At the end of January, Project Wonderland development lead Nicole Yankelovich broke the news that Oracle would no longer be applying development resources to the Project Wonderland enterprise immersive software platform. (For more information about Project Wonderland see the January 19, 2010 ThinkBalm report, The Enterprise Immersive Software Decision-Making Guide.) Oracle laid off most if not all of the Project Wonderland team, which was part of Sun Labs.
In the last few weeks, we spoke with Nicole Yankelovich as well as executives from three small companies Yankelovich cited as third-party software vendors or service providers that offer software products or custom solutions based on Wonderland: Amphisocial, Green Phosphor, and Indusgeeks. Yankelovich is currently working with the open source community to establish a non-profit organization and is pursuing a vision of creating a vibrant ecosystem where third parties can create Wonderland content and contribute to the platform — where people can even distribute entire virtual worlds. But many aspects of Project Wonderland’s future are up in the air.
For Java shops that want to engage in low-cost experimentation, Project Wonderland continues to remain a solid enterprise immersive platform. But given Project Wonderland’s current state of upheaval, we recommend that business and technology decision makers looking for software for a pilot or production approach Project Wonderland with caution unless and until Project Wonderland receives substantial backing.
© 2010 ThinkBalm. All rights reserved.
Karl Kapp, professor and consultant at Bloomsburg University, and Tony O’Driscoll, professor of the practice at Duke University, have a new book out titled Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration. ThinkBalm contributed an essay to Chapter 8, which is all about steps to successful enterprise adoption. We’d like to call out and comment on a few points from this chapter.
First: mainstream adoption is not a matter of if, but when. Kapp and O’Driscoll write, “There was a time when computers themselves were thought of as toys or novelties; now these devices are indispensable business and education tools. There was a time when the Internet was not a part of our daily lives. It’s hard to reach back and remember the time before these technologies became ubiquitous — when the same type of implementation and adoption concerns existed for those technologies [as for the Immersive Internet].” ThinkBalm’s prediction is that in three years’ time, adoption of immersive software in the workplace will have reached the early majority adoption phase. (See the November, 2008 ThinkBalm report, The Immersive Internet: Make Tactical Moves Today for Strategic Advantage Tomorrow). To be sure, the path to mainstream adoption is marked by barriers — but early adopters are finding springboards for overcoming hurdles. (See the September, 2009 ThinkBalm report, Crossing the Chasm, One Implementation at a Time.)
Second, Kapp and O’Driscoll offer great advice to early adopters in this chapter and we’d like to call out a couple of highlights:
This blog post is part of the Learning in 3D blog book tour. Book publisher Wiley is offering a 20% discount to blog book tour attendees. There will also be a book summary published very soon, which I recommend for further reading.
Today I spoke with Robert Gehorsam, president of Forterra Systems, about changes taking place at the company. In light of what Gehorsam termed challenging economic times, the company has laid off nearly 50% of its workforce (not quite the 60% I had posted in my December 18th tweet) since November 20th, when Forterra briefed ThinkBalm for our upcoming report The Enterprise Immersive Software Decision-Making Guide. Many of the layoffs took place last week. Forterra now has 20 employees, which includes most of the core engineering team and others focused on delivering billable work to government and corporate customers.
Gehorsam said that the company plans to continue operations, fulfill its contracts, and meet its obligations. He would not confirm or deny that the company’s remaining assets were being prepared for sale. He did say this: “We are always looking for ways to accelerate growth and adoption of virtual world platforms in organizations. We will look at ways to do that the best. We haven’t decided anything. It might be acquisition, further partnerships, further investment from investors, or organic growth over time.”
My take and recommendations
On December 4, 2008, fifteen members of the ThinkBalm Innovation Community gathered in an immersive environment for 90 minutes to try to convince our curmudgeonly “boss,” a role played by community member Christopher Simpson of George Brown College, that our fictitious organization should be making Immersive Internet investments. The group met in the community’s region on ReactionGrid, an OpenSim grid. We met at “The Precipice,” a simple meeting space ThinkBalm set up atop a cliff, designed to be conducive to risk-taking. We sat around a large board room table, with Christopher Simpson at the head of the table sitting up a little higher than the rest of us. Christopher started the conversation by stating some of his objections to enterprise use of the Immersive Internet, and then the rest of us jumped in and fired off a steady stream of arguments in favor of it.
With the help of seven eight ThinkBalm Innovation Community members — Alexander Casassovici, Chris Hart, Christopher Bishop, Donald Schwartz, Jeff Lowe, Leslie Ehle, Marc Sirkin, and Robin Gomboy — we wrote ThinkBalm’s first issue in the Immersive Internet Storytelling Series, titled “Role-Play Redux: ‘Convince The Curmudgeon:’ The ThinkBalm Innovation Community Shares Lessons Learned.” For a PDF of the article click this link or click the image of the article’s cover.
Today ThinkBalm published a new ThinkBalm Innovation Community work product: a seven-minute video titled, “The ‘global’ un-lecture: a ThinkBalm Innovation Community event.” This video is a record of an un-lecture event held on November 6th, 2009 in the virtual world of Second Life. The un-lecture event format consists of four ten-minute presentations, demos, or tours about work-related use of immersive technologies, held in an immersive environment. The theme of the November 6th event was “global.”
This video describes presentations by:
About 25 people participated in this un-lecture event. Participants joined us from all over the US and from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. In one hour’s time, we learned about the potential opportunity for adoption of immersive technology in emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East, as well as barriers to entry. We got a first-hand glimpse of the way immersive technology can transform how global teams work together. And we formed new or reinforced existing connections with other innovators and early adopters. If you’re interested in attending future ThinkBalm Innovation Community events, send us a request to join the community via our LinkedIn group.
[Edited Monday, November 9th, 2009 for content — correction and clarification of pricing model and definition of Web-based solutions]
On November 4th, Linden Lab announced that its behind-the-firewall immersive platform, Second Life Enterprise, is now in open beta. Think of SL Enterprise (formerly code-named “Nebraska”) as a micro-Second Life — except it runs on a hardware appliance that resides inside your organization’s data center, is integrated with your enterprise directory, and has been designed to be used for work. The beta version features a Web-based administration interface, professional-looking avatars, various meeting and collaboration spaces, and a couple of basic collaboration tools. Linden Lab also announced that in the first half of 2010 a Second Life Work Marketplace will become available, where customers can buy third-party tools, applications, and content to use with SL Enterprise. Fourteen organizations are currently participating in the SL Enterprise beta program including IBM, Northrop Grumman, Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and Case Western Reserve University.
We’re chin-deep in market analysis and vendor recommendations for client projects and a report we’re working on due out later in the year, tentatively titled, “The Enterprise Immersive Technology Decision-Making Guide.” In light of the fact that prospective SL Enterprise customers have nearly two dozen alternatives they could choose from (see a partial list here), here are some recommendations to put the SL Enterprise announcement in context:
Q: When should SL Enterprise be on my product short list?
A: The more of the following are true, the more likely it is that we’d recommend SL Enterprise to be on your shortlist. Your organization requires:
And you have $55,000 to spend one time front on the appliance and software license for 100 avatars, on the license fee every year, just to keep the appliance up and running, plus an annual recurring fee based on the number of users licensed (starting at $175/user with discounts based on volume), plus a per-user cost once you have more than 100 named users, plus any third-party applications or content and third-party custom development costs.
Q: In what circumstances might an alternative product be more suitable?
A: The more of the following are true, the higher the chances that an alternative offering might be a better fit. Your organization requires:
I first met Celeste DeVaneaux, senior IT manager with Club One, Inc., in September at the 3DTLC conference
in San Jose. Over drinks at a Linden Lab cocktail party, she told me about Club One’s experiments with immersive technology. Club One’s story piqued my interest because their innovations in the realm of fitness-related habit-changing are applicable to corporate learning and development efforts. In both cases, a trainer or coach is trying to change the behavior of the learner. In Club One’s case the learner is a member of the fitness club. In more common enterprise scenarios, the learner may be an executive, new hire, or employee learning a new process or learning to use a new piece of equipment. So in mid-October I followed up with a more formal interview with DeVaneaux, who is the creative director on the project, responsible for the vision, design, and direction of Club One’s products in this area.
Club One is a fitness club network with 18 branded clubs in California and more than 60 corporate worksite health and fitness sites and community centers across the country. Employees are located in 90 sites around the country. The company has more than 140,000 members. One challenge the company faces is helping its members break habits that negatively affect their health.
To address this, the company offers a 42-day program called Habit Changer. The Habit Changer is a system for changing habits, using gentle reminders and daily challenges delivered through email, text, and the web for 42 days. It exposes the habits people have learned, helping make them aware of what they’re doing now and what they might want to do differently. Each daily challenge gets the participant to look at the decisions they make in their life from a new perspective, and provides them with the means to act in a different way.
Club One’s work with immersive technology has been a multi-phase effort:
Club One will be launching a pilot in January, during which three test groups of twenty people each will go through a 12-week program during which they will meet four times a week with nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and facilitators. Social interaction among the program’s participants, as well as learning through identification with one’s avatar, and concepts related to neuroplasticity, will be key focal points. The company is looking for a way to collect participants’ bio data (via scanning, measuring, or photos) and upload that data to generate an avatar that looks similar to the participant. Celeste DeVaneaux offers a few golden nuggets, based on her experiences so far:
Are you a business or technology decision maker who helped your organization choose an immersive platform or application during the past year? (A partial list of immersive platforms and applications is here.) If so, we would like to interview you for an upcoming research report. These interviews will contribute to our analysis for the upcoming ThinkBalm report, “The Enterprise Immersive Technology Decision-Making Guide.” We expect to publish the report in December and it will be freely downloadable from the ThinkBalm Web site.
If you would like to be interviewed for this research, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be conducting research into how Immersive Internet advocates and implementers involved in the technology selection process picked the right solutions for their organizations. The primary question we are setting out to answer for business decision makers is, “How do I choose the right enterprise immersive technology for my organization’s needs?” The resulting ThinkBalm report will be a tool to assist business decision makers in the technology evaluation process.
This report will not compare particular software or service offerings against each other or recommend one vendor over another. Rather, it will be a use case-based guide designed to help business decision makers ask and begin to answer the right set of questions for their particular situation. We’ll focus on use cases like meetings, learning and training, conferences, business activity rehearsal, collaborative design and prototyping, data visualization, system and facility management, and human resources management. You can find additional details about The Enterprise Immersive Technology Decision-Making Guide in this blog post.
Yesterday was the second and final day of the Business Innovation Factory Summit (BIF-5). BIF-5 was an extraordinary meeting filled with lessons, insights, and inspiration. (For my take on day one, see the Oct. 7, 2009 blog post, “Lessons learned from innovators at the first day of BIF-5 Summit.”) I’ve been afflicted with the same bug as many of the other 300 people who participated: difficulty sleeping, and a compulsion to share the stories I heard. BIF founder Saul Kaplan warned us this would happen, and posted this on Twitter after the close of the summit:
Saul Kaplan’s tweet about “re-entry” after BIF-5
The strongest innovators question everything. Some questions kept recurring during the presentations. These questions are relevant to Immersive Internet adopters and technology marketers, who are trying to effect change in an early technology market:
One of the themes of the 3DTLC conference last week was language. This was a recurring topic from the April, 2009 3DTLC conference, but the focus has shifted. Half a year ago the discussion was about whether we should use the term “virtual worlds” or something else. Last week, it became clear from the presentations and conversations that the next wave of adopters — the pragmatists — speak a different language from the early adopters. This language gap is a barrier to adoption of immersive technologies in the workplace; it’s a facet of facing “the chasm,” to use the terminology of Geoffrey Moore (see the book, Crossing the Chasm). (For more insights on how to overcome barriers to adoption see the Sept. 23, 2009 ThinkBalm report, Crossing the Chasm, One Implementation at a Time.)
Immersive Internet technology marketers, advocates, and implementers who are successful at closing this language gap will be competitively positioned to cross the chasm. The way to accomplish this is to speak the vernacular of target business sponsors, stakeholders, and users. As an example, Kevyn Renner, senior technology consultant at Chevron, said it well in his presentation at 3DTLC. When talking with people about the refinery asset virtual environment (“RAVE”) his team is piloting, he describes it using the terminology of the oil refinery — not Web 2.0 or 3D Internet language.
While Kevyn’s example is industry-specific, we can also change the way we talk about immersive technologies in a generalized way. The words we use should convey what people at work can do with the technology, more than describe the technology itself. For example, when talking with business decision makers we use the term email, not SMTP traffic crossing the Internet. We talk about instant messaging, not real-time extensible communication protocols. Likewise, to successfully communicate about immersive technologies to pragmatists we should be talking about collaboration spaces, operations centers, and building blocks rather than virtual worlds and prims.
Below, we offer suggestions to serve as a starting point for discussion. Included are generic terms intended to appeal to business decision makers. We recommend leaving behind terminology that commonly draws negative associations and words that arose out of science fiction. Of course, if your audience is in IT, it’s okay to talk tech — but remember that even IT pros will not likely be familiar with virtual worlds-specific terms. If your audience is a hospital administrator, HR manager, or sales manager, speak the language of their business and job function. In the end, the specific language you choose should depend on your target audience.
Immersive Internet terminology map
|Terms to avoid||Suggested alternatives|
|Virtual (when used in opposition to “real”)||
||Clerk, doctor, officer, customer, or whatever role the non-player character /AI / bot in the environment represents.|
|Texture (when used to describe an uploaded image)||
 For more information about the concept of a bridge (based on the bridge on a ship) see the August 14, 2009 ThinkBalm Innovation Community video “The Bridge.”