Many organizations today are having employees working remotely. This may be working from a home office or perhaps they are based at a client’s office. In my case i’m currently working from home as i’m recovering from an accident and not being able to travel. Not being able to be physically present at the office brings along some issues with team collaboration or knowledge sharing. Not to forget that having (physical) contact with colleagues inspires, engage and provides energy.
Many technologies can help getting a bit of a feeling of “presence”, connectiveness, immersive… etc. One example is using tools like Twitter to keep connected. I’m also using Skype a lot, which i still think ROCKS in this technology. To date i’ve had several opportunities to attend meetings at the office through the use of Skype. Having the webcam pointed at the team absolutely helps to have an improved feeling of presence. Being able to see someone speak and watch their non verbal signals is of absolute great value in this respect.
Lately i’m also involved in a project where we investigate the value and design and development of virtual worlds. I’ve seen several (recent) initiatives that focus on the use of virtual worlds for team collaboration.
Immersive Workspaces in SL
Linden Labs just recently issued a press release in which they anounce the Immersive Workspaces initiative. This is a collaboration with Run Rivers Red and is developed exclusively on the Second Life Grid. The movie below gives you a view on what Immersive Workspaces is.
I’ve not been able yet to actually experience the new service myself, but the promo video looks very interesting. I think this is the first really innovative attempt of Linden Labs to get more into the corporate use of Second Life. What i like about the initiative is that it is designed around real world business processes and applications. It does not attempt to provide a Second corporate Life, rather it attempts to enhance or complement real life experiences. A sort of same approach we see in other initiatives like Sun’s “Project Wonderland” or IBM’s “Bluegrass” initiative.
Project Wonderland is a Java based open source initiative in which’ development Sun Microsystems plays an important role. Wonderland has been initially developed by Sun in order to provide their employees an immersive 3d space for collaboration.
Wonderland is currently still in early stages of development but offers great perspectives. The 0.5 release is soon to be expected which among others will include radically improved game graphics and avatar engine. These two important aspects are quite unacceptable in the current release, especially for those who are used to advanced graphics in commercial games like World of Warcraft. For more info watch the Wonderland 0.5 video. What i like about the project is that it is initiated by Sun from a real business process issue. They have 50% of their workforce working remotely at any given day, says Nicole Yankelovich. From this perspective they are creating an environment in which employees can work together and have all their applications shared in the 3d world.
I don’t know if 3d online spaces in which i can use all my tools and collaborate constantly with my collegues and others are the ultimate solution, perhaps video conferencing can be more efficient in some situations. But it is sure a very interesting topic of research. The problem is real and the issues that it brings along are evident. As the number of employees working remote are likely to increase more and more, initiatives like Wonderland and Immersive Workspaces are steps towards environments that are able to facilitate collaboration processes that provide the real feeling of presence.
[last edited on November 20 at 12:00]