Are There Business Applications for Virtual Worlds?
In this Special Section of Knowledge@Emory, professors from Goizueta Business School and industry experts in the field of virtual worlds offer their insight on this growing Internet-based market. From the industry leader Second Life to the newest entry in the game, Google's own Lively, the activity, interest, and investment in the virtual world industry is strong.
The stories in this special report analyze the history and trends in the marketplace, as well as the academic and business applications of virtual worlds. Now, well-known names such as Second Life, Entropia Universe, and Cyworld have competition from a host of other sites, including ones devoted to virtual pets, cartoon characters, TV shows, and more. Researchers in academia, health care, and various parts of Corporate America are exploring marketing and research applications of virtual worlds, using Second Life and other virtual worlds as the jumping off point for their work.
While the entertainment aspects of creating a virtual identity through an avatar may sound exciting, the business and academic potential for the market is just as compelling. Today, professors, including some at Goizueta, are using the space to teach course material and to understand the business applications of the technology. And, corporate giants such as IBM are using virtual worlds for client training and information.
But just what does the future hold for the industry? With the Gartner Group's estimate that 80% of active Internet users will use at least one virtual world by the end of 2011, the virtual world realm is certainly here to stay. According to this special section from K@E, the interest does remain with the better-known and larger companies, but money is also beginning to pour into upstart and innovative ventures in the virtual world realm, as well. This vast and scattered marketplace of large and small players could soon mean that a shakeout in the industry is bound to happen.
|Uncovering the Economics and Possibilities of Virtual Worlds|
Benn R. Konsynski, a chaired professor of information systems and operations management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, and David A. Bray, who holds a PhD in business from Goizueta, review both the past and present of virtual worlds and explore their potential influence on the future of electronic commerce and governance issues in their paper, “Virtual Worlds, Virtual Economies, Virtual Institutions.” “Virtual worlds are not some sci-fi pipe dream or virtual fad,” the authors write. “Virtual worlds are now a reality.”
|Virtual Worlds: Mapping a New Business Reality|
Virtual worlds are poised to play an ever greater role in business, politics, and day-to-day life. Though less than one percent of the world’s population currently participates in virtual worlds, the actual number is higher than the number of Internet surfers in 1994, says Benn Konsynski, a chaired professor of information systems and operations management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and co-chair of a recent conference entitled, “Virtual Worlds and New Realities in Commerce, Politics and Society.” The conference invited academics, gamers, entrepreneurs, social scientists and information technology specialists to discuss the growth and future of virtual worlds such as Second Life and Kaneva. The technological demands and opportunities they present will lead to rich, immersive media, says Konsynski, transforming the business landscape both online and in the office.
|Virtual World Investment Goes to Youth Market|
Venture capital, angel investment, and media firm money is going into virtual world companies. But for now, that cash is primarily earmarked for youth-oriented virtual world sites. According to experts at Emory University and its Goizueta Business School, the story is yet to be told in the space, and the real money will eventually follow the industry standard bearer.
|From Toys to Tools: Exploring Virtual Worlds in the Classroom|
|Virtual worlds are transforming the way business operates by creating new templates for accomplishing tasks from training and collaboration to product design and marketing. In a new course offering from Emory University and its Goizueta Business School, “Virtual Worlds and New Realities,” students and faculty explore issues surrounding emerging types of virtual worlds and immersion technologies while participating as avatars in Second Life and other virtual world environments. According to Benn Konsynski, a chaired professor of information systems and operations management at Goizueta who co-taught the course with Emory Vice Provost for International Affairs Holli Semetko, the expanding use of rich immersion technologies is “creating unlimited opportunities for business.”|