Second only to IBM in its innovative use of a virtual world, the Pontiac presence on Second Life is quite impressive: Its red logo is found on carpeted halls and sprawling multilevel glass buildings.
There's a dealership where you can take recent models out for a test drive, such as the Pontiac Solstice GXP. A car garage lets you customize vehicles to your liking, including the paint job and styling.
|Though there's a detailed application process, Pontiac awards experimental land for designers -- free of charge. (Click image to see larger view)|
The most interesting feature on the island is an application for Second Lifers to own land on and build whatever they want, for free -- including kart-racing tracks, jet-pack courses, skyscrapers or just about anything they can think of. It's a unique model because Pontiac pays for the land to encourage innovation.
|This public portal for IBM is well populated, but employees use private islands for client discussions. (Click image to see larger view)|
With as many as 230 employees actively involved, and almost two dozen islands (some public, some private), IBM is intent on showcasing more than just its products and services -- it has even invested $100 million in real U.S. dollars for companies to showcase their ideas.
For example, there's a Circuit City store on one island where you can "test out" camcorders and HDTV sets. IBM is currently toying with the idea of providing design services for other companies that want a Second Life presence.
What makes the IBM presence even more interesting, though, is what takes place behind closed doors. Regular "brainstorming" meetings with clients have produced interesting ideas, such as a grocer that would sell items in Second Life and have them delivered to homes, and a fuel company that would hold regular training session for employees -- which would not be open to the public.
"I think IBM is a little more serious about why it's there," says Laszlo. "They're using their space for collaboration among their various R&D staffs around the world, and experiments on UI evolution and virtual environments."
Hopefully, the ideas will all make it to the physical realm.
John Brandon is a freelance writer and book author who worked as an IT manager for 10 years.
- Perry Carpenter: The current and future state of Second Life
- Ian Lamont: Second Life: 2D bridges and fragmented worlds
- Ian Lamont: IT gets dragged kicking and screaming into Second Life
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