Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Content creation’ Category

The problem that designers of virtual worlds face today is the difficulty in creating forms to represent in a meaningful way the diverse bundles of narratives that we have become identified with. One point of failure in avatar design is the absence of a tight coupling between user intentions/behaviors and those of his/her avatar. This in turn destroys the effectiveness of the user representation/avatar as a reliable canvas on which can be painted, for an audience/observer, the wide range of emotions and related information we have been accustomed to in real world human communication processes.

When interacting in (Second Life) SL, we are pervaded with a sustained sense of ‘uneasiness’, ‘unsatisfactoriness’, ‘a hunger for emotional exchange’ to a large extent because we no longer use a significant part of our brain that is wired for face processing. Often the case has been made that SL provides a higher emotional bandwidth that other communication media. It is important to know what exactly the elements of this comparison are. If SL is compared to a text chat environment, then yes, SL does provide more emotional bandwidth. The next question is how much is gained, and if the amount gained is worth the cost. Now let’s compare SL to a video conferencing application. A video conferencing application provides opportunities to engage the vast face processing capabilities of our brains. It is disingenuous to claim that SL provides a higher emotional bandwidth than a videoconferencing application. Thus pitting SL as it stands against videoconferencing is a non-starter especially for meeting situations where the importance of spatial context (e.g. whether it is in a virtual board room or a virtual rest room) is meaningless. We might improve human-human communication in virtual environments however if we try to merge video conferencing and SL. Let us explore ways that will provide users the opportunity to make use of their untapped face processing capabilities. I will only suggest one way,there must be many more.

May be we should suspend, for a while at least, talking about avatars and really start focusing on surrogates. Surrogates as a term suggests a weaker user-representation coupling than avatar does. This slight shift in the way we frame human-human interactions problem in a virtual world frees us from our obsession with trying to create avatars that is tightly coupled to the user, where attempts are made to capture every gesture and emotion of a user for reproduction in a virtual world. Most typically, this is achieved by recreating a quasi-mirror image of the user (e.g. in 3d using gesture tracking mechanisms, 3d cams, physiological signal monitoring and so forth). Quasi, because it won’t be too much fun if the precise physical status of users are mirrored in virtual environments. A virtual environment where everyone is in a sitting posture will be quite boring. Research in this area is much needed and this approach has a wide active fan base but I doubt we will see realistic 3d mirror images of users within 5 years. In addition, each of the technologies involved with come with a level of obtrusiveness (e.g.tethered devices, cumbersome calibration set ups etc..) that will scare off users and probably spike their subjective workload, frustration levels, physical fatigue and so forth. Let us look at more near term solutions. And if we focus on surrogates, may be we will be happier to inject some AI into our ‘avatars’ so that they get to ‘represent’ us rather us controlling them. Anyway, this topic is for a different occasion.

SL with audio conferencing has helped to address floor control issues faced by traditional audio conferencing applications in a very obvious and natural way. We can expect that SL with video conferencing might also help to solve some issues we face in traditional video conferencing for e.g. talking heads in windows with no spatial context. One seemingly natural integration with video conferencing that comes to mind is to have chat bubbles replaced by a video stream about the user, a video bubble. The user can choose to point his/her camera to whatever he or she wants. In a show and tell session, the user may choose to point his camera to what s/he is doing. At other times, he may point the camera to his or her face. Now, only users in close proximity to an ‘avatar/your surrogate’ with have their ‘video bubble’ activated. Proximity does not only mediate audio but video as well. Which video streams get activated will be based on the proximity of ‘avatars’ so that users don’t get visually swamped, minimize occlusion and bandwidth problems etc… This according to me is a possible near term solution LL could try selling if it wants to pitch SL against video conferencing applications. SL then can claim that it does something more than video conferencing…because video conferencing is part of it…and then it will become obvious that the telepresence solution from Cisco is about mirroring, but SL is more than mirroring.

In my view, the virtual environment of the NEAR future will be desktop based, point and trigger and provide the space to contain 3d audio conferencing+ video conferencing (as ‘video bubbles or some variants of that) + information sharing (basically document/web sharing). This solution will address the emotional bandwidth issue more convincingly. Does this approach going to hurt other approaches looking at creating 3d mirror images of users and the future gesture tracking applications etc…? Certainly not. Video bubbles will probably die a peaceful death when we work out all the kinks with creating 3d mirror images with a fidelity level that can cross the uncanny valley…and can produce micro facial gestures and so forth… But video bubbles look feasible right now and the technology is certainly closer at hand. This approach raises many more questions, what will ‘avatar’ body gestures do? will they be communicating anything..etc..this is besides the point, right now am trying to address the emotional bandwidth issue in the NEAR term. The body of the avatars will still have a function. They can be animated in various ways to add context to human human interactions. The potential of video bubbles for griefing purposes can be dealt with easily in the same way¬† audio griefing was dealt with.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

http://www.justleapin.com/technical

JustLeapIn fits in the same category as Google Lively. I am a little surprised, well somewhat, at the number of browser plugin based 3D worlds re-emerging on the market because there has been a lot of earlier efforts that did not pan out such as the 3DState effort like 8 years ago and Cosmo (VRML plugin from Sun) much earlier. In my opinion, Lively or JustLeapIn ‘worlds’ will function as a low barrier entry to the 3D Internet but they do not seem to have the back end to support deeply plastic virtual spaces. The art path that JustLeapIn provides is not clear probably because it is still under development. However, at this point in the game, they will provide the kind of surface, cosmetic level customizations that 80% of users expect mainly for social applications but certainly not for  simulations-for-training applications that require deep level customizations. I think that we will probably see less diversity regarding content and probably less interactive content in such virtual environments but, hey at least, a wider audience will become familiar with 3d space navigation using arrow keys.

Technorati Tags: ,

Read Full Post »

http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article4557935.ece

Image Metrics has emerged as leader in the creation of realistic facial animations. This of course has a lot of implication regarding what will be possible in the virtual worlds of the future. Check out the animation. She is considered to be one of the first animations to have overleapt a long-standing barrier known as ‘uncanny valley’ – which refers to the perception that animation looks less realistic as it approaches human likeness.

Some other informative video clips on this topic is available here.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Read Full Post »

We are seeing more and more games designed to include user created content. Spore is one example, LittleBigPlanet is another.

 

Technorati Tags: ,

Read Full Post »

For many who tried the Vollee client to access Second life on their cell phones (there are only 40 handsets which are supported right now), the experience was just awesome. The video quality and performance looks actually good. I expect a deluge of sign ups for this.

Read Full Post »

Volker Blanz and Thomas Vetter from the MPI for Biological Cybernetics, Tubingen, Germany, describe a morphable model for the synthesis of 3D faces. It is easy to imagine the integration of this technology with massive multiplayer worlds such as Second Life. A lot of us who deal with the creation of avatars that closely resemble their real world owners especially for ‘serious’ applications will certainly find this approach a huge time saver and most likely to yield far better results. There is already wind that Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life, is working right now on how to increase the realism and fidelity of avatars by looking at a range of technologies involving three dimensional cameras (Mitch Kapor speaks about Second Life from Davos).

Read Full Post »

Video: Virtual Earth – 3DVIA (Beta)

I think we will see a lot more applications developing content for platforms such as Google Earth. In fact, check  out Andy Coleburn’s AC3D (inivis.org) as an example. Personally I would build prototypes of buildings in a massive multiplayer virtual world rather than in ‘view only-single user environments’ such as the one depicted in this video.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »