Some businesspeople are spending most of their day in 3D, immersive environments known as virtual worlds. This development emerged during a wide-ranging discussion last week with Greg Nuyens, CEO of Qwaq, which provides tools to create virtual worlds or “forums” optimized for business users.
Greg, whose company is today releasing version 2.0 of Qwaq Forums at the 3D Learning, Training and Collaboration conference (3D TLC) in Washington, D.C., observed that there are three types of Qwaq users. The first group spends about two thirds of the day in Qwaq and likely uses the software’s IP audio capability for most voice calls. The second group jumps in and out of the forums throughout the day, leaving the virtual “lobby” up all day long. The third group uses Qwaq periodically through a browser, which is a new capability included in version 2.0.
Qwaq combines the real-time collaboration functionality of web conferencing with the 3D immersive experience of virtual worlds. For background on Qwaq, see my March 13, 2007 post and my September 21, 2007 post. Clearly, the Qwaq development team has invested significant time and thought into integrating the tool into enterprise workflow. The version 2.0 interface is more geared to workplace collaboration with greater ability to move easily and gracefully around the virtual workplace-- from the lobby to meeting rooms to cubicles to offices to auditoriums to command centers and around campuses. Meantime, users can share documents, slides, MPEG4 video, browsers, whiteboards, and other applications. Also, Qwaq supports real-time, interactive Webcam video and recording/capture of virtual meetings.
Qwaq customers announced today include Chevron and the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center, two of the roughly one hundred enterprise customers that Qwaq has reportedly garnered. The Navy is using Qwaq as part of its virtual Combat Systems Center to remotely train submarine operators. The software running in the Center’s Qwaq Forum is the same software running on the weapons console. So the boundaries between real and virtual are clearly fading.
According to Greg, Qwaq’s goals include “bridging distance to make meetings in forums more efficient than in the same room.” As I noted in my book, The Culture of Collaboration, as collaborative tools get more advanced, the next frontier is making same-room collaboration as effective as collaborating at a distance.