Billed under the title ‘Can the same technologies you use to play hard also help you work hard’, The University of California at Irvine has recently been awarded a $3M grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study emerging forms of communication. The study will incorporate elements of MMO’s and Virtual Worlds including World of Warcraft and Second Life, and aims to help organizations collaborate and compete more effectively in a global marketplace. This new grant ups the ante from previous UC Irvine studies, as they were granted a $100K grant from the NSF last year for an ethnographic study of World of Warcraft.
“Many technologies have come out of computer-based games, and their concepts appear to have real potential,” said Richard N. Taylor, director of UCI’s Institute for Software Research, which is conducting the three-year study. “This grant will determine how emerging technologies can be used or modified to support serious group work.”
As a flailing economy sees more and more companies opening the doors to worldwide collaboration, Virtual Worlds are looking more and more attractive to these businesses. To grow and promote efficiency and productivity, these companies are turning to virtual worlds as a place where workers can collaborate thousands of miles apart from each other, while still being in the same ‘virtual’ room. The UC Irvine study aims to help in this area, applying lessons learned, and yet to be learned in large-scale multiplayer online gaming, social networking, and file and media sharing.
In order to keep feet and minds grounded here on planet Earth, UC Irvine researchers will gain ‘real world’ perspectives by collaborating with five organizations from aerospace, telecom, transportation and electronics sectors, along with the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana. Some of this real world perspective could make it’s way into virtual world testing, as Irvine scientists are already speculating about plugging real world engineering specifications into virtual worlds like Second Life to test and develop personal rapid transit systems.
“Advanced information and communication technologies can lead to breakthroughs in productivity and boost morale, but they can also be problematic and unsuccessful, leading to wasted investments,” said Walt Scacchi, senior research scientist and project leader. “One goal of this research is to understand the conditions that lead to failure or success.”
UC Irvine scientists Walt Scacchi, senior research scientist and project leader, and Richard Taylor will be joined by Alfred Kobsa, Cristina V. Lopes, Gloria Mark, Bonnie Nardi and David Redmiles in their studies.
Ed. Note: This announcement couldn’t have come at a better time, as PC World’s Darren Gladstone recently published a piece regarding including your game playing skills as a resume builder. Give it a read here.