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IBM Cambridge Research Center

  Project: BlueGrass:Virtual Worlds for Business

Researchers: Li-Te Cheng, Steven Rohall, and John Patterson

The Bluegrass project is investigating the use of 3D virtual worlds to support distributed work. Collaborative applications such as Rational Jazz for software development and Lotus Notes for business processes, provide team support for "heads down" work. However, as teams become more distributed, it is important to support "heads up" work--the kind of social interaction that is achieved by seeing people in the hallways when they are collocated. Three principles have guided our prototyping effort. First, we do not want to move people's collaborative applications into the virtual world. Instead, we want to take artifacts from these applications, such as bug reports or work activities, and represent them in the virtual world. Second, we want to avoid walls so that people have much more visibility into the presence and work of people on the distributed team. Finally, we want to support brainstorming with simple creation of objects in the world without requiring heavy, 3D modeling. These objects should also be used to create artifacts in the host collaborative application, enabling people who are not in the Bluegrass world to use them.

Our functional prototype includes application sharing (for example, to support code review meetings or slide presentations), avatar-based pointing, linking of virtual objects to application artifacts such as Jazz work items and source code fragments, creating new application artifacts from virtual objects, using chat bubbles as persistent “post-it note” objects that can be used to create diagrams, transportation mechanisms to ease navigation in the virtual world, and visualizations to show presence and crowds in the world. For more information, contact bluegrass@us.ibm.com.