Electric Sheep, Avatars and Laguna Beach

Uncategorized Posted Mar 26, 2007 by metropolis

Probably the last place you’d expect to hear a discussion involving MTV’s “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” would be an auditorium at MIT. But, in a full house at the most recent MIT Enterprise Forum event, it was Laguna Beach, Showtime’s hit show “The L Word” and the Dave Matthews Band that kept an audience captivated late into the evening. That, and maybe the blonde-haired, pony-tailed avatar walking, talking and flying around a Second Life island.

A thirteenth-hour replacement to an already intriguing panel of experts at MITEF’s “Digital Living” event, Valerie Williamson of the Electric Sheep Company gave an abridged 10-minute presentation that made her an instant celebrity among the attendees.

The Electric Sheep Company, a service provider within 3D virtual worlds, boasts some impressive accomplishments including the Second Life Island that Valtoid Pixie, Valerie’s personal avatar, navigated during her demonstration. Pixie, as she was affectionately referred to, appeared at the Second Life location of Showtime’s “The L Word,” a place created for fans of the show to mingle, chat and even “meet” some of the show’s stars, a project designed by Electric Sheep.

According to Valerie, a Second Life meet and greet is any agent’s dream, providing fans with the opportunity to chat it up with their favorite stars while keeping screaming teenyboppers (or worse) at a safe distance.

Showtime isn’t the only media giant taking advantage of such a service. Valerie listed CBS, AOL/Time Warner and Sony/BMG Records as others that used Electric Sheep for various marketing campaigns.

At “Virtual Laguna Beach,” the home of MTV’s “Laguna Beach”, a reality show featuring the dramatic and glamorous lives of high schoolers in So Cal, Electric Sheep teamed with MTV and Makena Technologies (There.com) to successfully “virtualize” Pepsi, Cingular and Procter & Gamble.

Cingular, the official cell phone sponsor of the show, offers VOIP capability for any member of Virtual Laguna Beach using a virtual Cingular phone. While that might not seem like a jaw-dropping feature, a sixteen-year-old hanging out in Virtual Laguna Beach would so not want to be caught dead without the most stylish of phones.

With close to 400,000 members of Virtual Laguna Beach and growing, Valerie believes that Web 2.0 will soon be replaced by Web 3.0, a 3D virtual world much like that found in today’s Second Life.

It’s estimated that members of Virtual Laguna Beach spend an average of 36 minutes logged in for each visit. If sites like VLB continue to grow at such incredible rates, a “virtually” endless opportunity awaits companies like Electric Sheep. It seems it’s just a matter of time until we all have avatars flying around Second Life, mobbing our favorite celebrities while we chat on our virtual cell phones.