Screen Shot: Forterra Systems
Forterra’s Leaders: virtual [left] and actual : Robert Gehorsam [top right], president; David Rolston[middle right], chief executive; Michael Macedonia[bottom right], vice president, national security division.
A few quotes from the article:
"OLIVE: Developed by Forterra Systems of New York City and San Mateo, Calif., OLIVE creates virtual worlds for customers in health care, the military, and the media. MTV Networks uses OLIVE to create online worlds based on its television shows; surfers can take dips in pixelated hot tubs with bikinied beauties from the Virtual Real World or customize shiny hubcaps on a flame-red hot rod in Virtual Pimp My Car.
But most of OLIVE’s applications are available by invitation only, primarily for the purpose of training staff. The U.S. National Institutes of Health is creating a world that tests industrial workers’ skills at responding to emergency disasters—think guys in hazmat suits wandering through toxic sludge like something from Doom. Retail chains use OLIVE to run employees through mock scenarios. In one demonstration, a new cashier inside a virtual surf shop has to cool down a hotheaded customer (operated by a corporate trainer) by choosing the right mix of body language and dialogue.“There’s a generation coming into the workforce that sees nothing unusual in a world unfolding on a computer screen,”
says Steve Prentice, vice president and director of research for Gartner Research, a technology research firm based in Stamford, Conn. “Also, complex environments are becoming more critical, and the cost of staging real-world simulation training exercises is escalating.”
Investors are taking notice. Virtual Worlds Management, a tracking firm in Austin, Texas, says that technology and media firms have put more than US $1 billion into 35 virtual-world companies, chief among them Club Penguin, a children’s site that the Walt Disney Co. recently acquired for $700 million. Forterra just received seed capital for OLIVE from In-Q-Tel of Arlington, Va., the strategic investment firm of the U.S. intelligence community (fittingly enough, the amount of the capital was secret).
Of all the fantasies that have emerged from the minds of geeks, none compares to the virtual world—a jacked-in, fully immersive, mind-blowing, body-rocking, computer-generated faux reality imagined in works as varied as Videodrome, The Matrix, Star Trek, Snow Crash, and the novels of Ray Bradbury and William Gibson. The virtual world offers escape from the drab responsibilities of work
and home life. It also links up, at very low cost, like-minded people otherwise divided by the barriers of distance, occupation, and country.“It’s part of the grand quest of our species to bridge gaps and find more
and more ways of connecting,”
says Jaron Lanier, the dreadlocked scholar-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley, who is credited with coining the term virtual reality. "