Much has been written about virtual worlds here at EGJ. And much has been predicted: avatars created from personal pictures, 3-D immersive environments, avatars that move based on your body movement and not keystrokes, etc. Now it seems that these predictions are becoming reality.
The New York Times recently ran an article about a book by Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson called Infinite Reality. Blascovich and Bailenson take a look at how 3-D conferences and classrooms with avatars are just about ready to become a reality. Several technologies are already here to accomplish this new level of virtual reality – and according to the article:
With these technologies — and a few tricks that have already been done in the lab — you can sit at a virtual conference table and exchange glances with the avatars of the other participants. Unlike the two-dimensional avatars that are already convening on Second Life and World of Warcraft, your avatar would appear to be three-dimensional, and you’d feel immersed in the scene as you looked around at the other participants from the eyes of your avatar.
Interesting ideas. But why do we need this instead of video conferencing?
“People don’t like video conferences today because it’s more like watching ‘Hollywood Squares’ than being in a meeting,” Dr. Blascovich says. “You want the feeling of sitting at the table and having a full view looking around, seeing the side conversations and gazes that people are giving each other. In our lab, we can already give you that feeling by putting your avatar in a virtual conference room.”
I am glad someone is finally stating the obvious – that people in general just don’t like video conferencing. I am not a huge fan of it myself and I think the quote above pretty much sums up my feelings.
Now let’s just hope that this new level of virtual reality can take off before virtual worlds die out altogether. Let’s face it – they are on life support now and need some new life.
Matt is currently an Instructional Designer II at Orbis Education and a Part-Time Instructor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Previously he worked as a Learning Innovation Researcher with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His work focuses on learning theory, Heutagogy, and learner agency. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.