In a modest building next to a burrito shop in downtown Palo Alto, California, the next generation of collaboration is taking shape. When I stepped into the cramped offices of Qwaq last week, CEO Greg Nuyens greeted me immediately because there’s no receptionist yet. The company is running on seed money and is exploring options for the next round of financing—and Qwaq clearly has many options. Greg, VP of enterprise Remy Malan and I then headed for the makeshift conference room for a demo.
Greg and Remy sat at separate PC’s. On screen, they were each represented by avatars in a shared virtual 3D office environment. This virtual space displayed cubicles, walls, plants, pictures and the like. When Greg passed his mouse to me, I was able to drag and drop any document, spreadsheet, or any other file from the hard drive onto any part of the 3D virtual office environment. Remy and I could move around the office, travel through doors and hallways, meet in a virtual conference room and work in any application on a virtual white board. Or we could take our work to the virtual break room or the front lawn of the virtual building.
Unlike many web conferencing applications which are geared for presentations or passing the baton back-and-forth, Qwaq is optimized for true real-time, spontaneous collaboration. But Qwaq is a hybrid in that it also enables asynchronous collaboration. Unlike most traditional web conferencing which works only while a session is underway, Qwaq Forums is persistent. This means authorized users can access the virtual space any time. Team members in another time zone may wake up to find the results of real-time collaboration that occurred while they were sleeping.
Today Qwaq emerges from stealth mode. For months Qwaq has been fielding inquiries from savvy enterprise engineers and executives who have drawn conclusions about Qwaq’s development work based on the team. Computing pioneer Alan Kay is advising Qwaq. Kay’s work at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) contributed to the development of both the laptop computer and the overlapping windows interface. Also advising Qwaq is David Reed, former chief scientist of Lotus.
Qwaq’s team includes substantial talent in highly-scalable, distributed systems. Founder and CTO David Smith is a 3D pioneer and chief system architect of Croquet. CEO Greg Nuyens was the chief technologist at Inktomi and CEO of Instant802, backed by VC firms August Capital and Kleiner Perkins. Remy Malan, the vice president of enterprise, was the VP of marketing at AtWeb.
Qwaq is bringing the work of The Croquet Consortium to the enterprise. Croquet is an open source development environment for creating large-scale, networked 3D collaborative spaces. Qwaq allows resource and computation sharing among large numbers of users on multiple platforms and devices.
The most compelling aspect of Qwaq is that it creates new collaboration possibilities and methods.