Big Yellow Tutu

Design London April 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — helenium @ 11:13 am

Staring at PowerPoint for 10 hours a day can leave even the bravest soul feeling uninspired. In a bid to make sure I don’t go mad by the time summer is out I’ve signed up to rather a few lectures, talks, conferences, seminars etc over the coming weeks.

Last night I headed over to Imperial to attend ‘Web 3.0: Materializing the conceptual worlds of the mind’. A title which would doubtlessly confuse my mother.

The whole idea of the night was to look at the  convergence of virtual worlds, cinema and architecture; looking at where web 3.0 could head now that film and architecture are becoming increasingly digital dependent. Or ‘cyber’, as BBC Breakfast would say.

The first speaker was Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Chairman Emeritus IBM Academy of Science. He’s a bit clever. He talked through the advancements in virtual worlds, with an obvious heavy emphasis on Second Life. He started by explaining how we’ve been stuck in a rut when it comes to graphical representation of data and navigation in technology. Decades after computers were introduced and we still rely on buttons that say ‘click here’. He defined Web 3.0 as “highly visual, real time and immersive” and so spawning a whole new way in which we use the internet. He broke virtual worlds down as serving 3 purposes:

  1. Education and training; IBM already does a lot of this, they give lectures within Second Life and hold meetings there too. Apparently it gives a greater level of engagement above your standard conference call (rather obvious), mainly because people hang around and chat after the meeting. He also talked about training emergency services within Second Life, which I rather like as an idea.
  2. Process rehearsal, management and operations; testing prototypes within virtual worlds and so increasing the time it takes to go to marketing with a product. This could also include testing of buildings before they’re built in the real world. If only they’d had this chance when they built Oxford Circus tube station.
  3. Marketing and sales; the tricky one. Selling stuff within virtual worlds, allowing people to test and, to some extent, feel products before purchase. I like the idea of creating a different environment for product sales though, if you’re selling antiques why not create a virtual 18th century house for people to walk around in?

The second speaker was John Maybury, a film director of some prominence, though I’d never seen anything he’s done. Saying that, the last film I saw was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I’m hardly knowledgeable when it comes to cinema. John wasn’t great. His talk was basically “I’m old enough to remember Super 8 cameras, now I use digital and CGI. Isn’t that great?”

Last up was Nigel Coates, an architect with a penchant for creating houses that look like giant ceramic elephants. His talk was great had it been about architecture, I was genuinely impressed with his designs, I’d happily live in a house that looked like a giant cotton reel. But, like John before him, Nigel failed to contextualize his work within the Web 3.0 discussion. Yes, he can design stuff in 3D; and yes, we should be creating more wacky designs; but i think it would have been more interesting to see how the virtual world should merge into new builds, rather than just seeing it as a testing ground. he touched on it briefly by showing an old man accessing virtual porn at home. You saw muff. Blimey.

I’m not sure that the evening has re-awakened my love for Second Life, I’m afraid that died about six months ago when I got fed up with vast, empty lands that take ages to load and inevitably crash my computer. I might revisit again at the weekend, if I can tear myself away from Zoo Tycoon, of course.

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