Sunday, 9 December 2007

One Million Linden Dollars at Osram

Do you fancy yourself something of a conceptual designer, a truly innovative talent in the manipulation and use of light, able to counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor, while maintaining a post-post-pre-modernist stance on post-modernism? Then you might just be interested in an opportunity to pocket 1 million Linden smackeroos.

Osram, the lighting company, have just kicked off a competition looking for ideas connected with the world of light. The best idea gets the prize and will be made into a real world solution. "We believe that Second Life holds a huge international potential for creativity," says Juliane Braun, Head of Corporate Communications, explaining the rationale behind the competition. "We would like to pick up on this and find out how ideas are developed in a virtual world." You can read the whole press release here.

Be warned though... this is not a quick win. The process will take several months to complete. Here is the relevant info from the press release:

Anyone can apply by submitting a preliminary sketch of the idea for the qualifying round. From the start of the competition on 6 December 2007, the Second Life residents will have four weeks' time to enter. A total of 250 of the entries will be selected - and then the next round will begin in five groups of fifty competitors. The ideas will be refined and elaborated with supervision and presentation by OSRAM specialists. The winner and runner-up in each group will progress into the next round. And: each group winner will receive 75,000 Linden dollars and each group runner-up 25,000 Linden dollars.

The ten finalists will then undergo more scrutiny and their ideas will be further developed with light professionals from OSRAM. The winner or the winning team of the One Million (Linden) Dollar Idea competition will be announced after five months. The most original ideas will be presented again and displayed to the community at a big final party.
So it will be quite an undertaking. I assume that in the Ts&Cs the team will surrender any IPR - but the prize is tempting, and having access to skilled professionals is an interesting (and positive) twist.

Osram itself is a global company, headquartered in Munich and employing around 40,000 worldwide, with 49 factories located in 18 different countries. Although the company is over 100 years old, and is based in the conservative state of Bavaria, it has a long tradition of research, with around 5% of sales spent in R&D. This competition fits very will with their approach to innovation.

Their presence in Second Life spans 4 sims - 2 full sims and 2 low-prim "water" sims. I am not sure when they came in, but I think it was in the Autumn. Their first main activity was a recreation of Munich's famous Oktoberfest, with a large fun fair and other attractions - and some suitably traditional garb as freebies, including the "serving wench" dirndl. The fest occupies most of 1 sim and will run for 20 weeks, according to this press release. The other full sim features the Million Dollar Idea competition along with a Christmas-y theme. There is a large advent calendar that delivers a new giftie every day (yesterday's was a 4-wheeled vehicle apparently). An auditorium and meeting rooms, together with extensive information about the company and the competition, occupy a large blue building. This is modelled on Osram's DOT-it, the "anywhere light", that features 3 LED bulbs in a colourful circular shell. There is also an outdoor dance area.

Although I had limited time, I did manage to take a few photos:

While I was there I saw 2 distinct groups of visitors, each group being around 10 strong. I plan to go back to explore a bit more, but I am encouraged that the site is getting traffic. I found it by accident, having not read of its existence before. I like the tone they are setting here, the approach seems sound too. I would question the duration of the competition, which does seem to go on for an eternity in SL terms. But if it works, then it could form the foundation for an interesting innovation community.

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