The Future of Virtual Environments


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A presentation by Ralph Schroeder at Eduserv's Where next for Virtual Worlds in UK higher and further education event held in London in January 2010.

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The Future of Virtual Environments

  1. 1. The Future of Virtual Environments Ralph Schroeder Oxford Internet Institute Where Next…Jan 25, 2010
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Why are Virtual Environments Important? </li></ul><ul><li>Definition of VEs and Two End-states </li></ul><ul><li>Different Media For Being there Together </li></ul><ul><li>VEs in Education and Science </li></ul><ul><li>Some Non-Obvious Conclusions and a Big Question </li></ul>
  3. 3. Why are VE’s Important? <ul><li>They are the most ‘extreme’ form(s) of being there together mediated by technology </li></ul><ul><li>Technologies for Mediated Copresence are proliferating, and will continue to do so </li></ul><ul><li>There are many preconceptions about ‘being there together’ (not as good as ftf, relations not as rich, realism is needed) </li></ul><ul><li>VEs can help us to understand a range of mediated states </li></ul>
  4. 4. Real World Applications <ul><li>Business Meetings </li></ul><ul><ul><li>time and travel, few uses, many to come? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Training </li></ul><ul><ul><li>if difficult otherwise </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Design and Visualization </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rarely multi-user </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Online worlds </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For socializing, or commerce? </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Shared Virtual Environments and two End-states <ul><li>Definition of VE technology as presence, plus interacting, and copresence (Sensory experience of being in a place other than the one you are physically in, and being able to interact with it, and being there with others) </li></ul><ul><li>Two End-States (video vs. computer-generated, or blue-c vs. Cave) </li></ul><ul><li>Different capabilities (affordances) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Blue-C: the video captured immersive end-state Courtesy of Markus Gross, The blue-c project, ETH Z ü rich
  7. 7. Blue-C Courtesy of Markus Gross, The blue-c project, ETH Z ü rich
  8. 8. CAVE-like Systems: the computer generated end-state Chalmers’ Tan VR-CUBE UCL’s Trimension ReaCTor
  9. 9. London – Gothenburg ‘Caves’
  10. 10. Doing the Rubik’s cube
  11. 11. Task: The Rubik puzzle
  12. 12. FtF
  13. 13. Other Tasks With Anthony Steed and Dave Roberts
  14. 14. Activeworlds
  15. 16. Onlive Traveler
  16. 17. HP Halo
  17. 19. The Varieties of ‘Being There Together’ <ul><li>Videoconferencing is proliferating in different forms, has practical constraints, and is merging with other technologies </li></ul><ul><li>Online spaces support spatial interaction, the development of social norms, and content that engages users </li></ul><ul><li>Social networking relates to ‘always on’ togetherness, and expresses identity and social ‘availability’ and ‘awareness’ (as with IM, mobile phones and social spaces) </li></ul>
  18. 20. Different Media for Being Together <ul><li>Instant Messaging </li></ul><ul><li>Social Networking </li></ul><ul><li>Videoconferencing </li></ul><ul><li>Virtual Worlds on Mobile Phones </li></ul><ul><li>Other Online self-presentations and forms of Interaction </li></ul><ul><li>All have </li></ul><ul><ul><li>High-Low Spatial Component </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self-presentation component </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Large or Small Groups </li></ul></ul>
  19. 21. Why SVEs will not happen: <ul><li>videoconferencing has not happened even though it has been available for decades. People don’t feel the need to see each other, and the ‘I’m having a bad hair day’ problem </li></ul><ul><li>online worlds have proven to have a limited range of things people do together </li></ul><ul><li>economic activity in online worlds has so far - and can ever mostly be ‘self-referential’ - designing for online worlds </li></ul><ul><li>it is difficult or impossible to arrange many in-world or in-space activities, such as large and small meetings, complex training, and many forms of co-visualization and co-manipulation </li></ul><ul><li>there is a limit to how multimodally co-present we want to be </li></ul><ul><li>Some social cues are absent in meetings and interactions </li></ul>
  20. 22. Why SVEs will happen: <ul><li>time and money and environmental reasons dictate less travel </li></ul><ul><li>co-visualization and co-manipulation of spaces works well and there are great needs for it </li></ul><ul><li>it’s possible to do lots of things together in online worlds and spaces that can’t be done in the real world </li></ul><ul><li>the technology for large and cheap 3D displays and interaction will surround us and become more widespread in any event </li></ul><ul><li>people are sociable and like to see things, and online sociability can better than real world sociability and online spaces more imaginative and interesting than real ones </li></ul>
  21. 23. Virtual Worlds in Science and Education <ul><li>Purpose </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Science: Public Understanding, Meetings, Exhibitions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scripting Classes: Various levels of building </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Setting </li></ul><ul><li>Communication </li></ul><ul><li>Offline versus Online Norms </li></ul><ul><li>Tools </li></ul>
  22. 29. Observing education in action through scripting classes
  23. 32. Lessons of Three Types of Second Science <ul><li>Exhibition: Co-visualization is difficult; object display could benefit from immersion or more engaging object interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Mixed Real-Virtual: interplay between virtual and real still bifurcated, and needs better integration </li></ul><ul><li>Pure Virtual: Still struggling with the question of “can virtual go beyond traditional chalk and talk lecture format?” </li></ul>
  24. 33. Outlook <ul><li>Technological problems are solvable </li></ul><ul><li>Users will adapt to modality and self-representation </li></ul><ul><li>A Convergence of modalities will take place with a continuity of high-end and low-end, video and computer-generated, small and large groups – though systems will also be used differently according to context </li></ul>
  25. 34. Futures <ul><li>Only Two End-States, with few options </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facial or Spatial </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Large population worlds or small groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collaborating or socializing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Video or Computer-Generated </li></ul></ul><ul><li>All other forms co-presence approximate these end-states </li></ul><ul><li>Mixed or Augmented Reality are subject to attention limits </li></ul>
  26. 35. Some Non-Obvious Conclusions, a Big Question <ul><li>Face-to-Face interaction is not the Gold Standard </li></ul><ul><li>Two (and only two) End-State Options are Foreseeable, with different consequences </li></ul><ul><li>Are the key issues in design, or in what kind of mediated presence we want in society? </li></ul>