Active Worlds (AW) is a 3D virtual reality environment in which we have carried out a number a projects involving collaborative architecture. Within ActiveWorlds users, represented as Avatars, can chat with one another or build structures and areas from a selection of pre-made objects.
The unique feature of ActiveWorlds, when for example compared to Second Life, is the ability to import objects into the environment. This allows photorealistic buildings, modelled as part of Virtual London, to be added to the object set and placed/moved/deleted by individuals or groups working on a collaborative build.
The movie above illustrates some sample houses, typical of the new build UK housing stock, being imported and manipulated in ActiveWorlds. The system is database linked so in theory it could be linked to a Geographical Information System (GIS) to create a Multi-User GIS. As CAD is increasingly becoming group/collaborative based, there is potential in linking CAD/GIS and a multi-user Avatar based system. With regards ActiveWorlds, linked with say ESRI ArcMap, it should (in theory) also be quite straight forward.