We have come a long way since Mario. The impact of high-resolution rendered avatars in 3D multi-user virtual worlds is considerable for our sense of real life identity and engagement with synthetic life forms that are increasingly finding their way into our lives. Psychologically our relations with people may be greatly influenced by our virtual interactions with avatars controlled by advance AI or by real people. The significance of these interactions for us is heavily influenced by the sense of immersion or believability in the virtual world. Our sense of immersion in these worlds is critical for the social relationships that develop. High-resolution graphical representations of people are essential to this.
I think this is an important consideration. The implications are profound when we consider certain scenarios, rather than the more common uses of virtual worlds. For example, how would you respond emotionally and socially to an avatar with a photorealistic face of a long dead parent? How would you respond to the site of a photographically and anatomically accurate 3D virtual spouse flirting or arguing with a virtual representation of yourself or another person? The implications are profound for our social identity and future emotional wellbeing. It is inevitable that as graphics processors allow photorealistic avatars to interact with us in virtual worlds in increasingly realistic ways we will react with complex emotional responses. Where are the ethical boundaries to such research and how far will this diss/embodiment take us towards psychological insight?
I will be exploring these issues further from the end of the year. We'll be looking at the psychological impact of photorealistic synthetic avatars and the implications of their use and the attitudes and (social-emotional) attachments that form from them.
The following meeting in Second Life by the people at Media Grid's 'Immersive Education' initiative may be of value if you are interested in the technology behind such questions. (Friday May 9th, 4-5pm EST / 1pm Second Life time)
Further details from http://immersiveeducation.org/events/
Join us in the graphics sphere http://slurl.com/secondlife/research%20center/122/142/651 at Oddfellow Studios to discuss how high resolution graphics will soon transform Immersive Education. Support for high-resolution avatars, objects and environments is a requirement for the next generation (3rd generation) of Immersive Education that is now under development. During this meeting we’ll discuss and see examples of: high resolution avatars; high resolution objects and environments; photo-based modeling technology that enables high resolution avatars to be automatically created from a photograph of your face; current and next generation graphics rendering engines and game engines; open file formats and open art paths that enable “CREATE ONCE, EXPERIENCE EVERYWHERE”.