On June 28, Team Webware will be covering Under the Radar: Entertainment and Media, a conference where CEOs from young companies pitch their hearts out to an audience of tight-fisted VCs, skeptical potential customers, and jaded journalists. To prepare for this event, I'm interviewing some of the companies ahead of time. Like Doppelganger, which is a maker of virtual worlds.
Doppelganger CEO Tim Stevens bristled when I compared his currently public project, The Lounge, to Second Life. The Lounge is a smaller world, but it's more focused. Rather than a world that encourages user-generated content above all else, Music Lounge is designed as a "platform for professional content." In particular, content such as popular music. The goal, Stevens says, is to replicate the social experience of listening to music, including the hanging out with buddies and the anticipation before a show starts, as well as the potential brush with the artists. Doppelganger has studios from which bands can project their performances into the virtual world.
Doppelganger does more work for its artists than Second Life, Stevens says, and also pours more effort into its virtual cities. When I logged on, there were only two places to hang out, virtual San Francisco and virtual Miami, but San Francisco at least was nicely designed and fairly packed with people.
At Under the Radar, Doppelganger will reveal more about its deal with MTV, for whom it is building another music-based virtual world. This world will be a realistic map of New York's Lower East Side, with many of the actual indie-scene clubs modeled onscreen. It's designed for a different purpose and a different user base, than the Music Lounge. VLES (Virtual Lower East Side) is about music discovery--wandering from virtual club to virtual club--more than hanging out. The thinking is that this is what the somewhat older indie music listener wants, compared with the young pop and hip-hop fan that the Lounge attracts.
Signups for the alpha of VLES are closed down now, but I borrowed a friend's avatar and spent a little time in the 'hood. It's an incredibly detailed little world. And I dug the music. Like The Lounge, the user interface is very simple and the avatar motions are fluid and entertaining (they ought to be--the client software is a 118MB download). Unfortunately, when I tried it out the world also was nearly deserted. I'm sure a big push by MTV will get things moving--and with such a small world even a few dozen people could make it feel like a hopping scene.
It is cool that MTV is expanding its universe into the virtual world. Already the company is experimenting with a There-powered world, vMTV, which is oriented around the network's television shows (VLES is from the music division). I tried to get in to the Pimp My Ride portion of the vMTV and got pretty quickly lost, though.
I'll be checking out other interesting new media companies that will be presenting at the Under the Radar event. Next writeup will probably be Adap.TV. For a full lineup, see the conference site and drop me a line if you'd like me to single any out for coverage. I'll be moderating several sessions at the event. If you'd like to come by and check out the action, use this online coupon to get $100 off admission: