Posted by: Peter Quirk | April 25, 2008

This is not my idea of a virtual workplace

A cozy place for a business discussionMy quest to understand whether I can create a functional virtual workplace emphasizes the work in workplace. Others think that the place is what matters. Here’s an example of a virtual workplace from VRworkplace, a company providing virtual office space, an amphitheater, a beach and other places to relax during your virtual lunch break. This scene shows one of many areas for small business discussions with other team members or customers. It’s the kind of seating arrangement that you’ll find in hotels, convention centers and building lobbies. There are no affordances to support any work activity except sitting down and talking with other people. One of the other discussion areas nearby has a projector screen for presenting slide shows.

 

An office tower at VRworkplaceThe overall design of the island is like so many office parks. Large buildings overwhelm you. There are vast open spaces, and not many people. (I haven’t seen any during my early morning and late evening peregrinations.) It’s a mirror world of so many office parks that leave me cold. If we have to have places like these to get corporate buyers to approve their use, let’s create some atmospheric places to meet. At a minimum, get a coffee franchise with some piped music and background conversation, or a lively Brasserie.

Melbourne Laneways - an atmospheric place to meetFor a good example of this ambience, check out the Melbourne Laneways in Second Life. This project recreates the atmosphere of the little businesses in the small laneways in Melbourne, Australia where I grew up. When you sit down here for a coffee you hear all the hubbub of the city, the conversations, the clinking glasses and crockery. Around the corner you’ll see accurate reproductions of the graffiti that adorns the laneways. Notice how the scale is human, not corporate.

 

So I do think that place matters, but it has to be human, interesting and a place where someone would want to visit you. The soundscape is as important as the landscape in creating the mood that supports the purpose of the place.

But the quest is about creating a place to work, and getting work done. In the next post we’ll discuss the ways you can communicate with your fellow workers in their real-life industrial parks who aren’t in the virtual world.

 

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Responses

  1. As we all strive to imagine the virtual workspace, I think we can each arrive at different, but equally valid, designs. It appears you missed VRWorkplace’s coffee house, outdoor seating areas, fountain, and dance club. You also may have missed the small conference area underwater in the pond (including swans above and fish swimming by)and the holodeck in the sky. I decided to create different scenes for visitors, and that’s why a range from conventional office park to more imaginative 3D virtuality. VRWorkplace is not so much a single approach i.e. ‘the’ virtual workspace, but a collection of possibilities.

  2. Given Peter’s blog and Dave’s comment, maybe in addition to having a place that “has to be human” and where “people want to visit you”, it also has to be a place that is easy to get to and that people know exists ;-)

  3. Dave,

    I certainly did miss them and I’ll go back for a second look.

    One of the advantages of your business model is that you can tweak the workplace to meet a client’s needs at much lower cost than in the physical world. An interesting challenge for you is to see whether you can make a community-designed space work while still maintaining your brand identity and services. Even in the physical world, we’re starting to see building systems that allow individuals to arrange their cubes, airflow and cable outlets where they want them. For an example, watch the first 10 minutes of this video (http://www.fastcompany.tv/video/the-innovations-microsoft%E2%80%99s-new-research-building) about Microsoft’s new R&D facility.

  4. A few points:

    1. I am also designing workspaces and other spaces using a technology called 3dxplorer. This is a web-browser based 3D environment built in Java. Far more accessible initially to the newcomer to virtual worlds. Far easier to demonstrate without a client download. Each virtual world environment has its benefits.

    2. Peter, please do revisit the sim to see some of the features you missed. I put a lot of thought into the different scenes as a way to showcase different kinds of environments. If you’d like to see some activity at the VRWorkplace sim, stop by around 9am US Central Time on May 1. I’ll be presenting a discussion to the American Bar Association Technology in the Practice and Workplace Committee both in Second Life and Chicago.


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