Apr 202011
 

Gary is representing MUVEDesign at three conferences coming up that reflect the nature of the three keys areas of the business.

  1. At the TV Show Australia next week he is presenting about Social Television now and in the near future and how Inspiring the stories of tomorrow with social mediawill make TV truly and finally interactive

    Santa Clara Convention Center

  2. In Santa Clara, CA he is opening the business track by presenting New Augmented Reality Business Models at the worlds biggest Augmented Reality Conference known as the Event
  3. And in June Gary is presenting at GameTech on Pervasive Entertainment and the exciting merging of Games, Film/TV, Geo-Caching and Social Media

Gary is also presenting at various adhoc conferences such as Creative Sydney here where he is MC’ing & presenting on various Transmedia & Multi-Platform Content sessions.

More details on each of these below and if you want to speak to us about how MUVEDesign can help you realise your projects in these areas look at our service area and contact us here.


 

‘Multi-Platform’ TV Show

Australia 2011 27-29 Apr Sydney

The TV Show is Australia’s only multiplatform TV conference. It is the first forum bringing together the value chain for multiplatform TV, with an emphasis on finding innovative ways of bringing services to the market. Content will enable decision-makers to evaluate technology, the costs involved and gain knowledge of roll outs and implementation.

  • How to be a successful new entrant in the multi-platform TV market by harnessing innovation
  • How to better understand and engage with customers across multiple devices
  • How to develop new, interesting formats that will attract viewers and advertisers
  • How to use Apps to extend the TV experience across multiple screens
  • How to launch new services and build new revenue streams through Social TV
  • How to integrate Social TV apps within the EPG
  • How to create hype and build communities around branded entertainment
Gary’s audience centric, social TV element followed by an interesting panel looking at community building around TV content.

Day 2  2.10pm Inspiring the stories of tomorrow with social media

  • Including audiences in the creation of your stories
  • Differentiating your content with social features
  • Listening to the audience to produce more compelling stories
Mr Gary Hayes, Director & Founder, MUVEdesign.com & Storylabs.us

2.40pm Panel discussion: How to distribute and market content on social networks

  • Getting the best from the social nature of TV
  • Virally distributing programming
  • Influencing conversations about your programme
  • Marketing your programme more successfully and cost effectively with social media
Mr Iain McDonald, Founder & Executive Creative Director, Amnesia Razorfish
Ms Vanessa Stoykov, Chief Executive Officer, Evolution Media Group

 


 

The Augmented Reality Event 2011

May 17-18 Santa Clara, CA, USA

The Augmented Reality Event 2011 will feature industry luminaries: Bruce Sterling, Vernor Vinge, Will Wright, and Blaise Aguera y Arcas. ARE 2011 will include more than 100(!) speakers in 30 sessions organized into 3 tracks: business, technology & programming, and production & design.

The 2 day event will feature more than 33 hours of talks running the gamut of AR essentials in 3 tracks: Business, Technology and Production:

  1. Business – For executives of established and start-up AR companies, as well as mobile hardware companies – in search of business models and promising verticals for AR;  a venue to form partnerships, learn about latest innovations, and most importantly speak with clients.
  2. Technology – For Developers, programmers and technologists seeking the latest and greatest engines and tools for AR; learn from case studies and post mortems delivered by experienced developers from the leading companies in the space.
  3. Production – For Producers, designers, project managers (in gaming companies, agencies, marketers, brands, and artists) hungry for proven techniques to leverage augmented reality to advance your brand, attract and keep your customers, and build successful campaigns and products that will delight users.

Day One – Tuesday 17-May-2011

  • 8:15-9:00 am ARE 2011 Press Conference  Moderated by Ryan Wagner Great America XK – First Floor. Opportunity for AR companies to announce new products with major tech media
  • 9:00-9:45 am Keynote: Bruce Sterling Wired Main Theater
  • 10:00-11:00 am AR Market: Today and Tomorrow Business Track  (Great America J – First Floor)
    • Gary Hayes (MUVEDesign)- New AR Business Models
    • Laurel Papworth (Community Crew) – Building Mobile AR Social Communities for Business

 


 

GameTech

21-22 June 2011 Sydney

Video games and interactive entertainment has come of age, and it’s serious business. Games have emerged as the pinnacle of consumer entertainment. The interactive entertainment industry is now faced with unprecedented popularity, unparalleled growth and significant opportunity.

“The global video gaming market is expected to grow at a CAG Rate of 8.9% to reach $76.1bn in 2013”*

The benefits of this are not just restricted to the video game developers and publishers- all areas of the value chain and the wider industry arereaping the rewards of this growth opportunity. As users are shifting towards new platforms developers and publishers are changing their business models to wrestle for market share.

  • Gametech is a 2-day conference blitz of learning, inspiration, solutions, and networking. It is the most comprehensive event on games and interactive entertainment in the region, and will provide an unparalleled event experience.
  • Gametech is for those who wish to benefit from the explosive growth in video gaming. Whether you are part of the industry value chain or whether you are considering interactive entertainment as a tool for your business.
  • Gametech features visionary presentations, insightful case studies, lively debate and expert information on timely cutting-edge business topics of interactive entertainment and gaining from video gaming technology.

Gary’s is presenting on key areas of Merged Media and how Gamification is acritical component of all multi-platform content forms

1355 – Pervasive Entertainment – Games, Film, Music, Print & TV merging with audience networks

  • Assessing the concept of Pervasive Entertainment and how it is affecting the games industry
  • How are brands extending to transmedia?
  • Reviewing the business models behind geo-social / augmented reality games
  • Learning form relevant case studies
  • What models of media production, distribution, and consumption are implied by these future
  • visions of entertainment?

Gary Hayes, Director MUVEDesign & Founder StoryLabs

ROUNDTABLE 15.10 - Unleash the Power of Interactive Entertainment – Diversifying Your Product Offering with Video Games

  • How has the appeal of video games widened to new audiences?
  • Underlying the process of developing games to compliment existing products
  • Is there a limit as to the nature of business capable of benefiting from games
  • Finding the right monetization model to support a standalone games product
  • Key ingredients for successful games for social media platforms
  • How can games and interactive entertainment incorporate features such as user-generated content, sharing, rewards and referral programs?
  • Key steps to monetize new social gaming environments?

Sam Doust Creative Director, Strategic Development
 ABC

David Peattie Managing Director
 Hasbro

Hugh Baldwin Director of Television and Content Acquisitions 
Nickelodeon, MTV

Gary Hayes Director MUVEDesign & Founder 
StoryLabs


Oct 252010
 

Gary is presenting on an Ad:Tech Augmented Reality panel later this week in Tokyo going beyond simple AR business models (see this post from over a year ago) and current delivery, real world possibilities, and talking about a near term futures and opportunities, especially in the area of branded location based augmented reality games and services. There will also be discussions related to barriers to adoption and how to open up the market – similar to topics Gary addressed in this recent presentation to the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association Mobile board…but here is the Ad:Tech Tokyo panel (sadly Zugara had to pull out of the panel but Gary will show some of their work)

Augmented Reality – A Showcase What The Marketers Need To Know – October 28th 5:40pm – 6:30pm

“Is AR just like a lift-the-flap book?”
What value can AR offer for people and enterprises?
The session outlines various definitions of AR such as location based platform or image recognition platform and how the technology provides valuable insight for marketing. Exploring various case studies, we will discuss the current situations and issues for AR as well as its future.

Gary Hayes CCO, MUVEDesign & StoryLabs

Akihiko Tokuhisa CTO, Digital Advertising Consortium Inc. Moderator

Masataka Hosogane Executive Creative Director, Mobile Communication Development Department, Communication Design Center, DENTSU Inc.

Gary will be showing several of his Augmented Reality branding overview videos such as the recent Recognition – Business Opportunities but also one of three Location Based Augmented Reality Story developments in this space  called ‘Time Treasure” – a rudimentary, story rich LBARG (location based AR game?!) that MUVEDesign are currently story designing & coding for Android tablets. A hort 2 minute taster video embedded below…

Without giving the plot away, the structure of this game is quite straightforward. There are ten layers of time from 2050 back to 5000BC that you slowly penetrate following stories, clues and trails all based at POIs (points of interest, precise locations) around your city. The traditional MMOG talking-head quest and story givers are a unique part of this as well as a range of capture & loot quests that require you in some cases to do a little ‘real world’ grinding… ok not too much 🙂 For me the challenge as always is about creating strong ‘call to actions’ and constructing a narrative backbone to make it worth your while walking and in some cases running around town! I will do a post when this reaches a full working pilot.

We will keep you updated in the next months of progress on this and the branded client games also in progress.

Oct 092010
 


This is a brief description and support page for the October 2010 released iPad app Social Media Counts one of several non-client commissioned MUVEDesign smartphone apps.

Get it via the iTunes App store now or go to the Apple App preview page

1.0 RELEASE VERSION 1.0 – Description and screen shot

Social Media Counts is an amazing and hypnotic real time display of eighty four user, content and business metrics across social media, games, mobile and traditional or heritage media. The data is based on actual reported numbers which are listed in the embedded info panel and this rolling ‘count-up counter’ is a projection forward in time based on these real numbers. With over 40 million impressions already of the embeddable flash version across the web this counter gives real insight into the tsunami of content, proliferation of devices and the money being made from a range of entertainment and services.

Features

include the ability to switch in real time between the social. mobile, games and heritage lists as well as step forward in increments of day, week, month and a fixed view of a year ahead. You can also reset the counter at any point using the ‘begin’ button. An info screen contains a list of most of the data sources used in the counter and a web link takes you to a web page with these listed and links to the sources pages also.

Please Note: The application is intentionally not highly interactive as it is meant to be used as a display in portrait mode only, making it readable at presentations and demonstrations to others in small meeting environments as it allows easy visibility of the amazingly large growing numbers.

The app will be updated regularly – approx once a month with updated statistics where available and suggestions are always welcomed for new, remarkable figures (make sure you have a reliable per day, month or year figure though!)

For reference here are the current list of real time counter metrics being displayed:

Social Media Tab

new blog posts, members added on Facebook, US dollars spent on virtual goods globally, tweets sent on Twitter, videos watched on YouTube, iPhone apps downloaded, US dollars spent on Facebook gifts, hours uploaded onto YouTube, new Twitter accounts, text messages inside Second Life, US dollars made from global messaging & data, iPads sold, new members on LinkedIn, pieces of music bought on iTunes, searches made on Google, emails sent globally, US dollars made in ad revenue on Facebook, sms’s sent worldwide, photos uploaded to Facebook, images uploaded to Flickr, new internet users globally

Mobile Media Tab

new mobile phones shipped, US dollars generated from mobile games, sms’ sent worldwide, new phones GPS enabled, US dollars made by global mobile data, WiFi and 3G iPads sold globally, iPhones sold, GBs sent across all mobile devices, hours of mobile video watched in USA, US dollars made from all mobile services globally, new users of mobile social networks, US dollars spent on mobile advertising worldwide, new mobile subscribers globally, new portable pcs / laptops shipped, mms messages in the US, iPhones unlocked, US dollars made from mobile music, people using location mobile services logged onto the web using mobile, made from mobile video, new mobile 3G subscribers globally

Games
join a ‘social’ game from Zynga, US dollars made from MMOG players China, quests completed by WoW players, US dollars revenue from games sold in US, user2user tranactions Second Life, transactions in Eve Online, game units sold worldwide, US dollars spent on virtual goods globally, new global MMORPG subscribers, US dollars generated from Virtual World ads, logged into Fantasy Westward Journey, virtual goods created in Second Life, US dollars invested in Virtual World companies, new US kids (3-11) subscribing to VWs, messages between Second Life users, players transactions in Eve Online, US dollars net revenue made World of Warcraft, portable game units sold, user hours by Chinese online gamers, messages posted on Gaia forums, user hours by Second Life users

Heritage Media
US dollars made at the US box office, US dollars lost to US economy due to movie piracy, read a newspaper in the US, Dollars TV revenue generated globally, single music tracks downloaded, attend a US orchestral concert, US dollars made from global print ads, US dollars total spend making Australian films, US dollars total spend on making UK films, US dollars wages for jobs in US movie industry, US dollarshardcover books sold worldwide, kindle books sold just by Amazon, people in US tuning into radio, US dollars made from music concerts worldwide, US dollars made from DVD & Blu-ray in US, US dollars lost by pirated music & movies Spain, US dollars made from all music worldwide, hours of TV watched by all UK viewers, movie tickets sold US EU China Japan,US dollars spent on new TV sets in the US, printed press page views

Oct 052010
 

MUVEDesign can help you deliver a range of cutting edge projects. As well as editorial consultants and service designers (we are currently developing two in-house Augmented Reality Games plus several iPhone and Android apps) we can build and develop for clients across the following platforms:

APPLE SDK

We are registered iOS 4.1 developers with several apps coming out via the App store soon. We can also place paid apps through onto the store for clients

ANDROID SDK

We are part of the Android development community and can develop applications for android tablets and mobile devices and distribute into the Android market for clients

GEO LOCATION DEVELOPMENT

MUVEDesign are registered developers on both the Layar and Junaio location based browsers that work on Android and iPhad platforms. We can also develop Junaio Glue, marker or pattern based recognition

MARKER & IMAGE RECOGNITION AUGMENTED REALITY

We can develop simple AR marker webcam services using the industry standard Flash AR toolkit or utilise some of the latest technology such as Qualcomm’s Augmented Reality SDK which we are beta registered for

GAMES AND VIRTUAL WORLDS AND SOCIAL MEDIA

MUVEDesign can naturally build a range of social media sites such as WordPress/BuddyPress networks, Drupal or Joomla installs and is well known already as a key Second Life developer but also can create standalone games using software such as Unity – for iPhone, Web, Standalone Mac & PC and even Wii games.

Jun 292010
 

Personalizemedia.com just posted a detailed look at a video entitled Augmented Worlds Video Part One – Recognition. The focus is looking specifically at the business model implications of the widespread use of a large tablet AR device and super fast, always on tagged/recognisable content. There are other videos in the series covering education, games & stories as well as utility near futures – but though it would be cool to cross post the video here too! Enjoy and read more about the video on the link above

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 – there are some key assumptions with this video detailed here –

ASSUMPTIONS WITH THIS CONCEPT

OK this tablet device with camera is running on a very fast connection, instant video and image so we are assuming city wide wifi or 4G type service connection. Also some elements pop up immediately so we can assume the user in the video (me) has setup some preferences or it has learned what type of service I like so it gives instant fulfilment vs dropping into endless menus (more on the interface next). Also the device is extremely aware of its location to a few inches, so we can assume that some of the ‘recognition’ elements are speeded up, being tied into precisely where the user is stood/orientated ‘combined’ with recognition – this will speed up the overall process vs using only Kooaba like Smart Visuals Recognition which puts a lot of pressure on server-side processing.

Notice on the  of the interface I have put the words “CONNECTED TO: Sydney CBD People and Places cached data” which is basically pointing out that the speed of recognition to data display is super accelerated when all information is pre-cached, and the way intelligent caching works means the more popular the ‘target’ the faster the response. Privacy – there are a few sequences here and in the longer video that show people being ‘recognised’. Obviously a real concern at the moment, so the concept video assumes the users being targeted have given their consent to outdoor recognition…I know this is a post in itself (see one of mine recently) but lets assume like TagWhat and FourSquare like services, users are allowing their ‘trusted’ friends and companies (for benefits) assess to being recognised – at least for the purposes of this concept!

Oct 232009
 

A cross-post from Gary Hayes’s Personalizemedia Site (with permission!) … As promised a more specific ‘commercial’ follow up to my previous post on this topic which was more ‘story’ centric. I am developing and producing a range of Augmented Reality (or if you prefer AR, ‘blended or layered media’) applications at the moment. I have also been asked to present at a few conferences and create a detailed white paper on the implications of AR for government & business looking at privacy, legal, copyright & crime issues. As readers of this blog will know I also lecture, run workshops and work with creative teams to come up with future ‘social entertainment’ based around virtual worlds and augmented reality.

But the purpose of this short post is to simply list and try to categorise the many types of business Augmented Reality apps appearing in the market. The first manifestations of AR appeared in the late 60s, became real in the 70s and by the 90s were already being used by major companies. Now portable computing is finally powerful enough to deliver AR to anyone who has a smart phone or latest generation PC or console. But first my simple definition of Augmented Reality.
Information, 3D models or live action blended with or overlaid onto the physical world in real time. A camera & attached screen is used to view the combination of reality & real time virtuality. Devices or systems commonly used for AR include

But the purpose of this pretty detailed post is to simply list and try to categorise the many types of business Augmented Reality apps appearing in the market and to try to identify opportunities.

Augmented Dollar

Augmented Reality Business by Gary Hayes

Continue reading »

Aug 052009
 

MUVEDesign are now developing a range of augmented reality apps, particularly aimed at the new iPhone 3Gs and are happy to accept enquiries from interested parties. For those unfamiliar with AR there are some videos below that give a sense of the area. Simply put AR is the physical, real world seen through a live often mobile ‘camera’ (web cam, iPhone etc) then in real time, digital content is layered over the top – locked & linked to locations, people and other visible real world elements.

We have come a long way since cardboard cutout VRML back in the 90s. It is interesting to watch a revolution take place at the moment in Mixed & Augmented Reality and one particular subset, augmented reality. Gary produced a compilation in 2008 of various AR and MR area in this short video (at the bottom of this post you will find a transcript)

Another exciting area of AR is emergent game play. This example from a Japanese company called Geisha Tokyo Entertainment is your very own augmented reality Geisha Girl. It is interesting watching a story develop so imagine the potential now for story tellers or performers who can give their ‘participant’ audience the tools to bring the storyworld out into their personal space. I think in advance of the oft mentioned ’surround-o-film’ (yes holograms of Bond jumping around you in your front room, god help us!) this is a simple and elegant solution – given we all have webcams built into laptops, games consoles, mobiles etc etc: With this particular package you get two cubes and two sticks but imagine a cube for a range of characters or sets for your latest film or kids TV show, perhaps available as a premium.

Finally the combination of Augmented Reality and Social Media is probably the most obvious and compelling near term offering. Being able to layer the rich social web over the top of the real world adds real value. This video speaks for itself.

Below is the slightly futuristic transcript from my video compilation above, for those who can’t hear the narration. :) (BTW a better audio version available as a 50MB download here). Attribution for most clips appear in this post.

Is this reality? Is this fantasy? In 2008 the great transition truly began. Whereas a decade earlier we used to ‘log in’ to cyberspace, now we began to semi-permanently inhabit virtual space and the digital world started to leak out into everyday life. It began to infiltrate our shopping malls and became integrated with our everyday lives. Humanity started the relentless journey towards the natural future where virtuality became a greater reality,  and where digital fantasy and organic reality were inextricably intertwined.

Through the early 2000s pervasive wearable computing started to break down the walls that used to separate our virtual existence from our physical one. This same technology also allowed us to embed ourselves seamlessly into virtual worlds which is where we could truly experiment with future forms of entertainment, art, education and business.

augmented_realityIn these new places we became the real time, living celebrity. Many of us became avatar stars, pixel gods – exalted as those linear film and TV icons. This became the only place for many. By 2007 hardcore gamers were already spending fifty five hours per week ‘inside’ these shared worlds and learned to forgot about the real world. This became the place where their most meaningful hours were spent. Everyone began to blend the two domains, combining them in new ways, driven by an invisible urge. Thus started the global meshing, of today’s mixed reality.

But in 2009 questions were asked. As in the many films that hinted at our transhumanist future, would the physical embodied self ever become redundant? Would we truly evolve as self contained, digital entities? May we as well be slumped in a chair with a cable plugged into our heads? Regardless, as the real world became inhospitable we all started to crave for the immersion and began moving our physical selves into these spaces. Even more than that we wanted our peers our un-virtual audiences to be able to share our experiences there. It became a contagious as the most poignant moments and memories were the ones in virtual space.

But we needed to look beyond these screens and into our own souls. Find the truth written along the ‘thin white line’ that separates analog from digital, person from avatar. This was the beginning. It always was. As far as the meshing or blending of reality and virtuality, in 2009 they were the equivalent of grainy black and white movies seventy years earlier. Our experiences were simultaneously part real, part virtual but it didn’t matter which was which anymore. Both were valid and they depended on each other. Those early parallel existences of twenty years ago started to move humanity forward, released our imaginations and we coexisted with our precious and ultimately fragile, physical selves. The great crossing had begun.

Feb 042007
 

or thirteen commandments for organisations considering becoming stars in the new web 3.0 revolution…

Originally posted here on one of Gary’s other blogs personalizemedia.

I have mentioned before that I am currently working on a couple of major and one or two minor media companies first forays into the metaverse, or its most accessible incarnation Second Life. I can’t talk about them directly of course pre-launch so I thought why not create a ‘simple’ guide for brand owners using a couple of recent Second Life launches AOL (today) and the LWord (last week). What follows are thirteen basic principles for brand and property owners as they create a virtual presence in any multi user virtual environment which really came about from my own work in the past year considering what works and what doesn’t, combined with an observation of some of the ‘commonalities’ in many recent more mature brand launches. Some of this also cross relates to a post I did mid last year on how to achieve immersion and these are not focussed on ‘formats’ or new forms of entertainment that I cover elsewhere.

I have chosen AOL and LWord because the former is quite a broad media company without a clear single identity and the LWord because it is has a very narrow and defined identity but also as I was the line producer on an eTV version a couple of years ago. Another reason is that both are implemented by Electric Sheep and it is obvious they are developing their own little ‘format’ bible. The recent entries inworld from NBC, Reuters, Dell, Endemol (Big Brother) and MTV on the there.com platform all follow these basic principles which I illustrate below – some more than others. This will be a broad brushstrokes introduction as I don’t want to put the growing number of companies and one-avatar-and-their-virtual-dog operations out of business. I also don’t expect any self respecting brand to try to do this without contracting a company with significant experience either, the social, environmental, game/play, scripting, design aspects of this are very unchartered and it is critical to engage those who at least have some semblance of a map. Anyway on we go.

01brandmeta0371 Don’t Become Virtual Just Because You Can

By way of an introduction a cautionary note. Sure there is a certain PR cache, trendy or super cool in being one of the first to participate a new kid on the emerging media block. Every second week there is a new ‘celebrity’ entrant and although I personally think in the medium/long term these worlds will be come commonplace for business, entertainment and education, we should view most of the current raft of services as experiments. The old ‘build it and they will come’ adage is risky at the moment when there is only around 40-50 000 concurrent users across all the fully rendered avatorial based ‘non-game’ virtual worlds. There are a lot of empty streets across the ‘branded’ grid and these early entrants are either in for the strategic long haul or just grabbing a smaller and smaller slice of the Second Life press pie. On the positive side though the learning that comes from each incremental new service is part of building a robust and longer term metaverse for all. There are many who say SL is purely about sex or money (just like the real world then, big revelation there) and that brands are not invited. I used to have the same view until I realised that without some form of organisational presence, educational purpose or celebrity event Second Life was really going nowhere – a glamourised chat room. New ‘brand’ entrants need to realise that they are to a great extent last minute guests at a party and as such need to bring something significant to it. It doesn’t have to be about sex or money but it should definitely be about new experiences and play.

2 Make Joining Simple, Accessible and Branded

One could think of Second Life particularly as the walled garden portal that hosts the content that comes from individuals and companies/organisations. A sign of maturity is creating a way for niche or interest audiences a way to participate without their feet actually touching the ‘aggregator’. So we are seeing as in the L Word example below ways to use exposed APIs to register and download the client without going to Second Life at all. This simplifies the relationship initially for these existing brand loyal audiences, sure it gets complicated later when they realise there is a sea of potentially more interesting ‘stuff’ in lorry loads, but the entry is far more elegant.
BrandMeta02a

3 Once In World – Hold Their Hand, With Your Brand

A third part making the ‘birthing’ process easier for ‘newbs’ is to drop them into familiar surroundings. Their beloved stars (in the case of L Word) telling them how to get the best out of the world. The Linden orientation is simply a ‘tech manual’ approach, its fun, but is still about which buttons to press, the L Word version is ultimately clearer, because most of it is about making your avatar look presentable.
BrandMeta03a

You can see other orientation islands and in the foreground here a simple circular path with very, very basic instructions. Given the audience are likely to be the metro-sexual crowd, we must expect lots of time to preen their avatars. It would have been good to incorporate this as part of the main environment, but I suppose this could be considered the dressing room and rehearsal space before ‘going on air’, where you are the star.
BrandMeta03b

BrandMeta03c

In my experience many RL people spend the majority of their first week tweaking their image, quite naturally, so the L Word (E Sheep) have provided as you can see in the last image in this category four orientation islands, just in case there is a sudden rush of a couple of hundred avatars. Really that is the fourth ‘entrance’ tip, make sure you can handle a rush for the door. People who are bounced rarely return so have enough ‘welcome’ zones, just in case.

BrandMeta03d

4 Design Multiple Levels of Navigation

When people arrive in the main environment you should think of it as a metaphorical homepage. You must make several things clear. All that’s available for them to do (not consume), how to get to these places, a feel of the ‘world’ they are entering and lots and lots of ‘why’ they should stay and explore. The welcome/arrival area should ideally have eyeline to the main sites too. So central and raised is the usual deal. AOL’s environment feels a little like a Disney-type theme park (fun fair) and is laid out that way. Its general theme of entertainment is echoed in the overall consistent colour palette, the signage, the walkways and slight sense of discovery – if everything is telegraphed there is the alternative problem that avatars will think they don’t need to explore cause the labelling is too ‘samey’. This could be an issue with AOL’s signage below – which is a shame cause they do have a few surprises – see point 7.

BrandMeta04a

BrandMeta04b

5 Decide Early On Your USP

I am glad to announce that the last few ‘brands’ that have entered Second Life have moved away from building the office blocks and sticking their logo on the outside, with only a very slight nod to where they are. Thanks to developers who are growing in experience virtually all the new entrants have one or two new things, never before seen. Some are very superficial, some are just ‘ the best implementation of…”. AOL have decided to create a few ‘lets be the best at that…” items such as a fully branded skate-boarding area.

BrandMeta05a

Complete with piped Real Life skateboard championships as you tumble around the heavily graffiti park. One wonders about sport in SL. This is a long way from Tony Hawks as the performance of SL servers and client are just not up to it (unless really optimised – meaning a whole sim to skateboarding only). So these are social spaces, skateboard for a few minutes, then find a corner and chat about it. This must be built in and planned for. See later.

BrandMeta05b

Another fun item which falls in the ‘only one in SL’ bracket could be this other simple offering from AOL, the avatar ‘sticky wall. ‘Physical’ activity needs to be sprinkled across any offering, forcing quests and mind games all very important. This is about delivering an eclectic range of services vs something too narrow in focus.

BrandMeta05c

One of the L Words USPs is the speed dating tables in the central part of their main island. This feels much like Big Brother that I blogged about earlier in that it is an already unnatural social interplay now with the added layer of being virtual and partly anonymous. I haven’t tried speed dating in SL but I suspect inside the ‘virtuality’ of L Word and (as you can see on the instructions here) if it is moderated well, it could be a great way to meet ‘new’ friends. SL is like any ‘club/bar’ situation not an ideal way of finding romantic or like-minded partners, Showtime are moving in the right direction with this.

BrandMeta05d

Torrid Midnight of the SecondCast team and a leading fashion designer, is one of the first to try out the skateboard park which launched today.

BrandMeta05e

6 Make sure the Environment has Synergy with the Brand

Now we can all imagine (I have been there hundreds of times) the discussions that take place when a group sits down to make any existing property ‘immersive’. The ‘we could do that!’, how about recreating one of those and so on. Many metaverse entrants insist on identical duplication, or model building of corporate buildings (NBC Rockefeller) or the actual TV sets as in the L Words version of the Planet Cafe below.

BrandMeta06a

BrandMeta06b

I am not going to dwell to much on over representational builds as I covered that in a post a year ago, but just to say that there are two ways to go here and the middle ground is the dangerous one. The brand should either be in your face and as precise a copy as possible of something that clearly represents the brand (or the context) or something such as Vodaphone’s build (a large megaphone, hearing aid) slightly surreal and tiping their hat to this ‘naturally’ strange world, where anything, seriously is possible. I still yawn a bit at the endless brick walled buildings, blue glass and ‘mall’ness to many of the current builds, but I am also aware first hand of the number of suits in companies who ‘need’ something recognisable and enough branded signs scattered around the place. As an example the easiest option would be for say a French brand to place a model of the Eiffel Tower on their sims, the more brave route is to create something ‘new’ and unique, a place you enjoy going back to. I personally have ‘done’ the real Eiffel tower on at least five trips, I have no real urge to do it again but I absolutely love the ‘essence’ of the French countryside such as Provence though. I wont go on as I will be exploring environmental identity in virtual worlds and what makes some more sticky than others, in a Terra Nova post in the next couple of months.

7 Be Sensitive to The World – Playful, Deliver Expectation and Have Depth

Now for the key ingredients for all new entrants into these spaces. It must deliver expected features in ‘island’ sims such as shops, cinemas/screens, dance areas and even branded things to buy. It is no different than being a tourist to a distant island and feeling that the environment is self-contained. Another major requirement is all visitors need to play/do and even in a ‘no rules’ game like Second Life, you can create smaller, casual games, particularly social ones.

Here AOL provide the staple branded clothing. I have never seen any figures in how many people actually buy this stuff, but I have also never seen avatars wearing non-fashion branded clothing (apart from Torrid above). Perhaps I need to get out more 😉

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The quiz in the AOL sim is really good fun. It feels like interactive TV inside a virtual world. Simple multiple choice (the four colour selector – just like fast text keys in UK iTV), timer based questions and a top scorer board on the left. This would be great in a more ‘organic’ pub environment vs the rather board room look and feel here.

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Virtually all new branded sims have the dance club/bar combination. For the L Word it works very well and when I was there, it had a constant churn of people. I think part of it is just checking out for reference what are the best clubs to landmark but part of this one is the obvious lesbian overtones. Yes all the avatars in there were female. The club itself was pretty dark and dismal and not on my return list.

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The layout of the L Word sim I found a little disappointing. It had a similar feel to the there.com Laguna Beach (I blogged about in Sept), as the stores and buildings were just a little spread out and hidden. Even flying you felt things were disconnected and fragmented. It is important to make sure that although avatars will expect stores, and appropriate ones, that they should be integrated and not glued on as an afterthought.

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Most of the shops for the L Word were indeed skins, clothes and various relationship ‘toys’.

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8 Make the Experience as Personal as Possible

As I have indicated before in my web 3.0 posts, inside these worlds there is already a rampant web 2.0 paradigm. Avatars want to share and blog their experiences (I know I do whenever I get time). So in any build that has that first ‘wow’ factor about it, make sure there are enough places that allow the users to get the word out (that’s assuming you want traffic). The actual SL interface has much of this built in, but it is buried inside profiles and not where most viewing is – in the real web 2.0 world. So AOL have set up simple sets to take pictures of yourself and drop them onto the AOL blog site. In fact there are a few points where they encourage this, the sticky wall for example. To drive traffic to your virtual space you need to have lots and lots of content placed outside in the web 2.0 space.

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One of my favourite bits of the AOL sim from a personalization perspective is the walk of stars for two reasons. One of them is the first picture on this post, a way to leave your mark, collect a copy of the star (because it will be erased by the next avatar of course) and take your picture just like a real ‘star’. The other thing that impressed me was the way a path can be made compelling. I spent as much time reading all the funny SL variants or real world stars names than I did in the whole rest of the sim. Partly because there were a few chucklers, partly because of the depth (a lot of effort from the Electric Sheep had gone into thinking them up as Johnny Ming told me) but mostly because they felt more integrated than everything else. They were embedded in the environment vs being stuck on or in like everything else.

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9 If You Are Going to Provide Content Give Enough Choice

As a brand AOL is known as a kind of one-stop-entertainment-shop. So it was no surprise to see lots and lots of content in the various viewing halls and on screens in hidden corners. There was some disconnect here though as the sign outside in the first picture here says ‘millions of high quality videos’ and once inside the option is from a rolling list of about ten. So the outside the environment corporate message is lost inworld. The two have to be aligned. A message like the ‘worlds largest new network’ over a two floor brick office inworld, has a disconnect. Make the inworld messages appropriate and have a proportional scale and those that refer to the real world, clearly make that obvious.

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10 Make Inworld Advertising as Integrated as Possible

Companies have seemed to be a little nervous about product placement and advertising from other companies in their spaces. This seems odd to me as in many situations such as the skateboard park below adverts actually work very well, especially ones for inworld services. I suspect that the ad departments in the respective companies look at the raw numbers and think that 3rd party adds will dilute their brand. I suspect there is a little truth in that, but a world without adverts embedded in places you expect them becomes quite paradoxically empty and missing something. This is not a flip-flop statement for me because I have always said ‘appropriate’ advertising vs ads rotating on fifty meter hoardings above residential areas, or above malls dropped alongside a peaceful beach retreat.

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11 Be There In Person, Communicate and Learn

Any entrant into these worlds must, and I stress this, must have a constant personal presence. This is not the web. Put up your website and sit back and watch the page views, this is real people expecting to talk to the creators or the brand owners or especially the stars (or people role playing the stars). For AOL’s launch today we have Morton from Electric Sheep and Johnny Ming (of SecondCast again) and now Electric Sheep too. Both are happy to talk but their primary reason for being there is too see how things are used, if people are not getting to their ‘jewel’, how long they spend on the ‘activity’ that they thought would keep them occupied for hours and so on. Never before have we had this sort of ‘research detail’. This is the equivalent of getting inside the mind of the person using your homepage or site for the first time. You can follow them around, ask them why they went left rather than right. I won’t go on cause this will be another Terra Nova post when I am guest there in a month or so.

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Adam Ramona and I chat with Johnny Ming about making Second Cast a little more arty, amongst other things.

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12 Have as Much Content as Possible Inworld and Not on Weblinks

OK. Second Life is a pain when it comes to getting content into it. I spend most of my time importing textures (images to place around sites), sounds and animations. Getting web pages and RSS feeds is clunky to say the least. The easiest option is to just link out of SL to the default web browser of the user. There are no alternatives to this really but the temptation should be avoided to make every single item a link to a web browser, because simply the user will realise that the place is actually quite empty as they are spending most time on an external website. This is not rocket science. The user has made a concious decision to boot up a resource intensive 3D virtual world browser and not to browse the fast super efficient 2D web. They want social interchange and experiential activity not a bunch of branded web pages. Just as people say ‘oh I could never watch a full length feature film on my mobile’ there are several truths here. Avatars:
1 Will not click through and read more than a few pages of text on ‘your’ site.
2 They will generally will not watch long form movies, unless it is a pre-arranged social gathering. Short 1-4 mins only
3 Previews of audio and video are best, but make sure there is enough there to surprise them and ‘make’ them want to click to the web to discover more and possibly buy
4 Will only blog and send pictures to external sites (yours and theirs) if it is transparent and simple in your space. Take a picture, click this button, chat your blog text. Anything that involves putting notecards into objects, or crossing to a webpage forget it.
5 Enjoy anything that has a live’ness, a happening now in the real and virtual world. The nearer to a database driven website the virtual space is the more of a turnoff it will be. Sims should have lots of randomness scattered about. Sound that changes and shifts, images that tick over on ad hoardings, a sense of life, creatures and so on. This to me is all about content as well. Organising events on a regular basis is fine but they need to join your main group and this should be a priority at the beginning.

For brands that have no specific identity such as AOL, then something may have to be created for them. A virtual world incarnation of their 2D web ‘portal’ness, which I mentioned earlier. They went for the entertainment themepark, they could have easily gone for a vision of the future or a journey into the past, something abstract and unworldly, played with scale or just recreated a part of San Francisco.

13 Give the Environment Identity Make Social Activity Easy

My self agreed 90 minute blog time is up sadly so I will finish on this last point about social spaces in virtual worlds, which again will be part of a few posts on other more prominent blogs. The number of cafes, cinemas, meeting rooms, lecture theatres, living rooms and so on that are completely empty, yet just outside the door are groups of avatars happily chatting away, staggers me. Developers, including myself sometimes, put great effort into lots of interior detail, to then find later no one is using it. We imagine scenes of avatars role playing, or at least imagining they are really in those places, yet there is something quite claustraphobic about these ‘realistically’ enclosed spaces in many cases (as an aside I tend to build broad stuctures with very high ceilings (usually domes) if I want a sense of ‘indoor’ness). Unless there is an organised event at the auditoriums, cinemas and cafes they are usually empty. Design social spaces outdoors or at the very least give them an outdoor feel. Avatars in Second Life can fly and to block this 3rd dimension of travel makes many feel uncomfortable and disabled. It was interesting to be party too the types of conversations, when collecting some images for this post and checking out the new sites – the difference between AOL and L Word. The L Word group below were discussing intimate aspects of lesbianism and societies labelling of single gender relationships while in the L Word stores couples were shopping as if in real ‘L’ life – most kept referring back to the L Word and what was going on in the show or how it is being manifest here. On the AOL site the conversations I participated in were very broad, all topics, no focus and none of them referred back to AOL, apart from the media types who were prowling. Perhaps part of that was due to the fact that like Big Brother the L Word already has a ‘social’ expectation of its participants and back to point one above, if your brand is not already a conduit for a part of the global conversation, don’t expect it to become one in the metaverse.

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Posted by Gary Hayes ©2007