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TMCnews Featured Article


July 15, 2009

3Di, Softfront Co-developing VoIP Solution for use in 3D Virtual Worlds

By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet


Japan-based 3Di, Inc. and Softfront are reportedly co-developing a VoIP solution designed for use in online 3D virtual worlds.


The commercially-oriented “3D VoIP solution” combines 3Di’s browser-based OpenSim Server Enterprise edition with Softfront's (News - Alert) SIP/VoIP technology. The two companies claim the combined solution makes it possible “to realize a commercial, stable VoIP solution in the Web browser.”

What’s more, the new VoIP solution will eventually be able to run on NGN and PSTN networks.

3D virtual worlds such as Qwaq Forums or Nortel’s (News - Alert) web.alive are used for hosting virtual meetings, events or seminars. These online virtual meeting places are often compared to the virtual 3D social media Website Second Life – only in this case people meet in the virtual realm for the purpose of collaborating on work-related projects. Generally these virtual meeting places are delivered as a service over the Web -- but some companies host their own 3D virtual meeting places in order to make communications more secure.

The experience is analogous to online gaming -- each registered user has a character, or “avatar,” that represents them in the 3D realm. However unlike an online gaming platform, this 3D realm is used for communicating and collaborating with others, thus the action is somewhat limited.

These secure, 3D virtual meeting places can be used for a wide variety of purposes. For example, they can be used for business continuity planning in the face of challenging situations such as a recession, cost reduction or pandemic illness. They can also be used a just a casual meeting place where members of special teams can discuss a project and freely share documents. Thus there is the potential that this technology will one day become a common business collaboration tool.

The meeting places hold several advantages over Web conferencing – for example, all users can talk to each other freely, by way of Web-based VoIP, over headsets while they are in the virtual realm – plus they can IM each other as well.

In addition, each realm can support numerous “screens” where documents and applications can be shared freely. If a user wants to get a closer look at what is on a particular screen, anywhere in the virtual world, all they need to do is direct their avatar to walk up to it, and get an up-close, first-person perspective of what is on the screen -- or better yet they can actually click on it so it appears full screen on their computer (i.e. they can launch the document, make changes, save it, copy it, whatever). The point is, they can do this without having to wait for a conference leader to push a slide or make a document available – they can access any document or any application in the realm any time they want to. In this regard they are true real time collaboration tools.

Audio quality, however, is sometimes lacking. There can be lag time between the video and audio, thus creating synchronization issues. The sound quality can also sometimes be poor, because, unless a VPN is used, the audio is delivered on a “best efforts” basis across the Web. Combine this with the fact that 3D virtual meeting places tend to suck up lots of network bandwidth and its easy to see why the issue of sound quality is a problem for many for these services.

The new VoIP solution from 3Di and Softfront is designed to specifically address these sound quality issues. While a company release does not describe in detail how the technology works, it can be assumed that the codec being used compresses the voice data significantly so that it doesn’t eat up as much bandwidth. No doubt the technology also includes measures to prevent jitter and packet loss – it will be interesting to see if we hear more about this new solution in the future.

Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.




 
 
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