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IBM Finding Business Uses for Virtual World

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the next-we-get-virtual-tps-reports dept.

IBM 96

jbrodkin writes "IBM has an unconventional take on virtual worlds for business use. Rather than strictly adhering to the laws of physics, IBM is letting its employees hold virtual meetings up in the air and under water. Employees are also being given wacky chores, such as kicking a giant boulder 1,400 kilometers. The virtual world, known as the Metaverse, has been in development for two years. Michael Ackerbauer of IBM says, 'I'd say more people are still finding it a novelty than a business tool. But ... if you build enough tools that they can use, they will come.'" IBM seems to be following a trend of involvement in virtual worlds, which we have previously discussed.

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96 comments

SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21774726)

_0_
\''\
'=o='
.|!|
.| |
IBM finding business uses for goatse [goatse.ch]

Re:SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21775362)

"But ... if you build enough tools that they can use, they will come."

Looks like someone's coming already!

-
". . . it's psychosomatic. You need a lobotomy. I'll get a saw."
  -- Calvin and Hobbes

Whacky chores? (4, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21774770)

Next share holder's meeting could be interesting?

"So Mr CEO, instead of letting the employees do something useful and making the shareholders some money you have them running around in pixel land kicking rocks? Even Microsoft and Zune makes more sense than that!"

Re:Whacky chores? (3, Funny)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 6 years ago | (#21774920)

No, it'll be held in the virtual world and the shareholders will be kicking rocks around.

Re:Whacky chores? (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775052)

Don't kick my rocks, dude!

Re:Whacky chores? (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#21777550)

You are such a tase, bro.

Re:Whacky chores? (2, Interesting)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775096)

Neal Stephenson will hopefully get a big lump of stock in the metaverse.
Probably the end-point of convergence for all the media that we have today is something like the metaverse but I highly doubt if we have the technology to do it today, and that will likely cause a misfire like the early attempts at virtual reality.
This kind of environment either works or it fails, there is no 'halfway there', immersion is not something you do on the cheap or with bad hardware. That just leads to frustration.
It's interesting to see big names like IBM experimenting with this, it could very well be the end of the traffic problem if a fully immersive environment could be produced cheaply enough. Technically speaking the whole worlds commuting budget for office jobs is available for this to be made a reality.

Re:Whacky chores? (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 6 years ago | (#21777300)

Personally I think IBM should have thought twice... it's really a pseudonym for a world that our current technology can't come to grips with. Bringing the whole Snowcrash equation into things does scare me to.

Then again, if they have cracked it, I want a go...

Re:Whacky chores? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21774922)

On the otherside of the coin, IBM now mocks it's own strategy in it's own commercials. I for one appreciate their forthright approach to corporate hypocrisy. So many try to spin through public relations, lawyers, or semantic arguments. IBM, they just throw it right in your face and dare you to reconcile the incongruity. Magnificent.

Re:Whacky chores? (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775238)

"instead of letting the employees do something useful and making the shareholders some money you have them running around in pixel land kicking rocks?"

Same thing could have been said of the "Word Wide Web" 12 years ago. The browser as we know it might not be the primary interface to the Internet in a decade.

Re:Whacky chores? (2, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775340)

It's not really about the interface, it's about them doing stupid crap like kicking boulders around or swimming around underwater when they should be paying attention to what's being said in the meeting.

I have no problems with using virtual worlds as a venue for some sort of team building exercise or something, but I don't see how being in this environment would be useful for a meeting where actual information is expected to be absorbed. For meetings at a distance, you need something like the web conferencing tools that already exist, that allow you to present information without unnecessary distraction. If you give your attendees something else to do other than pay attention to the meeting, they'll do it.

Re:Whacky chores? (2, Insightful)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775704)

It's not really about the interface, it's about them doing stupid crap like kicking boulders around or swimming around underwater when they should be paying attention to what's being said in the meeting.

I have no problems with using virtual worlds as a venue for some sort of team building exercise or something, but I don't see how being in this environment would be useful for a meeting where actual information is expected to be absorbed. For meetings at a distance, you need something like the web conferencing tools that already exist, that allow you to present information without unnecessary distraction. If you give your attendees something else to do other than pay attention to the meeting, they'll do it.


For such meetings (they happen?) that the meeting would be engaging enough that there wouldn't be time to kick boulders around. However, in a number of meetings I've been in, I had to participate for maybe 5 minutes then do something the rest of the time. Kicking boulders around might as well be more interesting.

Funny enough, the useful meetings are all relatively short (5-30 minutes). The boring drawn out ones are longer (1+ hours). If my physical presence isn't actually required, I'd do something else. The good ones are telecons where I call in. At least I can put it on speaker and go away doing more productive work.

Of course, if your meetings are such that a majority of people are kicking boulders around, then it's time to rethink the meeting - either break it into smaller groups of people and shorter meetings (with a quick "all hands" as necessary), or find a more disciplined way of running the meeting.

Re:Whacky chores? (1)

zanybrainy941 (972076) | more than 6 years ago | (#21776194)

If you're thinking about kicking boulders around, you're not thinking about the problem at hand. If the meeting isn't engaging you, how about alt-tabbing over to a different window and getting some real work done while you listen with half an ear to the meeting in the background? I have to wonder how much of this is geared toward recruiting members of the Shortest-Attention-Span Generation. If your competitor is letting people attend meetings in v-space, maybe you'd better too. Actually, that's just one of several ways this could be valuable.

Re:Whacky chores? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779894)

If you're thinking about kicking boulders around, you're not thinking about the problem at hand. If the meeting isn't engaging you, how about alt-tabbing over to a different window and getting some real work done while you listen with half an ear to the meeting in the background? I have to wonder how much of this is geared toward recruiting members of the Shortest-Attention-Span Generation. If your competitor is letting people attend meetings in v-space, maybe you'd better too. Actually, that's just one of several ways this could be valuable.


It's hard to "alt-tab" around when they want your physical presence. Like I said, for telecons, you can alt-tab away and ignore the rest of the crap that goes on (often a lot of internal discussions take place that really don't concern you - like the customer might be discussing among themselves why their deliverable is late...).

It seems the goal as one climbs the corporate ladder is to have as many meetings as possible, no matter how pointless they are. And with no ability to do productive work, if all I can do is kick a boulder on the provided screen, that's what I'll do. (It also seems that the social pressure is to attend the meetings rather than try to avoid them - I personally avoid as many meetings as possible since they are a total drain. See, the good meetings I've had are normally around a half-hour or less. Anything longer tends to mean it's not engaging the majority of the time (plus a sure sign of a poorly run meeting)).

About the boulders (3, Interesting)

jscribner (546453) | more than 6 years ago | (#21783492)

As metaverse is an experimental system, the boulder was merely created as part of our development work. We left the boulder in there figuring if we gave users a ball, they'd play with it. We wanted to encourage their exploration of this medium and thereby discover value. Right now, we're entirely focused on getting to the right questions about internal virtual worlds, rather than setting out to immediately seize upon business value.

So far, the boulder has primarily been used to teach employees how to interact and cooperate in the world, but we've been surprised how much it acts as a focal point for people in-world. People are drawn together to play with it, without any direct benefit or goal.

Re:Whacky chores? (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780656)

Well this provides the oppurtunity to begin developing UMCV's (unmanned construction vehicles) for use underwater/moon/mars/asteroids and what ever. Isn't that a good thing?

Meetings in Virtual Worlds (2, Informative)

jscribner (546453) | more than 6 years ago | (#21783846)

IBM needs a way for its employees to interact beyond the teleconference and to connect across geographies. We've accepted that meetings are an inescapable part of our corporate culture, but we also recognize that shorter, focused meetings will make us more productive. Internal virtual worlds give "I've Been Meeting" (as some affectionately call us) the opportunity to improve on meetings themselves, and experiment with more interactive and effective approaches to them.

Perhaps the most interesting thing we've seen in this environment is that people can't multi-task easily while in a virtual meeting, if they don't give it their full attention they can literally get lost. Conversely, attendees have a shortened attention span, so meetings need to stay on topic and valuable.

Re:Whacky chores? (1)

darkhitman (939662) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775420)

You've never been part of a mega-corporation that believes in team-building exercises, have you? I'm pretty sure that, in the realm of team-building exercises, moving a virtual boulder 1400km is relatively productive.

Re:Whacky chores? (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#21777574)

Oh, if your name is Scott Adams, it will be.
Stand by for a "business idiocy" strip boom, as Wally, Catbert, Dogbert and the PHB get their own strips just to handle the tshi'nami this will cause.

Have you ever been to a meeting? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775930)

instead of letting the employees do something useful and making the shareholders some money you have them running around in pixel land kicking rocks?

I've been in plenty of meetings where that would have in fact been a lot more productive.

What if the developers of Taligent had kicked pixelated rocks instead of wasting a lot of time on something that never flew?

And frankly, I'd be happy if more than half of Congress's term consisted of kicking virtual rocks instead of passing more bad laws...

Basically, I'm pro Mock Rock.

Re:Whacky chores? (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21776084)

but what if the shareholder's convention is virtually held on a mountain top and you have to defeat an ogre and an evil mage to get there?

Re:Whacky chores? (1)

TechnicalThug (799854) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789238)

QWAQ (qwaq.com) are using virtual spaces (based on the OpenCroquet VR environment) to manage business infrastructure. Users can join a space and collaborate on monitoring, fixing etc services all from within the space. Sure it's early days yet, but this kind of stuff will become more and more prevalent over time, as more and more businesses realise the benefits of virtualising their hardware (virtual hardware being manipulated in a virtual space.. who have thunk it?)

And OpenCroquet, although not quite ready for prime-time unless you're into hacking Smalltalk code (which fortunately, I am), is rather nice and has a lot of potential. Even better, it isn't Second Life (ie its architecture can scale, it isn't over-run by porn griefing 'tards.. etc), although undoubtedly there's an idiot somewhere that can fix that particular issue..

that's great (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21774784)

But 20% of IBM employees are in India.

Re:that's great (2, Insightful)

alshithead (981606) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775104)

"But 20% of IBM employees are in India."

So? They are an INTERNATIONAL company and have been so for a long, long time. They have employees everywhere. Instead of INTERNATIONAL Business Machines they are often known as "I've Been Moved". As in, their employees get to keep their jobs only if they are willing to relocate. Where were you in the '80s and '90s? My bigger beef is that they sold off their Thinkpad line.

Now, if you want to take issue with Bank of AMERICA outsourcing way too much of their work to India...I'm with you.

Re:that's great (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21776290)

Agreed on both counts. I love my Thinkpads, and try to keep them going so I don't have to get a Lenovo (they have much of a cheap feel to them). Also, I'm a Bank Of America customer and not exactly thrilled about their customer service outsourcing as well as their recent purchase of Lasalle Bank. Who wrote "How to shitcan customer service" and stuck it in the MBA manual?

Re:that's great (1)

alshithead (981606) | more than 6 years ago | (#21788484)

"Agreed on both counts. I love my Thinkpads, and try to keep them going so I don't have to get a Lenovo (they have much of a cheap feel to them). Also, I'm a Bank Of America customer and not exactly thrilled about their customer service outsourcing as well as their recent purchase of Lasalle Bank. Who wrote "How to shitcan customer service" and stuck it in the MBA manual?"

Well said. As a somewhat amusing ironic anecdote...I was shown the door by BofA at the beginning of the year, right after my contract had been extended into April. My manager tried to appease me with the tidbit that BofA dumps most of their contractors around that time for accounting purposes...can't let the stockholders know exactly what is going on. My wife now calls them "Bank of non-Americans".

I love my T

Uses for goatse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21774794)

What uses?

snow crash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21774800)

snow crash is coming

Re:snow crash (1, Funny)

supervillainsf (820395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21774978)

It would be pretty damn funny to see somebody whip out a sword and hack up some IBM senior management avatars

Re:snow crash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21775076)

i don't think too many will get the hero jokes. it's too bad, as snow crash is a truely great novel. many things outlined in it are only coming to fruition today.

Re:snow crash (1)

Kancer (61362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21783552)

Great, where is my high-speed pizza delivery?

Re:snow crash (3, Funny)

Follier (901079) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775100)

"It would be pretty damn funny to see somebody whip out a sword and hack up some IBM senior management avatars"

I doubt that would be the case, as management has a lot more free time to PL and grind teh phat lewts.

Like the Cathy Calendar of Insanity, or the dreaded Cubicle of Holding. Poor bastards wouldn't have a chance.

Re:snow crash (1)

The Anarchist Avenge (1004563) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775434)

Do you have any idea how depressed I am to see a Snow Crash reference countered by a MMORPG joke? You could have at least made the connection to L. Bob Rife.

Re:snow crash (1)

supervillainsf (820395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775786)

We could say Microsoft is The Raft

Re:snow crash (1)

Nephrite (82592) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779750)

Seriously, Snow Crash is too unrealistic or maybe optimistic, but hacking into a mega corporation's network with a virtual sword was too much for me.

Snowcrash.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21774822)

Now we are finally seeing the full potential of the internet.. As imagined in 1992. Aww, the metaverse, full of wonder and gawdy Avatars bought from K-mart. Not unlike the abortion of a website that is Myspace.

I understand many Slashdotters love Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash, but I struggled to finish it, yawn. If I ever develop a fixation for sassy sixteen year old chicks, I'll revisit it.

fliptout userid 9***

Re:Snowcrash.. (1)

balls199 (648142) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778532)

I don't think IBM really has really come up with the best way for the "metaverse" to be implemented. As has been mentioned before here, they are still stuck in walled garden approach to 3d worlds.

After the last time IBM's metaverse was posted on Slashdot, I realized, with my background in Java3d, I could start work on one, and did. I have a VERY rudimentary "metaverse" program written which allows a user to download a virtual world in a way very similar to how we currently download webpages. I was able to implement basic server using Ruby on Rails, and a basic client to download the virtual world. Anyone can set up a server, and anyone with the client would be able to connect to it if they knew the house name (like a domain name), and room name (like the directory). I, unfortunately, became distracted before I could implement portals between each server, but the idea was to make a portal object in which when the user's avatar ran into it, his or her browser would pick up a house and room name from the portal and connect to new server.

If anyone is interested in playing around with it (remember it's very basic), I have the code on my computer, but no place to post it. I haven't had much luck with Sourceforge lately, and don't want to post it there if I can avoid it. Any ideas are welcome.

"Dude! You got fired for WHAT!?" (4, Funny)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 6 years ago | (#21774830)

"I kicked a boulder 1400 meters... and my boss told me to get serious, so I kicked him 1666 meters."

Black Sun? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21774844)

I wonder if their Metaverse has a Black Sun?

Kinda kewl, but... (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21774892)

I guess that the boulder thing is kinda cool, but will it run Linux? Will SCO sue them if it will?

Am I missing something? (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 6 years ago | (#21774902)

What's the business use of holding meetings under virtual water?

Re:Am I missing something? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21774980)

I would presume it's an environment they agreed upon because they thought it would be more interesting than a plain grassy field. Which would make the meeting much more bearable than a boring office setting, or no virtual environment at all, simply "boring, painful, business-as-usual" IM/VOIP.

Re:Am I missing something? (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775098)

So you would not get ganked halfway in the meeting by some M$Noobs..

Business reason for different locales (4, Insightful)

Unoti (731964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775184)

The locale, sounds, environment, and general "feel" of a meeting can really impact the way the participants think. We've seen studies here before about high ceilings encouraging open creative thought, while low ceilings encourages disciplined thought. Different kinds of locations can help make the people feel more relaxed, fun, or whatever. Try having conversations with people in second life in different locales and see what you think.

There's some precedent for this. The Disney Imagineering process involves separating development into separate meetings for the "dreaming" phase and "critic" phase. In the dreamer phase, any idea is ok to present, no matter how impractical. In the critic phase, you shoot holes in ideas. Disney would hold the dreamer meetings in open, comfy places; and hold the critic meetings in more enclosed, trashy places. These ideas work in the real world.

Re:Business reason for different locales (2, Interesting)

Unoti (731964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775202)

Take my zoo, for example, in Second Life. There's all kinds of crazy things there-- missles that lunach and drop parachuting ducks that throw snowballs at you on their way down, gophers that eat flowers, a giant elephant that juggles people, and so on. People are always in there laughing their asses off, riding the animals around a race track and generally having a good time. There's voice chat, and I can hear them laughing. The environment provides stimulus and gives the people something to do, think, and experience together. Compare that to, say, people watching a PowerPoint in a conference call. There's no comparison-- a virtual environment makes all the difference in terms of people "being" together when they're not geographically together.

Re:Business reason for different locales (2, Insightful)

Unoti (731964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775242)

Another example. Today there was a Linden Labs business meeting with 80 or so people. After the meeting, they had a huge snowball fight together-- and many of the employees built their own snowball trebuchets and whatever. Also, lots of the people made their own Christmas costumes.

Some might say "so what" or "get a first life", but those people would likely also say that real life business parties serve no purpose, also. I say it's a good thing-- a bunch of the people have some fun together, they rub elbows with people they wouldn't normally see. The company accountant might actually get to interact a little with the company lawyer or whatever-- the benefits are the same as real life get-togethers.

Re:Business reason for different locales (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21776572)

If you use SecondLife, you are an idiot.

Re:Business reason for different locales (1)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775478)

This is reminding me of this guy, [thisspartanlife.com] who conducts a talk show in Halo 2. It seems to have gone progressively downhill, but the first couple episodes are worth watching.

Cromakey reason for different locales (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21776560)

"The locale, sounds, environment, and general "feel" of a meeting can really impact the way the participants think. We've seen studies here before about high ceilings encouraging open creative thought, while low ceilings encourages disciplined thought. Different kinds of locations can help make the people feel more relaxed, fun, or whatever. Try having conversations with people in second life in different locales and see what you think."

Actually in a way we have had real people in virtual environments in front of us for years. [virtualsetworks.com]

Re:Am I missing something? (2, Insightful)

Alpha830RulZ (939527) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775740)

If Steve Jobs did it, we'd be cooing about his avante garde leadership. If you were trying to keep your best and brightest people, wouldn't this be kind of a good way to keep those people motivated? Wouldn't demonstrating that your company can do something pretty cool, and not being real uptight about letting them have some fun with it, as part of a major company meeting, wouldn't that be kind of a good way to keep those people happy and possibly more contented and pleased with his place of employment? Wouldn't most of us get at least a little pleasure out of this that probably wouldn't hurt our day job productivity? Frankly, it makes me think about buying their stock.

I've worked for companies of this scale, and one of them did stuff like this to pump us up. Not technology, but similarly unrelated activities. They had Colin Powell come to a global management meeting and speak to primarily the new managers. We played golf. We met, we drank, we bonded. It was genuine, and quite effective team building. It was very motivating to me, and made me think I had one of the best jobs around. I still think that of that time. The company was a private partnership (one of the big Declining Small Integers) and I absolutely believe they got business value out of these things. So did the partners/owners, who paid for this out of their (admittedly tax deduction assisted) own pockets year after year.

Re:Am I missing something? (0)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21776412)

Ensuring that noone speaks at the same time. If you set the virtual world conditions so you have to pop-up to breath at the same time you can see who is preparing to speak. Anyway, this is just my guess. There are tons of moderately insane approaches to "facilitate collaboration" during a meeting at the moment in real life, so not surprising that the "facilitator parasites" are having a ball in virtual.

Anyway, I would love to have access to something like that. I work in a team that spans the globe and we have yet to find a tool which will allow us to do all the collaboration we need. In fact, at the beginning one of our first thoughts was: If SecondLife were not such a bunch of Sadville wankers and offered a corporate version of their garbageware it would have been perfect. Unfortunately, using them is not an option at present because they can claim everything you produce in their virtual world (so not surprising that IBM has created one of its own).

Re:Am I missing something? (1)

Unoti (731964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780584)

Anyway, I would love to have access to something like that.

You do have access to something like that: Second Life. I do a lot of work in Second Life, in fact business I do there is my primary income source. I'm honestly not understanding your reasons for hating it. You say you'd love to have access to something like that, yet your reasons you list for hating it ring pretty hollow:

1. They're "Sadville wankers", sorry this means nothing to me and it's just name-calling anyway, what's your point here?

2. "They can claim everything you produce." I didn't realize that. They have lots of content providers producing lots of things without SL interfering. I'm one of them. Unless you're producing gambling or child porn you're pretty safe. And if you just want a meeting space to collaborate, what amazing content are you going to produce that you're worried about?

If you want to just hate on SL that's fine, but you really do have access to an environment where it's possible to do business collaboration in a virtual world, right now. Perhaps it's just that you don't like it being hosted on their servers. Maybe when Raph Koster's Metaplace comes out that'll be more your speed.

Re:Am I missing something? (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21792546)

And if you just want a meeting space to collaborate, what amazing content are you going to produce that you're worried about. Designs for something with roughly 2-8 billions of CapEx per year, a couple of billions of OpEx per year and corresponding revenue. Some of it subject to security clearance constraints. Based on the current SL license using it for something like this is a "sorry, no go". Not a way in hell.

As I said, it is a Sadville wank, it is not a business tool.

Re:Am I missing something? (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21782522)

Yes.
Start by asking yourself, what's the business use of holding meetings in any particular location?
We could back up even further and question the use of meetings themselves, but that is quite another debate. The point is that, as long as the location allows the meetings normal processes to take place, it does not matter where that location, or virtual location is.

Re:Am I missing something? (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 6 years ago | (#21787584)

Start by asking yourself, what's the business use of holding meetings in any particular location?
Convenience and availability for the most part.

Effective Communication (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21774924)

Done rather well in this particular multiverse [dwarfurl.com] [ibm.com]

Don't Click the link! (2, Informative)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775622)

Don't click the link, it's that goddamn myminicity thing again.

MUD/MOO/MUSH/etc. (1)

Symbolis (1157151) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775008)

This was done, to some extent, in various text-based systems way back when. To what extent, I'm really not certain, but there were at least a few dedicated to that sort of thing. Just a little bit of history repeating.

Oblig (5, Funny)

Eevee1 (1147279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775058)

World of IBMcraft. Every year, all employees get an expansion pack that lets them become a female elf with bigger boobs.

Cue the requisite... (3, Insightful)

Lordfly (590616) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775062)

..."More like get a First Life roflburgers!" comments.

I know it's hard to believe, but business DOES transpire in virtual worlds, just like it does in (gasp!) Skype and (double gasp!) AIM.

Mentality (2, Insightful)

HandsOnFire (1059486) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775070)

"if you build enough tools that they can use, they will come"

I've seen so many failed projects happen simply because there was no interest, despite the fact there was plenty of capital investment.

I think things should start with an idea and a goal as opposed to "hey, lets spend a ton of time and energy making this rnadom thing and seeing what happens" It could work for science experiments and I think it's a great thing to do on the small scale, but why take 2 on business meetings in the virtual world?

How about their plans with second life? Has that fallen through? How is this any better?

We go into 3D worlds to provide a sense of space and dimensionality. Works great for games, or going on adventures in a contrived world. One must not forget that most communication, face-to-face, is non-verbal. 3D environments, in my opinion do not provide enough capability to show this facet of communication anywhere near proper. So how would this exactly provide a better place for meetings?

Maybe if it was a group of engineers that said "hey, this would be a really cool idea and help us communicate ideas faster and clearer" then I'd be more sold.

Re:Mentality (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775762)

3D environments, in my opinion do not provide enough capability to show this facet of communication anywhere near proper.
Here, let me fix this for you... 3D environments, in my opinion do not provide enough capability to show this facet of communication anywhere near proper *YET*.

So why not put the technology in place now?

Re:Mentality (1)

Switchback (6988) | more than 6 years ago | (#21795628)

All very good questions. I'll mention right now that I am one of the software engineers on the project and my comments are my own, and do not reflect IBM.

That said, IBM sees a lot of potential in virtual worlds. Metaverse, specifically has two primary goals:
1) It's targeted for internal business use, so it must be secure. Users are all securely identified - no impersonating. We are looking at anonymity for certain situations. Being internal means we should be able to hook up to any and all web services we want to interact with and tie in many of our existing tools like bluepages, sametime, blogging, wikis, etc.

2) How do we leverage virtual world technology to enhance business? This is our big mission. What things can we do in a virtual world that are better than other tools? How about things that can only practically be done in a virtual world? Sure, we can do presentations and other "ordinary" stuff, but that can really be done better on the web - or just sent via email. Until we immerse ourselves in the world and try things out, we won't come across those traits that really make it unique. What works? What doesn't? Who's to say someone (developer or user) won't come up with that one idea that really exploits virtual world technology and really makes the medium suddenly a necessity?

You can't just sit around and wait for it to mature - you're too late by then. You have to go out there and discover. Be willing to take the risk if you believe in the future of the technology.

We see this as really the infancy of virtual worlds and, I believe, really can't imagine what we'll be able to do in them in 5 - 10 years.

Many people may not be able to see any way useful business value can be obtained through virtual worlds, but people said the same thing of the web and instant messaging. Look how critical they are now.

Who comes up with this crap? (2, Interesting)

dave562 (969951) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775108)

To be fair I absolutely love Snow Crash and think it was a great book. But come on IBM, get real! Why not invest in some of that nifty Cisco infrastructure that allows you to communicate with anyone anywhere? That seems a lot more productive than logging onto some virtual under water world so that everyone can conference with silly looking avatars.

Re:Who comes up with this crap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21778186)

Yeah, nifty Cisco infrastructure.
Go ask for a demonstration!
Go to their Second Life office and ask access to their demonstration Sim where you can see how you can.... oh wait, this is irony right?

Virtual? You mean real (4, Insightful)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775150)

Perhaps people should be more careful to use the word 'virtual' in an ICT sense. As if the 1's and 0's recorded on your harddrive don't exist, just because they represent imaginary worlds. That is nonsense.

At a critical moment, a miniscule group of electrons may ultimately determine whether a space shuttle makes it into earth orbit, or crashes into the ocean. A tiny magnetic area on your harddisk may determine whether you see a folder with your vacation pics on your desktop, or not. A single bit flipped in transit (due to some electromagnetic disturbance, or whatever) may cause an industrial robot to move a millimeter off the mark & junk the product passing underneath. What I'm trying to say: the environment may be imaginary for a great part, but these small groups of electrons, magnetic area's etc. are very real, and so is the effect they can have.

There's no such thing as a virtual meeting. With 10 participants, that's 10 people communicating with each other at the same time, like in any other real-world meeting. When you're dealing with bots, that's just you interacting with some company's ICT infrastructure, similar to shopping in a webstore or reading /.

Sure, the interface is radically different, but other than that it's just: communication. As creatures have done since the 1st braincell developed.

Re:Virtual? You mean real (1)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775778)

There are many perspectives, one being that matter is just organized energy and therefore nothing physical is "real". Alternatively, matter is 99.9999% empty space, only the electromagnetic and nuclear forces create the illusion of solidness. Finally, there is no obvious way to distinguish between a physical universe and a simulated one, provided it is a consistant, bug-free simulation. All that being the case, what constitutes virtual?

Re:Virtual? You mean real (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779700)

The bits are real. The world they represent is not. The usage of "virtual" is correct, as it modifies "world" and not "bits".

"Ce n'est pas un monde."

Re:Virtual? You mean real (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21782244)

Yes, a real meeting in a virtual environment, like in the clouds or under water. To contrast, in a game like The Sims, you might have virtual businesspeople having virtual meetings; none of it is real, even though the person watching/interacting with the game might base decisions on what happens in the game. If only politicians had a clear grasp on fantasy and reality when it came to video games with virtual violence in them, as the player simply pressed buttons...

Paging Morpheus (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775168)

Do you think that my being faster has ANYTHING to do with my muscles, in this place?
You think thats AIR you're breathing?

AGAIN.

The Office said it best about Second LIfe (4, Funny)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775216)

http://youtube.com/watch?v=CcxKHjdTQKs [youtube.com]

Dwight: "Second life doesn't have winners or losers."

Jim: "Oh, it has losers."

Re:The Office said it best about Second LIfe (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775370)

Actually, I am the guy in the video. It's not my second life. Nor is it my second second life. It's my third life... err perhaps I divulging too much

IBM is an evolutionary innovator (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775258)

I'd be blown away if IBM managed to pull off a seriously big innovation with this, as free-thinking is not their strongpoint.

They are, however, pretty good at implementation, I think.  Maybe.

fantasy might be an amusing distraction (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21775264)

however, it would serve better to realize it's time to get real now.

in the end, the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in.

for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it?

we're intending for the nazis to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather'.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying [google.com]

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continues on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US;

gov. bush denies health care for the little ones

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html [cnn.com]

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html [cnn.com]

all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

still making his views known worldwide, whilst many of US keep yOUR heads firmly lodged in the silicon sand hoping (against overwhelming information to the contrary) that the party LIEn scriptdead pr ?firm? fairytail hypenosys scenario will never end.

for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available after the big flash occurs.

'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

ok (1)

Abdullah Muhammad (1205858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775576)

cool me want

Direct brain interfacing (1)

skeftomai (1057866) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775632)

What would be cool would be direct interaction with the brain to make it feel like participants are truly immersed in the virtual world--like what's in Arthur C. Clarke's The Light of Other Days. Hopefully one day...

We're already in a metaverse (1)

1 a bee (817783) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775706)

Adopting the viewpoint of the article, the web itself is a metaverse in which the laws of physics are suspended. I find it a little funny though that the article doesn't seem to acknowledge this obvious fact: it is as if the article takes as given that the web is more real, less virtual, than the virtual worlds it discusses. Wow! epistemologically, it would seem, we have come a long way in some 10 short years!!

Re:We're already in a metaverse (1)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780278)

I think the parent makes an insightful comment, in that the immersive worlds of SL or any MMORPG are the same bits-and-bytes that more traditional (if you can call something relatively new "traditional") World Wide Web pages, so maybe a "real-not real" distinction isn't the most helpful way of understanding the phenomenon. When I first met my wife (though eHarmony) to most of the older people in my life, in particular those less web-savvy, did not equate our electronic communication as a "relationship" in the same way that they'd evaluate a face-to-face relationship, or oddly enough, the same as letter-writing. It felt real, and there is a point where the electronic relationship effected the rest of my life. It also reminds me of when the lady I work with gives me grief for scripting things she does manually. When I write a script that takes 2 hours, (with research) that I can apply to 50 servers, and it takes 30 minutes to do each server manually, she gets frustrated and says "just do it manually." I think it is because it is outside of her ideas on what things "are." I'd be tempted to say that she just doesn't like being shown up... but the truth is if I didn't do it by scripts, she won't help either way... (deep breath)

I think the temptation is to call the World Wide Web "real" and distinguish it from WoW or SL, is that the WWW is intentional in its intention to effect the rest of your life. Most web services sell goods transferable to life (tangible ones, like sweaters, and intangible ones like insurance, or knowledge applyable to other areas of life). Even most web communities are centered around specific interests beyond themselves, such as a Linux community, or Flickr, or Deviantart (a group of people producting art), etc.

I think the difference is that for instance, a virtual world is implicitly branded as something "external" and "counter" to the rest of life. When someone states this I think those not involved or unaware, are quick to support that notion. I think the diffrence is that to those involved, it does have applicability in the rest of life, as I'm sure people communicate with clan-mates, buy and sell items (illegally or legally), and ask a boss whose employee comes to work dead tierd from an all night raid, the effect of the world is "real." I think you get this idea from popular media when we refer to things such as "The Star Wars Universe." It is itentionally billed as something "other," but when it reaches a critical mass of exceptance, and enough people share the common experience... it effects their interactions in ways outside of simple, direct interaction within the confines of that universe. It is understood by people as a part of our collective conscience, rather than something contained in a "non-real" universe. That is why I can look at a Boba Fett and it seems real where I can say matter of factly "He is a bounty hunter", where more obscure parts of the Star Wars universe are distinctly not-real, even though they are both fantasy and "not-real." I think the social construction of not real things, gives them attributes normally associated with real things.

I think one reason Second Life is so interesting to a lot of people is that it is a blend of a non-real universe, but ecapsulates so many real activities (buying and selling with real money, real celebrity interviews) that are parts of mundane life experienced in a fanticiful way.

I think it is an evolution of the purpose of the internet in relation to Maslov's Hierarchy of needs... in the beggining ARPAnet was for security/defense. The WWW was for efficiency... these worlds a way of doing real things in a way that is fun, and full of astheticism.

Just get them WoW accounts (1)

Creedo (548980) | more than 6 years ago | (#21775902)

My guild comes up with some of the most interesting non-game related ideas while working on raids and whatnot. Vent makes for a very interactive situation.

Re:Just get them WoW accounts (1)

Nephrite (82592) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779716)

And I've heard about some million scale contracts were concluded in raids in WoW. Seriously.

Re:Just get them WoW accounts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21780914)

Dude, most people at IBM probably have WoW accounts...

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21776080)

I for one do *not* want my boss *anywhere near* my 2nd Life or whatever. Virtual meeting or no virtual meeting. Plain wouldn't happen. IBM job or no IBM job. I'd refuse to do it. And if forced to, would work within the virtual space to ensure the people who thought of it, damn sure know it's a bad idea after the first time.

Hypocritical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21776434)

Not meaning to be flame-bait here but this almost seems hypocritical.
The move IBM is making appears to provoke interest but as soon as you associate the EXACT same concept to SecondLife it gets snubbed.
How is this any different? Is it because they are creating it themselves? Can someone explain this?

Patent infringement (2, Funny)

SamP2 (1097897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21777842)

Employees are also being given wacky chores, such as kicking a giant boulder 1,400 kilometers
In recent developments, Sisyphus's [wikipedia.org] lawyers have announced that their client will sue IBM for business method patent [wikipedia.org] infringement.

Metaverse oblig. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21778134)

...wonder if they eat at Cosa Nostra.

Shirts and faces. (1)

forgotten_my_nick (802929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21778212)

I may be wrong but IIRC IBM employees do have a dress code for second life. I believe for example they are not allowed dress up as animals.

Also the article seemed more like an advert. "Can't see each other" so they go onto virtual world? News flash you still can't see them, but you can be distracted more. Just buy a web cam.

No Real Business Case (1)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 6 years ago | (#21779142)

I've pondered and pondered and pondered and yet I still can't find a viable business case for virtual worlds such as second life. I'm sure eventually one might be found, but under the current conditions, I just can't see any reason why a business would want to invest in this market until it becomes more mature.
Additionally, as a younger techie, I see companies consistently using this as a ploy to hire and maintain us. Thinking that if they look innovative enough, we may just want to stay with this company. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but if you give me competitive pay and good benefits, I'll probably stay.
Maybe, just maybe, IBM has a point, but the ability to kick a boulder 1,000 feet in a virtual world really doesn't translate into $$$'s.

Why stop at meetings? (3, Interesting)

DrVomact (726065) | more than 6 years ago | (#21780606)

Heck, this could do wonders for working from home. You could log into the virtual office on Mount Olympus, levitate to your workstation that is set up on an otherwise inaccessible crag, and do your work. I don't know about you, but I could write great code a mile above the Aegean Sea, with eagles hovering nearby. If people wanted to talk to me, they could always levitate on up to my aerie...as long as their level is high enough to have the Levitate spell, anyway. I'd still avoid meetings, though—I don't care whether they're held on top of clouds or caves full of glowing lava, meetings suck.

There would be some drawbacks, of course: for instance, my PBH would insist on an avatar that looks like Zeus. Ah, no problemo--I'll just hack the system so he looks like Goofy to everyone else...he'll never notice. While I'm at it, I'll make some...er...enhancements to the female avatars.

Seriously, I'm sorta serious. The tech is getting better, and gas prices ain't going down. Sooner rather than later, businesses are going to have to make the adjustment to letting those who have jobs that can be done from home do so.

Re:Why stop at meetings? (1)

pravuil (975319) | more than 6 years ago | (#21784376)

Yeah, and our bodies can create enough energy to power our machine overlords...

Don't like your job? (1)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 6 years ago | (#21781948)

Download a new one.

Talking business in a virtual world... (1)

pravuil (975319) | more than 6 years ago | (#21784286)

As long as they don't have anonymous cybersex during my presentation...

IBM and following the trends (1)

rdean400 (322321) | more than 6 years ago | (#21785180)

IBM doesn't necessarily follow trends. It invests in areas where it thinks it can make money. They've been on the Second Life bandwagon for a while now, and they've built quite a presence and have tutorials on DeveloperWorks about developing content for SecondLife using Rational Application Developer.

I didn't know IBM had productised this (1)

RandomNick7 (1169243) | more than 6 years ago | (#21796046)

Although I had heard about their Virtual Universe [csd.uwo.ca] product and other things.
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