Wednesday, February 17, 2010

ProtoSphere 1.4 has left the building

LEARNING IN ACTION: A virtual poster session in ProtoSphere
It's official. We released the latest version of ProtoSphere today. I'm excited to get it in the hands of our customers, because we built this version based on what they told us they wanted most out of an enterprise virtual world. And now that our hard work has come to a pause, we're dying to know, well, how did we do???

I invite you to peruse the press release we issued this morning, which lists the seven major new features of ProtoSphere 1.4. You can also watch our video demo, and, if you're feeling bold, download our beta release to give ProtoSphere a test drive.

We also put together a press kit containing a medley of other information about ProtoSphere, including a Reviewer Guide, Product Profile, and more. Of course, if you have questions or just want to talk, drop me or our sales team a note, or give us a ring at 215-631-1401.

Pharmaceutical's first virtual poster session featured in Pharma Magazine

Our case study about a global pharmaceutical firm conducting a virtual poster session in ProtoSphere opened the eyes of the editors of Pharma Magazine. They invited me to contribute an article covering the story. It's out now in the current issue, or you can read it online.

If you've ever been part of a poster session, you're probably familiar with the logistical challenges and costs involved. But with ProtoSphere, this firm was able to save these costs AND headaches.

The company's IT team did a study afterward to measure the effectiveness of the virtual event, and this stat jumped out at me: Eighty-three percent of attendees said the virtual event was the same or better than meeting in the real world.

I think this firm's case study gives other pharmaceutical and life sciences enterprises a starting ground for exploring how they can use virtual worlds for their own poster sessions, and in other areas of their business. If you're interested in learning how they did it, turn your eyes to the article.

POSTED: Pharma Magazine covers industry's first virtual poster session

Monday, February 15, 2010

ProtoSphere 1.4 Feature Peek: Here's what's included with your baseline ProtoSphere license

When you license ProtoSphere 1.4, just what do you get in the box?

We call ProtoSphere's standard, or basic, platform the "Standard Environment Package." From day one, you get 15 virtual zones, including:
ATTENTION CLASS: A large ProtoSphere classroom
  • One Welcome Center
  • One Collaboration Center
  • Six collaboration rooms
  • Two meeting rooms
  • Two classrooms
  • One trade show hall
  • One small auditorium, for small conferences
  • One large auditorium, for large events of up to 250 people
Those are the default names, but you can easily rename each zone. For instance, you might want to call a meeting room your "Sales Meeting Center" for your sales team. And for those of you interested in having a fully customized 3-D environment, don't worry ... we can still accommodate your needs.

Every space also supports Presentation Boards and Media Carousels. And every installation includes the Environment Admin Tool which gives you account, zone, capacity, and permissions administration capabilities.

There you have it. Any questions, feel free to write to me or comment here.

ProtoSphere 1.4 Feature Peek: Compatibility with Windows 7 and the latest browsers

Rounding out our new features in ProtoSphere 1.4 is support for Windows 7, Internet Explorer 8, and Firefox 3. Here you can see what ProtoSphere looks like on the desktop in Windows 7:

UP TO SPEED: ProtoSphere 1.4 in Windows 7

Other compatibility improvements include a new 1024 x 590 display mode for netbook and small laptop displays; support for the standard Microsoft Installer (MSI) for mass, in the background, client installation; and Microsoft Code Signing Certificates for security of ProtoSphere executable code.

ProtoSphere 1.4 Feature Peek: Present to large audiences in the Presentation Auditorium

One of the most-requested new features we've baked into ProtoSphere 1.4 is the Presentation Auditorium. It's a massive virtual meeting place where up to 250 users can participate in a live presentation.

You can watch how it works in this video I created. It shows how presenters (moderators) control the presentation of content and can freely move about the stage. Meanwhile, all attendees have a front-row view of the stage, projection screen, and presenters, so they can see and hear the presentation with perfect clarity.

There's one thing about a virtual conference that's always better than life in the real world: No matter where you sit, you're guaranteed the best seat in the house! :-)

Black Enterprise eyes ProtoSphere in virtual reality coverage

Black Enterprise's Sonya A. Donaldson rang me up as part of her reporting on a story about African-American entrepreneurs involved in developing virtual reality platforms. She covered both the consumer and business side of the equation, and, as you might expect, featured me as the business protagonist.

Hit the Black Enterprise story to enjoy Sonya's reporting. Let me know what you think by commenting here or dropping me a note. And Sonya, if you read this post, thanks again for using me as a source.

VIRTUAL COVERAGE: Black Enterprise covers the development of virtual reality platforms

Friday, February 12, 2010

Technically Philly highlights our BP case study among latest industry buzz

Technically Philly has started a new series, Startup roundup, where it highlights some of the latest news, developments, and innovations coming out of companies in our region. Its writers featured our BP case study this week, so thank you to their team! More happenings around the tech industry are included in Technically Philly's roundup.

A'BUZZ ABOUT BP: Technically Philly covers our BP case study

And in case you haven't seen it yet, we also posted our styled PDF version of our BP case study this week, which you're welcome to download and share.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pretty PDF version of our case study showing how BP benefited from a ProtoSphere virtual world

As promised, here is a PDF of our case study with BP. It covers how BP used a ProtoSphere virtual world to create an immersive learning and collaboration environment for its annual graduate conference.

BP was able to save $3.7 million by holding the event in ProtoSphere instead of at a physical location. Those savings, plus other performance metrics and the complete story of BP's ProtoSphere deployment, are documented in our case study. Feel free to download the BP case study and share with colleagues.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How BP improved collaboration while cutting costs with a ProtoSphere virtual world

We've shared with you case studies covering two of our life sciences clients. Today, we have one of our energy clients, BP, on the record.

BP usually holds an annual three-day conference in London to mark the culmination of its Graduate Induction program. Graduates network with BP executives and get fully indoctrinated into BP's corporate culture and values.

But the company took a completely different approach for its most recent conference. BP used ProtoSphere to create an immersive learning and collaboration environment for its graduates. I think you'll find the project and results to be very compelling. BP certainly did. It calculated savings of $3.7 million compared to producing a physical event.

That's just one major benefit the company realized. You can read about the rest, as well as BP's complete virtual world deployment story, below. We also have a fancy PDF coming shortly, which we welcome you to share with colleagues.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Webinar: Enterprise Learning and Collaboration in 3D Virtual Worlds, with Tony O'Driscoll and Karl Kapp

The good Drs. Tony O'Driscoll and Karl Kapp will be gracing computer screens on Tues., Feb. 9, when they hold a free webinar about 3-D environments, virtual worlds, and immersive learning spaces. The webinar, "Enterprise Learning and Collaboration in 3D Virtual Worlds," will cover key concepts from Tony and Karl's new book," "Learning in 3D." They'll discuss:
  • The value of social learning for organizations.
  • The impact of virtual immersive environments on society, business, and learning.
  • How to integrate existing training and business into productive 3-D virtual work environments.
  • 3-D learning experience design principles and sensibilities.
The webinar will be a great opportunity to learn how 3-D virtual worlds can (and should) be used for enterprise learning and teaming. You'll also have a chance to bend Tony's and Karl's ears with any questions you might have.

The webinar kicks off tomorrow, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. EST. For more information and to register, visit the invitation page.

Friday, February 5, 2010

ProtoSphere 1.4 Feature Peek: Presentation Boards let you display and share content on the fly

Our engineers have been hard at work on ProtoSphere 1.4, and have made some improvements to the dynamic billboards feature we showed you a couple months ago. It's evolved into Presentation Boards. They appear throughout the ProtoSphere environment on any surface, including walls, whiteboards, easels, screens, etc., and provide the ability to display and share content to anyone that enters those spaces.

But now we've created two types, Single-Slide and Multi-Slide Presentation Boards. Single-Slide Presentation Boards let you display image files and text. Supported image formats include .jpg, .jpeg, .gif, .tif, .tiff, .png, .bmp, .tga, and .dds. You can also add text to the surfaces using the editor function. These surfaces are useful for agendas, announcements, note-taking, navigation signage, or other types of branding and personalization.

Multi-Slide Presentation Boards serve the same purpose, but they have the added benefit of being able to support multiple slides of content. So you can present PowerPoint slideshows (.ppt and .pptx) right in your ProtoSphere environment.

I've put together a video to demonstrate the Presentation Boards below:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cisco's pipe dream: mainstream enterprise adoption of telepresence

I've written before about why Cisco's push to bring video to the desktop won't achieve critical mass in the enterprise. While telepresence might be justified as an investment for large conference rooms in global enterprises, it fails to address major cost and complexity problems and human factors issues that have historically prevented large-scale video deployments from achieving mainstream adoption.

Joel Stein reminded me of this in a recent Time Magazine article he wrote. He covered problems surrounding Skype and video presence, saying, " ... Skype breaks the century-old social contract of the phone: We pay close attention while we're talking and zone out while you are."

That's just one of several funny, yet compelling comments Stein makes in a great op-ed column that, I think, is a must read for anyone interested in the human factors that drive communication and collaboration.

You can easily say the same of Cisco's WebEx, Microsoft's Live Meeting, and other screen- and app-share tools. How many times have you been on a WebEx or similar conference and put the phone on mute, checked e-mail, surfed the Web, took a mobile phone call, or walked away from your desk?

The fact of the matter is, we don't want to do video all the time. Cisco's pursuing a pipe dream, just like AT&T before them. The first video phones were shown at the 1964 New York World's Fair. They're still not mainstream. And they never will be.

SAIC's acquisition of Forterra: latest step in industry consolidation

You probably heard the news that Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) bought Forterra Systems, maker of the OLIVE virtual world. We shared our thoughts on Forterra's unfortunate demise back in December, when rumors were swirling about the company shedding 60 percent of its workforce.

Now it's official. Forterra is no more. My take is this was probably in a fire sale, since terms of the purchase were not disclosed. It's likely SAIC was attracted to Forterra's government simulation business, which is where the company was strongest.

The acquisition might also have been mission critical to some government contract SAIC was running to purchase the technology. (i.e., Some government organization with a mission critical commitment to Forterra technology got weak knees when they realized the company was caving.)

Twelve Forterra staffers joined SAIC. I interpret this to mean they'll continue some development focused around government projects/simulations. If they were merely after the core technology, they wouldn't have needed twelve bodies.

Ultimately, this deal is in line with my conviction that the virtual worlds market will consolidate along four lines:
  • Collaboration products and services for business
  • Training and learning services for education
  • Simulation products and services for government
  • Consumer entertainment and gaming products
Where do we fall? In general, bullet No. 1: collaboration products and services for business. As is pretty clear from what we write about here on our blog, we're focusing on addressing the primary pain points our customers are expressing to us. Those largely surround business applications such as global scientific research, data visualization and workflow collaborations within product development, marketing, sales, and overall business process optimization.
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