Virtual conferencing using 3D avatars may be imminent

April 12, 2011 | Source: New York Times
Avatar Meeting

Human-looking avatars meet at virtual art gallery (credit: Jim Blascovich & Jeremy Bailenson)

Researchers insist that conferences using 3D avatars are imminent because consumer technology has caught up with work going on in academic VR laboratories.

The researchers point to three developments in the past year: the Microsoft Kinect tracking system for the Xbox, the Nintendo 3DS gaming device, and the triumph on “Jeopardy!” of IBM’s Watson computer.

“These three events have been paradigm-shifting for avatar conferences,” says Dr. Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab and co-author of Infinite Reality. “Virtual reality scientists have been waiting for these events for decades — and faster than most of us predicted, the technology is finally ready for the living room and the cubicle.”

With these technologies and a few VR laboratory tricks, your avatar would appear to be three-dimensional, and you’d feel immersed in the scene as you looked around at other participants from the eyes of your avatar, says Dr. Bailenson.