What would your business avatar look like? No, seriously, if you had to develop an avatar for your virtual office what would you choose: A suitclad executive? A Pokemon or World of Warcraft character? Or maybe you prefer one that looks more like yourself, just a little sexier to help boost your profile? As a journalist I think I’d have to go for the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Raoul Duke look – gonzo journalism at its best.
Think about it. Because while you may be asking yourself what this has to do with unified communications, it’s a question corporate employees could be facing in the not too distant future, especially if virtual world technologies for the enterprise space get off the ground.
Indeed, the success of mainstream virtual worlds such as Second Life and online games such as World of Warcraft have given impetus to research into professional 3D environments that extend current UC technologies such as video conferencing, presence and IM.
In light of the fact that younger generations are used to these richer graphical interfaces, Sydney-based Citrix advanced products group employees, for example, have been experimenting with a prototype 3D virtual office solution (Citrix Virtual Office) that represents a real world workplace while also incorporating UC technology like GoToMeeting to enables webinars.
“We are using a virtual technology to simulate that office environment,” Citrix vice-president advanced products group, Martin Duursma, said.
Companies can set up their 3D office to represent the real thing or customise it as they see fit and employees have an avatar. In the Citrix prototype, however, they use a standard non-customisable body with a portrait photo as the avatar face so you can get an indication of how a colleague looks in real life.
“You have an avatar of in that virtual office that is basically doing things like, if you are typing in a word [on your real world computer] you would see that word on your virtual screen,” Duursma said. “We are trying to simulate the same effect as somebody walking past your office or cubicle… it gives them the same sense of what the person is doing without obviously violating any privacy issues.”