While some speakers at Singapore's e-Asia/Pacific IDC conference discussed how the price crash in technology stocks forced companies to consider relationships in e-commerce, Goh Eng Lim spoke about 'reality centres' - rooms with a touch of the hologram suites on the Starship Enterprise. Mr Goh, chief technology officer at Silicon Graphics Inc (SGI), explained how corporations were able to buy a virtual-reality rooms where a huge screen displays the specifications for a project, such as a car design. People from different parts of the world could then 'e-collaborate' in other centres to view the images. They could discuss design changes and see the computer-generated artwork updated to accommodate the changes, he said. Oil and gas producers had embraced such systems, Mr Goh said, especially since choosing the wrong spot to drill for natural resources could prove a US$10-million mistake. They used e-collaboration to make more-precise decisions, he said. New York Stock Exchange-listed SGI - known for its work on animation and special effects for Hollywood films - has installed about 450 reality centres throughout the world. 'The e-collaboration centres are the stars in our profit,' Mr Goh said. The company, established in 1982 and based at Mountain View, California, had revenues of US$487 million in the second quarter of this financial year, but posted a net loss of US$71 million. It is undergoing a restructuring aimed at a greater emphasis on building the centres. The cost of a centre ranged from US$250,000 to US$1 million - about half for the displays and the rest for the imaging software, he said. The cost of high-intensity, high-resolution displays had dropped dramatically in the past five years, making it much less costly to install such systems, he said. Once Internet bandwidth dropped in price, possibly during the next five years, a reality centre could replace the video-conference room. 'Anything which requires visual communications is what we are targeting at the moment,' Mr Goh said. Sarawak Shell, in Malaysia, part of the Royal Dutch/Shell group, has put in an SGI system. Sarawak Shell's general manager of business services Ian Robertson said he helped start a plan to install a system in Malaysia. 'You can virtually enter into a room and see the data around you,' he said. 'I can ask colleagues from around the world to 'enter' the same room.' The oil group also has centres in Texas, Scotland, Australia and Holland. It sought a Malaysian reality room to pool staff intelligence, despite the high price tag. 'It is not cheap, it is very expensive,' Mr Robertson said, pointing out the company expected to gain a business benefit.