NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE

OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Virtual Worlds and Immersive Internet

Recommendations for NOAA Strategic Engagement
White Paper
July 2009

Prepared by:

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Derek Parks Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Tel: 301-734-1186

2|Page

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Executive Summary
The purpose of this white paper is to demonstrate the utility of Immersive Internet technologies, including Virtual Worlds, for accomplishing the mission goals of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The paper will seek to demonstrate the value of the technology for improving NOAA’s education and outreach activities, streamlining and reducing cost in our existing business processes, as well as fostering a sense of corporate community and innovation to guide the agency through the next century. The Immersive Internet combines 3-D Internet technology with direct communications and social networking to produce a new and cost-effective environment for learning and business applications. This environment facilitates instant, sometimes spontaneous, collaboration and interaction, which allow participants to take advantage of each other’s unique perspectives and input to understand complex issues and solve problems. The business and technical networks that result can be an ongoing resource for future organizational problem solving. NOAA has its own virtual space on a technology platform called Second Life (http://secondlife.com/ ). This first NOAA exploration of Virtual Worlds and Immersive Internet started as a way to expand and promote OAR’s Earth System Research Laboratory exhibit, Science on a Sphere. The virtual Science on a Sphere used the same visualizations and data as the real world Spheres but allowed access to people who may not have been able to get to one of the real world installations. In addition to the virtual Island on Second Life, NOAA has also expanded its reach into more mainstream websites, such as YouTube through the use of a virtual technology called Machinima. Machinima uses the 3-D rendering capabilities of Virtual Worlds and combines it with a video editing functionality to create machine cinema or machinima. Why Immersive Internet and Virtual Worlds? First, and most importantly, Immersive Internet technology is cheaper and more effective than many existing tools NOAA currently uses to support its mission functions. Secondly, NOAA has already made an initial investment in development time and human resources to create a Virtual World. Although this is not a justification for continued expenditure per se, the expertise gained will allow for a more rapid development cycle and a quicker return on investment in the future. 3|Page

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Third, the next generations of scientists and engineers are growing up now in a different world from that of 30 years ago The broad application of immersive technologies at NOAA will not only attract new employees, but will enable them to become productive much quicker as they will be intimately familiar with the technologies being employed. Lastly, NOAA is a pre-eminent science agency with its foundation built upon research and development. Demonstrating leadership in the federal workforce by developing new applications for these tools will keep NOAA at the forefront of U.S. federal agencies. At the same time, working smarter, faster, and cheaper through the application of technology will allow NOAA to meet the high standards set by the Obama Administration for a cost-effective and open government. As with any new process, there will be specific challenges and barriers to adoption that will need to be overcome. Despite these initial hurdles, a strategic application of immersive tools will help NOAA effectively accomplish its mission in a costeffective manner and with a high-return on investment. Applications across NOAA’s Functional Model NOAA’s Functional Model divides the Agency into three main functions: Manage, Create, and Serve. Within each function, there are major sub-areas and activities where immersive technology can boost productivity and overall effectiveness at a relatively low cost to the Agency. Specifically, immersive technology can provide improved functionality at a lower cost in the following areas: Workforce Management and Training A NOAA Career and Worklife Center built in Second Life or similar application would help NOAA accomplish its goals of creating a responsive, highperformance culture; promoting knowledge-sharing, continuous learning and improvement; encouraging a climate of open communications; and attracting a diverse workforce with the competencies necessary to accomplish the Agency mission. It would also directly meet the stated goal strategy of “ensure training and development programs build needed competencies, including more effective incorporation of knowledge sharing, mentoring, and distance learning of employees”. Policy and Administration: Mission Support NOAA already has the basic technical infrastructure in place on the NOAA Island to immediately enable pilot projects in mission support. Staff meetings where participants are located in multiple time zones and where interactivity and collaboration are important would be the most useful application of the technology. For example, regional team meetings, program and goal team 4|Page

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

planning sessions, and cross-line, cross-discipline science meetings would be logical starting points. Communications and Education NOAA has a mandate to educate the public, as defined in the America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69). NOAA’s Education Strategic Plan for 2009-2029 outlines two overarching goals under this mandate, the first of which is improving environmental literacy. To accomplish this goal, the NOAA Education Council has recognized the importance of new technology on learning. The Council stressed “advances in technology change the way we interact as a society and impact our view of the world around us. Maintaining a presence in this new information age and keeping educational approaches relevant to new learning modalities are important to the continued success of NOAA’s environmental literacy goal”1. NOAA’s continued investment in immersive and Virtual World technologies is imperative to ensure the broad reach and continued relevancy of our educational message in the next 20 years Scientific Collaboration and Decision Support The NOAA Annual Guidance Memorandum stresses collaboration and transparency as an overarching management principle for NOAA to accomplish its mission. Opening a virtual laboratory where pre-eminent scientists from the public sector, private sector, and academia can meet and discuss issues critical to NOAA’s mission is an elegant and cost-effective way of ensuring we adhere to this principle. Challenges There are a number of challenges that could negatively impact NOAA’s ability to take advantage of the full potential of the Immersive Internet. These challenges range from cultural to technical and will need to be carefully planned for during the implementation phase of any Immersive Internet project. As mentioned earlier, the concept and technology behind Virtual Worlds and immersive environments came largely from the software gaming industry. Although a number of organizations and government agencies have a long history of using computer simulations to replicate the natural environment for the purposes of training or modeling systems behavior, there are still reservations about funding Virtual Worlds projects. These reservations are largely tied to the perception of Virtual Worlds as games and not serious business applications.
1

NOAA Education Strategic Plan 2009-2029, p 16, http://www.oesd.noaa.gov/NOAA_Ed_Plan.pdf

5|Page

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

A related concern and similar double-edged sword is the public nature of Virtual Worlds. While public involvement and feedback, especially from stakeholders, is a primary benefit to using these technologies, NOAA will need to consider the audience for different applications and determine how to best secure the environment so children are always 100 percent protected and activities remain appropriate for a U.S. government agency. A large portion of NOAA staff are not allowed to download the Second Life application and access the NOAA Virtual World from their work desktops due to existing “desktop core configuration” guidelines, as well as security restrictions related specifically to the design of the Second Life platform and its requirement to open multiple access doorways in the corporate firewall. Other Federal Agencies are experiencing the same difficulties and this is prompting Federal CIOs to establish government-wide policies that will cover both immersive and social media sites. It will be important for the NOAA Chief Information Officer to be engaged in helping to find creative solutions to these potential problems as they arise. Similarly, NOAA’s corporate planning and oversight entities have not moved at the same speed as NOAA’s virtual presence and the organization is now faced with some strategic questions and disconnects. For example, who should own NOAA’s virtual presence? Who funds these activities and how are they planned? What business cases will generate the most return on investment for NOAA? And most importantly, is this technology even worth any investment in time or resources by NOAA? To remedy the uncertainty surrounding NOAA’s Immersive Internet capabilities, corporate support, both political and financial, are needed from the highest levels. Established funding mechanisms will demonstrate a commitment on the part of NOAA leadership to using new technology. They will also allow NOAA developers to focus on development work for NOAA instead of seeking internal and external project-by-project funding. Lastly, a corporate funding mechanism will ensure each Line Office contributes equally for the benefits they are receiving. Recommendations Virtual Worlds and Immersive Internet technologies are valuable tools NOAA can utilize to accomplish its mission goals more effectively and at a lower cost than the current applications. Rather than replace current practice, these tools will complement existing applications to save money and improve effectiveness, while keeping NOAA at the forefront of internet technology. We are proposing the following overarching recommendations for NOAA leadership to undertake in the 6|Page

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

next 5 years to build the foundation needed to take advantage of the internet technology opportunities available now and in the future. 1. Create sustained governance and funding mechanisms for NOAA’s corporate use of Immersive Internet technology 2. Remove corporate barriers to entry for staff to use immersive technologies 3. Integrate Immersive Technologies with corporate strategic plans for long term development 4. Maximize current investment in Virtual Worlds communications and educational content

Conclusion There is tremendous utility for NOAA in using Immersive Internet Technologies, including Virtual Worlds, for accomplishing its mission goals. We have demonstrated the value of the technology for improving NOAA’s education and outreach activities, streamlining and reducing cost in our existing business processes, as well as fostering a sense of corporate community and innovation to guide the agency through the next century. NOAA now needs to make the necessary corporate investments, in planning and funding, to take best advantage of the benefits inherent in these new business technologies and to maintain its leadership as a world-class science and technology organization.

7|Page

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Table of Contents
Executive Summary....................................................................................................3 Table of Contents....................................................................................................... 8 Introduction.............................................................................................................. 10 Purpose.................................................................................................................10 What is the Immersive Internet?...........................................................................10 What are Virtual Worlds and how are they related?..............................................12 From Science Fiction to Reality: Immersion and the New Reality ........................12 Virtual NOAA: Welcome to Our Second Life.............................................................20 Machinima............................................................................................................. 21 Links for Additional Information:........................................................................21 A Strategy for a Virtual NOAA...................................................................................21 Why Immersive Internet and Virtual Worlds?........................................................22 Applications to NOAA’s Functional Model..............................................................23 MANAGE – Human Capital: Workforce Management and Training........................24 MANAGE – Policy and Administration: Mission Support........................................25 SERVE: Education and Communications...............................................................26 CREATE/SERVE: Scientific Collaboration and Decision Support............................27 Challenges and Barriers to Adoption.....................................................................28 Recommendations....................................................................................................31 Conclusion................................................................................................................ 35 Appendix 1: Sample Projects and Timelines............................................................36 Short Term (1-5 years).......................................................................................36 Medium Term (5-10 years).................................................................................36 8|Page

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Long Term (10+ years)......................................................................................36 Appendix 2: NOAA’s Second Life Attractions...........................................................37 Appendix 3: A Selection of Virtual Worlds Technology Providers.............................39

9|Page

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Introduction
Purpose
The purpose of this white paper is to demonstrate the utility of Immersive Internet Technologies, including Virtual Worlds, for accomplishing the mission goals of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The paper will seek to demonstrate the value of the technology for improving NOAA’s education and outreach activities, streamlining and reducing cost in our existing business processes, as well as fostering a sense of corporate community and innovation to guide the agency through the next century. To achieve these goals, NOAA will need to make corporate investments, both in planning and funding in the coming years. This paper will define four key functional areas where strategic investments will yield the greatest return on investment. Within these functional areas, the paper will make specific recommendations for projects that both relate to the strategic goals and objectives of the functional area, as well as the mission and vision of NOAA as an agency. Before delving into the recommendations for NOAA, it is essential the reader have a basic understanding of the technology in question, as well as some background on NOAA’s involvement to date. Following is a brief overview with links to additional resources for more information.

What is the Immersive Internet?
Information Technology Analysts ThinkBalm define the Immersive Internet as “a collection of emerging technologies combined with a social culture that has roots in gaming and Virtual Worlds.

10 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Source: ThinkBalm Think IMAX® movies, surround sound, and World of Warcraft® applied to the Web and business applications, and you’ve got the Immersive Internet. What we once called Virtual Worlds as a catch-all category now only describes one small piece of the picture. Other important elements are virtual campuses or 3D intranets, immersive learning environments and serious games, and 3D business applications. What these all have in common is that they deeply engage — even engross — the person who is using them. A combination of these technologies and an emerging culture with roots in gaming is opening up new dimensions in collaboration, engagement, and context.”2 The Immersive Internet combines 3D Internet technology with direct communications and social networking to produce a new and cost-effective environment for learning and business applications. This environment facilitates instant, sometimes spontaneous, collaboration and interaction, which allow participants to take advantage of each other’s unique perspectives and input to understand complex issues and solve problems. The business and technical networks that result can be an ongoing resource for future organizational problem solving. These technologies also allow users to operate outside the “real-world” constraints of time and the laws of physics. Brainstorming and modeling can be done in 4 dimensions and retained for use in the future. Users can interact with designs and data models directly, which allows for a new level of understanding. Teleportation from one location to the next, is not only possible, but is the norm.

2

ThinkBalm Industry Analysis - http://thinkbalm.com/immersive-internet/

11 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

“Adoption of the Immersive Internet for work is still in the ‘seedling’ stage. [ThinkBalm] expect adoption will progress rapidly toward mainstream during the next five years because: • A slow economy and the green movement are influencing business decisions • Early case studies demonstrate return on investment • We live in a video game culture • Large business technology vendors are jumping into the fray • Hardware, software, and networking technology have advanced rapidly • Social networking is a way of life, allowing advocates and implementers to find each other “3

What are Virtual Worlds and how are they related?
Virtual Worlds are a sub-set of the immersive web-based technologies that allow people to enter into and interact with a computer-generated simulation or “world”. According to Wikipedia, a Virtual World is “a computer-simulated world and presents perceptual stimuli to the user, who in turn can manipulate elements of the modeled world and thus experiences telepresence to a certain degree. Such modeled worlds may appear similar to the real world or instead depict fantasy worlds… Communication between users has ranged from text, graphical icons, visual gesture, [and ] sound… with real-time voice communication using Voice Over IP also possible.” 4 The immersion of the participant in the Virtual World allows for enhanced experiences and information exchange beyond those available through the more traditional written word, photo, or video. The addition of collaboration and social interaction in real time and with no constraints based on location of participants has driven this technology beyond the gaming community, into the real world. The applications for this technology, such as distributed problem solving, training, education, and interactivity/awareness, are tremendous and can be of great utility to businesses, universities, and governments who choose to take advantage of the opportunity.

From Science Fiction to Reality: Immersion and the New Reality
For the mainstream public, the concept of a Virtual World and immersion are still rooted in the realm of fantasy. The futuristic Hollywood depictions of humanmachine interfaces, such as Tron and The Matrix, still hold sway over public opinion.
3

The Immersive Internet: Make Tactical Moves Today for Strategic Advantage Tomorrow, November 2008, P. 2, ThinkBalm. http://thinkbalm.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/thinkbalmimmersive-internet-report-nov-20084.pdf
4

Wikipedia: Virtual World: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_worlds

12 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Likewise, the popular gaming origins of Virtual Worlds have tended to slow their adoption into mainstream business applications. Most working adults don’t have the time, patience, nor interest, to sit down and explore an online “world”, especially if there is not a fairly high perceived benefit to them. However, just 30 years ago most average adults would have also rolled their eyes at the idea of getting their daily news through “a series of tubes” or at using a community-generated encyclopedia that was not only generally accurate, but also self-regulating. Likewise, the thought of putting one’s personal photos and private details up on a public message board, along with a stream of your most mundane and trivial thoughts, would have likely seemed the work of the deranged, not the hottest social trend since the Rubik’s cube. In short, the world has changed – a lot. The one constant, in fact, is the evolution of human ideas and culture. So how do immersive technology and Virtual Worlds fit in to the bigger picture? What is the future of human collaboration and interaction on the Web? While we cannot know for sure, we can certainly make some educated guesses. Beyond Rapid Access to Information In today’s society, people are constantly bombarded by information in many different forms. The result is people have little patience for reading through reams of documentation, especially if it is dry and overly complex. Professional communicators make subjects more accessible by adding a story-telling component, which facilitates visualization and storage of memories, or photos and video, which aid in associating memories and in future recall of information. A logical extension of these communications techniques is immersion - where the participant is actually experiencing and, to a degree, controlling the environment to create their own personalized story. Imagine a scenario where you are researching a topic through Google or another search engine, and instead of linking to a website with multiple text pages, you instead link into a 3-dimensional, Virtual World. The 3-D space would be viewed directly on the screen or even projected into or around a room for a greater sense of immersion. The images available would be photo or video quality, so there would be no need to suspend disbelief. Rather, you would be interacting directly with a simulation in a very real world way. The experience would be natural, intuitive, and highly effective at delivering information and encouraging retention. Take Ocean Acidification for example. Today a Google search on OA results in links to the Wikipedia definition, the Ocean Acidification Network, and the PMEL OA Homepage, as the top three results. An interested person can read on the subject and follow the various links to learn about the Carbon Cycle and atmosphere-ocean interactions, pteropods, coral bleaching, coral ecosystems, and such. In order to gain something beyond a cursory understanding of the subject, one would need to 13 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

do a lot of reading and not get derailed along the way by the range of complex terminology and complex charts that are better suited to a more detailed scientific discussion.

Changes in atmospheric CO2 under the "business as usual" scenario to the year 2100 and associated changes in ocean pH and carbon chemsitry. Adapted from Wolf-Gladrow et al., 1999 (9). 5

However, if the interested public could take a quick tour of a virtual ocean that rapidly simulates an end-to-end process of ocean acidification in a clear, interactive, and entertaining fashion, the person would likely retain the knowledge and possibly be more motivated to explore the topic. Having seen first-hand the beauty of the coral reef environment, the fish that live there, and then having watched them slowly die away, the person may feel a deeper connection to the issue and even be inspired to do something about the problem. An Immersive Internet site has the potential to deliver these results, which is a powerful tool for accomplishing NOAA’s communications and education missions. Serious Games for Education and Business On the business side, immersive environments have a number of different applications that can provide high benefit at a relatively low cost. Consider, for example, the possibility of sending new NOAA employees, or individuals who might be interested in applying for a science job one day, to visit a virtual NOAA job orientation center. This center could have 3-D representations of some or all NOAA facilities – each accurate down to the smallest detail – where visitors could immerse themselves in the key science activities underway at each facility. The new or prospective employee could be given a guided tour of the facility by a computercontrolled docent or could interact directly with NOAA scientists in the lab who are holding “office hours” or happen to be conducting a virtual component to their field work at the time. This type of immersive “on-boarding” would be a great
5

Graphic taken from http://www.ocean-acidification.net/ for illustrative purposes.

14 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

improvement over the existing NOAA 101 slides and could contribute to recruiting the next generation of NOAA scientists. Expand this same concept to training for existing NOAA employees, especially those who are about to undertake difficult or dangerous jobs. Scenario-based training simulations and games build needed skills in a safe and controlled environment providing the necessary hours of practice before sending someone into the field. The U.S. military has been using this type of simulation training for years and is now moving heavily into immersive technology to provide lower cost supplements to their live training simulations. By providing an easily customizable development platform, Virtual Worlds technology can save NOAA money while providing a safe and secure training environment. Similarly, COOP exercises could be conducted in a virtual environment and expanded to include virtual NOAA operations in the case of a true emergency in the Washington, DC/Silver Spring area. The benefits to the Agency would be high, while the cost and time commitment would be relatively low for a net savings to the Agency. Global Collaboration and Interaction Think of the potential for global scientific collaboration through a persistent environmental laboratory that exists exclusively in a virtual space and is dedicated to solving the greatest scientific problems of the day. Scientists from many disciplines, organizations, and from locations around the world could collaborate directly to develop sophisticated models and elegant solutions to global issues such as climate change. These scientists could bring together experience from the broad range of physical and social sciences to create solutions for public benefit. Likewise, decision-makers from the impacted areas could feed into the development process to improve the end products and services early in the process. In the real world, this type of real-time, ongoing collaboration is difficult and costprohibitive. In a persistent virtual space, collaboration can happen continuously with scientists and decision makers jumping in and out of the discussion and activities as their schedules allow. The potential benefits and cost savings are tremendous.

15 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

16 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Meetings and More: Productivity at a Lower Cost What are the costs associated with flying people around the country and around the globe to attend meetings? While conference calls, VTC, and Webinars can provide some degree of interaction, they are often poor substitutes for the productivity of a face-to-face meeting. The solution is the Virtual Workplace.

The Virtual Workplace will become the rule
No need to leave the office. Just bring it along. Desk phones and desktop computers will gradually disappear, replaced by mobile devices, including laptops, that take on traditional office capabilities. Social networking tools and Virtual World meeting experiences will simulate the feeling on being their in-person. Work models will be changed by expanded globalization and green business initiatives that reduce travel and encourage work at home. “The definition of “meetings” will radically transform and become increasingly ad-hoc and instantaneous based on context and need. 3-D Virtual World and gaming technologies will significantly influence online corporate meeting experiences to deliver more life-like experiences demanded by the next generation workers who will operate more efficiently in this familiar environment.” Mike Rhodin, General Manager of IBM Lotus software http://www.techradar.com/news/computing/ibm-sounds-death-knell-for-desktop-pc-270127

17 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

All traditional business gatherings, such as meetings, conventions, retreats, etc., can now be done virtually. Virtual Worlds, such as Second Life, combine Voice over Internet Protocol and text-based communications capabilities, with simulated representations of participants – called avatars – to allow users to come together quickly and at a very low cost. The use of avatars and real-time voice communications over the internet allow for an interactive experience that is comparable to a face-to-face meeting. Meetings can actually be more productive, as side-bar conversations can happen via text messaging without disturbing the flow of the meeting. Joanne Martin, President, IBM Academy of Technology said “The meeting in Second Life was everything that you could do at a traditional conference and more, at one fifth the cost and without a single case of jet lag”.6 Over 200 of IBM’s conference participants were offered pre-conference training on the basics of Second Life to allow them to become comfortable with communicating and navigating in this virtual environment. According to IBM their return on investment (ROI) for the Virtual World Conference was roughly $320,000 and the Annual Meeting was completed at one-fifth the cost of a real world event, and many IBM staff members were converted to Virtual World advocates because of the benefits and ease of use in attending virtually. Craig Becker, Global Architect, IBM Digital Convergence said “We truly felt as if we had attended a real-time meeting, interacting with others and carrying home practical information”.7 This significant success has led to IBM using this Virtual World’s environment for meeting and discussions regularly throughout the year increasing their communication, collaboration and efficiency. According to IBM Marketing Executive, Karen Keeter, “Twenty different organizations asked to do meetings in-world the week following the IBM conference”, Linden Research, Inc. (2009), a testimony to how Virtual World conferences and meetings can have a positive impact on business during the current down-turn in the economy.8 Pandemic Panic: Contingency Planning for the 21st Century As we begin the 21st Century, NOAA is managing a workforce with its leadership and the majority of its staff offices located in two locations in the Washington, DC metro
6

Linden Research, Inc. (2009)

7

Linden Research, Inc. (2009). How meeting in Second Life transformed IBM’s technology elite into Virtual World believers. Case Study. Retrieved May 8, 2009 from http://secondlifegrid.net.s3.amazonaws.com/docs/Second_Life_Case_IBM.pdf 8 Linden Research, Inc. (2009). How meeting in Second Life transformed IBM’s technology elite into Virtual World believers. Case Study. Retrieved May 8, 2009 from http://secondlifegrid.net.s3.amazonaws.com/docs/Second_Life_Case_IBM.pdf

18 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

area. The remainder of NOAA’s workforce is distributed across the United States in Labs, Science Centers, and at cooperative institutes, which poses a number of communications and management challenges. Added to the difficulty of managing a distributed workforce is the reality of managing headquarters operations in a densely populated city with considerable traffic and transportation issues. Past events, such as the terrorist attacks of September 2001 and the Metro accident of June 2009 demonstrate the potential impact to NOAA operations when the next incident occurs. Of particular concern is the scenario where the DC metro area is impacted by a chemical or biological attack or is stricken with a naturally occurring pandemic. Public transportation would not be a viable option for getting to and from work and having large numbers of staff in a single location would not be possible or advisable, depending upon the scenario. Continuity of Operations scenarios account for short term disturbances, but what about scenarios, such as a pandemic, where the disturbance is longer in duration and may preclude leadership gathering as a group in a single location? How does the Agency continue to function? Conference calls and email offer a partial solution, but are limited in their effectiveness. A 24-hour virtual operations center, on the other hand, would allow staff to come and go, create and post information for others to see, hold meetings, and generally continue operations at a high level of effectiveness. To date, no central NOAA repository exists for this type of activity to happen in the case of an emergency. As you can see from the examples above, the potential for the expanded use of immersive tools is very high. As computing speeds increase and bandwidth concerns diminish, immersive environments will become more integrated into the existing web infrastructure and, as a result, will be more familiar to the average person. Activities that are done today in a flat, two-dimensional space on the web will be migrated to mixed 2-D and 3-D environments – picture yourself at the computer and entering a virtual electronics store, you direct your virtual self – your avatar – to pick up that new iPod for closer inspection. Seeking more information, you click on a spec chart. Needing even more information, you chat with a virtual associate, and possibly with another customer who is also looking at digital music players. You make your decision and complete your transaction via the traditional web interface. This is not science fiction, but is coming to your favorite websites in the near future. Immersive environments are moving beyond gaming and becoming part of our daily lives. As we shall see, NOAA is already a key player in this transition.

Links for additional information:
• The Immersive Internet: Make Tactical Moves Today for Strategic Advantage Tomorrow (ThinkBalm) - http://thinkbalm.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/thinkbalmimmersive-internet-report-nov-20084.pdf

19 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
• • •
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH
http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?

OCEANIC

AND

Conferences Go Virtual (CNBC Video) video=1047748741&play=1

Immersive Internet Technology is no Video Game (The Industry Standard) http://www.thestandard.com/news/2009/06/04/immersive-internet-technology-no-video-game

Real Organizations Find Success in the Virtual World (Linden Labs) http://www.secondlifegrid.net/casestudies

Virtual NOAA: Welcome to Our Second Life
Many may still be surprised to know that NOAA has its own virtual space on a technology platform called Second Life (http://secondlife.com/ ). This first NOAA exploration of Virtual Worlds and Immersive Internet started as a way to expand and promote Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) exhibit, Science on a Sphere. The virtual Science on a Sphere used the same visualizations and data as the real world Spheres but allowed access to people who may not have been able to get to one of the real world installations. From these humble and experimental beginnings, the NOAA island grew and eventually expanded to include science exhibits from across the NOAA Lines and Goals (for a list of current NOAA exhibits, see Appendix 1). At the same time, NOAA’s exhibits have gradually transitioned from a live experimental activity to an operational communications and outreach activity. In fact, NOAA, along with NASA, is a U.S. Government leader in the virtual space and NOAA’s development staff at ESRL are widely considered to be innovators and industry leaders in the use and development of Virtual Worlds. In FY08, the Alaska Regional Collaboration Team (ARCTic) partnered with ESRL to expand the NOAA offerings through an exhibit called Virtual Alaska. This virtual environment highlights the State of Alaska, specifically the fisheries and the marine ecosystem environment. Virtual Alaska was expanded in FY09 to highlight climate changes in the ecosystem, including the marine environment, Tongass National Forest, and the glacial system (i.e., changes such as an interactive exhibit on glacial ice melt, melting permafrost that creates a drunken forest, and a demonstration highlighting the effects of climate change on the fishing industry). The Virtual Alaska collaboration has been particularly notable as it also spawned the Second Life Educators in Alaska (SLED-Alaska) developers’ community. SLED20 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Alaska is a community of educators in Alaska exploring and working in Second Life and Virtual Alaska is their home base. In 2009, community members received a week of intensive training on development tools within the Second Life application. They have since begun working on their own projects to enhance the educational benefits of Virtual Alaska. This collaboration is a good example of how immersive environments can spur private-public interactions for expanding and improving NOAA’s education and outreach capabilities.

Machinima
In addition to the virtual Island on Second Life, NOAA has also expanded its reach into more mainstream websites, such as YouTube through the use of a virtual technology called Machinima. Machinima uses the 3-D rendering capabilities of Virtual Worlds and combines it with a video editing functionality to create machine cinema or machinima. NOAA’s development team has created a series of machinima clips highlighting the NOAA virtual Island and its features. These clips are posted to real-world websites, such as YouTube where they are expanding the reach of NOAA’s Island well beyond the Second Life platform. These products are inexpensive to produce and can reach a much broader audience than the exhibits on the island itself. To cite an example, the NOAA virtual Island introductory video9 was launched in 2007 and has since received nearly 26,000 individual viewers from around the world. On a broader level, machinima can be used to record events that take place on the island and blend them with 2-D or 3-D images or text and narration for a lasting record of important meetings or town hall interactions. Similarly, machinima can also be blended with real world video to produce cinematic quality pieces for education, outreach, or entertainment. In that respect, machinima is a very cost effective tool which could be used to compliment and augment NOAA’s current spectrum of photo and video products.

Links for Additional Information:
• NOAA Machinima examples on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list? p=EA744675A7829CA2&search_query=noaa+virtual

A Strategy for a Virtual NOAA
The vision for a Virtual NOAA is one where the Agency continues to build upon its status as an innovator in the Immersive Internet space by applying existing and

9

NOAA Virtual Island: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is8YX32GAyQ

21 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

future technology in a strategic and cost-effective manner to directly support its functions and mission goals.

Why Immersive Internet and Virtual Worlds?
First, and most importantly, Immersive Internet technology is cheaper and more effective than many existing tools NOAA currently uses to support its mission functions. As we have shown, the Immersive Internet offers a unique set of capabilities that improve engagement and retention in a relatively low cost environment. For example, a typical, full function Web Ex through Cisco for three people for an hour would cost approximately $95, not including the fixed cost of maintaining the NOAA network. The same meeting held on NOAA’s Second Life Island would cost $ 1.15, plus any nominal fees for uploading documents, and the pro-rated amount for development costs already invested to create the virtual infrastructure to host the meeting on the island. As before, the fixed cost of maintaining the NOAA network is not included.10 These tools can therefore be an extremely valuable addition to an overall business strategy. Within NOAA, immersive technology could be applied across the entire functional model from management of the enterprise, to creation of data information and knowledge, and service to the public. The common benefits of immersion, including direct interactivity and collaboration, suspension of time and place, improved communication and knowledge retention, and low cost, make immersive technology a logical choice for targeted investment to support recruitment, training, education, and scientific collaboration. Low cost video production capabilities using machinima would likewise be a boon for communications. Secondly, NOAA has already made an initial investment in development time and human resources to create a Virtual World. Although this is not a justification for continued expenditure per se, the expertise gained will allow for a more rapid development cycle and a quicker return on investment in the future. In fact, NOAA’s development team has been contracted by other Federal agencies to develop large scale immersive projects to support their missions. Any lessons learned from these activities will most certainly benefit future work for NOAA.

10

Cisco estimated costs from Cisco website: https://my.webex.com/ppu_calc.html. Second Life costs based on the following: Estimated annual Cost for rent on virtual land in Second Life 10,000/365 = daily cost ($27). Daily cost 27/24= hourly cost ($1.15). There is no per user fee in Second Life, so the more participants, the more cost effective. The functional limit for meetings in Second Life is approximately 40 people at any one time.

22 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Third, the next generations of scientists and engineers are growing up now in a different world from that of 30 years ago. Information is being delivered and accessed in many different ways, with hand-held devices and instant connectivity now the norm; however, the Federal Government, in many respects, is still operating in the world of the typewriter and the mimeograph. Change is slow, but will be necessary to attract the best and brightest minds from upcoming generations. The broad application of immersive technologies at NOAA will not only attract new employees, but will enable them to become productive much quicker as they will be intimately familiar with the technologies being employed.
T in B lm h ka . T eIm e iv In rn t: Mk T c a Mv sT d yfo S te icA v n g T mrro , N v me 2 0 , P 2 h mrs e te e a e a tic l o e o a r tra g d a ta e o o w o e b r 0 8 . ,

Investment in short-term Immersive Internet projects in 2009 is both strategic and cash-conscious. Project teams can extract tangible cost savings immediately, influence the vendors in an emerging technology market, and build the expertise needed for making sound larger investments in the future. Look for opportunities to improve business processes in seven main areas: learning and training, meetings and conferences, business activity simulation, collaborative design and prototyping, collaborative 3D data visualization, human resources management, and remote system and facility management.

Lastly, NOAA is a pre-eminent science agency with its foundation built upon research and development. Demonstrating leadership in the federal workforce by developing new applications for these tools will keep NOAA at the forefront of U.S. federal agencies. At the same time, working smarter, faster, and cheaper through the application of technology will allow NOAA to meet the high standards set by the Obama Administration for a cost-effective and open government. As with any new process, there will be specific challenges and barriers to adoption that will need to be overcome. Despite these initial hurdles, a strategic application of immersive tools will help NOAA effectively accomplish its mission in a costeffective manner and with a high-return on investment.

The following sections will address the specific NOAA functional areas where immersive technology could provide the most bang for the buck, as well as the specific challenges that will need to be overcome as the technology is brought on line.

Applications to NOAA’s Functional Model
NOAA’s Functional Model divides the Agency into three main functions: Manage, Create, and Serve. Within each function, there are major sub-areas and activities 23 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

where immersive technology can boost productivity and overall effectiveness at a relatively low cost to the Agency. Case Study: Accenture Virtual Career Center

MANAGE – Human Capital: Workforce Management and Training
The application of Immersive Internet technology in this functional area has the highest potential return on investment for NOAA given its broad applicability to existing employees, new hires, and prospective employees. A robust initial investment in a set of virtual workforce management capabilities would encourage a cultural shift within the agency, and would yield tremendous benefits in the form of a cost effective, easily extensible training platform for years to come. The incorporation of distance learning, distance mentoring, and serious games makes Virtual Worlds technology a natural fit for NOAA’s workforce needs. We therefore recommend workforce management be a priority area for strategic implementation of immersive and Virtual World technologies. Benefits: • • Inexpensive to implement compared to traditional on-line training platforms Interactivity and immersion improve simulation realism and trainee retention over traditional read-then-quiz applications Distance learning and distance mentoring are core capabilities Improved safety and lower cost of operations once implemented Good publicity and improved opportunities to recruit next-generation of scientists and staff

Here at Accenture we’re constantly trying to improve how you can find out what kind of organization we are, what we’re like as people and what we’re looking for in new hires… [W]e constantly have to find new ways to reach out to the next generation of top talent. Stop by our Careers Central building, where you can learn...about our career offerings and some of the interesting people who are part of the Accenture team… Explore the interview building, where we conduct in-world interviews with potential hire candidates… Or if you’re in the mood to test your in-world skills, try your hand at our Second Life challenges that push you physically and mentally and test your ability to work as a team member. The challenges are fun, challenging and pretty addictive…

• • •

http://careers3.accenture.com/Careers/Global/SecondLife

Ties to strategic plans: 24 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

As stated in the NOAA Strategic Human Capital Management Plan for 2006-2011, “NOAA must develop and maintain a culture that empowers people by encouraging creativity, initiative, risk-taking, and open debate. As society evolves, it is imperative that NOAA continues to have the scientific, technical, and administrative expertise necessary to accomplish NOAA’s mission. Recruiting, training, and retaining such a workforce requires a corporate commitment to build the necessary culture and infrastructure along with a willingness to create a workplace that rewards teamwork and cooperation”. A NOAA Career and Worklife Center built in Second Life or similar application would help NOAA accomplish its goals of creating a responsive, high-performance culture; promoting knowledge-sharing, continuous learning and improvement; encouraging a climate of open communications; and attracting a diverse workforce with the competencies necessary to accomplish the Agency mission. It would also directly meet the stated goal strategy of “ensure training and development programs build needed competencies, including more effective incorporation of knowledge sharing, mentoring, and distance learning of employees”.

MANAGE – Policy and Administration: Mission Support
Mission support represents the “low-hanging fruit” for early proof-of-concept investments in immersive technology. Virtual meetings, conferences, and similar activities are already working in the private sector and have demonstrated a proven return on investment. NOAA already has the basic technical infrastructure in place on the NOAA Island to immediately enable pilot projects in mission support. Staff meetings where participants are located in multiple time zones and where interactivity and collaboration are important would be the most useful application of the technology. For example, regional team meetings, program and goal team planning sessions, and cross-line, cross-discipline science meetings would be logical starting points. The cost savings to NOAA in terms of increased productivity through collaboration and interaction, as well as the reduced cost of using Voice over IP instead of a conference call bridge or VTC bridge line would be immediate. Benefits: • • • Low cost to implement Voice over IP is less expensive than VTC, WebEx, or conference calls to operate Interactivity and face-time is more effective than conventional conference calls 25 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
• •
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Better user experience than both WebEx and conference call Allows for display of Powerpoint and other static support materials in conjunction with interactivity

SERVE: Education and Communications
The combination of immersive technology exhibits and machinima presentations provide a valuable and largely untapped resource for NOAA’s education and communications communities. The popularity of YouTube, which has been well exploited by a few offices in NOAA, has great potential if it were to be used on more than an ad hoc basis. Strategic exploitation of this resource through traditional video and machinima video would provide global exposure for NOAA’s products and services while increasing environmental literacy. Likewise, NOAA’s existing Virtual World exhibits can be enhanced to incorporate game theory and enforce basic concepts (take-away messages) related specifically to environmental literacy. Since students can participate in immersive education from anywhere in the world as long as they have a current computer or mobile device to access the Internet, it allows them to explore the course materials at a level of detail that rivals being there in person in a classroom. Consider the benefits of participating in a lecture on nanotechnology with a “hands-on” lab session to examine and manipulate various molecules in great detail and as often as they need to learn the new concepts. When considering that this is actually considered interactive play by these learners, it can only entice them to explore, manipulate and interact with the subject matter in ways that make the learning as much fun as playing and yet greatly enhances the learning experience.11 Based on these conceptual uses for immersive technology, game theory, and social networking websites, we propose two specific projects for targeted investment in the next 5 years. • Create interactive DVDs or online versions of the NOAA Island, complete with games and learning assessments for distribution to schools nation-wide. The result would be improved environmental literacy at the K-12 level, improved learning and retention through use of interactive gaming theory, increased awareness of NOAA and recognition of the NOAA brand. Develop machinima public service announcements on issues of major environmental importance for distribution through multiple web avenues. The result would be improved environmental awareness and general

11

Walsh, A. E., (2007). The immersive education faculty-student ecosystem. Published online through the Immersive Education Initiative. Retrieved May 10, 2008 from
http://mediagrid.org/groups/technology/grid.ied/Immersive%20Education%20Ecosystem.pdf

26 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

scientific literacy, as well as increased awareness of NOAA products and services, brand, and broader capabilities. Ties to strategic plans: NOAA has a mandate to educate the public, as defined in the America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69). NOAA’s Education Strategic Plan for 2009-2029 outlines two overarching goals under this mandate, the first of which is improving environmental literacy. To accomplish this goal, the NOAA Education Council has recognized the importance of new technology on learning. The Council stressed “advances in technology change the way we interact as a society and impact our view of the world around us. Maintaining a presence in this new information age and keeping educational approaches relevant to new learning modalities are important to the continued success of NOAA’s environmental literacy goal”12. NOAA’s continued investment in immersive and Virtual World technologies is imperative to ensure the broad reach and continued relevancy of our educational message in the next 20 years.

CREATE/SERVE: Scientific Collaboration and Decision Support
Scientific collaboration and decision support is a natural fit with immersive technologies; however, it is also a transformational/high-risk concept in that there would need to be broad acceptance and use of the capabilities by scientists both inside and outside NOAA in order to be effective. Along with high-risk, comes the potential for very high reward. Take for example, the possibility of creating virtual Laboratories to tackle the some key priorities from the most recent NOAA Annual Guidance Memorandum: Climate Change and Marine Spatial Planning. Research and development, regional, national, and global collaboration, and stakeholder involvement could be accomplished in a transparent, persistent virtual environment. The virtual lab would meld NOAA’s data and modeling expertise with real-time voice over IP communications, social networking, and multi-player gaming theory to help derive solutions to global issues of the greatest importance. Rapid, iterative problem solving would reduce costs and result in more effective solutions, while the broader participation of end-users and decision makers would aid in the design of effective decision support tools and user interfaces. More importantly, the virtual lab is always open and available, so scientists from around the globe could go to the lab and participate in the discussions on their schedules and without leaving behind the extensive resources of their home lab or facility.
12

NOAA Education Strategic Plan 2009-2029, p 16, http://www.oesd.noaa.gov/NOAA_Ed_Plan.pdf

27 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Since the system users themselves would be doing the majority of the Virtual World development, a small initial corporate investment in the infrastructure could yield potentially high value for NOAA and its constituents. That said, training, elimination of barriers to entry, and acceptance of the immersive technology as a valid tool by the science community will still constitute a large investment in time and resources. However, as NOAA seeks to better collaborate with other agencies and our own internal and external partners, virtual meetings, on-line discussions, and eventually collaborative spaces are the way forward. Ties to strategic plans: The NOAA Annual Guidance Memorandum stresses collaboration and transparency as an overarching management principle for NOAA to accomplish its mission. Opening a virtual laboratory where pre-eminent scientists from the public sector, private sector, and academia can meet and discuss issues critical to NOAA’s mission is an elegant and cost-effective way of ensuring we adhere to this principle. The Mission Support Goal from NOAA 5 Year Research Plan for 2008-2012 stresses the importance of “communication and visualization technology” using telepresence to link scientists on NOAA ships with those on shore to conduct joint experiments. The next step in this evolution is to link scientists on the ship, on shore, and virtually to conduct joint experiments for the benefit of all societies.

Challenges and Barriers to Adoption
There are a number of challenges that could negatively impact NOAA’s ability to take advantage of the full potential of the Immersive Internet. These challenges range from cultural to technical and will need to be carefully planned for during the implementation phase of any Immersive Internet project. Following are the primary challenges we have identified. Cultural Perceptions As mentioned earlier, the concept and technology behind Virtual Worlds and immersive environments came largely from the software gaming industry. Although a number of organizations and government agencies, including IBM, NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Military, have a long history of using computer simulations to replicate the natural environment for the purposes of training or modeling systems behavior, there are still reservations about funding Virtual Worlds projects. These reservations are largely tied to the perception of Virtual Worlds as games and not serious business applications. These perceptions are enforced by a certain fantasy component that is involved in Virtual Worlds by creating an avatar, or virtual representation of one’s self. In some applications, Second Life included, avatars can include anything the imagination can conjure. In a gaming construct, this is a 28 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

pretty cool feature. In a business application, it can have both positive and negative implications. Consider, for example, if NOAA were to feature guided tours of its virtual island conducted by an avatar in the form of a fish or a mini-tornado – in this case, the fantasy component would reinforce the mission and generate a marketing buzz that would drive traffic to the site: a marketing and communications home run. However, if NOAA were to conduct facilities tours or group meetings virtually, the presence of wings, horns, or other less-than-conservative business accoutrements on avatars would be a distraction, could generate negative or derisive press, and would definitely be a barrier to adoption at the higher levels of the organization. This double-edged fantasy sword would need to be a consideration when developing any new immersive applications. Additional barriers to entry include the wide acceptance and availability of WebEx and conference calls, as well as complex user interfaces that do not cater to new users. Public vs Private A related concern and similar double-edged sword is the public nature of Virtual Worlds. While public involvement and feedback, especially from stakeholders, is a primary benefit to using these technologies, NOAA will need to consider the audience for different applications and determine how to best secure the environment so children are always 100 percent protected and activities remain appropriate for a U.S. government agency. In the recent past, there were few immersive applications to choose from and those that were available catered to more to fantasy and gaming than to business. Now, however, there are multiple immersive applications, some of which are ready for businesses to use “out of the box”, and allow a tighter degree of control over who can access what. In addition, service providers such as Second Life realize the importance of separating adult and juvenile audiences and have made it possible to re-purpose content to multiple audiences through controlled access points. This effectively shifts the burden of access control away from NOAA to the service provider. Through the strategic use of multiple products and services, NOAA can effectively target its business applications, both internal and external, to its maximum advantage. Policy Constraints It is important to note, at the time of this writing, a large portion of NOAA staff are not allowed to download the Second Life application and access the NOAA Virtual 29 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

World from their work desktops due to existing “desktop core configuration” guidelines, as well as security restrictions related specifically to the design of the Second Life platform and its requirement to open multiple access doorways in the corporate firewall. Service providers are aware of these restrictions and many now offer applications that can be accessed immediately through a standard web connection. Second Life is also working on an upgrade that will limit the security risks for its corporate and government clients. However, the lingering policy inconsistencies between the Department of Commerce and NOAA, as well as between the different Line Offices within NOAA, will continue to hamper corporate efforts to use the technology until they are resolved. Other Federal Agencies are experiencing the same difficulties and the Obama Administration is actively moving in this direction stating "Your government is delivering online content in new ways and new venues as technology impacts how and where people consume content". 13 This is prompting Federal CIOs to establish government-wide policies that will cover both immersive and social media sites. It will be important for the NOAA Chief Information Officer to be engaged in helping to find creative solutions to these potential problems as they arise. Similarly, NOAA’s corporate planning and oversight entities have not moved at the same speed as NOAA’s virtual presence and the organization is now faced with some strategic questions and disconnects. For example, who should own NOAA’s virtual presence? Who funds these activities and how are they planned? What business cases will generate the most return on investment for NOAA? And most importantly, is this technology even worth any investment in time or resources by NOAA? While this paper is attempting to justify the continued investment in the technology, the strategic planning for these and other tools needs to be incorporated into the broader strategic planning for the individual functional areas in order to be effective. If the tool is not specifically helping to achieve mission goals identified in strategic plans, and is not producing the desired outcomes, it should not be used. As we have shown above, immersive tools can be more effective and less costly than existing mechanisms, especially for education, communications, and workforce management, and should be funded. At the micro level, NOAA should seek to implement governance mechanisms to ensure these technologies are used productively and in a cost effective manner. The governance mechanisms will provide the intelligence needed at the functional level to choose the right application and the right time to best accomplish the
13

Your Government and New Media, The White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/newmedia/.

30 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

mission goal. Corporate governance will also ensure each Line benefits equally from their investment in the technology. Funding Constraints To date, NOAA’s immersive development activities have been funded primarily through OAR with additional project funding coming from NOS, NESDIS, and NMFS. In order to maintain ongoing activities, the ESRL development team has accepted project proposals and funding from other Federal Agencies. While this work provides for interesting case studies, it is also taking NOAA resources away from NOAA projects. To remedy the uncertainty surrounding NOAA’s Immersive Internet capabilities, corporate support, both political and financial, are needed from the highest levels. Established funding mechanisms will demonstrate a commitment on the part of NOAA leadership to using new technology. They will also allow NOAA developers to focus on development work for NOAA instead of seeking internal and external project-by-project funding. Lastly, a corporate funding mechanism will ensure each Line Office contributes equally for the benefits they are receiving.

Links for additional information:
• • Whyville: the place girls love to go for science (WhOI Plankton Lab) -http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0816/p25s01-lecs.html Teachers, college students lead a Second Life
http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2007-08-01-second-life_N.htm

Recommendations
Virtual Worlds and Immersive Internet technologies are valuable tools NOAA can utilize to accomplish its mission goals more effectively and at a lower cost than the current applications. Rather than replace current practice, these tools will complement existing applications to save money and improve effectiveness, while keeping NOAA at the forefront of internet technology. We are proposing the following overarching recommendations for NOAA leadership to undertake in the next 5 years to build the foundation needed to take advantage of the internet technology opportunities available now and in the future.

Recommendation 1: Create sustained governance and funding
mechanisms for NOAA’s corporate use of Immersive Internet technology. We recommend the NOAA Executive Panel establish a corporate working group to build out a framework and accept volunteers for the needed governance bodies. We believe the ideal governance construct would consist of four groups: a 31 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Development Team, a Content Management Team, a Virtual Worlds Advisory Board, and a Project Management Team.

Development Team
The Development Team would be staffed and managed through OAR’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory would be responsible for executing the technical elements of NOAA Virtual Worlds and Immersive Internet activities. The team would also be responsible for working closely to support the content management team and to provide technical feasibility estimates for both the content management team and the project management team. The development team will receive its funding through core funds as described below.

Content Management Team
The Content Management team would be staffed by communications, education, and outreach staff and would be responsible for the day-to-day management of the interactions and content on the NOAA immersive sites. Members of this team would interact directly with the public on a regular basis and will provide feedback to the Advisory Board and Development Team on site effectiveness and other user feedback. The Content Management team will consist of volunteers from across NOAA lines and Goals and their salary will be paid from their individual Line Office.

Advisory Board
The Advisory Board will determine the amount of annual funding needed for Virtual Worlds and Immersive Internet projects and work with NOAA Program Managers to integrate required funding into funding alternatives for upcoming fiscal years, analyze new project requests and rank them based on return on investment and relevance to NOAA mission priorities, and will sign off on any new development projects. The Advisory Board will be staffed on a volunteer basis and the time commitment should not be significant. The Advisory Board would meet on a regular basis and would consist of representatives from across NOAA including: • • • • • • • NOAA’s Office of Communications NOAA’s Office of Education NOAA’s Office of Human Resources Management NOAA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer Each NOAA Line Office Each NOAA Goal Team NOAA Regional Teams

Project Management Team
32 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

The Project Management Team would provide the day-to-day management and coordination between the other teams and within the organization. This team would also be responsible for inter-agency activities and seeking new areas for collaboration. The development team and content management team will report to the project management team. The advisory board will interact directly with the project management team and receive status updates. The project management team will work closely with the NOAA CIO and other interested parties to stay current on the technologies available and select the proper technical platform for ongoing virtual the immersive content development. As with the development team, the project management team will receive core funding as described below.

Funding:
NOAA’s investment in Virtual Worlds and Immersive Internet has, to date, been ad hoc and not well coordinated. Although many Line Offices have contributed finances to the current development, the distribution has not been equitable. Likewise, while the PPBES process is the accepted mechanism for obtaining funding, any new alternatives will not be funded for a number of years. Therefore, to close the funding gap and maintain the existing infrastructure, we propose a minimum level of funding be allocated from across NOAA for 2010-2015. After 2015, the expectation is the program will be self-funding through new development projects and/or successful PPBES alternatives. Specifically, funding would be generated from each Line Office, the NOAA Office of Education, NOAA Office of Communications, and NOAA Workforce Management. These funds will be dedicated to the Development Team and annual infrastructure costs through Second Life. Proposed funding for years 1-5 would be approx $96,000 annually allocated across the following: • • • • NOAA Office of Education - $2000 annually ($10,000 total) NOAA Office of Communications - $2000 annually ($10,000 total) NOAA Office of Workforce Management - $2000 annually ($10,000 total) Line Office Contribution - $15,000 per LO annually ($450,000 total)

Recommendation 2: Remove corporate barriers to entry for staff to
use immersive technologies A consistent IT policy across NOAA and Department of Commerce (DoC) with respect to Virtual Worlds and Immersive Internet will be critical to the success of 33 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

these efforts. Above all, NOAA employees involved directly in a virtual project must have the appropriate software (software is free and available via the internet) and must be allowed to access the necessary sites. Working closely with the CIO, the Advisory Board and Development Team should determine which technology options allow the most useful functionality for NOAA, while still allowing NOAA to meet federal security standards and regulations. Pilot programs as well as the possibility of specific service agreement between the Department of Commerce and service providers should be strongly considered. Above all, a secure environment for initial testing these applications will need to be established quickly while policy is allowed to catch up. Likewise, the Agency will need to provide employees involved in immersive projects the hardware required to best utilize the technology. Specifically, inexpensive headsets with microphones will enable users to communicate through Voice over IP. The cost for this equipment is nominal and it is very important for a true immersive experience.

Recommendation 3: Integrate Immersive Technologies with corporate
strategic plans for long term development The project management team, in close collaboration with the other three teams and CIO, determine which programmatic areas offer the best return on investment for NOAA. We have provided suggestions in this paper; however, there may be other areas where the return on investment is higher or the barriers to entry are lower. These should be evaluated and ranked. Once key investment areas are determined, the project management team will work closely with PPI, Strategic Councils, program mangers, Goal Team and other NOAA staff, to integrate these tools in the into alternatives and strategic plans. In this way, Immersive Internet technology will become yet another NOAA capability for delivering an outcome that satisfies the NOAA mission.

Recommendation 4: Maximize current investment in communications
and educational content The current exhibits on the NOAA island have been well-received across the government and IT communities. In fact, the developer for NOAA’s current capabilities was named by Federal Computer Week as one of their “Top 100” federal employees in 2008 for the work done to date14. However, even as we continue to expand our virtual presence, we have not put in place the needed capabilities to track effectiveness and usability of our existing exhibits. Similarly, these exhibits were developed without full consideration for their pedagogical design. An evaluation of existing NOAA assets with respect to our communications and education goals will be needed. A gap analysis will enable us to determine
14

Federal Computer Week http://www.fcw.com/pages/2009-fed-100.aspx.

34 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

what areas are in need of improvement. These upgrades can be early project priorities while other initiatives are put in place. Specifically, NOAA should look to: • • • • • Determine specific educational goals and performance measures for existing virtual features and update the features to accomplish those goals Determine basic scientific literacy concepts to be communicated through all NOAA immersive sites Determine core communications principles to deliver through these media and update the site to reflect those principles Determine a basic set of corporate standards and rules of behavior for activities on the Island Increase the use of machinima and social networking within the existing NOAA web infrastructure to communicate the corporate messages

Conclusion
As we have shown, there is tremendous utility for NOAA in using Immersive Internet Technologies, including Virtual Worlds, for accomplishing its mission goals. We have demonstrated the value of the technology for improving NOAA’s education and outreach activities, streamlining and reducing cost in our existing business processes, as well as fostering a sense of corporate community and innovation to guide the agency through the next century. NOAA now needs to make the necessary corporate investments, in planning and funding, to take best advantage of the benefits inherent in these new business technologies and to maintain its leadership as a world-class science and technology organization.

35 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Appendix 1: Sample Projects and Timelines
Short Term (1-5 years)
• • • Develop new external educational programs through using Virtual Worlds and machinima for distribution through YouTube and DVD (Education) Increase use of machinima for outreach and education products (Communications/Education) Begin using machinima to develop a library of training tours and videos for recruitment and retention of NOAA scientific workforce (Workforce Management/Communications)

Medium Term (5-10 years)
• • • • • Begin development of virtual collaboration spaces within iNet, including site visits for new employee training. Expand workforce management and training capabilities to include hazardous duty training Pilot virtual lab reviews Pilot virtual conferences Continue strategic development of education and outreach materials

Long Term (10+ years)
• • • • Develop an open, collaborative space for NOAA and our partners to do joint research and testing Virtual research test beds and 4-D data simulations Cross-functional collaboration systems Photo-realistic communications and outreach products fully integrated with NOAA website

36 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Appendix 2: NOAA’s Second Life Attractions
NOAA’s Virtual Island – a “One-NOAA” approach a. NMFS i. Virtual Alaska (partnership with other entities) ii. Whale and fish simulations-underwater ecosystem iii. Crab fishing boat simulation iv. Recreational fishing vessel v. Fishing port in Alaska vi. NOAA research vessel b. OAR i. Climate Change ii. Hurricane Simulation iii. Tsunami Simulation iv. Submarine Tour v. Glacier Melt and Sea Level Rise Simulation c. NESDIS i. Satellite Locator ii. Climate Aquarium d. NWS i. Real-Time Weather Map ii. Weather Balloon Simulation e. NOS i. HABs Simulation ii. Coastal Restoration 37 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

iii. Coral Reef Simulation iv. Habitat restoration (Pribilof) v. Marine Debris Simulation vi. Hydrographic Simulation vii. Oil Spill Simulation viii. Tide and Current Measurements ix. Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone x. Oceans Live, Estuary Live, and Aquarius Events xi. Oceans Today Kiosk f. Multi-Line/Goal i. Virtual Alaska (Regional Team) ii. NOAA Meeting Hall iii. Virtual Science on a Sphere iv. Second Earth (Google Simulations) v. Virtual Test Beds and Development Platforms

38 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Appendix 3: A Selection of Virtual Worlds Technology Providers
3DXplorer
3DXPlorer is an online platform for designing interactive 3D web pages and Virtual Worlds including 3D spaces and 3D objects, in which web visitors can walk, visualize objects and interact as easily as they navigate through HTML pages, but in a 3D immersive mode. Targeted to a wide range of users including creators, web designers, webmasters, application developers and even simple users, 3DXplorer helps creating 3D content that can be either a 3D window embedded inside a traditional website or full screen 3D immersive websites. Designed for a wide range of applications, it can be used simply as a virtual show room in which visitors can visualize an interior design and feel an atmosphere, or in more sophisticated cases, used as an online interactive e-commerce tool, such as a sales configurator or an online collaborative platform to review product development. http://www.3dxplorer.com/

Engineering and Computer Simulations (ECS)
ECS creates high impact solutions to improve training and education across the spectrum of corporate, academic and military training domains. Our design professionals and engineers work closely with clients to provide solutions that can be tailored to people from diverse backgrounds and that are capable of providing graphic simulated experiences that can be shared with geographically dispersed teams of people. The lines of business within ECS are: • • • • • Advanced Learning Technologies Products and Services Virtual Worlds - Commercial and Government Systems Integration LVC Interoperability Professional Services / IT Services

Forterra
39 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Forterra’s On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment (OLIVE™) enterprise Virtual World product is ideal for: • Collaborative Meetings for remote team discussions, weekly updates, sales presentations, executive fire-side chats, brain-storming exercises, or project management reviews. Benefits include enhanced engagement of remote participants and reduced costs compared to alternative communication technologies, and faster decision-making. Training & Learning where remote users can learn in synchronous instructorled training or asynchronous, self-paced learning modes with web-based or SCORM-compliant content. Learners then can practice their new skills in realistic 3D work settings. Trainees can cover all the activity typical to a live, instructor-led training environment, yet eliminate the cost and lost productivity due to traveling. Additional benefits include increased knowledge acquisition and retention and effective use of remote experts and instructors. Events including executive presentations, sales meetings, panel discussions, partner forums, product or service launches, or general conferences where small groups to hundreds of simultaneous participants all need to collaborate and communicate. Benefits include a dramatic savings in travel costs and event production, building strong relationships more quickly between participants, and increased access to constituencies. Specialized Applications — our customers use the OLIVE SDK to create new and innovative custom applications, ranging from market research tools to ground-breaking new behavioral therapy techniques, to operational command centers. OLIVE’s powerful development capabilities provide virtually unlimited possibilities for your organization and customers.

http://www.forterrainc.com/

Power U
PowerU, Inc. (PowerU) is a joint venture between Icarus Studios, a platform provider for massively multiplayer online games, Virtual Worlds, and e-learning products, and American Research Institute (ARI), a long-established leader in role-based, results-oriented education and training services. Organizations worldwide are challenged with upgrading the skills of their workforce to adapt to changing markets, economic conditions, changing technologies, and changing global competition. To meet this need, PowerU has taken a leading role in revolutionizing adult learning by providing three-dimensional immersive (“3DI”) 40 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

learning environments to dramatically improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your workforce development. PowerU has combined world-class instructional techniques and tools with a sophisticated state-of-the-art Virtual World engine to provide you with an easy-toimplement and easy-to-use platform to create and deliver 3DI learning. http://www.poweru.net/index.php

ProtonMedia/Protosphere
ProtonMedia is the leading provider of Virtual World technology for the enterprise. Our flagship product ProtoSphere is a secure, private Virtual World environment for collaboration and learning. As the premier Virtual World platform for the enterprise, ProtoSphere features a suite of communications and social networking tools designed to overcome linear communications and create a networked, learning organization. http://protonmedia.com/index.php?/welcome

Qwaq
Qwaq's breakthrough application collaboration platform leverages unique vPresence™ technology - integrating VoIP, chat, webcam video, presence, and multi-application sharing - to create an environment where employees can get real work done together. Because meetings take place in a rich data-centric environment, decisions come faster and smarter. Learn how Qwaq can help you tackle some of today's toughest productivity challenges, including distributed teams, increased operational complexity, global sourcing, reduced travel, and constrained budgets, while increasing employee satisfaction and flexibility. http://www.qwaq.com/solutions/index.php

Linden Labs/Second Life
Linden Lab was founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale to create a revolutionary new form of shared experience known as Second Life®. Second Life is a 3D Virtual World created by its Residents (people like you) that's bursting with entertainment, experiences, and opportunity. The Second Life Grid™ provides the platform where the Second Life world resides and offers the tools for business, educators, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs to develop a virtual presence. Headquartered in San Francisco, Linden Lab has over 330 employees spread across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. We welcome you to learn more about Linden Lab and invite you to explore our exciting employment opportunities. 41 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
http://secondlife.com/ Vastpark
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

VastPark is Virtual Worlds technology done right. The framework is simple, distributed and extensible. It's not a single Virtual World. Instead, it provides free software tools, APIs and open source libraries so you can deploy (and even monetize) your own Virtual Worlds and add ons for all kinds of organizations and purposes. The VastPark platform enables you to build multiuser Virtual Worlds online and immersive media applications that can run online, offline and behind a firewall. The platform includes a set of technologies and tools that create the equivalent of the Web and enable you to create and run immersive Virtual Worlds & interactive social media events. http://www.vastpark.com/

Venue Network/Icarus Studios
Icarus provides next generation technology, tools and production services enabling publishers and marketers to develop immersive environments to create new revenue streams and branding opportunities. Our MMO game platform was developed from the ground‐up to handle the stresses and complexities associated with enabling thousands of simultaneous users. Our unique offering combines our Next‐Gen 3D Engine, Real‐Time Tool Suite and an Enterprise Grade Network Architecture that supports massive concurrency. With an average of over fifteen years of experience building online worlds, Icarus technical and design leadership delivers consistent quality to accelerate time to market, reduce development costs, and enable new revenue streams. http://www.icarusstudios.com/ The Venue Network, Inc. is a new media company that provides on-demand virtual venues where presenters can share their content and customize unique event experiences for online attendees. TVN is the next generation of 3D technology designed and built for the sole purpose of equipping virtual presenters with powerful and intuitive communication capabilities and reach. TVN empowers an online community of intellectually curious individuals to create immersive and interactive learning, collaborative, social and entertainment experiences. For more information go to www.thevenuenetwork.com.

Nortel/Web.alive
web.alive is a Virtual World software application that provides an enterprise ready, network secured Virtual World platform for collaboration, assisted E-Commerce and virtual learning & training applications. web.alive is embedded directly within a web 42 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

page ensuring users do not have to leave the site to launch the Virtual World. Combining stunning 3D graphics and unparalleled in-world realism, web.alive also contains industry revolutionizing 3D spatial audio. With a feature-set designed specifically for the enterprise, web.alive integrates with your existing network, security and existing business software tools in order to enhance your communication, collaboration and employee/consumer engagement. http://www.projectchainsaw.com/

43 | P a g e

NATIONAL OCEANIC OFFICE
OF

AND

ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH

OCEANIC

AND

Appendix 4: Resources and Information:
• The Immersive Internet: Make Tactical Moves Today for Strategic Advantage Tomorrow (ThinkBalm) http://thinkbalm.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/thinkbalm-immersive-internetreport-nov-20084.pdf Conferences Go Virtual (CNBC Video) - http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232? video=1047748741&play=1 Immersive Internet Technology is no Video Game (The Industry Standard) http://www.thestandard.com/news/2009/06/04/immersive-internettechnology-no-video-game Real Organizations Find Success in the Virtual World (Linden Labs) http://www.secondlifegrid.net/casestudies What Can Virtual-World Economists Tell Us about Real World Economies? (Scientific American) - http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm? id=virtual-world-economists-on-real-economies Accenture Virtual Career Center http://careers3.accenture.com/Careers/Global/SecondLife

• •

• •

44 | P a g e

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful