Monday, October 09, 2006

Emerging Business of SecondLife

It never ceases to amaze me how innovation happens. The online virtual world Second Life is a great example to watch this take place. Born in 2003, and expected to reach a million users this year, Second Life is not a game, but more like the next evolution of the web - the web in 3d, where you enter and navigate the world with your own virtual avatar (virtual self). A few innovative people are already making a successful living inside this world such as Chinese-German businesswoman Ailin Graef who reported made over over 100k USD last year. (See previous blog) People make, sell and trade land or items within this world. A new enterprising company profiled in 'Wired' is shifting this in reverse, by moving from the virtual world to the real world. Fabjectory is a start up by Michael Buckbee that will make and sell real objects customer created from the digital items by users inside Second Life.

[from Wired] "Buckbee is the first to get his service off the ground. The virtual designer creates a three-dimensional model of a client's avatar using screenshots taken in the world of Second Life. He uses an open-source design tool known as the OpenGLExtractor by Eyebeam OpenLab. After tweaking the model to make sure that there are no overly fragile parts -- hair has been a big worry -- Buckbee sends the design to the client for final approval. The digital file is then turned into reality using a 3-D printer made by Z Corp. The final price? Typically less than $100."

Although intriguing, what I find more interesting however are the people starting to utilize Second Life to model real-world problems, like the logistics of distributing aid after a disaster, or studying how efficient the layout of a proposed office building will be. (see article) I suspect that this will continue to blossom into an entire industry on its own, where companies can offer simulation to help organizations with all types of situations from team building exercises to advanced virtual meeting spaces. If it can be used to do something better, faster, cheaper then it has a place in business and people will find a way to use it.

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