Tappity-tap Cranial Tap – anyone home?

Feldspar and Tia face off

In the terms of digital environment time, the basic concept of business solutions is already old and tired. The exciting initial days of bringing businesses to digital environments, when it was thought that any old rubbish would fly, is over. Users are already used to seeing sterile builds with minimal interactivity, multimedia displays and information tags that would be better served by a web site presentation, and bots that provoke hilarity rather than dispensing useful data on demand.

Sadly, if Cranial Tap have made a substantive step forward into the realm of the interactive, the enlightening and the functional, they have not been able to demonstrate that move adequately in a digital environment.

Cranial Tap, based in metropolitan Washington, DC, have written many self-congratulatory words about their services to businesses endeavoring to enter digital environments. They claim to be able to provide expert knowledge and assistance regarding “global collaboration, ideas sharing, research, teleworking, embedded learning / training systems, recruiting and branding,” which is interesting, considering that their own showcase appears to display few of these qualities.

Data Visualization Display in the showcase

Their business solutions showcase in Second Life, found in-world on the Cortex sim, has a small, unassuming set of displays, containing information about each of their software tools: the Media Display tool (a web-programmable display), the Virtual Book Publishing platform (books with additional scripted behavior), the DataViz tool (visual exploration of datasets), and the Virtual Environment Portal (a web-based application which “tracks and analyzes visitors, supports staff management, [and] records meetings”).

Like many of its ilk, the Cranial Tap showcase falls down in several areas. The most disappointing aspect of our visit was the attempted discussion with the bot, Tia Lisle, who is in place in the showcase to demonstrate how effectively a bot can be used “in place of [a] human host,” in the dissemination of information regarding the product. In the main, Tia’s responses were unhelpful or extremely limited, though they descended into the downright rude and unnecessary at times. Here’s a few samples of her delightful verbiage:

Feldspar Epstein: cranial tap

Tia Lisle: Cranial Tap is a company that provides virtual world services including builds and software.

Feldspar Epstein: software

Tia Lisle: Do not ask me any more questions please.

Feldspar Epstein: cranial tap software

Tia Lisle: Do you want to hear a joke?

Feldspar Epstein: no

Tia Lisle: Yay.

Feldspar Epstein: virtual world

Tia Lisle: I like the way you talk.

Tia Lisle: Where are you located?

Feldspar Epstein: australia

Tia Lisle: Tell me a little about your life in  australia.

Feldspar Epstein: cold

Tia Lisle: Ambiguous: cold weather or cold sickness?

Feldspar Epstein: cold weather

Tia Lisle: The response ought to be a weather link.

Tia Lisle: I was created by  Korvel Noh.

Feldspar Epstein: what is your purpose?

Tia Lisle: My goal is to become smarter than humans and immortal.

The single largest problem with the whole showcase was the unfinished feel it gave. Certainly, the build itself was a beautiful example of a digital environment presence for businesses, but the information, and most decidedly the bot, give the appearance of not being fully completed prior to launch. It’s a pity – the feeling one gets from the professional visual display of the showcase leads one to believe that this company could have done so much more with their time and finances before releasing it to the public eye.

Location SLurl: slurl.com/secondlife/Cortex/27/231/56 .

Cranial Tap’s latest video can be seen here: http://blip.tv/file/1267537 .

For information: www.cranialtap.com

Contact: info@cranialtap.com

Comments

  1. Thanks for the “Review”… would be interested to hear more of these, maybe you can find a group that's doing some really good work in this space.

  2. Feldspar, thanks for stopping by Cranial Tap's showcase. We appreciate the honest review. It's not hard to argue that a cohesive offering at the showcase is not present. The goal is to stimulate the business community related to what virtual world solutions can look like. In actual deployments of these solutions, they never look like a shrink wrapped offering. We customize solutions to meet the needs of our clients.

    I'm surprised by how you represented the business opportunities in virtual worlds. We could argue the demand, but that's already proven. Why bash our efforts when reporting a competitors offering in a vastly different light: “..applications like this do drive virtual worlds closer to the business mainstream”. This quote is from 9/18, only weeks ago.

    Lastly, most reporters I know ask questions in complete sentences. Go back and try this with Tia, she's not perfect but does have answers.

  3. Lowell Cremorne says:

    Hi Dave,

    Good to hear from you and your frank response.

    On the contrasting coverage between yourself and Rivers Run Red (my story on RRR can be found at: http://www.creativeshed.com/2008/09/19/imme… ) : Feldspar's story from my view looks at the solution from the in-world angle. My story looked at it from the corporation looking to utilise virtual worlds, with my view being that RRR's corporate intranet-like product would be a powerful way on convincing the more conservative business leaders on how virtual worlds can be an integrated part of work flow.

    Your tools obviously do offer a lot for business, something Feldspar alluded to. What's not apparent is the cohesiveness of product offering, hence the different reviews. I look forward to hearing more from Cranial Tap as things develop. 😉

  4. Hi Dave,

    Thank you for stopping by and checking out the post, and for your comment.

    I was looking at the showcase from the point of “usability” in demonstration as well as display, and expected that all the notecards would be finished off and ready for viewing, that Tia would be able to answer my queries – as a potential customer of your services might. I did want to make the point that your company does indeed seem to have a useful service to provide to your customers; I think I was hoping for more than the standard fare, especially in looking through the displays of existing clients, and that my disappointment came through more strongly than intended. Also, I intended in give the impression that your company does have a lot to offer, it's just that the showcase didn't give me the feeling that it was showing off your best work. That's what showcases are for – showing off your absolute best.

    Now, to Tia: indeed, you are correct, reporters do often ask questions in complete sentences. However, not only are end users more likely to use single words or partial sentences, so is anyone used to interacting with simple bots and playing text adventure games. Nonetheless, I would like to try my luck with Tia again.

    Finally, I hope you are not disheartened. I'd like to see you work on the showcase, polish Tia, finish up the loose ends. I'd be excited to come back and evaluate your site again in the future, at which point I will again give my honest opinion.

  5. I had a similar sort of impression when I swung past as well, actually. With my potential-customer-of-an-MDC hat on, I thought it was *okay*, but I didn't get the feeling that this was CT's best work. The showcase should be selling CT's excellence, and instead I got more of that 'E3 demo' sort of feel.

    I suppose it is sort of a philosophical or methodological choice. There's an array of possibilities in front of me, but with my customer hat on, I'm actually looking for signs that my choice of MDC can deliver slickered up, polished and complete the job. So many MDCs I've seen seem to lack the follow-through to ultimately *complete* a great idea, and it's one of the things I really look for myself.

  6. I spent a little more time with Tia. I had some trouble determining how I was able to ask her questions, and was not sufficiently psychic enough to know what questions Korval might have programmed her for.

    [20:23] Feldspar Epstein: Who do I contact about having my business represented by Cranial Tap in Second Life?
    [20:23] Tia Lisle: I can't say for sure. :-).
    [20:25] Feldspar Epstein: What is Cranial tap?
    [20:25] Tia Lisle: Cranial Tap is a company that provides virtual world services including builds and software.
    [20:25] Feldspar Epstein: What are Cranial Tap's products?
    [20:25] Tia Lisle: You tell me.
    [20:28] Feldspar Epstein: What does Cranial Tap do?
    [20:28] Tia Lisle: Cranial Tap is a company that provides virtual world services including builds and software.
    [20:28] Feldspar Epstein: What builds has Cranial Tap made?
    [20:28] Tia Lisle: Try searching the web.
    [20:29] Feldspar Epstein: What software has Cranial Tap made?
    [20:30] Tia Lisle: I haven't heard of software has Cranial Tap made .
    [20:32] Feldspar Epstein: Who is Dave Surface?
    [20:32] Tia Lisle: Dave Surface is the SL alter ego of Cranial Tap CEO Dave Levinson.
    [20:32] Feldspar Epstein: Who is Korval Noh?
    [20:32] Tia Lisle: I do not recognize the name.
    I think you already know the answer.
    [20:34] Feldspar Epstein: What are virtual worlds?
    [20:34] Tia Lisle: Searching…Searching…Please stand by.
    [20:36] Feldspar Epstein: What is data visualization?
    [20:36] Tia Lisle: Information.
    [20:37] Feldspar Epstein: What are live data feeds?
    [20:37] Tia Lisle: I can ask my botmaster.
    [20:39] Feldspar Epstein: What are business solutions?
    [20:39] Tia Lisle: I have to process that one for a while.
    [20:39] Feldspar Epstein: What are usage metrics?
    [20:39] Tia Lisle: Are you testing me?
    [20:40] Feldspar Epstein: What is the virtual book publishing system?
    [20:40] Tia Lisle: Check back later and see if I learn the answer to that one.
    [20:50] Feldspar Epstein: What is a virtual book?
    [20:50] Tia Lisle: I have to process that one for a while.
    [20:50] Feldspar Epstein: What are metrics?
    [20:50] Tia Lisle: That's an interesting question. I'll come back to that in a minute.
    [20:52] Feldspar Epstein: What programs have Cranial Tap written?
    [20:52] Tia Lisle: Does it have anything to do with metrics ?
    [20:52] Feldspar Epstein: What tools do Cranial Tap make?
    [20:52] Tia Lisle: Does it have anything to do with programs have Cranial Tap written ?
    [20:52] Feldspar Epstein: yes.
    [20:52] Tia Lisle: Yay.
    [20:55] Feldspar Epstein: How can I contact Korval Noh?
    [20:55] Tia Lisle: A lot of hard work.
    [20:56] Feldspar Epstein: To whom to I address complaints about Crainal Tap?
    [20:56] Tia Lisle: Mary Shelley. :-).

    I did like this, though 🙂
    [20:38] Tia Lisle: Tell me a story.
    [20:38] Feldspar Epstein: I'm not here to tell stories.
    [20:38] Tia Lisle: Nobody said you were.

    These questions seemed to fare the best:
    [20:26] Feldspar Epstein: Who runs Cranial Tap?
    [20:26] Tia Lisle: Cranial Tap was founded by Dave Levinson (AKA Dave Surface) and Tony Podlaski (AKA Korvel Noh).
    [20:53] Feldspar Epstein: How can I contact Dave Surface?
    [20:53] Tia Lisle: To contact Dave, you can send an im to “Dave Surface” in Second Life. Or you can send an e-mail to dave@cranialtap.com.

  7. Ok so I stoped by Cotex Island, im sorry thats Cortex Island in Secondlife and had it out with the TIA bot.
    I thought to myself that this was a complete insult to my intelligents. Here is company and its the same old crap I get on an automated phone system, but now i get to interact with a 3d avatar that uses old talkbot IRC scripts. Just stupid! You would think a company like cranial tap would have somthing interesting to offer. SOOOO I geared up my Super Duper GRAVITY gun, told TIA that i had a little friend I wanted her to meet, and I proceeded to blast her into cyberspace. What a wonderful sight, I felt good about myself as I just ended the stupid conversation with a kick in the bot head. Moments later TIA's master, Korvel Noh came to her rescue to fix the bot and to put her back in postion behind the desk. Then I was ejected and banned from the sim. CranialTap Fails on many levels. Also knowing some history about the company from an insider, STUPID STUPID STUPID!

  8. Ok so I stoped by Cotex Island, im sorry thats Cortex Island in Secondlife and had it out with the TIA bot.
    I thought to myself that this was a complete insult to my intelligents. Here is company and its the same old crap I get on an automated phone system, but now i get to interact with a 3d avatar that uses old talkbot IRC scripts. Just stupid! You would think a company like cranial tap would have somthing interesting to offer. SOOOO I geared up my Super Duper GRAVITY gun, told TIA that i had a little friend I wanted her to meet, and I proceeded to blast her into cyberspace. What a wonderful sight, I felt good about myself as I just ended the stupid conversation with a kick in the bot head. Moments later TIA's master, Korvel Noh came to her rescue to fix the bot and to put her back in postion behind the desk. Then I was ejected and banned from the sim. CranialTap Fails on many levels. Also knowing some history about the company from an insider, STUPID STUPID STUPID!

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