Enterprise Virtual Worlds to See Real-World Growth

3D Virtual World Enterprise Forecast3-D virtual world applications for enterprise use will grow into an industry earning $8 billion to $10 billion in annual revenue by 2014, according to a new report from GigaOM Pro (subscription required). Today, virtual worlds are primarily associated with role-playing games and avatar-based chat, but analysts Kris Tuttle and Steve Waite say they will gain widespread corporate adoption as a platform for long-distance conferencing and training, job fairs, and other business uses in the years ahead. Read More about Enterprise Virtual Worlds to See Real-World Growth

Virtual Worlds for Business (Yes, Business)

conversifymeetsI’ve been a huge fan of Second Life since I first “rezzed” (logged into the virtual 3-D environment) in March 2007, and have previously blogged about my own Second Life. Despite all the limitations and downsides of Second Life (and there are many), it has been one of the most flexible and inspiring proving grounds for virtual worlds for business. Just like with Twitter, I try to cut through the hype and go straight to the core: Using this new platform can introduce you to new ways of thinking and help you hone valuable skills that will put you at a clear advantage as communications and workspace technologies continue to evolve. Read More about Virtual Worlds for Business (Yes, Business)

WoW and Second Life Don’t Tell the Whole MMO Story

WoW and SLInvestors poured $237 million into virtual world-related startups and payment systems last quarter alone, according to a report released today by industry trade show producer Engage Digital, signaling venture capitalists’ continued enthusiasm in the market. (Nearly $600 million in funding went into this sector for all of last year.) And ask the average tech-savvy person to name a major virtual world, chances are they’ll mention World of Warcraft or Second Life. Both MMOs certainly get the lion’s share of media attention; according to Nielsen Games, they often generate the most total monthly player minutes among all PC-installed worlds. However, as the recent investment news suggests, WoW and Second Life are only part of the story; neither world is truly representative of the MMO sector, nor reflective of where the larger virtual world industry is growing. Read More about WoW and Second Life Don’t Tell the Whole MMO Story

Firefox Demo: Facial Detection Within Videos

Earlier this week, we wrote about the tech side of open video efforts, which are poised to push forward the possibilities for use of video by making it native to web browsers.

Here’s a demo we got from Mike Beltzner, director of Firefox, that shows one such possibility. Mozilla evangelist Paul Rouget created an in-video facial detection algorithm using JavaScript that picks up on faces in a video playing within a browser using HTML 5, and notes the color of the shirt below the face. Then, in any other video loaded in the browser with that same facial detection algorithm, that face can be identified as one and the same. Beltzner emphasized that this was put together in just one night.

With the incorporation of actual facial recognition technology, you could see this being quite cool — simple use cases might include security cameras or easy Facebook tagging. Though it’s true that developers have already made many cool things with existing video players like Flash (s ADBE) and Silverlight (s MSFT), the inclusion of video as an element in the coming HTML 5 means that video can be more flexibly manipulated and extended across web sites, without ever downloading a plug-in.

Another Mozilla evangelist, Chris Blizzard, used Rouget’s facial detection demo to show how a person’s latest Twitter update might be overlaid onto a video above their head, once their face has been recognized. For those interested in investigating this further, here’s his longer demo from the Open Video Conference last weekend.

Second Life Takes Aim at Skype

talking in slSecond Life creator Linden Lab will announce on Wednesday that SL users have generated 15 billion voice minutes on their internal avatar-to-avatar VoIP service since the product was launched 18 months ago, and are now forecast to do 15 billion total voice minutes in 2009. By contrast, Skype handled 65 billion total voice minutes last year, according to parent company eBay (s ebay) (PDF).

Since Skype users aren’t usually communicating with each other in a virtual world, this might seem like an apples-to-oranges comparison. However, Linden has been emphasizing Second Life’s voice chat feature as a utility for educators and corporations with an SL presence who use it to conduct in-world conferences and other voice-driven applications. And tomorrow, the company will also announce a battery of voice services usable outside SL, including “AvaLine,” which enables mobile phone-to-avatar calling.

Linden VP Joe Miller told me the company believes this puts it in competition with Skype. Judging by SL’s high voice usage rates, it’s certainly a niche competitor. Then again, with Second Life’s roughly 750,000 monthly users compared to Skype’s 42 million-plus daily users, it’ll be a long time if ever that the VoIP giant feels the virtual pressure.

Eco Gamers: Manage Energy in a Virtual World with Shaspa

Shaspa

While in Hong Kong on a business trip recently, Oliver Goh was on his laptop playing around in a virtual world, when he realized he’d left the water running in his home back in Switzerland. He noticed this because the virtual world contained a recreation of his Swiss residence that pulled information about the home’s energy and water consumption in real time. The gauge that measures water use was blinking. No problem: After his avatar hit the right button, the real-world water valve in Switzerland turned off.

That’s one of the applications of the OpenShaspa Home Energy Kit, available starting tomorrow from the startup that Goh co-founded, also called Shaspa. Created with open-source components like Arduino circuit boards, the kit comes with a system that can monitor and control home power output with wireless sensors, and connect this data to mobile phone and Internet applications. (After reading Katie’s story on another open-source energy tool, ACme, Goh says he plans to add an OpenShaspa device driver that supports it.) Sensors for gas, water and other utility resources can be integrated into the control system, as well.
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Second Life Is Social Media

Despite all of the hype about Second Life, followed by the Second Life bashing, followed by some more hype, and now the latest “Second Life is dead” pronouncements, the 3-D virtual world owned by Linden Lab is still breathing. More importantly, I feel strongly — as do many others — that Second Life is an important, and often overlooked, aspect of social media marketing.