Second Life, the well known virtual world that attracted large investments in time and money from companies like IBM, Kraft and Circuit City, announced a 30% downsizing. In addition they plan to make major changes in their interface that will make it browser based. Our enterprise built a life-like central office there for experimental purposes. I saw dozens of IBM employees building research, laboratory and meeting spaces. Witnessed the opening of a virtual supermarket being built and experienced its aisles. I interviewed a number of researchers working there.
I was particularly intrigued with some experiments underway that would allow people to experience complex data in novel 3D ways. Yet there seemed to be few useful business experiences happening and graphically impressive but empty mock ups of real spaces. The well known Second Life economy did not lend itself to consumer goods experiments. It is certainly not dead yet, but its demise may be close by.
The avatar centric 3D world has evolved remarkably since I examined it five years ago. Something like it may eventually be a new way that we interact remotely with people and machines. Its not ready for business prime time yet. Many did and do enjoy it as life-mimicking game environment. It still claims to be profitable.
There are alternatives than can be used for complex remote business interactions by people, such as Teleplace (formerly called Qwaq) that is worth examining, providing ' virtual spaces for real work ... ' ... I have posted some of my early thoughts on it here.