There’s an interesting little business product that’s appeared inside Second Life. It’s called “mob*vend” and it was created by SL resident Shep Korvin (blogLink). mob*vend is, best I can tell, basically a standard vendor that senses the number of avatars within some defined range and then, depending on the feedback, adjusts the price of its product accordingly. The larger the crowd, the lower the price. This continues until it reaches a minimum sales price and announces that to the crowd. They then have one minute to make a purchase before the thing resets (I’m not clear on the details at this point but suspect those avatars in attendence are no longer counted).
I’ve discussed vending machines before: some time back I posted about the Art-O-mats (reLink) and more recently there was the post on the Automated C-Stores (reLink). I also posted one on the more common SL vendor, the JEVN (reLink). If you’ve read those and some of my other entries on rapid-manufacturing, you’ll understand why a designer finds this sort of thing interesting. Imagine designing a product and then uploading the fabrication data to a central server which then manages distribution and selection among a fleet of automated fabrication vending-production machines.
Now I’m not suggesting that we’ll necessarily see flash mobs hovering around C-Stores trying to get the price to drop; there are some practical real world considerations that come into play. I am, however, suggesting that Korvin is effectively reminding us that as technology advances, it has the power to upgrade old solutions in surprising and compelling ways. And for those wondering if Second Life has any merits beyond gambling and sex, I’d volunteer that if nothing else, SL makes us think. It’ll certainly get some people thinking now.