Monday, June 9, 2008

Visiting NASA in Second Life

One of my summer resolutions was to learn to get around in Second Life so I can see what’s going on. So when I saw that NASA had developed a cybertwin for its Phoenix rover, I gritted my teach and took a shot at it.

Fair warning; when you register you have to complete a four-step tutorial in order to get the bare basics of how to function in Second Life. It’s a bit annoying, especially if you’re too impatient to read the directions and have to keep going back. But once you complete four basic steps you have the key to Second Life and you can move around.

Still ignoring the directions as much as possible I searched for the NASA island and after a couple of failed tries (maybe I should have taken some of the advanced tutorials!) I teleported to the Nasa Explorer Island.

Here I am—or at least here my avatar is. There’s nice music playing; sounds like something from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I walked around the island and saw the main Jet Propulsion Laboratory Building and the Media amphitheatre. I wasn’t there when there was an event going on, but there’s stuff to do. I was going to try to launch Mars airbag, but I never found the mountain. There are also scheduled events—launches and demonstrations.

For those of you who don’t want to spend several hours figuring out how it all works, there’s a video on the site of MyCyberTwin, the developer of the “twin” (avatar?) of the Phoenix rover. It’s fun, but since it works off a knowledge base, it doesn’t seem to have a large repertoire. (View video here.)

It’s interesting and sort of fun. I plan to continue my explorations and report on them. But it also highlights the problem for most marketers. Do they have several hours to learn how to use something like Second Life, just because they want to see something in particular that’s going on?

Probably that’s not high on their priority list. Many of them could ask their teenage (or younger!) children who will be able to give them a tour, maybe not of Second Life, but of a virtual world that’s more age-appropriate. But some are just going to have to invest the time to understand what their target audiences are doing and how they can participate and create engaging events/activities/locations. Maybe a worthwhile summer activity for a lot of us!

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