few gems some were ‘zeitgeist practical/industrial’ and some needed a good deal of focus, kick-up the proverbial.

TiVoli Portugal

I was lead keynoting for a few strands, namely Telecommunications, Networks and Systems 2009, Informatics 2009 and the main conference Game and Entertainment Technologies 2009. It was a tall order to bridge these areas so I tried to encapsulate a few of my own current practical strands as well as ‘thinks’ at how play is truly everywhere, already escaped the bounds of the screen but the real focus was about the many new forms being created organically inside social media networks. (This slideshare is annotated – albeit in a slightly jetlagged haze and so only scrape the surface of the key messages!). The talk was well received and nice to see terms like ‘transocialmedia’ being used in discussion in later sessions. Also interesting to see a Strategy Analytics report using the term ‘Social Virtual Worlds’ I coined a couple of years ago in a report linked here and in my presentation below.

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Apr 192007

A great 3rd day at Milia and a much broader spectrum of issues discussed around the many Milia halls. It started with the world’s most advanced broadband nation with Dr. Hyun-Oh Yoo giving us a rare insight into the worlds most culturally integrated social network – Cyworld in South Korea. This was the first time he had shared some of this information with a European audience (almost dwarfing the impact from and Asian perspective, Peter Li’s IPTV talk later in the day). Fighting through a hay fever Dr. Yoo talked in a gravelly voice about the ubiquitous infrastructure, and how it allows Cyworld to be accessible across the super-broadband fiber pipes and always-on wireless networks. The figures surrounding the service, particularly penetration make MySpace look like a niche activity, well not quite. But here goes:

20 million subscribers
40% of TOTAL population
96% of 20-29 year olds use Cyworld regularly
20 billion monthly page views and 22 mill monthly unique visitors
$300 000 in sales of digital items daily
100 000 video uploads daily
210 million songs sold, currently 6 mill per month


That last figure makes it second only to iTunes for volume of music sales – who says social networks don’t have business models. Dr Yoo also presented a slide that compared the service to some of our more recognisable web 2.0 brands – it is interesting how Second Life is up there with YouTube and flickr, more so as the Cyworld virtual reality is extremely Habbo in style vs true 3D.


A refreshing follow-up to this talk was an uncomfortably titled “The Future of Interactive TV”. Eloquently steered and captained by Brian Seth-Hurst (who is also the key enabler also for the International Interactive Emmy Awards of course– see later) it became apparent that labelling TV services that have an interactive component as Interactive TV is now too limiting and emphasises TV too much – perhaps if the service ‘€˜only’€™ appeared on the one (TV) screen and all interaction took place there fine, but these are really in the minority and most are via mobile sms, telephony, stretched out across many platforms (TV is a part of the mix) or synchronised with online. There were some great new kid on the block examples of iTV and ones that started to merge media . Kim Lindholm from Motion Avenue in Finland showed something on the edge of my “mixed reality” continuum (a soon to be published post) a game/quiz show from Vietnam that has viewers appear as avatars in a virtual audience who get knocked out if they get answers wrong – of course the audience pays per question. He was followed by the grandfather of iTV Robert Chua who presented a more philosophical view of iTV. He questioned the definition of iTV as a relevant term when the same type of services are controlled by or fed to PC, mobile and TV via broadband pipes. The second panel in this session looked at enablers like Microsoft and OpenTV who themselves appear to be struggling with the melding of broadcast and broadband, games and linear.

Then a day of pitching started. Top and tailed by commercial entities that sandwiched a swathe of public service BBC 360 panels. My LAMP friend and colleague Jackie Turnure was pitching in the most defined session being Cross-Platform Brand Marketing. The three propositions trying to fulful a tight brief from Ogilvy and American Express were in brief terms, 1) an amazing race clone, 2) a chroma key ‘card ride’ and 3) an Alternate Reality Game. Without showing any bias I personally thought the ARG from Jackie the much stronger in terms of reach and originality but more importantly having a story (we shall see tomorrow who won).


These and many of the pitches that followed from the BBC panels seemed very light on narrative and most were function over form, without clearly defined structure or focus. There is a sense that many ad agencies and traditional broadcasters (as I said in the last post) are seeing Emerged Media as a way to allow users to participate, sometimes I feel to the detriment of the actual integrity of the proposition. We may be creating too many empty shells for viewers to fill without really drawing them in first with a great story. Frank Boyd again led key BBC folk though some less than enticing pitches. I thought the first two panels one on 360 docs and the second on 360 participation actually seemed interchangeable. All the doc props involved viewer input and the community ones were themed around documentary topics like the environment. So more blurring of labels as form, function and genre meld.


By the afternoon I was suffering from conference fatique, that moment when panels and panellists start to blur into one another. Luckily the IPTV vs Internet TV was a great idea and Justin Hewlett and others showed off a great cross section of the new walled garden TV, data and telephony services. After a while though all the badly designed interfaces started to blur into each other too. It became apparent in these sessions that penetration for many pockets of services around the world in the 50-100 thousand audience range is still very low and not significant due to two key things:

1 You can get most of the IPTV offerings via traditional TV distribution channels, so nothing really new to entice viewers (it was cited that 50% of subs were actually for the telephony and data elements and not the TV!)
2 The topic of the panel, the wild west internet is now delivering a much broader and compelling range of audio, video content.

The panel topic echoed a talk I gave to an IPTV ‘hyped’ audience in Sydney nearly two years ago (and cited on a few IPTV info sites) – the main premise being, the cats out of the bag, Internet TV (or broadband TV as I called it), the wild west way to get your TV morsels means IPTV may only have another 12 months or so to deliver on its promise, or be gone for good. As mentioned earlier I found Peter Li, the VP from BesTV in China illuminating if only for the stats he presented as context to IPTV potential in China.

CNNIC report for China July 2006 Internet users 130m. 40% growth for past 6 years Broadband users 80m Youth: 18.5 hrs/wek online vs 6.7 hrs/wk on TV Over 220 online video portals, 500 000 clips uploaded daily Concurrancy of viewers watching video online 500 000. ADSL 2.0+ goes to over 10 million users

The keynote of the day, after I managed to rush out and get my glad rags from the dry cleaners, was Jana Bennett and Ashley Highfield. I would like to give this more time and the awards so will leave that until the next post. For now though a taster shot of the BBC keynoters.


I was lucky to be a judge again at the Interactive International Emmy Awards and invited to the splendid evening session at the Carlton Ballroom. Only three awards up for grabs (and a special prize this year to BskyB -€“ well done). The event was excellently organised in the tradition of all the A-list ceremonies and I was lucky to be on one of the front tables, with the interactive programme folk. Also managed to grab a chat with Phil Rosedale who leads Linden Lab (Second Life) in the pre-award cocktails, which was a treat for me 😉


To the awards. Great to see the BBC finally win for their BBCi all emcompassing eTV and 24/7 service (I remember the days when it was called Digital Text – but wont go there now!). Great to see my old cohorts Nick Cohen and Phil Jay with big grins on their faces for the rest of the evening. Canada took the second award, Interactive Channel, for BITE Television a slightly anarchistic, irrelevant channel. The most exciting award of the evening though for me was the interactive programme award and I was siting between two of the nominees on a distinctly Canadian table 8. Three of the four nominees were Canadian! But I had Aaron from the Zimmer Twins on one side and Patrick Crowe from Regenesis on the other (Zinc Roe Design and Xenophile respective companies) – and it was a surprise to all, that they both won! Yes a two-way tie and a table creaking later with the weight of two Emmys 😉 As one would expect both teams were delighted and it was wonderful both for Canada (and the Bell fund that partly helped Regenesis) but also for the interactive form as both services are innovative and pushing the envelope. But will write more later (congrats to Evan Jones and Tony Walsh also who were major parts of Regensis) – for now a picture I took of the double winners. A busy and even more exciting day tomorrow (well actually today now as I finish this).

© Gary Hayes 2007

Jan 182007


OK yet another post on Virtual Worlds, I know, but I will get round to Joost and YouTube TV channels and so on soon. Being involved as designer/developer in several Australian launches into Second Life in the next couple of months I am sensitized to entertainment or service brands entering virtual spaces and in the last couple of days MTV and NBC have shown more faith in MUVE and their inherent social network by launching some phase two type initiatives. Then there is Sears and Phillips design who are going a completely different route. First though:

vNBC (Virtual NBC) are promoting the film Smokin’ Aces with their Second Life project S.A.S.L.A (Smokin’ Aces Second Life Assassin). I have been trying to get to the game trailhead for a while but it seems to be doing some SL geoIP detect (seems to be for US folk only – which will be a major issue, unless it is somehow in synch with the national film release?) – so not available and with other inworld work I will report first hand later. A quote from the opening page and some of their game rules are enlightening which suggests a little ARG (spread across sims), shoot-em-up and the usual psychological paradoxes ones gets in SL:

Beginning January 17th, players can join Smokin’ Aces: Second Life® Assassin by visiting the Nomad Hotel in Second Life® to pick up game instructions, a hitlist, and weaponry. Think you can smoke Buddy “Aces” Israel? First, you gotta rub out the competition.


  • Targets: The player begins with a contract for 5 hits. The hits are other players in the SASLA game—anywhere in Second Life®. As long as a player is wearing the HUD they are considered actively participating in the game. While actively participating in the game, a player’s location is reported to anyone with that player on his or her hit list. This report will not provide exact X,Y,Z coordinates within Second Life®, but will instead provide the sim name, which narrows the location down to a 16 acre square. When the target is located the two players engage in combat.
  • Contracts: Each player will begin with five potential hits. After a hit is accomplished, the assassin will assume his or her prey’s hit list (in addition to their original targets)—giving them more potential targets.
  • Power-ups/downs: Power-ups are available by gambling on the slot machines in the Nomad Casino. Players use their points for chances to win additional weapons and power-ups. Examples may include Stealth Mode (invisible to other players’ maps), Bonus Name (gives the user an additional online target), Homing Shot (Heat seeking bullet), and Shield (may take 5 direct hits before being “killed”).
  • Virtual Weapons: Will include various munitions, including, but not limited to: Machine guns, handguns, chainsaws, and long-range shotguns.
  • Death & Reset: A player’s current day bounty will reset back to 100 points when killed. Players must either re-register (at the Nomad Hotel lobby desk or at recharge locations throughout Second Life) while wearing their HUD to be “revived” and rejoin the game with a new set of targets. Players keep all accumulated weapons, but lose all power-ups or power-downs when killed. Dead players wearing the HUD will be reminded with a whisper to re-register.


  • Game points are acquired by defeating targets, amount of time spent playing Smokin’ Aces: Second Life® Assassins, and by inhabiting the Nomad Hotel or Virtual NBC Headquarters.
  • Each player will start with a 100 point bounty. With each hit accomplished, the assassin will gain his/her prey’s total point bounty, the addition of their hit list, their weaponry, and all of their power-ups. Active time spent playing the game, and active time spent in Smokin’ Aces Headquarters and Virtual NBC Headquarters will also increase a player’s bounty.
  • If a player is “killed”, their current day’s point bounty will reset back to 100 points and they will start from scratch with the game’s default weaponry.

vMTV. Outside the SL environment we have MTV who seem to be happily ploughing ahead on the there.com platform and a new world created based on ‘The Hills’ TV show. I reported first hand about Laguna Beach Virtual World back in Sept and I was a little dubious of how this would progress being a closed world, almost the equivalent of a couple of SL sims. The 2nd outing seems far more integrated with the show and avatarorial representations of characters will role play and invite you into the ‘story world’. So it seems I have been proven wrong about the walled-garden nature of this, by MTV’s statistics at least, from this Hollywood R report about their second property to be delivered on the platform:

The launch of “Virtual Hills” follows and is an extension of MTV’s first virtual reality community, “Virtual Laguna Beach,” which launched in September. Bostwick said that virtual community has 350,000 registered users, but more importantly, a high level of engagement. In the past week, the average time spent “in-world” per visit reached 46 minutes per user, without any on-air integration.

Now it seems sometimes that vanilla virtual spaces, being open and void of goal and game, is very attractive to large numbers but I still think that Second Life and Linden Lab are losing the 90% of those who try it simply because it is so ‘directionless’ for many. It will be up to entertainment brands I believe, to stretch their professional muscles and lead the way for a sizeable potential MUVE community. Endemol have made a start along with NBC and MTV now. The BBC radio thing was not IMHO a good use of the environment the same as most of the commercial brands (who use it for external PR). There are exceptions such as those who are now really starting to look at collaborative product design combined with customer relations – such as the recent Sears/IBM initiative. Phillips were ahead of Sears in this as they are already down the road with Rivers Run Red in creating a audience centric design development presence in Second Life – as reported by their own news center. This is a really interesting space to me as brand driven collaborative design, drawing in audiences to contribute. Not in the wild west YouTube ‘any-old-rubbish-will-do” mode, but a mature and structured design methodology.

So both the TV and the design initiatives are starting to feel mature – well there are lessons being learnt very quickly in these MUVEs as most are open access and as soon as you TP into the areas you immediately pick up what works and what doesn’t – and that learning is open to all. I will leave the final word to Matt Bostwick, senior vp franchise development at MTV, who is also pretty bullish about the road ahead for them, I suppose because the there.com platform really hits their demographic target fair and square.

“We’re going to do a whole series of integrations with content and shows,” Bostwick said about future virtual realities tied to MTV’s shows. “Each is going to establish a new piece of geography or subculture.”

Posted by Gary Hayes Copyright 2007

Oct 222006

Still catching up with drafts and this one is more about my editing than my own crystal ball gazing. I love predictions about the way we will be interacting in the future especially when we are getting a little sniff of them in the present day, eg: web 3.0. So I selected, last month, some quotes/segments from the fantastic Pew Future of the Internet report from Sept 26 this year. The report made some assumptions and commentators responded, more in a moment.

Alternate Reality Personalizaton

As we hurtle towards the end of 2006 I think back to my measly predictions at the start of the year as to what would happen this year. I know it is only October but I am surprised how many are pretty close – especially developments in video on the web and viewer created content but as usual, premature on personalization, still! This was echoed in many of the notable folk below. Seems until we are completely swamped by content as to be comatosed will the demand for agents, targeting and personalization really kick in. Perhaps with 60% of all video (for example) on the web controlled by Google now, their personalization engine will start to trickle in under the radar of most people. Just before we go to Pew aggregated quotations, here is a quote (that falls in my space cadet camp) I did this time two years ago about our relentless stampede toward too much content.

“Just as humans eventually were unable to tame the complexity and scale of the physical universe so it will be with our media universe. The only course of action will be to send personalised intelligent agents, reconnaissance drones, deep into the content cosmos to capture relevance. The personalized future will be a world where rich audio visual and immersive game media orbits around the digital you – occasionally being sucked into your ‘realmÂ’ like stars pulled by forces unknown into black holes” – Gary Hayes, 2004

But enough about my near term predictions back to the future of 2020 with the Pew Futures doc (which is here in PDF by the way). I scanned the survey they did and found it a bit weak, most results were half/half and inconclusive but I found the plethora of future quotes far more interesting here is a selection of my favourites mostly in the AI/personalization and Virtual World/Alternate Reality future domains.

“This is the AI bogeyman. It’s always around 20 years away, whatever the year.” – Seth Finkelstein, Programmer and anti-censorship activist

“Simulations will develop to where some players’ experiences so closely mimic reality that the players will be stimulated with the same neurotransmitters that drive feelings of love and pleasure in the real world. There will be simulations as addictive as nicotine and cocaine, but without same degree of societal antipathy.” – Sean Mead, a technology consultant

“There is a strong likelihood that virtual reality will become less virtual and more reality for many. However, I see this as an addiction phenomenon that will likely inspire us to understand unexplored dimensions of being human.” – Barry Chudakov, principal, The Chudakov Company

“Autonomous systems will not become a serious problem until they are sophisticated enough to be conscious Â… As it stands now, they are simply tools – advanced tools, but tools nonetheless. True AI is still 50-100 years away,” – Simon Woodside, CEO, Semacode Corp, Ontario, Canada.

“A human’s desire is to reinvent himself, live out his fantasies, overindulge; addiction will definitely increase. Whole communities/subcultures, which even today are a growing faction, will materialise. We may see a vast blurring of virtual/real reality with many participants living an in-effect secluded lifestyle. Only in the online world will they participate in any form of human interaction.” – Robert Eller, technology consultant

“Now, fear of enslavement by our creations is an old fear, and a literary tritism. But I fear something worse and much more likely – that sometime after 2020 our machines will become intelligent, evolve rapidly, and end up treating us as pets. We can at least take comfort that there is one worse fate – becoming food – that mercifully is highly unlikely.” – Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for the Future.

“While this scenario is clearly a danger, we don’t yet understand how powerful fully-connected human beings can be.” – Mary Ann Allison, a futurist and chairman and chief cybernetics officer for The Allison Group

“There will be an increasing problem with people ‘disconnecting’ during their so-called leisure time and immersing themselves in purely virtual realities for entertainment purposes. We’ve already seen how these can be addictive, and, by 2020, the technological capability for them might be near ubiquitous – leading to perhaps an entire generation ‘opting-out’ of the real world and a paradoxical decrease in productivity as the people who provide the motive economic power no longer are in touch with the realities of the real world.” – Glenn Ricart, a member of the board of trustees of the Internet Society

“First, there is nothing virtual about digitalised space. It has real-life effects, rewards, and problems. Second, what do we lose people to today? Is it better to go jump off a mountainside for your kicks or do drugs than to spend it in some digital version of reality that feels better and more rewarding? The main problem isn’t that ‘virtual worlds’ are addictive; it is that the physical world is not sufficiently challenging and rewarding. Blaming the media should not be a way out of fixing the very real social problems the world faces.” – Torill Mortensen of Volda University College in Norway

“It will be possible for computer users to build ‘alternate realities’ around themselves, and some will find this environment to be so much more appealing and comfortable than the ‘real world’ that they will prefer it. I see a future epidemic, especially among children and teens.” – Michael Cann Jr., CEO of Affinio Corporation

“‘Virtual reality’ is a pointless and dated term that has no meaning other than the technical (computer science) definition. We live in a pervasive communication environment and this will only increase. The demarcation of virtual and real and mediated and non-mediated will have no meaning for most people and is an artifact of older generations. Reality will be one seamless world that spans face-to-face and digital areas of action. If anything, the ability to physically take a class or travel to meet with someone will be considered an elite privilege.” – Ted Coopman of the University of Washington

“What people refer to as ‘virtual reality’ is still an aspect of all of our reality – it’s not a separate reality any more than books, movies, video games, or our imagination is a separate reality. Saying someone is addicted to virtual reality will one day sound as ridiculous as saying some people today are addicted to books.” – Patrick O’Sullivan of Illinois State University

“Synthetic worlds are simply intermediate environments: the first settlements in the vast, uncharted territory that lies between humans and their machines Â… Ensuring that the technology serves such a marvelous end, rather than a lesshappy one, is the real challenge for the next few decades. We will be less likely to meet that challenge the longer we treat video games as mere child’s play…There is a huge throng of people just waiting at their terminals for a fantasy world to come along, one that is just immersive enough, under the technology they can afford, to induce them to take the plunge and head off into the frontier forever.” – Edward Castronova, from his book Synthetic Worlds

There are many more insights in the Pew Futures PDF on privacy, globalisation, transparency and priorities.

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