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Sun Microsystems Technology

Rare Tour of Sun Microsystems' "Wonderland" 83

Surinder Kahai writes "Last week I had the rare opportunity to see an emerging virtual world called Wonderland, the product of an open source project, Project Wonderland, sponsored by Sun Microsystems. The tour was given by Nicole Yankelovich, Principal Investigator of the Collaborative Environments Project at Sun Microsystems. Some of the key aspects of this dynamic virtual world are voice communication with distance attenuation, the ability to join a Wonderland meeting through a regular phone if a computer is not handy, and the sharing of applications such as Open Office. Wonderland is currently being used by educational facilities and can be used by other organizations for virtual collaboration. Since the project is an Open Source project, users can tweak the tools available to suit their particular purpose."
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Rare Tour of Sun Microsystems' "Wonderland"

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  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clang_jangle ( 975789 ) * on Monday July 07, 2008 @01:42PM (#24086379) Journal
    Aside from the obvious fact that the name is more "theme park" than business-like, what can it really do that can't be done (with fewer resources) via teleconferencing, and/or chat, and/or version control? Seems to me it's just teleconferencing with eye candy.
    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Kingrames ( 858416 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @01:47PM (#24086447)

      That sounds pretty useful to me. It'd be nice to be able to show 3d images in a business presentation, and that's something videoconferencing doesn't quite get down right.

    • Yeah I'm trying to see the point and I can't either.
      The idea of a "virtual world" is pointless for business.
      IMO a slick chat program would be more useful, something that could connect people for teleconferencing, with the same functionality but no "virtual world."
    • I think you hit the nail on the head. This will just cause technical issues which may leave many users wondering why they should bother logging in at all, if they can just call up like they are accustomed too.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, and Firefox pretty much does the same thing as Internet Explorer, and Ubuntu pretty much does the same thing as Vista. People should stop making the same things over and over again! It's just a waste of time and nobody gets anything out of it! I've been working feverishly on Duke Nukem Forever, getting mighty close to release, but now you've made me think. Why should I spend my time on DNF, when other Duke Nukem games already exist? Hey, as long as people can somehow accomplish something similar to wh

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        I've been working feverishly on Duke Nukem Forever, getting mighty close to release ...

        I was 100% on board with you until that part, at which point Steve Jobs ran past me and the reality distortion field overwhelmed my senses.

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by psbrogna ( 611644 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @02:11PM (#24086769)
      Hey I'm the first one to scoff at complexity creep. It's usually bad news for business. But some percentage of today's tech toys are tomorrow's sine qua non's... I gotta say I'm feelin' this one.

      A lot of people laughed at the concept of a commercial web not too long ago...

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        A lot of people laughed at the concept of a commercial web not too long ago...

        And now they cry.

      • I gotta say I'm feelin' this one.

        Agreed. I mean, to be able to use the cellphone with it (in case you were home already), plus you can move to a corner to have a private conversation?

        I think the name is well-suited. In any case, businesses won't be referring to it as Wonderland once it's installed; they usually give it an internal name thereafter e.g. 'Ok, Matt, set up a meet for Friday 7 pm at the Pleasuredome' See? Internal.

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by benevixit ( 754447 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @02:40PM (#24087153)
      The big reason for 3d virtual worlds in business is the same as for gaming: They have the potential to be a richer, more natural and engaging user experience. Imagine trying to sustain participants' attention in a 30-minute SMS business meeting.
      • by zotz ( 3951 )

        Yeah, but what about motion sickness?

        That's gonna suck...


        • by hitmark ( 640295 )

          time to get that datajack working so that one have fully immersive VR then...

          • by zotz ( 3951 )

            How are you going to get you inner ear to cooperate?


            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by hitmark ( 640295 )

              thats where the jack comes in, direct neural interface. basically you fake every sensory input, this includes a override on the nerves going from the inner ear to the brain.

              • Yup. Then we stick in the breathing and feeding tubes and dump you in a bathtub, do it to a few million others and... aww crap, Keanu Reeves is here and he looks pissed...
    • Aside from the obvious fact that the name is more "theme park" than business-like, what can it really do that can't be done (with fewer resources) via teleconferencing, and/or chat, and/or version control? Seems to me it's just teleconferencing with eye candy.

      Wonderland also enables participants to share a web browser, an OpenOffice document, and tools such as the calculator. Apparently, you can also share Windows or other desktops using Virtual Network Computing. Nicole opened up an OpenOffice presentation document and added a sentence to it. She then asked me to take control of the document so that I could edit it. I thought this was another great feature of Wonderland. While Wonderland does not allow all participants to edit the document at the same time, it places the document on a wall in a 3D space shared by participants and emulates a real world meeting in which people in a room are looking at and working on a document being projected on a wall.

      Sounds pretty neat, if it's executed well.

    • by Achoi77 ( 669484 )

      I always thought that Wonderland is a kind of proof-of-concept type of application for Sun's Project Darkstar [] platform (formerly called the Sun Game Server)

      from the FAQ:

      Project Darkstar is software infrastructure created by Sun Microsystems to simplify the development and operation of massively scalable online games, virtual worlds, and social networking applications. It is freely available under open source license from the Project Darkstar Community.

    • I saw this a year ago at JavaOne. I can see your points but I can also see some benefits too.
      I work in the US for a German company. Here, just in the US, it is hard to find an empty conference room for an impromptu meeting. With this, there are unlimited "rooms".
      Also, using netmeeting or Lotus Sametime, or any other software is still software that you need to run. So, to get a hold of someone to debug something or to look at something on your screen you need to make a phone call, tell them to start
  • huh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    If it's open source, why is seeing it rare?
  • by seeds ( 1321231 )
    sounds good. this is the future of business.
  • oh joy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @01:51PM (#24086527)
    You know, people might have said this was a ridiculous waste of time a couple years ago cuz you might as well just do it all in real life. But these days if you can have a Stargate convention in a virtual world without having to spend $700 on travel or having to leave your house or having to put on clothes, that's a good idea :D
    • Re:oh joy (Score:4, Funny)

      by PrescriptionWarning ( 932687 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @02:04PM (#24086679)
      well you could hitchhike your way there naked, but it might be weird
    • Re:oh joy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @02:07PM (#24086703)

      You know, people might have said this was a ridiculous waste of time a couple years ago cuz you might as well just do it all in real life.

      Considering the increasing costs of driving and airline tickets, teleconferencing is going to get real popular real soon for many people.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 )
        You got that right. Ever notice how on CNN they put a giant, 90 degree rotated plasma or LCD right next to the real people who are sitting there and show someone who's far away on it like they're there too. It's like freakin star wars! If they can do it, everyone can soon enough. Ooh speaking of that, I gotta get me one of those million dollar multitouch magic screens too :D
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Having a Stargate convention is never a good idea. Oh, believe me me, I do know all there is to know about the crying game. It's still not a good idea.

  • by JazzyMusicMan ( 1012801 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @01:52PM (#24086543)
    I work at a software firm and a good chunk of the QA staff and even some product strategy folk can't work LiveMeeting and you're trying to tell me that this is easier and more intuitive to the point of wide adoption?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zappepcs ( 820751 )

      Bad news for your company. Have you seen the people that are able to use SecondLife? If your product strategy people can't do LiveMeeting or SL... you need to be looking for another place to work IMO.

  • JAVA (Score:3, Funny)

    by kellyb9 ( 954229 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @01:55PM (#24086579)
    I wonder if Wonderland runs JAVA. I'd be by the time they got the thing Virtual World started it was time to go.
    • Re:JAVA (Score:4, Informative)

      by mhall119 ( 1035984 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @02:10PM (#24086761) Homepage Journal

      For those interested, Wonderland is written in Java.

      And presumably you'd only need to start the Virtual World once. It's not like we'll have to flood the servers and start all over from scratch.

      • Re:JAVA (Score:4, Funny)

        by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:13PM (#24088529)

        For those interested, Wonderland is written in Java.

        and will go down in history as the first virtual world which requires all the RAM in the known universe.

        • I ran it for a while on my Eee PC. The Intel graphics chip struggled with the 3D (that's not Java's fault), but I don't recall having any problems with the 1GB of RAM it had in the system.

          • How long did you run it for?

            Java can appear to run just fine for hours or even days and then suddenly its like a RAM black hole... you could give it all the RAM in your entire server room, city, continent or planet and it still wouldn't be enough.

  • Next Stop Wonderland (Score:3, Informative)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @02:05PM (#24086691)
    I've been there. Boston, the T, Blue Line. Good chow, nice Aquarium...
  • by xquark ( 649804 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @02:09PM (#24086735) Homepage

    Now where is that angel that kept on appearing?

  • by jacquesm ( 154384 ) < minus physicist> on Monday July 07, 2008 @02:24PM (#24086963) Homepage

    clicked the bio link to see if she's hot and didn't bother to click the article ?

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by UncleTogie ( 1004853 ) *

      clicked the bio link to see if she's hot and didn't bother to click the article ?

      Never occurred to me 'til you suggested it...

      But since you did, can I borrow some eye-bleach?

    • ...what score did you give her?

      N.B. I'd hate for anyone to try and gauge my "hottitude" based on what for all intents and purposes is a driver's license photo.

    • Nicole was a recognised leader at the then novel junction of hypertext and user interface. Good to see she is still actively building on that.

  • Especially on Slashdot, I'd expect artificially created scarcity to be clearly delineated from necessary scarcity. Just because Sun has been tight-lipped to-date, doesn't make a sudden PR release 'valuable'. My apologies if the editors meant 'rare' software -- i.e. uncooked.
  • A Wonder (Score:1, Flamebait)

    Any company that survives without making money as long as Sun has is a wonder to me.

    • Re:A Wonder (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @03:07PM (#24087523)

      I take it you just grab whatever hogwash was true when you hated the company and continue to spout it off. Sun actually booked a PROFIT last year, they had revenues up 6.2% (13.87 Billion) and a better than expected 8.5% operating margin.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you're interested in 3d virtual collaboration, you should check out Strangely, QWAQ was mentioned in the article, but not (which QWAQ is built on top of).

    The best part is that Croquet has a very unrestrictive license if you're interested in developing commercial applications.

  • when I first saw the headline about Sun's "Wonderland", I immediately thought of this . . . []

  • How is this different from OpenCroquet ( [] ) other than it requires a server (i.e. sells boxes) and is in Java (not Smalltalk)? Look at Qwaq ( [] ) to see some really interesting applications of Croquet for real-time conferencing.
  • I help admin the Immersive Education node ( mentioned in TFA. In addition to business use of Wonderland the Immersive Education Initiative is using Wonderland for learning. In collaboration with Sun Microsystems the Immersive Education Initiative recently announced the "Education Grid" to give educators a sneak peak at what's possible with Wonderland.

  • From TFA, it will be used "...including business, education, commerce, and entertainment".

    When it can do this: Entertainment [], I know I'll be there like a rat up a drain pipe.
  • i've seen this mistake made over and over again:people take as axiomatic the idea that making any application 3D makes it better. running-around-shooting-people games: yes. modeling the interior of a spaceflight cockpit: yes. doing a walkthrough of your proposed new corporate super-campus: arguably. demonstrating introductory physics: not really; it's better illustrated in 2D. archiving/curating paintings, collaborating on 2D documents, video/voice conferencing: no! many media are only damaged by the t

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.