Alum Klaus speaks to students about latest endeavors

On Tuesday, Christopher Klaus, a Tech alumnus and founder of Internet Security Systems (ISS) who made a fortune after selling the company to IBM, came to speak to members of the Tech chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) as part of their Tech Talk series. Held in room 1447 of the building that shares his name, the Klaus Advanced Computing Building, he spoke to a small group of ACM members about his past and future endeavors.

“I’m always glad to come back to share and contribute some of the lessons I’ve learned and talk about something I’m passionate about. It’s always exciting to … see people on the cutting edge and exploring where [computing] is going,” Klaus said.

He began the talk by going over his early interest in computers and how that eventually led to the foundation of ISS.

However, the majority of the talk revolved around Klaus’ new venture, Kaneva Inc., a game company that is attempting to merge the realms of social networking and virtual worlds.

In 2004, Klaus stepped down from his role as Chief Technology Officer at ISS and switched gears to found Kaneva.

“I didn’t set out to be a security expert, even though that was a passion of mine….Ultimately I’m a technologist, I like technology….I went back to what originally got me into computers, video games,” Klaus said. “I like going deep into something, and once you think you’ve solved it all, pick some other big problems to focus on.”

Kaneva is working on the premise that the future of games is the implementation of organic content or user generated content. They’ve created Kaneva world, a 3-D world where users can roam around with a personal avatar, but instead of games like Second Life, where the user is encouraged to create online persona, Kaneva is encouraging the player’s online persona to be an extension of their real selves.

By making the player be themselves in Kaneva, the idea is to bridge the gap between social networking services like MySpace and Facebook with the virtual worlds found in games like World of Warcraft and Everquest.

Players are encouraged to use their real name or a piece of their real name and create an avatar that represents themselves. By using Kaneva as an extension of one’s first life, the game hopes to have users interact with friends that exist beyond just the game world.

Klaus cited his own experience of playing games and building a whole community of friends that knew each other by their online handles, but once disconnected, all those relationships were lost. “We can start to enable video game technology to go beyond just gaming, and ultimately repurpose video game technology, so it can be more social and incorporate more entertainment,” he said.

In Kaneva, users can upload their own videos, bringing movies from YouTube and upload music and photos to the game. In one instance, Klaus said that one Kaneva user took photos of her art collection and created an in-game version of her real world art gallery.

In another example of this integration with entertainment, Klaus pointed to the most recent Screen Actors Guild Awards. While the regular home viewer was watching the awards on their television, the SAG Awards was being broadcast live into the virtual world on a feed that showed behind the scenes details that the home viewer didn’t get to see.

Klaus pointed out that the gaming industry has seen substantial growth over the past few years compared to the other entertainment industries of music and movies.

He believes that the future is in the development of online worlds, and the industry could spend the next ten years exploring the opportunities that the technology could present.

In fact, a lot of businesses have expressed interest in getting involved with the Kaneva online world. Klaus said that everyday they get forms from different companies who would like to represent themselves in the world.

The hour-long talk concluded up with Klaus going over a few of his views on computing and finding a niche in such a broad field.

“It all comes down to what you’re passionate about. Whatever industry you’re going into, they’re all going to have computers in the future. In all comes down to what makes you excited,” Klaus said.

After the talk had concluded, Klaus spent time answering questions from the audience that ranged from using Kaneva as a educational tool to how the game would expand in the future.