White Paper Available: Leveraging the Power of Virtual Worlds for Collaboration

New York, NY March 24, 2011 – Fashion Research Institute Publishes Latest Thought Piece: Leveraging the Power of Virtual Worlds for Collaboration by CEO Shenlei Winkler.

Fashion Research Institute CEO, Shenlei Winkler, announces that FRI’s latest publication, Leveraging the Power of Virtual Worlds for Collaboration, has been published.

Based on a presentation initially made in January 2008 to IBM Research North America, this whitepaper incorporates case studies drawn from FRI’s well-publicized collaborations in business, education and fashion, and focuses on some additional use cases.

Leveraging the Power of Virtual Worlds for Collaboration may be downloaded from the Fashion Research Institute web site.

About Fashion Research Institute, Inc.: The Fashion Research Institute is at the forefront of developing innovative design & merchandising solutions for the apparel industry.  They research and develop products and systems for the fashion industry that sweepingly address wasteful business and production practices. Shenlei Winkler’s work spans both couture and mass-market design and development for the real life apparel industry. A successful designer, her lifetime sales of her real life apparel designs have now reached more than $70 million USD, with more than 25 million-dollar styles in her portfolio. Her couture work has appeared extensively on stage and movie screen.

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Fashion Through a New Lens: Avatars and Apparel

Those of us who work day-to-day in apparel often forget what ‘fashion’ is like for people not in the industry.  We forget, if we ever knew, that industry outsiders may not understand that there are always very real drivers and impetus to how fashion happens.  We look back as much as we look forward, and we analyze fashion trends and fashion disasters.  A critical difference, however, is fashion designers speak a language with vocabulary composed of color, shape, style, and form. Our stylistic judgments are made, and we begin talking about what we think will be ‘important’.  Others in the industry ‘get it’.  We don’t have to say much more than we ‘believe in it’ and we ‘think it is important’ and discussions then become very tactical to get the idea developed into a product.

Using that language to outsiders is akin to American tourists traveling in a non-English-speaking country.  We speak louder in the hopes that our audience will understand what we’re trying to say.  Sometimes, through a common hook, we’re able to communicate. But usually the experience is a handful of apparel industry personnel discussing whatever new concept excites them while the industry outsider tries to keep up by tossing in bits of wisdom they gleaned at Style.com or one of the other fashion web sites.

Attending the Japan Fashion Now exhibit at the FIT Museum had additional interest to us beyond being exposed to the latest in fashion development out of Japan. We were joined on this expedition by one of our colleagues at IBM, Aimee Sousa, who likes aspects of fashion (in particular boots), but she isn’t steeped in Fashion. And it was very interesting to us to watch Aimee’s first experience at an event that was very focused at apparel industry practitioners.

With the exception of the guests, the invitees were industry personnel and FIT alumni.  The presenter was Valerie Steele, a world-renowned fashion historian and thought leader in her space.  The language was our language, and Ms. Steele was presenting to us in our mutually-understood language.  It would not have been unlikely that the conversation that evening would have been not accessible to an industry outsider, and that she might have been less than captivated by the experience.

Instead, we had an opportunity to watch as the magic, romance, and passion of our industry, our product, our drive, was distilled and communicated in such a way as to captivate our colleague.  As we rewound the exhibit later that evening at a cocktail function, it was deeply satisfying and interesting to learn how after years of buying off-the-rack, our colleague suddenly ‘got’ that fashion has reasons for design and that we designers do not create in a void.  Rather, we are looking backwards at the past, while predicting the future, and living in the present.  Some of our best resources are still museums and old fashion periodicals, and our best guides are fashion historians and other designers, but at the same time we have also learned to use the many new digital resources available to us.

Watching Aimee’s induction into our language was a curious experience. She is still not immersed in the flow of our world, but she understands better now why we say brown is important, or we believe in cheetah (or denim, or silver, or whatever).

The experience also brought home to me again how tribal our fashion choices are, and how we choose to adorn our bodies is critical to reflecting our beliefs, our alignments, even in some cases our emotional state.  A critical question asked of me prior to the event was ‘what shall I wear?’  Naturally, the answer was ‘black’.  But that answer this set off a whole additional round of questioning: should I wear a dress, what about shoes, what sort of accessories?  My guest wanted desperately to align with our mores, to appear as an outsider at this very insider event.  She choose to do this by the clothing she selected to wear to the event, just like she chooses to align her avatar in virtual worlds with the different communities she belongs to.

There has been a rise of interest lately by corporations and educational organizations in providing attractive avatars for their virtual world projects.  this is not really a surprise to us in the Fashion Research Institute.  We have, after all, been researching the process of immersion and how people adapt their digital avatar representation with new ‘tribes’ or communities in digital spaces.  Moreover, as we were reminded recently at our fashion event at FIT in New York City, people’s desire to align with communities is a transcendent force.

Just like in the physical world where my colleague was flustered until we sorted out the o-so-important question of ‘proper dress’, so too in virtual worlds are people unable to focus on actual work and deeply immerse until they create a visual representation of themselves which they regard as acceptable.  Admittance to a group whether in the physical world or the digital realm is as close as adorning your avatar with the right clothing and accessories.

Acceptance, of course, requires rather more time for other community members to learn about who the person is.

But that initial tentative acceptance is lubricated by the strong visual cues created by the choices an avatar owner makes in dressing and customizing their avatar.  We saw this over and over again when we operated our official Linden Lab® Community Gateway region in Second Life®. After orienting and observing more than 65,000 new users of Second Life, we have good data on how to get new users quickly oriented to these new tools, and  how they learn to immerse.

Needless to say, we were so delighted to be joined by our colleague at the Japan Fashion Now exhibit.  Not only was the fashion fashionable and the company wonderful, but we were pleased to have a learning moment in our area of research.

Leveraging the Power of Virtual Worlds for Collaboration

FRI publishes white papers on topics of interest. Topics can include OpenSim legal considerations; content standards; licensing concerns; virtual world immersion; and new paradigms in on-line immersive education.

This week we released “Leveraging the Power of Virtual Worlds for Collaboration“, which discusses using virtual worlds to restructure entire industries and engineer new business processes, with a particular emphasis on the apparel (fashion) industry. The information shared includes:

* Value Proposition of Virtual Worlds
* Why the Apparel Industry
* B2C Use Case – Avatar Apparel
* Collaboration Use Case – Education
* B2B Case Study: ACLA and FRI
* B2B Case Study: IBM Research
* B2B Case Study: Intel Corporation

You can pick up a FREE copy of this white paper by visiting our website. We hope you will find this information useful and we encourage your comments/feedback.

Introducing the Fashion Research Institute Campus on ScienceSim

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We are pleased to introduce the Fashion Research Institute campus for fashion design education on the ScienceSim.  The campus spreads across 9 regions, including the original historical build Shengri La™ Spirit.  Fashion Research Institute’s “3-D website” is located at Shengri La Spirit 01, and incorporates a welcome center with an avatar customization salon and information about the Fashion Research Institute and its activities.  We are particularly pleased with our ‘3D Website’ which has now been instantiated into two grids, IBM’s vBusiness grid and now the ScienceSim grid, both installations were performed flawlessly.   Maintaining these two grid installations is remarkably easy, since the original region file is maintained on our private Fashionable Grid™.  Changes to the region are seamless, with the region’s OAR file being uploaded to the various grids where it is present.

Fashion Research Institute has also incorporated its Library of content creation tutorials and references into the campus.  The Library is contained on its own region, Shengri La Spirit 02, and is currently hosting a fashion exhibit about Edwardian men’s neckwear.  An array of art and design examples using virtual worlds are included in several other regions, which may be freely visited.

An additional two regions are reserved for the upcoming Threading the Needle conference for fashion design students.  Threading the Needle is the first ever virtual worlds-based fashion design conference, which is being presented for fashion design students to attend free of charge.  Such notables as Fiona Jenvey, (CEO, Mudpie), Beth Harris (Director of Digital Learning, MOMA NYC), and Kerry Bannigan (CEO, Nolcha Fashion Week) will be presenting to students logging in from around the world.

Fashion Research Institute’s campus for fashion design education may be freely visited in the ScienceSim grid, where all regions are publicly accessible.  Simply log in and locate the Shengri La Spirit regions in the world map. Please note the spelling “Shengri La”, which is our trademarked region name which labels all of our regions in all grids.

We would like to thank the Intel Corporation for hosting and hardware provided to Fashion Research Institute as part of our research collaboration with Intel Labs.  We would also like to thank Mic Bowman and coworkers for their efforts in managing our OpenSim-based regions on the ScienceSim grid.  We are pleased to continue our research into innovative methods for educating fashion designers for both the $1.7 trillion apparel industry and the emerging niche market of virtua designers.

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Introducing a New Concept: the ‘3-D Virtual World Website’

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Fashion Research Institute is pleased to announce its newest concept in the evolution of virtual worlds for business purposes, the ‘3-D Virtual World Website’.  In conjunction with its new website redesign, FRI has also launched its corporate web site in IBM’s v-Business grid.

By placing its corporate information within a virtual world region, interested parties immerse in a visually lush, rich setting where the company information is presented in context.  Topics are easier to locate and to remember their location when they are sited contextually, and when there are easy to understand ‘data pathways’ in the form of sidewalks and staircases.

Visitors to Fashion Research Institute’s Shengri La vBusiness land at the entry point, with a sweeping sunrise view and quick tips on moving, looking, and touching objects in vBusiness.  They then may start their explorations first at the avatar customization salon, where an array of premium design is available to them to customize their avatar.  Customization is provided for both men and women from the skin out, which is a good way for potential customers to sample FRI’s licensable avatar customization content for other grids.

From there, our visitors may explore our work in our various research areas, our innovative fashion design education programs, and our publications.  Finish your visit to our Shengri La vBusiness region by strolling the art walk, surrounded by swans and horse sculptures. And of course, all visitors to our region in IBM’s vBusiness grid may visit our region to obtain clothing and more for their avatars, which may be used anywhere on the IBM vBusiness grid, as our contribution to the other members  of the vBusiness consortium and their guests.

Please join us on Friday, October 9th, from 2-2:30 pm eastern for the official opening of this region.

Shengri La vBusiness is hosted by Adam Frisby’s and James Stalling’s new venture, SimHost.  We have been delighted with the service we’ve received in getting our new region moved in and set up, and would highly recommend SimHost for anyone seeking a reasonable, fast turnaround hosting option.

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Announcing Fashion Research Institute Office Hours in OpenSim and Second Life

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Effective October 5th, Fashion Research Institute will conduct office hours in its OpenSim and Second Life regions.

Office Hours in Science Sim will be held in our Shengri La Thyme region from 1-2 pm Eastern every Thursday.  Office Hours in vBusiness will be held in our Shengri La vBusiness region from 2-2:30 pm Eastern every Friday.  Office Hours in Second Life will be held in our Shengri La Hope region from 1-2 pm Eastern every Monday.

Our office hours are come-as-you-are, informal opportunities to meet and discuss topics of interest with our thought leaders in design education, apparel industry development, virtual goods, the use of virtual worlds for product design and development, and related topics.  Thoughts on our mind this week are 3-D websites enabled with Web 2.0 capability, professional development, OpenSim performance, creativity, and fashion design education. What’s on your mind?

Shengri La Spirit: A Designer’s Perspective of the Making of OpenSim

Shengri La Spirit: A Designer's Perspective of the Making of OpenSim

It has now been about two years since Fashion Research Institute first began exploring the OpenSim platform to assess its suitability for our patent-pending design and development application, Black Dress Technology.  In those two years, we have seen a great deal of development on the OpenSim code base.

We rejoiced when Melanie Thielker developed the patch that allowed attachments (like hair) to remain attached between log-ins.  We were thrilled when Justin Clark-Casey developed the Parallel Selves Message Bridge for us.  And we were delighted when Crista Lopes developed her Hypergrid technology.

Along the way, Fashion Research Institute contributed to the OpenSimulator.org movement, contributing patches to the OpenSim code base developed by our own developers and developing the 41,000+ prim region, Shengri La Spirit, which was used for performance testing with IBMer David Levine’s assistance.

We have a unique view of OpenSim – we built large scale, complex builds when it wasn’t thought possible to do so.  Shengri La Spirit is an important part of the early history of OpenSim (OpenSimulator.org).  Shengri La Spirit is a high-prim region originally hosted by IBM as part of the research agreement with Fashion Research Institute. This region, created on the OpenSim platform,was an early example of organic (not machine generated) content creation that helped move the OpenSim code base forward by exposing some of the performance issues. Its development enabled performance testing while inspiring the imagination of designers and content creators about the possibilities of OpenSim. Spirit was the first large scale development of beautiful content and the first organic high-prim count region (41,414 prims).

And now, our journey with OpenSim has been documented and published as our latest publication, “Shengri La Spirit: A Designer’s Perspective of the Making of OpenSim.”  This is the story of the journey of not only its creation, but also of the growth of the OpenSim code base. Lavishly illustrated with images created in the region Shengri La Spirit, the book chronicles the early days of content creation in OpenSim.  The book Shengri La Spirit is now available on Amazon.com, and the region Shengri La Spirit can be accessed on Science Sim.  For the first time in history, visitors may walk through this historic build and view firsthand the thousands of glowing crystals, stroll the trellis house, and fly up to the overlook. Work on Spirit was regrettably halted before it was finished, but due to the historic nature of this build, the original will remain, intact, on the Shengri La Spirit region in Science Sim where we’re embarked upon a new adventure, with Intel Labs.  (Our early contribution to this collaboration, Shengri La Chamomile, has already yielded the data used to develop performance enhancements to the OpenSim code, contributed back to the code base by the Intel engineers collaborating with us.)

We will be holding a meetup event in Shengri La Spirit on September 16th, at 7 pm edt, where you may meet the author, Shenlei E. Winkler, and explore this historic build.  We look forward to meeting you there.