KMi’s ‘BuddySpace’ experimental prototype for messaging, gaming, and group collaboration has now moved from an unofficial ‘skunkworks’ project to something that has caught the attention of Open University course teams, UK funding agencies, and international industry leaders in presence and messaging.
BuddySpace began as a summer intern project, looking at ways of using maps and location data to push beyond the limits of the ‘buddy list’ or ‘contact roster’ familiar to users of many instant messaging programs such as ICQ, MSN Messenger, and AIM. Emphasis was on ‘cool interactive maps’ and ‘scalability’ in order to cope with as many as hundreds of thousands of users, as represented by the typical annual enrollment of students at the Open University.
The project has now grown in scope to look more broadly at enhanced capabilities for the management and visualisation of the presence of colleagues and friends in collaborative working, gaming, messaging, and other contexts. The original interest is reflected in work on the role of graphical metaphors for presence, including maps, logical layouts such as building schematics and project timelines and abstract artistic layouts such as graffiti walls. New work involves studying the semantics of presence, in order to move beyond simple flags such as ‘online’ and ‘busy’ to include rich contextual and spatio-temporal information more approprite to one’s focus of activity.
We have been approached by several course teams with the OU with an eye towards deploying BuddySpace-style environments for students to engage in collaborative work, and have recently developed an internal working paper for the OU’s Learning and Teaching Innovations Committee to explore this theme.
Funding for the work has expanded with the announcement of a year’s worth of BuddySpace-related work in KMi as part of a larger 2-year EPSRC-funded multisite collaboration called ‘CoAKTinG’ (Collaborative Advanced Knowledge Technologies in the Grid–see link below).
The work has also attracted the attention of the commercial instant messaging and presence community, and will be the subject of an invited presentation at the Pulver.com Presence and Interworking Mobility Summit (PIM2002), March 19-21, 2002, in Sophia Antipolis, France.