Do you remember Second Life? It was kind of like chat on steroids — you logged in, designed yourself an avatar, then wandered from place to place, meeting other avatars so you could interact with them in who knows what way. You could also buy and sell goods or property, or even, ahem, yourself. There was this whole virtual economy in place. To everyone out there buying swords in MMORPGs, this no doubt sounds familiar.
When Second Life was gaining popularity, a number of corporations jumped in to adapt some of their real-world tactics into virtual world tactics. IBM experimented with different types of team collaboration. Cisco showed off routers and held user group meetings. The late great Sun Microsystems held chats on Java.
I suspect they will, but not in a way that will attract mainstream companies. As we’ve seen in games, virtual worlds are great for role-playing and such. But when it comes to business or social applications where you want to be your real self, the increasing quality of video services like Skype or social video apps like Givit are bound to take over. Combining your actual video and voice with the venues of a Second Life-style universe lends itself to hosting career fairs, or meetings, or trade shows. It’s more difficult to imagine people using such set ups for storming castles — or to picture brand names diving into worlds where things could get, well, let’s say, “dark.” Bottom line: Virtual worlds will be for play, video worlds for things closely tied to real life. (Airtime, anyone?)
At least for a while. When I first saw the original, dial-up AOL, I could only imagine a Second Life. Today, I’m sure someone out there’s working on a holodeck. Wait’ll that comes out. Deckard’s gonna have nothing on me.