When I was a young boy I remember being fascinated by Johny Quest and the virtual World he always managed to slip himself into. I cant forget those days when I used to come back from school, grab my cup of milk and sit glued to cartoon network (they don’t do it like they used to anymore!). At that time, as a kid I used to think to myself – “il be lucky if I can ever go into another World where I can fight bad guys, play games and push the limits of my body without really pushing them”. Well with Second Life – my dreams can almost be fulfilled.
Second Life isn’t really the same as my Johny Quest fantasy because its not really ‘virtual’ in the sense that one cannot really optimize the ‘feeling’ of being in another World.
I’ll deal with the ‘reality’ of Second Life another time – what has really fascinated me this time round is the concept of how various people are using Second Life to optimize efficiency in whatever businesses they undertake.
Wipro has created a training center in Second Life. More firms are now using Second Life in an even more effective manner. CRY - Amul - Bollywood to name a few ---
When second life started out it had its skeptics. There were then the early settlers who soon started making a few bucks – and then the forces of economics took over and pushed more users into Second Life. More users – more often than not means more innovation in use patterns.
The US Army, healthcare providers, academics and companies other than Wipro are contemplating using Second Life to maximize use.
Before Second Life there have been games such as Sims Online, and Hitman etc., which have real life simulations. The only difference is that in Second Life, there is not a predetermined outcome.
So manifestations of Second Life are now being used to train paramedics, doctors, and firefighters in the case of disasters. Those people involved with disaster management now have the opportunity to forecast and figure out over and over again, in a realistic manner the outcomes of their actions. Thus the best possible plan of action can be derived and fewer mistakes can be made when an actual disaster occours.
Similar to Wipro, a British based company – PIXElearning is using Secong Life to train interns and freshers straight out of University. The interns and freshers are put through grueling tests that will prepare them for the ‘big bad world’. So they may face rude clients, unreasonable clients etc. This gives HR the scope to judge the new entrants on the basis of aptitude in a work environment and this may also help to optimize individual roles.
Cisco – the multinational giant is another company that is keyed into Second Life. They have been using Second Life to create conferences for heads all over the World and simulate an ‘as close to a real conference’ environment – something that is not possible solely through video conferencing and chat etc.
But get it right – Virtual Worlds are not cheap. This year itself, about $1 Billion worth of exchanges were made on Virtual Worlds. With such huge sums being made – there are bound to be the ‘wrong people’ attracted. Virtual or real, human nature is human nature. Our senses that easily misguide us are tuned to Sex, Violence, and certain crazily wild non sensical fantasies. So the opportunities to abuse the Internet on Second Life are more than what exists with the Internet as we currently know it.
There have been instances where people have been banned from Second Life for ‘life’ because they engaged in various forms of inappropriate behaviour – things that are not even worth mentioning.
Social World observers however, claim that things are not so bad, argues Dan Hunter of New York Law School, who is writing a book about the social significance of virtual worlds. “If you look at the numbers, there are so few events of fraud and problematic activity,” he says.
With any new innovation on the Internet – there are bound to be violators and detractors alike. Ultimately there may be certain problem makers but as long as there are companies and people who are consistently trying to find higher purposes for innovations, it will never always be only about fun and games.
Indus Geeks is a company in India that creates Second Life properties