Virtual Environments – A Thriving Ecosystem


What we now think of as cinema, games, virtual environments, augmented reality, interactive TV, and immersive simulations are combining in new ways. As computing and network power increase over the next decades, interacting with synthetic or mixed environments will force these currently separate arenas to come together in new ways, ultimately driven by consumer demand.

The IEEE Standards Association is creating a community of people working in various fields to encourage the cross-pollination and collaboration necessary for these technologies to achieve their potential.

In September 2011, the IEEE SA sponsored its first Virtual: Play, Exchange, Advise, Renew, Learn (vPEARL) Summit which was supported by  The theme of the summit was “Harnessing the untapped power of converging 3D technologies”.

“There is an immense amount of value in bringing together great leaders who can advance the medium of virtual ‘everything,’” says Sandy Kearney, Chief Executive Officer of “With the breadth and depth of experience technology, refined through the exploration of both technology and a game, there is nothing but pure results– a thriving ecosystem for the world to further advance humanity. This is what vPEARL is all about.”

Taking place at Sony Pictures Studios, as well as in several virtual environments, including IEEE Island in Second Life, the Summit encouraged attendees to explore virtual environment solutions for modern day challenges. The goXOGO play format created a fun, collaborative experience for on-site and virtual participants. Starting from seed ideas, teams chose the challenge that fit them best and executed it in multiple virtual locations, capturing as many practices as possible.

A key highlight of the Summit was the virtual environment link to the RElive 2011 conference in the UK allowing attendees to share key findings and awards for the best solutions based on creativity and applicability. In fact, this was one unique and notable characteristic of the summit: a high level of real-time interactivity between two widely separated physical locations as well as several virtual environments.

A problem-solving game persuaded participants to interact, communicate, and collaborate across environments in order to come up with ways to use virtual worlds to address major real-world issues, from world hunger to obesity to educational challenges.

The guiding metaphor for the Summit was that virtual environments are at the point filmmaking was about 100 years ago, when the constituent technologies existed in some form, but the medium had yet to come to grips with its potential.  It took decades for the camera itself to become an active participant in the scene, a point that seems obvious today but was not at all clear in the early decades of the 20th century.

Standards are a part of this maturing process, and a longer-term goal is to establish an interdisciplinary community of imaginative technology experts who can be called upon to do the standards work that will make these technologies come alive on a mass scale.

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