IBM tour of virtual Australian Open

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!
IBM_AusOpen_001 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.
IBM_AusOpen_003I 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.
IBM_AusOpen_008 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.

IBM_AusOpen_012 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.
IBM_AusOpen_026We 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.
IBM_AusOpen_018 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.
IBM_AusOpen_035 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.
Technorati Tags: IBM, Second Life, Australian Open


  1. Computers

    I have been hearing about second life for some time now, but never gotten around to checking it out. Your tour has definitely inspired me to do so. I’m very impressed by the possibility that you suggested – that it may be possible to see an actual match through the eyes of a player in that match. I think you are right that currently this kind of feature would be most interesting to those who are into tennis analysis, but I can certainly envision a day when you might watch a match in two ways simultaneously – on you television from a third person point-of-view, and on your laptop from a first-person perspective. Or, should the technology improve even further, I can even imagine that it might one day be more of a rush simply to watch the entire match from the player’s perspective – a sort of virtual sports that involves the viewer directly. Are there any other sports venues in the works? I would think almost any sport could work well in such an alternative environment.

  2. Anniversary gift

    I’ve heard about Second Life from somewhere. Since I’m very much eager to learn it I started looking for a detailed explanation about it. But I haven’t found one not until I’ve come across your blog. Perhaps in your next post you can give us a rundown of tips on how to win the game.

Comments are closed.