I am busy consulting, commercial projects and presentations (eg: SBTUG this eve) on Augmented Reality and the near future benefits for storytellers, a range of businesses and service industries. Key questions often crop up as to the relevance of AR to their ‘bottom line’ as well as usuability issues – beyond showing a range of videos from Layar, Junaio and the like it is difficult demonstrating how ‘consumer/users’ of AR devices may be interacting with them in the near, 1 to 2 year out, future. So based on a certain large tablet released recently I created a device that gave a much ‘bigger’ experience than current AR enabled mobiles, had a cleaner interface (as in less clutter POI dots on the screen – most of the time) and fitted into a series of AR future videos ‘AUGMENTED WORLDS’. Please find below Part One looking specifically at the Business Opportunities around type 3 of my AR types – Recognition (Outline) and more on how it was made and a description of the sketch interface below…
AUGMENTED WORLDS Pt.1 – Business Opportunities: RECOGNITION.
An ‘iPad 4.0 – like prototype’ stroll around an augmented Sydney. Video, music devised & created by GARY HAYES of MUVEDesign.com
Music – BTW if you like the music please subscribe via iTunes or other fav podcast tool to download over 250 of my euphoric/progressive trance, organic real harp/guitars or cinematic soundtracks via garyphayes.com or direct feed here.
Interesting times ahead – the Console space finally collides with the Social Virtual World space as Sony and Microsoft race to be first to offer non-closed beta, ‘social (read: commercial) virtual world’ front ends to their ‘trojan horse’ consoles. Will they start to reap the benefits of a very large installed user base as both are likely to launch this side of Christmas in several international territories, and will they fly?
Both the Social World front end and the DIY games components (LittleBigPlanet and Buko) of these consoles have tremendous impact potential due to the massive installed base. As at the end of 2008 we are looking at PS3, XBox360 and Wii have a potential ‘Console Social Virtual World’ user base of 100 million! Compare that to the 1.5 million Second Lifers or even the 12 million WoW addicts…
The report from International Tribune about the two new ‘social worlds-in-your-console’ rivals, XBox New Experience (launching Nov 19) and Sony’s PS3 Home, suggests that Sony has cried wolf too many times. Sony have over-delayed the launch and are probably are trying to start out too big (vs the lower rez, cartoony avatars we see in the Wii [Miis]) and now the XBox equivalent, image above.
…Hirokazu Hamamura, a game expert and head of Japanese publisher Enterbrain Inc., who was at the Sony booth, said he needs to see more to assess “Home.” “You still can’t tell what it’s all about,” he told The Associated Press, adding that “Home” may be coming a little late compared to rivals. “There are so many more possibilities for a virtualÂ community.”
The NewXBoxExperience (NXE as it shall be now known) on the other hand has much more accessible friendly ‘toons’ which are very simple characters representing you in the basic XBoxLive interface. As I mentioned the interaction is likely to be similar to that on the Wii and Animal Crossing Wii also about to launch looks interesting too in this regards. But NXE will likely put off some of the hardcore gamers who don’t want to be represented by Simpson’s like avatars with minimal options to customise/personalize and make them their own? But is this just a half baked attempt at encouraging more group/tribal ‘mall’ type interaction to get folk to watch more of those ‘netflix’ (one of XBox’s live partners) videos or peer pressure to play/purchase online games they wouldn’t normally play? One think I do like the idea of is layering groups of avatars over full screen movies, so they can ‘play/chat/critique’ but I suspect the studios will put pressure on Microsoft to not allow that. We shall see. Other key partners in the NXE include Netflix, USA Network, MGM, NBC Universal, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and the SCI FI Channel.
The other big question is how to ‘really’ commercialise these spaces vs just incrementally increasing sales of existing product, like videos, within the portal. It is one thing getting your massive online user base to create an avatar and hang out with their friends in an abstract ‘exhibition’ hall while clicking (with a TV remote) on buy-me items like videos and other online games as in NXE but another to draw them in to having their own ‘pad’ as the case in PS3Home.
Having a persistent place to call your own produces, like Second Life, a big increase in user hours (for those who stick with it!) approaching 50 hours per week in the social space. This also brings with it the desire to purchase ‘virtual life’ enhancements (show-off pixel products) and the whole thing turns into aspirational lifestyle marketing on the Home side vs a 3D ‘TV-catalogue’ world on the NXE side. The next question is advertising during your social console moments. Both Home and NXE worlds will have a spattering of environmental or portal advertising from the outset and it will be great to see some contextual ads in there vs generic billboard equivalents. I would hope that Sony or Microsoft don’t go it alone here (even with Massive’s involvement with MS) and that they do adopt the expertise of the worlds largest advertising corporation Google.
So with Google moving into the fray with adsense now being delivered into online games reported by Reuters if brands don’t reach the gamers in the social front end worlds then they have another chance in the games themselves. Google are keen to point out the benefits they offer marketeers here A selection:
Drive your brand: In-game ads have been shown to drive brand familiarity and consideration by significant percentages*
…and have the option for custom sponsorships and integrations: In addition to the media buy you make directly with Google, your Google sales representative can connect you directly with publishing partners for deeper integrations.
Reach the new generation of social gamer: The face of online gaming is changing to include users of all ages, backgrounds, and interests. Get your brand in front of users on the largest social networks, including MySpace, Facebook, and sites across the web.
OK they are starting with simple flash games and SocioNet widgets but they have their sights on traditional online games as it says in the Reuters report they are working with Konami and Sony and a few other key partners are already listed on their Adsense in Games site. (It is interesting to note also that Google are kicking advertisers into action with other initiatives including text ads in Google Maps/Earth and YouTube click-to-buy buttons – both reported by TechCrunch).
But back to the ingame advertising which if done right and using dynamic behavioural and personalised targeted techniques will indeed be a significant step forward for marketeers who are just getting their heads around basic social media. One big hurdle to come though is the old walled garden product/service vs open field product/service – you have lots of great ingame ads pointing to limited content in say NXE or Home Walled Gardens vs the potential of wandering around Halo 3 or Far Cry 2 and being able to purchase the ‘book, music, film’ inserted with 1-click to buy from Amazon, while STILL ingame or at least a quick hop out to the ‘social virtual world portal’.
This is all about clever product placement and relating it to the game your in (see my recent post on the renaissance of hundreds of films being made of games) is both the opportunity and the real challenge (being ‘sensitive’ to the story world and narrative of the game). So for example making sure the latest 2008 car is not being advertised in the 2020 story world of Crysis or subscriptions to Star Trek eps on demand embedded in Star Wars Galaxies. At least the social, vanilla spaces will allow contemporary advertising without too much jarring such as in a simple ‘gathering environment’ like Home below…
In summary I still think NXE is a half way house, a little too old school, cable/IPTV for my liking, and that Sony have the right model in the medium/longer term by persisting with a much more sticky, immersive and larger scale social ‘customisable’ environment – which as we have seen for the past 4 years in Second Life will drive much more inworld commerce. I hope that PS3Home allows some ‘theme’d’ areas too – based on loyal fans of certain games – to the extent that the social hangout becomes almost like a TV/film green room, a place to relax outside game world but feel your with like-minds…the 3D forum becomes a reality.
I have mentioned several times in this blog about the next big steps in the metaverse and two of my key points spring to mind, 1) Integration with existing online ‘life’ tools and 2) a company with super deep pockets, Google. So without much fanfare or pomp or circumstance ‘Lively – perpetual beta‘ was sneakily launched. A Google driven Social Virtual World made up of customised and personalized ‘rooms/enviroments’ that runs inside Windows web browsers (IE,FF). After a 2 minute install I was up and running checking out some CCEs (Community Created Environments) and looking for folk to chat to. The YouTube gives a good sense of the experience, but turn the sound down 🙂
With avatars and aesthetic nearer to there.com than Second Life (bizarrely referred to in the marketing blurb above and on the instructional site) the real point of difference here is the fact that you can embed your ‘spaces’ in blog posts and other embed friendly web 2.0 apps. Here is one of my rooms embedded inside my Justvirtual.com blog (yes you have the virtual world as an embedded active window!)…
…plus the fact there is a multitude of other integrations with the Googleverse around the corner. I have seen talk of contextual advertising, built in YouTube on various screens, items within the rooms containing Amazon-type product links and of course the ability to plop your space on top of Google Earth/Maps – the list goes on and on…There is also integration with Facebook, MySpace and others via OpenSocial.
There is also a nod to PS3 Home given the strong create your own room using bits of found furniture (in fact very Habbo also), embed it in your blog etc and what looks like a catalog where 3rd parties can eventually come along and sell pixel products, virtual goods – which is where the real biz model is of course. Here are a couple of room screen grabs I took on a first whistle stop and I will report more when I have had time to dig in deeper…I include the ever so important embed pane at the bottom of each room, will Virtual Environments start to go viral? Sadly using the current technology each room has been crippled to only 20 avatars at a time and the movement around is a rather clunky mix of click to jump there and drag with mouse to smoothly move around. There are some fun elements though…
…and I just filmed and uploaded onto the LAMP channel a quick grab of me Gazlitt and some of the 20 or so avatar interactions – limited to fun-fights or petting ala Simpsons vs sophisticated Second Life custom ones. I can see this type of world working well with the there.com demographic, or even perhaps the 10-early 20s and I am already tempted to create a couple of machinimas due to the cartoon’y nature of the graphics.
… and some more insight – A Google talks YouTube video from January 24 of this year looking at the backend…
Apparently Millions of Us and Rivers Run Red have been making objects and a few first off the block branded spaces – probably as Second Life commissions runs a little low they have time on their hands. A good summary of the service can be read at Virtual Worlds News which features some quotes from Head of 3D Worlds at Google, Mel Guymon…
“Our goal is to get everyone on the Web using 3D and to validate it as a part of the social experience,” said Guymon. “If we [as an industry] are going to do it, I think getting someone like Google to do it is crucial. And since we are doing it, I think weÃ¢Â€Â™re going to look back at having had Google do it as crucial.”
and to show that embedding web 3.0 into 2D social networks are going to be one of the really interesting growth areas this year how about this new 3D ‘vivaty‘ plug-in for Facebook with tons of web 2.0 integration? Wired has a good introduction article on it from last week…Vivaty Scenes Taps Facebook, AIM for ‘Immersive Internet’
A new immersive web platform called Vivaty Scenes lets users create tiny virtual worlds and decorate them with content from around the internet. After adding Vivaty Scenes, which entered public beta Tuesday, to a Facebook or AOL Instant Messenger account, users can set up a customizable “room” where they can host chat sessions or small virtual gatherings within a web browser. The free service lets users pull content directly from some of the internet’s most popular sites. Scenes’ virtual televisions can be populated with any video from YouTube; virtual picture frames can be filled with any picture from a user’s Photobucket, Flickr or Facebook accounts.
I have posted prolifically about MUVE’S (Multi User Virtual Environments) in the past, concentrating mainly on the ever customisable Second Life. It is interesting to watch the buzz spreading and consider if virtual worlds are really web 3.0, I think so. A quick look at the evolution of the intraweb from the mid 90’s. From text and graphics dominate 2D environments, immersive web sites with flash quickly followed combined with ubiquitous communication via IM and IRC chat. Then the early 00’s with the expontential growth of self publishing, blogs and wikis. From 2002 onwards the massive sharing social network communities of flickr and YouTube in sync with the explosion of portals containing all of the above in services such as MySpace, Yahoo and MSN etc: We are heading towards a rich media personal hub that points to and houses all of our ‘shareable’ content. But the current 2D web, mostly linear to linear linking, is about to be enhanced by virtual environments in which we meet as avatars, interact as 3D moving objects that takes sharing, co-creation and communication to the next, predictable level. The important component here is real time collaboration and communication as the paradigm shift.
Web X.0. To me evolution of the web can be defined in single sentences:
1.0 the pushed, one way only web
2.0 the two-way shared web
3.0 the real time collaborative web (3D, isometric or just 2D)
Major companies such as Major League Baseball, and institutions such as The University of Southern California, have already turned to Second Life to host virtual events synched with live real-world events. Organizations such as the New Media Consortium are using Second Life to convene meetings and conferences. Wells Fargo is teaching kids about finance in an engaging manner through Second Life. Clothing designers are using the community to prototype their designs and get community feedback and build buzz before they have to manufacture.
In 2 years time will the most effective way of communicating be through a variety of MUVEs rather than 2D web? As Second Life subscribers go above half a million, from less than 100 thousand less than 6 months ago one can see other players beside Linden Labs taking part of the action. Here are the Second Life stats from yesterday to give some idea of the scale
Statistics from 3:20pm Saturday 26 Aug 2006
Total Residents: 568,856
Logged In Last 60 Days: 256,425
Online Now: 8,369
US$ Spent Last 24 Hrs: 357,140
Many of the projects we are doing in LAMP start from a position of ‘experience design’ that has its ultimate incarnation in letting the users ‘live’ the story. Personalizable MUVE’s will shortly have real potential to enable any experience requirement you can throw at it. As the gaming generation take up lead roles in society (the average age of a Second Lifer is 32) I really believe that remote communication will exist more and more in virtual worlds. Entertainment, education and business is already taking root. The article continues by even pointing to the political engagement these environments afford…
Imagine a wiki-based web community now being able to collaboratively design detailed 3-dimensional objects, complete with nuanced permissions, instead of just text documents. …Imagine a dark horse political candidate with a virtual campaign headquarters in which campaign volunteers can collaborate regardless of geographic location and be trained personally by the avatars of real campaign staff, and where the candidate can conduct a virtual whistlestop tour to test new stump speeches and conversations with highly educated, affluent, and socially networked focus groups
Current MUVE’s do require decent computers, graphics and bandwidth but many millions of terminals are already capable. There are many posts that talk about a ten year from now predication of what a Virtual World may be, many not looking too deeply into the ethical or moral issues as that really is an unknown as this quickly cobbled together chart above suggests I think we are lucky to be at the dawning of ubiquitous MUVE’s across all devices (mobile devices are part of distribution in this context – not a movement in itself). The next challenge as I always point out is interoperability – how our personalized digital fingerprint can exist across an ever growing range of portals. To put it another way using the present day, can out MySpace profile work with our Second Life avatar, our flickr and YouTube accounts. Will our eBay positive rating be carried into World of Warcraft, can Amazon engines learn what we are buying in Second Life to recommend things to buy from eBay and so on. The brand and advertising targeting potential goes off the scale here. The first company that comes up with a profile engine that combines all of the above, sits above them, cross-relates them but needs to get started right now before it becomes way too complicated 😉