Who put that avatar in the bath?

Like many who spend time in Second Life I have virtual friends, virtual business partners and at least one virtual lover. These people live in Europe and the US and are walled off from my real life friends and business partners. That wall has a new crack in it.

New World Notes reports on a brilliant piece of development that portends one of the most disruptive impacts in the history of human experience. A science-fiction turned reality that will horrify some and delight others. Me, for instance.

A Georgia Tech Masters student, Tobias Lang has integrated Second Life and real video; well big deal I hear you say. Stick with me.

From New World Notes: “They’ve also taken a headset display and mounted it with a video camera and a tracking sensor. The sensor monitors the wearer’s motion and position, while the display feeds Second Life video into the headset. The result? Life-size SL avatars that seem to be standing in front of the headset wearer.”

We’re not talking about cartoon characters here. These are real people who normally communicate with each other using virtual worlds. Worlds which give them youthful avatars, a range of spectacular clothing and animations that let them fly, levitate, blow smoke out of their ears and dance like Fred Astaire.

Let’s assume this technology can be made to work in real time; bandwidth & processing issues.

It means that by wearing a headset, (you’ll feel like a geek but you’ll get over it) you’ll be able to bring your virtual friends into your home, your office and your car. They’ll be able to talk to you in real time of course; they already do that in Second Life.

Did I mention that the average avatar is built like a supermodel and is anatomically correct?

If as I suspect, a visiting avatar turns out to be more effective at selling you a bank loan than a telephone call or a video conference, a very large amount of business is going to be done in your own lounge room. A virtual salesman will sit on your couch, demonstrate the products and answer your questions.

Girlfriend coming round for dinner? Invite over a virtual string quartet to serenade you in 3D.

Family distributed around the world? If you can handle the time differences you can still have a meal together … *wonders about eating with a headset on*

Not an entirely bad thing; travel by avatar instead of dragging a ton of steel, rubber and gas with you.

I was wrong when I wrote two years ago that Second Life would be as influential as the Internet. Its social impact will surpass the Internet and require the development of a new etiquette to manage the real/virtual divide.

And I wouldn’t be writing it off as a business ap just yet. Here’s Tobias doing proof of concept:

Administrator

3 Comments

  1. And the person driving the avatar gets feedback from ? If it’s going to involve anyone seeing my RL messy kitchen – count me out. If it’s going to involve an SL set and my avatar from SL that they see- then heck – count me as interested.

    Am I being cynical when I guess that the first folks to put this to are going to be “xcite!” ?

    Ian Beaumont (SL name)

  2. Hi Ian; I recognise you as a Second Life Holodeck user! My guess is that you will be able to visit (as an avatar) or host a visitor in your real life home. Normally, the visitor would not be able to see your home. But I think what is likely is that people who want to share their home with others will do a tidy-up and save the image. I don’t think this is just wishful thinking; I think that’s actually what’s going to happen…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.