It took me some digging to put all the pieces together, but this is just too fascinating not to have made the effort.
Without a doubt Second Life is helping companies innovate products and processes - even though 2007 mainstream media was seemingly all about SL marketing efforts. Often such innovation is being done inside organizations that are quietly tapping the collaborative, cost-saving virtuality of it all. But Double Happiness Jeans is a public and shining example of the innovation potential of Second Life. This is product innovation, design innovation, process innovation, business model innovation - and perhaps much more lying just below the surface.
Double Happiness Jeans are real world custom-made jeans that are "manufactured" virtually – and then delivered to your local Kinkos or Double Happiness Jeans express store location. The jeans are the product of the Invisible Threads, project that explores telematic manufacturing through Second Life.
The project is virtually replicating a RL assembly-line manufacturing facility, with ten manufacturing stations each correlating to a specification of the custom jean order. The physical “just in time” inventory system allows customers to place an order for one of several styles of jeans with a live factory representative at a terminal. The process then enters Second Life.
Customers can watch their jeans being created in real time in the virtual factory via projection screens. At the end of the manufacturing process the jeans are output on Tyvek material to a large-format printer in physical space. With simple assembly the jeans are ready to wear. The manufacturing process takes about 20 minutes.
Double Happiness Jeans is employing an “indentured servitude” model for its SL workers. Workers will be given land (and Lindens) in exchange for their factory service over three months’ time, emphasizing the relationship of the exchange of real world dollars for virtual assets.
From the Invisible Threads web page:
"At the start of each workday, workers will need to clock-in. The worker will then be assigned to a specific department and workstation and given a specialized task to perform. Just as in a real life factory, workers will be monitored by a department supervisor and be held accountable for their speed and efficiency and any production errors. The erratic flow of supply and demand and extenuating circumstances such as equipment failures and irrational dispositions may result in docked pay, layoffs and overtime."
Project collaborators and Double Happiness Jeans co-owners, Dr. Stephanie Rothenberg and Jeffrey Crouse of Eyebeam also hope to shed light on the politics of outsourced labor and the role of “play” in cultural production, according to Adam Elenbass over at Reality Sandwich.
The project will have a special debut at the Sundance Film Festival in the New Frontier Theater on Main Street in Park City, Utah January 17 – 27. On-site sales staff in Park City will help you customize your jeans, or you may order your jeans on the web site through February 2008.
Double Happiness is currently hiring and training SL factory workers. Check out their promotional video.
Eyebeam is supporting the project on their Second Life Island, and the profits from the project will be used to maintain the project and pay factory workers.
Double Happiness Jeans is located in SL here: secondlife://Eyebeam%20Island/204/43/27.
Questions come to mind:
How might this open up unseen revenue opportunities for Kinkos?
What new businesses might develop to “receive” in the physical world that which was “manufactured” in virtual space?
Might this potentially impact equipment manufacturers in the future?
Edward Castronova’s book Exodus into the Virtual World dicusses the possible impacts on the economy when segments of the population are spending time and energy producing in virtual economies rather than real ones. How might such virtual telematic workers impact economies, labor, laws, society?
Is SL really just some cartoon interface?
December 31, 2007