Do you find yourself wishing that some of the members of your team -- especially those that work from home, a remote location or a satellite office -- could be more tied into the workplace? The wait may be almost over thanks to a pair of 3D virtual workplaces hitting the market soon.
Inspired by Linden Labs' intricate 3D civilization Second Life, server and software heavyweight Sun and upstart Qwaq have designed peer-to-peer environments specially for collaboration within companies. Like most enterprise platforms, the primary task is providing security for the critical and confidential information being exchanged within. Visitors can be limited to employees or members of certain teams. Passwords, permissions and authentication keep tight controls on who can view or edit documents and designs within the workplace.
Team members access the workplace via an avatar that they build. The avatar then enters the virtual office, chosen from several templates or imported from a 3D modeling software. The workplace includes standard office fare like conference rooms, whiteboards, and areas for presentations and demonstrations of new product designs. Other team members will be found inside, represented by avatars as well -- often identifiable by a name above their head or by their familiar face. The team can conduct work much like they would in the office, attending meetings, speaking with coworkers in the hall, sharing documents, even giving presentations on designs for other members of the team. Best of all, the workplace is open all the time and you don't even have to pay a night security guard.
Here are a few of the key benefits of these virtual offices:
Sun's product MPK20 is basically in beta, being tested by the company's own employees. Qwaq Forums was revealed to the world in March, but is still in the evaluation phase for use on Windows and Linux operating systems. So don't say a tearful goodbye to the all-too-real cube farm just yet, but do get ready to say hello to your suddenly closer far-flung colleagues, or at least their avatars.