Virtual World Business And Development Information

Get a Second Life!

Posted by SIM on December 31, 2006

Even if it’s fake
December 29, 2006

(Furniture/Today Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) High Point When I joined Furniture/Today in 1992, one of my first assignments was a big virtual reality project that included furniture prototypes in its three-dimensional, navigable renderings. Using a helmet, glasses and receptors, you could move through the virtual spaces, seeing actual-size furniture and interiors. And everything could be changed at will.

My editor at the time, Lester Craft, deemed the VR project worthy of page 1 coverage, with several pages inside. Now, in late 2007, the VR technology we wrote about 15 years ago is hitting desktops and laptops, and millions are logging on.

Testing on the cheap. If you haven’t heard of the virtual world Second Life, you will. Companies such as Vera Wang, Sony, Intel, Audi and Nissan are using virtual worlds online to test and prototype products, ad slogans and branding techniques, all at a fraction of the cost of product development and consumer research in the physical world.

Advertising agency Leo Burnett uses Second Life to encourage collaboration among its 2,400 creative staffers around the world, without requiring them to travel.

To introduce product in Second Life, you don’t even need CAD software. Photoshop is sufficient (in the right hands) to create furniture and place it into the virtual shops and homes of this fast-growing simulated world, which skyrocketed from 105,000 to 1.4 million users in less than a year.

Second Life “residents,” or players, spend huge amounts of time “living” online, buying and selling things, traveling, building homes and even running businesses, all by navigating their computer-generated identities, or avatars. Even avatars need a place to sit down and kick back. In other words, they need furniture.

Several virtual furniture makers and sellers already have set up shop on Second Life, which has a New Age, postmodern feel, including a company called Loveland Designs and several Japanese and Asian-style furniture shops. What these entrepreneurs are doing could be interpreted as prototyping furniture designs, and they’re doing it for pennies.

Here’s another example: Starwood Hotels, which owns Westin and Sheraton, is prototyping and marketing a new midpriced, loft-style hotel chain exclusively on Second Life. Starwood also set up a blog to engage potential customers and get them in on the planning of the new division,

Input on furnitureThe virtual hotel launch is giving Starwood input on, among other things, what types of interiors and furniture people gravitate towards and which ones are ignored. In one mini-market test, several different fabrics were draped over ottomans in the hotel’s bar area to see which ones Second Life “residents” liked or responded to.

The applications of this kind of prototyping should be obvious to anyone who has spent any time in furniture market showrooms.

“We’re saving money,” said Brian McGuinness, Starwood vice president, speaking to Business Week magazine. “If we find that significant numbers of people don’t like a certain feature, we don’t have to actually build it…. It’s parallel to rapid prototyping.”

The hotel’s real-world launch is scheduled for first quarter 2008.

Another real-world application is the way Leo Burnett’s employees teleconference using Second Life. Married with Skype VoIP, the virtual world provides a meeting room and the visual tools that do a pretty good job of simulating a real-world board meeting or conference.

The possibilities for furniture marketing operations that span High Point to Southeast Asia should be apparent.

Second Life applications could save people time in product development, enhance communications and eliminate some travel.

Put another way, it might give some folks time to get a first life.

Where to check things out:

Brian CarrollBlogger:

Blog Maverick:

CEOs Who Blog:



The Long Tail:

GM’s Bob Lutz:



Jonathan Schwartz:

Second Life:




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