A meeting? Wherever you’d like

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Academics at the University of Portsmouth are undertaking an unconventional study into new business methods, commissioned by transition consultants Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA).

They will be exploring how large companies could be making more use of virtual environments to conduct business, specifically through Sony’s new online virtual world, called Home, which was recently launched on the Playstation 3 games console. Home is like a virtual city, complete with cinemas, bowling alleys, clubs, shops and a central plaza. Players design an avatar – from clothes to an array of novelty body parts – and can invite the avatars of friends and associates to meet in certain private locations, perfect for virtual business meetings.

AWA’s clients include such venerable institutions as Ernst & Young and Merrill Lynch, and executives from these and others will take part in the research project while AWA psychiatrists record and analyse their behaviour.

Although there is potential for huge savings in office space and travel costs, not to mention carbon footprints, one can only imagine the possibilities. "Shall we meet online in John Thain’s refurbished office?" "Good idea; mine’s the virtual George IV chair..."