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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Interesting Developments in 3D Learning and Collaboration Space

Some interesting developments in the 3D Learning and Collaboration Space.

First, it looks as though Linden Labs, the developers behind Second Life, may be downsizing their corporate efforts (Second Life Enterprise Edition). Two sources indicate that Linden may actually be shutting down their Enterprise operations. While this has not been totally verified by dozens of data sources. The story seems to have broken in a number of places, Virtual Worlds News reports that Linden Lab Lays Off 30 Perfect Of Staff. And Massively, a blog that provides daily information about MMOs. Reported the following in an article Linden Lab laying off staff, closing Singapore office:
...there are signs of what seems to be a significant series of layoffs in progress at Linden Lab.There's a pattern at work when various key staffers are about to depart from the Lab fold. A sudden rise in job-oriented social networking (particularly reconnecting with ex-Lab staffers), a sudden burst of recommendations and references, and so forth. We watched it all over the weekend, in some very unusual places. Some staff have already gotten notice, while others are evaluating their options in case they're tapped in a subsequent round.

Most or all of the team that engineered the Second Life Enterprise product was let go not long after it went into production...At this moment, our information is far from complete but it's a pretty good bet that if you're a part of the Lab's market-development or business-development groups, you're already clearing out your desk this week.
Additionally, sources inside the industry indicate that Linden seems to be more focused on its customer-focused 3D environment than its business-to-business efforts. This can't be making IBM happy. They where one of the first to invest corporate resources to incorporate Second Life into enterprisewide options, as I reported back in 2008.

Second, ProtonMedia, the developers of ProtoSphere has announced a strategic partnership with IBM (specifically the Global Services Division.) Here is what the press release indicates:
IBM and and ProtonMedia have entered into a teaming agreement that will result in the delivery of innovative, 3-D virtual collaboration and communication solutions engineered specifically for global life sciences organizations. Under the terms of the agreement, ProtonMedia’s ProtoSphere technology will be the basis for customized, 3-D virtual collaboration environments to create high-performance workplaces. IBM’s Global Business Services division will provide consultancy, integration, deployment, and installation services to life science customers around the world, leveraging the ProtoSphere platform. The companies are also in discussions for cross-marketing initiatives for their solutions.

See press release here.

I find the announcement of the two issues, the potential closing of the Linden Enterprise Edition and the teaming of ProtonMedia and IBM to NOT be a coincidence. IBM, if you remember, was one of the first large organizations in Second Life and was a pioneer in using Second Life for its clients and now it is moving toward another 3D virtual immersive environment vendor. Interesting development.

Third, yesterday, the University of Washington Virtual World Certificate officially had its first graduation. The graduating class has Deborah Frincke, Chief Scientist for CyberSecurity Research, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as our guest speaker. Deborah has been instrumental in supporting the students in the development of Cybersecurity Island, which they presented to the attendees shortly after graduation. This year the student speaker was Valibrarian Gregg, aka Valerie Hill, MLS, Lewisville ISD and PhD Student at Texas Woman’s University. She reflected on the journey her classmates have made this year, which has been prestigious and arduous. The student's worked hard and excelled at mastering virtual worlds in theory, design, development and big ideas. This is one of the first virtual world certificate graduation of which I am aware and it means that people are seriously studying the subject and becoming experts in building virtual immersive environment for educational, corporate and government uses.

Here is the 411 (information) on the Virtual World Certificate program.

Fourth, and perhaps most important (tongue firmly in cheek). An announcement was made that SpongeBob is going to be made into a 3D virtual world. According to Worlds in Motion.
Viacom division MTV Networks Asia and Singaporean developer GigaMedia Limited announced plans to co-develop and jointly publish a massively multiplayer online game based on animated TV series SpongeBob SquarePants.

I find these announcements interesting as the 3D virtual worlds begin to separate into distinct offerings. The industry seems to be more clearly and firmly drawing the line between companies that support 3D virtual worlds for games and as social networks and companies that are seriously focused on the corporate advantages of 3D virtual worlds. The industry is undergoing some interesting but necessary changes as some players become more corporate focused and others become more consumer focused.
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