CARY, N.C. — Epic Games is headed into new 3-D worlds with its Unreal Engine, thanks to a new licensing deal with Nortel. And their first client is Lenovo.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Thursday, Nortel unveiled its “web.alive” – a 3-D virtual world one could compare to Second Life. Nortel used Epic’s game engine to help create its online collaboration tool, and Lenovo is the first announced customer.

At web.alive, Lenovo enables avatar shoppers to pick and choose from some of its latest models. Called “eLounge,” the virtual shop received a lot of media attention. And the writer of the blog “It’s All Virtual” gave the experience a thumb’s up review.

“For a ‘Day 1’ experience, I found Lenovo eLounge (and web.alive) to be quite good,” he wrote.

Nortel has kept quiet about using the Unreal Engine for the web.alive tool. But in choosing Epic, Nortel utilized the most popular game engine today. Naturally, Epic uses Unreal for its own mega-selling hits "Gears of War" and "Gears of War 2," but game developers around the globe are also using Unreal across multiple platforms.

The success doesn’t stop there. As Nortel discovered, Unreal’s rendering capabilities make it a creative choice for applications such as architecture and avatars. Engineers have used Unreal for multiple building projects for the Dallas Cowboys football team and other clients.

In announcing the use of Unreal, web.alive’s chief architect, Arn Hynman, said the engine “provides an array of core technologies, content creation tools and support infrastructure.”

“By collaborating with Epic Games and licensing the Unreal Engine, we are enabling our customers to benefit from the same platform that powers industry-leading video games and complex 3D simulations,” he added.

In touting eLounge, Lenovo notes users can:

  • "Create your own personal avatar
  • "Browse and interact with our virtual products
  • “Walk around and share your experience with customers from around the globe
  • “Get support from one of our virtual avatar product specialists.”

Nortel hopes that web.alive will give it a foothold in the growing global market for online collaboration tools. If Nortel can make business as much fun as shooting locusts in the "Gears of War" universe, it will have a big hit. So, too, might Lenovo if 3-D shopping in eLounge proves to be enticing.

Given the rough news from both Nortel (potential bankruptcy) and Lenovo (restructuring) recently, an escape from reality for at least a day in Las Vegas proved to be a good gamble.