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Virtual Worlds -- better experience and cheaper than conference calls

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If you believe that virtual worlds will eventually be an important part of how we all live and work, you may be happy to read about our results from the latest customer study: Virtual Worlds -- better experience and cheaper than conference calls. "Better" seldom really sells a real technology on the grand scale, but "cheaper" is likely to gather some attention I hope :-)

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Looks interesting. Nice example video online on the website. The example used a voice connection to a mobile. So who handles the gateway to the PSTN or are you assuming end to end VoIP connection? How does this work when different organizations need to interact who don't have your software system. Maybe for example they are using Microsoft Communicator for their presence/connectivity...how is this handled? ie does the system follow IETF protocols such as SIP and/or Telecom protocols such as IMS?

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Thanks for the comments!
Currently, the POTS gateway is based on hardware, but we're making headway on integrating with software POTS/VoIP solutions. One point is that our VoIP is not SIP, because we need it to integrate with the 3D world first and foremost, so we have to use gateways for that.
Regarding integrated communications, we integrate with a number of partners. First out is Lotus SameTime, mainly because some early adopters are on that platform, but the others are right behind that.
What makes me excited is that we're now starting to get real, solid data that VW communications really deliver great value.

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Found the rest of the videos...but still like the video conference idea the best.
Some general thoughts on some of the videos:

1) Document sharing. Looking at a document in a virtual environment is ok for an overview, but there needs to be a better way to view and share docs. Simply distributing the files still has the problem where people are not on the 'same page' when discussing the doc in a meeting. This is more of an HCI issue than anything to do with the underlying infrastructure. It has been a while since I looked into stand alone stuff out there for this, but there has to be a good solution for collaborative editing and viewing.
2) Navigation. Mice just don't do the trick all that great. Are you using any specialized hardware? I have been meaning to looking into the 3D mouse but I don't think too many programs utilize it....and I am too busy(lazy) to integrate it into our VR. It looks cheap and easy to use though.
3) 3D manipulation networking(my research). How fine grained can a user interact with the 3d objects? I am guessing they are using the mouse so u limit the interaction to predefined commands? On one of the videos the avatar pulls out the server from the rack.... are these movements limited and how are they programmed into the system?

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Shared edits: The model of giving other people control of the shared mouse seems best to me -- similar to how WebEx does it.

Navigation: If you want to sell to the entire world, don't require people to buy hardware they don't already have :-) Yes, it's keyboard and mouse, although there are additional keyboard-and-mouse facilities for advanced users.

Manipulation: We do better than your typical online RPG. There is significant interaction with the world. We have some users who use the system for seemingly trivial things like practicing where to place traffic cones around an accident (!) The hands go to manipulating objects using IK. We don't do haptic feedback, though -- again, buying expensive hardware isn't in the cards for most of our users.

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Looks cool! Have you looked into baking in more advance lighting models? Like some radoisty and ambient occlusion (ie see http://on-mirrors-edge.com/index.php?option=com_incgallery&Itemid=32 ) for example. They create a more realsitic lighting enviroement and are baked into the world, so have no runtime cost, so should work even on lowest end cards ( ie intel ).

Good Luck!

-ddn

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The problem with baking is that you have to re-bake whenever the user changes the world. In our worlds, the user can typically re-arrange almost anything "live." And, yes, we have to run on the Intel low-end hardware, because that's what's actually installed on enterprise desktops around the globe. *Grumble!*

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This is very interesting, specifically, that virtual worlds are actually cheaper than enterprise conference call solutions. Because on the face of it, virtual worlds infrastructure should be more expensive: More expensive hardware (CPU and GPU on clients, and also on servers if you do physics there like many do) and more complex software.

I guess that means conference call solutions are currently overpriced? Or is there something I am missing here? One thought that comes to mind is that virtual worlds could require less bandwidth, if instead of streaming actual video they stream only audio + just enough information to render the meshes correctly (joint positions, I guess, would suffice for the most part).

Regarding better experience, that is a definite plus. So put together, I agree that this does sound like a compelling case for virtual worlds.

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Quote:
Original post by hplus0603
The problem with baking is that you have to re-bake whenever the user changes the world. In our worlds, the user can typically re-arrange almost anything "live." And, yes, we have to run on the Intel low-end hardware, because that's what's actually installed on enterprise desktops around the globe. *Grumble!*


Hmm given the CPU on these machines are so much more powerful than the GPU, I wonder if it be feasible to utilize them to dynamically relight the scene? Hmm or perhaps a service to augment the visual quality of scenes ? interesting idea, using the computing cloud perhaps segway into ideas from the other thread.

Good Luck!

-ddn

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On a UK business TV show, they did a feature on this last week focusing on 2nd life. Apparently some businesses are using this existing platform to build virtual business parks:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7777485.stm

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