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Archive for the ‘Virtual World’ Category

Synthravels: Let us show you the (virtual) world

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on October 23, 2006

Synthravels (via Springwise) is a barely nascent company that offers a travel guide experience in virtual world. You pick which virtual world you want to go to and what kind of things you want to see and they will find you a guide. Last time I visited the Second Life newbie ground, there was a number of people saying so, what do I actually do here, even though there were Welcome cards right in front of their avatars. A human guide might ease that startup confusion.

To those who read science fiction, many of these new business ideas are not so new because they had already been discussed in depth by various science fiction writers. So, a new type of business is often a sign that we finally reached a particular stage of development and can start bringing into the reality various ideas from the books. This must be quite annoying to William Gibson, who – being somewhat of a technophobe – wrote of the future he was afraid of only to get thousands of developers so excited by it that they went out of the way to build it.

So to me, Synthravel is a winner. There are just so many angles to play there. I think having a high-level player as a guide would be particularly interesting at an early stage. Having a guide with maxed-out magic and maxed-out healing (to keep me alive) to take me through normally unreachable levels of a fight game and do a show and kill would be quite interesting. I might even pay to see the same level with guides in different character classes. I think a warrior’s approach to room full of dragons would be quite different from that of a necromancer.

At the moment, Synthravel’s registration system for users and guides is very simple. It is a plain free-form entry of interest. Once there is enough interest, they will probably need to switch to some sort of semi-constraint fields to explicitly ask for guide’s skill levels and expertise. If they play it right with features and rating systems, there might even be an eBay style market with bidding for specific guides’s time.

And, as with real tourism, they may even spawn a whole cottage industry of people catering specifically for newbies being brought in by an experienced guide. Expect to see colorful tourist buses and cheesy virtual goods sold by human or AI-driven peddlers. And, of course, expect other players to grumble about the intrusion of new kind of AOLamers into the zones they were previously unable to discover unassisted.

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In the virtual world arena Coca-Cola won the first battle

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on April 8, 2006

Exactly a month ago, I went to a reunion for my alma mater in New York. At it, there was a presentation by Ms Melanie Hardman, who is an Innovation Director for PepsiCo.

After the presentation I taked briefly to Melanie and asked whether PepsiCo looked at advertising or sponsoring events in virtual worlds such as Second Life. I explained how the presence in SL worked really well for American Cancer Society and how the prime mover advantage was still available in that space. She made all the appropriate noises and even took my email down saying that she would like to follow up on that. Needless to say, I have never heard from her again.

So, it is no great surprise for me to hear that PepsiCo has been beaten for this first round by the Coca-Cola, who is sponsoring a live performance in Second Life.

I don’t really care for either brand of sugared water, but it is exciting for me to see that I predicted this happening well in advance.

Of course, I did not really have to predict it, as branding in the virtual world was well described good 10 years ago in a famous russian science fiction book Labyrinth of Reflections (Лабиринт отражений) by Sergey Lukyanenko. Lukyanenko is known outside of Russia for the movie Night Watch based on another one of his books.

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