Virtual worlds come to life at IBM


Armonk, NY, USA - 16 Apr 2007: Since IBM first started experimenting with virtual worlds almost a year ago, progress has been rapid. Not only have virtual retail storefronts for clients such as Sears and Circuit City been built, but IBM has also created SOA and new hire training environments and even held a "block party" for The Greater IBM Connection. Our chairman, Sam Palmisano, directed his avatar to open a virtual town hall in IBM’s replica of the Forbidden City.

These experimentations are part of an IBM-led initiative to collaborate with clients and partners on both conducting business inside virtual worlds and connecting the virtual world with the real world to create a richer, more immersive Web environment - thereby solving business problems in a new way.

IBM has a series of areas in the virtual world of Second Life open to the general public. On these "islands" -- spaces where people can build three-dimensional objects and interact with other people in a way that is more like real life than a web conference or phone call -- IBM has been experimenting on extending virtual worlds for business in three key areas: virtual commerce and work with clients to apply virtual worlds to business problems; driving new kinds of collaboration and education; and experimentations on pushing the limits with a broad community on what might be possible in virtual worlds.

"We view these virtual worlds at a very early stage, both technically and culturally. The user experience will improve as we do more experimentation and figure out how to better apply them to solve real problems in business and society," said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's chief technologist. "Commerce and collaboration are two key areas ripe for applying virtual worlds to real life, but we also see applications in education, healthcare and many other areas."

IBM is working with dozens of clients to experiment and help them understand and apply virtual worlds to their business. While IBM is prototyping and developing in Second Life, it has a bigger strategy to collaborate with a community in an open fashion to build out the next generation Web, which IBM calls the 3-D Internet.

In addition to virtual commerce, IBM works with clients, employees and alumni to use virtual worlds to drive collaboration and provide a more immersive online educational experience. For example, IBM uses virtual worlds to connect with its alumni population and for on-boarding and educating new and current employees. Virtual worlds have proven an effective tool to help simplify the complex, with 3-D models and interactions that cannot be recreated in a Web conference or phone conversation, and have been useful in connecting people around the globe to drive collaboration.

IBM also makes space available on its virtual islands to work on experiments that push the limit of what might be possible in virtual worlds, with the aim of creating the foundation to build out the next generation, 3-D Internet and to drive open standards. Our goal is to experiment with ways to replicate business processes in these worlds to improve and experiment with real world solutions.

“We believe that these rich, immersive, social environments will have a huge impact on the Web as we know it,” Colin Parris, VP of Digital Convergence, stated while closing his keynote speech at Virtual Worlds 2007. “It is clear that we are at the beginning of a new inflection point and that we have a chance to accelerate our future.”

Colin Parris Delivers Keynote at Virtual Worlds Conference
More than 600 professionals from 19 countries packed an auditorium in New York City for the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference. This leading event was attended by Fortune 500 businesses seeking to understand and maximize marketing and business strategies within virtual worlds. WV07 gave an inside look at the activities of many established companies in this new medium, including MTV, Disney, Leo Burnett, and IBM; also represented were newer players and platforms such as Second Life, There.com, Entropia Universe, and Habbo.

Colin Parris, VP of Digital Convergence at IBM, delivered a Keynote speech at this session. Titled “3D Internet: Fit for Business and Society,” Colin gave attendees insight into the enormous potential of virtual worlds, cited examples of early virtual worlds business applications, and issued a call to action to the community to accelerate the development of virtual world technology and applications.

“Virtual worlds are quickly becoming a powerful tool and a driving force behind what many are calling the 3-D Internet – one that is open, immersive, innovative, and social. IBM has serious interest in virtual worlds and the 3-D Internet… and we are beginning to understand the strong impact that virtual worlds can have on our business and government,” declared Colin.



Virtual Community Call to Action
As Colin noted in his keynote, virtual worlds are in the early stages – with great potential to come. Some key actions which will help accelerate the adoption and mainstreaming of this technology are:

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