Giving meta-life to avatars

Xbox Kinect encourages people to think about different ways in which they can communicate and interact with computers.

For example, right now many computers have built-in web-cams. Most of them are turned off unless used for videoconferencing – so what will come next?

Where should we be heading with virtual worlds?

So lets play some ‘what if’ … What if our meta-selves were game characters or avatars, and that our computers had Kinect type ability to send data to virtual spaces to give them some form of actor/agent ‘life’. What if our avatars acted in response to our broader digital-selves?

Imagine if the camera in your computer were active all the time and the computer was watching and listening to you as you work, just like an assistant or a secretary. It could use that information to provide you with assistance if it sees that you are frustrated.

Certainly, the purpose of video and computer games is disagreed upon. In education even the idea that learning can be ‘fun’ will attract scornful remarks. However, in order to engage players, game designers have become well versed in creating activities and environments which foster intrinsic motivation.

What if the wave of a hand, or puzzled expression could enact your avatar ask for help or go off and find information that it’s noticed you’re looking at right now. What if the teacher could see this and do something to help. What is learning and teaching wasn’t either synchronous or asynchronous intervention, but something else?

Technology – using body, voice and image interfacing is in it’s infancy, but infant to pesky teenager in game design takes 12 months. It’s mature and left home by 18 months.

Imagine a virtual world, where you are the teacher, the expert, the friend. Imagine if you students are in the space with you – represented by their avatars, but not directly controlling them – using them as actors and agents. Now imagine that as you watch over them, they move around, they go and sit with others, work together, get up and visit a bookshelf, take the book and put it on the desk. One of the great [and un-made] virtual world advances will be this. Students will be able to work online, reading, connecting, writing and connecting – while their avatar acts for them in a virtual space. In this way – a teacher can ‘see‘ when students are connecting and prompt a teleconference or intact with their avatar as proxy. This is a million miles away from the way distance education thinking today – as essentially a collection of facts and tasks to we worked through towards a final essay to test.

Now imagine if this virtual classroom as a massive virtual worldscape where millions of students were doing this – and you could walk around it – watching, helping and connecting – from your mobile phone.

The problem with e-Learning is that it makes marginal advances from disagreed upon constructs and results in course design that is flat and linear (and boring).

If game designers thought like this – we’d all still be playing Pong and Breakout. But then, distance learning is a managed process, not a creatively driven one I guess.


2 thoughts on “Giving meta-life to avatars

    • I’m pleased to say, games design and virtual worlds are now in the second year undergrad program where I work.

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