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  • 1. Instructional Technology Program Department of Leadership & Educational Studies Appalachian State University Boone, NC – U.S.A. Scienze della Comunicazione Facoltà di Scienze della Formazione Università degli Studi di Cagliari Cagliari - Italy Avatars: a new life is growing on the Net A project from the group 3 Jody Ledford Lori Dean Giovanni Toccu Luigi Piloni
  • 2. Index Introduction Avatar History Timeline Classification of Avatars Technologies to manage Avatars Avatars in elearning The future of Avatars
  • 3. Introduction An avatar (अवतार, from the Sanskrit word for "a form of self", commonly used in many Indian languages) is a computer user's representation of himself/herself or alter ego, whether in the form of a three-dimensional model used in computer games, a two-dimensional icon (picture) used on Internet forums and other communities, or a text construct found on early systems such as MUDs. It is an “object” representing the embodiment of the user. The term "avatar" can also refer to the personality connected with the screen name, or handle, of an Internet user. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_(computing)) In the daily experience using the net, on artificial worlds, social networks, online games, discussion forums, instant messaging system etc. (in this document we’ll call them environments”) we develop a set of “properties” (we can call them parameters, characteristics, information) to describe ourselves. These properties are a set of images, nicknames, quotes, descriptions, links, emoticons, status flags, tags, anthropomorphic images etc. The sum of these properties is our Avatar. Each single Avatar can be a part of one or more sets (for example a Gilda in role games, groups on social networks, usertype in discussion forums etc.) and, thanks to them, the Avatar is linked to different networks. Sometimes one or more properties overlap in virtual worlds, on the internet and in real life. This concept is called “internet of things”. We’ll try to answer to the following questions: • How many (and which) different properties can define an Avatar? • In how many different ways an Avatar can be delineated, according with the different environments, without losing its (or his/her) origin? • Can we make a classifications of the Avatars? • Can we use the Avatar to work and study in business or eLearning experiences? • Can we make some predictions about what will happen with our avatar in 5, 10, 20 years? Thanks to Artificial intelligence technologies, can they become a copy of our personality and live them own lives? Will they become older with us? Will they live longer than we?
  • 4. Avatar History Timeline 1784 Derived from the Sanskrit avatra, meaning “descent,” avatar first appeared in English in 1784 to mean an incarnation or human appearance of a deity, particularly Vishnu. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/magazine/10wwln-guestt.html?_r=2&scp=2&sq=avatar&st=cse&oref=login "Avatar" derives from the Sanskrit word Avatara, which literally translates as "descent," specifically, a deliberate descent by a god into the land of mortals, usually for the purpose of destroying evil or leading the righteous down the right path. In Hinduism, an avatar is the bodily manifestation of Immortal Beings or "The Supreme Being." http://www.deitel.com/ResourceCenters/Web20/Avatars/AvatarsHistory/tabid/3031/Default.aspx 1845 Emily Dickinson's Poetry as a child: The earliest surviving verse by the poet's hand was embroidered on a sampler when she was 15. Its interest lies chiefly in its relation to her later religious development. It begins "Jesus Permit Thy Gracious Name to stand/ As the First efforts of an infants hand" and ends with the prayer that He may write His name upon her heart. Many of her late religious poems treat Jesus, whom her father called the divine Son of God, as an avatar and validator who taught the difficulty and necessity of faith and "endorsed the sheen" of life. They suggest that in the end, after all her doubts, His name was written on her heart. Waggoner, Hyatt H. "Dikinson, Emily (1830–1886)." Encyclopedia Americana. 2009. Grolier Online. 12 Nov. 2009 <http://ea.grolier.com/article?id=0126840-00> 1970 In the early 1970's, two gameaholics named Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw created a role playing game through early multi user domains. Many of these games were accessed by a Telnet service. In the early days of text based MUD’s (multi-user dungeons) you were represented by your tag, or nickname. This grouping of characters expressed your virtual identity in the online world. http://www.articlesbase.com/art-and-entertainment-articles/massive-multiplayer-onlineroleplaying-games-53791.html 1990 Meridian 59 was released in 1996 and created a massive following. While it was one of the first internet games, it actually allowed users to pay a subscription fee, rather than pay by the hour. This change in gaming made thousands of people switch to this form of MMORPG. http://www.articlesbase.com/art-and-entertainment-articles/massive-multiplayer-onlineroleplaying-games-53791.html 1995 Worlds Chat was the very first three-dimensional avatar world to become widely available on the Internet. http://www.digitalspace.com/avatars/book/fullbook/chwc/chwc1.htm EverQuest, often shortened to EQ, is a 3D fantasy-themed massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) that was released on the 16th of March, 1999. EverQuest's development is ongoing, and the 16th expansion, "The Underfoot," was announced at the 2009 Las Vegas Fan Faire http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everquest 2002 Linden Lab™ announced today the name of its interactive service, Second Life™. A new form of shared 3D entertainment, Second Life presents a remarkably immersive and self-expressive world
  • 5. to its online residents. Users who want the opportunity to enter Second Life can register and begin their new life with the beta program at www.lindenlab.com. Each resident begins Second Life by designing their avatar, or character, starting with a fully textured high-resolution figure, and creating a unique representation of themselves. Users customize their hair, face and body shape, and clothing, using morphing tools that allow for an infinite variety of identities. Users can then collaborate with each other to shape the world around them http://lindenlab.com/pressroom/releases/02_10_30 2003 The base game, titled Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided, was released on 26 June 2003 in the USA and on 7 November, 2003 in Europe http://www.bing.com/reference/semhtml/Star_Wars_Galaxies?fwd=1&qpvt=star+wars+galaxies&src=abop&q=star+wars+galaxies Second Life is launched. 2007 February 27, 2007 — Linden Lab®, creator of virtual world Second Life®, has announced that it will be adding voice capabilities to the Second Life Grid, as part of its ongoing drive toward creating a richer, more immersive virtual environment. http://lindenlab.com/pressroom/releases/02_27_07 2008 September 3, 2008 — Linden Lab®, creator of 3D virtual world Second Life®, has announced a new voice and instant messaging client that will enable Second Life Residents to connect and communicate with their Second Life contacts whether or not they are actually inworld http://lindenlab.com/pressroom/releases/09_03_08 2009 January 20, 2009 - Linden Lab®, creator of the virtual world Second Life®, today announced a key milestone in its expansion of the Second Life platform: acquiring two Web-based marketplaces for virtual goods, Xstreet SL and OnRez. These acquisitions join several other recent strategic initiatives, including enhancements to the experience for new users, which will enable Linden Lab to reach a broader global audience for Second Life in 2009. Linden Lab is consolidating the two marketplaces on the Xstreet SL platform, offering one online shopping experience for customers and merchants. This will make it easier for Second Life Residents to find virtual goods to purchase and will provide merchants broader channels to sell their products. http://lindenlab.com/pressroom/releases/01_20_09 Future with super computers on your desktop With the future of multi-core computing and combined 3D worlds, realistic avatars, artificial intelligence, access to real-time data via the network, voice recognition, voice generation, and lip synching a computer generated person that is custom-built to be your best friend can be created. This single digital buddy will be the person who greets you when you come home: asks what you think about last night’s football game; tells you that there is a club meeting at the local steakhouse; discusses your views on current events; and listens to everything you want to say, while giving you the kind of feedback you have programmed it for. Research Technology Management, Supercomputing on Your Desktop by Roger Smith, MAR/April, Vol 52 Issue 2, p9-14.
  • 6. Classification of Avatars How can we recognize and classify an Avatar? Information we enter that describes ourselves on the net is a part of our avatar. A single person can have one or more than one Avatars according to the environment where the Avatar lives. In a technical environment (i.e. a technical forum) Avatars are made from a nick name, an image and a quote that describe the topic of interest. The following example is the avatar of the user “Impulse” with the title “Hardness Supreme”, chatting on a forum about “PC modding” and his/her avatar describes the configuration of his PC. 09-26-2004, 12:58 AM Impulse [H]ardness Supreme, 8.7 Years Hey, there's actually an upside to living in this horrid humidity? Who would've thought... But seriously now, good write up, a heads up for many I'm sure. __________________ C2Q Q6600 @ 3.XGHz | 1.XXv :: ZEROtherm Nirvana NV120 :: ASUS P5Q Pro | BIOS XXXX 2GB x2 G.Skill Pi Black @ XXXMHz | X-X-X-X | 1.XXv :: Corsiar HX520W :: XFX GTX 260 @XXX/XXXX Intel X25-M G2 80GB :: WD6401AALS 640GB :: Venus DS | Seagate 7200.10 500GB :: Thermaltake M9 Samsung 2243BWX 24" LCD + 955DF 19" CRT :: SB X-Fi Ti :: Samson StudioDock 3i :: JVC HA-RX700 Acer Aspire One A150 | 6-cell batt. Avatars used in Fan groups are made usually with pictures of famous people integrated with some artistic homemade images. Other information can be the activity in the group (i.e. 578 posts on a forum) the geographic position and the date of joining the group. Suisan One Twisted Evilette Status: Offline Posts: 578 Join Date: May 2005 Location: 36.5 N / 94.3 W With the advent of WEB 2.0, the desire to personalize avatars with unique images made Avatar Editors very popular. Some of these editors generate famous “styles” such as Southpark or the Simpsons, or generate 2d images in manga style. These Avatars can be used in environments that allow traditional 2d images. Avatars used in social networks, business networks and dating website are similar among them, usually they consist of a name, a photo of the person, a list of interests and personal backgrouds. Of course in different environments although simmilar the different information is given with the proper Avatar. E.g. the business network demands more information connecting to the field of work, whereas in the dating website the apperance and hobbies are emphesised.
  • 7. The Simpson Avatar Editor http://www.myavatareditor.com www.avimator.com (for second life) http://tektek.org Fashon Avatar www.faceyourmanga.it www.doppelme.com www.sp-studio.de
  • 8. For 3d enviroments as second life, MS Xbox 360, Sony Home the Avatars are even more sophisticated with 3d bodies that can be customized with antropomorphic parameters, clothes and accessorizes. Classification grid for Avatars Parameters that compose the Web Spaces Social Online Forum Dating Business Blog Fan site & Elearning Avatar Network games website Network News example Facebook WoW Big- Match Plaxo Blog.com Too many Babbel Myspace Secnd Life boards Meetic LinkedIn wordpres ☺ Best-tuts Hi5 Ultima virttourist s ehow Nick name True Name True picture 2d Avatar image Picture of other person 3d Avatar image Quote True life informations True “Enanced” life informations Groups of interests List of informations (links, blog post, bookshelf, ) Social Informations (Friend list, school class, social group) Status note and emoticons Private technical Informations Geolocalizations =appreciated =deprecated
  • 9. Technologies to manage Avatars The technologies that allow us to interact with Avatars can be divided in two families: a) We can interact with Avatars world Virtual Reality It’s a technology which allows a user to interact with a computer-simulated environment, whether that environment is a simulation of the real world or an imaginary world. Most current virtual reality environments are primarily visual experiences, displayed either on a computer screen or through special or stereoscopic displays, but some simulations include additional sensory information, such as sound through speakers or headphones. Some advanced, haptic systems now include tactile information, generally known as force feedback, in medical and gaming applications. Users can interact with a virtual environment or a virtual artifact either through the use of standard input devices such as a keyboard and mouse, or through multimodal devices such as a wired glove, the Polhemus boom arm, and omnidirectional treadmill. The simulated environment can be similar to the real world, for example, simulations for pilot or combat training, or it can differ significantly from reality, as in VR games. In practice, it is currently very difficult to create a high-fidelity virtual reality experience, due largely to technical limitations on processing power, image resolution and communication bandwidth. However, those limitations are expected to eventually be overcome as processor, imaging and data communication technologies become more powerful and cost-effective over time. Michael Heim identifies seven different concepts of Virtual Reality: simulation, interaction, artificiality, immersion, telepresence, full-body immersion, and network communication. The definition still has a certain futuristic romanticism attached. People often identify VR with Head Mounted Displays and Data Suits.
  • 10. Augmented reality Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer- generated imagery - creating a mixed reality. The augmentation is conventionally in real- time and in semantic context with environmental elements, such as sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally usable. Artificial information about the environment and the objects in it can be stored and retrieved as an information layer on top of the real world view. The term augmented reality is believed to have been coined in 1990 by Thomas Caudell, an employee of Boeing at the time. Augmented reality research explores the application of computer-generated imagery in live-video streams as a way to expand the real world. Advanced research includes use of head-mounted displays and virtual retinal displays for visualization purposes, and construction of controlled environments containing any number of sensors and actuators. b) Avatars can interact with us Internet of things Internet of Things refers to a network of objects, such as household appliances. It is often a self-configuring wireless network.The idea is as simple as its application is difficult. If all cans, books, shoes or parts of cars are equipped with minuscule identifying devices, daily life on our planet will undergo a transformation. If all objects of daily life, from yogurt to an airplane, are equipped with radio tags, they can be identified and managed by computers in the same way humans can. The next generation of Internet applications (IPv6 protocol) would be able to identify more objects than IPv4, which is currently in use. This system would therefore be able to instantaneously identify any kind of object. The Internet of objects should encode 50 to 100,000 billion objects and follow the movement of those objects. Every human being is surrounded by 1,000 to 5,000 objects. Ubiquitous computing Ubiquitous computing (ubicomp) is a post-desktop model of human-computer interaction in which information processing has been thoroughly integrated into everyday objects and activities. In the course of ordinary activities, someone "using" ubiquitous computing engages many computational devices and systems simultaneously, and may not necessarily even be aware that they are doing so. This model is usually considered an advancement from the desktop paradigm. This paradigm is also described as pervasive computing, ambient intelligence. All models of ubiquitous computing share a vision of small, inexpensive, robust networked processing devices, distributed at all scales throughout everyday life and generally turned to distinctly common-place ends. For example, a domestic ubiquitous computing
  • 11. environment might interconnect lighting and environmental controls with personal biometric monitors woven into clothing so that illumination and heating conditions in a room might be modulated, continuously and imperceptibly. Robots A robot is a virtual or mechanical artificial agent. In practice, it is usually an electro- mechanical machine which is guided by computer or electronic programming, and is thus able to do tasks on its own. Another common characteristic is that by its appearance or movements, a robot often conveys a sense that it has intent or agency of its own. The word robot can refer to both physical robots and virtual software agents, but the latter are usually referred to as bots. There is no consensus on which machines qualify as robots, but there is general agreement among experts and the public that robots tend to do some or all of the following: move around, operate a mechanical limb, sense and manipulate their environment, and exhibit intelligent behavior, especially behavior which mimics humans or other animals. A gynoid, or robot designed to TOPIO, a humanoid robot A U.S. Marine Corps technician prepares to resemble a woman, can appear developed by TOSY that can play use a telerobot to detonate a buried comforting to some people and ping-pong improvised explosive device disturbing to others Interactions humans/Avatars What can we expect from the future? A world where humans and avatars interact using different technologies in different environments. We’ll work, study, live, buy, play (even make love ?) connected with electronic devices that enhance our reality and give us the opportunity to interact with “reality” made from a mix of humans, artificial intelligences and automatic models.
  • 12. List of Virtual Worlds platforms Open Source Croquet http://croquetconsortium.org Delta 3D http://www.delta3d.org The Metaverse Project http://metaverse.sourceforge.net OpenSim http://www.opensimulator.org Paperworld 3D http://paperworld3d.com Project Darkstar http://projectdarkstar.com realXtend http://www.realxtend.org Squeak http://www.squeak.org Proprietary - These are products which must be purchased or licensed Blink 3-D http://www.pelicancrossing.com ESP: Microsoft ESP http://www.microsoft.com/esp eXplo http://www.geminimobile.com Multiverse http://www.multiverse.net Mycosm http://www.simmersionholdings.com Olive http://www.forterrainc.com Caligari http://www.caligari.com Uni-verse http://www.uni-verse.org Unity http://unity3d.com UnrealTech http://www.unrealtechnology.com
  • 13. Virtual Worlds Online (collected from http://vworld.fas.org/wiki/Category:Virtual_Worlds) A Tale in the Desert HiPiHi Resilient Planet A World of My Own IMVU Rohan Online ALFY IP Runescape AWEDU ISTE Island SchMOOze University Abyss Museum of Ocean Science InfoIsland, Librarians in Second Life Sciland Virtual Continent Activeworlds International Schools Island Second Life AdventureQuest Worlds International Spaceport Museum Second earth Agape World Fellowship Island of Svarga Shores of Hazeron Age of Conan Ivory Tower of Prims Silk Road Online Age of Reckoning Jo Jo Fit Slenz Project Ai Sp@ce Jokaydia Sloodle project Alien Adoption Agency Kaneva Smartycard Barbie Girls Kids world Sociolotron Beanie Babies 2.0 Kidscom Sociotown Bella Sara Kingsage Spineworld Biointeractive Lineage II SportsBLOX Blue Mars Literature Alive Star Trek Online Build-a-Bearville Lively Stardoll Chaos Online Maple Story Taatu Citypixel Matrix Online Tapped In Club BK MeetMe Terra Incognita Club Penguin Metaplace The Imaging Place Creating Music Millsberry The Lord of the Rings Online Cybertown MinyanLand The Manor DDM collective in Second Life Mokitown The Palace Digital perfection Moo Canada Eh? The Saga of Ryzom Discovery Education Network in SL Moove The exploratorium Dizzywood Moshi Monsters There Dofus Multiverse Timeline of Earth Dubit MyMiniLife Toontown EVE Online MyNOGGIN Tower Chat Edusim NOAA Island Twinity Eeko World Neopets UC Davis Virtual Hallucination Facility English Village New Media Consortium Campus UWorld Entropia Universe Nicktropolis VPChat Etopia Village OGame VSide EverQuest I OSGrid Virtual Alamo EverQuest II Ohio University Second Life Campus Virtual Family Kingdom Learning Kiosks Fantage OpenCroquet Virtual Milano Final Fantasy XI OpenLife Virtual Morocco Flyff OurWorld Virtual Philadelphia Fould Whispering, Strange Matters Pandanda Vizwoz Free Realms Panfu Weather Channel Freggers Pixie Hollow Webkinz GTown Playdo Weblo Gaia Online PolyU Resort Island WeeWorld Genome Island Poptropica Why Robbie Rocks Global Kids on the Main Grid Project Wonderland Whyville Guild Wars Quest Atlantis Wirtland Habbo Hotel RIDEMAKERZ Hybrid World World of Warcraft Handipoints Ragnarok Online Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates HealthInfo Island Rainbow MOO Zookazoo Hello Kitty Online Reactiongrid Zwinktopia
  • 14. Avatars in elearning Avatars can be used by classroom teachers when designing digital stories or delivering content. Avatars can be tour guides to explain travels, or represent real life characters like Mark Twain to give a lecture. Most avatars are known as “bots” and are powered by Natural Language Processing. Some avatars like Crazy Talk allows users to record natural voiceovers along with secondary sound recording like music. Avatars like MASH (Microsoft Agent Scripting Helper) allow the user to program characters within a lesson. They can be used to define terms, give directions to an activity or reinforce content. Avatars can also be integrated into PowerPoint presentations and whiteboard lessons. Virtual Teachers, educational presenters and tutors can have a new face, available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, with the same happy disposition, virtual, animated, delivering content in context. Virtual Teachers can be available in different forms, ages, sexes and even fantasy. The flexibility is endless. Education creators can concentrate on the subject matter and choose the ideal Virtual Tutor to assist in the process. When information is available on the student’s schedule and accommodates the student’s needs, we know that retention is improved, and "lean back" education can be effortlessly absorbed. There is nothing more powerful than the spoken word when it comes to delivering complex ideas or facts. Literature assignment can be delivered in context and even brain teasing science and math education can become more precise when you have the help of a virtual tutor that has the power of "voice". Un-attended education across the web or operated locally makes virtual education delivery highly effective and manageable. Many training and formal educational environment incorporate media within their presentations and educational content, and it's not by accident. The ability to concentrate on content and its compelling and memorable delivery is the reason that Virtual Teachers and Tutors are common place in the corporate stratosphere and junior schools alike, because compelling, animated virtual teachers can give results in a planned and precise manner, and achievements can be accelerated at all learning levels. A standard PowerPoint presentation with graphs, facts, and images is nice enough, but add a virtual teacher to the mix and you now have a new breed of educational delivery. Helpful Links Learning with Avatars and http://egl-microsoft.spaces.live.com/ Digital Learning Objects Create your own avatar! http://www.zwinky.com/ Avatars-In-Education http://techntuit.pbworks.com/Avatars-In-Education Professor Avatar http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2007/10/16/conway Sitepal http://www.sitepal.com/educator
  • 15. The future of Avatars – Transmit or create the thought? Starting with the juxtaposition between pre- and post-darwinism, the link between these opposite thesis can be represented from the “ability to produce thoughts”. In that way we define (reducing it only apparently) our analysis. In that way we define a precise property (intelligence) that is the ability to modify, adapting itself the correct way, to the cognitive environment in which it interacts. This is true for humans, not- humans and machines. Post-Humanism transcends Darwinism and speculates on hybridization between humans and machines (or rather between biological organisms and cybernetic devices) that eventually assumes a supremacy of the technological machine over humans (in 2001 Odyssey in the space “HAl 9000” has as an important a task as the other members of the crew, even if limited in his final capacities…). Starting from a web search, analyzing the information of Shannon and Weaver (independence of the information from the real transport medium), across the Turing test (simulation from the machine of human behavior based on a computational model), we arrive at the conclusion that if the mind in only information (a configuration of bit), it must be possible to move it from a physical support to another one. The idea of transferring our mind into a computer is similar to the one of Norbert Wiener, one of the fathers of cybernetics, that in 1950 imagined the possibility to send a person using a telegraph. This dream is part of the techno-optimistic theories called posthumans or transhumans. They imagine the transformation of the humanity in trans- or post-humanity, in accordance with the development of biotechnologies and nanotechnologies, looking at the human species as the first step of a new era in the evolution post-darwinism, derived from the human species as well: “a sort of continuing consciousness to the cyborg”. The work of Katherine Hayles, We Became Posthuman (1999) is interesting because the cybernetic techno-optimistic concepts are not far from the dual body-mind concept of the rational modern tradition and she proposes them as technological transcendence. Hayles confirms the separation between support and information, developing his thoughts from classic cybernetics (centered on the concept of homeostasis) and then analyzing cybernetics centered on autopoietic systems (according with the theories of Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varela). This work demostrates how in virtual realms, consciousness is a property of complex systems and that computer software is designed to develop autonomously that way. In this perspective, Hayles defend the corporeality of humans, supporting the idea that the human consciousness it's different form the one that can be obtained from thinking machines because is not possible to leave aside the embodiment. Previously we wrote about “2001 odissey in the space”, as an example of anticipation and a new kind of cinematographic vision. A brand new movie actually in the cinema is:
  • 16. AVATAR by James Cameron, 20th Century fox,USA, 2009 PLOT OF AVATAR: The story’s protagonist, Jake Sully is a former Marine who was wounded and paralyzed from the waist down in combat on Earth. Jake is selected to participate in the Avatar program, which will enable him to walk. Jake travels to Pandora, a lush jungle-covered extraterrestrial moon filled with incredible life forms, some beautiful, many terrifying. Pandora is also home to the Navi, a sentient humanoid race that are more physically capable than humans, although considered primitive. Standing three meters tall, with tails and sparkling blue skin, the Navi live in harmony with their unspoiled world. As humans encroach deeper into Pandora's forests in search of valuable minerals, the Navi unleash their formidable warrior abilities to defend their threatened existence. Jake has unwittingly been recruited to become part of this encroachment. Since humans are unable to breathe the air on Pandora, they have created genetically-bred human-Navi hybrids known as Avatars. The Avatars are living, breathing bodies that are controlled by a human "driver" through a technology that links the driver's mind to their Avatar body. On Pandora, through his Avatar body, Jake can be whole once again. Jake finds himself caught between the military-industrial forces of Earth, and the Navi, forcing him to choose sides in an epic battle that will decide the fate of an entire world. Actually Avatars are not only a way to identify ourselves in a rolegame but true extensions of our personality that soon will live an independent life from us, them creators.