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Spime Wrangling For a Better Planet:
Serious Second Life/Real Life Integrations

Wed, Jul 18, 2007

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Serious virtual world applications in the form of Second Life/Real Life integrations are bubbling up all over Second Life as proof of concept, and more. And, with the recent announcement of the upcoming Serious Virtual Worlds Conference at Technocenter, Coventry University, I think we are at a tipping point for the full emergence of virtual/real life integrations as the doorway to a sustainable future.

No more need to explain why Second Life is definitely not a game, and write posts dubunking the spectacular inaccuracies of traditional media reports on Second Life. And, perhaps, the recent rash of uninformed negative reporting focusing on Second Life as everything from a mere fad to a web site will fade when even the main stream press gets what is really “sexy” about Second Life. This paradigm shift to “the internet of things” is just beginning. It may take thirty years to come to full fruition. But, mercifully, it will usher out the age of industrial production that is neither sustainable nor equitable.

Recently, I have covered in detail how the EOLUS One initiative began with a plan to deliver ground-breaking solutions in efficient energy management, virtual operations centers, and integrated order management on Second Life using the IBM and SAP platform. And, how EOLUS has developed into a better planet think tank.

EOLUS One – is a close collaboration between several major corporations. But, most importantly, EOLUS goes beyond the corporate sphere to draw on the unique collaborative environment of Second Life to bring creative minds together to envision a better planet, and the emergence of the 3D internet.

Second Life’s nascent convergence with Web 2.0, and the global community in SL that includes a unique mix of business ventures (large and small), social entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, technologists, visionary architects, futurists (see Long Now in SL,) educators, and creative people of all stripes, creates an incredible opportunity to collaborate, model and create the practical day to day applications that can change our lives for better.

Meeting With An Architect Of Networked Virtual Environments

Last week, I spent some time talking with Christian Renaud from Cisco Systems. The starting point of our conversation was our shared enthusiasm for virtual worlds and their role in a sustainable future. We talked about the potential of virtual worlds to reduce the carbon footprint not only by bringing an end to geography, but by influencing all aspects of production and consumption. Christian Renaud is the Chief Architect of Networked Virtual Environments for the Cisco Technology Center. The Technology Center is Cisco’s corporate incubator chartered with identifying emerging markets and technologies and developing them into new revenue streams for the company.

Christian has written extensively on virtual worlds (see his blog).

Cisco Systems is a company with a natural interest in the emergence of Virtual Worlds or “Verses,” as Christian prefers to say. They are the expression par excellence of collaboration over IP which is something Cisco is very interested in encouraging. The picture opening this post, “Sunset on the Cisco Virtual Campus,” is of one of Cisco’s four sims on Second Life. SL Brand did all of the Cisco public builds. Below is Christian Renaud’s avatar in the Cisco offices on Second Life.

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Cisco has been slowly increasing their footprint and involvement in Second Life, moving from basic marketing to mixed reality events to user group meetings. Recently, both Information Week and Metaversed commented on Cisco’s use of Second Life as a business to business tool and place to meet customers. Cisco uses the immersive collaborative environment of Second Life both for inter enterprise and intrapreneurial development, such as eliciting input from the community on potential new (real) Cisco products like the Medipod – a telepresence kiosk for doctors to remotely diagnose patients, in the Cisco Technology Center.

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Marketing is not overtly on the agenda for now. Coincidently, there seems to be much enthusiasm within Cisco for Second Life, with 200 new Cisco avatars registered within the last week alone. Avatars of Cisco employees were showing up on the Cisco sims this week even before Cisco has finished the work on their own orientation area. I met a Cisco Quality Assurance engineer from Canada in the Cisco sandbox only minutes after he logged in for the first time the other day. And, although he was a little disoriented without the benefit of a proper orientation, he seemed to take to SL like a duck to water.

Cisco CEO, John Chambers, in front of the Human Network Pavillion
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Creating A Virtual Networks Operation Center On Second Life

Near the end of our conversation, Christian mentioned a bounty proposal of $10,000 worth of Cisco equipment that he has offered to the Cisco user group on Second Life.

The bounty is for $10,000 worth of Cisco equipment to the user that creates the best tool that Cisco can use (perpetual royalty-free license) to provide technical support via Second Life. The tool should import dynamic, real-time network topology data and visualize it in 3D, allowing a support engineer to interact with the customer network and zoom in/out to specific routers and switches to determine the source of the concern. Each node in the 3D diagram should be a hyperlink to allow the TAC engineer to log into the router or switch(ideally) to facilitate resolution.

Christian explained to me later:

This will allow a network manager to export HPOpenView or CiscoWorks topology data, and input it into a tool such as the one created by Turner Boehm at IBM. No large back end Network Operation Center required, as this isn’t ongoing real time monitoring, rather a one-shot troubleshooting session with a network engineer.

My initial reading of the bounty proposal was that it was a brief for what amounts to a Virtual Networks Operations Center using dynamic 3D presentation and context oriented interaction, much as the EOLUS initiative does. Second Life is not yet a secure and stable environment or even quite real time for such an application. So a Network Operations Center would have to be an additional channel. But, there would be much added value even though there would still have to be a RL operations center somewhere.

I ran the bounty proposal by a few of the Second Life’s real/virtual world integration gurus or “spime wranglers” (as I prefer to call them), including Eolus Mcmillan, Algernon Spackler, Aleister Kronos, and 0tto Lane (a.k.a Mr Ugotrade) who has just come into SL. Otto spent many years as a lead member of Ericsson’s Messaging R&D Division before they moved from the US.

Cisco’s bounty proposal was not originally written for the Second Life community in general. So we all had questions for Christian about how it might be opened up to the wider community. We wondered: Who individually is going to have a use for such equipment? Members of the Cisco Users group who are constantly going for re-certifications might have a special interest in acquiring Cisco equipment, but would anyone else in the Second Life community? And, then we all asked what company or individual would want to hand over IP rights so cheaply?

And, as we had initially understood the proposal to be more involved – a Virtual Network Operations Center, we were all in agreement that a significant amount of real life development was a necessary underpinning to the project. And Otto, Al and I even speculated that this might be possibly half a million dollars worth, or even more.

Bringing Connectivity To Off The Grid Communities.

But, we did come up with a group that could put the Cisco equipment to excellent use in a community network in South Africa – Uthango Social Investments (see my earlier post, “Uthango Leads The Way To Virtual Africa,” and the Uthango Exhibition on EOLUS One). The Uthango IT team is away at a conference this week attending a very interesting international conference in Johannesburg. And, they will also visit some very rural projects with no broadband connectivity. So, there has not been an opportunity to bring Uthango together with Cisco yet!

Eolus McMillan gave Christian a tour of EOLUS One while I was there yesterday. Here is Christian seated in the control room of the EOLUS Virtual Operations Center. In the background are Randy Ciscosystems (Christian’s right hand man) and Eolus, and myself (time to go shopping for some new clothes Tara5 Oh).

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This was the comment that Christian Twittered during his tour of EOLUS One.

photo_3.jpg xianrenaud People, have you seen what Eulos has done? Amazing integration!

SAP Joins the Second Life/Real Life Integration Community

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I met Craigster Hax, SAP’s metaverse evangelist, in his rented personal office on the Second Life developer island of Silicon City, owned by The V3 Group. SAP also has three spaces on EOLUS One, and one on the next sim over in Silicon City, where a major SAP Community Office is being built. I asked Craigster why SAP has chosen to rent in SL:

It makes more sense for us to have a place that offers other interests to our community. We don’t plan to be here 24/7 and Silicon Island and Silicon City are home to many SL/RL companies that might also be of interest to our community members, so it made sense to be smack in the middle of the “action” so to speak. And, personally, I like the idea also of supporting the economic infrastructure here in SL.

I asked him about SAP’s plans for Second Life which are for the moment at least entirely “marketing free.” Craig explained:

We are here for the main reason of community interaction – and bringing more info to those who use our technologies. The SDN and BPX as well as ES Communities from SAP are 850,000 strong and made up of our customers, partners.

We are interested in seeing what interests our customers have and EOLUS One was perfect timing for us. It gave us a great idea what some are interested in doing. We are here to support. Information sharing, knowledge transfer – “connect, collaborate and contribute” basically is the idea. But, we’ve not locked into one specific thought thread or idea.

If you are interested in learning more about the vision behind this acronym-rich heart of SAP culture, Craigster said SAP will have the first formal event once the community space is finished. This “will be an interview with two of our top ABAP experts (one internal one external).” Here is a podcast in which Thomas Otter and Craig Cmehil (Craigster) are joined by SAP Guru and ABAP expert Thomas Jung (who will be one of the two) for an in depth look into the world of ABAP, it’s strengths and future role.

I asked Craigster Hax about SAP’s role in SL/RL integration:

connecting for example SL to a SAP NetWeaver server is not a complicated process (the beauty of web enabled – the whole Enterprise SOA).

And, now SAP has joined the EOLUS One initiative. Craigster has outfitted the SAP office space and floor room area on EOLUS One with information about SAP and the SAP Community Network. Here is one of the 5 “Demo Pods” with a real world presentation being run in a slide show while there.

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Craigster says he has been working with Liam Kanno (SL Avatar) of The V3 Group, “it’s been his designs and advice that have helped make the SAP space on EOLUS One top notch!”

Second Life Convergence With Web 2.0

One of the more ridiculous recent mainstream media reports on Second Life was the New York Times Bits post, that describes Second Life as a fad on the way out as Twitter comes in. Obviously the person who wrote this is unfamiliar both with Second Life and Twitter! The convergence of Second Life with other Web 2.0 social media is very powerful and growing. Second Life groups on Twitter, Jaiku, Facebook, Flickr and many other Web 2.0 Social Media are important knowledge generators that link real life to Second Life. And, they are growing in influence by the day as increasingly real life/Second Life integrations like BlogHUD and Ordinal Malaprop’s Twitterbox are adopted.

Craigster is working on his own chat client (in PHP and LSL) to pull chat from SL to RL, and RL to SL. It will be made available to the whole SL community when he has it working.

I’ve a script that connects to an external bridge. It pulls the chat (channel 0) from an area and sends it out to the external website (100% working) from there it’s displayed kind of like twitter or normal chat client that’s only about 20% one LOL. Then it takes chat input from there and pulls it into the room here (or will when I have it complete). I started on it Friday and spent only about 2 hours on it so have some work to do……….. basically the idea is with a minor config. change you can set it up in any area and actually discover your “webaura presence.”

Suzanne Vega in Beta Voice on Virtual Ludlow Street

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Suzanne Vega’s visit to Cruxy’s Virtual Ludlow Street was a lot of fun. It was my first experience using the Second Life voice client at a large event. And, I really enjoyed it. It turned hanging out on Virtual Ludlow Street into an interesting adventure in time, sound and space.

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categories: Metarati, Metaverse, Mixed Reality, open source, Second Life, social media, Virtual Worlds, Web 2.0, Web 3D, Web3.D, World 2.0
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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Aleister Kronos Says:

    Second Life? it’s all just a bit of a siily game really, isn’t it?
    No-one takes it seriously – and besides it will have blown over by the end of the Summer.

    — or not —

    LOL

  2. Christian Says:

    Tara5, thanks for the post. I was really impressed with the stuff I saw at Eolus One, as it clearly demonstrates the benefit of RL/VW integration. Also appreciate all the time both you and Eolus took with Randy and I for the tour. Very enlightening! – Thanks again, C

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