Innovation/Global Crisis Blog

Innovator: Get Real, Go Virtual!

By Shlomo Maital

 James Cameron’s “Avatar”

         Like educators everywhere, Israeli educators are grappling with a core paradox.  Children, aged 6 through 18, live in two worlds.  The morning world is real, based in school.  The evening world is virtual, based in Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. 

      But for our kids, believe me, the virtual world is far more real than the real world.  For them, the real world of brick-and-mortar schools is boring, unimaginative and for them increasingly irrelevant.  And herein lies the problem.  How can we make the real world more relevant, more meaningful, to them than their unreal (virtual) world?  Simply, by embracing the latter and blending it with the former.

     A new book by B. Joseph Pine II and Kim C. Korn, titled Infinite Possibility: Creating Customer Value on the Digital Frontier (BK Publishers: San Francisco, 2011), can help.    

   Pine takes a cue from Einstein, who redefined the relationship between time, space and matter.  The real world, Pine observes, in his Figure 1.2 and Figure 1.3, has matter, has time and has space.  The virtual world has none of those three.  Yet increasingly, we are living in a digital virtual world.  Digital technology makes possible vivid memorable experiences that the real world cannot truly rival. (Imagine sitting in a top tier seat, at Real Madrid’s Camp Neu stadium, and watching tiny figures miles away dance around the field, with binoculars; now add a hand-held HDTV and watch them up large, up-close, with only the ambience of crowd noise to distract you from the virtual soccer field).   Pine leads us systematically through several permutations and combinations of space/non space,  matter/non-matter, and time/non-time, to create vivid new offerings based on digital technology. 

    I have a strong example of an innovation that uses the virtual to make life much more real. Most videoconferencing technology requires extensive bandwidth, to stream live video.  Some Boston entrepreneurs have created venuegen, software that replaces real video figures with avatars, based on photographs.  ( .  The avatar ‘learns’ to mimic the motions of the real figures participating in the videoconference.  It gesticulates, moves, wriggles, and emphasizes.  Avatars need a tiny fraction of the bandwidth that video streaming demands.  The inventors got the idea from video games.  An avatar can be more real, for participants, than a real fuzzy blurred and jerky video image. 

     Read “Infinite Possibility”, then re-invent your offerings to explore and exploit the amazing new world of the virtual.  It’s time, innovator, to get real by getting far less real.