The IBM Innovate Quick internal metaverse project

We often get the questions about what some of us are doing with development of an metaverse or collection of metaverses. Roo and I currently work for the CIO office in a team called Innovate Quick. All this excitement and potential business use for things like Second Life have led to a desire to have a more secure intranet environment where we can meet and explore the potential technology and social implications.
We have an internal metaverse project. It is filling a gap that we cannot easily fill in other ways. Second Life, arguably the most popular metaverse, is not yet able to run as a seperate instance of a grid inside our corporate firewall. We Ilike any organization) have lots employees who all need to communicate with one another securely and there is a real desire to explore how avatar based virtual worlds can be used in whatever form we can realistically achieve.
In this picture we are all clones as we had a mini meeting and all used the same Adam Avatar by Cubix Studio (and the avatar is (c)Cubix Studio), but we can dance :-)
metaverse
As may know we do meet as IBMers in Second Life, and other virtual worlds. We in the IQ team are certainly not trying to be Second Life. We are however using some of the elements of virtual presence, and examining the potential balance of content creation versus deployable content in a business context.
The technology that is being used to explore this is Garage Games Torque engine. Now before any purists jump in this and say , but thats a game engine not an MMO engine you can only host n people at a time let me explain.
Torque lets us run controlled game style servers, even run locally and host our own ‘meeting rooms’ but we are customizing elements to hook into or existing communication systems. e.g. we have a large corporate index of employees called bluepages, we have single sign on to the intranet (and hence know who we are) and we have a set of services being built to access any of the data we need. We also already have a corporate wide Sametime messaging service and products on the way such as Lotus connections for deeper connectvity across existing channels. What we need is the ability to gather some people together and use the human aspects of the avatar interaction to be more effective in our communications.
Part of the investigation is to treat this as another client for web based services. So the services we build can then be consumed by any metaverse. In order to prove this you of course need more than one type of metaverse to ensure you do not code to a specific platform and keep the design generic.
One of the interesting things is the balance of building skills required, and who needs to build and when. Corporate systems, with the exception of blogs and wikis, tend to have much more control than maybe a public metaverse. Which functions are people calling out for? How to mitigate the potential amount of practice trash or unused areas yet still keep a free and user created environment is a challenge.
We are also able to use the internal metaverse to help people see for themselves the problems of large enterprise scale interactions in these environments.
IBM has a lot of techies, and many of them are eager to get their hands on clients and servers and see what they come up with. Some licensing and intellectual property law causes problems, so the internal metaverse acts as a much less legally complicated sand pit to extend the concepts.
I am hoping this does not worry lots of people, merely indicate the keeness to explore this industry, and the fact we have lots of people inside IBM who have not yet ventured into some of the public metaversese but who really want to see what it is all about.
We have the client out internally on a hosted service call TAP (Technology Adoption Program) which is where all our internal blogs, wikis and lots of other beta ideas started.
I am sure we will be writing some more about this in the whole spectrum of work going on in and around the metaverse(s).

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About epredator

Director of metaverse and emerging tech consultancy http://www.feedingedge.co.uk Former IBM Consulting IT Specialist with 18 years at the company Games player epredator xbox live tag. epredator potato in second life

30 thoughts on “The IBM Innovate Quick internal metaverse project

  1. This looks like a really interesting project – and I look forward to reading updates as they come out.

    Do you have tools already in place for stuff like virtual whiteboards and other shared apps? Or are they coming in over time?

    Have you been able to do a comparison with Sun’s MPK20 project (which looks decidely Second Life-ish)?

  2. We have a whole list of services external to the actual metaverse to get at various elements and bring them into the virtual environment.
    The balance of integration into the virtual world against runing it as part of a suite of applications for sharing whiteboard space is one that we are exploring.
    One of the interesting things is being able to allow modelling outside of the environment, which is alien to people brought up on Second Life, but normal for gamers and modders. There is clearly a need for both methods, but for different reasons.
    BTW yes we all look the same, but that was becuase we all took the default we had set, we have a number of avatars but the boyband thing was very funny

  3. I’m curious as to whether an open source game engine (like Quake 3 which includes tools, plenty of online documentation, and a fair amount of resources) was considered. While Torque being used as a metaverse tool doesn’t surprise me (Evil Twin use it for the small “club” worlds they create for clients like Tyra Banks), the use of a proprietary tool does. Would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this.

  4. I am very interested to know more about your “use the human aspects of the avatar interaction to be more effective in our communications.” On Second Life one of the key aspects of RL interaction, direction of gaze, is not available in avatar interaction. But, of course, there are infinite possibilities for customizing appearance on SL (and on GG Torque, I suppose) which might be interesting in relation to interactions across the social strata of large enterprise hierarchies……

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  6. @trevor Nothing is ever set in stone around metaverse technologies, and the fact you have an the timeframe running in you video is great too :-) video of timeframe in ogoglio so you dont have to come over and install it :-)

    @csven I believe quake and a like is under a GPL licence. As is the second life client. I am not a legal guru, but GPL causes a problem as we could pollute some of the products we have as developers.
    Quake was used a while back as the client for the business integration for games.
    Torque offered a good balance of scripting and C++ code modules that appealed to the team looking at what to get started with quickly.

  7. @tish I am keen to make sure people realize that in all the technology its people and their interactions that is the driving force. Gaze is important, but we have some more vousal cues if we dont have that. Stepping out of a circle to a distance where you can still hear, but doing something else like building, is a great visual and human cue. It has a temporal aspect and stops people feeling shunned or ignored. People indicating thety are listening and will come back into the close gathering when they have something more to offer.
    All very interesting sets of patterns to explore.

  8. @tish, you can direct your gaze in SL. Just hold down ALT and mouse click on the avatar you want to look at.

  9. I am glad to see the other open projects making their presence felt :-)
    Torque was originally being used in another ‘game’ style project before the whole Second Life wave kicked off.
    The other projects all look very promising, and ideally we would want to run more than one type of metaverse, as I mentioned, to prove the SOA style services
    What this does project does is, with very little fuss, let all sorts of people come and join in within the experiments.
    Also this is one small part of the company. Lots of people are looking at lots of other options and ideas. So I welcome the references to ongoing projects as many people read this blog who may not have been following the industry until recently.

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  11. @csven some people may have been keeping tabs on it, I am now of course.
    I had bumped into uni-verse in the whole blender space. However I was trying to find something else at the time and flagged it to come back to. Thanks for the reminder

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