Can Online Virtual Worlds Save the Planet?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009 - 9:43am

3:30 – 4:30
Computer Science Conference Room, Harold Frank Hall Rm. 1132


SPEAKER: Jonathan Turner
Washington University, St. Louis

Title: Can Online Virtual Worlds Save the Planet?


Exploding global energy consumption and the resulting environmental
impacts are among the biggest challenges facing the world today. Human
travel is one of the biggest contributors to global energy use, and much
of it is wasteful and unnecessary, in the context of modern networks and
distributed computing infrastructures that make it possible for people
to interact and collaborate at a distance. If we are to sustain our
quality of life in developed nations and extend that quality of life to
those in developing countries, we must find ways to replace a
significant fraction of physical travel with virtual travel.

Online virtual worlds are one promising approach to enabling better
group collaboration at a distance. Virtual worlds are already used for
gaming and social interaction, and to a lesser extent, for education and
training, but they have yet to achieve the full potential. Existing
virtual worlds systems, while hinting at the possibilities, are ultimately
disappointing, due to their inconsistent performance and their failure to
provide high-quality person-to-person interaction. Overcoming the
deficiencies of current systems requires scalable system architectures
that include a large distributed server infrastructure, linked by
Internet-scale overlay networks providing network services tailored to the
needs of virtual world applications. This talk discusses how such systems
might be built in the context of emerging cloud computing services, and
how those services might be extended to enable more effective support
for applications requiring advanced network capabilities.

Bio: Jonathan Turner is the Bobby and Jerry Cox Professor of Computer
Science, at Washington University. His research interests include the
design and analysis of high performance routers and switching systems,
extensible communication networks and analysis of algorithms. In 1994,
he received the Koji Kobayashi Computers and Communications Award from
the IEEE for his work on the design of multicast switching systems. He
has been awarded more than 25 patents for his work in this area and has
many widely cited publications.