DECEMBER 1, 2008
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Good afternoon. I’m Rob Bloomfield, and welcome to the 58th
edition of Metanomics. Our spotlight guest today is Victoria Coleman, vice president within
the Corporate Technology Organization of Samsung Electronics. We’ll be talking about
Samsung’s activities in Second Life, their focus on natural interfaces and mobile technology
for Virtual Worlds and Victoria’s own work with the Virtual Worlds Roadmap project. We will
also have a chance to talk with another very interesting Second Life enterprise user,
Paulo Casaca, member of the European Parliament and author of the new book The Hidden
Invasion of Iraq.
Metanomics is filmed from the virtual Sage Hall right here in Second Life, thanks to my Real
Life employer, Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. Thanks also
to our outside sponsors Kelly Services, InterSection Unlimited, Language Lab and Learning
Tree International. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to fit our entire audience into
one region in Second Life so I want to say hello to our viewers across Second Life at our
event partner locations: the Confederation of Democratic Sims, Meta Partners Conference
Area, Rockliffe University, New Media Consortium, Orange Island and JenzZa Misfit’s
historic Muse Isle.
We use InterSection Unlimited’s ChatBridge system to transmit local chat to our website and
website chat to our event partners. This is a great technology that brings you in touch with
people around Second Life and on the web, wherever you are. So speak up, and let
everyone know your thoughts. Make sure that you register on the Metanomics website, in
order to tap into this great resource.
Before we jump into the show, I do want to mention that, with the help of GSD&M Idea City
and the folks at Metaversality, we’re surveying Metanomics viewers, to understand who you
are and what you’re hoping to get out of Metanomics so we can make this a better show for
you. The mechanics of the survey are straightforward, and my producer, Lynn Cullens, will
be pasting a link to the survey into the chat stream. So you can just click on that. It only
takes a few minutes, and, as we start to plan for our winter 2009 season, we’d love to get
your input. I will be talking at the very end of the show about some feedback I’ve gotten
recently, and this will certainly help us as we move forward.
We start our show by putting Paulo Casaca in our On The Spot segment. Mr. Casaca is
currently a member of the European Parliament as a representative of Portugal and is a
member of the Socialist Group, one of the parties in the Parliament. Mr. Casaca has a long
history of reporting on economics and political topics and was an advisor to the Portuguese
permanent representation to the European Union from 1996 to 1999. He is currently a
member of the Committee on Budgetary Control, the Committee on Budgets, the Committee
on Fisheries and the Delegation for relations with Iran. Mr. Casaca is also the author of the
newly released book The Hidden Invasion of Iraq, which argues that news from Iraq is
largely ignored, the increasing influence of Iran in Iraq and the greater Middle East as a
consequence of those operations. So, Mr. Casaca, welcome to Metanomics.
PAULO CASACA: Well, thank you very much for this invitation and to thanking particular to
Bevan Whitfield because she has been remarkable in supporting the initiatives I had in
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, great. Yeah, Bevan has actually been very helpful to us in
Metanomics as well. I’d like to thank Bevan for all she’s done and also thank IYan Writer,
who today it’s his birthday. So he’s been very helpful in our communications strategies. So,
IYan, happy birthday! And thanks for everything you have done as well. Now, Mr. Casaca,
before we talk about your book, you’ve been quite active in Second Life, and so I’d like to
start by asking what brought you into Second Life in the first place.
PAULO CASACA: Well, it was Irah Anatine that, by hearing me and the trouble at this time
still in our day people had to communicate once with the others in Iraq and the fact that I
knew important people in the south and the north that really would not be able to
communicate. The idea was and the reason why the name Babel Project was exactly to put
all of them speaking one with the others. But, in reality, this turned out to be more difficult
than we thought, especially because of the bandwidth and Second Life transformed into, to
me, a forum for making conferences and discussing these type of events that I witnessed in
Iraq and that war really fooling my mind and my concerns. And actually I think Irah Anatine,
she became like that as well.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I think I hear her laughing in the background. She’s there with
you, is that right?
PAULO CASACA: Absolutely. Yes, she is.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Right now you’re in the European Parliament in Brussels, is that
PAULO CASACA: Exactly. Exactly. And so it was a very interesting way of understanding
the power of technology, and, really, I think we should insist in Iraq because it would make a
big difference in a country where traveling is still not, well, something you can do very easily.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Can you give us a sense of the technological situation in Iraq? I
know here in the U.S. I often can’t get Second Life working if I’m in a hotel or something like
that. So that doesn’t surprise me, but, just more generally, can you talk about the ability to
talk with people on land lines or mobile phones, internet access at all?
PAULO CASACA: Yeah, yeah. This is perhaps, if you think of what went better in the last
five years, certainly it is communication, well, telecommunication because there were no
mobile networks at all during Saddam’s times. One year afterwards you started to see it
growing out of Baghdad. I remember the first time you used to dial an American number to
reach Baghdad. But then you had several companies, and then internet was everywhere,
although not in the best conditions, and this has been, well, quite remarkable. Actually a lot
of the things--I nearly lived in Iraq--were told by mobile phones describing to me absolutely
horrendous events, live.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So our next guest, who has been working on Virtual World
technology extensively, will probably have some thoughts on maybe what could be done in
places like Iraq where there are now mobile technologies. And I totally agree with you on the
value of having meetings and things like that in Virtual Worlds where travel is difficult.
I had a chance to read your book last week, and it’s clearly informed by your extensive
travels throughout Iraq and your reporting. And also by your role as a member of the
European Parliament’s Budget Committee and as a member of the Delegation to Iran, which
gives you the international political focus. I’d love to hear a little more about one particular
story you tell in the book, that brings those two roles together. I’m quoting from page 183,
and you say that, in your capacity on the Budget Committee and the Delegation to Iran, and
I believe then you had a formal Iraq role as well, you said, “I was particularly interested to
know the whereabouts of the 800-plus million Euro that had been approved within the
European budget for the Iraq reconstruction in the first five years of the post-Saddam era,
and I was puzzled to realize that none of my Iraqi friends, members of the Parliament,
Governors or former Ministers, had ever heard of any European cooperation effort to Iraq.”
And so my question to you, Mr. Casaca, was the money spent but not publicized effectively,
or were there corruption and other problems that were keeping the money from being spent
PAULO CASACA: I think both things happened. The bulk of the money that the European
Union sent to Iraq was spent through the United Nations and the World Bank and that this
really does not give a lot of visibility to the European presence. But, on the other hand, you
just have to remind the declarations of, for instance, Judge Radhi, which is perhaps the
most important witness of what was happening. Judge Radhi, that is, I think, his demand for
asylum in the United States is still pending. But of the new Iraq, he was the first responsible
for the anti-corruption force, and he had to run away from the country after he lost dozens of
his collaborators that were assassinated. And the present Prime Minister of Iraq actually
accused him of being a fraud-ster himself, which is absolutely amazing. What Judge Radhi
says is that a lot of the money was not only stolen, but worse than that, was used to fuel any
sort of militia and terrorist groups. This opinion that he made public and that passed in
several TV channels in the United States, for instance, but also in Europe, is far from being
his only opinion.
We have two very interesting books produced by two British diplomats that were posted in
Iraq, and one of them is Mr. Andrew Alderson, that I quote extensively in my book,
Bankrolling Basra, where he says that, by the end of his mandate in Iraq, there was an
industry of forged photographs to prove that the schools that were supposed to be built, that
they were built, but they were actually virtual schools. Sometimes even the places were not
the same where they could see that, where the school was supposed to be, to have been
built. So the thing goes on for a variety of other subjects. Transparency International
classified the new Iraq as the second most corrupt country in the world after Haiti, and most
likely this is true.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And what role do you see for the European Parliament, and are
you in a position to address that?
PAULO CASACA: Well, I think that what I did when I was there at this time was actually in
official capacity representing the European Parliament. I think that we certainly made the
European Commission understand that things would have to be done in a different way.
Well, for instance, both the United Nations and the World Bank are having completely
different position regarding this subject and the way that they address us and the European
Commission as well. I think anyway that a lot remains to be done.
My opinion, my sensibility tells me that diplomats they are professionals, and, as
professionals, they are basically making some sort of diplomatic trade, and their role is,
“Well, we are bringing money here. We must get some gains, some diplomatic gain, in
military terms, strategic terms, whatever. And really I’m not very concerned if the money that
they bring if it is well spent or not.” My impression was that sometimes they really couldn’t
care less. And so I think that we shall think in different ways to control and to spend the
Actually, the United Nations agencies, I think that, for the most part, they were doing a good
job. They had this very interesting idea, which was to hire the people that ran away,
because most of the professionals were hunted down, because it started to be the
persecution of the Baathists, of the dictators, but then because of the Baathists became
larger and larger all the time. And anybody who was a professional became a Baathist and
was liable to be persecuted. And so Iraq got without most of its professionals.
Actually, if you go to Amman, you will find very easily an Iraqi doctor that you, unfortunately,
cannot find in Iraq. And so the United Nations brought a lot of these professionals, and I met
some of them in Iraq, back to Iraq, and this was a very, very good idea. And, besides that,
they have informal teams of people that they could trust to see that the money was going
where it was needed to. So some of the things that the United Nations was doing was very
good. But, on the other hand, some of the things I saw, and actually I think the United
Nations gave us more information that they wanted to in the beginning, well, did not at all
give me the best of the impressions.
For instance, the European Commission says it spent 136 million Euros in electoral
procedures in Iraq, which is a very, very big sum. I think that they never care to get there to
observe what was going on with the elections. But, besides that, I could see that some of
the bills, at least some of the bills, were of people that were sent to Tehran, hotel bills in
Tehran. Can you imagine that the West is paying for hotel bills in Tehran for Iraqis to learn
democracy? This seems a joke, but that’s not a joke. That’s a reality. And this kind of thing,
how can it be? Well, it shows that the control was not what it should be.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And that also leads directly to another point that you make in your
book and some of your other writings, which is that Iran has been a big beneficiary of the
operations in Iraq. And so, as a member of the Delegation to Iran, can you tell us your view
on how Iran has benefited and what your approach will be in engaging with Iran?
PAULO CASACA: I think that the United States and the whole world did not yet fully
understand what it will mean for Iraq to be in full control of Iran, and this is what is going to
happen very soon if present developments go the way they have been going for the last few
years. This will give tremendous leverage for Iran to have very important position in
controlling the market of oil and gas, to start with, and this will give Iran as well a
tremendous leverage in its land to dominate the whole of the Middle East. And this was
made, and this was started by the West. This is unbelievable, but some of the things, I think,
deserve an inquiry, a parliamentary inquiry. I proposed that in the European Parliament.
Unfortunately, it was not approved, but I think that my colleagues in the American Congress,
they should do exactly the same, as they should do all over the world because these groups
that now are in command in Iraq, they were very well known by the literature.
There is Bruce Hoffman. Bruce Hoffman is, to me, the best specialist on terrorism. And, if
you read his main book, what do you see? You see that he identified SCIRI, the Supreme
Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is the main party now in command in Iraq, as
the earliest ever a modern terrorist organization, that is organization that uses religious
justification for suicidal mass terrorism. So this was the earliest, I mean, much before
al Qaeda. And this is an American author, widely respected. And it is black on white on his
book. And, besides that, during the whole of the war between Iran and Iraq, you have
several documents, from information agencies, with terrorist threats against the United
States made by these people.
And then when you come to 2003, and to the question of we are going to depose
Saddam Hussein, what do you see? You see a wide range of organizations, and these
people are saying, “Well, this SCIRI, they are fantastic people. They are freedom fighters.
They are going to make a new Iraq, a wonderful new Iraq, and we have to support them.”
For instance, the most important person that made all the theory to defend this was
Mr. Kenneth Pollack, the man in charge of the Iraq-Iran desk in the Clinton Administration,
even before Mr. George Bush. And actually, Mr. George Bush actually made exactly what
he proposed in his book. We just have to confront the books of Mr. Pollack with Bush
presidency, and we will see the same thing. Although Mr. Pollack, when things were
obviously going wrong, said, “Oh, they did not know how to do it, and they did it the wrong
way.” But I think it is precisely what was done. And this is absolutely amazing. How was the
American and the European, the western world at large, how were we fooled into believing
that we were sponsoring a new democracy in Iraq? I believe that as well, the first time I got
there and I was trying to understand what was going on.
And when I started to hear the stories of not only, not mainly, and also brutalities of the
American Army because it is a reality, I have no doubts about that. I have heard so many
stories and read so many books that are very credible on this. But the problem was that,
behind the American soldiers, there was this Badr Brigades, which is the military wing of
SCIRI. And they started immediately [chasing?], what they call [chasing?] Baathists. And
they started immediately making reconciliation impossible and sowing the seeds of the
disaster that was to come. The problem is: How was it possible? Didn’t we know about that?
Didn’t we understand that this would be the obvious result of such a policy?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Looking forward and particularly with Iran, I’m wondering what
you see--how should we be engaging, given, as you put it in your book, you said the Iraqi
operation is the best example of what should not be done if one wants to bring democracy
to the greater Middle East. Let’s just take your critique there as a given. When I think about
moving forward and dealing with the challenges that Iran presents, I think many in the U.S.
have expressed concern. They've said we could take a harder line on Iran, but European
member nations, European-based companies as well, have been too willing to trade with
Iran and not cooperating with trade embargoes and sanctions. I guess a part of this is
they're telling--here in America I think we hear a different story from the one you’re telling,
which is, we’re willing to take the hard line and Europe is not. So I guess, first, how would
you respond to that, reconciling the two views, the one I’m hearing from you and the one
that I hear in the U.S.? Where do we have to go with this?
PAULO CASACA: You hear from me exactly what you hear in the U.S., I think that you are
absolutely right that actually the United States policy regarding the economic embargo is a
model that’s what I think should be applied. If everybody would have been doing what the
United States has been doing in this regard, things would be very different in Iran, but they
are not because business is systematically talking louder than strategic thinking. On this
respect, I think the United States is the best example. This idea of the United States bad or
good, this is not the question, of course. There are good things, and there are things that
are not so good everywhere, and the United States as well. So I fully subscribe to this
But what I think it is important is that one must have a consistent package of measures. For
instance, regarding Iraq, what was not only possible, but the CIA that is normally criticized to
be behind most of the tragedies of the bad options of the United States, the CIA made very
reasonable proposals to Iraq, but they were completely sent to the dustbin. The CIA said
let’s work with these people that know best the country. Let’s negotiate to put Saddam out of
the country and to make a takeover that will be as peaceful as possible.
Because the problem, of course, is not--I’m not a pacifist; let’s be clear on this point. I’m not
saying that you can never use weapons or war to put a terrible dictator like Saddam Hussein
out of the country. No, I’m not saying that. One of the earliest votes in the European
Parliament I do remember, among the Socialists, I was the only one that did not vote to
condemn the United States because the argument was, “Oh, violence is always a bad.”
Well, take it easy. Violence is a terrible thing, but when you have dictators that are killing
droves of its citizens, I don’t think it is forbidden to use violence. That’s not the point. The
point is that, of course, you must only use it when you really do not have an alternative. You
shall not do it as your first choice. And this was the first choice. Makes no sense whatsoever
because a negotiation would be possible.
But, of course, the problem was if the negotiation would be made, and if these dissidents
would be brought into power, well, then the SCIRI that is nothing other but the Iraqi section
of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Well, they would not take power. That was a problem.
That’s why I suddenly saw organizations. Well, still, we can go to their sites. Human Rights
Watch, for instance. Go to the site of the Human Rights Watch on Iraq. Well, to start with,
you’ll be very surprised to see that the texts are normally both in English and Farsi that is
the language spoken in Iran but not Iraq, which is absolutely fantastic. But, besides that, you
see this approach, this widening of SCIRI, these forces as with tremendous strengths. This
was a problem, too, in my mind.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. I really wish we had more time to discuss this, but we do
have our second guest. So, first I’d like to say thank you so much for appearing on
Metanomics, Mr. Casaca, and giving us your take on these issues for people who are
interested in hearing more. I would like to make sure everyone knows that Paulo Casaca will
be having a lunch discussion in the European Parliament, in Brussels at--
PAULO CASACA: At 4:30 Second Life Time, 4:30 in the morning Second Life Time.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes, at 4:30 Second Life Time, so for those of you in California,
probably not an ideal time, but, for those on the East Coast and in Europe, that will work a
little better: 4:30 Second Life Time tomorrow. Hopefully, Irah Anatine, Ana Alves in Real
Life, maybe she can paste some information into the chat so that people can get links and
all that. So, again, thank you very much, Paulo Casaca, for coming on to Metanomics.
PAULO CASACA: Thank you very much for the invitation.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: My pleasure. We turn now to our spotlight guest today.
Victoria Stavridou-Coleman is a vice president within the Corporate Technology
Organization of Samsung Electronics, that’s also known at CTO, and is in charge of the
computer science laboratory in San Jose, California. Victoria founded the Cyber Security
Research Center on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in 2004, and
served a three-year term as a member of DARPA, that’s the Defense Department’s
information, science and technology advisory group, from 2004 to 2007. She’s worked
before Samsung also with Intel and SRI International and was a tenured professor at the
University of London. So a fascinating background. Victoria, welcome to Metanomics.
VICTORIA COLEMAN: Hi. Thank you for having me.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: It’s our pleasure, and I know this is hard to work into your
schedule. You are at the University of California at Berkeley today, is that right?
VICTORIA COLEMAN: Correct. I’m missing lunch, you’ll be glad to hear.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, Virtual Worlds make it easy to do more than one thing as
once, which doesn’t always make our lives that much easier. We just seem to pile more on,
don’t we? I’d like to start by asking how your focus changed from security to Virtual World
VICTORIA COLEMAN: My tenure with Intel was primarily focused on security. I was in
charge there of the security technology roadmap for the company, as well as the product
roadmap that contained security innovations. When I came to Samsung, my perspective
changed because, in my new role, my responsibility extends really across any and all
advanced technologies that apply to our businesses. That is, Corporate Technology
Organization of Samsung has a responsibility to support existent businesses, as well as
nurture future ones. So as your audience might know, we currently have five business
groups. Actually, I’m sitting here staring at a Samsung monitor so all of you will know about
our digital media business. Many of you will have our cell phones. We also are the world’s
largest supplier of memory, DRAM. Our mission, within CTO, is to support all these different
businesses. In that context, we always look ahead to see what is coming down the pike that
could be a game changer for our company.
And about a year and a half ago, and actually this was as a result of a study that I was
participating in on behalf of DARPA at ISAT. I met somebody from MIT Media Lab, who
showed us this wonderful demonstration of how you could represent activity in a room with, I
guess, Second Life artifacts. The scales fell off my eyes. I realized that this was the second
wave coming, and, ever since then, I and my colleagues have been working diligently to
figure out what this means really for Samsung and for our businesses and also what it might
mean for any future businesses what we might want to create. A long answer to a short
question. I apologize for that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: No, that’s helpful. So help me with understanding a few of these
organizations, like two in particular that you are a part of. One is SISA, S I S A. And another
is CTO, of which I gather you are the vice president.
VICTORIA COLEMAN: Right. So Samsung Electronics is structured into five business
groups and one functional group, which is the Corporate Technology Organization. We are
part of the R&D capacity of CTO. Now the organization, like here at SISA, is our holding
company. So as you know Samsung Electronics is based in Korea, but we do have a
number of holding companies, fully owned subsidiaries in the U.S., and SISA, which stands
for Samsung Information Systems America, is the local holding company that our local CTO
organization is part of.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. That is helpful. Thank you for that. I’d like to turn to
Samsung’s Second Life presence, and you were kind enough to share with me some slides
that you used for presentation at the Game Developers Conference. It has some fascinating
stuff on it. You talk about a couple things on the first slide, and, hopefully, SLCN can pop
that up now. One is translation data collection, and another is testing real robots as virtual
robots first. And so I’m hoping you can just tell us a little bit about where Second Life fits in
these two activities.
VICTORIA COLEMAN: Okay. If I start from the language side, first of all, within CTO this
last couple of years, we had a very significant thrust toward creating what I call a fieldable
speech translation capability that we could deploy on our devices. As any of you in the
audience that are familiar with this topic will know these days the state of the art for speech
translation uses the statistical methods for figuring what a phrase in one language means in
a different language. And, because it is a statistical model, it relies primarily on the data that
you have. So the better data that you have that, say, take one phrase from Korean and
maps it into English, the better the overall quality of the translation job that the system will
So collecting data for speech translation systems, irrespective of what language pairs you’re
interested in, is a very important activity. In fact, people will say that the data is more
important than the translation engine itself. The only problem is, it’s real hard to collect good
data. It costs a great deal of money, and it’s actually difficult to find representative data of
the domains that people are likely to use the translation for. So our idea was to use a
location like Money Island in Second Life, which is frequented by many, many people, to do
data collection. So those of you that have visited that island--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So this is basically crowd sourcing.
VICTORIA COLEMAN: I’m not sure what crowd sourcing is, but somehow you need to
collect data so you need to be in a place where people from different nationalities, that
speak different languages, congregate. And you also need to give them a motivation
incentive for participating in the collection. If you think about it, one way to collect data would
be to say, “Let’s tape conversations over a cell phone.” That would actually collect very
valuable data, but it’s also data that most people would feel very reluctant to share with a
third party because it’s private information for the most part.
The nice thing about Second Life and this Money Island idea was that people were there in
public, they were exchanging information in public, and, because they are from different
nationalities, you could capture data for many, many different language players. And that
notion was that you could reward people pretty much the same way as all the other vendors
on Money Island there, which was, you fill in a survey, you’re going to get some Linden
dollars to go and spend whichever way you want later on. Our idea was to create a
multiple-language collection point on a frequented spot like Money Island to do data
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. And, yes, crowd sourcing is pretty much, I think, what you
are describing, which is getting a big crowd of people to each do a little bit of work to help
with the task, which would be overwhelming for any small group.
VICTORIA COLEMAN: Right. Right.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So this is still ongoing, on Money Island, this translation data
VICTORIA COLEMAN: We actually never managed to get it off the ground because our
internal direction changed. But it was definitely something that we would have pursued if we
stayed the course with the speech translation project.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. And the other one that you mentioned was testing real
robots as virtual robots first. That’s sounds like sort of using Virtual Worlds for prototyping?
VICTORIA COLEMAN: That’s right. We have a researcher, in our group, who actually came
from Media Lab, and, while he was there, he was very interested in mediation between
people and devices. So he produced a little prototype of a robotic pet that could be used to
communicate with a user. It would communicate telephone kind of intention and messages
with a user in appropriate ways. So if it was something urgent, for example, that you should
be interrupted with, it would move its face or its limbs in different ways. So when we started
looking again at this idea, which is very compelling, from a CE perspective, we started
planning out our work. When you’re going to build something like this, there’s a lot of work
that goes into the AI agent that actually powers up the device, and then you have to do a lot
of work to create the embodiment on the mechatronic.
And the mechatronic is really a means to an end. For us, building it wouldn’t teach us
anything we didn’t already know. It was just six months’ work that we had to do before we
could actually test out our artificial intelligence agent. We felt that it would be much more
efficient to skip this first part of building the mechatronic and, instead, create another
[power?] of the mechatronic in a Virtual World and then embody the AI behaviors in that and
experiment with it before we actually go out and build a real mechatronic, which, of course,
at the end of the day we would do, if we wanted to sell product to somebody.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Fascinating. Is that an active project now?
VICTORIA COLEMAN: Yes. It’s been ongoing for a while, and it’s an active project.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You’ve also been using Second Life internally to collaborate with
your partners in Korea. Is that right?
VICTORIA COLEMAN: That’s right. We actually have a private island that we have been
using to communicate with our colleagues in Korea. I guess it was kind of interesting that we
even went down that path because, typically in a large corporation like ours, people would
just use teleconference, typically, to cross over the Pacific Ocean, in our case. However, in
our company, this just doesn’t work so well because most of our people in Korea actually
have very, very poor command of English. So, for the most part, they’re not comfortable
participating in phone conversations. They feel inhibited and quite embarrassed by the
quality of their English so that is a big problem because we have very little--what’s the
word--unplanned interactions, serendipitous interactions with these people.
We kind of gave up on using the phone, and then when we created our island, actually they
suggested that we should hold our meetings in Second Life. We kind of cautiously agreed
with them and started along the path, and it was quite interesting that the same Korean
people, that were really reluctant to get on the phone and were very shy and wouldn’t say
anything, would show up in the Virtual World environment, decked out in completely
fantastic outfits. They would be very sociable, very talkative. It was really like talking to a
completely different set of people. So the fact that Second Life created this medium that let
them connect with us, but in a way that amplified their skills versus make the lack of English
into the central point, all of a sudden became a truly empowering experience for them.
Those of you that know Korea and Korean business, you’ll know that our executives always
wear suits. The dress code is very conservative and then even amongst engineers. Well,
you’d be surprised to see the people in our Second Life island, one of them would show up
dressed up as a bride. For us, this was truly remarkable, but it surely did, to the extent to
which they found the medium liberating.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: What I find interesting about that is, I think, in the United States,
and I’d say particularly in academia, dress codes are more casual. On the other hand, there
is a view that it’s very important to dress in business appropriate clothing and be rather staid
and stodgy if you’re going to use a medium like Second Life or another Virtual World so that
you don’t get what I think of as the game taint. It just seems like there’s a little too much
silliness in Virtual Worlds for American taste. You would think that would be so much worse
with Koreans, but it’s interesting to see it actually goes the other way; they felt much freer to
open up and collaborate with you.
VICTORIA COLEMAN: I was just going to say very quickly that I think that has something
to do with the success of other Virtual Worlds in Korea before Second Life came along. As
you may know Cyworld has been extremely successful in Korea. I don’t know the
percentages, but something like two-thirds of the population in Korea have Cyworld avatars.
The graphics aren’t nearly as realistic looking as those in Second Life so people have cute
little big-head avatars that represent them. I think that the way that they get represented
doesn’t phase them nearly as much as it phases us. I noticed earlier on I had a shoe
missing, and people were freaking out because my shoe was missing. I don’t think that
would have bothered my Korean colleagues.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: No, they would have assumed it was intentional because they
would have assumed you knew exactly where the shoe was in your inventory.
VICTORIA COLEMAN: Right.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So I’d like to move on. Since we did get a late start, I’d like to
move ahead a bit. As you mentioned, Samsung is very interested in mobile devices, and, as
part of your work with the Virtual Worlds Roadmap, you actually have a video of what seems
like a fascinating project where you have a mobile device and you point it around at the Real
World around you, and what you see is a Virtual World, little bits of it and different bits of it,
as you move the camera around. So I’d like to ask our friends at SLCN to start up that video
so that people can get a sense of what this is. Victoria, if you could just tell us about this
project, that would be great.
VICTORIA COLEMAN: Okay. We started this project maybe about six months ago. Again,
the overall direction that we have been pursuing is trying to figure out what the second wave
of the internet really means for our company and how can we make the experience of the
content of that pleasurable to the people that own our devices. If you kind of look at that,
what does it take for somebody to have an immersive experience? Well, probably a big
monitor and probably multiple monitors and so on. It just didn’t look like the kind of thing that
you could easily do on a mobile device. I believe that the ability to follow a person around
in-world, as well as in the Real World, is critical for the success of the medium.
My team was scratching its head, and then they came up with this idea of actually using the
smallness, if you like, of the device as an advantage versus a disadvantage when it comes
to immersiveness. And this was really the genesis of this project. We internally call it the
miVON project. And the notion is that the device makes good use of its sensors and its
actuators and really becomes a window into the virtual world.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’m watching the video now. Every time I see it, it really is
compelling. We have a question from Tammy Nowotny, who says, “Nice. Does it run SL?”
Now my understanding is, this is not actually even a prototype; this is just sort of a
simulation of what it would be like. Do I have that right?
VICTORIA COLEMAN: That’s right. This is a proof of concept. We are building this
immersive capability both in the multiple live-screen environment as well as the mobile
onomatic environment, and it will continue to change as the capabilities of those devices
change. For example, we’re not far off from seeing foldable displays become commonplace.
So as we continue trying to find ways of, again, making the experience of this 3D content
more pleasurable, we will continue trying to find different ways of exploring the various
media that we’ll have at our disposal to improve that experience.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: When we spoke last week, to prepare for this session, you used
the term “natural interfaces” and “natural enjoyment” several times. Can you talk about what
you mean by that and how that fits into your projects?
VICTORIA COLEMAN: Sure. I’m a late arrival, as you can tell, to Virtual Worlds so I use the
up arrows and the cursor not very effectively so if you saw my avatar walking about, I’ll be
bumping into all sorts of things and stumping over tables. I kind of find that embarrassing. I
think the younger generation don’t have this problem. My 14-year-old spends a lot of time,
invests a lot of time on World of Warcraft. I think he was born with up arrows on his fingers.
It’s not like that for me, and the truth is that, as we want to push the medium out to the wider
community, many people also could find this way of interacting with a 3D world through a
mouse not really satisfying. So our effort really has been to try and find a way of creating
more of a feeling of immersiveness by, again, leveraging the various sensors that these
As you know, virtually every phone in the world now has a camera. One of the things that
we’ve been experimenting with, and like you saw on our video, is reaching in to the Virtual
World and perhaps even manipulating objects or shaking hands with an avatar. And we can
do that because the camera can tell us what object it is that it sees at that given time.
Things like moving your head and getting the appropriate perspective, the appropriate point
of view in the Virtual World is also something that we’re very interested in working on.
I really believe that, until we get this interaction to be natural so that people don’t have to
think twice or grow up arrow keys on their fingers, it will not be as compelling or as
successful a technology as I think it can be.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’m afraid we’re already out of time. We got a late start, and I
know you have to get back to your colleagues at Berkeley. Really, thank you so much for
sharing Samsung’s efforts with us, and naturally what they’re doing in Second Life is
interesting to our Second Life audience. I think the mobile technology looks like an
absolutely fascinating direction to go.
One last question. We actually met very briefly last year at the Interoperability Conference,
the one-day conference in San Jose, before the Virtual Worlds Expo. I’m wondering if you
could give us just a quick update on where you see interoperability going.
VICTORIA COLEMAN: Thank you for asking that question, and I will try to be brief. I know
that time is running out, but I think it’s a terribly important question. I think our industry has
been really hampered by a lack of common vision and common direction. And the
Interoperability forum was really a first step, a first attempt to try and pull everybody
together, to share a common vision. I think, in many ways, we did good work, but I think
probably underestimated how hard or how complex this issue was going to be. Over the last
seven or eight months, a group of us, as you know, Intel, Samsung, Electric Sheep
Company, Digital Space and also NGI Group got together and tried to truly understand the
scope of what we were trying to achieve. Really, it’s all about trying to build compelling
applications for people, applications that would bring people into the medium.
And, of course, we’re not always able to build those applications because we lack common
technology such as interoperability. But, as it turns out, interoperability is just one of those
missing technologies. Mobility, for example, is another one. Ubiquity is yet another one.
Scalability is yet another one. The amount of AI that exists in avatars in the Virtual World is
yet another one. So our work in the Roadmap is about trying to identify compelling
applications that could service an industry and work backward from those to see what
requirements we need to articulate in terms of these core challenges that I just talked about.
For example, if your application domain stays in the health care sector, what kinds of things
are important? Is it ubiquity? Is it interoperability? Is it scalability? Is it immersiveness? What
is it that you need in order to make it a compelling application? And our hope is, by
aggregating all these requirements, we can create an industry roadmap so that we can
encourage companies and the ecosystem to work on those hard problems and thus
accelerate the time that we would get solutions. This approach is very well used and tried in
other sectors. When I was at Intel, for example, we worked very diligently on the ITRS
roadmap that charts out semiconductors for the next five years. And everybody in the
industry works together to create it, and then everybody works really hard to make sure that
we stay on track.
So our effort in the Virtual World case is along the same lines. Now, as you know, we’ve had
a number of [introductory?] events. We had a workshop, in October, in San Jose. We’re now
in the process of establishing working groups that will take these compelling applications
and they will go build out the roadmaps for them. We are currently planning our next couple
of events. One of them will be on February 5th, in Menlo Park, in California. And there will
be another one in the mid-spring, in London. As your audience probably appreciates, there
is a very active community in Europe, that also shares our vision for the roadmap, and they
will be participating by creating perhaps a local group that can tackle one of the application
areas that we talked about. So that’s a very quick kind of overview of where the roadmap is
at. We do have a website: www.virtualworldsroadmap.org so anybody who’s interested,
please come along, look at the materials, and join us at the workshops that are coming
down the pike, to help us build out the industry.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great! Well, I appreciate the plug. And we had
Sibley Verbeck yesterday also making a similar call to help work on the Virtual Worlds
Roadmap and the various challenges the industry faces. So, Victoria Coleman, thank you so
much for taking some time out of your day from Samsung and UC Berkeley to talk with us
VICTORIA COLEMAN: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I would just very briefly now like to connect some dots, and I
know we’re going over, but I will try to be very fast here. One of the pleasures of running live
virtual events like Metanomics is that we get immediate feedback through text chat,
backchat, on how we’re doing in our shows. But we also get more traditional feedback after
the show. Last week’s show in particular we got quite a bit of feedback.
First, we got one email from a viewer expressing disappointment with our segment featuring
Nonny de la Peña’s Gone Gitmo installation in Second Life. This viewer was unhappy with
the fact that we’re focusing on Real World politics rather than economics. I’d like to just take
a moment to respond to this comment. Quite simply, I’m interested in people who take
Virtual Worlds seriously. People who are developing Virtual Worlds or developing
businesses within Virtual Worlds are obviously a key focus of the show, as are those who
are working on underlying technologies and developing policies for governing such Worlds.
Nonny de la Peña is a documentary filmmaker. You may not agree with her politics, but she
is taking Virtual Worlds seriously enough to develop some compelling installations in
Second Life. Similarly, today’s guest Paulo Casaca is taking Virtual Worlds seriously
enough to stream tomorrow’s book discussion from the European Parliament into Second
Life. As long as people are using Virtual Worlds for serious political activities, Metanomics
will be interested in covering it.
I also received feedback from another viewer, who criticized my softball questions--his
term--to our main guest Sibley Verbeck, CEO of Electric Sheep Company. In this viewer’s
eyes, Electric Sheep failed its investors, its clients, and Second Life residence with a poorly
designed and executed strategy marketing products in Second Life. The viewer believes I
should have called Sibley on that more aggressively. Some of you already know, but many
of you probably do not, that Metanomics began as a guest speaker series for students. I
think the nature of my questioning reflects that. An investigative journalist or a talk radio host
might well take a forum like this as an opportunity to make their own points about the
shortcomings of the interviewee. But that’s not how we treat guest speakers in academia.
Instead, the goal of the hour is to give the guest speaker the opportunity to have their voice
heard. I’ll ask difficult questions when they’re called for, and I expect honest answers.
But Metanomics is not an inquisition. Non-responses can be as much as we can hope for
from some guests on some topics, and they tend to be informative in their own way. If I get
a non-response or stonewalling answer, I’ll move on to another topic that will yield more
fruitful discussion. But keep two things in mind: First, keep in mind that the interview with the
guest is just part of an entire conversation, and you’ll see lots of very frank comments in the
backchat. And our guests are free to address those, and, in many cases, they have done
exactly that. And second, keep in mind that, like any guest speaker in a class, this
discussion is just the beginning of a conversation, not the end, and I do hope that you will all
pick up on these points on your blogs and continue keeping the discussion moving.
So I apologize for a late start and late finish. Thank you all very much. Thanks to our guests
Mr. Paulo Casaca, of the European Parliament, and Ms. Victoria Coleman, of Samsung. I
look forward to seeing you all here next week for when actually Ben Duranske will be
serving as guest host, taking my spot, and we will be covering a variety of books that make
good holiday shopping for those who want their friends to know as much about Virtual
Worlds as they do. This is Rob Bloomfield signing off. And thank you so much for coming
today. Bye bye.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer