Federal Consortium: Something for everyone

The Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds, which began nearly two years ago, is looking to address basic challenges with virtual world technology so that every agency does not have to start from scratch.

Security is a good example.

“Ninety percent of government can’t go to a virtual world from their desktops because of security reasons,” said Paulette Robinson, assistant dean of teaching, learning and technology at the National Defense University’s IRM College. “It requires a number of ports to be opened on the network so it makes it difficult for government to use virtual worlds.”

So Robinson, working with the technical working group of the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds, which she started nearly two years ago, is testing a security system in which a government agency serves as a trusted source and electronically authenticates a user entering a virtual environment. This would give agencies a source to go to for multiagency work and would allow, for instance, participants from many different agencies to attend a virtual meeting.

This governmentwide approach, Robinson said, would give agencies breaks on software pricing, provide access to a broad 3-D content repository, and allow agencies to pool resources to share functionality. It costs a lot of money to create things such as buildings and cars in a virtual world, she said. “If the government has created 25 [virtual] Humvees, unless they’re classified, why shouldn’t they be available to everyone?” she asked.

Some of the virtual-world technologies that Robinson’s working group is exploring include products from Forterra Systems and ProtonMedia. The Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds, which held a conference last month, is trying to find ways virtual worlds can be used in government. “Education and training is the easiest leap to make,” Robinson said. “If you talk with any educator, they automatically see the potential.”

About the Author

Colleen O'Hara is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.

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