Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Global 500 pharmaceutical company boosts retention of MBA candidates with 3-D social network powered by ProtoSphere

We have another client on the record. Here's our latest case study detailing a project that a global 500 pharmaceutical company launched with ProtoSphere. We don't have permission (yet) to use their name, so we scrubbed the case study of all identifying elements. Other than that, everything documented here is real and in the customer's own words. We have a nice graphically designed version coming, too, but we wanted to share the data with you now. Once we have permission to use our client's name, we'll post an updated case study here.

Gaming insights at 3D TLC from Spil Games' Floris Jan Cuypers

While we've focused on covering the enterprise side of the 3D TLC show, there were also many exhibitors and attendees there from the consumer gaming industry. One that I spoke to was Floris Jan Cuypers, Senior Business Development Manager for Spil Games. The company is one of the largest online casual gaming networks, with 100 million unique visitors each month.

Pay no mind to how I butchered his name in the beginning of our podcast (Sorry Floris!!! I tried to get it right before we started recording, but that didn't help much.). But do listen to how Floris explains what brought him to the show and what he learned from some sessions he attended.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Avatars help bring context to content in enterprise virtual worlds

When we develop environments in ProtoSphere for clients, we invest a lot of time and creativity to ensure our avatars accurately resemble the people behind them, and properly reflect the corporate culture of the world they inhabit.

It's an important human factor that facilitates effective communication in an enterprise virtual world. Business journalist Kara Ohngren picked up on this crucial aspect of virtual worlds for business when she covered ProtoSphere in general, and our avatars in particular, in a piece for Entrepreneur Magazine. It's a good read!

Windows 7 gives rise to new opportunities for virtual meeting and collaboration

Last week Ian Lamont of The Industry Standard and I connected to discuss how Windows 7 might change the landscape for virtual meetings, and our Q&A was published today.

We talked about the opportunties Windows 7 will create for virtual meetings and collaboration, and how ProtoSphere in particular already plays well with Microsoft platforms in the enterprise -- our SharePoint integration, for example. Ian also features a video of basic ProtoSphere navigation in his coverage. Sweet!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Enterprise adoption of Windows 7 good news for ISVs

Some things just can't be ignored. The launch of a new Windows operating system is one of them. Of course, you know that Microsoft officially launched Windows 7 yesterday.

The press was looking for some insight on what this means to the enterprise. I shared my thoughts with TechNewsWorld's Erika Morphy yesterday about how the success of Windows 7 will ultimately be measured. Her article provides a great overview of opinions, including my insight.

I believe Windows 7 will satisfy pent-up demand among enterprises. That's good news for ISVs selling into an enterprise customer base, who too often encounter C-level executives ready and willing to sign on the dotted line, only to be gated by large legacy installations of ancient OSes (Windows 2000 and older). If 60 percent of all business are, in fact, planning to jump on the Win7 bandwagon, that's great news for ISVs, and for users who will benefit from contemporary solutions such as ProtoSphere.

In the view of our developers, there are several compelling  aspects of Windows 7. First up is improved performance. It boots up faster, runs apps more quickly, and makes efficient use of multi-core processors. Improvements to Remote Desktop (video & game support) are impressive. RD was previously available as a separate component available in Vista SP2 and XP SP3, but is now integrated with the base platform on day one.

Everything else to end-users (and ISVs) is marginal -- nice to have, but not compelling enough to upgrade. For the purists among us, we plan to have ProtoSphere release 1.4 certified for Windows 7.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Inside ProtoSphere's Contact Center Zone

We updated our ProtoSphere demo build to include the "Contact Center Zone," a virtual call center. Each rep would be assigned to a particular cubicle space. These spaces are encompassed in their own private VoIP zone. Every set of cubicles is color coded and assigned to teams.

A big advantage of Contact Center Zone is that it can serve as a platform for getting real work done, and can also be a training space. Managers and trainers could easily use the environment to role play, train reps, monitor performance, and provide feedback.

Here's a screen cap of the center's main floor from our demo build:

We have three teams in the example in our demo build. An organization's manager would control the content that appears in each team's media carousel by accessing it in his/her office space.

This is what the manager's office might look like:

With the private zones, a manager can walk around the space and converse with employees individually, and even listen in on a call.

Here's the view of the main floor from the manager's office:

You can explore the Contact Center Zone more in our complete ProtoSphere demo.

Verizon and Cisco miss the mark on advanced collaboration tools

InformationWeek covered a recent study commissioned by Verizon and Cisco (carried out by Frost and Sullivan) that focused on the use and value of "advanced collaboration tools." I wrote my thoughts in a comment on the article, but also wanted to share them here.

Quite honestly, I think that Cisco and Verizon (companies I respect greatly, don't get me wrong) are really pushing the envelope in calling VoIP, instant messaging, and high-definition video meetings "advanced collaboration tools." These are commodity technologies that exist all over the country.

The study should really include a look at truly advanced collaboration technologies, a.k.a., 3-D immersive collaborative worlds. Tools like ProtoSphere have to be considered in this discussion, especially considering that it integrates all of these "advanced functions" into a single, engaging interface.

I have an admitted bias because my company provides this technology, but I'm not the only talking about the power and benefits 3-D immersive worlds can provide. We're doing our own research that shows real business metrics and results from using 3-D immersive environments. The early adopters have not been small players either, but rather, large enterprises in entrenched industries like pharma and energy.

It's an interesting study that gets to the core value of collaboration technology -- ROI -- but it is not inclusive enough to paint an accurate picture for enterprises.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nokia's interest in virtual worlds driven by consumer demand?

You might have heard that Nokia is looking to invest in gaming and virtual worlds, among a couple other verticals. More details are covered in the Digits blog on WSJ. I found the news interesting. And not because virtual worlds are not essential to unified communications -- they are. Like I wrote in my comment on the article, while Nokia is clearly interested in the wireless/mobile aspects of virtual worlds, I suspect that their interest may be more consumer driven. From our standpoint, virtual worlds provide the most value at the enterprise level, helping businesses with their collaboration problems.

Mark Oehlert of Defense Acquisition University looks at immersive learning environments

With the e-learning industry exploring ways to improve training, retention, and performance, one new approach under consideration is immersive environments. Mark Oehlert talked to Ron about it during the 3D TLC show. Mark is an Innovation Evangelist at the Defense Acquisition University, a U.S. Department of Defense university focused on improving the learning outcomes for over 150,000 acquisition personnel.

Marks discusses what's next on the e-learning front, and the need to move to new technologies to improve learning and performance. The mistake will be bolting new learning paradigms onto old technology, instead of thinking about the new technologies available to us.

For more from Mark, you can turn to his blog, e-Clippings, and follow him on Twitter @moehlert.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Telepresence and live video: From intrusion to invaluable

In my last post reacting to the Cisco-Tandberg deal, I promised to explain why Cisco's push to bring video to the desktop won't break out of the enterprise's largest conference rooms.

Here are several reasons why, all of which arise from the human factors of virtual collaboration.

Modern teleworkers don't always dress for success. I'm writing this post, taking calls, and "collaborating virtually" at a time of day when my mind is sharp, but my appearance might not be. Maybe I worked until the wee hours of the morning, caught some sleep, and am now back at it. I might look tired. I might need a shave. I might not be wearing a tie. I might be grabbing breakfast at my desk.

I certainly don't want to be on a video conference right now. Of course, if I knew there was a board meeting, I'd be prepared, and telepresence or other live video would be fine with me. But collaboration mostly happens without an appointment, without a formal meeting, often without advance preparation, at all hours of the day and night.

The last thing most workers want is to have the red light go on when they least expect it, or when they don't believe they are as presentable, appearance wise, as they want to or should be. Human factors 1, telepresence 0.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Transcript of our interview with 2b3d's Randy Hinrichs at 3D TLC 2009

Can't watch Ron's video interview of Randy Hinrichs at 3D TLC? Read the transcript instead.

2b3d's Randy Hinrichs on key design elements for a virtual world for training

When it comes to designing a 3-D virtual world for training people, Randy Hinrichs has some pointers on what elements to include. He's Managing Partner of 2b3d, which provides development and consulting services for corporations and educational institutions on how to leverage virtual worlds and social networks. He's also Advisor to Virtual Worlds at the iSchool at the University of Washington.

Randy talked to Ron during the 3D TLC Conference about what he thinks are the key aspects to incorporate into a virtual world to create an effective educational experience.

GigaOM profiles key players in enterprise 3-D virtual worlds space

GigOM put together a round-up of the companies it sees as the major players in the enterprise 3-D virtual worlds space. Thanks to the editors for including ProtonMedia!

Friday, October 9, 2009

ACS's Caroline Avey on the evolution of learning in the enterprise

Learning in the enterprise has greatly evolved over the years. And Caroline Avey, Learning Strategist at ACS Learning Services, put it well when she talked with Ron at 3D TLC. She says the enterprise learning model has changed from "tell me what to do," to "show me what to do," to today's "I want to do it myself," using a hands-on approach, peer-to-peer relationships, and collaborative environments.

You can hear Caroline expand on that thought in the video below. Ron and Caroline also discuss how collaboration has become more widespread throughout the enterprise, and is not focused on just one or two departments. Caroline answers the other big Proton question, What do you think of ProtoSphere's integration with SharePoint? For more from Caroline, you can follow her on Twitter @AveyCa.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Transcript of our interview with Dr. Eilif Trondsen at 3D TLC 2009

Missed anything in Ron's interview with Dr. Eilif Trondsen at 3D TLC? Here's the transcript.

Learning and collaboration: A more perfect union in 3-D virtual worlds, says Dr. Eilif Trondsen

Learning and collaboration go hand-in-hand in 3-D virtual worlds. And lately, there's been more hand-locking going on. Eilif Trondsen, Ph.D. talked to Ron about it during the 3D TLC show, video below. Dr. Trondsen is the Director of Virtual Worlds @ Work at SRI Consulting Business Intelligence. Virtual Worlds @ Work is a global consortium and network of thought leaders and early adopters of virtual worlds.

In the interview, Dr. Trondsen discusses how he is seeing learning and collaboration come together in the 3-D virtual worlds space. The industry is moving beyond talking about concepts of 3-D virtual technology, to actually implementing it in the enterprise. And while it's yet to be determined whether we are at the tipping point of mainstream adoption, Dr. Trondsen thinks the industry is strengthening with the growing number of use cases in the books. For more from Dr. Trondsen, you can follow him on Twitter @eiliftrondsen.

What it will take to get the industry across the chasm, according to Dr. Tony O'Driscoll

Next up in the Ron Burns hot seat is Dr. Tony O'Driscoll from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. Ron talked to him at 3D TLC to get his perspective on what it will take to get the industry "across the chasm." Dr. O'Driscoll presented on this topic during the show, and we'll have that video for you soon. It's also the subject of his new book, "Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration," which he co-authored with Karl Kapp. You can read more on his insights and musings on his blog, Learning Matters!.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cisco's Tandberg deal: Big ambitions, big challenges for telepresence

So last week Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) announced a definitive agreement to acquire all outstanding shares of Tandberg (OSLO: TAA.OL) for $3.0 billion in cash (that would be 153.5 Norwegian Kroner per share).

Company officials positioned Cisco's motivation for the deal as helping Cisco "expand its collaboration portfolio" so the company could "offer more solutions to a greater number of customers," and accelerate market adoption.

Let me scrub the public relations spin off of that, translate into plain English, and reveal Cisco's real motivation for this pretty sizable acquisition. Cisco has a problem. Their big push to bring video conferencing to the enterprise hasn't been able to break out of the largest conference rooms within an organization.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Congratulations to Nigel and Melissa!!

Nigel and his wife, Melissa, welcomed their first child into the (real) world yesterday at 2:37 a.m. Big congratulations from everyone at Proton and the blog!!!! Here's a pic of Hayden Chase Downer.

I wonder how long it'll be before Hayden has an avatar of his own ...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Transcript of our podcast with Evolver's Brian Nilles

If you'd rather read the podcast interview I did with Evolver CEO Brian Nilles at 3D TLC 2009, here's the transcript. We'll be posting transcripts to all of our podcasts and videos as well.

Avatars: How real is too real? Evolver's Brian Nilles replies.

Most industry folks would probably tell you that it's important to make avatars look realistic. After all, if you're in world, you have to be able to identify yourself, as well as others. And a realistic-looking avatar helps create a real-world feel and experience. But is there a point where real becomes too real? Like to the point of "you're-really-freakin'-me-out" real?

The more official term for this phenomenon is "uncanny valley," and I had to ask Brian Nilles about it when we crossed paths at the 3D TLC Conference. He's the CEO of Evolver, an online portal that lets you create an avatar of yourself which can then be used in a number of 3-D and 2-D settings. The unique aspect of Evolver is how realistic and detailed these avatars look. Hop over to their site to get a glimpse.

Obviously, Evolver has built a business around this technology. But in my interview with Brian, I ask him if he thinks Evolver avatars are potentially crossing the "creepy" line. We also talk about the latest technology coming out of the company, and how he's been occupying his time at the show.

Friday, October 2, 2009

ProtoSphere screen caps from demo at 3D TLC

Dom pulled these screen caps from the demo video Ron presented during his address at 3D TLC. You can see how things look in ProtoSphere, including conference rooms, meeting spaces, avatars, and more.

Photos from 3D TLC 2009

For your viewing pleasure, our photos from 3D TLC.

All of ProtonMedia's photos, plus screencaps of ProtoSphere, will be stored on the company's Flickr page.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Unified Communications: On a clear day, you can see the chasm

Some things never grow old. It's been 18 years since Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" was published, yet his basic premise rings as true today as it did when the book first hit store shelves.'s description puts it well: "[Author Geoffrey Moore's] chasm theory describes how high-tech products initially sell well, mainly to a technically literate customer base, but then hit a lull as marketing professionals try to cross the chasm to mainstream buyers."

But you can't cross the chasm on marketing factors alone. There are interesting human factors involved. And even if the UC industry meets its marketing challenges, the human factors will, I believe, prevent unified communications from achieving critical mass in the marketplace.

That's the bad news. The good news is, these same human factors are driving, slowly but steadily, increasing adoption of virtual worlds in the enterprise. We have to do more formal studies on this, but the anecdotal evidence from our customers is compelling. (And more studies are coming.)
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