The 3d environment is the moving image on a user’s computer screen plus the sound from the computer speakers. Users interact with the virtual environment using key strokes, mouse and microphone.
The image is 3 dimensional in two senses: first, in that the user can control the screen view, “the camera”, move in/out, pan left/right and turn to move the visual perspective that they have of the scene, second, the screen view includes an avatar under control of the user which allows the user to ‘explore’ the environment. As the user moves the avatar, this changes the screen view (“the camera” view follows along behind the avatar’s head).
|The inclusion of the controllable avatar is what makes this technology ‘immersive’ in a way that other “2 ½ d” computer technology such as “3d video” and “flash movies” is not.|
The immersive environment
It is important to realize that, in general, users don’t manipulate the computer image directly but rather by having their avatar do something in the environment, e.g. walk around, open a door, wave at another avatar, reposition an object in a room. Also note that if the source of a sound is an object in the environment, stereo speakers will reflect the distance and location of the source relative to the user’s avatar. So, if you want to increase the volume you move your avatar closer to the source of the sound.
It is an interactive simulation that allows the user to interact in real time with other users to perform joint tasks in the simulated environment.
User communication with other users via the virtual environment is possible because the screen presentation of the environment can contain other avatars controlled by other users. This virtual environment will be the same, in real time, for the users of other avatars. If I cause my avatar to move or to make a change in the environment, users of other avatars close by will see that change on their screens. Users communicate with other avatar users, using voice, instant message chat (public or private) and avatar gestures.
The virtual environment is persistent over time. If what my avatar and your avatar did today created any artifacts of our experience, they will be there tomorrow when your avatar or mine or anybody else comes back. This means that avatars and environments have a history.
3D is better at creating
“co-presence” (sense of being with others)
“place-presence” (the virtual is a place not a computer screen image)
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