As one of the creators of the Lockheed Martin Virtual World Labs, Richard leads a group of innovative engineers and designers across all mission areas for Lockheed Martin to harness cutting edge computer gaming and virtual world technologies to improve human performance. Richard joined Lockheed Martin in 2007 with the acquisition of 3Dsolve, a North Carolina based computer game technology firm where he was founder and CEO. Prior to that, Richard was General Manager and VP of Sales for Virtus Corporation, where he worked for nearly a decade and where he served on the management team that created several pioneering computer gaming companies including Red Storm Entertainment, with author Tom Clancy; and Timeline Computer Entertainment, with author Michael Crichton. With computer gaming pioneer David Smith, Boyd co-wrote an industry-leading book on VRML technologies, called The Virtus VRML Toolkit, that was widely distributed and translated into three foreign languages. Boyd is also a children’s book author and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Q: What are some of the barriers standing in the way of more use of games, simulations and virtual worlds for learning today?
A: There are different barriers depending on where you are focusing. In the corporate world, training is still considered by most organizations as a cost, something to be completed quickly so the work force can get on with the actual work. In many ways this attitude is appropriate. In my talk at the Serious Play conference I discuss how the relationship between humans and the technology we create is changing to serve us on our terms, rather than requiring us to adjust to the technology and meet it on its terms as we have in the opening stage. We need to simplify the interfaces and the tools and reduce the friction between the user and the thing they want to do.
Today, with virtual worlds and games, there is still too much unnecessary complexity in the creation of the simulations. When users access the simulation, there have been too many unnatural acts required. The system administrator has to get involved to allow the installation, then, in the case of many virtual worlds and MMOG platforms, ports have to be opened setting off all of the cyber threat alarms. Then the user interfaces are all different and require learning before the user can begin to take advantage of whatever learning is in the simulation.
What we need are two things: We need simplified tools that take advantage of Internet standards and collaborative design. Essentially, we need Hypercard for simulation. And second, we need to simplify the access; allowing users to access collaborative training in convincing environments as easily as they access a website today. No plug-ins or unnatural acts allowed.
Barriers such as bandwidth and processor speed, that hindered us in the past, are essentially gone now.
Q: Tell me about some of the collaborative opportunities you see in virtual worlds
A: While artificially intelligent game bots continue to evolve, the most interesting thing you can encounter in a game or virtual world is another human being.
Designers of massively multiplayer online games like Warcraft, Rift, Eve Online etc start each design cycle by asking the question, "How do we get the largest number of people to go on the largest possible adventure" Anyone who has played these games instantly realizes the cooperative and collaborative social nature of these adventures. The level of "unnecessary hard work " as Jane McGonigal calls it, that players put into these adventures is a ripe area to be mined for training and education.
Second Life has shown us that people can collaborate around simple tools to create simulations and beautiful environments. By making these tools even more simple and accessible, and providing a consistent and almost ambient interface, we can harness these powerful tools for deep collaboration around simulation learning.
If the 20th century was the televised century, I believe the 21st century will be the simulated century. Simulation will become part of the scientific method. Democratizing simulation will allow us to harness network intelligence and networked collaboration to achieve new heights of understanding.
There is a deeper issue here. The Internet is all about harnessing network intelligence. Jeremy Rifkin in his book "The Third Industrial Age" calls this the Collaborative era. Investors in my former company Reid Hoffman and Joichi Ito talk a great deal about the necessity of enabling access to network intelligence. But today, many of our systems are still suffering from the industrial age idea that we can embed information in one human and have them pass it on to others in an analog lecture. Healthcare and education are the prime examples of inefficiency based on this old analog non-collaborative model. The entire health system is built around the idea that an all-knowing physician can provide all of the care someone needs. People are dying as a result.
Enabling collaboration and, more importantly, allowing teams of humans to access a knowledge base and automation and simulation is critical. Open source initiatives like the Virtual World Framework are essential enablers.
Q: Has anything you have learned surprised you?
A: I once thought that we would have to wait for the Digital Natives to implement many of these ideas. I am finding that generational issues are evaporating as more people across demographic segments become more comfortable with digital tools.
Q: What societal changes could be the result of widespread use of the Virtual World Framework?
A: If the 20th century was the televised century, I believe the 21st century will be the simulated century. Simulation will become part of the scientific method. Democratizing simulation will allow us to harness network intelligence and networked collaboration to achieve new heights of understanding.
I believe firmly that those humans and organizations, even countries, who achieve a comfortable fluency with the digital tools remaking the world will prevail over those who don't. I think that people who have full command over simulation and artificial intelligence and augmented reality, will begin to appear super human to those without that fluency. These are all capabilities made more accessible by the VWF.
I believe civilization is predicated on the ability for people to access information they don't have. As the information age advances, I see this ability to access information becoming a human right. Lowering the barrier to participation with these technologies in both cost and complexity will become critical. The VWF is a platform step in that direction.
Q: If schools, companies, and society as whole adopted VWF as a tool to engage and collaborate, what could happen?
A: I think that those who do adopt the ability to easily create and access open source simulation tools will prevail over those who do not have that capability. If one looks at sport today: McLaren racing, The New England Patriots, or just about any baseball team, one sees the beginning of this phenomenon. Shortcomings in human talent or available capital are being overcome by organizations who embrace and exploit simulation and analytics. On my wall in my office I have a blown up picture of Ahmad Bradshaw struggling to not score with 52 seconds left in the 2012 Super Bowl. This act defied all of his training and all of our human intuition. The machines made that call with a rapid analytical simulation that showed a distribution of optimal activities and their outcomes. That moment was a William Gibson nodal point for me. It is the canary in the coalmine that calls the attention of anyone not tracking these phenomena.
The quote at the end of the movie Moneyball sums it up nicely. I will paraphrase it as "Anyone who is not tearing down their old system and rebuilding it this way is a dinosaur"
Q: Knowing what you are good at, and what you most love to do, if you were given any work role you wanted, describe the people you would want on your team and what they would bring to the project.
A: Michael Crichton once told me that the most important thing to get right and possibly one of the biggest business opportunities of the 21st century and the information age will be education. I, along with a lot of other people in technology are eyeing education as over ripe for disruption. I would like to serve out whatever time I have left on this planet working with design thinkers and educators on this problem. The list would range from some of my partners over the last 20 years who pioneered computer gaming to some early pioneers in computing like Alan Kay, who invented the first laptop and object oriented programming. I would also love to work with Larry Bock, who started the USA Science Festival and invited me to speak at all of them so far. I would bring in some educators who are taking new approaches, like Rebecca Amis who created the Muse School and other education thinkers like Jim Shelton and Twom Vander Ark . There is a long list of people there.
Q: If someone wants to learn how to create serious games, where should they go to learn?
Q: What do you think are some of the challenges for the industry?
A: Still too many proprietary tools and models that require an arcane priesthood of developers to create simulations. We need new business models that encourage a democratization of the tools and access to content. This is the driving idea behind the virtual world framework.