Wimbledon in Second Life

Wimbledon is one of the world’s best known tennis tournaments and once again it’s going to be in Second Life on the heels of the Australian Open presence earlier this year.

Closely involved with the project is Ian Hughes, a Meteverse Evangelist with IBM. I asked him to throw some light on the goals of the Wimbledon build this year:

“Amongst other things we have about 180 people onsite working to help the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) deal with the massive event, from collecting scores and stats and moving that data around to the TV people, to ticketing and wireless networking for press. The website is somewhere we provide point by point live scoring in seconds and sometimes quicker to the world.

In 2006 I did a proof of concept privately to show that we were able to bring much of the web data into Second Life and render it in various ways allowing people to consume and enjoy the content together, also to provide the ability to get involved through being able to talk to people working the event and leave wearing free tshirts. In 2007 we made this a more public and approved build. I manned the build for 12 hours a day for 2 weeks. The centrepiece was bringing the Hawkeye ball tracking data into a prim based court, playing near-live rallies in real time.

The build on IBM 7 was deliberately small and intimate, as we have exmaples of large stadiums as was done for the Australian Open. So to compare and contrast was important. Also, this build was placed in the heart of the main IBM 12 islands, to be just part of our virtual world presence and make it easier to take people to other nearby IBM builds such as the SOA (service orientated architecture) one. In fact, you can point to them from Wimbledon and show people the neighbours.

We also found that people came to hear what IBM does for Wimbledon and so built a ‘behind the scenes’ tour. We kept it fairly low key events-wise though got lots of press and blog attention which kept me busy talking to 200 people a day. This year we are reusing much of the build, but renovating part of it. We are looking to put a few more entertaining mini games in place, remodelling the shop, providing some more takeaway products. We are not really planning on doing the ball tracking, simply because we want to focus on the web page integration in Second Life this year and we have proved the principle works.

In order to take that live representation further we would need to start to represent the the real player images, something that may get us into image rights. The new web page elements in SL mean we can provide complete score pages live and in realtime as we do to the web, but be able to see them all together as a group. The experiment is to see how that dynamic works with an event. We can place a browser on a prim surface and remove the need to remake everything (even text) in 3D. Showing how it is possible to re-use much of the web, but benefit from shared browsing and communication between avatars is a key driver. Having a live dynamic website with constantly changing information will help us evaluate the best way to approach this on other projects. In particular, the dynamic of what happens in a virtual world that is integrated with a company intranet and a company’s business, not just a place to escape to.

As I have said, this is still an experiment that we are lucky enough to be able to partake of. I know I learned a great deal in the marathon staffing of this last year. Having been free and roaming across Second Life, visiting events, running workshops, building, scripting etc it was a very different feel to be locked into one place and enthuse about it and what it represents for so much of the day. Unlike in RL where we have bursts of visitors, SL visits happen all the time. Likewise seeing the wax and wane of the green dot effect was intriguing. Also, the support from my fellow eightbars from IBM, where many of them chose to also come along and help out through the tournament. Building, hosting, just passing the time of day. All these are things that are often lost in other electronic communication.”

Check it out in-world.