Just the other day, I said to myself, "Somebody needs to come up with an gaming interface for work. That would be fun."
You could have your Orc fighter from World of War Craft meet at a virtual island with your boss' gnome from Second Life and really dish about the cover sheets for your TPS reports. Good times.
But I never, ever thought anyone would actually do it.
Enter IBM, stage left. IBM has invested in a special PartnerWorld virtual island in Second Life and it's encouraging its business partners to use it for virtual meetings and training. IBM's virtual island is also available to corporate partners who wish to host their own virtual events.
Why is IBM doing this? The goal is to encourage a virtual planet, where all the virtual worlds are interlinked, allowing avatars -- and their virtual riches -- to flow seemlessly between worlds. The idea emerged last year during one of IBM's real-world InnovationJam, a 72-hour brainstorming session attended by IBM staffers, business partners, customers and academics.
Maybe it was last year's high gas prices, but virtual worlds was one of the top 10 suggested directions for IBM, which plans to invest $100 million in the 10 ideas over a two-year period.
IBM isn't alone. Far from it. Cisco is getting into the virtual game. If you visit Second Life, you'll see it actually does promote itself as a business tool. You can, for instance, create virtual mock-ups of your product so Second Life players can try them out online.
Virtual life is quickly becoming very real, and very serious for millions, give or take a few thousand avatars. Recent market research shows 1.3 million people logged in to Second Life during March. More than half of those users come from Europe.
In fact, just because it's a virtual world, research shows some social conventions still stand. For instance, people like to maintain personal space and avoid staring contests, even in virtual worlds.
Recently, criminal actions in virtual worlds have raised questions about the legal ramifications in the real world. But no need to worry. You can always hire a Second Life lawyer.
So go ahead -- laugh. I did. But just in case, you might want to join me in checking out the Internet 3-D technology by creating your own avatar. Just look for the big green orc carrying a hammer and a big stack of TPS report.