Virtual World Concepts for CPG: Challenges!

By Vincent

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In the first installment of this series, we talked about how CPG companies might apply the first-person POV popularized in MMORPGs like World of Warcraft to achieve a more lifelike experience with consumers in virtual store environments.  In the second installment we explored how CPG companies are leveraging Second Life – a multi-user virtual environment (“MUVE”) – to enhance both their consumer-facing activities and their internal operations.  Today we’ll discuss some of the practical challenges of using virtual world technologies in CPG operations.

Part 3—Challenges to Using Virtual World Technologies in CPG

There are technical challenges to using virtual world technologies in a business setting.  Environments like Second Life are hardware-intensive; to operate effectively they require an amount of CPU, RAM, graphics acceleration, and bandwidth that many corporate end user machines simply don’t possess today.  But history has proven that market forces push the evolution of such technologies at such a rapid pace these technical challenges will be a non-factor in the near future.

What I find more interesting are the socio-psychological challenges of using these technologies in daily CPG operations, specifically in the realm of virtual product design teams.  These challenges cannot be mitigated as easily as simply providing machines with more horsepower.  How do we recreate the social dynamics experienced by design teams accustomed to working face-to-face in a virtual environment?  Is it even optimal to do so?

How do we foster trust, participation, and creativity in virtual teams?

There is a wealth of excellent research available on this topic.  Many researchers reference Social Presence Theory and Media Richness Theory to argue that the closer we get to replicating the experience of face-to-face interaction (i.e. the “richer” the medium), the better the technology is at conveying social presence, and therefore the more effective the communication will be between collaborators.

But others have challenged this theory.  In their research Effects of Communication Medium on Interpersonal Perceptions, Connell, Mendelsohn, Robins and Canny suggest that a

“moderate level of richness and presence… makes for a medium that inspires less inhibition of expression than either of its more fully rich or lean counterparts. The results suggest that moderate presence of others allows one to relax just enough to feel comfortable and less inhibited, and moderate richness allows enough, but not too many, expressive cues to still manage impressions.”

In developing their Embodied Social Presence Theory, Dr. Brian Mennecke et al. (www.vrac.iastate.edu) extended Social Presence Theory to investigate how the “physical” body of an avatar adds to the richness of communication by heightening the sense of engagement between virtual actors.

“It is the perceptions of the interaction mediated through the body that gives the user a sense of engagement that is more involving than would be the case in other media. Key to this interactive potential are the shared contexts, shared spaces, shared objects, shared activities, and the tools for interaction that exist within the milieu of artifacts that define the shared virtual experience.”

Check out this excerpt from PBS’ Frontline presentation “Digital Nation” that shows how IBM is leveraging embodiment in Second Life to facilitate internal meetings.

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I am working with Dr. Mennecke to identify industry partners for field research on Embodied Social Presence Theory; if you are interested in participating please contact me directly.

Virtually,

Vincent

PLM Protects Your Life

By Michael

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Products which intimately impact the human body and could be harmful are prone to a myriad of quality assurance regulations put forth by law.

This is the case for the medical domain with its pharmaceutical drugs and devices, the food industry and also cosmetics. The concern of regulations is to assure proper formulation and quality, to protect us from unwanted or accidental effects – ranging from causing irritations to seriously affecting health or even threatening life.

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In most cases the consumer has no means to assess if a product is good or potentially harmful from looking at it on the outside. We should be aware that this applies to almost everything we eat … or use in bathroom. What can we do? As a member of our highly developed civilization we must boldly trust that someone else has done adequate testing and taken precautions “before we take a bite of it”.

asian_food_200 Governmental agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, one of the network of regulation authorities in the US, with their scientific experts and research machinery attempt to take care of this challenge by putting forward constructs of rules and regulations, for the manufacturers of such critical products.

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To comply those manufacturers ought to have operational processes that set them apart from other manufacturing companies. And regulations apply to different stages of the product life cycle: production, packaging, storing and shipping. They also determine the product’s usage and limits of use.

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With the large variety of existing products we have an evenly large variety of regulatory instructions which apply. PLM is there to help manufacturers governing those complex patterns, to comply with regulations in a manageable and transparent way.

Dassault Systèmes Alliance Partner Integware Inc. is specializing to help manufacturing companies using PLM to guide them through the maze of regulations. With all their know-how in life science and consumer package goods industries Integware provides customizable solution modules.  These modules are based on ENOVIA PLM as part of Dassault Systèmes industry solutions, which are put to work for individual customers and their usage.

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Using a PLM regulatory compliance solution fully endorses the spirit of Total Quality Management . Quality system processes embedded in the PLM system guide users to follow the rules and comply with regulations. Implementation of corrective and preventive action is enforced. Changes - and their effect on compliance – can be managed efficiently and effectively, thus lowering the risk for human error, non-compliance and failure.

In a nutshell, PLM systems give manufacturers the power to govern their products’ entire impact on humans and nature. Industry-specific know-how of companies like Integware is essential to leverage the maximum of value for all.

This concludes today’s view on 3D PLM applications and the many contributions brought by  Dassault Systèmes’ Solution Partners.

Although there was not much of 3D today – nevertheless I hope I was able to provide an interesting view on this important topic.

Best,
Michael

Aircruise Design Innovation Muse

By Kate

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When I watched the Aircruise concept video, I got all musical.  Van Morrison’s “Moondance” came to mind, as well as “Up Up and Away

You see Aircruise is not a hot air balloon, nor a cruise ship, nor hotel.  It’s kind of a combination of all.  An air-floating vessel for folks who like the luxury of slow.

Nick TalbotHoping it’ll get you musical as well, I’d like to show you the video and then share my interview with Nick Talbot, design director at Seymourpowell (the design and innovation company behind Aircruise).

Here’s what I asked Nick:

  1. I’ve read the Aircruise is a “visionary approach to the future.”  Your design certainly inspires, but how feasible would it be to build today given existing materials?  What must we invent to permit the production of Aircruise?
  2. Aircruise is designed to be powered by natural energy.  How would this work?
  3. How important was 3D software to your design concept, and at what stage did you integrate it to the process?
  4. What is the relationship between 3D, creative ideation and innovation?
  5. When can I spend the night in the Aircruise?
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Interview with Nick Talbot:

Q:  I’ve read that Aircruise is a “visionary approach to the future.”  Your design certainly inspires, but how feasible would it be to build today given existing materials?  What must we invent to permit the production of Aircruise?

Many of the materials required are already in use on airliners and increasingly on luxury yachts to minimise weight . For example carbon composites or carbon/carbon honeycomb, or aluminium honeycombs faced with the appropriate aesthetic finish.  We are also interested in exploring new forms of woven and ‘constructed’ fabrics for partitions and facades – again in pursuit of minimum weight. For the primary structure, we foresee an all composite lattice, with the gas systems integrated into the structural frame. Our underlying idea is to apply aerospace materials and assembly technologies and techniques to a vehicle at the scale of the Tour Eiffel. Probably assembled top down or hung like a ‘seed’ so the primary structure is in tension before the lifting bags are introduced.

Q:  Aircruise is designed to be powered by natural energy.  How would this work?

Flexible photovoltaic (solar panel) cells cover the upper part of the envelope, augmenting the primary power generation, in this case from fuel cells. Large surface area PEM fuel cells generate the primary power for on board systems and turn low speed compressors located in the mid section of the ship. This compressed gas is ducted to provide directional thrust and auto stabilisation. Compressed hydrogen stored in parts of the main structure provides fuel for longer ranges and by venting to the envelope or re-compressing these volumes, altitude stability is achieved.

Q:  How important was 3D software to your design concept, and at what stage did you integrate it to your process?

Generating the concept or indeed any concept is still done with brains and pencils! So the conceptual jump to a luxury hotel that floats was a thought exercise. Very rapidly however, we developed a series of layouts and configurations for the structure, accommodation floors, systems and overall volume of the lifting volume. So 3D systems rapidly help us validate early weight and lifting volume calculations, even at the most basic level.

Q:  What is the relationship between 3D, creative ideation and innovation?

For our studio the relationship is very close and entirely iterative. We establish an idea or ‘hypothesis’ and use 3D systems to validate at the first round, then re-evaluate the outcome, generate refined or modified ideas and take them back into 3D. We never commit time and resource to 3D models until we have a clear idea of the concept, however. The idea must be conceptually robust before we take it to the 3D phase. In fact, ‘old fashioned’ as it sounds we still often use simple 2D systems to establish the basic proportions and layouts before importing that for surface and volume building.

Q:  When can I spend the night in the Aircruise?

Watch this space! It is possible – in a sense that’s key the point of the project, to encourage people to think about a positive brighter future, to think about new possibilities. But of course such a project would require huge investment in R+D, new materials, structures, guidance and control systems etc. It is unlikely that an individual company or consortium could afford this undertaking on a commercial basis at present. But who knows – as land values increase or the sea levels rise, we might have to look at how and where we live in a whole new way. What’s really needed is some seed funding to undertake a proper feasibility study –not just from an engineering viewpoint, but potential market and business case. Never say never!

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Many thanks Nick for your answers and to Tim Duncan for putting us in touch!

I’d certainly like to fly in [your] beautiful balloon hotel!

What do you readers think about Aircruise?

Best,

Kate



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