Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gaming and the Future Workplace

It has been my long-held belief that the "gaming idiom" will increasingly find its way into workplace social computing applications. I suspect that this is reasonably closely related to what Stowe Boyd terms flow as it relates to Enterprise 2.0 dynamics and the applications that will be used to work "in flow".

With a substantial $3 million in funding, University of California, Irvine plans to study "how emerging forms of communication, including multiplayer computer games and online virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft and Second Life can help organizations collaborate and compete more effectively in the global marketplace."

Although virtual worlds technology may have initially been created for games, they have far exceeded that use. virtual worlds seem to be the next communications medium that will transform how we do business and live our lives. Consider that virtual worlds allow us to be "present" with each other in the same "place" unlike any technology yet developed. It creates immersive shared experiences spontaneously, and without travel.

Virtual world environments and other technology-enabled forms of communication are gaining popularity as organizations worldwide are decentralizing. To grow and promote efficiency, companies need to develop long-distance, collaborative communication methods. The researchers plan to help in that arena, using innovations such as large-scale multiplayer online games, social networking, and file and media sharing.

To gain real-world perspective, UCI researchers are collaborating with five organizations from aerospace, telecommunications, transportation and electronics industries as well as the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana. The companies already are experimenting with the technologies in group planning, decision-making and training.

Virtual worlds are better because they create immersive experiences for people to share as if they were together in person. Nothing else achieves the feeling of togetherness that virtual worlds do. Teleconference, although an improvement over the telephone, is not immersive. Nor does it deliver a unique and memorable experience. Telepresence is much better, but it is largely immobile and very expensive. Virtual worlds can be accessed from a desktop, inexpensively. They are highly flexible and allow for redesign and redevelopment. Tomorrow your virtual conference room could be a medieval castle, if you so desire. Interactions within virtual worlds feel real, are highly memorable, and transform relationships. Additionally, other media such as video and audio can be fed into virtual worlds to enhance the experience.

It is easy for companies to enact policies prohibiting the use of these technologies. But then they would be "throwing out the baby with the bathwater." Virtual worlds and other Web 2.0 technologies, like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, can be tremendously powerful and effective business tools.


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