Sun unveils corporate 'Second Life'

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Sun unveils corporate 'Second Life'

3D tool aims to improve enterprise collaboration.

Sun Microsystems has developed a prototype 3D environment that essentially mimics Second Life, but turns it into an enterprise collaboration tool. 

Sun's MPK20 virtual world allows for collaboration between employees in different locations. 

Each employee is represented by an avatar that walks around in a virtual environment, communicating using internet telephony.

Plans for future updates include the ability to share applications in the virtual environment, and to link whiteboards in physical meeting rooms with the virtual space to show up in both online and offline worlds.

The application at first glance has some similarities to Second Life. But Nicole Yankelovich, a principal investigator with Sun Labs, argued that it only overlaps in the social element. "This brings the social element of Second Life into the workplace," she said. 

Current collaboration tools do not enable this degree of informal interaction, Yankelovich argued, thereby preventing remote workers from building relationships with their colleagues.

Users of MPK20 can walk up to each other and start a conversation, just like they can before a meeting in the real world. They can also walk up to two conversing avatars and join the conversation or just listen.

The name MPK20 identifies the virtual world as the 20th building at Sun's corporate campus in Menlo Park, California. The campus has 19 physical buildings.

Sun demonstrated a first version of the virtual world last Thursday at an open day at its Sun Labs research arm.

MPK20 uses Sun's Project Darkstar, a marketing initiative that bundles servers and software to allow companies to build a scalable infrastructure for 3D environments. 

The project also uses Sun's Project Wonderland, which provides developer tools for building 3D worlds. 

MPK20 has some similarities with Project Looking Glass, an open source initiative which aims to develop a 3D desktop for computers. 

Sun suggested that future 3D environments could function as the actual desktop, where users launch applications by walking their avatar to a special room or area.

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