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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February 2009
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View Article  Getting Your Point Across
"So as you can see, the colour of this panel is OK but that one needs to be brighter".... "then you have to touch this button."...."At this point the graph shows how changing to super-bright saved us quillions of pounds..."  Come on it must have happened to you - despite all their amazing immersive features,  even the best virtual worlds don't convey direction of gaze as well as we might like - SL makes a really good attempt, but nine times out of ten you still end up thinking 'What panel, which button, where on the graph?'.  So I set out to look at ways to make this better when giving presentations in SL at least.  The video clip shows my first experiments, first just enabling the in-built selection beams, then supplementing them with my own unmissable pointer :-)

I found out a few interesting things along the way, partly courtesy of the wonderfully helpful folk on the SL Forums.  Firstly, the colour of the in built 'selection' magic beam of dots can be changed in the viewer preferences - managed to miss that all these years!  And that you can't turn them off, at least not as seen by others (which is the point, literally!) You can turn them off using Advanced menu Debug settings, but this has no effect on what anyone else sees.  So for the moment I have a chat switchable pointer that swaps between 'normal' particle chain and 'unmissable' modes.  Should make demoing the other tools I'm working on like whiteboard and noticeboards a lot easier.  And those impromtu whiteboard games of pictionary - "That bit is never a moustache..." :-)
View Article  New Video of Aula environment for SL and OpenSim
vComm solutions have released a video showing some of the features and architecture of their Aula enterprise training and meeting environment for OpenSim and SL. 

For a higher resolution look - go here
I was lucky enough to get involved in helping make the video, and it suddenly occurred to me that just in getting together to do that, we were demonstrating the power of immersive environments for virtual team working - there were three of us in different parts of the world, and yet we were able to complete the filming and work well together as a team.  This stuff works, and for anyone wanting a ready-to-run way to get started, Aula looks like it might be a good contender.

Update:  I should make it clear that this video was shot in Second Life.  The architecture and facilities offered in OpenSim will apparently be very close if not identical although speech gestures are not yet implemented.  When I get to see the OpenSim solution I'll provide more details.
View Article  Complete Enterprise Solution for OpenSim announced
vComm Solutions of Zurich, Switzerland have announced their Enterprise solution-in-a-box for OpenSim at the LearnTec 2009 trade show in Germany. Called Aula the ready-to-run virtual environment is targeted at enterprise training needs, and provides meeting spaces, an auditorium and breakout areas alongside tools including Voice-over-IP, easy PowerPoint presentations and desktop sharing. The solution is based on OpenSim and can be hosted or installed locally behind a firewall.

The announcement on the companies website is currently only available in German, but it says roughly:
vComm aula is a complete virtual world, which is designed for training in the enterprise. Geographically dispersed users can work together in the highly realistic 3D environment. This saves travel and infrastructure costs. vComm aula is based on the platform OpenSim and can be installed on an Intranet.
If you read German, more details of Aula are available at the LearnTec 2009 show website
I was lucky enough to get a tour of the virtual spaces a while ago, since they also exist in Second Life, and I believe that the facilities in SL can also be rented, or set up as a private sim.  I can tell you that Volker Gaessler and his team have done a great job. The quality of the architecture and furnishings is first rate and the feeling of being in a real meeting is quite strong.  The presentation screen and the associated web uploader make displaying presentation slides a quick and simple affair.  I haven't seen the desktop sharing as this is currently only available in OpenSim, but I hope to soon.  This is a very promising project for any enterprise that wants to get started in using virtual environments with the minimum of effort. The current polar conditions in the UK mean a lot of people stuck at home - wouldn't this just be perfect for allowing them to keep working together?
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