Vendors Spice Up Social
Networks With Virtual Reality"> Gartner analyst Adam Sarner described this paradigm shift as the move to the Generation Virtual, where people arent connected by age or gender as much as they were in the past, but by common interests. Sarner said applications such as Second Life are more immersive than Facebook and other social networks, providing more visuals, which hews well to self-actualization for people.This is not necessarily the right route for all actions. For example, while the 3-D realm might be great for kicking back and relaxing, it might not always be the right venue for executing tasks."If I want to buy a car or somebody I know comes down with a medical condition, Im not going to go into a virtual world and ask other people their experiences," Sarner said. "Text is a perfect tool to go in and get other opinions." To read more about ease-of-use issues in virtual worlds, click here. Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li has two views of virtual worlds: While she believes virtual reality is fine for companies such as IBM to use as a virtual meeting place for workers to collaborate on tasks, she is less sanguine about the potential for virtual worlds in the consumer space. Li said Second Life and others of its ilk havent gained the traction of text-based social networks because they involve more time and creativity-crafting an avatar and profile than most people want to deal with. "Many people, as you can see with Facebook and MySpace, want to get in, talk to their friends, stay in touch and leave multiple times a day," Li said. Still, Forrester Research analyst Erica Driver said companies will continue to build virtual environments, making the 3-D Internet as big in five years as the Web is today. Schick agreed, noting that companies will actually build virtual reality platforms for customer service solutions, simulation and modeling jobs, or for virtual meetings rather than getting on a plane. There will be business-based applications and capabilities similar to what you see in Facebook, albeit with a different user experience. People and businesses are just figuring out how to use virtual reality. Once that comfort zone is reached, look for businesses to start finding ways to make money from it. Thats when virtual reality will become real for the world.Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.