Get a Life!

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Is Second Life really a venue to conduct real business?  I was surprised to see the number of companies using Second Life – and for quite a few different applications.

The first corporate ventures into Second Life backfired on some firms.  When companies just try to imitate their consumers and take advantage of a social network purely for monetary gain, they are typically quickly discovered and shunned.  The “We’re button-up-black-suit Corp. and now we’re hip and cool because we have an avatar on Second Life!” strategy usually doesn’t work.  

It seems now, though, that corporations are finding their space on Second Life. According to the Los Angeles Times, Intel recently held a lecture on software development in Second Life. Cisco Systems’ island features a “connected home” of the future where they can demonstrate their new technology. On Dell’s island you can build a computer and then buy it off their website in the real world. The US Army is using Second Life applications, not only to recruit, but to also train troops in a more safe manner.

Forrester Research recently published their report, “Getting Real Work Done in Virtual Worlds” in January, which brings up an interesting benefit to Second Life. Online collaboration tools have definitely elevated the corporate meeting – allow people to connect remotely, view presentation materials, collaborate and edit documents, ask questions, etc. But there is still a human component that is missing. “You don’t know who’s there, who’s left, who’s listening or who wants to speak,” says Forrester analyst, Paul Jackson.

Second Life avatars can express nonverbal emotion and communication – frown, shake their head, fall asleep, leave the room, raise their hand. This increased interactivity should definitely increase participation in virtual meetings.

Companies are using Second Life to host staff meetings and even conduct virtual trade shows and summits. IBM and Sun, to name a few, have virtual corporate campuses where teams can meet in private conference rooms to brainstorm and hold team meetings. Firms such as Unisfair help companies like Cisco, Cognos and Quest create virtual trade shows and conferences, says Forrester. It’s definitely a more “green” meeting approach and increases the audience reach.

The applications seem endless. Let me know if your company has plans for Second Life, or if you’ve been “voted off the island.”

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