Who, What, Why?
Enterprise uses of Immersive Environments and Virtual World technology for collaboration. As CTO of vComm Solutions and co-founder of Flying Island I'm particularly interested in the ways that collaborative 3D immersive environments might help bring dispersed teams together

Neil Canham
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View Article  Acklam Grange School built first in Second Life
In what is being billed as a 'world first', new school buildings funded by the UKs 'Building Schools For The Future' initiative have been created first in the virtual world of Second Life in order that staff, students and other stakeholders ca explore and give feedback. The work has been carried out by theMiddlesborough City Learning Center which in itself looks like an amazing IT resource for Middlesborough schools. New buildings for the Acklam Grange School, which hosts the MCLC facility, have been built in Second Life and transferred to the Teen Grid so that pupils can explore them.

From a great video on the Project A page of their wiki, it seems that the MCLC have created some kind of technology for converting the building plans into a set primitive objects inside a controlling object (rezzer) which then instructs them all to move themselves into their correct positions. I've contacted the creators in the hope that they'll tell me more about how the data is fed into SL.

Sadly, despite having such a wonderful ICT resources and futuristic ideas, the old problems don't go away. The most recent news on the Acklam Grange school website is from 2007.
View Article  Forterra "Recipe For Success" could be yours too
Well finally, my summary and thoughts on Forterra's 'Recipe For Success...' paper. The paper, a recommended read for anyone interested in enterprise uses of VW, was produced by Forterra after their work with the MASIE Center, a New York think-tank for corporate learning. The focus of the work was to have a second look at virtual worlds for enterprise learning, after spending some time in Second Life during the hype cycle of 2006.   more »
View Article  Why SL may not be the ideal platform for real enterprise use
There has been a rash of articles and publications recently emphasising the real benefits for enterprises in use of Virtual Worlds, including Forterra's paper 'Recipe For Success' and Jani Pirkola's discussion of developing realXtend using agile methods based partly in the VW itself. (I still plan to write in more detail about both of these soon!) Now CyberTech News has a post that includes a very succint set of reasons why Second Life misses the mark as a platform for enterprise use, the main ones being:

  • No way to connect other grids or platforms and teleport between them

  • No easy way to extend the API or influence other technical aspects

  • No choice/control over service level

  • No local install for behind-the-firewall use or as a private walled-garden

  • Voice solution won't work with most company firewall policies

I think this is spot on, and I would add to it that getting the SL client itself installed and working within most corporate IT networks is a huge challenge, requiring many steps that run counter to corporate IT policy, starting from downloading the client from a location that is often blacklisted as a games site to then being actually able to do the install to configuring the necessary proxies to opening countless firewall ports (even if VOIP isn't required). Add to that ensuring that the graphics capabilities on a corporate PC are up to the task and you have a huge uphill battle.

Despite this there are still people trying, because SL is I believe the most comprehensive, stable consistent, immersive platform with an unbeatable range of content and social activities. But for how much longer? OpenSim and Wonderland are both catching up, and in the case of OpenSim in some respects overtaking. I still spend time in SL to socialise, to explore and to feel part of a living, evolving big world, but for business meetings and enterprise use? It's starting to look as if OpenSim will be the platform of choice for the next couple of years and maybe Wonderland will be in beta by then. Exciting times.
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