Intelligent Agents: Coaching For Health & Wellness

I was recently featured in the following video about the use of intelligent agents as coaches for health and wellness. It’s an area of much interest to me as I firmly believe that such technologies can assist with reversing the current obesity pandemic:

 

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Spore’s Primordial Soup

Since Spore’s highly anticipated Creature Creator launch a few days ago there has been a veritable stirring of the pot of creation — emerging from this is a primordial soup of hundreds of thousands of creatures all ready and waiting for the main game.

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User Generated Games: Group Intelligence Rocks

One of the key points to come out of the User Generated Games Panel at the Social Gaming Summit in San Francisco is that users never cease to amaze. Core to this space is the concept of group intelligence: users watch what others are doing and then build upon it to create and do things that the game designers would not have thought of themselves.

Forums are a key enabler for this group intelligence. The panel pointed to Gaia Online’s successful growth of a 5 million strong user base – growth that can be attributed to having robust forums.

It’s also worth noting that this group intelligence does not necessarily mean a compounding of complication. As Daniel James from Three Rings pointed out it is often the simpler things that people enjoy the most. Constrained environments trounce multiple features.

Cary Rosenzweig of IMVU noted that they have 1.6 million items in their virtual goods catalogue. This is leading to real monetization with the top developer making $1M in revenue last year.

Cary did make one total non compute for me. He mentioned that IMVU has been in stealth mode for the past four years. When questioned on this he said that they hadn’t issued a press release, in like…eva.

OK cool, but this does not equate to being in stealth mode. Anyone not seen an IMVU ad on the web? If we follow his logic every social media company that has moved beyond the press release is in perpetual stealth!

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Mobile Virtual Worlds: Android Takes Over Second Life

Tokyo-based Eitarosoft has developed a 3D virtual world service running on Google’s mobile platform Android.

Called Lamity, this virtual world can be accessed via any Android-mounted mobile device. In addition, up to 400 users can simultaneously access the same space on Lamity. This is more than ten times the number who can hang out together in the same place in Second Life.

Eitarosoft’s shareholders include tier one Japanese investment groups such as Japan Asia Investment, JAFCO, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital and Nomura Securities.

They have a strong background in mobile 3D, having developed the first i-mode application to display 3D graphics in 2002.

Lamity includes multiple and dual chat features. It also allows for web pages to be viewed simultaneously and stream video through a built-in movie function. A trailer for the movie “Vantage Point” was distributed through this feature ahead of its February premier.

Virtual founder seeks Second Life

Philip Rosedale is stepping down as CEO of Linden Lab. Faced with the classic founders dilemma of continuing to evangelise and innovate versus running a business, the man behind Second Life has elected to find a replacement. This is often one of the hardest decisions for a founding CEO to make, and hats off to Philip for doing so in a considered way. Reading between the lines in this piece it is clear that he was supported in his decision by his board.

It is an interesting transition phase for the company, what with the CTO having moved on only a few months back. One can only hope they find someone of the right calibre to get the business firing again.

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Second Life Self-Regulates Virtual Financial Services

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Benjamin Duranske, the founder of the Second Life Bar Association, has only one criticism of Linden Lab’s move to self-regulate financial services within their virtual world, “It has been too long in coming.”

Calls were made for regulation to be imposed on banks and other financial institutions within Second Life way back in August 2007. This was a reaction to the failure of Ginko Financial, which Wired comprehensively covered.

Benjamin is otherwise extremely positive about Linden Lab’s announcement that:

As of January 22, 2008, it will be prohibited to offer interest or any direct return on an investment (whether in L$ or other currency) from any object, such as an ATM, located in Second Life, without proof of an applicable government registration statement or financial institution charter. We’re implementing this policy after reviewing Resident complaints, banking activities, and the law, and we’re doing it to protect our Residents and the integrity of our economy.

Since the collapse of Ginko Financial in August 2007, Linden Lab has received complaints about several in-world “banks” defaulting on their promises. These banks often promise unusually high rates of L$ return, reaching 20, 40, or even 60 percent annualized.

Usually, we don’t step in the middle of Resident-to-Resident conduct – letting Residents decide how to act, live, or play in Second Life.

But these “banks” have brought unique and substantial risks to Second Life, and we feel it’s our duty to step in. Offering unsustainably high interest rates, they are in most cases doomed to collapse – leaving upset “depositors” with nothing to show for their investments. As these activities grow, they become more likely to lead to destabilization of the virtual economy.

Benjamin’s view is that policies like this one not only acknowledge the obligations that should be imposed on all companies who choose to enable others to make real money in virtual worlds, but also serve to keep the collective virtual world grid healthy and free from externally imposed regulation.

He believes this will lead to the shutting down of “dozens of largely insolvent self-styled ‘banks’ in Second Life.” He does, however, fear that some legitimate operations may be caught in the net.

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One such legitimate operation is First Meta, a Singapore-based start up, which offers a full range of financial services focusing on credit products such as the MetaCard. This credit card does not offer interest or a rate of return on L$ invested or deposited.

I spoke with First Meta’s CEO, Douglas Abrams, and he fully supports the regulation of financial services activity in the virtual economy.

Douglas says, “We agree with the statement by Linden Lab that in-world banks…offering unsustainably high interest rates…are in most cases doomed to collapse – leaving upset ‘depositors’ with nothing to show for their investments.

“We believe that the removal of non-credible players from the financial services sector of Second Life’s economy will benefit all of its participants.”

Others remain on the fence about Linden Labs decision. CNet’s Daniel Terdiman comments:

Whether the move will stabilize the economy, or at least perception of the economy remains to be seen. But it’s pretty clear Linden Lab had to do something to stave off criticism related to banks that have folded, taking residents’ money with them.

But only time will tell whether the decision will have any meaningful impact. And for those residents who have used the banks for various financial purposes, it will be very interesting to see what alternatives they have available in the months to come.

Mashable’s Kristen Nicole has an interesting social media take:

Just as Facebook’s open platform lent itself to a flurry of advertising networks specific to the application train, Second Life’s money-making opportunities have made it more attractive to a wider array of people. More people means more diverse behavior, and that’s not always good. Second Life’s parent company Linden Lab insists that it’s not acting as a banking regulator, but it is a very important step to take for the legal securities of Second Life itself.

Personally, I second the views put forward by Douglas and tip my hat to Linden Lab for a good move.

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