A group of British academics is set to embark on a new research project to explore the use of the PS3's virtual world Home as a credit crunch-busting business tool.

The project will look into how Home could be used as a business environment where senior managers can discuss ideas and collaborate on projects.

It is thought this could help reduce physical office space and travel costs, diminishing the carbon footprint of corporate executives in the process. Yes, PS3 is going to help save the world.

Dr Nipan Maniar, the University of Portsmouth academic famous for developing principles of "in-game" learning in computer game environments, will lead the project along with University of Portsmouth senior lecturer Manish Malik who is an expert in collaborative technologies.

Workplace transition consultants Advanced Workplace Associates has commissioned the research, and its clients such as Microsoft, Merrill Lynch and Ernst and Young will be taking part in the research project in late February 2009.

Andrew Mawson, managing director of Advanced Workplace Associates, said: "Increasingly we are living in a world without borders where workers need to collaborate on a global scale".

"There are human resources and economic tensions in trying to get so many people in the one place at the one time. Yes, audio and video-conferencing solutions have emerged but the use of virtual worlds may offer the next evolution in overcoming the tyranny of distance - a more realistic and learning-enhanced environment where managers can brainstorm, give presentations, express behaviour and network at a more human level while being continents apart.

"The concept of personalised avatars and immersed realities takes us a lot further than the common conference call", he added.

Dr Nipan Maniar said: "The PS3 console being used to access a virtual world is interesting as there are strong pointers that gaming environments will increasingly be used for other purposes such as education".

"I think a strong current example of where we are going is Jamie Oliver's cook book instruction being delivered via the Nintendo DS Lite. Who's to say games publishers won't offer titles related to business and other subject matter where a user could easily cross from a business game learning environment to a real 'doing' collaborative environment in a virtual world accessed by the same console?"

All remains to be seen when the research is conducted next year, but we're not sure we can really see it taking off. What about you, can you see Home ever being used as a business tool?