Simply put, an avatar is You, or at least a facsimile of you. It is a graphical image of a user, representing yourself or someone else on a computer screen. Think of an avatar as your alter ego in the virtual world of cyberspace.
It is your body double in Cyberspace, your presence in the virtual communities growing inside two and three dimensional virtual worlds online.
Xerox Palo Alto Research Center: The Office Avatars Project
The goal of the Office Avatars project is to investigate the use of autonomous avatars in the workplace. In particular, it is interested in the role of an avatar as a personal representative which can provide useful information or other utility when the avatar's owner cannot be present.
Damer's company is working with a health insurance company in Europe. They want to have a virtual community for their customer base where people can come to their headquarters.
Damer says that,"They represent a brand new meeting of human communications. The virtual worlds are worlds where people come to socialize, where people come to build cities, work, and try utopian experiences; to build together and learn together."
Developed by David Colleen’s team at Planet 9, Genius is an avatar that greets and guides people in the fourteen Temps & Co. employment cafes in the Washington DC area. The character resides on their Intranet.
(Genius Grabs "Best Episodic Performer" award thanks to the Avatars 98 Judges.
Products from companies such as BlackSun Interactive, Integrated Data Systems, and Superscape coincide with a growing awareness of business uses for avatar technology.
It is expected that future generations of online users will enter bot (agent) or avatar (live people) inhabited spaces for help in the customer support sense, or in the library reference sense.
How are Other Governments Using the Technology?
European countries are employing avatar technology and future scenario work in management planning. Often, the facilitator is an expert interactive software designer, who has involved the use of games and simulations for role playing and brainstorming purposes.
Why are Other Governments Using the Technology?
Governments have no choice but to keep up with big business and the tools that are used to conduct transactions.
By employing avatar technology and incorporating it with scenarios, it can help us see the other side of issues: the proverbial ‘walking in another’s shoes.’
“ Avatars represent the real time embodiment of people in cyberspace and the fundamental avenue to meaningful community and a sense of place and memory. Online for the general population and for the business world. Avatars and inhabited cyberspaces are in their early phases in terms of knowledge management, but they are here to stay.”
There are some skeptics when it comes to this kind of technology, and that is partly due to the lack of information available. Others relate its use only to the way this technology is being used in chat rooms across the Internet: allowing people to hide behind an image, and even to change their character or sex. For some, this can be very good because it allows them to have more than one persona, and can therefore, allow innovative ideas to flow by freeing those who are cast in one corporate light and who are afraid to break the illusion.