Sunday, June 19, 2005

Imitation makes digital characters more lifelike

"Jeremy Bailenson and Nick Yee of Stanford University in California have found that viewers are more strongly influenced by avatars that mimic their own body movements. They asked 70 students to don a virtual reality headset to watch an avatar deliver a 3-minute argument about the benefits of a university ID card. The students paid more attention to avatars that copied their own head movements compared with avatars making pre-programmed movements, and found them significantly more likeable and convincing."

This reminds me of a (justifiably unpublished) short-story I wrote years ago. It was a depressing, first-person account of a guy whose "girlfriend" is an augmented reality construct.* She looks perfectly real to the narrator (and even appears to interact with her real-world environment) but she's invisible to everyone else.

Rethinking the concept a bit, there's no reason "she" should only be seen and heard by the narrator; imagine a networked augmented reality milieu (call it "ARM" for short . . .) in which all participants -- real and virtual -- can interact with one another in a social context. I plan on using this plot device to much better purpose in a future story, with some added phildickian weirdness thrown in just for fun.

*I might as well admit there was an autobiographical thread** running through this. I attempted to justify the character's need for a virtual companion by postulating a dystopian future where everyone lives underground after an unspecified disaster.

**Hey -- I just realized I'm a transrealist!


razorsmile said...

Uh, I hate to be snarky but, um, what you just described sounds an awful lot like your bog-standard VR environment.

Of course, if that paragraph was targetted at scifi novices who stumbled unto your blog, I withdraw my statement.

Mac said...

It's real-life with a virtual overlay, which can be modified by the user/s. Augmented Reality is critically different because it makes use of an existing environment in "meatspace."

razorsmile said...

Argh dammit. Targeted

razorsmile said...

Ahh. I guess I didn't read too carefully.

Mac said...

AR is the best of both worlds.