Will the future of events be virtual?

Phil Clark has just blogged about the potential impact of virtual worlds such as Second Life on the management of conferences and other events. He believes that we will see “an amalgam of live and online events” begin to develop, where a live event coincides with a virtual one and the two feed off each other. He mentions Be2camp in this context – which I co-organised (Phil attended Be2camp 2008 and was instrumental in the event being sponsored by Building magazine):

“combining audiences and speakers from the two spaces can create a real buzz and exchange of ideas. So you have questions, comment, links and ideas ping-ponging between real and virtual conference room.”

However, I think we are still some way from such events becoming normal in the architecture, engineering and construction sector (though some Be2camp people are already planning further Web 2.0 events; I am considering a joint Be2camp/CIMCIG event in September, for example). Even an enthusiastic technophile like Phil admits to feeling “swamped” by the normal web stuff, let alone catapulting himself into another world. And non-geek construction professionals will find the transition even more challenging. But it may yet become a necessary transition.

Only yesterday I wrote on ExtranetEvolution.com about a new type of construction collaboration platform that combines file-sharing with an information-rich multimedia communication environment incorporating online meetings with chat, voice over IP, webcam and screen-sharing support. This product, Kalexo, is expressly aimed at managing construction tasks between distributed members of a project team, and is – in my view – likely to be just the first of a string of products incorporating richer and richer levels of collaborative functionality around the creation, sharing and management of construction project information. While Kalexo doesn’t (at least not currently) expressly support building information modelling (BIM), it may only be a matter of time before industry professionals will routinely be able to hold virtual meetings inside a model of the latest iteration of the facility they are working on (such interactions are already possible in Second Life, of course, but are not yet part of normal project delivery).

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