Qwaq Not All It's Cracked Up to Be

Call me skeptical. Call me cynical. Call me shortsighted. But I just can’t see what the new company Qwaq offers that is different or better than what is already out there. Here’s how the company describes its offering:

Qwaq, Inc. creates virtual spaces for real work. The company’s product, Qwaq Forums, is the leading secure virtual workspace application for the enterprise, and enables collaboration in ways that weren’t possible before. Designed for enterprises and groups with distributed teams, Qwaq Forums significantly increases productivity by bringing critical resources together in virtual spaces, and allowing people to work together as if they were in the same physical location.

Can someone say “Second Life?” or any other virtual world or virtual world application already out there?

I have a 30-day trial access to Qwaq, have logged into the Welcome Forum and followed the 3 minute tutorial that explained about:

  1. moving around,
  2. my avatar, and
  3. documents.

I’m thinking – hey, there’s nothing to it. Simple and easy is a good thing, right?

qwaqavatarThen as I experimented with building my own office – one with a modern, warm “decor” – I began thinking that…there’s nothing to it. Basically, you can “build” a space such as a campus, a conference room (blue for boys, rose for girls?), a gallery, a modern office (cool or warm colors), a personal office and several other configurations. Breaking it down, this is how Qwaq felt to me:

1. Moving around: I can use either my keyboard or arrows to move my avatar and view around. This is basically the same set of controls for Second Life and other virtual world environments out there, so nothing revolutionary here. Moving around as a new user is just as quirky and clunky and takes time to get used to the flow.

2. My avatar: Ugly. I look like colored boxes stacked on top of each other. It is almost embarrassing how primitive the avatars in Qwaq look. I saw a promo image of a more “custom” avatar and it consists of the photo of a person’s face on the top box that represents the avatar’s head. How can you seriously interact with a business colleague when they look like a box with their photo pasted on it?

3. Documents: This may be where Qwaq has a slight leg up over Second Life and more or less of an advantage over other virtual world environments depending on their document integration tools. On Qwaq, I simply drag a document into my virtual office space, and it appears on the office wall about a minute later, either fully readable or editable, depending on the file type.

qwaqofficeQwaq offers true document integration in a virtual space whereas Second Life users, for example, still struggle to find the right tools to handle a PowerPoint presentation versus a collaborative document or whiteboard. They do include voice capabilities, and although I haven’t tried it, I’m venturing to guess it is much more stable than Second Life’s voice feature.

They also have a useful feature: a 3-D pointer that works similar to a real-life laser pointer so collaborators can draw attention to something.

Despite the cool pointer, I can’t help but think that Qwaq is a watered down version of the more elegant, graphically enhanced and feature rich environments of virtual worlds. Even a cartoonish world like There.com at least has avatars that appear to be people rather than cardboard boxes. And any meeting space in Second Life that is well-designed makes Qwaq’s virtual spaces look like…cardboard boxes.

If I’m going to be doing collaborative work with my clients or team members in a virtual space, I would much prefer that space to have some degree of aesthetics in addition to functionality. Otherwise, I might as well just use 2-D collaborative Web-based tools because they simply…work.