Superior Use of VR in Society & Business
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The question is not so much as to who uses the virtual reality environment as it is who makes the most effective use of them.

[limg]/media/imglib_general/prizedraw4.jpg[/limg]As a specialist in the Active Worlds brand of 3D browsers I have grown to appreciate over the past 7 years how it takes a significant amount of thinking outside the box to create environments that offer more combined functionality and ease of use than traditional dynamic websites.

The biggest obstacle to this is at the present time the 3D environment is still accessed through a 2D. If you consider working on a desktop environment such as Windows the equivalent to a desk with papers on then the interaction is efficient - just as you would view a desk in reality as a 2D surface as you do a desktop.

3D on a 2D screen does not have this, to view a document or information in a 3D aspect you have effectively use key sequences to create a rotation suitable for displaying it as 2D upon your monitor, effectively solving a matrix. This is not efficient and while novel it soon wears thin for its impracticality.

Likewise, a video stream conference where image streams are displayed upon avatar's heads is interesting for about 5 minutes, then it becomes clearly annoying and far inferior to having standard 2D windows displayed upon a desktop.

There are however beneficial ways of using 3D - good examples include taking a tour of a campus, learning escape routes within buildings or engaging in group creative work.

As the current leader of leader of the largest single community in the Alphaverse I can best appreciate the benefits of teambuilding and creative work within a collaborative 3D platform and the prior weaknesses of viewing aspect and location become a platforms strengths allowing a more realistic interaction between users.

[wrimg=A choice of suitable avatars is an important element in user interaction]/media/imglib_awteen/2.jpg[/wrimg]I have noticed as a leader of large virtual teams that being able to see others work in real time and having to consider your position relative to other users (who you can see, who can see you, who may you talk to etc) as critical components in forming stronger relationships between users.

This is best considered by comparing the tiny effort of a user to open an instant messenger window becomes the greater effort required to stop one task in order to virtually visit a user - and as in reality one feels a greater relationship with a person that physically visits them instead of one that picks up the phone - such is the attachment users develop to their avatars and position in virtual environments.

Overall the use of 3D environments can be very beneficial in social and business usage provided that those attempting to craft the environments understand the inherent weaknesses that will always exist until virtual reality becomes much more immersive and tactile and by working around these weaknesses it is possible to create highly functional and highly enjoyable online VR experiences which will only improve as software develops.

Like many things success in the 3D virtual reality business is found not in blindly charging ahead, but instead advancing at such a rate that one may effectively spot and avoid the awaiting pitfalls before falling into them.

Written by Mark Randall

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