IBM/Lotus Wednesday released a 3D virtual environment conferencing service complete with avatars and whiteboards as part of its Sametime line of real-time collaboration software.
The company also said next week it will introduce LotusLive Connections, a hosted version of its social software, including instant messaging, file sharing and activities.
"We are putting social networking in the cloud," said Bob Picciano, general manager of IBM Lotus Software.
Lotus, which made its announcements during the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, also showed new micro-blogging features for Lotus Connections 2.5, its on-premises version of the software.
Picciano said Lotus would offer a Notes plug-in so users can have micro-blogging as part of their Notes sidebar along with Sametime, telepresence and third-party applications such as Twitter.
LotusLive Connections includes file storage and sharing, activities management, online charts and business contact capabilities. IBM offers a similar service called LotusLive Engage, which includes all the features of LotusLive Connections along with Web conferencing and application sharing.
Pricing for LotusLive Connections will start at $10.
IBM's new Virtual Collaboration for Lotus Sametime (VCS), or Sametime 3D, is a hosted service that provides virtual boardrooms, auditoriums or collaboration spaces with the ability to set up meetings via Sametime clients. Users can tap their Sametime contact lists to invite participants. The service supports the Lotus Sametime 8.0.1 client or later.
Meetings participants can use text or voice chat, share documents and take notes on a virtual flip chart. Sametime 3D has a "brainstorming wall" and the ability to vote on ideas.
Lotus quietly demonstrated the technology in January at its Lotusphere conference with the caveat that the technology might never see the light of day. Now six months later, the service is live. IBM said more than 2,500 IBM employees have been testing the service since February.
In addition, IBM officials say they are working with Vivox to add an option for integrated voice using VoIP.
IBM/Lotus officials plan to release other hosted services this year, but have not detailed what functionality they will provide. IBM/Lotus also promised in January other bundles targeted at specific industries and business needs.
Picciano said he has nothing to announce about upcoming services.
This story, "IBM Does Virtual Meetings in 3D" was originally published by Network World.