Thursday, November 02, 2006

Using the Virtual World for Real World Business

Second Life is a virtual world where you can explore and interact with other online players. Initially Second Life was similar to other online multi-player games where an avatar representing your real or desired self can teleport to anywhere in the virtual world. Second Life gained additional prominence when it was featured on the cover of the May 20th Business Week. In last 6 months Second Life has attracted more traditional corporate entities. Last month my former employer, Sun Microsystems held a press conference in Second Life. Howard Rheingold author of such visionary books such as Smart Mobs, recently gave a talk in Second Life.

The travel industry has also made their mark in this new virtual world. "Starwood, owner of the chic W brand as well as the Westin and Sheraton chains, became the first real-world hospitality company to open in Second Life, and joins a growing list of other companies who are using the online world to build their brand name, test products, or simply sell merchandise (albeit digital merchandise). You can't check into aloft, Starwood's new line of moderately priced, loft-style hotels, until the first quarter of 2008. Since September , you can wander into the lobby of its digital version inside the popular online world of Second Life."

How else could real world travel companies use this virtual world? By definition, your avatar is constantly traveling, though teleportation is much faster and does not cost any money verses an airline ticket in the real world. Who provides a guide for exploring Second Life? The search functionality can be used to pinpoint particular places of interest, but what if a large travel agency developed enough knowledge of the virtual world to create tours? This is only one example. Given the recent corporate focus on Second Life the travel industry needs to pay close attention this virtually world as a way to promote their brand and provide services at a fee.

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The travel industry has also made their mark in this new virtual world.

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