Second Life: Is Business Ready For Virtual Worlds?

By David F. Carr  |  Posted 03-01-2007

Second Life: Is Business Ready For Virtual Worlds?

Story Guide:

Second Life: Is Business Ready For Virtual Worlds?
Real-world companies such as American Apparel, IBM, Starwood Hotels and Toyota are exploring whether 3D virtual communities can be adapted to serve business--and whether they are an effective place to do market research, collaborate on projects, and sell goods and services.

Second Life Insiders
Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life, is a pioneer in the development of streaming media technology.

Virtual Growing Pains
When Linden Lab outlined a growth path for Second Life, it found that getting everyone on the same virtual page wasn't easy.

The Anatomy of Second Life
A look at how the virtual world works.

Tapping into Virtual Marketing
Starwood Hotels demonstrates a relatively low-cost market research experiment in a new Internet medium.

Question: Do you think virtual worlds such as Second Life are a place for real-world companies to do business? Write to us: baseline@ziffdavis.com

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Is Business Ready For

Virtual Worlds?">

They started gathering hours before the Town Hall meeting on Jan. 9 was scheduled to begin, anxious to grab a seat in the virtual auditorium: a lizard man, an armor-plated robot, a floating ball of energy, several dragons, and members of the Alliance armed forces in their best dress uniforms, along with many dozens of curvaceous women and preternaturally buff men. Some paced in front of the stage, while others hovered in mid-air or sat typing text chat at each other on invisible keyboards.

These Town Hall meetings are a tradition in Second Life, the virtual world operated by Linden Lab, a San Francisco startup, where users dress their avatars in clothes (or dragon getups) bought in virtual boutiques, participate in social dramas of their own making, and set up virtual businesses where they buy and sell virtual real estate or hawk virtual clothes, houses, vehicles and furniture.

With more and more avatars filling the same virtual space, the simulation software that tracks the movements and position of individuals and executes animation scripts starts to fall behind. Time seems to slow down, with avatars moving as if through molasses. Some people blink out of existence as the viewer software on their own desktops crashes. Others find themselves in odd predicaments as the laws of physics seemingly break down; while trying to grab a spot in the standing-room area at the back of the auditorium, they find themselves sinking through the floor up to their necks and getting stuck there disembodied heads, unable to see what's happening onstage.

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It's not the first time for such problems, but audience members grumble that this time the whole system may crash before the event even gets started. In fact, one of the four simulators that have been clustered together to support a bigger audience does go down, ejecting everyone within it.

These types of problems, however, don't seem to be deterring people and businesses from entering Second Life.

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