Thursday, November 19, 2009

GRAP Clinic study shows virtual environments help smokers quit

When we talk about the applications of virtual environments, we usually focus on enterprise learning, collaboration, and training. But Canadian researchers are finding more real-world uses for virtual environments -- to help smokers kick the habit.

Researchers from Canada's GRAP Occupational Psychology Clinic and the University of Quebec in Gatineau created a virtual environment, where, for 12 weeks, smokers chased down floating cigarettes and crushed them. A control group of smokers crushed floating balls in another virtual environment.

The researchers found a significant reduction in nicotine cravings among smokers in the cigarette-crushing group. After 12 weeks, 15 percent of the cigarette crushers had abstained from smoking, compared to 2 percent in the control group.

The researchers couldn't quite explain why the cigarette crushers were more successful. But they believe the virtual exercise might have conditioned them to resist their cravings, motivated them quit, and gave them more confidence they could do it.

Interesting finding, especially with today being the Great American Smokeout! You can read more about the study in the CyberPsychology and Behavior journal.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oldie but a goodie: "Did you know?" video brings back memories

I just came across the updated version of the "Did You Know?" video about globalization and the information age that went viral about two years ago. If you haven't seen it, or even if you have, it's worth another look. This might sound sappy, but I'll admit it was the original video that inspired me to look into the virtual world space, and particularly, ProtonMedia. Without it, I might not have found my way here!

The updated version:

The original:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ProtoSphere 1.4 Feature Peek: Dynamic billboard

One of our objectives with our blog is to leverage it as a way to provide our readers with insight into what our developers are working on in their "bat cave," and what might be coming down the pike. We're calling these insights "feature peeks." We'll be rolling out short videos that show you each feature peek as we develop them.

As a word of caution, I want to let you know we can't guarantee that everything we show you will make it into the next version of ProtoSphere, the version after that, or even at all. However, if something you see really blows you away, tell us in the comments. And likewise, if you think something is not so great or important, let us know too. We always strive to create our platform with our end users in mind, and if we're not meeting your needs, then we need to know!

So, without further ado, here is our first feature peek, Dynamic billboard. It's currently slated for the ProtoSphere 1.4 release. Dynamic billboards let you place text or image-based content onto whiteboards in your ProtoSphere environment. You can also drag and drop images from your desktop to the whiteboards.

This allows for persistence of that information. The content is always there until you take it down or swap it out for something else. It also lets you customize your environment on the fly.

We're working on developing support for many more file types, including Microsoft Office documents, .pdf's, other image formats like .jpeg, and video. This also opens the window for users to do remote desktop sharing, right in their 3-D space.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Laid-out version of our case study with a global 500 pharmaceutical company

The PDF version of our most recent case study is in. This covers how a global pharmaceutical company used ProtoSphere to build a 3-D social network to significantly improve its onboarding process for new MBA candidates. The company created a consistent, automated onboarding process across all locations worldwide, improved collaboration among candidates by 200 percent, and elimiated 100 percent of travel costs and requirements for candidates, among many other results that they measured and are included in the case study.

Feel free to download the PDF, share with coworkers/partners/prospects/customers/etc. If you're looking for just the text, we also posted it earlier.

Crossing the Chasm, One Implementation at a Time: Sam and Erica Driver's keynote from 3D TLC 2009

3D TLC 2009 was just about a couple of months ago, but the information presented is no less relevant. We're digging through our video footage from the show, and we grabbed the keynote presentation by ThinkBalm's Sam and Erica Driver. They discuss barriers to adopting immersive Internet technologies, share their research on the value these technologies hold for the enterprise, and present their recommendations for overcoming barriers to adoption.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remote working can be win-win for employees and companies: A study and recommendations from IBM's Jayne Nanavaty-Dahl

Remote working is a growing business practice with an estimated 10 percent of today's workforce telecommuting. Some companies have partially or completely done away with their physical offices in favor of virtual ones. One of those companies is IBM. Some 15,000 North American employees work remotely under its Other Than Traditional Office (OTTO) initiative.

That's a fast start, considering it launched just about two years ago. I recently talked to the leader behind OTTO, Jayne Nanavaty-Dahl, Manager of Workforce Enablement Communications for IBM. Our podcast is above.

Our conversation would be helpful for anyone interested in starting a telecommuting program or looking for ways to improve one already in place.

Jayne talks about her just-completed study with the Marketing Group at Northeast University's College of Business Administration. (Read about it in MIT Sloan Management Review.) Over the past two years, they have been analyzing remote working strategies at IBM and other organizations. Their goal was to identify employee and organizational challenges with remote working, such as lack of physical interaction and visibility with manager and coworkers, and work-life balance issues.

The researchers also found several management strategies to overcome these challenges, including having managerial flexibility and using online networking tools. It's Jayne's opinion that a remote working strategy is a requisite for large global companies. She herself works from home 80-90 percent of her time, and finds herself to be more productive and efficient, especially because she frequently works with people oversees.

In our podcast, Jayne also provides her recommendations for organizations who want to implement a remote worker strategy. She gives her perspective on whether there's an application for 3-D virtual environments when it comes to remote working.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The line between video conferencing's success and failure

As we talk about human factors here on the blog, I was reminded of a white paper I read that covered the findings of a study on video conferencing. In the study, University of North Carolina researchers identified recommendations for planning and implementing video conferencing to support interaction and collaboration among large groups.

You can click over to the white paper to read more about their suggestions, which I thought were insightful. But I was particularly interested by some of the background studies that the white paper referenced. These studies identified two challenges when groups try to collaborate using video conferencing, both of which arise from human factors:

One, video conferencing is not the best environment for brainstorming. And two, video conferencing is not the best environment for conflict resolution. Video conferencing tends to be an environment where just one person is comfortable talking at a time. It can be difficult, as the studies find, to share information, bounce ideas off one another, negotiate and bargain, ask questions, resolve disagreements, and make decisions.

All of this can obviously hinder collaboration, which takes me back to an argument I've made before on the blog: If you blend live or prerecorded video with other collaboration tools unified by a 3-D infrastructure, video becomes more useful, less complicated, and far less costly. Video conferencing might be justified as an investment for large conference rooms in global businesses, but it fails to address the human and cost factors that have, to date, prevented large-scale video deployments from achieving critical mass in the enterprise.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Getting ready to present at the MAC Conference today

I'll be heading down to Center City Philadelphia soon to present at the Mid-Atlantic Capital (MAC) Conference as part of the Featured Companies tracks. If you're not familiar with the conference, it's the oldest, most established venture conference in the Northeast. It draws some 1,100 people from the private equity and entrepreneurial communities. For more on my presentation and the conference, I've pasted the press release we issued below.

Monday, November 2, 2009

ReadWriteWeb deems ProtoSphere "the most advanced collaboration environment "

On Friday I demoed ProtoSphere to Alex Williams of ReadWriteWeb, and judging by his article, I think it's safe to say Alex was impressed. He writes, "It is the most advanced collaboration environment we have seen in the market. We say this without hesitation."

Thanks again, Alex, for taking the demo. See what else Alex had to say about ProtoSphere by clicking over to his article.

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