Monday, February 12, 2007

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THE MIXED OPINION OF MIXED REALITY APPEARANCES

Mixed_appearance_results

The results to my survey question, "What is the most effective and engaging way to hold an SL event featuring the avatar of a real world celebrity?", are in, and frankly, they're about what I hoped.  A plurarity chose "Depends on the celebrity", and that's pretty much where I stand.  If it's a singer who plans on performing during her SL appearance, a la Suzanne Vega, then of course you should use VOIP; if it's a writer like Julian Dibbell or a public figure known for his writing, as with Judge Posner, then just as surely you want them communicating via text, through which they can shine best. (Actually, I personally lean slightly toward the "unplugged" route of standard chat.)   

I understand the reasons for going with VOIP, so what I'm about to say isn't meant as a criticism of others who opt for it with their real world celebrity appearances.  All else being equal, however, VOIP in SL has a long way to go before it becomes truly immersive and uniquely worthwhile to the world, in my opinion.  Location-based audio and convincing real time lip synch would be a start, as would an intuitive menu of voice-triggered animations and poses, or better yet, a way of automatically animating those through speech recognition.  Until then, we're still dealing with a real world celebrity who's only half there, as it were, a zombie animated by someone else and whose disembodied voice emerges from everywhere except their mouth.  I also worry that there's a vaguely undemocratic feel to the process-- leaving the impression (if occasionally unfair) that the rich and famous only deign to appear in-world when they can rely on additional, external elements, and not even bothering with the communication tools the majority of Residents use.

Then again, if that particular celebrity is singing "Tom's Diner" a capella...

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Christophe Hugo a.k.a. CHditCH

The best approach remains a body&face glove that will allow for total isotropy between the real-life person and his/her avatar. We are working on it.

CH / Christophe Hugo
Caricavatars

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