One more life to live

Until recently, I’d pretty much thought of Second Life as a game played by the same sort of geeks who attend comic book conventions in full Batman regalia and learn to speak Klingon in their spare time.

But unless Inspector Kevin McQuiggin of the Vancouver Police Department has a Batsuit in his closet, I must stand corrected. McQuiggin, himself a Second Life ‘resident’, gave one of the more fascinating presentations at this year’s CIO Assembly, recounting how the VPD hosted a recruiting seminar in Second Life, the virtual world created by San Francisco’s Linden Research Inc.

McQuiggin took the audience on a brief walking (and flying) tour of Second Life, guided by his avatar. For many in the room, it was their first glimpse of this virtual world, which now has nearly 15 million registered ‘residents’. Others in the audience were well aware of it as a possible business tool and were already exploring the possibilities.

And they are manifold. Event hosting is a natural for Second Life, and it also has tremendous potential as an image-building and advertising tool, a communications tool, a training medium and even a revenue generator – Second Life minted its first real-life millionaire in 2006 and has a thriving economy based on Linden dollars, which can be converted into real dollars. Even IT service providers are getting into the act, charging big bucks to help organizations build their virtual environments.

Linden’s CEO, Mark Kingdon, is taking steps to make Second Life more user-friendly, and therefore more business friendly, as industry heavyweights like Google eye the virtual reality space. But whether or not Linden can retain its pre-eminence is a subject of some debate. There are many who feel that Second Life will one day be supplanted by a newer and better virtual environment.

Whatever the virtual world looks like in a few years, McQuiggin predicted that in the not too distant future it will be pervasive, to the point where most people will have their own avatars and spend a considerable amount of time there. If that is indeed the case, you might want to stake out your virtual territory early.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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