The Virtual Gets Real

I figure there is no technology on earth to which the Chief Technical Officer of Intel Corp doesn’t have access. Today he chose to talk about Qwaq and Croquet during his closing keynote address to the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco’s huge Moscone Center.

<%image(20070920-smallhall.jpg|166|124|The auditorium at the Moscone Center.)%><%image(20070920-virtualauditorium_sm.jpg|174|124|The virtual auditorium in Qwaq Forums, showing Intel's Miramar desktop on one virtual screen, a movie about virtual surgery on another, and in between is a model of the patient.)%>

For his talk on “Virtual Worlds – The Rise of the 3D Internet”, Justin Rattner illustrated how graphics and simulations were producing an Internet that was far more social, interactive and collaborative than the current 2D World Wide Web. Intel’s interest, of course, is that this all takes far more computing power. Rattner’s talk showed a number of simulations and graphics examples that promised to put Intel processors to good use. He held up the cover of the sci-fi anthem “Snow Crash,” and brought a number of people on stage to explain what they want to be doing in the future. One researcher from Stanford pointed out that while all each of his models could be run now in isolation, his dream was to have a 3D Internet in which these could all be brought together in the same environment.

By contrast, the Qwaq portion anchored the talk with what can be done right now. Frankly, it was a little hard to see, but Qwaq Forums was all live and collaborative. The Intel researcher who said hello was a live talking video-faced avatar. The cleft-lip model talked about in another segment was present and collaboratively (if crudely) manipulable and annotatable in the virtual auditorium. The 2D applications were really live and in-world in the conference room. While the Stanford professor was showing very cool virtual cloth floating in the breeze, a virtual fan had ribbons floating in it’s own wind in a Qwaq Forum, and the architecture ensured that the identical synchronized result was produced by each participant machine – whether on supercomputer or laptop. There was a lot of jargon and internal subtlety in the talk, but I came away with a clear – if unverbalized — message. While some computers can’t do all the cool stuff now, we do right now have a virtual environment that can support it all in a scalable way.

It was gratifying to see all this and know what was happening. Feature by feature, Qwaq Forums is not so different from the open-source KAT that we developed at UW more than a year ago. But Forums and that KAT are worlds apart in Enterprise reliability. Because of the Forums architecture, Intel was able to have a behind-the-firewall virtual world that they could rely on for a flagship conference in California’s biggest auditorium.

Rattner and Qwaq CEO Greg Nuyens also announced that there would be a joint Intel/Qwaq product integrating 2D desktop apps and 3D virtual worlds for business. More anon. Intel stock closed up half a point. Last month Lockheed bought Croquet-based military simulations company 3DSolve. I feel like Croquet is rezzing very real into the business world.

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.

One Comment

  1. It is a great news for Croquet developers…Congrats to Qwaq on bringing Croquet to business world and getting industry wide acceptance to its advanced colloborative architecture…Superb!

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