Kim Stephenson's

Virtual Environment Position Paper

Kim Stephenson

Technical Program Manager
Software Development Group
National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)

Virtual Environments and the WWW

NCSA has been a player in the Internet arena since the center began in 1986. One of it's first major contributions was NCSA Telnet which is still being used today. We are best known, however, for our work in the web environment. NCSA Mosaic TM was one of the prime factors in initiating the web explosion.

Prior to the work with NCSA Mosaic TM and the web one of the main focuses for the Software Development Group was real-time synchronous collaboration. The result of this work was a tool called NCSA Collage. NCSA Collage was a scientific image analysis tool coupled with a set of real-time synchronous collaborative features such as a whiteboard, chat, collaborative editing and more. We are now working to bring the real-time functionality of NCSA Collage into the web environment.

An important next step in the webs evolution is the ability to do more than just surf. In other words, how can a group accomplish their tasks utilizing the web as a medium? This requires both asynchronous and synchronous tools as well as a space to work in. One way to organize all the tools, information and resources is build a virtual environment to house them. NCSA is currently working on such an environment. (Current Version) This environment is designed to house all manor of tools and thus take advantage in the rapid growth in this area.

Discussion Items

One of the things that we've been working to identify is a listing of the types of objects that would be a part of virtual workspace.

What type of tools are necessary to provide a complete collaborative environment?

What things would tool and other environment creators find useful in an API to interconnect with the NCSA VE?

What types user interfaces work best in a collaborative environment?

Kim Stephenson