Being involved in the collaboration space, it's difficult not to talk about virtual worlds and 3D collaboration space when thinking about the future of collaboration. Recently Gartner announced that 80% of active Internet users will be involved in virtual worlds such as "Second Life" by 2011. Gartner seems to be really focused on Internet platforms for virtual worlds as open social networking platforms and potential marketplaces but they caution enterprises on jumping in too soon.
What about virtual worlds specifically devoted to collaborative sessions? Is there value there? There has been a bit of buzz around Nasa's use of Second Life for collaboration but the unique aspects for Nasa is the ability to apply physics in testing in virtual world that they may not be able to do in the real world. What about plain old meetings?
I suppose the answer depends on the advantages of face-to-face facilitated sessions. One of the biggest values is the unintentional stuff. The non-verbal ques, the body language, the gestures, the side glances, the yawns, the posture, the looking around, the glassy eyes, the rolling eyes, the red eyes, the nudge, the head bob, etc.... Another advantage is simply because it's real and not virtual. It's not even the session itself but the breaks and side discussions which often hold rich value.
Technology has a long ways to go before it can 100% replace the power of face-to-face facilitated sessions. But that's not to say there isn't value in virtual worlds. In fact, research is being done that takes visual imprints of your facial features and imprinting them on your personal avatar. However, as a participant you may not want this and if it's optional would you get the benefit? If in doubt, play a game of on-line poker and then play a game of real poker!
TelePresence from Cisco is yet another option. This is the grand-daddy of video conferencing with life size video designed to mimic live interaction. It's not CGI. Check out the video hosted by John Chambers.
What are your thoughts? Where do you see collaborative spaces evolving to?