Yesterday's meeting was quite interesting with our eclectic group of developers, educators, lawyers, designers, and others. Julia Loughran from ThoughtLink Inc. and Ralph Sklarew from Working Widgets gave us a look at their explorations as part of a collaboration team working in Second Life to see how the space can be used for work space collaboration. There team is called bThere Technology [click here to learn more and see some additional comments by Julia about what they are experiencing].
3D worlds are being used by corporations for conferencing, virtual offices that can be visited by potential clients with direct immediate access to workers sitting in their virtual cubicles [though why someone would voluntarily create a cubicle for themselves in virtual space i can't imagine], water cooler informal collaboration spaces and training.
We looked at what works and doesn't work in virtual worlds. Virtual worlds can be powerful tools to bring together people far flung across a region, or the world. To help them work, play and share experiences. But some elements from our 'real' and 2D worlds seem to be needed. First, you need to build a sense of trust among your co-avatars. Julia phrased it as getting stuck in the virtual mud together - to establish a bond that will foster communication and connection among people in virtual spaces,you need to give them something, some reason to work together and break through the initial self-protective barriers. Just like in real life.
Another element that has been missing thus far but which is quickly coming onto the scene, are facial expressions. As humans we receive the largest feedback from the person in front of us through body language and facial expressions. When they are diminished, as they are in virtual worlds, our understanding and connection with that person is also severely hampered. This will change as new, affordable technologies become increasingly accessible to every day users.
Language itself as a communications tool also proves a challenge as we move from our 'real' world where audio is readily available to most, yet in virtual worlds, we usually have no audio. A key element is that we talk differently than we write, we write emails differently than we text, and we text differently than we IM. Further, the types of high level communications - such as business presentations and conference presentations - are different than how we normally communicate in virtual space, and current virtual 3D worlds do not fully accommodate and meet the level of communication expectations that we have since we are simply trying to replicate our real world experience in the 3D space.
This raises the question of whether we are properly utilizing 3D space and how to best make use of it for business and education purposes. Is it appropriate for us to see 3D virtual space as simply an extension of our 3d real space? Or is it something different? Well, clearly it is. It appeared that we have much to learn still to best exploit this new tool. A point that Ralph emphasized is that, just as with any design project, when developing a 3D world or a 3D world space within an world, have clear objectives and goals and focus on them with the 3D world as a tool for enablement. Break the 2D metaphor.
Other topics covered were the connectivity between real world and virtual with Twitter, lifestreams, vblogs, and how does one manage and filter all this information. Will we be developing new filters to address and manage the new levels and types of media input we are receiving? A good question for continued conversation at our next gathering.
All the 3D virtual world companies we discussed are already linked on this blog in the right column.
You can get Julia's presentation off our Games Gateway Meetup site. And join in the meantime.
And her presentation can be watched live on You Tube at:
Overview of Pecha Kucha: (1 min. 29 sec.)
Keep an eye out for our next meeting. Cheers!