Mixed-Reality Glitches

In addition to using one or several virtual worlds as platforms for collaboration and personal networking, many of our QSL group members are interested in what is being called by some “mixed-reality” events. These include conferences or meetings projected in one or both directions between “real life” and a virtual world. In the past week I attended two such events.

The first meeting was held jointly in Boulder, Colorado and in a dome on the rooftop of the full-scale Vehicle Assembly Building model at the International Spaceflight Museum (ISM) in SecondLife™ (SL). The group holding the meeting is called Serious SecondLife in Boulder Meetup. This was the group’s second mixed-reality event held at the ISM, but only the latest of several similar events they have held at various SL locations.

We are starting to get the bugs worked out of the technology for holding such events, but some issues remain. One of the speakers at the Boulder event, Erica Driver of Forrester Research, blogged about her view of the event in a very thoughtful and helpful way. From my perspective I can say that Ms. Driver seemed to have more trouble with her audio than most people attending in Boulder, but she was certainly not the only one to experience problems. The video feed also suffered from repeated dropouts, probably because of insufficient bandwidth, and the camera placement was sometimes a little weird, aimed at the audience or even empty chairs instead of at the speakers. However, even with all the snags, the Boulder meeting went better than one held at NASA Ames Research Center this weekend.

For the NASA conference, there were avatars in SecondLife driven by a few people at Ames projecting their avatar’s points of view onto overhead screens, but only one avatar was acting as a repeater for audio for the SecondLife attendees, using SL’s voice chat tool. Sadly, the people at NASA used a voice-activated microphone that kept cutting out because the input volume was set too low. As a result, the people in SL could not follow what was being said, and since there was no video and the program was running a little late, they even had trouble trying to figure out who was speaking at any particular time. But all was not lost. The audience in SecondLife “rezzed” couches and chairs on the Moon’s surface at NASA CoLab and sat around chatting among themselves while not being able to hear the conference. I was told afterwards that we looked great on the screens in California. So, what’s important, anyway?

– Kat Lemieux (SL) / Katherine Prawl

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