Kelly from IBM Australia read my recent blog post on IBM doing exciting things with the Australian Open, by building a virtual Rod Laver Arena and feeding ball data to it in real time. She offered to take me on a tour of her project (the Arena is currently open to invited guests only).
Well, I couldn’t have asked for more! Just to be safe, I checked if I could blog about this and post photos. I promised to behave myself 😉 Anyway, in the next few days more mainstream media will be covering this, as well as other bloggers. For now, this is a semi-exclusive on vantan.org!
At an agreed time, I logged into Second Life and got in touch with K. She was most patient as she waited for everything to rezz (Second Life speak for loading all 3D objects) on my network. Finally, when I could see the buildings, walls, pavements and signposts, she began the tour.
I picked up some freebies at the shop – tennis racket, balls, ball holder, an Australian Open t-shirt which I wore immediately, and a ‘Tennis Ball Pet’ who can follow me everywhere I go. He’s cute and later on in my photos you’ll see him tagging along behind me. He’s much more endearing than the Microsoft paper clip.
I entered the Arena and made my Avatar play scripted tennis with Kelly’s partner and team-mate, Chris. Imagine during the actual Australian Open (as IBM had done previously with Wimbledon) – if you can actually see the game through the eyes of your favourite tennis player!
Speaking of which, here is a video taken by someone else who was also playing virtual tennis.
After a never-ending game of tennis, I was taken up to the roof top. You can either fly right through it, or shout Open Sesame! Close Sesame! The roof listens to your commands and it is a nice touch.
We visited other areas but not every section of the real Arena has been built yet. The giant scoreboard will be updated in real time, just like how the scores are instantly updated on TV. However, I commented that most people would rather watch the live matches on TV. This kind of feature would attract those who want to get more in-depth analysis of certain matches or players.
This area was designed to look like a giant tennis ball. Nice, eh? See the difference when you get a personal virtual tour guide who actually developed the place. All these nice little touches you may not have noticed if you explored things on your own. I managed to watch the video but again, experienced lag time initially.
Finally, I learnt that these statues were created by a newbie. Here’s a shot of me with my Tennis Ball Pet. Alas, after this I exited Second Life, forgetting to take my Pet. It sent me a few desperate-sounding messages, which were converted into emails since I was offline by then. Finally, it said that as I had not rescued it, it would self-destruct. Its last words to me were ‘Goodbye cruel world’. I feel so bad about it! I just have no ball sense… I am not good at carrying balls… I was not on the ball… Oh, forget it.
I wish IBM all the best in their Second Life developments. So far I feel there is a certain depth to their involvement with this virtual world; even as a preview it was bug-free and everything looked like a replica of the original stadium.
Points to note from this tour:
Good publicity can be started by a few pro-active employees. These employees can be empowered by being allowed to talk to people and tell personal anecdotes about how they developed their project, thus enhancing the (potential) customer experience.
A progressive blogging policy lets employees, who are in a sense company evangelists, promote projects and convey the genuine enthusiasm and expertise that is often lost in a press release or annual report. But first, you must have employees who have that enthusiasm and also the knowledge and maturity to do the right thing when communicating to members of the public, the press and customers.
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