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  Virtual World Meetings As Replacements For Real Ones  
 
 
Posted 2007-09-10 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Cisco's Christian Renaud thinks that virtual worlds exemplify collaboration technology capable of "drastically [reducing] the need for travel and the resultant emissions." While I agree that virtual worlds could reduce or eliminate travel emissions, I'm not as enthusiastic as Renaud. Leaving aside the environmental impact of actually operating a virtual world, any "drastic" reduction in travel emissions could only result from a "drastic" increase in virtual-world meetings as a replacement for real-world ones. And I don't see that happening in the short term. Longer term, perhaps, depending not only on the quality of the virtual world experience, but on public and private demand.

Replacing real-world meetings with virtual ones--whether via a "world," or some other telepresence environment--is going to take an effort. Meeting attendees will need to demand it, and meeting organizers will need to facilitate and promote it. I don't see any indication this is happening today, having flown via jet plane to Austin, NYC, San Francisco, Sydney, and Tasmania this year--primarily to discuss new technology such as virtual worlds. In particular, I find it mind-boggling that conferences about virtual worlds are not held in virtual space. The "Virtual Worlds" conference slated for this October actually features Cisco's Christian Renaud as a keynote speaker. This would be a great opportunity for Renaud to walk the talk and show up via an avatar instead of in the flesh.
 
     
 
   
 
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Comment posted by TroyMcLuhan
September 10, 2007 @ 11:30 am
     
 
For organizations that were born in Second Life (and yes they are "real" organizations), like the International Spaceflight Museum planning group, the SciLands Senate, the Second Life Library, or even the Electric Sheep Company, most meetings are held inworld.

“Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.” - Thomas Edison, 1889
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
September 10, 2007 @ 11:45 am
     
 
For me, the question is whether these in-world meetings are "saving" real-world travel, or simply providing a means to meet for people who wouldn't travel for that purpose in real life.

Personally, there are events I attend in Second Life only because they are held in SL--there's no way I'd travel to attend them otherwise.

I think ESC and other metaverse developers are good examples of companies that wouldn't even exist if not for the convenience of virtual world travel. The ESC wouldn't be as large or geographically diverse as it is if not for something like SL. I don't see this as travel "saved."
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Secureplay
September 10, 2007 @ 3:36 pm
     
 
Virtual worlds are awful for providing the rich interactions that you can have face-to-face. The most interesting technologies are some of the advanced video conferencing systems where there is a video "wall" between the two parties providing 1 to 1 video presentation in a room designed to "match".
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by TroyMcLuhan
September 10, 2007 @ 4:26 pm
     
 
Some day, the video conferencing system that Secureplay describes above will seem old-fashioned.

Imagine this: Video cameras and other cheap sensors monitor your face and other relevant things (like maybe the position of your hands). Those inputs get processed real-time to control an avatar that looks like you and mimics you in every way (certified by a third-party company, if others request it). The surroundings for the meeting could be whatever you like, from a dull office room with coffee stains on the carpet, to a crystal palace atop Mount McKinley. Movies, 3D simulations, presentation slides and the like can be pulled in seamlessly.

Of course, if the others in the meeting are ok with it, you could have a unicorn avatar, and you could use processing to auto-remove nervous tiks (which is why the others might request certified accurate facial expressions).

In summary, the idea that face-to-face (as it exists now) is the richest possible way to interact is not correct. I'd call what I described above (which is a sort of mashup of face-to-face and virtual worlds) as "augmented face-to-face".
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by MattMihaly
September 10, 2007 @ 8:58 pm
     
 
We (Iron Realms) has been doing virtual meetings almost exclusively internally for over ten years now. We hold our weekly meetings inside of one of our virtual worlds - Achaea - though were it convenient to hold face to face meetings I'd prefer them.

For our Earth Eternal project, we do daily Skype meetings, usually while logged into Earth Eternal so we can run around together and look at whatever we're talking about but I have to admit that the virtual world adds very little of value to the meeting. Face to face would, again, be infinitely preferable if there we were all in physically the same place.

As SecurePlay says, virtual worlds are currently pretty bad venues for this by comparison. TroyMcLuhan's theoretical system sounds nice but it's more of an extension of videoconferencing than virtual worlds.

--matt
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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