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IBM's New OpusUna Web-Conferencing Platform

At IBM's Market Street offices in San Francisco this week, I saw a first-hand demo of OpusUna, a unique Web-conferencing platform that incorporates widgets, audio, and video cameras so that multiple users can collaborate and communicate from within the same browser.
At IBM's Market Street offices in San Francisco this week, I saw a first-hand demo of OpusUna, a unique Web-conferencing platform that incorporates widgets, audio, and video cameras so that multiple users can collaborate and communicate from within the same browser.Named for a Latin expression for "work together" or "work as one," OpusUna is a reference implementation of something IBM calls the "cooperative Web" that will be capable of replicating face-to-face communications by incorporating human sensors for sight, sound, and touch into live Web meetings.

"What makes OpusUna different from other collaboration platforms is that with OpusUna, all participants can contribute content as opposed to having one person serving as a moderator," said David Boloker, CTO of IBM's Emerging Internet Technology Software Group. The Emerging Internet Technologies group within IBM is dedicated to innovate and collaborate in technologies IBM hopes will garner broad industry adoption in 12 to 18 months, explained Technology Strategist Dan Gisolfi. OpusUna is based on Ajax (asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and rose out of the company's QEDWiki ("Quick and Easily Done") mashup project.

I watched three different OpusUna demos. The first was a Hollywood Squares-type demo where audio and video feeds from a teacher and several students were able to chat about a virtual class assignment. In another "Morning Call" demo, financial analysts were able to collaborate using real-time news and data. A third TeleMedicine demo featured a cooperative Web whiteboard used by remote care givers, where the whiteboard included x-ray images and other medical information that could be used for diagnosis, therapy, and education. Boloker explained that the medical information could include medical images, live two-way audio and video between patients and doctors, patient medical records, and output data from medical devices like EKG or sound files.

Gisolfi explained how OpusUna extends the browser metaphor beyond current Web technology to integrate video, voice, and Ajax widgets in a single Web container. By augmenting Web mashups with high-definition video conferencing, he said, OpusUna apps can inject the immediacy of remote human interactions into the Web experience, which can create a "situational Web application." Situational applications are a way for knowledge workers or people with domain expertise to create applications in a very short time that can solve their own problems.

OpusUna currently works with Apple's Safari browser, but Boloker said IBM had plans to extend the software to Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox in the first quarter of 2009. He said several different OpusUna proof-of-concept projects were currently being incubated with "well-qualified" customers, including hospitals in New Zealand and Australia who were interested in working with IBM to translate the TeleMedicine proof of concept into working applications because of the large distances separating patients and medical professionals in those countries.