Monday, October 06, 2008

Intel and Qwaq team up to crack the Virtual Workspace

Ever since the plans were on the drawing table 3-D based collaboration software developer Qwaq has kept its eye on the price: The virtual workspace for the enterprise. It resulted in an environment where focus didn't go out to slick avatars, but towards integration of office applications.

Earlier this week Qwaq made a joint announcement with Intel according to which Miramar, a 3-D information space technology originally developed by Intel Corporation's research labs, will be brought to market by Qwaq, which reminds me somewhat of the joint collaboration of IBM and Linden Lab. It shows that the major players on the technology market understand the potential of 3D environments, have been working on it themselves for years, but failed to crunch the 3D-ness and need to team up with new emerging specialist companies, which in their turn could use a big partner to crack open closely sealed corporate IT doors.

First Intel is/will be using the Qwaq technology internally to improve their teamwork, an act which they apparently didn't get together in Second Life, where they also have a strong presence. It will enable information, which is now only available to individual departments or divisions, to be easily accessed and shared across the enterprise, in dynamic unified views.

Secondly, Qwaq and Intel plan to work together to integrate Miramar technology into a new cross-platform edition of Qwaq Forums, which is expected be available next year. As for Miramar’s backgrounder, the software with immersive 3D and 2D components was originally developed by Intel Architecture Labs aimed at increasing the productivity of distributed enterprises by enabling new information visualization capabilities across distributed teams.

A very thorough article on the collaboration was posted online yesterday at the TechRadar magazine and originally featured in PC Plus issue 274. Here's the introduction

Working in a virtual world

Leave your car - and yourself - at home. Here's a virtual office
you can actually work in.

The use of virtual worlds and genuine 3D interfaces for anything other than fun and frolics has been a long time coming.

Granted, virtual worlds such as Second Life get an awful lot of media coverage, but until recently they remained a niche activity, even among the gaming community.

However, thanks to years of research by Intel and a collaborative effort with a specialist company known as Qwaq, 3D visual metaphors in general and virtual worlds in particular are becoming the latest business productivity tools, used for all kinds of collaborative work, from conferences and training sessions to work groups and project management.

The story of Intel's involvement in 3D interface and collaboration technology is actually rather convoluted. To make sense of it all, PC Plus met up with Intel's Cindy Pickering at the recent IDF conference in San Francisco. According to Pickering, it all started in the late 1990s with a project known as Miramar in which Intel Architecture Labs was investigating the use of 3D metaphors as alternatives to conventional, fl at 2D workspaces.

3D Multitasking

The research began by observing how client PC users coped with complex multitasking and then studying the effects of adding a third dimension to the user interface. "Going back and forth between lots of windows introduces a lot of task overhead. Having that third dimension allows you to put things aside in a different way that means they're still visually available, but without dominating the virtual workspace," Pickering explains.

Read the full article here.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, September 08, 2008

Football Manager 2009 Preview

Football (or Soccer to some) is big business. So are football games. Millions worldwide play football games, or (more my taste) football management games. The new season has just started, so it's time for a new release as well.

One of my favorite games to play is the si-games "Football Manager" and september 3rd they gave away some details on the 2009 edition. One of the biggest changes is they've added some 3D gameplay, of which I'm not sure is a good thing. The Fifa Manager (by EA Games) already has this, but I'm not sure how it would work in the FM. What I've noticed is that EA has a whole different architecture which makes Fifa Manager a lot faster than the FM which has one big player database. Perhaps (and hopefully), database improvements are implemented as well in the 2009 edition, as this was my biggest problem with the 2007 and 2008 versions.

Announcement Video 1

Announcement Video 2


So why should you choose Sega / Sports Interactive's Football Manager over EA Games' Fifa Manager?

Fifa has a few plusses: It's faster, it's more graphical, you can do more with your stadium, create a personal life as a coach, but it has one big issue: It's interface is sloppy. What I mean is this: In Fifa I have a hard time finding all player stats, finding suitable new players, compare them etcetera, all the things that are the very essence of a football management game. So, even though Football Manager is less graphical, it's interaction design is a lot better.

Looking forward to the release on November 14th!

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Integrate or wrap up

Many will agree that Virtual Worlds are wonderful tools when it comes to visualising hard to explain stuff and offer a range of quite useful possibilities. Yet NVE's are still a niche market and have obviously failed as marketing tools. They don't hold the power to overturn the internet yet and become mainstream applications.


In my opinion the key lies in integration with mainstream and social networking tools. Virtual Worlds such as Second Life are still mainly social worlds, used for social interaction for certain special interest groups and in this regard they are a mere 3D Chat addition to social networks. In this day and age these social networks are in charger of the internet with Facebook, Myspace etc. holding vast communities. If Virtual Worlds are to stand more than a "snowballs' chance in hell" in this web 2.0 battle for numbers they have to bridge the gap.


I think I've mentioned Kaneva in the past as pioneering this with their user profiles with blogging, etworking features etc. to enhance the social power of their virtual world. I've mentioned integration a number of times in the articles here on MindBlizzard and in presentations I did in the past year and a half.

Just over a year ago I wrote:

"One of the great features of Kaneva is the personal homepage that you get as a resident - a good start to integrate Web 2.0 and Web 3D into one environment. Think of the power of integrating Second Life with Flickr, Blogger, YouTube, Twitter/pownce and Facebook all in one!"

We've seen a small Facebook widget appear last year in which you could linkup with your Second Life friends, an attempt to integrate Second Life with Joomla, but now the integration takes a step forward as Tribal One integrates Facebook and OpenSim in a first step towards a new approach to 3D/Web integration

As usual, UgoTrade, has a very extensive and thorough blog on this integration:

The picture above shows the in the left pane fetched pictures from Stefan’s Facebook photos. As Stefan explains a hybrid web app is talking to the region to change the picture accordingly and pull the photos into frames on the wall (for a more detailed technical explanation see here).

read more at: UgoTrade.

More to come

There's bound to be more to come on cross platform interfaces and 3D/Web integration. Check out Digado for example with it's accounts on the "Second Life Interface Debate", and here's a vid from Smashing Magazine on "Futuristic Interfaces"


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dazzling View?

Allthough Virtual Worlds have really taken a flight in the past year, there still is a lot of skepsis towards social worlds. Often heard complaints are:

  • The graphics suck (gaming worlds usually have much better graphics)
  • The interface sucks

Linden Lab seems to take note of this. Early 2007 they have acquired Windward Mark Interactive LLC which resulted in a first windlight client in may 2007 with improved athmosperic rendering. After a shortlived testing period, Windlight was withdrawn from the standard viewer, but it's back again and being implemented in the standard client soon.

The client never changed though and other's gave it a try. Probably the best effort was the socalled Nicholas viewer, but with all the updates Linden Lab pushes it's hard to keep the viewer up to date. Pretty much the same goes for the OnRez Viewer, built by the Electric Sheep Company. While the OnRez viewer certainly looked a lot "fresher" and more up to date, it never really took off.

Now, Linden Lab has been working on updating the look and feel of their client for some time now, codenamed Dazzle. The first screenshots are promising. The client looks fresh:


It will take more than a visual facelift to take away complaints on the usability of the viewer. It will need reorganisation of functions. There should be more interaction design and usability testing to determine the best ways of accessing the inventory, or juggle IM screens.

We're not there yet, but every step is a step forward.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More Forecasting on 2008

In my previous post I already did some forecasting on 2008 and 2009 in terms of where the NVE industry is going. Today, Virtual World News (the guys from the VW Conferences) released a survey on the trends for 2008. In this survey some 45 industry leaders participated.


For a good overview of the contents of the 36 page whitepaper visit Fleeep's blog. My general observation is that each of the respondents is very positive about the developments of the industry. 2008 will see explosion this, massive growth that and so on. Since the majority of the respondents are either from MDC's (Metaverse Development Company) or from MSP's (Metaverse Service Provider) this positive view can be expected. I'm not sure it's fully safe to base your investment plan on their opinion.


The Questions


The questionairre is simple, it's not a long list to pick and choose, but 5 open questions which makes it possible for all of us (not among the 45 chosen) to ponder them ourselves. The questions are:



  1. What are your top 3 trend predictions for 2008?

  2. What business goals have you set for 2008?

  3. What challenges do you expect 2008 to bring for the virtual worlds industry?

  4. A number of new platforms are launching in 2008. What are the biggest impacts this will have on the industry?

  5. How will the above changes affect your specific segment of the industry in 2008?

The Answers

  1. What are your top 3 trend predictions for 2008?
    At this moment I don't have a clear top 3, I see a number of scenario's and trends emeriging this quarter though, here they are:
  • In 2008 we're going to be disappointed in Virtual Worlds. As I've pointed out a few times in the past weeks on this blog the current setup is it's Dozens of Them (which by the initials DOT is probably heading for another dot-world crash). What I mean by this is that we've seen about a hundred big companies immerse in Second Life, all with pretty much the same content: Information stands, auditorium and some entertainment stuff. While these are created with great skills by the MDC's it's pretty much the same stuff over again. Right now, most of these virtual enterprises are Marketing & Communication department babies and they're going to be disappointed as they don't bring USP's and ROI's. From this angle we have to differentiate between type of immersion, like:
    - mere presence
    - branding
    - crowdsourcing
    - engagement
    and forget about Business Development.
  • As a result of this disappointment, more MDC's will have to cut down capacity like ESC, or bring in different expertise. 2008 will see a slight shift from the current MDC's to more traditional IT companies like Sogeti or Capgemini who have longterm relations with their clients and a proper supply of Business Analysts who know their clients core business and have the ability to translate that core business to IT and VW solutions.
  • The former means that 2008 will focus on integration, creating API's and mashups, providing data-mining tools etcetera.
  • From a social point of view there will be disappointment in Virtual Worlds as well, mainly produced by lag and hardware power. 2008 will be a good year for NVidia, Intel, AMD and other hardware producers as both the Gameverse and the Metaverse will require a boost in sheer graphical and processor power. Another fundamental part of this new univerese will be the availability of bandwith as worlds like Second Life use streaming technology and are producing over 8 Gbps in data traffic. It will be up to Internet2 / Lamdarail to put their 100 Gbps network into full production (which will probably be beyond 2008) to service this bandwidth need.
  • The Metaverse in general will concentrate in general on the Extraverse, the branded or themed worlds. Since we do not have the ability (in most cases) to translate our core processes into virtual representations, the NVE industry will still be an instrument in marketing media in 2008.
  • As far as extraverses go, they will get more and more aimed at specific groups, for instance girl worlds like Barbieworld and GoSupermodel will grow rapidly. 4th quarter 2008 might see it's first VW specifically aimed at 50+ agegroups in beta.
  • The majority of funding will be coming from governemental organisations exploring virtual worlds in serieous gaming ventures.
  • Social Worlds will lean heavily on the gameverse to find the key to upgrading registered users to active users. This will mean that more and more storylines will be implemented in the Metaverse and offer new handles for interactive media (convergence with television a.o.)
  • Another challenge for Social Worlds will be the mashup with social networking sites like linked-in, Facebook and the likes. This also brings in the all important question of Identity Management (and in its wake interoperability and portability).
  • On the part of Second Life we will see improvement in stability as Aric Linden's QA team will be finalising their tests on the new Windlight client in January, making it the most stable release Linden Lab has ever produced. Havok 4 will be implemented somewhere mid 2008 as physics engine.
  • Aside from taxlaws and other governmental regulations the industry will gain some significance for retirment funding and insurance companies as more and more people will earn their living in virtual environments.
  • A huge issue will be the "What if I die" scenario: What happens to my second life and my virtual assets when I'm no longer there. When I'm gone, who owns my identity, will there be successionrights?

Okay, past bedtime now, the other questions will have to wait.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, September 07, 2007

True Web2.0 still to come


All around the world we’re talking about Web 2.0. Almost everything is 2.0 these days. In the blogosphere we all get excited about every new web 2.0 app. But really, what’s web 2.0?


2.0 means there was a 1.0, and old web. However, the web hasn’t been closed a single day to migrate it’s content to a new release. So technically we don’t have a new web. It’s usage has changed. The way we use the web and the content we use and put on it has changed. The web hasn’t. But it will. It has to. True web 2.0 still needs to come in my opinion. The contemporary social networks and usergenerated content change our way of working with the net and is raising new questions, asking for new standards.


A little while ago I wrote that web 2.0 is chaos. It’s going from site to site, registering hether and tether, inviting old friends over and over again to join and meeting new friends. It’s getting too complicated. Too much going on to keep track. In the process we get sloppy with our identity. Do some good searches on the net, add profile data from one site with info from the other site. Throw in a good whois lookup and it’s easy enough to put together a complete profile and history on someone. Perhaps even enough to start making educated guesses about passwords.


The web itself, it’s core isn’t ready for web 2.0. Web 2.0 needs to be more closed than the current web when it comes to privacy.


This is a first blog on why web 2.0 still has to come. More will follow soon

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, August 03, 2007

Intergalactic News update

Time for another blogosphere-update of the metaverse. Some nice newsbits passed by last week. So here's another hails from the VERSE

KZero reports:

Secondlife Blogo gives a nice addition to the metaversemap with an overview on VW's 4 Kids:


They also report on the article from the New York Times saying that Club Pinguin has been sold for 350 Million USD, with another 350 Million to follow after certain requirements are met.

Nick Wilson over at Metaversed reports:

  • Multiverse v1.0 Released!
    The long wait is finally over. After years of planning, volumes of hype, and the input of thousands of beta developers, Multiverse has finally released v1.0 of its platform. The Multiverse Platform is "a comprehensive software solution that gives development teams the technology, tools and assets to create virtual worlds for almost any purpose, including games and business tools." Basically, you can make worlds with it...
  • The XTR 3D Human Machine Interface
    A company called Extreme Reality (XTR) announced last week the creation of XTR 3D Human Machine Interface, an advanced motion tracking software designed to work with a regular commercially available webcam. Head and arm movements would be tracked automatically, and no more complicated equipment is needed other than a relatively blank wall behind the user. It even detects when the user reaches forward, toward the camera...

3PointD reports:

Last but not least the Belgian Second Life Crew reports that where Linden Lab bought Windward Mark to boost graphics, they're outdone by MindArk, producers of the Entropia Universe who incorporated the CryEngine2.

Here's the Mindark press release:

"Entropia Universe, the safest virtual world utilizing a real cash economy, has signed a license agreement to use the stunning high-tech game engine CryENGINE 2®, from German developer Crytek, creators of “Far Cry®” and upcoming “Crysis®.” This will make Entropia Universe the closest-to-reality looking massively multiplayer online game ever seen. The transition to an Entropia Universe platform built around this new technology is expected to be finished by mid-2008, and will be available to all Entropia Universe partners. Creator MindArk PE AB’s CEO Jan Welter Timkrans explains, “The upgrade of Entropia Universe will be built around the spectacular features supplied by CryENGINE 2®, offering a complete and immersive experience to Entropia participants. It will create synergies between the proven and safe Real Cash Economy backbone, the Entropia storyline with colonists fighting to establish a new world, and the very life-like visuals supplied from CryENGINE 2®.” He continues, “When we saw what the engine was capable of, we immediately understood that it would be perfect for Entropia, as both MindArk and Crytek are pioneers in their respective fields.”


Avni Yerli, Crytek’s Managing Director says, “We are thrilled to have been chosen by such a well regarded and successful industry leader as MindArk to be their future engine provider for Entropia Universe. We think the combination of our CryENGINE 2® technology and their extremely popular virtual playground will result in a new kind of rich and immersive experience that has not been possible until now. It will also expose a wide new audience to the stunningly realistic graphics, environmental physics and believable animations which are made possible by the award winning CryENGINE 2® together with some of the most recent advances in PC hardware and operating systems.”"


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,