A number of folks here have independently started to plan conferences in which Croquet would be used for presentation and interaction during the conference, and would continue after the physical conference ended. I think there’s a good reason that people want to do this.

Face-to-face meetings and conferences are very high-bandwidth encounters, but do not persist well.

Sharing ideas by publishing (e.g., papers in a professional journal) has excellent persistence, but is extremely low bandwidth.

Croquet is multi-bandwidth.
<%image(20060507-multi.jpg|875|556|Four users spontaneously discussing a slide presentation, and sharing other resources such as a Web site and search engine. One user is presenting live video.)%>

Conferences let you interact very closely, exchanging both prepared and spontaneous ideas in rapid succession. The context is established by the conference theme, the physical space, the compressed time scale, and the close proximity of ideas in both time and physical space.

Papers that you bring home from a conference, or email correspondence with people you meet at a conference, evolve at a glacial pace. And the context of the evolution – the connections between ideas and between people – is either ponderously encoded (references, threads) or carried in your head.

A virtual Croquet space let’s you express ideas in a variety of ways: spontaneous voice and video, text chat, live construction of a document, sketch, or 3D model, or insertion of previously prepared media of all kinds. Each of these expressions are performed in a context – a space in which you can see the surrounding stuff and the people involved. People can simultaneously and synchronously participate at any of these levels of interactivity. They can also asynchronously participate at any time thereafter and so incrementally continue the exploration of the idea.

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.


  1. Harry Webne-Behrman

    Yes… all of this seems to be within the potential of Croquet. The big initial challenge (aside from getting the tech to work smoothly) is to increase comfort levels of non-tech users with sharing and collaborating in an open source environment. They are so encumbered by traditional academic and intellectual ‘firewalls’ that resistance should be anticipated.

  2. Norbert Klamann

    What is about the emotional and sub-conscious levels of communication between humans ? I doubt that they can be ‘transported’ with any kind of media short of art.

    Don’t mistake communication with information.

    I don’t want to seem autionary and croquet seems exciting – as far as computers can go in this area.

  3. I agree, Norbert, that there are always limitations — including limitations in communication when two people are together in the same room. And I agree that art is a powerful way of communicating. (I acknowledge that some folks are not compfortable DEFINING art in terms of communication, but I don’t think it is necessary to go that far to make the faily weak points that follows…)

    I feel that:
    1. Better is better. If communication by telephone is useful but limited, than can we not at least provide that same usefuleness in Croquet? If, say, picture/slide presentations are useful, can we not at least provide that same usefuleness in Croquet? Are we not better off in some way if we can do both simultaneously, within the same context? This certainly not an answer to all the world’s communications problems, but I’ll be happy if it is any improvement at all. I FEEL that it will be a substantial improvement – that each communications media we can access within a single “conversation” context will provide a multiplicative effect.

    2. If it takes art to communicate within the constraints of a computer screen, so be it. Let’s all be artists.

Comments are closed