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

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 192009
 

A presentation I gave last month at the Online Networking and Business Collaboration conference. This is one of twenty or so I did on a similar topic (engaging with virtual world inhabitants and game players) through 2008. The presentation broadly looks at 4 key areas

  1. The Actual Audience – who they are, what their demo and psychographics are
  2. The Market – dominant players, investment, in world currency and evident holes in the marketplace
  3. Some key case studies – what has worked, how things could be improved and
  4. A little bit about branded entertainment futures and how Virtual worlds will be more ‘merged’ with TV, film and the 2D social web.

virtual_world_shopping_hayesCase studies included Best Buy, McDonalds, Nivea (Splinter Cell), MTV There, STA Travel, Fosters, Accenture, ABC, Intel, Jeep, Dodge, Habbo, Big Brother, Kelly Services, Gossip Girl, L Word, Football Superstars, Webkinz, Barbie Girls, Stardolls, BBC, blast theory,virtual office, club penguin, vside, little big planet, weblin, rocketon, imvu, ps3 home, second life (various including The Pond)
There are more presentations under the LAMP & Project Factory umbrella across social media, new form entertainment and virtual worlds at Gary’s slideshare account.

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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.
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