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Second Life® is a 3-D virtual world created by its Residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by millions of Residents from around the globe.

Second Life may be hard to explain, but
 knowing what the following terms mean will make it easier to understand.

    * Second Life – A Web-based world made of islands where real people can buy virtual land and create virtual environments for real people to socialize in and buy stuff from
    * Lindens – The currency of Second Life; avatar accounts can be linked to Pay Pal or credit cards
    * Virtualis — A convention and learning center available for virtual meetings, educational seminars, retreats, receptions, conventions, entertainment and trade shows
* Avatar – A customizable digital image of yourself that moves, hears and speaks for you in virtual space.
    * In-world –You are In Second Life
    * Prim – A virtual building block that is used to create 3-D images; Programmers design it to have texture, shape and color
    * Script – Programming code attached to a prim that determines its behavior
    * Teleport – A way of moving instantly from place to place in Second Life kind of like on Star Trek!
    * Fly – An optional way of moving avatars around Second Life
    * Inventory – A catalogue of behaviors such as waving, clapping, etc. clothing, accessories and other items belonging to your avatar that may be worn or selected at any time

You will see that the Second Life world is a place dedicated to your creativity. After all, an avatar is your persona in the virtual world. Despite offering almost infinite possibilities, the tool to personalize your avatar is very simple to use and allows you to change anything you like, from the tip of your nose to the tint of your skin. Don't worry if it's not perfect at first, you can change your look at any time. It takes about 20 minutes to create a simple Avatar. If you want to make something unique, Urban looking, high fashion or trendy, may take a little more time to gather the pieces that you need to create your look.       My Avatar is a bit thinner than I. Why not!

A bit of information about the cache of Second Life. Harvard Law School, Stanford University, Princeton University all have virtual campuses on Second Life.

If you’ve ever looked for an excuse to try out the 3-D online environment called Second Life, here’s a good one: Virtualis, an eye-popping event island complete with convention center, exhibition spaces, and The Joan Eisenstodt Learning and Community Matters Center, a way-way-way-outside-the-box venue is now open.

Virtualis is  the world’s largest virtual convention and learning center, created by more than 200 people based around the world, under the guidance Dan Parks, president and creative director of Corporate Planners Unlimited Inc., a California-based meeting, event and corporate travel planning company.

“The build itself is the biggest testament to what can be achieved in this collaborative environment,” . “The man who did the landscaping came from Australia, the person who helped with the convention design is from Shanghai and lives in San Francisco, the lady who helped with the tour pod is from Berlin, a man from Denmark built the 3-D diorama of the convention center — and none of us have ever seen each other.”

The opening celebrations were held April 23 and 24 of this year. with a roster of speakers and educators that includes author Joseph Pine; meeting industry lawyers John Foster and Barbara Dunn; Stuart Mann, dean of the Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV; futurist Jim Carroll; and more.

More than 40 meeting professionals attended a two-day convention without leaving their desks. They logged onto Second Life and created virtual versions of themselves (avatars); danced and watched fireworks; enjoyed comedy and live music concerts; attended educational seminars about greener meetings, global innovation, international law, intellectual property and emergent technologies; and networked with peers from all over North America. From the expo floor, they were able to watch streaming video about the presenters, surf sponsor Web sites and buy merchandise. If they got lost in-between sessions, they were “teleported” to the correct room. If a presenter’s screen went down, it was replaced in a matter of seconds. Rooms were reconfigured with a mouse click. The convention planners never had to worry about F&B, transportation, hotel rooms, carbon footprints or attrition.
Highlights include meeting rooms with full audiovisual capabilities, including streaming live video; and dramatic architecture and exquisitely rendered details, from swaying trees to working escalators to a sculpture that morphs every few minutes. The exhibition spaces can support up to four media sources, and in the smaller Eisenstodt center, up to 40 attendees at a time can convene in “meeting spaces” that can simulate a variety of stimulating environments, from a stalactite-filled cave to the Amazon jungle to an underwater environment, and more.
And wouldn’t you know, a flurry of our own events prevented my being there, even virtually!

The Virtualis Convention Center is best seen to be appreciated,   VIDEO
Second Life is seen as many things, from hip and creative to clunky and hyped, but millions of “residents” have joined—some to gawk and play, many to create community and join in the building, and others to use the platform for marketing, education, or even meetings.

Dan got the idea of building the convention center after he was part of  the audience sitting in a meting in Second Life for Cisco

Gloria Nelson, of Wisconsin-based Gloria Nelson Event Design, acted as a project manager for Dan Parks during Virtualis’ construction and helped design the room set-ups work as she does in real life. She used images of chair covers, centerpieces, colors, linens and event set-ups to convey what Parks envisioned to the technical design team, who used the visual information to design prims — virtual building blocks that create 3-D images in Second Life.

Dan explained to me, that  when they put an image in, they put a script in with it that reads its location like GPS does; it reads where items are located,”  Gloria explains. We put all those items in a box. Then, on the control panel, you can go ‘poof’ and remove every single item at the same time and do a room set.      Don’t you wish you could reset a room with the push of a button in real life?”

Scripts also define how objects behave: whether or not a chair rotates or floats, what Web site a virtual business card can direct people to, and how long it will take an avatar to finish a virtual cocktail. In Virtualis, planners have hundreds of settings to choose from, including a dance floor overlooking an ocean, a luxury yacht, and a classroom where attendees hover over a city skyline, a comedy club and an elegant banquet hall. Planners can create virtual team-building programs or order customized avatars so attendees logging on teleport directly to the event without having to set-up accounts beforehand. Real musicians can be hired to play during virtual receptions. Even virtual swag bags are available.

I asked Dan, how this affects independent planners and suppliers too. He explained  “I wasn’t going to be a part of anything that took any jobs away from planners or suppliers.  As a planner/producer, I wanted to be reassured.  Dan, continued, The planner is the most important person [here]; they are going to tell us the settings, sponsor logos — we do everything based on what the planner wants and customize everything according to what
the planner wants.”

There are many benefits to meeting virtually, chief among them the ability to gather people together who are in different locations without requiring them to travel., it’s a real cost savings. The streaming video, live audio and PowerPoint technology present in Second Life also allow events to happen simultaneously in Virtualis and real time, which could help planners increase attendance and expose sponsors and a company’s message to a wider audience.

If we had an internet connection, a computer logged into Second Life and projected for you all,  I would be in Second Life and meet with Dan in Vancouver, Gloria in Wisconsin all in Virtualis. Actually, I could be sitting at home, logged on to Second Life and be with Gloria and Dan and tell you the same things, but you would see for yourself how interactive and amazing this can be.

I’m going to show you a short video that is an overview of a training meeting for Trend Micro that was held in Second Life a couple of weeks ago. It consists of General Sessions, Breakouts, Teambuilding, etc.

VIDEO

Trend Micro already has  on 2 more Second Life Meetings for 2009. In the works.

Meeting virtually will never fully replace face-to-face meetings. Instead, meeting in Second Life is likely to replace Webinars and some virtual tradeshow platforms, Second Life allows for interaction and is an immersive solution. Microphone headsets allow attendees to chat amongst themselves, and respond to presenters and educators in real time. Those without headsets communicate by typing questions and responses, which everyone can see. A private chat function allows two or more attendees to communicate without disturbing other attendees, making it possible for planners to create breakout sessions where sound carry-over is not an issue.
Camera controls allow attendees to view rooms from different angles, eliminating obstructed views.

Presenter Jim Carroll, a trends and innovations expert, did his session from home, with his 13- and 15-year-old sons by his side. “They were mesmerized,” he laughs. “My whole theory is that there needs to be more meetings and events conferences to deliver knowledge faster

MPI President and CEO Bruce MacMillan told Dan, “You know, this will start to work as soon as companies start putting into their RFPs, ‘Do you have experience in virtual meeting planning, in planning meetings in a virtual world?’” To encourage usage, Parks has created a pricing structure with all-inclusive rates, ranging from $250 for a four-hour breakout session to $750 for an eight-hour ballroom event for 100 people. “This has been a grand experiment that has grown legs,” Parks says. “Everyone comes in, says ‘Wow’, and goes back to their chairmen Everyone has to come in and see it with their own eyes [because] it’s difficult to explain.
When you go home tonight log on to Second Life. Create an Avatar and wander around. It’s all free. There are many places that are private or members only, but there a many more that are open to the public.  If you would like to arrange for a Site visit of Virtualis contact me and I’ll have Dan send you an invitation and then he’ll show you around personally.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • mike mcallen November 21, 2008, 2:52 pm

    Great post Pat. I have produced a few meetings in Second Life (not in a while though) I find the learning curve was my biggest obstacle for attendees. But I havent been in SL in a long time. I did visit the Virtulis center. Where do you find a list of meetings and events?
    Mike

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