Thursday, October 18, 2007

Virtual Conferencing: Should we go 3-D?

With the rise of fuel prices and the advancement of information technology, teleconferencing presents an ever-more-capable alternative to business travel. Tech News World's article "Virtual Meetings: Bridging the Distance Gap" investigates two types of teleconferencing currently in development: video conferencing and 3-D virtual conferencing. The former offers high-definition video and audio, both live and carefully synchronized. The latter involves virtual conference rooms, populated by individually controlled avatars.

My initial reaction was that 3-D virtual conferencing is just a toy, and video conferencing is the way to go. Why bother using little computer-animated figures when live video looks more realistic? Then it dawned on me: Though video conferencing effectively connects two rooms full of people, trying to use video to communicate in more than two locations gets complicated. The number of locations is either limited by how many screens are in each conference room, or some of communication's flow must be sacrificed.

With a 3-D virtual environment, bringing people in from multiple locations does not introduce the same limits. On EverQuest, my dad discusses and carries out battle strategies with his group as if everyone's in one place, even if the other players are scattered in five different physical locations. The same principles apply to discussing business strategy. Since members of the same company live in many distant places, 3-D virtual conferencing offers a promising solution.

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