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Monday, June 21, 2010

What it means that MS LifeScience Award Goes to 3D Virtual Conference Design

By now you've probably already heard that the Microsoft Life Sciences Innovation Award 2010 has gone to a project that uses a 3-D virtual environment to hold a virtual scientific poster session. The session, held by the pharmaceutical company Merck was conducted in Photosphere and featured the opportunity for scientists to gather and interact with each other. To learn, collaborate and exchange knowledge. This is the type of usage of 3D environments Tony and I wrote about in Learning in 3D

As MS announced as they gave the award:“The companies that received awards are on the cutting edge of integrating life sciences and information technology to advance research and benefit patients around the world,” said Michael Naimoli, U.S. life sciences industry solutions director, Microsoft. “By demonstrating quantifiable results, each of the award recipients is not only showing how Microsoft technology can be implemented to revolutionize the industry but also providing a road map for other companies that want to advance their own organizations.”

Results measured after the poster session demonstrated that the virtual environment was effective for scientific meetings and was well accepted by the current generation of scientists, suggesting that these environments can be used to deliver immediate value.

The most fascinating features of this news to me are:

1) Microsoft recognizes the importance and significance of 3D. We've all read about IBM jumping into the 3D space and working hard to create a presence in 3D but one could always contend that they are being innovative because they are bringing innovation to their clients and want to "resell" 3D. But Microsoft with no known 3D product or initiative has recognized the importance of 3D for innovation. I wonder if they are not going to have a major push in the near future in the area of 3D? We know the company has a lot of resources and, although they sometimes arrive late to the party (internet browsers, game consoles)...once they arrive, they make a huge impact. It will be interesting to see what comes of Microsoft's interest in 3D.

2) The pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated and rightfully concerned about social media and what is allowed to be said and what is not allowed to be said. (see Pfizer's $2.3 Billion-Dollar Settlement)Yet, at least one pharma company (and I know of several others) has embraced 3D virtual immersive environment (VIE) technology. I think this is very telling. If an industry as highly regulated and concerned about messages can embrace 3D virtual world technology, other industries are not far behind.

3) In addition to being highly regulated, the pharmaceutical industry has been notoriously conservative in its approach to training. I know of several large companies that have just recently embraced the "new fangled" elearning and virtual classrooms and others who have started to innovate only to go backwards because of new leadership and these are the large companies, mid-sized and small pharmaceutical companies are even more conservative. So when a major pharmaceutical company not only embraces 3D virtual immersive environment technology but also applies for an award for using the technology, you can sense an industry moving in a particular direction. I see the pharmaceutical and medical device industry rapidly moving in the direction of 3D. This is further underlined by Kaplan-EduNeering's partership with Protonmedia.

4) Corporate monies are about to be thrown behind 3D in a BIG WAY. This is because of the link between pharmaceutical companies and the larger "healthcare industry". And the impact is huge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Healthcare industry provided 14.3 million jobs for wage and salary workers in 2008, holds ten of the 20 fastest growing occupations and will generate 3.2 million new wage and salary jobs between 2008 and 2018, more than any other industry, largely in response to rapid growth in the elderly population. So imagine when pharmaceutical companies begin to offer healthcare providers 3D virtual learning, eduction and conference experiences then the trickle down impact will mean that 3D environments will impact over 14 million people in terms of training for their jobs. To me, the tipping point for 3D will be in the healthcare industry based on the resources and efforts of pharmaceutical companies.

Microsoft's interest in 3D coupled with the 3D efforts of the pharmaceutical industry will push virtual 3D world technology from the fringes of organizational training and collaboration efforts to the forefront of organizational learning and collaboration efforts. It is only a matter of time.

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