Cool article in the Economic Times about us..
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A Brief Summary of a White Paper from Indusgeeks :
2007 was the year of the Virtual World specifically Second Life. Although 3D Virtual Worlds have been around for a while the tipping point was reached in early 2007 with the media frenzy and consequent public interest in them. In the ensuing period we have seen big name corporates like Coca Cola, Dell, Armani, Nike etc. jump onto the Second Life and Virtual World bandwagon for marketing and publicity purposes. However, Virtual Worlds acting as virtual office and event spaces for corporates and organizations are less well documented and understood. This article deals with the impact on the carbon footprint, energy savings and cost savings of using Virtual Worlds to conduct real life business.
Virtual World Figures : Virtual Worlds both 2D and 3D today have an estimated registered population of around 550 million users. A Gartner report quotes that the number will about 80% of all active internet users by 2011. Keeping this exponential growth trend in mind it would be a good idea to leverage this medium as a productivity enhancement and cost reduction tool while minimizing the environmental impact.
Virtual Offices : Remote working and telecommuting are already a phenomenon. In an increasing connected world the actual physical location of an employee becomes less and less relevant. However, with the increasing shift towards telecommuting there is a loss in the collaborative and social aspect of a physical office environment. Virtual Office spaces would merge the ease of telecommuting with the benefits of a physical office environment. The impact for an organization in terms of reducing overheads, increasing productivity of the remote work force and the reduction in carbon emission owing to smaller physical office spaces and the associated benefits as well lesser commuting to work. Sun Microsystem is a good example of a company using Virtual Worlds ( Sun’s own MPK20) to create Virtual Offices.
Virtual Events : Virtual events are a no brainer in some cases. E.g. 200 new recruits of an international consulting firm from around the world need to go to New York to attend an orientation event and get a ‘feel’ of the Head Office. This entails air travel, road travel getting to and fro to the airports, hotel expenses and hosting expenses for the event. If this can be reduced or eliminated by holding a virtual event reproducing the Head Office to the last detail and letting the recruits socialize and network through a virtual event the environmental and cost benefits are clearly demonstrated. Companies promoting such events like Unisfair have encouraging data on user engagement and lead generation.
Carbon Offsets/Credits for using VWs : Although figures are still fuzzy owing to lack of instituinalised research , back of the envelope calculations using both known server farm + client computer figures reveal than an average avatar consumes between 75 kWh to 500 kWh of energy per year (if left on 24/7) depending on the system used to create the virtual environment. At the lower end this is equal to driving a full size sedan for about 100 miles! As the efficiency of the servers hosting these virtual worlds improve and renewable energy sources are used to run the server farms governments in the future can consider allowing carbon credits or subsidies to be given to organizations using virtual offices etc. As such these measures will subsidize the implementation costs of Virtual Offices across the world and spur their increasing adoption.
1. To increase the energy and network efficiency of these VWs as more and more people come online new and innovative methods will be devised. One such method is an on-demand virtual world. The biggest cost by in terms of carbon emissions, bandwidth usage and money is that of keeping the virtual space online or persistent ; even when nobody is using it. This forms the very basis of a Virtual ‘World’. It exists whether somebody inhabits it or not. However, unlike the physical world a virtual world can and should be made on demand. The technology to seamlessly switch on a virtual space when a visitor arrives once developed will substantially increase the benefits of going virtual.
2. Better tools for collaboration and immersion will create different ways of training and interaction.
3. Enterprise Virtual Worlds will emerge . Already IBM is working closely with Second Life to create a corporate friendly virtual world based on the Second Life engine for a more secure and better tooled virtual environment.
4. Better interface and input tools with your computer and avatar will be invented. Logitech and Mitch Kapor ( ex-chairman of Linden Lab) are independently creating infra red cameras which will be plugged into the normal webcam and scan the facial as well as body movements of the user. This will enable real time simulation ‘expressions’ and movements between the user and his avatar. Also headsets by companies like Emotiv which ‘read’ thoughts and move the character could immensely increase the productivity of a virtual space by virtually making the user indistinguishable from the avatar.
1. Most of the virtual worlds created today have been built for the purpose of entertainment or social networking. Tools for collaboration and training are not adequate in today’s virtual worlds. There are some custom platforms like Forterra , Unisfair , Inexpo etc. which are focused towards simulation and training , however collaboration tools are woefully inadequate. This poses a problem for early adopters of virtual offices.
2. Connecting to virtual spaces requires a modern computer/laptop and decent bandwidth. Not everybody has access to such infrastructure. Wide adoption of them would result in substantial investments in hardware and bandwidth.
3. Security concerns of working in a virtual environment are similar to those of telecommuting. Better security and monitoring methods will need to be developed to keep checks on the virtual workforce.
Virtual offices will increasingly become popular and ubiquitous as the tools for enabling collaboration and communication in these environments improve. This will result in reduced travel and more real time interaction across the organization. The impact will be 360 as a new way of ‘working’ emerges. More time to spend with families , bigger salaries ( owing to the reduction of costs) , new ways of intra-organizational communications and a significantly reduced carbon footprint. This is not just the next step in the evolution of the Internet but of the corporation and society in general.
Machinima = Machine + Cinema. It’s the art/science of making films or videos in real time virtual environments ( like games or virtual worlds like Second Life). So why exactly is this any different from taking screenshots of your mage jumping off a rock in the Outlands? Essentially, it’s not very different and very different at the same time. It’s like comparing the snapshots you took in those ugly trunks in Goa to …. I don’t know the ugly trunks of Saif in Dil Chahte hai??!! You get the point…. I would using the same capture technique but it’s what I do with it, how I do it and why I do it that makes for a professional Machinima video.
For a great FAQ on machinima please go to http://www.machinima.org/machinima-faq.html. HBO recently bought a series of machinima films shot in Second Life called the adventures of Molotov Alva for a six figure sum! Again.. why is this so revolutionary and worth blogging about? So here’s why. Surprisingly, in our endeavours to bring India into the virtual domain we find increasingly that although the average Indian internet user may not be broadband ready to access content on Virtual Worlds like Second Life , there is a good demand for dervative products/services coming out of these virtual worlds. The Machinima is the biggest and most sort after derivative. Why so?
Although Machinima.org does a good job of explaining the benefits. Let us briefly recount them here :
a) No rendering time required.
b) Significantly faster ( about 20 – 30 times at some places) than traditional CG animation.
c) About 40- 70 % cheaper than traditional CG animation – hence huge cost savings.
d) It fits in really well in the great gulf between essential 2D flash films and 3d animated films.
e) Great for Corporate communication videos and Out of Home Advertising ( both of which require faster delivery times, quick content refreshing times and cheaper costs)
A lot of our corporate clients like Satyam are using this medium for creating videos for internal training purposes and we believe that the market of corp comms is very big in India for this medium.
Here are a few reasons why companies should be interested in Machinimas for Training, Learning and Orientation purposes:
a) It provides a big step up over their existing multimedia training platforms like power point presentations and flash films.
b) The development and deployment costs are on par with a good Flash film.
c) The development time can actually be faster than a traditional Flash film.
d) In terms of quality of content .. good machinimas can reach levels of upto 80% of traditional animation or better at 1/10th of the cost. Watch the machinima created in the new Crysis engine to get a good idea of how far this technology has evolved!
e) It allows you to create a story/narrative around your training , learning , values programs that deliver abstract ( and let’s face it ..boring !!) content to new as well as old employees.
We have created many such machinimas for both training as well as product/solution demos which we can’t put up here for confidentiality purposes. The former being for internal stakeholders and the latter mostly for external clients.
As companies in India and elsewhere realise the cost , time and content flexibility of this medium more and more uses of this will proliferate in the industry.
In the next post we’ll explore the marketing oriented benefits of the Machinima for Out of Home, Web as well traditional broadcast media.
( This article appeared in the Computer Society of India’s magazine communications in the March 2008 issue)
Building and Creating in Second Life :
“Second Life is an online, 3D virtual world imagined and created by its residents.” – from the main page at www.secondlife.com.
Creation lies at the heart of Second Life like all open and user created virtual worlds. To enable us to be world creators, virtual Gods of this new Universe called the Metaverse we need our world creation tools or build tools. Linden Lab has provided a set of built in tools to create content in Second Life. From building the spectacular structures seen here to creating clothes and the landscapes; Second Life offers its world creators all the tools necessary and a thriving economy to sell those creations.
Content Creation in Second Life can be broadly classified broadly into:
Architecture in Second Life spawns many genres from the purely functional and utilitarian to the fantastic and bizarre. Even though real life physical laws don’t apply to virtual worlds the structures tend to resemble Real Life as residents seems unable to shed their preconceived notions of Architecture. These structures are created for the users of Second life for residential or commercial purposes. These can be used to replicate existing properties or to showcase properties not built yet.Many Real Life real estate companies like Coldwell Banker are using Second Life as a virtual simulation to directly market their real life properties and sell virtual land to residents in Second Life as well.
Content creation in Second Life is not limited to buildings only. There is a thriving commercial market for all kinds of virtual clothing and skins!Every avatar in Second Life has a skin by default, however if you want to make it more realistic or customize it to your taste , you would have to buy or find user created skins. Skins are jpeg images mapped on to the digital skeleton ( the avatar’s skeleton) . There are many skin creators and shops in Second Life. Skins take a lot of skill to create. They are almost akin to clothing as avatars can change them as easily as clothes in Real life.
Similar to skins avatars are also ‘born’ with default hair when they first enter Second Life, however, the hair styles and the finish are not very realistic. To get that you have to usually pay and buy custom created hair from hair creators.
Second Life has many famous fashion brands like Eros Designs, Paper Couture Insolence and Pixel Dolls. Fashion is so deeply embedded in the Second Lifestyle that there are many fashion magazines devoted solely to the Fashion industry in Second Life like Second Style etc.
3D Art and Miscellaneous Creations: Second Life offers tremendous opportunities for artists to take their art work to a new frontier. Being devoid of physical constraints artists are free to create their art in 3 Dimensions in ways unimaginable in Real life.
There are many moving art installations as well as static sculptures in Second Life. Every year the Burning Life festival is organized by Linden Lab to celebrate this artistic culture in SL by showcasing many artists and different genres of artwork for a limited amount of time , free of cost, on
Just like fashion, Second Life has a growing art market as well with many famous artists like Starax etc.
How to build :
Second Life build tools are easy to use and learn. However, just like any other discipline it takes atleast a few months to start building well. The variations are infinite and only limited by your imagination. A certain pre-knowledge of 3D modeling software like 3D Studio Max, Maya, Blender etc. helps, but is not a pre-requisite. The basic building blocks in Second Life are primitives or simply ‘prims’, these are free to create as long as you have a space to build on. In addition to prims which are the basic building blocks , there are textures which transform the shells into discernible buildings. These are jpegs created outside Second Life on normal photo-editing software like Photoshop etc. and then uploaded to the Second Life server for 10 linden ( about Rs. 1.5) per texture.
The trick to building well in Second Life is to realize the limitations of the medium before undertaking a project. Being an online world it is rendered and updated live and comes with its own set of challenges. Each texture can’t be higher than 72 ppi ( 1024×1024 ) in resolution. This limits the amount of detailing possible. The other challenge is that each server can hold only 15,000 prims which means that builders need to conserve prims and try to use textures instead to create the finish needed. That said there is some amazing amount of realism and finish that can be achieved in the given constraints as demonstrated in the pictures here. As virtual worlds, hardware and broad band technologies advance these building tools and services will continue to get better.
Where to start :
Regular classes are held in Second Life to teach people basic , as well as advanced building. There are both free and paid classes offered by in-world universities like the NCI etc. Many free tutorials and walk through are also available in Second Life at places like the Ivory Towers. Tons of dedicated websites ,blogs and wikis also provide information on all kinds of content creation.
Problems and threats :
As the commercial market for content creation grows in Second life so too the risk of content piracy. There have been many instances of content or texture theft and it is a major cause of financial and creative worry for content creators in Second Life.
In late 2006 a program called copybot which could copy all prims and texture shapes in its view created major havoc and panic in the Second Life content creation market. Although , Linden Lab subsequently claimed to block the loop used by copybot to copy original content and upload it as the property of the copybot user, even today content piracy continues. This however, is not just a problem unique to Second Life but to the whole of the Internet. Any content which is rendered live over the Internet runs the risk of being pirated.
This the class of content created using other content inside the virtual worlds. Machinima is a prime example of content derivatives. Machinima (machine + cinema) are films shot inside any virtual world/game and not just Second Life. SL machinimas are shot using content created inside SL like avatar, clothing, houses etc. Machinimas have a rather large market both inside Second Life and in Real life. Although in Second Life they are largely used for news reporting and entertainment purposes, their Real Life uses span from corporate training to disaster orientation, besides entertainment.
Machinimas being faster and cheaper to make than full scaled offline animation films are fast gaining popularity amongst corporates who are using it to train their staff and introduce them to the concept of virtual worlds and working inside them.
Second Life cannot survive without the vast amount of time spent by its inhabitants creating content for pleasure or profit. Content creation is the engine which drives the growth of these virtual worlds. As virtual worlds expand and become a part of the mainstream Internet, content creation in and for virtual worlds will become a major industry. Already many Metaverse Development Companies like Indusgeeks in