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Virtual World-ing

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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