There currently are a wide variety of 3D virtual collaboration solutions on the market today, such as Qwaq (now Teleplace). This being said collaboration is touted as adding in a new element/ layer into the virtual world. Collaborative environments are primarily utilized for geographically dispersed work groups- they can be funner than a WebEx meeting or a non-interactive conference call. This ‘collaborative’ method of interacting is said to allow for full user immersion. Although collaborative environments do bring a live element of interactivity to the space, I see them as potentially causing a layer of distraction to the user. Many types of bells and whistles are utilized in collaborative environments such as these: video and voice messaging services including shared whiteboard capabilities and program sharing.
Can collaboration happen in single-player interactive virtual environment? You bet. Especially when non-player characters (NPCs) are utilized within the environment. They provide meaningful and realistic interaction. Engagement is key here- whether through actual real-time interaction with others or interaction with a NPC.
Could interaction in a virtual world change how we function in the real world? Are VoIP and text chat really a necessary component of successful virtual world training? One might argue that collaboration can hurt virtual environment participants by overwhelming them in an already complex environment. Do collaborative environments help or hurt the user to stay on task? Hmm, with today’s complex UIs, I am compelled to say hurt.