Archive for April, 2014

Presence is the Key to Virtuality

April 18, 2014

Virtual worlds extend human perception. Facebook certainly thinks so, because they just bought the Oculus Rift, one of the new headgear devices that are going to popularize virtual reality. There have been people talking about the impact of virtual worlds and virtual reality for a long time. For example, E. Carter and his colleagues discuss presence in virtual worlds in their article called Not Quite Human: What Virtual Characters Have Taught Us About Person Perception, one of the chapters in the Oxford Handbook of Virtuality that I said I was going to blog about.

If you want to know whether you have been successful in creating a virtual world, your clients will say, “I felt like I was there”. They are referring to feeling present in a virtual world.

After spending more time virtually, others might say “I felt like we were working there together”. Recently, when 2b3d Studios was building a virtual building shaped in the form of an airplane, one of our clients said “the ability to point to the wall and say I’d like that window moved down just a bit is like no other experience. You can do that in an email, or an edited design document, but standing in the building and pointing to the wall like this is incredible”. People who describe things this way are experiencing virtuality. They know what they’d like the 3D design to look like. Asking an avatar to pick up the window and move it down so they can compare it to the line of sight with the virtual furniture in the room is extraordinary.

Working together virtuality like this is called co-presence, and it is most felt when users spend several hours, days, even weeks together working in a virtual world. Once the avatar begins to work in a virtual world, they begin to need tools to do different things in the virtual world. They are, in essence, adapting to the environment, and using tools to express themselves and to collaborate. If the avatar could pick up the window themselves and move it down about six inches, that is liberating. Why asked the developer to do it, when you can do it yourself after the developer has set it in place for you. This is like web pages, and editing on the fly.

Avatars can change human behavior by working together in virtual environments – so they can impact the outcomes. Baileson and Blascovich talk about this a lot in their book Infinite Reality – a must and easy read.

Avatars can change their own behavior. When one avatar looks at another avatar talking, there is a chance their attention spans will increase. When one avatar moves when the other avatar moves, it is likely they can say, “you are following me, aren’t you”. If the avatar moves to the next piece of information or interactivity, there is almost a game like effect in place.

Following someone, and being there when they turn around is a great example of presence. When crowds move like this together, they are creating a sense of social presence. When you have social presence, you have relationships form, and collaboration happening. When collaborators know they can rely on someone being there, the environment becomes more trusting, and uses can influence each other.

Cognitive neuroscience and social perception studies are being used to design avatars, their gestures and their animations. Carter talks about that a lot. If you learn the techniques for perceiving each other’s behavior in virtual reality, you create a stronger sense of presence, copresence and social presence. When you achieve this gain, you can use virtual environments to enhance your physical world.

Imagine the potential.

You can create global, virtual offices, in which people come to work every day, moving their work place closer to their home place. Such an evolution could save a lot of fuel, save a lot of driving, and save a lot of wear and tear on your body. Imagine focusing on innovating in your company, rather than driving to work and driving away from it every day. Imagine stepping away from the virtual world for lunch and having lunch with your kids instead of other people who have been driving all morning to get to work.

Perhaps virtual worlds can increase the number of hours your workers are focused on innovating on your products or on your services. Virtuality is all about being there, and of course it’s about doing there, once you arrive. The sooner you get there, the more likely the sooner you’ll start getting thins done.

Next we’ll talk about how to get more active in a virtual world.

I know it works for 2b3d Studios.

The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality

April 18, 2014

Every now and then a perfect book comes out that captures a movement. Ray Kurzweil suggested in 2014 that Virtual Reality was going to hit its inflection point. It has.  Look at the data points: Facebook bought Oculus Rift, the only company to date (April 18, 2014) selling a virtual reality headset.  Sony enters the market in Q1 2015 with a consumer version of Project Morpheus.  Microsoft, Samsung, Apple and Google are right behind.  Estimates are forecast for total cumulative unit sales of 56.8m by K-Zero.  We are about ready to explode beyond our immersive imagination.  Couple these forecasts with Philip Rosedale and Ebbe Altberg’s two different keynotes at Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education – both portending a rise in avatar interfaces and a second Second Life focused on education – not the darker side of its old reputation.  The multiverse is expanding in every direction, and everyone is gearing up for it.

The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality came out in 2014 like a double underline, bold typeface edit on the year. The handbook is a just-in-time, intellectually ripe anthology of 44 chapters that deals with the key aspects of virtuality in online worlds. The book opens with my co-authored chapter that sets the tone of the book: a book that will become the definitive handbook on studying virtuality and designing virtuality for the next two decades.

Hinrichs, CEO of 2b3d Studios and his colleague, one of the virtuality framers, Bruce Damer from DigitalSpace, offer “a bird’s eye view of the origins, development and trajectory of digital virtuality.  We were both there, both implementing, both grabbing the hearts and minds, and both pushing the technology and methodologies into the future. Bruce moved on to looking at A-Life, while I formed 2b3d Studios to develop one virtual world after another.  We know what works, what the secrets are, and what the challenges are to frame how virtuality rolls out.  So, I’m going to use this book to help guide the dialogue even more.  This book is a testimony of literary thinkers,  who look at psychology, perceptions, culture, society, sound, image, economy, law, AI, A-Life, applications and on and on.  2b3d Studios are builders who have defined a lot of this discussion, and will jettison users even further into the future.

Since this is the book to read — I’m going to take a hard look at the book in the next blog sessions to help readers dig down from a practical perspective and talk about how to use it to get an advantage and provide access to virtual environment to wider audiences with greater impact.  I will give hints on how to think about virtuality.  How to identify its affect on your organization.  How it will help you adjust to the demands of globalization.  How we can teach you, guide you and support you in your virtual opportunities.

I will blog until I’m blue about how to enhance your physical world with an extended, value added virtual one.

Stay tuned.  We are going to bust this open just as Kurzweil suggested we all would.  I come armed with a golden rolodex and an award winning portfolio.

See you in a week.