A research team, led by North Carolina State University’s Dr. Mitzi M. Montoya, has developed a new way of measuring how “real” online virtual worlds are – an important advance for the emerging technology that can be used to foster development of new training and collaboration applications by companies around the world.
A global economy, the rising cost of travel, and increasingly tight budgets have left companies exploring the possible use of virtual worlds to train employees and foster collaboration in areas such as research and development, but until now no one has had a way to measure just how “real” those worlds are. The researchers focused on developing a measurement tool specifically for business applications in the virtual world, noting that the productivity and effectiveness of workers interacting via these online environments is closely linked to how well the workers are able to feel as if they are in the virtual realm.
“This is an important issue,” Montoya says, “because we believe that if users feel they are ‘present’ in the virtual world, they will collaborate better with other members of their team – and the more effective the virtual world will be as a setting for research and development or other collaborative enterprises.” In addition, Montoya explains “an increased sense of presence in the virtual world leads to better comprehension and retention of information if the technology is being used for training purposes, and trainees are happier with the process.” Montoya is the Zelnak Professor of Marketing and Innovation at NC State.
The measurement scale developed by the researchers for the virtual world is called Perceived Virtual Presence (PVP), and factors in how users interact with the virtual environment, with their work in that environment, and with other users. “Now that we have developed the PVP scale,” Montoya says, “it can be used to determine what PVP levels are most conducive to training, collaboration or other applications.” Effectively, the PVP scale can be used to design a virtual environment that has the degree of reality that will best cater to a company’s specific needs.
As part of its awareness campaign for “diabetes, the silent assasin”, Diabetes UK has built a headquater in Second Life and represented itself on social networks Facebook, Bebo and MySpace. Though I dont think they are going to be succesfull in Second Life at least they are showing wits about actively involving new media.
I visited the Second Life headquaters to see the efforts they made; The building is nice, but they have failed to use the community elements of Second Life to draw attention to the campaign. If you want people to notice you, you need to organise events – so have concerts in/ around the building from UK based live musicians.
They do have a signboard up with links to various online pages, so information can be accessed from Second Life’s headquaters. A big boo boo is using the videoscreen to show the website; it looks pretty, but after the initial display of the site, i cant actually interact with it from within Second Life. They would have been better off displaying a campaign video in that precious content channel.
Winksite allows you to create a mobile website, by specifying content pages or importing content from an RSS feed, as I did here. So this blog can now also be seen on any mobile device at http://winksite.mobi/tothport/blog. The site has a social media aspect baked into the service and allows members to subscribe to their mobile sites, effectively creating content channels. The service easily allows you to display a variety of advertisement networks (adSense from Google in my case), which could lead to income, provided your user generated content gets enough hits on your mobile site.
Myrl intends to become a space through which you can link all your avatars from different worlds and in the same effort make the social networks associated with those avatars available from one point; Myrl – A promising service, as access to many virtual worlds with one personal avatar is a bridge to be taken in the future to make the use of virtual worlds more compelling.
Rivers Run Red has launched a turn-key solution called Immersive Workspace for companies wishing to exploit the advantages of visualized virtual workplaces. Combining web based collaboration tools with the immersive 3D environment of Second Life they promise to cut travelling costs and increase productivity among physically seperated employees.