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.

May 262009
 

A cross-post from Gary’s main media site Personalizemedia

Tran-social-media-play [tran-soc-shuh-mee-dee-uh-pley] noun, verb

1 noun – a new form, a means of collaborative communication through play in constructed shared ‘media-rich’ environments

2 verb – taking part in game-like activity across and within online and offline social networks and media portals.

Can we truly create meaningful immersive media ‘experiences’ for others? Ones that last, are memorable, have impact & emotion and keeps the ‘experience players’ coming back for more? I am currently building services, working on papers and delivering courses on Experience Design and this post is a quick summation of some of the background thinking and good case studies.

Life is filled with so many exciting twists and turns. Hop off the straight and narrow whenever you can and take the winding paths. Experience the exhilaration of the view from the edge. Because the moments spent there, that take your breath away, are what make you feel truly alive. © 2000 Stacey Charter

Filmmakers and marketeers are clearly moving into #TranSocialMedia Play in a big way with a triple whammy at the moment of Star Trek, Terminator & Lost (fan) ARG’s and a raft of social media campaigns across other film and TV properties (some much better than others!). I have written about worlds immersion and cross-media design many times in the past but this post looks at the addition of social play into the mix – a permanent fixture.

Continue reading »

Mar 112009
 

Below are my introduction slides from ad:tech 2009 earlier this week. It is such a short time (each panel is given 50 minutes) to cover such a vast area and myself, Jeff (habbo.com.au) and Mitch (SmallWorlds.com) were all struggling to impart tons of great info/examples and have enough time to get interactive. I hogged the first 15 minutes by giving a broad overview and some examples I have been involved in that fitted the brief of the talk.

Below are my slides, a little descriptive text below that and at the bottom of this post some deeper insight into SmallWorlds (given most of my readers probably know Habbo already? – If not, Why Not!? ). I included one slide from Jeff Brookes set looking at Hitwise’s stats on browser worlds and other sites in terms of session length which will no doubt raise a few eyebrows!

Virtual Worlds & Business: What’s The ROI?

Virtual worlds are maturing at a rapid rate and brands are realising there are valuable business opportunities within them. Whether the objective is engagement, research or brand presence, virtual worlds are proving to be a legitimate marketing channel. In this session our panel will look to provide insights into the business benefits of working within a virtual world.

Presenters

  • Gary Hayes, Director, Laboratory for Advanced Media Production, AFTRS & CEO MUVEDesign (Australia’s leading SL developer!)
  • Jeff Brookes, Regional Director – Asia Pacific, Sulake Corporation (habbo.com.au)
  • Mitch Olson, Co-Founder, SmallWorlds.com

There were several important messages in my introduction. Firstly making sure we all understand the different platforms social virtual worlds are operating on so I briefly described

  1. Layered or Parallel worlds – cute 2D type avatars that move over the top of 2D web
  2. Browser Worlds – walled garden that run inside web browsers, often as isometric views as flash or shockwave
  3. Client Worlds – anything from 20MB to 3GB downloads of data and the world is obviously much richer than browser worlds but do need higher spec computers
  4. Console Worlds – a relatively new kid on the block, social spaces that exist on games consoles. All the rendering grunt is there and the avatars are often linked to the PS3, Wii or XBox360 real life account. PS3 Home is the easiest way to match to worlds like Habbo or There.com
  5. Note there are hybrids of the above and I would put ExitReality down as a hybrid of 1 and 3 as it turns a web page into a client style world

Here are the images of the above part of the presentation

worlds_platforms

I decided that a good ‘spine’ to hang the introduction on was the sort of negative questions floating around from those who don’t really understand what’s happening with web 3.0, the live virtual world space. This includes the paranoid printed press, a few out-of-touch businesses, and digital media companies/consultants more interested in iPhone/mobile games or Facebook widgets which is something they can truly explain (read: make money off).

Press hyperbole or myths?

  • Virtual Worlds are on the decline?
  • There’s no one in them?
  • & people don’t spend long there?
  • They are for kids or social ‘games’ not business?
  • There are no marketing models?

But I then addressed each question in turn showing real world stats and examples. Obviously in recession investment in new tech/services are going to be hit and recent reports do suggest a consolidation of investment into kids worlds, hinting at a lowering of VC in the ones I highlighted in my presentation, but this whole area is still something education & business are advised to R&D and understand fully – as a minimum. As we know it will be new ways of doing business, more immersive and efficient ways to collaborate and alternate forms of entertainment that will be partly what will bring us out of recession.

I finished the talk with a quick overview of the main models that virtual worlds (and most online games) can be monetized. Items 1, 3 and 4 were picked up in a talk on the 2nd day of ad:tech looking at how Nike engaged with console ingame campaign experts Massive across a few platforms.

  1. Static Advertising
  2. Promotions & Sponsored events
  3. Virtual Goods & Product Placement
  4. Dynamic InWorld Advertising
  5. Branded Spaces
  6. AdverWorlds & AdverGames

After my talk some great examples from Jeff Brookes from Habbo followed by Mitch from Smallworlds. I am always fascinated by the methods Habbo engages with its loyal and large community and was equally fascinated by Small worlds thinking too and how they are ‘integrating’ themselves with the existing 2D social networked web. This video by the infamous Robert Scoble features Mitch Olsen and Ted of SmallWorlds

They talk about the main traditional world features but then go onto the interesting areas of embeddable worlds (the Google Lively Killer app – not exploited), API integration with almost anything (twitter feeds, YouTube vids, FB updates on walls anyone) and the most interesting ‘missions’. You are encouraged to explore, meet folk, shop and basically get involved – Mitch says this is like the LinkedIn profile thinking, until your profile is 100% filled in you feel like you are missing out. I likened it much more like World of Warcraft, set players tasks, set them group tasks, give them rewards. This to me could be SmallWorlds real killer applet. At the moment they have around 400 000 users and that looks set to take off in the next months.

Tony Fendall blogged about a particularly cute feature that allows (his words) –

One important thing which was missed is that they didn’t have time to talk about all the cool micropayment features (which Ted alludes near the end) such as Gambit, OfferPal and Zong. Gambit and OfferPal are both services which allow users to earn SmallWorlds currency by completing tasks. These tasks include things such as answering surveys and give amounts of currency proportional to the amount of effort put in. This is a great way for players (who may not have a credit card) to still be able to earn a premium SmallWorlds experience. Zong is a simple cell phone payment service, where by users can pay for a premium SmallWorlds experience using their mobile phone. For an excellent look at how we have integrated Zong into SmallWorlds, check out this YouTube video created by the developers at Zong:

Note a cross post from Gary’s other main blog personalizemedia

Feb 232009
 

What may save TV may also truly grow Social Virtual Worlds. As online audiences continue to ignore TV and vanilla/social virtual worlds suffer from a lack of direction, perhaps the marriage of the two will save both from irrelevancy? A report by Gary Hazlitt in various TV branded virtual world spaces. (original post on personalizemedia)

twinityspiritThere have been several forays by TV properties (gradually losing their audience and associated ad revenues) into social virtual worlds over the past two years. I don’t just mean branded one-off events but actually setting up shop, building a familiar and representive space for the ‘users’ to play in. These forays range from at one end, simple branded spaces pushing episodes on screens through to actually running variants of the TV format to be played out by participant avatars in a detailed build -with many points in-between. But before the meat of the post (a couple of new entrants) here is a quick list to give you an idea of some of the shows and channels that have tried, had some success or failed. As I have been involved in a few of them and visited all, I have listed ones I think have had most impact (engagement) through to those who didn’t quite get it (reversioning).

  1. NBC’s Gossip Girl
  2. MTV’s – Laguna Beach on There.com (also Hills, PimpMyRide etc)
  3. Big Brother – PersonalizeMedia detailed report & at launch
  4. Showtimes The L Word
  5. CBS – CSI:New York and from TechCrunch
  6. Weather Channel – Info, simulations and Extreme Sports area
  7. Australia’s ABC TV Island – Channel & some programmes (eg: Librarians)
  8. NBC Universal Media Island – Channel & concerts & events
  9. London Live – the first music show to appear on the cyberchannel: Virtual Life.TV
  10. SkyNews Island – News Set role play
  11. The Money Programme BBC screening
  12. Channel 4 – Radio Station
  13. Sundance Channel – Virtual screening room
  14. Inhabited TV 1997! – BBC, BT, Illuminations and others
  15. many more…0ver to you and comments!

twinityspirit01There is a rule of thumb regarding TV execs and virtual worlds or serious games initiatives – do not let the TV folk take control as they have too much ingrained baggage around non-participatory media and the resultant compromise is often of no use to anyone – get people who understand game play (and be aware that often excludes traditional game developers) and social media involved or face the consequences. The ones above that really worked allowed the participant audience to really ‘live’ in the shoes of the characters either by having activities similar to the protagonists, meeting the ‘fictional characters’, a social space that resonated with the shows aesthetic or a great set with game-like elements. I have talked a lot about Mixed Reality Entertainment in the past and how one of the most innovative uses of virtual space is to extend the TV or Film property into a 24/7, participatory environment. The main reason for doing this is to drive traffic to the TV but also to keep existing followers loyal to the branded property. As an example there is more detail about the reasoning on my post on Big Brother (good and bad) in Second Life (Witnessing the Birth of an Entertainment Form) as well as posts nearby on CSI in Second Life and many of MTVs properties in There.com (TV Property Branded Virtual Worlds – The Beginning). There are moves around the world including BBC and many European broadcasters who are creating worlds alongside and in some cases in front of the TV episodics and this is the important point. Promoting films with games or virtual world spaces has a very limited life span, forging a strong link between virtual world events and TV episodics is to me a virtuous circle – especially considering the 200 plus worlds populated by the youth audience who are typically turning off TV – teens and tweens. Earlier there were many experiments of TV/World hybrids and I was involved, as mentioned before, in the Mirror. Here is John Wyver (then Illuminations) talking about that (remember this is circa 1997!).

The other key element that contributed to the success of The Mirror, much as in real life, was the provision of regular “hosts” for the space. These needed to be frequent visitors who spent a significant amount of their time in the world, and whom users could have some reasonable expectation of encountering when they logged on. These hosts would greet new entrants, introduce people to each other, point out activities and generally help people around. More than this, however, over time they became the core of the community of the world, encouraging people to return and beginning to develop the particular language and culture of The Mirror. Needless to say, they were the saddest to see it turned off after seven weeks – although a number of relationships begun virtually have continued in the real world – including at least one marriage and one recently born child.

Recent company start-ups or collaborations also suggest that there are moves afoot. Icarus studios are squarely aiming at the TV/VirtualWorld hybrid and about 18 months ago Endemol & EA teamed up to create Virtual World TV formats (VirtualMe) based on Deal or No Deal and Big Brother. Also there have been a plethora of immersive film launches (play-in-the-set-type builds) across the metaverse and I Legend, Digital Hollywood, Iron Man, Quantum of Solace and Transformers spring to mind as I write – but as I said this post is more to do with a continuous, what happens on TV resonantes into the virtual world and what happens there is reflected into the TV episodics. (I regularly consult on this specific area so won’t go into any more detail!)…

habbo_heroes_image2

So, it is interesting to see this trend continuing as new world Twinity starts to do more experiential ‘film’ property marketing and even more ‘demographically focussed’ the current series of Heroes being extended into Habbo

The agreement was brokered by the William Morris Agency and marks the first time ‘Heroes’ has partnered with a virtual world.

..but not in the usual way. As reported by LA Times “‘Heroes’ hops on to Habbo’s virtual world” they will be introducing a virtual-only character Syn Anders who will act as a bridge or guide to the TV series. NBC themselves give more detail here.

While following directions from a mysterious virtual messenger, the new character will take the audience on an adventure as she discovers the history of ‘Heroes’ through a journey that travels back and forth between Habbo.com and the ‘Heroes’ Evolutions site. “We’re excited to work with Habbo to introduce a new character that will extend the enormously popular and Emmy® Award winning ‘Heroes’ interactive story beyond the official Web site on NBC.com,” said Stephen Andrade, senior vice president, Digital Development and General Manager, NBC.com. On Habbo.com, fans of the show will be able to interact with the new virtual hero through a variety of in-game activities. Habbos participating in a weeklong quest will discover their own special powers and will be recruited as new heroes. Those who successfully complete the mission will be awarded various virtual prizes. On the ‘Heroes’ Evolutions site, the new virtual hero will be woven into several of the in-universe, interactive extensions of the on-air show, including a character profile, the Primatech Paper Assignment Tracker and new chapters of the ‘Heroes’ graphic novels.

This is a great use of virtual worlds and it also shows that you don’t need richly rendered environments to be able to engage with participants in these spaces. Also in terms of the ‘linking’ paradigm, it is close to ‘my’ level 3 wikipedia cross-media definition

Excerpt “Cross-media 3.0 – Bridges. – The truest form of cross-media where the story or service structure is specifically authored to drive the audience using strong Call-To-Actions, across media devices to continue the journey. The content placed on the other platform is critical to staying in touch with the experience and the narrative bridges tease you towards investigating or moving to another media form/platform. Obvious examples include a TV show that ends suddenly and gives you a URL to explore more. It may be an SMS that teases and points you towards a live concert in a city square which then leads you to a TV show, then to a podcast then to subscription emails. The trigger, or bridge, is the critical component of this in motivating the cross-media action.”

twinityspirit02Onto Twinity and the images here and above are me playing around in the pre-build set of the recently released and not universally praised film The Spirit. Although it grossed $10 million in the first 4 days it was pulled up for being unemotional and 2D. Well part of the problem generally with many big features now is that audiences have changed and want something more experiential – especially with ‘comic-noir’ films – why not let them ‘live’ in the story environment (my wikipedia item)? Twinity though have teamed up with Will Eisner studios to do this event (not in any way my ideal episodic but potentially a way for the Twinity user base to ‘create episodic, comic-noir’ machinima on-going?

CineStar Spirits you Away to Another World – CineStar’s CUBIX cinema in virtual Berlin is the premiere address for all movie-related events in Twinity. The cinema is currently showing the trailer and other exciting movie material from the upcoming premiere of The Spirit, a movie based on Will Eisner’s cult 1940s comic book series, which will be coming to a cinema screen near you from 5 February. Fans of the movie can get their hands on exclusive Spirit merchandising: including posters, standees, and an incredible Spirit mask that lets you see special visual effects inworld. Find more information here. Save the date and come to the opening party!
Date: Monday, 2 February
Time: 17:00 Berlin, 11am NYC, 00:00 Singapore
Where: CineStar CUBIX

twinityspirit03Twinity (by Metaversum, the German created virtual world) are a long ways from a mature stable platform, hence being in beta for the past 12 months or so, but are already exhibiting the best ‘world-led’ event-based, user activation. This in my mind is high on the list of reasons for likely success over many of the areas that over-hyped Second Life suffered from in the early days. OK the world is quite big and empty and many ‘social’ tools are not yet available inworld but the kind of activity quoted below (calling for videos, images, stories etc: attached to some well know brands) is great first step community building and more importantly getting a growing community to market for you. Even I had a go at one a few months ago – video embedded below 🙂 BTW Metaversum you really need to improve the video tools (detached camera please!).

Submit Your Artwork and Win! – Take part in The Spirit Screenshot and Machinima Contest and win an exclusive film poster signed by cult film director Frank Miller or The Spirit action figures.
Things Are Looking A Little Different Around Here…
Wear the mask and see Twinity through the eyes of the Spirit! – Use Twinity’s screenshot and recording tools to create incredible Spirit- inspired images! To be eligible to win the contest, screenshots must be created while wearing the Spirit Mask and its ‘visual effects’ must be demonstrated in your machinima. Screenshots may be submitted in jpg, png or gif formats.
Sensational Prizes – You have the chance to win sensational The Spirit prizes! Three prizes will be given out to the lucky winners of the Screenshot and Machinima Contest:
* 1st prize: The Spirit action figure and film poster signed by Frank Miller
* 2nd prize: The Spirit film poster signed by Frank Miller
* 3rd prize: The Spirit action figure
To take part in the contest, all you have to do is:

  • Submit your screenshots together with your Twinity name to quest@twinity.com or
  • Upload your movie to a video sharing website, for example “YouTube”, then submit the link to your uploaded video together with your Twinity name to quest@twinity.com
  • Competition deadline: 28 February 2009

We’ll celebrate the winning entries with a Winner’s Gallery party in the CineStar Event Hall! Artwork will be displayed in the CUBIX cinema during The Spirit promotion. Keep an eye on Twinity’s Event Calendar for further details!

Of course I would encourage all TV producers to think about their current audience and whether they want to reach them this way. More importantly you need to think of the appropriateness of creating inworld characters or environments for them to exist in – serious games (from documentaries) and childrens episodics are hot ones at the moment . The real effort is more about having great characters that are persistant in the space but beware of bots or NPC’s (non player characters) pretending to be real, this can have a strong counter productive effect. More later.

Feb 102009
 

As I have mentioned on many of my blogs (especially Personalizemedia) virtual worlds (as 3D navigable spaces) will only really take off when there is an effective, easy to use, existing web browser implementation. We already have early entrants here such as Yoville, Vivaty, NewLively, Habbo etc: but these suffer as they are not particularly customisable or graphical true 3D. The other half way houses include Weblin, RocketOn covered in posts here. Exit Reality is another over integrated browser world, which does look much better than the above as it turns web pages into 3D space, but still not easy to use.

“Imagine a business Web site where you can see what visitors are looking at and go and talk to them. Imagine a classroom with educational content like a real 3D exploding volcano and students physically located all over the world. Imagine a family or staff spread around the globe meeting up in a virtual space and being able to see each other and share photos, video and documents. The scenarios are endless with virtual worlds and until now, have been little more than pipe dreams to the average Web user,” says Vincent Teubler, co-founder of Gogofrog.

gogofrog01I am aware of over 15 new worlds that are heading in the right direction and turning more immersive virtual worlds into social, business, educative and networking 3D windows inside browsers. One that has just press-released today is gogofrog (co-founder comes from Melbourne), with a tagline ‘Virtual Simplicity’. Its heart is in the right place and with 30 000 already using it might quickly become a dominant new player?

Gogofrog is breaking with convention to offer a new type of web experience. The basic idea is that you create your own 3D space (pad) that you can decorate the way you want and to reflect your personal style. In Gogofrog you can move from pad to pad discovering sites created by others and chat with people you meet along the way. You can also create your own place where you can invite your family and friends to visit and hang out.

It still has a few lessons for learn from the demise of Google Lively, but several area addressed already. Keen to know how it connects the ‘pads’ properly (vs non-linked rooms) and how easy the customisation (vs importing jpeg images) tools for the 3D elements are. The full press release gives a lot more information and shows how they are across the need for personalization and integrating existing social tools inside the environment (especially video conferencing etc) – this service and the others just about to peek out are definitely worth watching. Just before the release here is a slightly reversioned Gartner Cycle showing how browser worlds are going to have more significance over the next two years.

Gartner Hype Cycle SVW

Virtual Worlds as Advanced Social Networks, Business and Education Tools Possible with Commercial Launch of Gogofrog

Los Angeles, California (PRWEB) February 10, 2009 — The power of virtual worlds as a means of advanced social networks, sophisticated business tools and education tools is now accessible to all Web users with the commercial launch of Gogofrog. Two years after its Beta launch, Gogofrog has taken the advice and input of its global user base of more than 30,000 to remove the prime impediments to making virtual worlds a mainstream Internet tool, access. Fully browser-based, Gogofrog enables anyone with an Internet connection to set up their own world: simple worlds for free and complex worlds for as little as a $10US monthly subscription. No software at all for Users or Visitors to download.
News Image
“Imagine a business Web site where you can see what visitors are looking at and go and talk to them. Imagine a classroom with educational content like a real 3D exploding volcano and students physically located all over the world. Imagine a family or staff spread around the globe meeting up in a virtual space and being able to see each other and share photos, video and documents. The scenarios are endless with virtual worlds and until now, have been little more than pipe dreams to the average Web user,” says Vincent Teubler, co-founder of Gogofrog.

Teubler was an early convert to virtual worlds and envisaged the power of worlds beyond the traditional realms of fantasy game play. These worlds traditionally require users to download software and usually participate in a single often poorly regulated world. Whilst businesses, educators and users of social networks saw the potential, Teubler believes the need to download software, poor security and costs associated with participating and developing content or real estate have all contributed to severely limiting the broader use of virtual worlds.

“Due to their complexity virtual worlds have faced a mountain of problems in reaching beyond game players and the odd company with deep pockets,” Teubler says. “As a browser-based platform, Gogofrog users and visitors to the various worlds need only have access to the Internet to fully participate. Since its Beta launch, Gogofrog users have built simple 3D spaces to meet with friends, students and customers. They’ve set about decorating their spaces with photos, simple objects and their writings and have variously created places to meet, educate and do business in.”

Among other enhancements, the commercial launch of Gogofrog includes greater communications tools.

“Anonymous text chat lends itself to fantasy game play but not much else. Our users demanded real-world communication, so we enabled avatar-to-avatar controlled webcam communication. It doesn’t get any better than that. You can request and start a webcam chat with anyone in your virtual Web space — friend, family, colleague or visitor,” Teubler says.

Gogofrog also features a variety of user-defined security measures. The capacity to communicate via webcam is a big security bonus not found in other virtual worlds, as an avatar’s profile can easily be matched against them with a simple webcam chat. Gogofrog further allows users to set who they will allow in their world. With the click of a button, users can set it so only people they know — friends, family, students or staff — can enter their world, or they can set it so only those who know a password can enter. Teubler says the latter was especially important to educators who wanted to ensure their students would have a completely safe virtual experience.

Gogofrog also found participation is crucial to users, so the commercial site enables users to participate in the world’s economy.

“Many worlds already have buoyant economies as a result of allowing users to participate,” Teubler says. “Users need to be able to personalize and brand their worlds and potentially sell items to the broader Gogofrog user and visitor community. Gogofrog allows users to sell their images, scenes, avatars, avatar clothing and accessories and 3D furniture and objects. Everyone can make real money through their contributions.”

With user feedback continuing to be incorporated into Gogofrog’s software development roadmap, Teubler believes his prediction of virtual worlds becoming a highly sophisticated, commercial and entertaining part of social networks and the mainstream Internet is fast becoming a “virtual” reality. For more information about Gogofrog, visit www.gogofrog.com.

Contacts
Vincent Teubler Co-Founder Gogofrog
Melbourne, Australia
http://www.gogofrog.com
+61411265715

Monica Dodi
CEO Gogofrog
LA, California, USA

Feb 102009
 

A nice presentation from Pierre-Olivier Carles, who does a good job of talking about a key ROI for companies today, saving money by being greener but also getting ethical brownie points for being greener.  He talks more about the presentation below on the blog post on Stonefield InWorld entitled  ‘Virtual Worlds Make Companies Greener“. The highlight of the video for me is a very simple and clear look at doing business and life inside a virtual space. Enjoy

Jan 292009
 

I have talked a lot about Mixed Reality Entertainment on my media blog personalizemedia and how one of the most innovative uses of virtual space is to extend the TV or Film property into a 24/7, participatory environment.  The reason for doing this is to drive traffic to the TV or Film but also to keep existing followers loyal to the branded property. There is more detail about the reasoning on my posts on Big Brother in Second Life (Witnessing the Birth of an Entertainment Form) as well as posts nearby on CSI in Second Life and many of MTVs properties in There.com. There are moves around the world including BBC and many European broadcasters who are creating worlds alongside and in some cases in front of the TV episodics. So it is great to see this trend continuing as the current series of Heroes being extended into Habbo

The agreement was brokered by the William Morris Agency and marks the first time ‘Heroes’ has partnered with a virtual world.

..but not in the usual way. As reported by LA Times “‘Heroes’ hops on to Habbo’s virtual world” they will be introducing a virtual-only character Syn Anders who will act as a bridge or guide to the TV series. NBC themselves give more detail here.

While following directions from a mysterious virtual messenger, the new character will take the audience on an adventure as she discovers the history of ‘Heroes’ through a journey that travels back and forth between Habbo.com and the ‘Heroes’ Evolutions site.  “We’re excited to work with Habbo to introduce a new character that will extend the enormously popular and Emmy® Award winning ‘Heroes’ interactive story beyond the official Web site on NBC.com,” said Stephen Andrade, senior vice president, Digital Development and General Manager, NBC.com.  On Habbo.com, fans of the show will be able to interact with the new virtual hero through a variety of in-game activities. Habbos participating in a weeklong quest will discover their own special powers and will be recruited as new heroes. Those who successfully complete the mission will be awarded various virtual prizes.  On the ‘Heroes’ Evolutions site, the new virtual hero will be woven into several of the in-universe, interactive extensions of the on-air show, including a character profile, the Primatech Paper Assignment Tracker and new chapters of the ‘Heroes’ graphic novels.

This is a great use of virtual worlds and it also shows that you don’t need richly rendered environments to be able to engage with participants in these spaces. Also in terms of the ‘linking’ paradigm,  it is close to my level 3 wikipedia cross-media definition

Excerpt “Cross-media 3.0 – Bridges. – The truest form of cross-media where the story or service structure is specifically authored to drive the audience using strong Call-To-Actions, across media devices to continue the journey. The content placed on the other platform is critical to staying in touch with the experience and the narrative bridges tease you towards investigating or moving to another media form/platform. Obvious examples include a TV show that ends suddenly and gives you a URL to explore more. It may be an SMS that teases and points you towards a live concert in a city square which then leads you to a TV show, then to a podcast then to subscription emails. The trigger, or bridge, is the critical component of this in motivating the cross-media action.”

Of course I would encourage all TV producers to think about their current audience and whether they want to reach them this way. More importantly you need to think of the appropriateness of creating inworld characters or environments for them to exist in – serious games (from documentaries) and childrens episodics are hot ones at the moment . The real effort is more about having great characters that are persistant in the space but beware of bots or NPC’s (non player characters) pretending to be real, this can have a strong counter productive effect. More later.

Jan 272009
 

I was looking for one place on the web that had a list of the mix of male and females across the ‘game/virtual world’ space. I have actually found it useful to quote many of these stats to clients who still believe console games, online ‘quest’ based games and virtual worlds are still the domain of twenty something, slightly overweight, couch potato, anti-social males. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are lots of Australian centric insights (eg: SMH here “Never too old to play“) But these are more global or US based. Read on and in no particular order!

“Games Women Play” Sep 08  from the Edge

  • Online casual games bring in 150 million women every month– roughly half the population of the United States.
  • Nearly two-thirds of women casual players online are over 35.
  • Women play casual games 5 to 10 hours per day – significantly greater than the 7.4 hours per week by a survey by the Casual Gaming Association.
  • Competition, rather than simple relaxation or escapism, motivates them to play.
  • Female players who are 18 and older represent one third of the game-playing population while male players who are 17 or younger represent only 18 percent of casual gamers
  • Playing casual games is often the first thing women do after waking. They check their ranking and play for on average of 2 ½ hours every morning.
  • Women engage in trivia games with the family members but play action games alone.
  • Most women players are married or in a relationship and have children.

Online Gaming Popularity Grows Among Youngest and Oldest Female Segments in the U.S. ComScore report.

  • Significant user growth among teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 17 and women between the ages of 55 and 64.
  • Growth in the 12 – 17 age range was 55% compared to the total female online gaming audience rate of 27%
  • The over-55 age range grew 43%.

BBC 23 December 2008 “Battle of the Sexes”

  • It found that the most hard-core players are female, that gamers are healthier than average, and that game playing is an increasingly social activity.
  • Despite gaming being seen as a male activity, female players now make up about 40% of the gaming population.
  • The study (detailed link here from Wiley interscience) looked at gender differences in more than 2,400 gamers playing EverQuest II.

Industry Facts from Entertainment Software Association ESA

  • The average game player is 35 years old and has been playing games for 13 years.
  • The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 40 years old.
  • Forty percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (33 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent).
  • In 2008, 26 percent of Americans over the age of 50 played video games, an increase from nine percent in 1999
  • Sixty-three percent of parents believe games are a positive part of their children’s lives.

GameBoy by Gary Hayes

Women Embrace Casual Games from RedHerring “Casual Gamers Anything But”

  • Spend as much as 20 hours each week playing their favorite games.
  • More than 70 percent said they play at night, and 58 percent have no children living at home.
  • Results from the Harris research reveal that 67 percent of the women over 40 who play games do so at least four times per week. Nearly half play every day.
  • Some 60 percent say they would rather play a casual game than talk on the phone or do projects around the home, while nearly 50 percent said they would rather play a casual game than go to a movie.

PDF report by Pew Internet. “Adults and Video Games”

  • More than half – 53% – of all American adults play video games of some kind
  • Independent of all other factors, younger adults are still more likely to play games.
  • Among older adults 65+ who play video games, nearly a third play games everyday, a significantly larger percentage than all younger players, of whom about 20% play everyday.
  • Gaming consoles are the most popular for young adults: 75% of 18-29 year old gamers play on consoles, compared with 68% who use computers
  • Computers are the most popular among the total adult gaming population, with 73% of adult gamers using computers to play games, compared with 53% console users, 35% who using cell phones, and 25% using portable gaming devices.

BBC 17 Sep 2008 “Online gamers are not unhealthy

  • The “couch potato” image of computer gamers is unfounded, with many in better than average shape, claim US researchers.
  • More than 7,000 players of the online game EverQuest II were quizzed about their health by scientists.
  • They found gamers’ body mass index (BMI) tended to be lower than the US average – with many taking “proper” exercise more than once a week.

Driving Force in Video Gaming: Women and Baby Boomers. Reported on PC World Aug 2008.  IBISWorld claims that:

  • 38 percent of US gamers are women
  • The average player is 35 years old
  • 24 percent are over 50.
  • The percentage of female video gamers climbed from 33 to 38 percent in five years bolstered in part by Nintendo’s Wii, but also “interactive group games” such as Singstar, Rock Band, and Lips, as well as The Sims, The Movies, Nintendogs and NeoPets.

Demographics of the top 3 games on Facebook – from Bret on Social Games

  • Scramble which is the only game among the top three developers dominated by women(63%).
  • The age of Zynga players is spread more evenly among the three age segments, but with ~50% in the 22-25 age bracket.
  • Blake Commagere’s Monsters games also have ~50% of their users in the 22-25 age bracket.
  • They also have a fairly even male-female ratio.

Second Life demographics and usage – reported by Lost in Bananaverse

  • 83.79% of the population is 25 years and older, and the older users spend far more time in Second Life than younger users
  • Females spent nearly twice as long online in Second Life as males. Females make up 45.5% of the Second Life population.
  • Total user hours for April totaled 29,069,684 hours
  • Those 45 and older continuing to be the heaviest users on average.
    • 45 and older: 70.17 hours per user per month
    • 35-44: 66.06 hours per user per user per month
    • 25-34: 55.55 hours per user per user per month
    • 18-24: 37.84 hours per user per user per month
    • Teen grid: 24.67 hours per user per user per month

The demographics of World of Warcraft (useful but old 2005 data from Nick Yee)

  • The average age of the WoW player is 28.3
  • 84% of players are male
  • 16% are female. Female players are significantly older (32.5) than male players (28.0)
  • On average, they spend 22.7 hours per week playing WoW.
  • There are no gender differences in hours played per week.

ESSENTIAL FACTS ABOUT THE COMPUTER AND VIDEO GAME INDUSTRY 2008 SALES, DEMOGRAPHIC AND USAGE DATA (full report from ESA at Scribd)

  • 13 is the average number of years adult gamers have been playing computer or video games. Among most frequent gamers, adult males average 15 years for game playing, females for 12 years.
  • 59% of gamers play games with other gamers in person. This is a rise from 56% in 2007 and from 51% in 2006.
  • The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is: 40
  • 56% of online game players are male 44% are female.
  • What is the One Type of Online Game Played Most Often?
    • 12% Other
    • 47% Puzzle/Board/Game Show/Trivia/Card
    • 16% Action/Sports/ Strategy/Role-Play
    • 14% Downloadable Games Such as Bejeweled and Diner Dash
    • 11% Persistent Multi-Player Universe

Women are hardcore gamers from bNet in 2006

  • Electronic Arts’ casual game site Pogo.com draws 11 million unique users per month. Fifty-five percent of those are women.
  • On the subscription side, 75 percent of the more than 1 million subscribers are women over the age of 35.

Study: Women Gamers Outnumber Men in 25-34 Age Group – from GameDaily 2006

  • Consumer Electronics Association study found that 65 percent of women in the 25-34 age bracket play video games, while only 35 percent of men in that group said that they play video games. The key factor involved with these findings is the increasing popularity of casual games, especially among women. (These casual titles are typically found on web portals like Yahoo!, AOL Games, PopCap Games, EA’s Pogo.com and elsewhere.)
  • Women were found to be slightly less likely than men in the 25-34 bracket to play traditional console games on systems like PlayStation  or Xbox.

Old (2000) but interesting item on ‘gender bending’ in games from womengamers.com

  • 6% of subjects play female characters for 25% or less of their gaming time
  • 24% play females for 26-50% of their gaming time
  • 15% play females for 51-75% of their gaming time
  • 42% play females for 76-100% of their gaming time
  • 12% did not answer this question
Jan 212009
 

We are well into 2009 and there is a lot of news popping about the likely growth of social virtual worlds and their adoption. As a tangent game based virtual worlds are also still in relative growth as covered in SMH’s post Video games thrash movies and DVD, referring to the shift in Australia and reflected in the rest of the world, of more money spent on interactive vs passive entertainment ” video games industry is now double the size of the box office and more than 40 per cent larger than the movie disc industry in Australia”.

But back to social virtual worlds and I have quickly mapped some dates and SVW events (most are recent) onto a slightly modified Gartner ‘hype cycle’ curve. For the uninitiated here is a brief wikipedia definition.

Since 1995, Gartner has used hype cycles to characterize the over-enthusiasm or “hype” and subsequent disappointment that typically happens with the introduction of new technologies. Hype cycles also show how and when technologies move beyond the hype, offer practical benefits and become widely accepted.

Gartner Hype Cycle SVW

Of course in reality we have really been through a sine wave quite a few times since 1987 through 2005 but since the relative maturity of services like Second Life, There and others true and robust applications are emerging, beyond the traditional ‘gamer/entertainment’ use. MUVED created a post a few weeks ago showing widespread investment in a range of niche virtual worlds and this trend is seemingly continuuing apace. Raymond de Villiers, CEO of Wisdom Games is very bullish about the use of these worlds for business communication in a post entitled Growth of Virtual Environment Expected in 2009…

Continue reading »

Jan 162009
 

The Metaverse… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of  Search Engine, Meta-mole. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly google where no search engine has gone before.

metamole

OK the folks at University of Teeside will probably not be calling to get me to write their taglines yet what they are doing with Meta-Mole is pretty adventurous and most importantly critical at the moment to glue the discontinuous metaverse. The Meta-Mole in simple terms from their press release is:

The Meta-Mole, created by the Centre for Design in the Digital Economy (D-LAB) based within the University’s Institute of Digital Innovation, will ultimately be a dedicated searchable online resource for the 350 plus virtual worlds currently existing on the Internet.
Continue reading »

Jan 152009
 

Senor Hontar: “We must work in the world. The world is thus.”
Father Altamirano: “No Senor Hontar…thus have we made the world. Thus have I made it”
Final lines of the film ‘The Mission’

As well as the increase in venture capital investment across all virtual worlds, the time spent in them, measured in user hours, is growing too. While this is partly due to existing users spending longer it is often the about the typical new user who after the initial log-in hurdles becomes highly engaged for 3-18 months or longer with a particular personally resonant virtual world service. Virtual worlds that offer something beyond mall-like activities (PS3Home springs to mind) or just a glorified chat channel (there are quite a few in this category) will obviously increase engagement. The personalization factor, to make the virtual space YourSpace either by customising other community members work or by creating it from scratch yourself, naturally increases your personal investment. Second Life has always been about Your World and one of the major driving factors is aspirational lifestyle and peer appraisal.

We partly escape, we are often out to impress, we love the control but most importantly we like to co-create and communicate with those we like on our terms and in areas we make.

Increase in User Engagement Second Life

Linden Lab who run Second Life have just published figures looking at 2008 and as in several presentations I have been giving around the world, it shows that SL and other worlds are far more ‘sticky’ than traditional 2D social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. From the Linden Lab (second life creators) Blog:

Second Life Residents logged nearly 400 million hours in 2008, growing 61% over 2007
Thursday, January 15th, 2009 at 12:33 PM by: Zee Linden

Continue reading »

Nov 052008
 

…and a little end of 2008 Virtual Worlds, State of Play… it has been suggested several times recently that games & social virtual worlds especially will really suffer in this economic downturn and may not survive. Which leads to the point of this post to put things in a little perspective.

IS THERE REAL INVESTMENT?

First lets look at investor confidence in them. From Virtual Worlds Management Reports there was $1 billion US invested in 35 virtual world companies between Oct 06-07 – and since Oct 07 to the present day there has already been $918 million trusted to the success of this particular industry. This breaks down roughly as:

  • Q3 08 – $148.5 million invested in 12 VW companies
  • Q2 08 – $161 million in 16 VW companies
  • Q1 08 – $184 million in 23 VW companies
  • Q4 07 – $425 million in 15 VW companies

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Oct 122008
 

OK you may have spotted quite a few characters living on this post 🙂 Originally there were ‘video-real’ talking, salesy character centered on the page courtesy of CLIVEvideo but I still talk about them more below.

A few months ago I blogged over in personalizemedia about the new kid on the intranet block, those ‘layered’ social virtual worlds. Quite simply they are communities of pseudo 3D avatars layered over the 2D web (browsers). I noted that these services are a transition to a ‘live’ collaborative web 3.0 world as this is more of a “let them dip their toes in” before committing to a higher bandwidth, more fully rendered 3D world such as many of those on my sticky video of the 08 metaverse.

rocketon-q5 Continue reading »

Sep 082008
 

As part of a commercial report on the evolving range of social virtual worlds I recently ventured into fifty plus worlds to sample the creative, business and educational potential. My video is an indicative capture of each world/environment as a seven minute video for 2008 posterity. It demonstrates how ubiquitous, popular and streamlined many of these spaces are becoming across the intraweb / ‘cloud’. With over 300 million frequenting or registering for the non-game based worlds over $900 million of new investment last year in 2nd and 3rd generation services there seems to be no stopping them.

75MB MP4 Download available at http://www.justvirtual.com/SVWS_2008.mp4

A few immediate things that struck me on my travels:

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