Second Life creator Philip Rosedale and partners are working on a new VR platform called High Fidelity. It’s still in very alpha state, but they are occasionally releasing little samples of their progress. What I’ve seen until now has been less than impressive, but I was pretty amazed at this latest demo. The characters look very cartoon-ish, but what you need to understand is that the gestures and facial expressions are all being generated in real time based on the actual expressions of the users. Eye movement, raised eyebrows, the guitar strums… A top priority of the project is near zero latency, which would open the doors to the Internet being more widely used for real time music collaboration, among other benefits.
I have questions about the point of all this, e.g., at what point is it no different from Skype? The advantage to Second Life is that you can present yourself as you are not in real life. When I’m inworld, I’m often glancing at my two side monitors or doing a quick Google search relating to a conversation I’m having. With HiFi the people I’m with would see that I’m distracted. This may be a more “authentic” experience, but I don’t use SL to recreate a real life experience. I use text chat for the same reason. I’m much more articulate and thoughtful when I can edit what I’m saying on the fly. The “inauthenticity” of SL is precisely what makes it engaging and empowering. Given infinite possibilities, why be what you already are?