More and more of us will get chance to live Second Life

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IN the not too distant future, we could all be living a Second Life... and it could change the world of business.

Second Life is where real people get a character in the virtual world which can interact with other avatars in situations like meetings, training sessions and even to go shopping.

“I like Second Life because your avatar can be as slim and beautiful as you like,” joked Dr Shailey Minocha of the Open University at a Biztech breakfast meeting in Milton Keynes.

“I rarely meet our students in real life. We have our own virtual rooms, called islands, at the OU where we hold seminars and meetings.”

The Biztech meeting, on the subject of e-commerce in 3D, was held on Thursday (Sept 27) at Novotel, in Leyburn Court, Heelands.

Delegates were told that students experience a sense of realism and community in their second lives.

Dr Minocha, an expert in e-commerce in 2D and 3D environments, at the Centre for Research in Computing, said what is holding the technology back at the moment is slow broadband.

But it is already being used to help patients in hospitals get used to the idea of operations. And computer giant IBM holds meetings in Second Life.

Dr Minocha said the technology could be applied to shopping, interactive training sessions and was one to watch in the future.

l Jessica Evans, digital and online manager at thecentre:mk, told the meeting that marketing via mobile phones was changing the way people shop.

A new iPhone app, called iBalloon, has been developed as a world first by thecentre:mk to give customers offers if they collect virtual balloons, invisible in real life but visable through an iPhone camera, by visiting the shopping centre. It is a technology called augmented reality.

Delegates were told people are in ever increasing numbers using their phones to visit websites and buy online.

The app uses satnav-style GPS technology to see where people are in thecentre:mk and make sure they cannot collect more than one iBalloon in each of the centre’s seven sections.

More than that, during the trial that ends on October 17, higher value iBalloons have been virtually placed in areas of the centre, which has 18 entrances and more than 240 outlets, to get more people to visit.

Jessica Evans told the meeting that the uptake of the apps, which mix a game with vouchers, has been slow but growing.

Over the year thecentre:mk has seen a shift in the age profile of its visitors, with 68 per cent being between the ages of 16 and 44. Some 64 per cent of customers in that age bracket use a mobile phone to access thecentre:mk’s website.