Poster Building ExteriorLast night our class established a virtual classroom session in Second Life. As expected, there were some issues with becoming familiar with controlling your avatar and being able to keep the group together. Trying to type in chat and keep up with 20 something students was a task. Also battling slower computers and the lag from some internet connections made this more of a test than a classroom session, but in all it was a learning experience in order to prepare for further excursions in the future.  When the playing field is level, this will be a much better experience. Additionally, if everyone could use voice protocols, that would alleviate some of the task of typing. Unfortunately, being in a virtual world, that would also lend itself to people talking out of turn and on top of each other, so there must be some rules established so it doesn’t get too confusing.

Second Life lacks sensory perception. I’m not only talking about the tactile, but the emotional triggers we experience from day to day in the real world. It is clear that because of the texting issue, sometimes there is a loss of the common subtleties we all take for granted in the real world. Tone of voice and body language both impart a broader sense of social interaction than just words. It is these peripheral sensations that cannot be incorporated into Second Life, so I go back again to establishing particular protocols to be engaged at the task at hand. Even major companies have protocols for emails because certain text can be misinterpreted. At one point we were just standing around waiting for class to start, it was silent and eerie at the same time once the radio was turned off. I think that is why the developers use the radio, so it doesn’t feel so cold and distant. Visually the environment was very cool (when there were not issues with rendering the surroundings). Coincidentally I am also talking about virtual interaction in my 754 class on human computer interaction and I can now clearly see where research and participant feedback can help improve the experience.

I created a fantastic avatar based on the Borg from Star Trek and Edwards Scissorhands (I always liked that character… not unlike the one created in the real world, Edward needed to find different ways to communicate!).  I found that most of my classmates liked my avatar, and I was able to express myself in that caricature.

In all I need to spend more time with Second Life to become more comfortable with it. It does offer interaction with others from the comfort of home, school, laptop, etc… but it does require some thought in planning for actually using it in a practical way. I can foresee having training sessions for classes to become accustomed to working in a virtual world together. This would enhance the experience when everyone was on the same page.

I am re-posting below a thought provoking research idea that is being conducted by Microsoft since it touches on some key thoughts I have discussed on Second Life an has relevancy to our class.

“Through our bodily relationship and actions with objects, places and each other, we are able to express and create a rich variety of meaning and human value. Gestures, movement trajectories, spatial positioning, and proximity are all means through which we communicate, interpret and control or they are a means through which can participate in fun and engaging experiences, such as sports or games. With the emergence of evermore sophisticated image processing techniques and appropriate body sensing instrumentation, digital technologies are now able to detect and interpret movements and position. This allows us to use our bodies to interact in ever more sophisticated ways with digital world without props or direct touch with objects and traditional input devices. Proximity, orientation, gesture full body movement, and even the use of brain waves are all means by which we can interface with the digital world without touch. These new mechanisms open up opportunities for exploring new genres of experiences and applications in a variety of new contexts where touch based interactions alone may neither be possible, desirable or as engaging. How do these body sensing interaction and mechanisms change our bodily relationship, with objects, places and with each other? The important concerns for this theme are to understand the properties, challenges and social consequences of touchless body-based interactions relative to tangible prop-based interactions and how to design experiences with these mechanisms that achieve value and meaning for people in everyday contexts.”

Source: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/groups/sds/themeinteractingwithouttouching.aspx

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