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App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

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January 11, 2008 9:01 AM

What I Like at CES - IBM's 3D Future

Instead of burying you with one mega-post I thought it best to split up my comments on specific products I saw out at CES into a series of shorter posts.

First up, I found myself somewhat surprised that one of the most innovative things I saw at the show came not from a new, small company or a large media company but instead IBM. More specifically their pursuit of the 3D Web.

As a quick background, IBM has made splashes recently with their strong interest in the virtual world of Second Life, where users create avatars in order to run (and fly) around a virtual 3D world in which they can interact with other users and build a wide variety of things, like clothes, buildings, and actions.

Also a while back I’d read about IBM’s internal project entitled the Metaverse, which was a 3D world intended for use by IBM employees to communicate with other IBM employees in a 3D environment.

So it’s not like I hadn’t heard of this before, but I still found myself surprised when I came upon IBM’s booth and the most prominent thing on display were kiosks touting their work experimenting with and developing a 3D Web.

In talking it over with their representatives, I learned that IBM is highly committed to this 3D future, whether it’s working on developing a virtual presence for a wide range of possible customers (like retail or real estate, where having a virtual mockup of a space can help close a sale) as well as for internal use.

I find their internal use particularly interesting as what started out as a skunkworks project has grown into an environment that supports the interactions of more than 5000 IBM employees. When asked what the greatest benefits of using 3D virtual worlds has been, the two primary areas were in collaboration and modeling.

On the collaboration side, they cited the positives of having more visual cues indicating who wants to be talking during a multi-person meeting (something that can be nigh impossible on a conference call) as well as the extremely positive sign that often after meetings they find pairs of people wandering off or staying behind to continue conversations. This suggests the conversations they’re having are real and engaging, despite being done through computer-generated avatars.

On the modeling front, virtual worlds and Second Life in particular offer robust tools for creating in-world objects, whether they be boxes or chairs or anything really. Because of this, IBM has found useful these tools for creating 3D virtual models of real-world products for people to get a feel for prior to manufacturing or physically prototyping. This makes a lot of sense and seems like it could be an incredibly powerful tool for many distributed workplace situations.

All in all I walked away highly impressed at the commitment IBM has made to 3D virtual worlds. And quite frankly, I couldn’t be more excited to see what having the resources of a giant like IBM committed to this space will mean for the continuing evolution of 3D environments for practical business purposes.


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