Networking coupled with highly interactive technology of virtual worlds will dominate the world of computers and information technology. It will not be enough to produce slick single-user, standalone virtual worlds. Networked VE (NVE) systems will have to connect people, systems, information streams and technologies with one another. The information that is currently shared through file systems or through other “static” media will have to be exchanged through the network. This information has to reside “in the net” where it is easy to get at. Developing VEs that support collaboration among a group of users is a complex and time consuming task. In order to develop such VEs, the developer has to be proficient in network programming, object management, graphics programming, device handling, and user interface design. Even after gaining expertise in such diverse specializations, developing network basedVEs takes a long time since network-based programs are inherently more difficult to program and debug than standalone programs.
Providing a behavioral realism is a significant requirement for systems that are based on human collaboration, such as Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) systems. Networked CSCW systems also require that the shared environment should: provide a comfortable interface for gestural communication, support awareness of other users in the environment, provide mechanisms for different modes of interaction (synchronous vs. asynchronous, allowing to work in different times in the same environment), supply mechanisms for customized tools for data visualization, protection and sharing. VR can provide a powerful mechanism for networked CSCW systems, by its nature of emphasizing the presence of the users in the VE.
Until recently, networked graphics applications were prototype systems, demonstrating the effectiveness of the technology. However, a current effort is to provide real applications, manifested by the 3D graphics interchange standardization efforts such as VRML 2.0 and MPEG-4. The main contributors in these standards are from the industry, that expect to diffuse their application content using these standards.