Sunday, August 27, 2006

#7 3-D Online Reference - 2nd Life, Google Earth & Other Musings

With all of this online communcation technology it will only be a matter of time before we start seeing 3-D library reference. 2-D reference like NCKnows/Questionpoint seems like online reference on steriods to librarians now, but 3-D reference will include an avatar for both librarian and patron. More and more businesses are creating a 3-D representation of themselves on the web. One of the most dynamic examples of that is in the online game Second Life. A virtual world that is completely created by the players themselves. The game developers just supply the servers and moderate the game. Everything else is done by the players. It costs nothing to download the software for the game onto your computer and create an account with your avatar. But if you want to buy land and put a building on it you will need to upgrade to a premium account which costs $9.95 a month.

Who is creating a virtual representation of themselves in Second Life? Some examples are: CBS News, Wells Fargo, and even Harvard Law School.

The article "Your Second Life is Ready" from the September 2006 issue of Popular Science says it best, "...if I was online banking in SL, I wouldn't have to browse through several static screens of text. I could just walk into a virtual bank, stroll up to a teller, and deposit real-life money the newfangled, old-fashioned way: by talking to a person." (Newitz, p. 76) Other examples of 3-D use include: touring a college campus before you visit in person or visiting virtually your vacation destination to get the best hotel in relation to what you want to do. Clothing stores are setting up shops where you can put your actual measurements on an avatar and try on clothes before you buy.

I know that other services will probably be next. Enter what OPAL and the Alliance Library System are doing with the Second Life Library 2.0 These folks are going where the patrons are. In April 2006 they put out a call for librarians interested in participating in a project to set up a library presence in Second Life. In less than a month, more than two dozen librarians from around the world were meeting at a brand new virtual library to staff the reference desk and discuss collection development, online programming, and library services. The response has only grown, and Second Life citizens are taking advantage of all the library has offer. Our very own Kelly C from ImaginOn is heading up the Virtual Teen Library : Second Life. Go Kelly! The nice thing about Second Life is that it will allow librarians to iron out the kinks of offering this sort of service and troubleshoot problems in a controlled environment.

Not to be outdone, enter Google Earth. This is a 3-D representation of planet Earth taken from satellite photos. Google also released recently a popular 3-D modeling program called SketchUp. Google developers are encouraging folks to use SketchUp to create 3-D layers on top of Google Earth.

In the article, Future Boy: Google moves into virtual worlds Chris Taylor from CNN/ says, "The result could be that we'll soon populate a virtual version of planet Earth instead of the made-from-scratch metaverses like online games or Second Life. The main element Google Earth is missing today is avatars, but at least one observer believes those to be added soon."

A virtual earth..hmmm....something to ponder. Online reference in your PJ's?


HeleneB said...

Wow- Great post. So much to think about. Thanks, H

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