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Summary: Globalization and a challenging business environment are placing new demands on today's enterprises. Organizations that are in an increasingly distributed environment are striving to provide guidance and enablement for teams working across disparate time zones. Very few turn to virtual worlds to enhance their enterprise's collaboration platform. In this series, learn how to apply virtual worlds to the enterprise, how they relate to SOA, and and how virtual spaces can improve corporate support for distributed multicultural teams. Examples include IBM experience in building virtual spaces environments for remote mentoring and learning, gaming-enhanced team building, scenario driven rehearsals, and multipurpose global events with complex social interactions. Learn about virtual world engines and enabling technologies, such as voice and mobile, and explore technical and business challenges. Tangible business results, and lessons learned, are also covered. In this first article, get a brief history of virtual worlds and a summary of six technologies that enable virtual spaces.
This first article briefly explores the history of virtual worlds and introduces the notion of virtual spaces. Learn about usage patterns and technologies that contributed to the rise of virtual spaces development in IBM, and compare and contrast them with virtual worlds. This article examines six platforms that were either used to successfully build virtual spaces or were explored for specific functions. The platforms are: Active Worlds, Forterra OLIVE, OpenSimulator, Second Life, Torque and Unity3D.
In Part 2 you'll learn about: virtual spaces built for remote mentoring between multicultural teams; training and large events; scenario-based rehearsals; white-board brainstorming; multilingual collaboration with instantaneous translation; integration of social networking tools; and systems monitoring. Examine social aspects, technologies used, architecture, business value, and lessons learned. Explore the benefits of an SOA-based approach to virtual spaces.
Part 3 will examine the ongoing development and future direction of virtual worlds standards, interoperability between homogeneous regions and heterogeneous virtual worlds, emerging architectures, multi-channel collaboration (including mobile), mixed reality, and analytics and event processing.
After the InnovationJam, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, through his avatar in a virtual world replica of China's Forbidden City, announced a new, well-funded IBM Research Digital Convergence Emerging Business Opportunities (EBO) unit to explore the application of virtual world technologies to business and society.
New employee orientation Content co-creation as a teaming activity. Exploration of career opportunities. Establish quick connections with new and experienced IBMers. Engaging way to teach company history, culture. Practice English and presentation skills. Fresh Blue program in China and India
AW is an appealing platform for generating virtual spaces based on specific events and scenarios. Content can easily be imported, controlled, and hooked into the enterprise. It also has a one-time pay structure, and high scalability. Within IBM, AW has been used frequently for holding events and collaboration activities. For example, IBM's Greater China Group (GCG) recently held a graduation ceremony for 120 members of a management initiative, as shown below.
OLIVE makes collaboration easier with desktop sharing using a shared screen object. It can also share a Power Point presentation as an application. With multiple screens, you can share Power Point on one screen (limited to the resolution of the Shared Screen object (1024x768)) with an OLIVE client on another screen. You can enter presentation mode in full screen and run it as-is with animations and transitions, all while being in the OLIVE client and participating in-world. Another virtual collaboration feature is the ability to play streamed video from a Windows Media server. OLIVE comes with the following base content: * Products: objects such as clothing. * Scenes: static objects, such as buildings, streets, and trees. * Actives: actions that can be performed by the avatars or objects. * Editor templates: allow you to add new objects using the scene editor tool.
The Torque Game Engine (TGE) is a networked multi-player game engine with support for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. Flexible licensing and access to actual engine source code let you enhance and develop new features. TGE's scripting support allows for customization and content creation, which were both important in our selection of TGE. As a game engine, it lacked capabilities required in business and social context. Using TGE, our team developed 3D models and built our own framework to implement Metaverse -- a virtual spaces environment fully behind the firewall, and integrated with the intranet.
To enhance collaboration, we added social network visualization representing social connections extracted from existing applications such as Beehive, an IBM internal social networking site. You can attach services objects that are 3D representations of Web services to perform certain functions (for example, displaying your local weather report on an in-world object). In Metaverse you can share documents streamed from other Web servers using existing Web services.
The global economic downturn provides a compelling driver for change, accelerates our transformation, and challenges some of the old ways of doing business. Our experiments in virtual spaces have already demonstrated tangible cost savings, as well as softer benefits in different areas of our business. Near-term projects include integration of virtual spaces with collaboration tools, video, and mobile technology to minimize the need for travel.
Yet there are more reasons to use virtual spaces for business enablement. As we build globally integrated enterprise, our communications are constrained by the flat, print-based model of today’s Web. We live in a 3D world and think visually. We need to bridge the gap between the flat Internet and the multi-dimensional reality by exploiting technologies that allow the next generation of immersion and integration between virtual and real worlds.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of these series, which will describe some of the virtual spaces we built in more detail. Learn more about social aspects, technologies used, architecture, business value, and lessons learned. The spaces will include remote mentoring between multicultural teams, training and events, white-board brainstorming, multilingual collaboration with instantaneous translation, integration of social networking tools, and systems monitoring. We'll also explore the benefits of an SOA-based approach to virtual spaces.