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Qwaq: Creating a 3D Virtual Publishing Office

Posted by Thomas Riggs in book design technology virtual offices world literature on April 15, 2009

A virtual office is a computer simulation of a physical office. As much as possible, it needs to replace all the functions that are found in physical work area, where people communicate, work together, keep lists, and store things. In my vision of a true virtual office, I would type my username and password into a login screen and be sucked head first into my computer. I would spend the rest of the day working with virtual replicas of my colleagues.

That not being possible, there are other interesting options for a “distributed workforce”—a group of workers in which each person is in a different physical location, often in a different city. When our company searched for a virtual publishing office, my favorite by far was a configurable, three-dimensional, animated workspace called Qwaq. Although it sounds like a duck, the service is one of the most serious attempts to create a useful, Second Life world for business users. I highly recommend Qwaq to anyone who can find a use for it.

Once you sign up, you can start setting up individual offices, conference rooms, and auditoriums. You can connect the rooms with doors, and suddenly you have a fully functioning office floor. Each worker is assigned an avatar (an image that represents the worker), which can walk around a room, change rooms, or even wander out into a park. On the walls are screens where you can project Word or Excel files, for example, so not only can you mingle with your colleagues’ avatars but you can look at the same documents with them and get serious work done.


When we signed up for a trial, our avatars were like the ones in the picture, but in the current Qwaq demo video the avatars look like people. The first thing I did was set up an office with a desk. I added a few furnishings. I put a Word document on a screen. Then I called a colleague and invited her to try it with me. After she signed in, I looked around the office and didn’t see her. I called her again. “Where are you?” “In a field,” she said. So I left the office and walked into the park.

As I remember, it was perfect weather, and the field, scattered with trees, stretched out forever. I felt discouraged at first, but in the distance I saw a small pink color. Pressing hard on the forward arrow key, I began to jog toward the pink spot, just to the left of a tree. As I approached, I saw it was, in fact, another avatar, the avatar of my colleague. I found her. And then, as we headed back to the office to create plants, configure our bodies, even jump into the sky so we could look down onto the office, I almost forgot that what we really wanted was a place to store files, share calendars, and hold video conferences, an office that provided the mundane but practical needs of our business.


Categories: book design, technology, virtual offices, world literature | No Comments »