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Walking the Talk

When industry and press pontificate about the future of work, they seem to have a similar utopian vision with some common attributes:1) A ‘Virtual’ workforce scattered all over the world, with job responsibilities and skills that are not based on geographic location2) Rich collaboration tools to facilitate sharing of information and joint work3) ‘Hollywood’ style of work, based on ‘free-agents’ coming together for a project and then moving on to the next project.As the science fiction author William Gibson once said “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”Snapshot_002.jpgTake a look at the picture above, which I grabbed this morning during one of the weekly team meetings we regularly have using Second Life. Each person on the team has a different functional role, and each one is coming from a different geographic location (I would have liked to have said ‘different time zone’, but two are in Central European Time, and two are in Central US Time.)Since we are all in the incubator group at Cisco, we are accustomed to coming together for a project, working together, then moving on to the next technology scouting opportunity. Not exactly Hollywood, but we all have the same agent. ;-)To tie this back to the three attributes of the future of work above (with all apologies to, and no reference to, Tom Malone‘s great book of the same name), we score about 2.5 out of 3, allowing for the fact that you do not have a rich WebEx-type of collaboration opportunity using Second Life, but you benefit from the magic of physical proximity and the serendipitous aspects of virtual worlds. Personally, I’d like to find an intuitive way to combine the benefits of rich collaboration (app share, screen share, etc.) with the approximation of physical presence that you gain from immersive environments, without burdening the collaboration with a bunch of moving your avatar around to gain the proper perspective on the screen. Any good ideas? Has anyone seen a good implementation of shared collaborative workspaces + 3D avatar presence that wasn’t a nightmare to use?

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