Being a tech vet comes with certain disadvantages. Sure, there is the sense of history that makes imagining the future possible, but there is also the whole "been there, done that" mindset whose cynicism blinds you to that big box under your nose with "NOW" printed in big block letters along the side.
Last week, friends, I had such a moment. A client was in town for the first-annual Virtual Worlds 2007 conference, and I was dutifully preparing for the usual round of schmoozing and media wrangling when something totally unexpected happened: A smack, a well-aimed and apparently well-deserved smack that wiped that Web 1.0 smirk right off my face.
Alongside the scads of press about the newest mall to be erected in Second Life or the latest celeb to take his/her first 1995-style baby steps across the only real estate that seems to be going up these days came the news that companies are using worlds like Second Life for much more than branding and the distribution of virtual goodie bags to the day-glo, griefing citizenry.
ProtonMedia, for one, leases portions of its 3D world to pharmaceutical and insurance companies to train their reps, a world that comes complete with real-time whiteboarding in 3D classrooms and the ability to share Office docs on the fly. On a related note, there's also Forterra Systems, a company that also works with big corporations, but whose mainstay is training for emergency services and homeland security personnel.
How useful. And completely and utterly useful. And what a wonderful reminder of why I got into this business in the first place. Oh, and lest I be accused to not keeping abreast of the latest jargon, there's even a buzzword for this sort of thing. They call it the "intraverse" - you know, like the love child of "intranet" and "metaverse."
Anyhow, there it is, friends. The cynic has been shown his true nature - the optimist in disguise. And now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for me to get back to perfecting my Barack Obama avatar in the hope that his meatspace equivalent decides to do some 3D campaigning.
~ Bill Lessard
Bill Lessard is President and Creative Director of NYC-based PR boutique PRwithBrains; and with Steve Baldwin, is co-author of NetSlaves and NetSlaves 2.0. Bill has also contributed to NPR, Wired News, the San Francisco Chronicle and the dearly departed Industry Standard. When not talking to reporters, he can be found in pitched frag-fests in his favorite first-person shooters or wondering why the poetry in the New Yorker is so bad.