From Madrid to Shanghai via OpenSim

My first time in OpenSim was on May 22, 2009, when my internship program put me in contact with my new boss.

She suggested that I download Hippo so that we could meet at the company’s virtual offices and discuss my internship. I was studying in Madrid and she was in the U.S. At the time.

When I first logged into an OpenSim world, everything was new to me. I needed help to shape my virtual person and in moving around. At first, I couldn’t see what it was all for. After a couple of virtual conversations with other people, I started to realize the advantages.

My first session was basically spent getting to know OpenSim and getting used to it. To get to the company office, I would log in, and then talk in chat with the other people I would be meeting with, get the office location, and teleport in.

A meeting of the Hypergrid Entrepreneur Group, of which Pablo is a member.

A meeting of the Hypergrid Entrepreneur Group, of which Pablo is a member.

From my point of view, these virtual meetings felt very similar to real-life meetings, though a face-to-face conversation is best. It is also much more comfortable than email and more personal than a chat.

For me, the hardest thing was getting used to the tools that the OpenSim browser offers. It is not yet very intuitive. However, it is easy to get familiar with the basic functions in order to start working with it.

The thing that caused me the most problems was that people had to give me locations if I wanted to go somewhere else in OpenSim. There isn’t a good search function which I could use to find things. For example, without help, I wouldn’t have known where to get clothes to dress the virtual me – I did not want to come to a meeting virtually nude. It should be more intuitive to discover what the hypergrid has to offer.

It is important to know who is on the OpenSim platform, what kind of services they offer, where they are, and how to contact them.

For example, if I were looking for a travel agency, I would appreciate having a search function where I could enter a key word to find the location of OpenSim-based travel agencies. Or if I were looking for a job – I would like to be able to search for companies that are hiring, to teleport there, and be able to contact them.

Basically, I’m looking for something similar to Google, but covering not just websites but OpenSim grids as well.

OpenSim also lacks voice and live video communcation.They should develop voice and video conferencing for meetings, as well as an easy way to exchange documents.

It is always more comfortable talking than writing someone; you can express a lot more ideas in a faster way, if we added the video we would have a lot more personal meeting just as skype does. For example, if a company would like to hire someone, they could interview him/her with the use of video and voice to know him much better than the chat allows us.

Right now, OpenSim is a useful tool for work. But it could develop into much more. It needs to grow not only technologically, but also in reach – to involve many more companies. This would help spark the network effect, and the more companies get involved, the faster OpenSim will develop.

However, I think that OpenSim is a great networking tool, enabling people to connect with each other.

Meetings in OpenSim are quite real – and several people can meet at the same time. I believe OpenSim is more focused on business than other platforms such as SecondLife, which is more focused on a virtual lifestyle.

And having an OpenSim region is kind of like having a website, but much more real. It can offer a lot more to visitors than a website. It could also be a great step forward if there was a way to buy products in OpenSim.

There should be real firms willing to sell their products in OpenSim.

As the technology improves, I can see myself using it more and more. It depends on which way it grows,.but I would like to use it co contact companies, and to buy or sell products. But I don’t think I will use it to just kill time – that’s what Second Life was created for.

[Editor note: actually, there is a voice module for OpenSim, but we don’t have it enabled on our company region yet as it was only recently released. And it is already possible to stream video into OpenSim – even video from live meetings.]

Pablo Valcarce

Pablo Valcarce is based in the United Kingdom.

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  • Hi,

    Interesting perspective of opensim, and especially mention of the need for better search. I think Crista Lopez, who came up with the hypergrid, also made an offline google-like search engine called slbrowser, and might be able to adapt her idea. Certainly Opensim has people excited because it’s more free and open to adaptation in the long run than second life, but these interfaces are far too complex still to be used on a major level. Another improvement with the arrival of video and voice will be voice commands and video tracking so that you can do everything without having to press buttons, I think with some change like that, it will be simple enough and also probably useful enough to be used for more serious purposes.

    Ale