Virtues of Virtual Workplaces

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Federal agencies, take note: Large companies with globally dispersed workforces are beginning to sing the virtues of virtual workspace.

As I've written before, IBM has planted its flag in the synthetic world, not least because it hopes Web 3.0 will be a vast network of linked virtual worlds living on IBM equipment. From Brazil to India to Russia, IBM employees meet, mingle, mentor, rehearse presentations, learn about their company and each other in a virtual space built for the company and in a private section of Second Life, the online world operated by Linden Labs.

Cisco also has a large in-world presence. Like IBM, it maintains a public-facing corporate presence in Second Life and also works for clients there. For example, not long ago, I had my gall bladder "removed" at Palomar West Medical Campus, a virtual model of the hospital of the future that Palomar Pomerado plans to open in San Diego in 2011. Cisco is building the hospital's network -- in virtual world and in reality -- a showcase for electronic health that not only will feature digital records, but bedside Web and chat and video for interacting with your doctor, RFID bracelets to ensure correct procedures, dosages and even locations in the hospital. The Second Life version is a real trip, from the row of movie displays that come to life with informative avatar-starring programs as you pass on the way to the entrance to the beds that gather vital signs as you lie in them . . . all virtually, of course.

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