Due to a need to get back home at a somewhat reasonable hour, I was unable to stay past lunch today; but, there was still a lot of great content delivered and connections made at VW08.
I ducked into the speakers’ lounge to grab a bagel and some fruit for breakfast and found myself at a table chatting with virtual world thought leaders Christian Renaud, Steve Prentice and Tish Shute discussing the challenges for wider virtual world adoption. At the meetup the night before, I’d also gotten to chat with another thought leader, Eric Rice, aka Spin. I knew Eric first by reputation and then through our mutual following on Twitter, but this was the first opportunity to sit across from him and talk. He introduced me to EyePet and I introduced him to Handipoints – not a bad exchange.
Such real world connections are something Reuben Steiger mentioned as part of his pre-keynote opening remarks this morning. An early virtual world evangelist and employee at Linden Lab who now leads Millions of Us and their Virtual Greats program, Reuben spoke of the very first Second Life Community Convention in 2005. At the time, many wondered if all of these virtual personalities would really want their real life personas to meet. Not only did they want to then, but they’re doing it right now in Tampa at the fourth such gathering!
The morning kicked into gear with a keynote “interview” of Colin J. Pharris, Phd, of IBM Research conducted by Erica Driver formerly an analyst at Forrester now with her own company, ThinkBalm. This sort of presentation is a comfortable format to watch, even if you know all the questions will be softballs and many are set up specifically to provide a segue for the speaker to make planned announcements or plug certain products. There were no Sara Lacy-style incidents, but still a lot of background twittering encouraged by the use of the VWExpoQandA Twitter account to solicit questions from the audience.
Next I stopped by the Enterprise track room to meet Anders Gronstedt who was part of a panel on how companies are using virtual worlds for sales training and onboarding. While we’d exchanged e-mails and spoken on the phone before, I’d never actually had the chance to shake his hand – another proof-point that no matter how much we embrace virtual platforms and social media, we will always continue to desire real human interaction.
That interaction may become even further and further integrated with new technologies, though, as discussed in the Augmented Reality panel I attended next. While the gargoyles of Snow Crash and the talking billboards of Minority Report instill a certain uneasiness about augmentation, the panelists point out that any one of us who owns a cell phone these days – especially if it’s a smart phone – already live with augmented reality. We walk down the street sending text messages to friends and pulling up Google maps to see where we’re going. And luckily it doesn’t require weird headgear such as this. Panelist Blair MacIntyre, who I had the good fortune to meet yesterday at lunch along with his fellow panelist
Marc Goodman, joked that he was probably the only one in the group that really could be found in such photos somewhere on the Internet. His team is forging new ground, however, including such feats as bringing a Second Life avatar into a Real Life office space.
At lunch today, I happened to sit with Doug Maxwell from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division of the Navy. Not only a fellow Second Life resident, he also happens to be a fellow Louisiana native. It was interesting to hear about the unique and not-so-unique challenges his team has faced as they launched into Second Life and expanded into OpenSim. As a Dell customer, it would be interesting to see how the Navy and Dell might find ways to work together in virtual environments, so Doug and I will definitely be keeping in touch post-conference.
After that conversation, I did a quick run through the Expo floor on a photo safari. Similar to how I did it at SXSWi, I went around capturing “Dells in the Wild”. You can check them here, and I’ll probably throw a few into the Digital Nomads group on Flickr.