Friday, 21 March 2008

Telstra Experience Centre

Now, for a bit of a change - an Australian sim. While exploring far out in the Western Oceans of Second Life, I espied this sim, and grabbed the opportunity for a visit. It is actually one of a pair, the other still being closed to visitors. Although, in my view, this sim is not really ready for visitors either. But more of that anon.

The sim belongs to Telstra, Australia's principal provider of local and long distance telephone services, mobile services, dialup, wireless, DSL and cable internet. In fact, they address just about all one's antipodean telephonic needs. The company name seems to be a twiddly contraction of its original name, Telecom Australia. Its ISP, BigPond, has had a popular presence in Second Life for aboutr a year, but it seems the parent telco is now moving in, too.

This island is actually more accurately: Telstra Experience Centre. In November, 2007, Telstra announced that they would be opening such centres in the atomic world. The Centre is a place for people to try out the various products and services offered by the company and its partners, and get a glimpse of the new technologies arriving soon. Incidentally, in researching this post, I found that the Second Life site has been mentioned in the Metaverse Journal, an Australian metaverse website. They seemed okay with it. I think it is open too soon.

The sim consists of 2 large buildings. One is labelled as the Experience Centre, while the other is unnamed, but appears to be an alternative Experience Centre. The main Centre has a number of public spaces, each with its own media stream. Most of the spaces provide notecards, which give more information about the site. For example:

The Telstra Experience Centre (TEC) has been designed to provide business and government customers with hands-on experience with Telstra’s world-class technology, service and media capabilities. Customers will be able to see, touch, feel and use Telstra’s products and services. Most importantly, this centre allows customers to explore solutions using Telstra’s Next IP™ Virtual Private Network and Next G™ high-speed wireless broadband network. This Telstra Experience Centre in Second Life is designed to give visitors a taste of what to expect from the RL centre. It also allows us to experiment with the use of Second Life for RL collaboration and projects across business and government applications.
We are also told that the 95-seater auditorium "will provide a world-class briefing and presentation venue for key Telstra and partner events. The presentation experience will have state-of-the-art audio visual technologies, and includes Telstra’s DVN (Digital Video Network) capability allowing Television crews to broadcast directly from the centre to their TV networks."

While a lot of work has been done on the main Centre, it feels far from complete. For reasons I don't follow, there are corridors full of closed, locked doors - which hardly gives an open, friendly impression. The ground floor is inaccessible, and the second floor non-existent. Meanwhile. the other building has no information and seems part-built (nice "shiny" floors though!). Oh... and no freebies as far as I could tell.

In short, it seems like the island is not really ready for use. But as they've chosen to open, I thought I'd have my say. And now for the piccies...

See what I mean about the corridors?


Lowell Cremorne said...

Hi Aleister,

Congrats on the continuing great work on the site btw. I agree totally with your assessment of the Telstra site - the corridors even messed around badly with my camera view etc.

As far as the public goes, my guess is Telstra see that build as very much a prototype, hence no real promotion of it aside from it appearing in search results.

Aleister Kronos said...

Hi Lowell

Actually that reminds me of another "oddity" - the height of the doors made it feel that I had to limbo-dance to get thru them --- and Al is not a particularly tall avatar.

I think the island should probably be open only to internal Telstra groups - not to the wider SL audience - while they sort out how they want to finish it. And, indeed, decide on which of the buildings they want to use.

LeonieV said...

Hi Aleister,
Thanks for your piece on the Telstra Experience Centre. Lowell Cremorne's comment is 100% correct - this is a prototype intended mostly for internal Telstra use, but based on the existing real world Telstra Experience Centre in Sydney.

My team figured Second Life was the perfect place to trial building our new Telstra Executive Briefing Centres. We figured it would be pretty cool to take a 2D plan at the concept stage, create 3D version in Second Life and then use that environment for 2 purposes:

1. to test out the environment, eg, size of rooms, furniture, finishes, LCD placement etc

2. for stakeholder engagement, a place where we could take project stakeholders so they could experience the proposed centre before it gets built.

A novel approach for us on both dimensions which has worked really well in terms of designing a better customer experience for the real world. The second centre is not yet open to the public as we have yet to finalise the design.

Aleister Kronos said...

Hi Leonie

Thanks for the information, and an interesting use for the SL environment. While personally pleased to see the site open to the public, I would normally expect such "internal prototypes" to be kept private, and restricted to 1 or 2 groups - eg: builders and stakeholders.

Another point I would make is regarding scale. I'm not sure what scale you've used, but it felt like 1:1. A few architect friends (while they debate about it!) reckon that the oddities of the SL environment mean that a modelled building should really be scaled up - perhaps as much as 50% more. In part, this is due to the higher-than-average height of avatars, but this is only part of the story. I'd need an expert to provide the full explanation! But it is true that a building scaled at, say, 1.4times actual size feels "right" in SL.

LeonieV said...

Thanks for the tip on scale Aleister. I'll pass this on to our SL developer.

See this is what I call "collaborative innovation in action", if we'd locked the doors on the SL Telstra Experience Centre, then I wouldn't have got your fantastic tip!

Aleister Kronos said...

Hehe... fair point, well made. :-)