Smalltalk is... well... weird. Really weird. But really cool. It's also really old, and Squeak is a more modern take on the whole idea. Croquet takes Squeak, and turns it into an SDK for other people to build 3D applications.
See, the crazy thing about Croquet is that it makes it easy to build 3D multi-user collaborative web-based applications. If you haven't seen it, it's pretty mind-boggling:
Anyways, some smart people are doing some neat things with Croquet; they are packaging it up into an easier-to-do-something-with 3D world-building application called Open Cobalt.
They've got a Sketchup Import working! Wow!
Now, we're not big into Second Life or anything like that. What I feel is valuable about this is that it gets us closer to what our ideal BIM/CAD/CAM application would look like:
- Totally collaborative, in realtime, so that multiple people could be working and reviewing the same set of information at the same time. While Revit allows for some of this, I'd love to have something more like Google Docs, where you can see the changes as they happen. There are already some little demos people have made in Cobalt showing more than one person reviewing and manipulating CAD information.
- Server-based, so that anyone can work on it from anywhere. Revit really falls on it's face here; without special fancy Riverbed hardware systems or Remote Desktop setups you simply can't work remotely in Revit.
- Open Source, so that anyone can use it and add to it. Well, seeing that Autodesk owns Revit...
Now, Cobalt is so far from being ready for prime-time it's crazy. "Pre-Alpha". And even when it's stable, there are many issues still there when you make 3D worlds that anyone can edit at any time, right down to the core code running the whole show.
But still, it's very encouraging to see people doing neat things with this technology. I wish I had more time to join in and help out!