This week I had a call with Karen Keeter and a potential pilot contributor here in New Zealand for Sametime 3D. It was a very interesting conversation and great to hear Karen talk about what is currently delivered in Sametime 3D.
IBM sells instant messaging and web conferencing tools under the Lotus Sametime brand. IBM has in the region of 100Million corporate users of these tools with new features being delivered year on year. The 3D or virtual world component is delivered to Lotus Sametime via an IBM Research plug-in.
When a group of users are collaborating using instant messaging and team chat via the Lotus Sametime product we can initiate a virtual collaboration space. The virtual space comes in three pre-built flavours:
Open air theatre
For many virtual world users recreating the real world in the virtual world is pointless but for many folk in the corporate world to hold a meeting in anything other than a board room is just playing! These attitudes may change over time but for now the board room is important.
The virtual world spaces are designed using the OpenSim 3D construct and is deployed behind a companies firewall. This allows oranisations to have private and secure meetings something that is not possible in SecondLife. Privacy and security feature highly for potential virtual world customers so this point is addressed.
There are a couple of modes of usage for these virtual world spaces:
1. Reuseable meeting spaces
Replicate the usage of a conference room in a real-world context. Schedule a meeting room for a given date and time with presenting and communication tools. When the meeting is finished there would be no trace that your sepcific meeting had taken place.
2. Project meeting Space
Set up a war-room to bring teams together on an on-going basis that the participants can dip in and out of depending upon the activities. in this case the space would be private so access would be restricted to the project team only. This mean that the state of the space would persist over the life of the project.
3D Collaboration Tools
To facilitate collaboration in these spaces some tools needed to be developed in the same way we have whiteboards and presentation facilities in the real world. The value of a virtual world collaboration space is that we can perform similar activities to those in the real-world but we don;t have to be physically in the same place - the immersive qualities of a virtual world enhance the collaborative experience.
Our conversations with customers was that an immersive space on its own does not give enough value above conference calls, and web conferences hence the reason to develop in-world collaborative tools.
Here are the collaborative stages:
A group chat is underway
Via the plugin selct the type of space
The system uploads the space and ensures that particiapnts authenticate if privacy is required
VoIp can be used and Spacial Voice in an OpenSim region is on the cards. Spacial voice adds some "realness" to conversations. When an avatar on my left speaks i am aware that the sound is going from the left.
When you enter the space you see a sign in board and who is in the space. The collaboraiton space includes two presentation screens with video streaming on the list of deliverables. Within this space is the collaboraiton board. This allows participants to add a "sticky" to the board from a dispenser and then put the idea on a board that everyone can see and interact with. Participants can also vote on the relevance or importance of that idea using a simple red dot system, 7 dots = 7 "yes" votes
A mechanism is provided to export the content of the stickies to a document if needed.
For project sticky boards a planning board can be created that allows participants to roughly plan actions to a time frame.
here is a Youtube video providing an overview of the solution.
New viertual world users have real problems with camera control this is why most of the rooms have seats to allow an anchor point to make camera use easier. When you sit down you get a prompt if you want to use your camera, basic instructions are also given at that time. e.g. you need to use page up and page down to move the camera.
Avatar lothing is supplied along with basics usage instructions on how to get people to interact.
Sametime 8.0.1 is used which relies on an underlying Domino runtime to provide instant mesaaging, group chat, presence awareness and VoIP capabilities.
Rezzme is an authentication module connected to the corporate directory. This is really important in the corporate context. When the avatar (you) think you are speaking to John Smith from the Finance team you have to be sure that you are tlaking to John - there has to be trust for this system to work.
Sametime group instant messaging chat is reflected in the virtual collaboration space and in the real world via a bridge between the two environments.
Open Document Format docs and the proprietry Microsoft document formats are supported and can be displayed within the OpenSim environment.
A repository is provided to ensure stateful components are remembered.
CNBS (news network) explain 3D Collaboration
CBS had an interview with Karen Keeter the leader of the Sametime 3D project. Its an interesting piece and provides a good high level explanation of the business problems Sametime 3D is trying to solve.
This pilot is exploring the business requirements for the usage of Virtual Worlds and there has been a fair bit of thought on this. There is more work to do and I ask all interested parties to contact Karen or me if you are in New Zealand / Australia. A brochure can be downloaded here.