Posted by: Peter Quirk | May 22, 2008

realXtend directions look promising for the virtual office

Jani Pirkola, program manager at realXtend, presented the realXtend vision and roadmap and answered questions at the weekly Train for Success meeting run by the Gronstedt Group. The realXtend team is very focused on creating a platform for collaboration, and sees office tools as being critical for attracting business users. (Admino Technologies, one of the founding companies in the realXtend partnership, plans to offer enterprise applications on the platform.)

Jani described a number of development tracks. The Base track focuses on stabilizing the platform, eliminating lots of bugs in the OpenSim server and aligning the OpenSim and realXtend codebases to simplify the merging of features. The Collaboration track and User Experience tracks will create the foundation for the virtual office, virtual home, training, social collaboration, media sharing and gaming applications.

For example, in the Collaboration track we should soon see a globally accessible friends list which can be used in any realXtend world. Further out, we can expect some support for tight integration with mobile phones and instant messaging frameworks. Admino Technologies has already developed expertise in integrating these features into Second Life. The entire social networking aspect of Second Life needs some serious work to bring it out of its walled garden. As I’ve commented before, mapping Second Life avatars to phone numbers, corporate email addresses, distribution lists, instant messaging systems and other established social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn is a priority for business adoption. Rheta Shan has posted an elegant rant about the shortcomings of Second Life (social networking just being a part of it) in her article The World Philip Made.

On the User Experience side we’re in for some exciting developments. realXtend has already demonstrated (via a couple of short videos) their motion-captured avatar animations, avatar morphing and clothing physics. Tomorrow they will reveal photo-realistic avatar faces, , which Jani believes will be highly attractive to business users. The algorithm for building the 3D facial mesh requires only two photos of the real-life subject.

At the level of the virtual office, realXtend will utilize VNC technology to expose desktop applications via the same kind of surface texturing used to present web pages. The team is working on enabling full browser functionality for the web pages today, something that has to be implemented before text boxes and buttons in applications can be used in VNC-rendered applications. I do hope that the VNC technology meets the security requirements of enterprises. Past weaknesses in VNC implementations have led my company to block VNC protocols at the routers.

For more information about realXtend,  read Tish Shute’s extensive interview with Juha Hulkko, one of the founders of the organization.

Update May 24: Tish Shute has an exclusive in-depth interview with Jani Pirkola in yeterday’s post RealXtend’s New Avatar Tech: Facegen, Inverse Kinematics, Morphing and More!

Update May 29: Akamai’s The State of the Internet report for Q1 2008 lists the VNC Server as the 9th most attacked port globally, accounting for 1.65% of attacks.

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