Recently, I attended a gathering to discuss training applications in virtual worlds. If you know me, you know I love technology, and I’ve always been interested in how technology can transform training and marketing.
One area I’ve always tracked is 3-D virtual worlds. My sense, for years, has been that it’s just not ready for prime-time in a broad sense. Like many others, I see the potential, I see the “cool” factor – but I often do not see a compelling business application.
Most regular folks (not techno-geeks) may find it rather difficult learning to navigate around a virtual space as an avatar, using current computer interface methods, and then learn something effectively. Also, many of the applications I’ve seen thus far seem to be cheesy representations of an “old-fashioned” method – so we go into a virtual world and watch a slide show on a screen. Why?
I DO know, however, that some companies somewhere are using this technology to make a difference. My suspicion is that the focus is not going to be on the technology or the virtual world itself, but on some immediate and intuitive application.
So, what have you seen that works with virtual worlds? What business applications (training OR marketing) are actually proving to be successful? I’d really like to know where people and companies are finding quick wins and measurable success that takes advantage of the unique benefits of a virtual world, and doesn’t just replicate some analog function in a 3-cartoon. Your thoughts?
(by the way, there is a book out on virtual worlds in training called Training and Collaboration in Virtual Worlds, and also one just released by Tony O’Driscoll and Karl Kapp called Learning in 3D)
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Karl Kapp says
Interesting post, actually, there are a number of organizations in the pharma space using virtual worlds for everything from sales rep role plays, to virtual meetings, to virtual lab spaces for walking through the approval process. While virtual worlds have orbited the perimeter of the learning space, they are getting ready to go “main stream” soon, I think.
Agreed that virtual classrooms in 3D worlds are not a good use of the technology but exploring a virtual heart or doing a sales role-play make for an effective use of those worlds. In a typical simulation, the branching is limited. In a virtual world with real people behind the avatars, the branching is unlimited.
In terms of the technology, I remember when we had to explain to people that a blue underlined word was a link and that sometimes clicking on the link would open a window, behind the current window. We had to explain browsers before we could do e-learning because no one knew what a browser was. Those days are now over for browsers but, I believe, the same learning curve is taking place for virtual worlds. Some day not instruction on navigation will be needed.
At some point, “everyone” will know how to navigate a virtual world. We still have a long way to go but I think the space is starting to take off. I have been working on projects with two large pharma companies that are adopting virtual worlds for learning and collaboration efforts.