Friday, July 21, 2006

Mixed Reality Event - Impressions

As I mentioned earlier this week I had a very odd speaking engagement - a mixed reality event in Second Life for TechSoup. I spoke briefly about what The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is doing in SL (or what we intend to do) - which at this point, is pretty uncertain.

Before I jump in, I'd like to thank Beth and the folks at TechSoup for inviting me to speak at the event! They did an unreal job pulling off what appeared to be a tight rope walk to pull off the video, event planning and presentations.

Ok, here we go...

The Tech Stuff
First, from the technical side of things it is very apparent that SL continues to appeal to "early adopters" in a big way - the system (graphics, hardware) and bandwidth requirements are very steep - running SL on my 2.x Ghz Dell along with Skype slowed me down to a crawl at times. I'm unsure of what exactly happened, but when I streamed the audio and had skype running, my cable modem actually went offline. It's been best described to me as "packet collision" - a fancy way to say that my modem had some much data flowing through it that it got confused.

My impression in regards to the event itself from a technical perspective was... WOW. The amount of effort and work that went into this even was stunning.

It is amazing what is possible in SL (streaming live video, food objects, directories etc...) - the richness of the platform is pretty amazing and very powerful. I don't think people yet realize how powerful this is going to be. I read that soon you'll be able to use Firefox within SL which again opens up a ton of possibilties.

Because of this current technology barrier - there is a (very?) limited upside to SL type platforms in today's world. But once the web opens up to SL or the technology barrier goes away, the richness of the 3D world will finally be mainstream.

The Content
Because I couldn't get the video feed to work for the 1st half of the event, I missed much/all of the content. When I did finally get it to work, the sound was a bit muffled and hard to hear - I got very little of the presentations because of this unfortunately. To be brutually honest, I sort of felt like the content was 2nd fiddle to the cool technology of the evening - the fact that I was able to peer out of the virtual world into the real world was certainly neato, but didn't have any intrinsic value.

My personal experience was interesting as well... speaking blindly into a microphone was similar of course to doing a phone presentation, but because I could "see" avatars and video, I did have a similar feeling to presenting in real life. Walking up to the podium I had the same butterflies as in the real world. Calling it mixed reality is a pretty good term! That said, the feedback once you start talking is non-existent. I got no feel from the crowd, very little audio feedback and was distracted by all the chatter/chatting in both my skype window, and in SL... lots to be figured out here - it must be somewhat comparable to a stand up comedian performing his jokes alone in a big auditorium.

The other side of my personal experience was, frankly, explaning what I was doing at 10:30 PM to my wife. She's a terrific sanity check for me when it comes to making sure I haven't dropped off the uber geek cliff. She's not buying SL at all (yet) - which I think is important... because in the end, my job as a nonprofit marketer is to move people to action - and lots of them! SL isn't mainstream enough yet for a large NPO like us to move mountains and it remains to be seen how big SL will become and what alternatives will appear as the technology continues to improve.

(Check out this link to a blog post about SL growth/potential growth)

Other Stuff
I spent a few minutes before the event creating some unique LLS and Team In Training shirts/textures and dropped them in a freebie box at the event - hopefully people helped themselves. You can drop by our virtual chapter to get your own shirt and wristband.

In Summary...
I think SL and future 3D/Web platforms will transform how we meet, present and fundraise - but today it's limited by the technology and our own constituents presence within these worlds.

That said, now's the time to experiment. By finding volunteers within these worlds, we can beging to develop new models of advocacy, fundraising and patient services. I'll be looking for volunteers to help me build out our virtual chapter (if you want to help, contact me!!!) and will be thinking hard about how to pull off a virtual event that will not only raise money and awareness, but will be fun as well.

My top 5 takeaways:
  1. The tech barrier limits the scale of what a non-profit can do TODAY in SL
  2. Socialization with large groups of people (10+) within SL is hard/impossible given today's interfaces (this is an observation that I really need to research and blog more about)
  3. It's darn cool...
  4. But it's damn geeky
  5. My wife doesn't get it (yet)
Linkapalooza (all the links I've found from the event so far)
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