Blog Archive: 2009

Business value of the immersive internet


Just out last week: a survey report from Erica and Sam Driver of ThinkBalm on the business value of immersive internet technologies and applications. By “immersive internet” they mean a culture developing around a media-rich cloud of emerging technologies including virtual worlds, mobile devices, social apps, the semantic web, and gaming.

Here’s the report (PDF).

Key findings are nicely summarized here. This report supports our own findings at FXPAL in experimenting with different uses of several different virtual world platforms: “The most common barriers to adoption are target users having inadequate hardware, corporate security restrictions, and getting users interested in the technology.”

Science of Chocolate on KQED


You can get a look at our Virtual Factory and some of our molecular dynamics animations on “The Science of Chocolate” which is showing tomorrow night on Channel 9 (in the Bay Area) as part of the KQED Quest series. The story is focused on the hows and whys of chocolate making, not on our Virtual Factory project, but it’s still fun to see some of our work on the air.

Model of a theobromone molecule

Model of a theobromine molecule

All these 3D models and animations were created by FXPAL’s resident Art Guy, Tony Dunnigan, with Sagar Gattepally handling the virtual world construction; the video embedded in-world was shot by John Doherty.

The show is on tomorrow night, June 2nd at 7:30PM on KQED, Channel 9; and will also commence streaming on the KQED web site as of tomorrow.

UPDATE: oops, this show was pre-empted for pledge programming! This Quest segment is re-scheduled for June 16 at 7:30 PM.

JCDL 2009 and Second Life

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The ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL)  2009 program is up. The conference will take place June 15-19 in Austin, TX.  It looks to be a good conference, featuring two keynote speakers:  Christine Borgman, Professor & Presidential Chair in Information Studies at UCLA and Gerhard Fischer, Director of the Center for Lifelong Learning and Design and a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

There is a new wrinkle to the Poster Session: In addition to the physical posters at the conference site, there will be a parallel Second Life session  that will allow remote participation from those who were not able to make it to the conference. Once the (virtual) poster selection is finalized, instructions on how to get to it through Second Life will be posted on the conference web site (and echoed here).

Research Meets Chocolate

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What happens when high-tech chocolate company meets high-tech research lab?  FXPAL is investigating virtual and mixed reality systems for collaboration and control  in industrial settings. We are working with TCHO Inc., a chocolate start-up in San Francisco, to build and instrument virtual representations of a real, working factory and its processes.


The TCHO Factory floor, in the Qwaq Forums virtual environment

Introducing our collaborator:  TCHO of San Francisco is a new kind of chocolate company, combining innovative methods and a sense of social mission with a commitment to creating obsessively good dark chocolate. Founded by a Space Shuttle technologist and a grizzled chocolate industry veteran, TCHO’s aim is to create a direct, transparent connection between cacao farmers and consumers, illuminating – and sometimes reinventing – the chocolate production process at every step to the benefit of everyone concerned.

For a process as complex as making great chocolate, this kind of clarity and accuracy is vital.  We see this collaboration as a way to apply emerging technologies in clarifying end-to-end industrial production processes. It’s also interesting from a consumer’s perspective: a way to innovate in bringing people closer to the products they consume, through combining industrial process data with social applications like virtual worlds.

We’re experimenting with new technologies for fine-grained monitoring, mobile process control, and real/virtual collaborations based on real users and real-world problems in manufacturing industries. In the process, we are finding new applications for existing technologies, as well as insight into real-world needs in globally distributed systems and ways to use new technologies to map complex, real world processes.

As our work progresses, we’ll add more specific updates here on the FXPAL blog.