Is IT ready to use 3D virtual environments – Are 3D virtual environments ready for IT?

Hello.  Since this is my first blog for IT@Intel, I thought I’d take a brief moment to introduce myself.  I’m an engineer in Intel's IT Emerging Technology Engineering team where we focus on new, and usually disruptive, technologies and usages.  I’ve been with Intel for 20 years and have spent most of that time in an IT role with a background infrastructure services such as: servers, directory services, and messaging.  My current focus areas include: Collaboration (3D virtual environments and Social Media) and Sustainability.  Now, on with my 1st blog.

Over the past year, we’ve conducted several proof of concepts using third party 3D virtual environments for team collaboration and training use cases.  The capability includes immersive 3D virtual spaces, where features such as voice over IP conferencing, text chat, web cam sharing, and document sharing, are all always available in a virtual dedicated team room or rooms.

In our testing, teams had the ability to come and go as they pleased as well as to decorate and personalize their room as they saw fit.  One of the benefits immediately highlighted was the ability for each team to have their own dedicated conference room, albeit virtual, that was always available to them without the need to reserve or schedule, (unlike physical spaces, virtual spaces are pretty much unlimited).   Additionally, we received positive feedback that the previously listed capabilities, (VoIP bridge, application sharing, etc…), were available within a single tool, and again there was no need to reserve or schedule their use ahead of time.  Lastly, in a working environment where most teams are spread across multiple locations, remote team members said they felt like they were closer to being face to face.

Is IT ready to use 3D virtual environments?  All in all, we received positive feedback from a capability / use case perspective, but found that it’s a bit of different story when we ask are 3D virtual environments ready for IT?

If you’ve ever had to take anything from the lab to production, you’ll know that a successful proof of concept doesn’t necessarily mean enterprise ready.  There are currently only a few third parties targeting solutions for enterprise use, but the list is growing.  The products we tested had several issues that would limit general deployment in the enterprise.  Some solutions offer far too much control of the virtual environment making it too easy for users to “accidently” add virtual objects, edit textures, or even delete entire virtual walls.  In our testing, users found the learning curve too high and in some cases we spent more time telling users what not to do than actually using the capability.  Finally, there are issues of scalability, security, and infrastructure integration.  For example, all of the products we looked at maintain their own account base, negating the benefit of single sign on that most IT shops have implemented.

Use of 3D virtual environments is compelling, and while we may not be ready for general deployment yet, we can rest assured that the capability is coming and that our teams will want to use it.

What about you, are you ready to use 3D virtual environments?

-Mike Breton

Intel IT Technology Evangelist