Mary Meeker sees ‘unusually high level of global innovation’

Mary Meeker (Morgan Stanley) talks in her recent state of the internet about disruptive innovation: new or incumbent players disrupting whole industries by offering cheap or free products and services (Google, Amazon… ) or by creating new markets (Apple, Facebook, Zynga… ).

One of the remarkable aspects of the recent evolution is how innovative also the more incumbent internet companies are. You’ll find concrete information about specific companies in the presentation – and note how of the 15 biggest public companies 9 are US based, 3 are Chinese companies, 2 Japanese (okay, one of those two being Yahoo Japan), 1 South Korean and… zero European.

Meeker also highlights the unusually high level of global innovation, for instance Facebook and Tencent (the largest social network in China) learning from each other’s playbooks.

Facebook has the focus on real-world friends, pictures and events, Tencent on virtual identities and customizable avatars – but both are incorporating each other’s strong points.

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Howard Rheingold’s virtual community / social media course 2010

Have a look at the interesting mindmap of this course about virtual communities and social media at Stanford, the instructor is Howard Rheingold.

In fact you can get an overview of the course material using a concept map or this Prezi presentation:

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Finally, traveling in SL via the web

In the meantime I managed to try out Second Life via the Gaikai’s cloud-rendered web access, following a tip on the New World Notes. Even though it’s still an experiment, it was a very smooth experience with pretty fast teleporting.

traveling in second life via the web

I tried out surfing and it worked just fine. In fact, I did not notice any major differences between moving around using the viewer and moving around via the web. For now the access it limited to selected places in Second Life, I cannot wait to see access enabled for the whole of Second Life so that people can attend shows, discussion groups or music events in-world but via the web!

As I explained in my previous post, combined with augmented reality and wearable devices this could open up whole new media dimensions…

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Affordable AR glasses plus virtual worlds on any device gives us…

Let’s do something wild and combine two fascinating developments. The first one is about augmented reality. As I said in a previous post, I’m not totally convinced that looking through a smartphone camera is such a compelling experience. What about glasses? The conventional wisdom says that it won’t work: people won’t put some ugly device on their face and walk around like total nerds (okay, some would be happy to do it, because they are nerds geeks, but I’m talking about mainstream folks here).

But can we be that sure? After all, 3D movies are very popular now, and professional augmented reality glasses can do amazing stuff – but they are very expensive. Well, it seems that prices are coming down: Aaron Saenz on the Singularity Hub talks about $2000 dollar (made by Vuzix). Pretty expensive, but clearly the price is getting lower. Here is the video:

Maybe the idea of staring at 3D-dragons is not exactly your idea of great entertainment, but there is also stuff about publishing and education in the video and the story. This being said, a sure sign that this kind of stuff goes beyond the very early adopters will be when the first ‘adult content’ publishers start using it.

Now the second development: the current experiments of running Second Life in a browser. I could not yet check it for myself, but the first reactions on Twitter seem to be positive. Really Engaging Accounting has a first-hand story about the experiments and this video:

Now imagine to combine both developments. The glasses could ultimately replace the traditional smartphone hardware, and virtual worlds such as Second Life or Blue Mars (more a platform for virtual worlds) will run in the cloud and you will be able to use them on lower end laptops, tablets, and I guess smartphones – and so, in a not too distant future, they could also run in those fancy glasses. So start dreaming about seamless integration of virtual, augmented and physical realities (or at least, read some science fiction about it!), and what it will make possible.

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Augmented Reality platform Layar gets second round of funding

The Dutch augmented reality platform Layar got a second round of funding, about $14 million, led by Intel Capital. In total (both rounds) Layar got $17,4 million. Layar says the next phase in the life of the company will be all about content:

The next phase is all about content. In the last year we have built a global platform for Augmented Reality. The coming period is about identifying the content formats that can attract and build an audience. We will not wait passively but will be actively involved in supporting our publishers in this process.

The company remains based in Amsterdam but is also opening a US office in San Francisco. So, is this yet another example that augmented reality becomes big business? Not so fast. Robin Wauters on TechCrunch says

The question remains: is augmented reality a fad or poised to go mainstream?

The jury is still out on that, but Intel Capital and Layar’s initial backers are clearly betting on the latter to happen in the near future, and on the Dutch startup to help make it a reality.

Well, let’s hope it works out. I have Layar on my iPhone, and even though I played with it, it remains one of the apps I hardly use these days. It seems that my old-fashioned Google maps (combined with location based services such as Foursquare) cover my needs most of the time. I could imagine interesting applications such as putting layers of historical images on the physical reality of all major cities. Maybe there are not enough content creators to provide such cool layers (instead of yet another listing of restaurants), and so users give up on it, making that potential content creators are frustrated because of the limited user base.

Kevin C. Tofel on GigaOm gives an example of historical information on Layar. Now just imagine ways to have this kind of view in a more compelling way than through your smartphone camera and also imagine to have these layers in an ubiquitous, interactive and real time way – then I think something like mainstream traction becomes very probable.

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Discovering a virtual mine in the Appalachian mountains

Talking about virtual environments and machinima (see previous post), here is a very nice example: today in Second Life the Virtual Mine is being launched:

The Virtual Mine is a complete 3D virtual mountaintop removal mine created by Deep Down in the popular world Second Life.  The virtual mine, developed at BAVC’s Producers Institute for New Media Technologies with funding from ITVS and MacArthur Foundation, is an educational 3D environment, game, and educational curriculum for teachers, students, and anyone who’d like to learn more about mountain top removal, coal fired power production, alternative energies, and the amazing music and culture in the Appalachian mountains.  Read more about our inspiration and development at the Producers Institute, and our meeting with Second Life Education at the Institute.

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Shooting video in virtual worlds and games with a virtual handheld camera

Machinima is a crucial aspect of the use of virtual environments for journalism. It basically involves shooting video inside virtual environments and games, eventually mixing this with video from the physical world. Examples can be found for instance on the YouTube channel of Draxtor Despres.

The blog Phasing Grace now has great news for machinima makers: the development of a virtual camera which can be used in a very intuitive way as a handheld camera in a virtual world or a game. The new development in virtual cameras at the University of Abertay Dundee is developing the pioneering work of James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar using a Nintendo Wii-like motion controller – all for less than £100:


Read Phasing Grace for more details!

More news about the use of virtual & augmented reality in newsrooms can be found in this post by Terri Thornton on PBS MediaShift, where she explains how augmented reality invades newsrooms, kids’ shows and ads.

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Blue Mars gets ready for the cloud

Avatar Reality, the company behind the virtual worlds platform Blue Mars, released demos showing how virtual worlds created on the platform can be rendered in the cloud and used in a browser and on hardware such as office laptops, Macs, smartphones and tablets – basically on everything which can handle video and which gets on a broadband connection. Avatar Reality uses OTOY’s streaming technology.

More videos on the Blue Mars blog. We mentioned Otoy in a previous post about the possibilities of “gaming in the cloud” for immersive journalism. Blue Mars will be rolling out the new service during the first quarter of 2011.

As Jason Kincaid on TechCrunch says, Blue Mars still needs to get companies and websites to build out these 3D worlds, and people to use them. It’s obvious that by making access to a graphically very rich 3D environment as easy as surfing on the web, more people will be pulled into this experience.

It’s also important to realize that Blue Mars is not one particular virtual world. It’s a platform where people build virtual worlds, and they can build them for gaming purposes, for business collaboration or for conferences and education… They will have to decide to use (and to pay for) the cloud based service or not, whether to charge for it etc.

Second Life (which also tries to get into a browser) struggles with the fact that for now new users need to have the right hardware and firewall configuration, but also with the experience those new users have of arriving in a new city without knowing where to go. On Blue Mars one could create a world with a very specific purpose, and integrate that world into a familiar web environment – solving not only technical issues but also answering the question “what am I going to do here.”

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Metanomics about the new laws of virtual worlds

On Metanomics:

Virtual worlds often seem like they have their own governments….and their own laws. Whether expressed through a EULA or a Terms of Service Agreement, virtual worlds are often governed by individual codes of conduct and enforcement that are derived less from “real-world” laws and more by the platform owner’s lawyers. But the law doesn’t end at the border of a virtual world, and the continually evolving ways in which governments, regulators and judges interpret the law as it applies to virtual worlds is an increasingly important subject as online communities grow.

Robert Bloomfield welcomes a very special guest, Greg Lastowka, Professor of Law at Rutgers University on the eve of the publication of his new book: Virtual Justice, The New Laws of Online Worlds.

Published by Yale University Press, Professor Lastowka’s book explores crime, governance and a history of law in virtual worlds.

Join us for this in-depth discussion of trends, insights and the future of law, crime and governance in virtual environments on Monday November 8th at 12 p.m. Pacific.

You can join in through the main stage in Second Life, or watch a live video stream of the event on this page. More information about the event and the topic (and about many related issues) can be found on the Metanomics site.

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Qwiki wants wikis to act human

homepage qwiki

Just a quick shout here about Qwiki, which does something extra with wikis: “working to deliver information in a format that’s quintessentially human – via storytelling instead of search.” The site explains:

We’ve all seen science fiction films (or read novels) where computers are able to collect data on behalf of humans, and present the most important details. This is our goal at Qwiki – to advance information technology to the point it acts human.

It’s pretty cool: Qwiki tells you in voice about your selected topics, showing pictures and videos, automatically generated. They’re working on a platform allowing any web publisher to turn their content into Qwikis.

Just do some searches and be surprised about the slick results, and imagine how things could evolve in a not too distant future. How cool it would be to have this service on a wearable device, enabling you to command it using simple voice, and getting the voice response and pictures wherever you are.

The service is in private alpha but you can join and suggest improvements.

Hat tip to my colleague Raphael Cockx who found out about this new service.

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