Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virtual Worlds Conference III: Applications that work + E-Public-Health

This is three of three on the vwc. See post one here. Number two is here.

Applications that work,” the closing panel of the conference was my favorite. The panelists represented Robert Gehorsam, Forterra Systems, and Paul Ledak, VP of Development, Digital Convergence IBM, made strong cases for the professional use of virtual worlds for health care, emergency management as well as actively enlisting the wisdom of professional networks.

In Ledak’s brief IBM sketch, he suggested that the workday has changed for global companies. Workers are dispersed to an unprecedented degree. IBM as a company has reinvented itself, morphing its brand from hardware (machines) to a services (people) company. It wants to be known as a company working at the cutting edge of new modalities for human communications. Thus, the concept of virtual worlds as a viable meeting space for the professional in their company and the specifics of building out in SL have been successful for them using their own gauge (there has been no public offering on this front). The company is building Airbuses in vw labs.
Ledak asked, “Why did video conferencing fail? And why do vws work?” His answer is fairly intuitive. A vw platform is more spontaneous. He called for the generation of vw etiquette, so people have a more clear understanding of whether or not to “rez” human or furry at a business meeting ;-). Ledak affirmed that B2B has shown strong interest in the vw sector and that we will continue to see strong growth there. He did not bring up issues of security, perhaps out of his own sense of vw decorum. His closing slavo, “We’ve already paid for the infrastructure. For modeling, education, and entertainment purposes, vw potential is huge.”

Robert Gehorsam, who designs systems for health care and emergency care, makes the point that virtual worlds are particularly good at simulating…the world. For dangerous situations, simulation is an excellent use of vw applications. The example he gives was not actually emergency management but longer-term crisis prevention around healthcare providers. “By 2012 the Healthcare industry will face a shortage of nurses,” he stated. “People die when there are medical errors based on [poor] communication.” His point is that “virtual worlds transcend the limits of time and space.” They happen, effectively, in real time. The entertainment use of virtual world platforms is the popular use, the sexy use, and the daily use. Hey, this is fan fiction run amok. With that in mind, it is clear that these platforms are also strongly desired by an emergent virtual world pro industry.

Bonus track: E-Public-Health
Also presented at the conference was the fascinating case study on Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) use of Whyville and Second Life for health information services and medication self-administration. Google Erin Edgerton E-Health Marketing Division (CDC) and John P Anderton, National Center for Public Health Informatics (CDC). For a taste, check this out.

Jay Bernhardt, director of CDC writes in his blog, “Despite millions of searchable health pages and thousands of interactive and personalized health applications available online, we still possess almost no evidence that today's e-health universe is improving or protecting the overall health of the public….If we hope to realize population-level health improvements from the internet, we must incorporate the needs and participation of the public into today's e-health models.

Effective "E-Public-Health" (EPH) is rooted in the 3 P's of Personalization, Presentation, and Participation…. New media applications are particularly well suited for EPH because of their high degree of interactivity, participation, social networking, and entertainment. To that end, CDC is venturing into Second Life and Whyville, e-health marketing our way into MySpace and YouTube, planning webinars to link leading scientists with leading bloggers, and taking a serious look at serious games.”


The pictures are from
Joe Miller’s presentation on the Platforms and Technologies panel. The points on statistics and structure of 3Di that he makes in reference to Second Life have relevance across platforms.