Will Virtual Worlds Make a Comeback?

Mid-December is a period of looking back and forth.  We are flooded with “year in review” stories and reminders of what went right and wrong this year – and this decade.  From a Web 2.0 perspective, Google continues to grab the headlines as the tour de force for just about every person with a computer, and soon, a phone (as it plans to launch an alternative to Apple’s iphone). I stumbled upon a story on the Daily Beast titled “The Decade Google Made You Stupid” and was surprised not by the observation from Douglas Rushkoff  that Google has changed our behaviors and that multitasking really doesn’t work (I’m in trouble).More suprising was what Rushkoff noted about Second Life and virtual realities.

Remember when we thought simulated realities was going to change PR? Companies were buying property on Second Life and then not really knowing what to do next.  Second Life is still churning out the Linden Lab dollars and the military applications of simulated technology are profound.

Turns out, with virtual realities, we could be on to something big from a business perspective. According to researchers at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, the experiences one has in a virtual world can be as real as the real world. In one experiement in which children were swimming with whales in a virtual reality enviornment, two weeks later half of them truly believed they swam with whales at Sea World. There are dozens of examples in which people in a simulated environment end up believing what they experienced in their minds truly occurred.  Imagine the mind-control one could do with stakeholders: you bring them to your Second Life storefront where you tell them that your service is worth the switch from a competitor and lo and behold they become your customer in the real world. That crisis your company is having? Meet your constituents in a virtual world and show them what “you’re really about.”  The implications for deal-making is what really piqued my interest. Meet up with a potential partner in a virtual world and your avatar is 5 inches taller online than in real life. During negotiations, you’re more likely to win on the big stuff (since the taller you are, apparently, the more leverage you have during negotations).  As someone 5 foot 2 and a half in real life, I am liking this new reality.

Seriously, though, it’s worth keeping an eye on developments in the virtual reality space.  But don’t get too caught up in it, as transparency can be a little suspect when you’re trolling in a Second Life or trying to operate in many different worlds. Just ask Tiger Woods, once he comes out of hiding.

  • http://VirtualRealityLiving.com Charles

    Good article Diane. Virtual Worlds are alive and well. A lot of the disappointment within the industry is a result the lag of technologies that make them possible. I think we’ll see a rebound in 2010 and a redefinition of their roll within the virtual reality industry as a whole. There are hundreds of virtual worlds but it is not the number it is the relevance that each one bring to the table. We’ll see the virtual worlds and the communities they represent defining their own unique place within the virtual experience we call Virtual Reality.

    Editor & Chief