Elliott Masie

2006 Second Life -> 2022 Metaverse?

Saratoga Springs, NY (USA), February 2022 - Looking Back and Forward - Learning with Augmented Reality: Elliott Masie discusses learning and the metaverse and learning from the past.

There is significant interest and experimentation in a "metaverse" format for learning activities in 2022. Facebook changed its name to Meta. Accenture and other large organizations have supplied Oculus headsets to thousands of employees, and one of the "hot" terms to flow from suppliers and systems folks is "metaverse". They imagine that meetings or national conferences would take place in the animated, augmented, and interactive worlds.

It is intriguing to explore how we might use a "metaverse" format to hopefully increase learner engagement, authenticity, and even the ability to safely simulate and fail at a task on the way to success. Watch for the news blasts with Meta in 2022.

However, what happened from 2006 to 2010 that might have been an earlier experiment? Second Life was a popular virtual world that would host environments and animated characters and stories. The MASIE Center bought a few "islands" in 2006 to create working demonstrations of how learning would flow. For example, at my 2008 conference on Learning in Orlando, we had a Second Life replica of our conference facility at Walt Disney World - along with an animated version of the NASCAR experience of changing tires rapidly.

We built a Second Life island that had working simulations for a "pre-metaverse" learning world that included

  • a CIA animated training experience to have a dinner with foreign citizens, using their food and cultural elements to train intelligence agents;
  • a McDonalds simulated grill to teach the timing of cooking hamburgers in a fast service restaurant;
  • an onboarding activity by Country Insurance for new hire orientation.

So, what did we learn, and what happened between 2008 and 2022? Elliott Masie observed

  • There was no business model to sustain Second Life: Businesses were not jumping to pay for virtual islands on a continuing basis. In fact, a good percentage of their income came from dating or "soft" sites.
  • Gaming was more visual and engaging: Users could REALLY engage deeply in the more expensive game environments like XBox. After a period of being impressed with the Second Life experience, many users wanted to match the intensity of a more visual game element.
  • Personalization wasn't easy or possible: Building islands that had higher levels of user personalizations wasn't doable, so it was much harder to keep a learner engaged over time.
  • Second Life was screen based vs. augmented or VR formats: Users watched the two dimensional screens on their PCs rather than wear an augmented or virtual reality headset to have more "wow" environment.

But let's make sure we learn from our history with early experiments and also push our design thinking to where this format can head in 2022 and beyond.

A few guidelines that are shaping how the Masie Learning COLLABORATIVE are exploring the "metaverse" experiments include

  • Be impressed but don't fall in love with the format. The format is just an evolving canvas for delivering content, collaboration, simulation, practice, and visualization.
  • Be wary of how many minutes or hours an employee will wear a wrap-around set of goggles.
  • Add personalization and data rich design models to the user experiences being designed in the emerging "metaverse".
  • Bring a diversity/inclusion approach to the creation of characters that reflects the workforce and customer base of your organization.
  • Build workflow support systems in this format to provide a "moment of need" set of resources for the learners when they are stuck or jammed.

Imagine if we can build animated persona's that reflect different profiles of colleagues or customers to run simulated experiences to prepare for a sales call or interaction.

I am cautiously excited about the "metaverse" of 2022, but we need to let ourselves be learning producers as we consider, contract for, or create a "learning metaverse" that will help our learners perform and grow. This will require us to learn from what has not worked in the past and leverage the opportunities and investments in new innovations in this "metaverse world".

I will bet that "meta" will not be the continuing phrase. I will bet that projected augmented images and see through glasses will be more potent than wrap around goggles. And I will bet that the "WOW" factors needed to engage learners will be our goal as we explore the Second Life - Metaverse - ??? evolutions.

Let's truly explore the future of learning, knowledge, and performance - with emerging, traditional, and out-of-the-box technologies. Watch the hype factor and skip the buzz; focus on evolving our content, collaboration, and performance fields.