Coventry is set to play a leading part in a global revolution in how people learn, work and do business, according to organisers of a Serious Virtual Worlds event in the city this week.
Serious Virtual Worlds uses the 3D technology of social and gaming media such as 'Second Life' - where users are able to explore online worlds and interact with other users - to create environments which can be used for practical applications ranging from education, training and business collaboration to military planning and disaster management.
Analysts expect revenue from 'Serious Games' alone to far exceed the $23 billion spent in 2006 on leisure gaming, and the pool of established software firms in the Coventry region are expected to take a major role in the development and success of the emerging Serious Virtual Worlds industry.
The first event of its kind outside of the US, the Serious Virtual Worlds Conference being held at Coventry University's Technocentre on Thursday and Friday brings together software developers and organisations from across the UK and internationally.
Speakers include leading experts and practitioners involved in groundbreaking uses of virtual worlds, such as Rohit Talwar of Global Futures, Mary Matthews of the TruSim division of Blitz Games, Dr LeRoy Heinrichs of Stanford Medical School, Charles Jennings of Reuters and Kevin Corti of Pixelearning.
The social value of virtual worlds will also be demonstrated by Simon Stevens, who has created 'Wheelies' in Second Life, a meeting place and nightclub aimed at the physically disabled.
The event coincides with the official launch of Coventry University's Serious Games Institute. Partially funded by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, the £3 million Institute is home to the UK's only dedicated centre for research and support for the cluster of businesses working in the region. The institute also contains space for both start-up and established businesses.
David Wortley, director of the Serious Games Institute and organiser of Serious Virtual Worlds, said: "With its existing games software expertise, the potential for the region to be a leader in this new area is huge. The aim of the institute is to be a focal point and driving force behind the fledgling industry, a hub which gives the support and direction to ensure this won't be a missed opportunity."
More information on the event is available from www.seriousvirtualworlds.net.
Meanwhile, experts at Coventry University's TechnoCentre will tomorrow spell out the business benefits of remote working at a free conference.
Coventry University researchers have been working with a number of businesses, charities and individuals to find out more about remote working practices as part of the Adjust the Balance project, funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) 'EQUAL' scheme.
Research indicates that 80 per cent of companies in the UK use some form of remote working. However, only a fraction train and prepare their staff to work outside of the office.
"More business can now be done away from from the office and remote working can bridge the gap between the opportunity and the reality of being able to do that," said Anne-Marie McTavish, lead researcher on Coventry University's Adjust the Balance project.
"But you need to know what's going to work for your company and client base, as different scenarios work for different organisations. In general, however, businesses can ensure effective remote working by making sure the whole process has been properly planned and everyone involved is trained and prepared."
The Adjust the Balance Project has also been helping local businesses and charities to enable their staff to work remotely through offering free consultation. To date there have been a number of successes in remote working.
These include a company that has doubled its workforce by implementing a remote working policy. In addition, a charity that has tapped into the 'mothers at home' market by successfully employing two members of staff who work completely remotely.