Virtual World Collaboration for Business

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Thu, Sep 27, 2007 @ 10:09 AM

Tags: technology innovation, business collaboration, technology for business managers, virtual world

If you work in the world of technology, you've certainly heard of Second Life, the 3D virtual world that started as a social game site. With more than 40 million registered users, over a million claimed active users, and the generation of revenue in not-so-virtual millions, it's a long way from the 1970's Troll Room of Zork. But, did you know that this technology is now creeping back to the corporate world?

Recently, I've been working on a project that required me to give myself a crash course in online collaboration spaces. Sure, I've known Groove, GoToMeeting, and WebEx. This, though, is the beginning of a new world in which telecommuting and outsourcing become increasingly irrelevant issues as people have the ability to work in persistent, fully functional, 3D, web offices.

Imagine "going" to work by logging on to the web and having your 3D avatar with your face walk into your "office." Your office can have your whiteboard as you left it and one or more iterations of your desktop applications. Then, walk into the "coffee room" where you run into co-workers who are physically in Mumbai or London. You can communicate through text chat, emoticons, and the physical gestures of your avatars; or, you can be yourself through microphone and webcam if you prefer. Some technology so replicates the real world that voices will increase and recede in volume as you move towards and away from other avatars.

You can hold meetings anytime with those remote co-workers in "rooms" which allow you to project on the wall any desktop application or live web browser, or share a whiteboard or document. You can leave the room and come back to everything in place ("persistent state") if that's your preference. Assuming the "door" is not locked, you can also "walk" into co-workers offices to visit or ask questions, again sharing computer and web screens.

Not so long ago, talking to people from the other side of the world was clunky and slow.  Just as international telephone calls have become fast, clear, and reliable, so too here in the virtual world; the delays ("latency") are minimal. 

In this configuration, the collaboration platforms are relatively new.  As the offerings expand and mature, customization will be easier and prices will be quite reasonable.  It won't be long (two years?) before this technology takes off and is considered an everyday choice for those managing dispersed workers.
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