IBM’s Colin Parris Dives Into Virtual Worlds
I missed the beginning of the remarks by Colin Parris, vice president of digital convergence at IBM Research, because the panels are stacked a bit back-to-back and I was on the one directly before he spoke, but the first half of his presentation consisted of laying out some of the potential benefits of integrating virtual worlds with current business processes. The second half of his remarks consisted of looking at what IBM is doing and planning in the space. I’ve transcribed them pretty well below.
IBM is already working with clients and partners on applications that provide business value in virtual worlds. This is mainly in three categories:
1. Commerce: Enhanced pre-sales activities, utilizing spatial capabilities for the early experince of the product or service in an environment customized to look and feel like the customers’ or clients’ own, and leveraging the shared experience of virtual worlds to approximate the real world, so that products can be experienced with friends relatives or experts. We can also extend these activities to the customization of products and many other areas we are looking at.
2. Educational experience: This includes applications that leverage the fact that virtual worlds are proving to be effective distance learning enviroments in business, and that individual and team-based simulations and role-based play for business process rehearsals can give faster understanding and assimilation of knowledge, which gives an increase in productivity in training and far faster feedback at a much lower cost. IBM offers several experiences and conferences on a variety of subjects for internal teams and partners, and we’re working with several clients on education and training offerings for their internal and client bases.
3. Coordination and innovation: This includes applications that facilitate the coordination of individuals and teams, usually across several geographies and organizations, all focused on achieving a targeted busienss or technological objective. This can also faciltate the delivery of events that bring together communities of interest. These applications all facilitate and leverage mass collaboration models and tools in rich immersive environments to drive both scripted and unscripted innovation. In addiiton to internal use, we’re also working with clients on their projects and events, including projects we did for Wimbldeon and the Australian Open to provide unique viewing access at multiple angles in near real time.
These are really just three initial categories. If we look at the rate of growth and interest in virtla worlds as business platforms, there are many more to come. In the three categories that I described previously, there are a number of implications with potentially profound impacts.
We can clearly see the begnining of an era in which we transform customers’ experiences across the whole value chain. The optimised improvement of business and government that can be obtained will clearly result in reduced cost. Customization of commerce and transactions that can be garnered from the understanding and insights gained will result in increased profitablity in these transactions. The ability to connect real world and virtual world experinces to reduce complexity and risk will result in reductions in cost, and an increase in effectiveness. New understanding and insights into complex long standing business problems will support all the other implications and enable new implications that will soon arise.
The combined effect of all this will indeed have a profound impact on how we work and engage in communities. This is indeed just the beginning.
By now you’ve probably guessed that IBM has a serious interest in virtual worlds and the 3D Internet. We believe these environments will have a huge impact on the Web as we know it. You probably encounter skeptics and naysayers, as I do every day. While the technology today may be reminiscent of games of old and the environments do not provide a business level of stability yet, it is useful to remember the early days of the Web and reflect on the rapid maturity of those capabilities over the last decade. The technology of the Internet will improve, and 3D elements will become an increasing part of business applications.
To accelerate this future, we need several bold and immediate actions, in no particular order:
We need to improve the overall user experience from a business perspective, and to make the interfaces easier to use in order to accelerate client growth. We need to improve the graphics capabilities where needed for specific highly visual applications, delivering faster response time, and improve tooling systems for enhanced creativity. We also need to stabilize the platform for a high volume of users.
We also need to better manage trust and identities to solve challenges around illegal actions, inappropriate behavior, privacy and security.
It’s also apparent that we must leverage the current business applications and data repositories, integrating these core business systems into the virtual world, and we must integrate virtual worlds with each other. This is mandatory for the widespread adoption of business capaibilties. This will require the leverage of open standards.
We’re at the beginning of a new inflection point, and we do have the chance to accelerate the future.