Here are some block quotes from Jim Purbrick/Babbage Linden's presentation interspersed with brief descriptions of the other areas he covered. You can download full audio of his presentation right here. Click "Continue reading..." at the bottom of this post for more material, including a transcript of audience Q&A.
From Jim's talk, "Researchers, Designers, Workers, Thinkers: Some People Who Suit Second Life":
>>>"Accelerating change itself made me think of computers and networking technology, in the sense that they help advance other technologies as well as themselves. For instance, computers and networking help bio technology, and car design, and loads of other things. But they also help speed up development of themselves as well. So you get computers designing computers, you get software engineers sharing information and knowledge across the internet, and so you get this kind of virtuous loop of computers and technology helping other technologies and also accelerating change in their own area as well. And so I wanted to think about Second Life potentially as one of those feedback technologies. As a kind of virtual world which enables advances in virtual worlds, and also advances in other areas as well."
Jim described the Virtual Reality and Virtual World research he did with the Communications Research Group at the University of Nottingham. He got into how a communal user-built 3D platform like Second Life would have assisted them greatly in their researching of new VW applications.
>>>"One of the really funny things about Second Life was that when I first visited and came to one of the sandboxes [open building areas], it looked a lot like one of the experiments I had done a few years ago. (There’s a video on Terra Nova if anyone’s interested in having a look—the actual graphics are very poor, but it does look a lot like a sandbox.) And the funny thing was, when I did those experiments at the time, I’d get people in, I’d get 30 people into a lab, I’d have to explain to everyone how to use it, I’d have to explain what the goals of the experiment were, and then I’d have to pay them 5 pounds, which is 10 dollars, which is the amount of money people pay Linden Lab to actually have a look at Second Life in the first place before they even start buying land… It was kind of a funny reversal in that a few years ago we were paying people to come and in and sort of suffer virtual worlds and now people are coming along to see all of the wonderful things that are in Second Life."
Much of Jim's academic research looked at mixed-reality boundaries and how the real world interacts with virtual worlds. His team set up large screens and projections that acted as realtime portals between the real and virtual worlds. Interaction went both ways, taking it so far as to have real people controlling virtual people controlling camera-mounted robots that navigated physical spaces! (“Effectively you moved through the screen and embodied an agent in the real world.”) They also studied the dynamics of mixed-reality conference meetings where people in physical space would sit in a 1/2 circle completed by participants in a virtual space projected into the room. He said this was a generally acceptable experience for the physical space people.
Around this point he got into the concept of "Inhabited TV":
>>>"The idea behind that is that a lot of people watch TV, and a lot of people play computer games, but what’s in the middle? So we were looking at some of the things where on the one end people are watching avatars in a virtual world wander around and then they can decide they can watch it as a story, they can get involved in the story, they can decide they want to be one of the characters and then they can move through the screen again and then decide to be part of the story. So we did a couple of experiments with that. We took over a theatre in Manchester and we showed the show to an audience who was sitting down in the theatre, and then in the same theatre we had people on work stations actually interacting in the virtual world taking part in the story, and potentially people could move from the back room to the front room, and they could move across that boundary from watching to participating in the story. And I think this is a really good example because it’s kind of already happening in Second Life. As soon as the video stuff started happening there’s lots of interesting people making videos in Second Life starring people in Second Life. And you can imagine that once that stuff gets going that people are going to be making stories in Second Life, some people are going to come across it and they’re just going to watch it and it’s going to be interesting, it’s going to be a TV show made in a virtual world which is interesting in and of itself. But then on that Web page they’re streaming that video from, we can have underneath that: ‘If you want to be a part of this, go and get yourself a Second Life account and then become part of the story that you’ve been watching.’ So Inhabited TV is a really good example of something that’s sort of happening in Second Life already."
On advances in funding and commercializing academic VW research:
>>>"Stuff we were doing ten years ago which took research grants and took a load of researchers and took lots and lots of people lots and lots of effort to put on one or two-hour experiments with what you can do with virtual worlds... Now you’ve got a virtual world which is on all the time, that we can build anything we like in, and which we have a community of people who are really interested in taking part. So in terms of accelerating change in virtual worlds, you can potentially do stuff in Second Life in a few weeks that would have taken months or years and lots and lots of funding to do a few years ago. I think that’s a really exciting way of looking at Second Life, and I’d really like to see some of those things experimented with again with a bigger audience and for longer periods of time and also potentially to be commercialized. One of the things that people talk about a lot in academia is when you build some cool application or you build some cool technology how do you make money out of it? If you build it in Second Life, then you can experiment with whether it’s a commercial application as well as being an interesting experiment or a useful application for virtual worlds. Once you’ve built you virtual world application in Second Life it’s trivial to stick a price on it and see if people will pay for it."
Moving to speak of his commercial work, Jim explains how large graphical game worlds can cost tens of millions of dollars and take three, four, and sometimes more years to make. This creates tremendous pressure to be conservative in world design and interface. Based on his experience working on Dragon Empires and Warhammer Online, he finds the ability to prototype even primitive look and gameplay in Second Life very useful, particularly for convincing the suits who pay the bills that there's something worth supporting going on.
Jim goes on to describe his work experience, living in the UK and working with Linden Lab located 5,000+ miles away in San Francisco. He notes some positives (the virtual world makes it easier for him to migrate his skills, not his family) and negatives (the biggest of which he says is actually the time difference), and drops a few ideas for what could make the experience better, mainly centered around projecting higher-resolution presence through your avatar (how do you let others know what you're doing or concentrating on in real life, not just in the virtual world?). He sites Pathfinder Linden's research in developing an always-on avatar protocol and hopes something interesting will come out of that.
He briefly addresses how audio, video, and mixed-reality applications can be viewed as negative by role-playing virtual world users, but explains that more people will be presenting their first life through the virtual world and will need the tools to assist that.
>>>"We should be prepared to tunnel holes through between the real world and the virtual world, especially where we’re talking about situations where people aren’t hiding their identity, they’re not building a new Second Life identity, they just have a Second Life version of their real identity and you want as much transparency as possible, rather than hiding."
Audience Q&A free-for-all:
Csven Concord: i'm curious about porting the data out of SL and into the RL for further manipulation, so any idea of when that option might be available?
Babbage Linden: ok, back in text chat
Traxx Hathor: yay
RC Mars: Babbage what effects will SL have on the future of work
Synergy Edge: Why are you focusing so much on creating a thin boundary between VR & real world?
Babbage Linden: i think that comes down to how transpaent we make the boundary
Icon Serpentine: I'm curious about interactive media and how virtual worlds could act as a platform for it. I'm also curious if interactive media content will one day be searchable by the likes of google.
Babbage Linden: if its easy and simple then people will use it
Babbage Linden: if the virtual world can show useful things about presence
Bekki Byrd: do you see some kind of time line on these developments? and are all the barriers technological?
Babbage Linden: and context then it will be used over plain voice or video communication
Tom Bukowski: Could there be forms of virtual work made possible by the greatest possible _disjuncture_ between rl and virutal world?
Babbage Linden: there are types of work which are made possible by disjoint RL and VWs
Babbage Linden: theres lots of work building everquest as "another place"
Babbage Linden: which is very different from the RW
Babbage Linden: and separated by a magic circle
Babbage Linden: that worlds charm is it's separation
Babbage Linden: but when you want to work with people in the RW
Babbage Linden: you need worlds which make that working easy
Babbage Linden: make communication easy and natural
Babbage Linden: and one big way to do that is to have an always on boundary
Babbage Linden: so there isn't even the hassle of creating a phone call
Babbage Linden: you can just look and see if someone if there
Babbage Linden: and if so communicate
Synergy Edge: This reminds me of the futurist need to see airports and air traffice controlers when being presented with the Right Brothers airplane. We are still coping with a less than friendly technology that will rapidly grow beond present capabilities.
Dnate Mars: but how do you find "there"?
Babbage Linden: the virtual world there?
Bekki Byrd: teh right boundary- where will it be?
Dnate Mars: well, you said you just look for them there, but how do you find them?
Babbage Linden: ok
Babbage Linden: so, ideally all around you
Babbage Linden: the real office ends
Babbage Linden: and it continues in to the virtual office
RC Mars: and the virtual office begins
Babbage Linden: someone sits next to you in the real world
Bekki Byrd: so how do we attract the right people? do we just advertsie like in rl?
Babbage Linden: and someone sits on the other side in the virtual world
Max Case: playing tringo instead of minesweeper
Max Case: and we waste even more time than the internet
Max Case: at work
Csven Concord: some ppl will waster time in any world
Babbage Linden: well obviously we could play monopoly all day at work too
Babbage Linden: the goal is to create the environment for serendipity
Max Case: :-)
Dnate Mars: so you are saying that the office could just be never ending?
Traxx Hathor: Max has a point. There are barriers to the acceptance of a virtual co-worker
Babbage Linden: chance encounters that you get in the real world
Babbage Linden: yes, its about getting rid of those barriers
Bekki Byrd: have you any stuff on the serendipty you talk about?
Babbage Linden: not really
Babbage Linden: as i was saying a lot of our experiments were planned
Bekki Byrd: or do we create it right now? collaborative building/
Babbage Linden: but with SL we can have an always on boundary
Babbage Linden: and see if we get those chance encounters
Icon Serpentine: What about commercial interests? With the likes of vw There which had support from commercial vendors such as Nike failing... do vw's have a future as a medium like the Intermet, or will they purely be a medium for social interaction?
Babbage Linden: if we get the acceptence
Bekki Byrd: yes .i like that - has to be better than a website to attract people.
Babbage Linden: i think SL is a really good proving ground for VWs
Max Case: need to get pop music video shot in SL when teen grid opens
Babbage Linden: a place where we can prove that VWs can be used for more than escapism
Babbage Linden: (although that will remain the killer app)
Prokofy Neva: Will bosses from hell become more accessible in the virtual office or more tyrannical?
Csven Concord: the commercial world largely isn't even paying attn to vw's
Csven Concord: unfortunately
Bekki Byrd: will they not be worse as the communication is so unsubtle
Icon Serpentine: or fortunately.
Prokofy Neva: right Csven
Max Case: csven - thats good. Part of what stank to me with there was too commercial
Synergy Edge: We need some starteling examples of high impact cooperation & creativeing usingi SL.
You: Hey guys, few more questions and then we'll get to Randy's presentation, OK?
Zero Grace: I recently posted in my blog about a need for SL to offer more professional tools-- Babbage, do you have any idea if a "pro" SL is in the works?
Csven Concord: i spoke with two marketing types today. completely clueless
Traxx Hathor: agree, Synergy
Lyre Calliope: You keep on mentioning presence and bounderies in regards to people. How would/have you apply these ideas to inanimate objects, abstract ideas, etc?
Babbage Linden: i'd like to see SL become a better platform for building pro tools
Blunderful Bunderfeld: Are any companies like Sony, Microsoft, or Apple working on developing bottom-up VX's like SL?
Babbage Linden: VWs are good at visualising abstract data
Csven Concord: by "pro tools" are we talking software?
Zero Grace: But anything built inside SL is only as good as the engine...
Babbage Linden: but often it takes a lot of work
Traxx Hathor: would we not need more persistent database capacity for pro tools?
Babbage Linden: building general communications channels like mixed reality boundares
Traxx Hathor: capacity accessed by subscribers
Babbage Linden: allows more ad hoc communication about abstract ideas
Synergy Edge: Yes I'm for Pro tools too.
Babbage Linden: by scribling diagrams
Traxx Hathor: whiteboards
Babbage Linden: and passing pictures across the boundary
Csven Concord: what if we want to do more?
Csven Concord: more than pictures. more than notecards and code.
Max Case: wait till they open source it
Babbage Linden: then it can be built
Max Case: and add it yourself
Max Case: hahah
Babbage Linden: arbitrary data can be sent
Babbage Linden: it just needs to be made sense of
Babbage Linden: presented in the virtual world
Babbage Linden: which can be lots of work
Babbage Linden: it makes sense for visualising static complex systems
Babbage Linden: like powerplants
Traxx Hathor: having persistent datastores available in-world is crucial for an always-on communication boundary
Babbage Linden: but not arbitrary sketches
You: last question, then randy's coming out of the booth!
Babbage Linden: which are discussed today and forgotten tomorrow
Babbage Linden: ok
Babbage Linden: i'm spent!
Digo Bomazi: having better two way interfaces to the net is important too
Tom Bukowski: ty
Icon Serpentine: Yeah... I gotta get going soon... and I don't wanna cut the recording short! :)
Babbage Linden: thanks for coming
Synergy Edge: What is your vision for the future?
Dnate Mars: thanks you babbage
You: Thanks Babbage!
Icon Serpentine: thank you Babbage. :)
Csven Concord: gracias Babbage.
Sue Stonebender: THank you, Babbage
Max Case Claps
Synergy Edge: Thanks babbage ;)
Jimmy Thomson: Nice presentation Baddage
Babbage Linden: thanks all
Synergy Edge: Clap Clap
Max Case Claps