We just got finished reading a well-researched and optimistic piece of Metaverse research by Shellie Karabell of the INSEAD Business School.
In his study, Karaball notes half a dozen reasons to be optimistic about the Metaverse over the next few years. But he also makes note of a major stumbling block to the wide adoption of virtual worlds without fully appreciating its importance:
For many curious potential users, logging in is easy. It's getting around that drives them away.
Operating Heavy Machinery
Second Life's multiple avatar movement buttons are notoriously user unfriendly, especially if the potential player has a limited time frame to learn controls. Perhaps the user procrastinated in setting up an account until two days before her business conference at IBM's virtual headquarters. Now the potential player is confronted with a control panel that resembles a Mars Rover.
Karabell notes that the confusing controls have already stalled faculty adoption of INSEAD's virtual classroom initiative:
“This is the biggest hurdle for the adoption of the virtual world,”
claims [Program Dean Miklos] Sarvary. “It takes much more effort, it takes some time before
you can really become familiar with the technology.
You need training.
The students are a little more eager to participate, but the professors
are not exactly willing to take risks
We've seen that age plays a significant role in the ease with which a consumer adopts technology, meaning the complex avatar design and movement systems of Second Life may ultimately prove too complicated for older adopters, at least in the short term. Learning the ropes of movement and character creation needn't be so complicated.
A Tale of Two Viewers
Tracy Tuten, author of Advertising 2.0, argues that Second Life must become much simpler for casual, first-time users to operate if it is to have wide-scale business potential. Fortunately, all this would require is creating a new viewer with vastly streamlined features and a more comprehensive, easier-to-understand instruction manual.
It may seem like a step backward from the perspective of tech-savvy content creators, but this hypothetical "Second Life Business Edition" would ease entry into the virtual experience by holding the hand of a confused executive until they meet a series of benchmarks, at which point the training wheels slowly detach from the game.
Companies should be able to set "permission levels" for employees using the new software, since it isn't likely every employee will need full content creation skills. At any rate, if they're interested in designing things, they can sign up for a personal account. The move towards virtual company dress codes also makes a case for limiting the clothing options of a company-funded avatar.
By creating a viewer aimed at involving a large number of new users without overwhelming their tech receptors, Second Life could open itself up to millions of new, high-profit customers.