When I was going through my Masters program in Education Technology, I several classes where we used Second Life as an instructional medium. Most people who have used it think it’s cool but ultimately it’s not the true virtual reality we had hoped it would be. One of the primary reasons for this is the quality of graphics and the lack of human expressions of the avatars. Here’s a video showing Second Life, if you have never seen it before.
This lack of fidelity has some parallels in complaints teachers have with online learning. Namely, you can’t really interact with your students like you can in the classroom. I feel however that the future of online learning will take place in virtual spaces like Second Life rather than via a video chatroom. Turns out, technology is moving forward to increase the fidelity and realism of the experience.
I came across this story (H/T Kurzweil AI) that talks about how Philip Rosedale, the founder of Second Life has created some new technology to enhance how the avatars online will work. Here’s a video.
Obviously the face is not realistic but it’s just a demo. This ability to match what your face is doing is impressive. Now, couple this technology with this level quality of a face and you have a very cool avatar for use in online learning. To go further, couple this with Google’s new technology where it can realtime translate your voice and you have a virtual avatar that can communicate to anyone in the world, in your own native language. (see Realtime Voice Translation Moves Closer)
It’s still a few years off but the technology has been proven here. Awesome!