Thanks to researchers from IBM, Nokia, and VTT, avatars and people will come together for virtual meetings in physical spaces. The new technology will allow voices, head and hand gestures, and movements to change in concert with the behavior of participants.

With support from IBM Research and Nokia Research Center, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland created an experimental system that enables people in multiple locations to interact and collaborate with avatars and objects in a single, virtual meeting.

Objects and avatars are located in a “virtual” space that mirrors the corresponding physical room.

Sensors, cameras and microphones located on both ends of the conversation allow voices, head and hand gestures and movements to change in concert with the behavior of participants.

This enables them to sense the vital visual cues of body language. In this proof-of-concept, participants in physical rooms wear video see-through glasses that depict three-dimensional images of their online counterparts as they stand, walk, talk or demonstrate and manipulate virtual objects shared between the spaces.

The system, called ACME (Augmented Collaboration in Mixed Environments), was assembled using an open-source viewer from Linden Lab’s Second Life virtual world, as well as from open source ARToolkit and OpenCV libraries. 

The technology aims to provide an affordable and eco-friendly alternative to physical meetings. According to IBM, it is also more interactive than telephone conferences, video conferences – and even on-screen meetings held exclusively in virtual spaces.

Prototypes of ACME will be installed at IBM Research – Austin and Nokia Research Center – Tampere/Finland for internal use and further testing and development.

You can watch ACME in action, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNB0_c-5TSk.

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About Rakesh Raman

Have extensive editorial, content management, and integrated communications experience and have worked as a senior tech journalist, analyst, and columnist with different newspapers, magazines, and Web/online properties in India.

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