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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Implementing a Virtual World

Image from a virtual world created by Forterra.

Considering the implementation of a virtual world?

Below are a few tips from a interesting whitepaper by Forterra Systems, a company that provides private, virtual world technology for the corporate, healthcare, government, education, and the entertainment industry. The main product of Forterra is OLIVE™ (On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment). OLIVE is an open, distributed client-server platform for building private, realistic virtual worlds. The architecture scales from single user applications up to thousands of concurrent users.

The paper is called Recipe for Success with Enterprise Virtual Worlds written by Chris Badger, the VP of Marketing.

Lessons Learned: What Worked (small sampling from whitepaper)

Well defined "Use Cases" The creation of written example of how the 3D environment would work and the expected implications and outcomes enabled a discussion with the 3D world vendor experts (in this case Forterra)who could comment on what dimensions of the use case would be easy or difficult to prototype quickly. The Use Case allow allows managers who might be uncomfortable with a 3D implementation to visualize how it would work and the integration of the virtual world into the workflow of the organization.

Private, secure, hosted environments This allowed for a quick implementation and overcame several potential IT department obstacles or road blocks. One concern with virtual worlds or any Internet application is security. Having the virtual world hosted in a secure, private environment can be a huge advantage.

Branded facilities. Applying corporate branding and even building style guides to 3D meeting environments provided multiple benefits. First, they help assure senior management that virtual worlds can represent their image and culture in an appropriate way, which helps gain trust and confidence in the pilot. Second,the facilities can be designed to be fun without the constraints of real-world zoning ordinances. A well-designed set of facilities increases the excitement and engagement for users to want to participate in virtual training or meeting events.

Personalized avatars The use of realistic personalized avatars was cited by users as a major contributor to the immersive nature of their pilot. By “immersive”, we mean the perception that “I am really in a meeting room, three feet from a colleague with whom I am talking and interacting, even though it’s just their avatar and that colleague is really 5000 miles away.” Another benefit of personalized avatars is that users tend to become emotionally attached to their avatars, which is valuable when valuable when used with executives or other major stakeholders being courted in the pilot.

(Read the other What Worked well items in the whitepaper.)

What I really liked about the whitepaper is they also listed "What Didn't Work So Well." A great and honest element rarely encountered in corporate whitepapers. Here are some of the list items.

Lessons Learned: What Didn't Work So Well

Testing the PC, headset, and Virtual World (OLIVE) audio properties before an event. The audio experience in OLIVE or any virtual world can be a significant positive contributor towards recreating the experience of a live face-to-face meeting. However, not taking the time to test and tune the PC setup can impair this experience. Users who show up right at the start of the in-world event typically have a hard time following the agenda if they don’t take the time beforehand to test their equipment. In this case, I recommend having a prior "less intensive" meeting that is established really just so everyone fine tunes their PC for the event.

Working through corporate firewalls. Few corporate firewalls have the requisite TCP and UDP ports open that are needed for virtual world users to access a server cluster outside their firewall, or vice versa, for external attendees trying to access a server behind the firewall. Many corporations report that requests to IT for opening the needed ports can take weeks to resolve. Forterra has some great techniques for working through these technical issues to minimize the possible IT problems.

Getting IT support. Large-scale deployments require IT support, so it’s important that virtual world advocates in lines of business get buy-in from their IT colleagues. Some companies’ policies require IT blessing for any employee to access outside servers, which makes pursuing pilots extremely difficult to start.

Again, these are a few of the "gems" from the whitepaper. If you have some time, take a read. You'll gain some really interesting insights into 3D World Implementations.


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1 comment:

daniel john said...

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