Friday, February 18, 2011

A Look Ahead: Virtual Worlds in Aerospace & Defense

Virtual Worlds educators Roundtable 3 Feb 2011 
Location: VWER Meeting

image courtesy of Sheila Webber's flickr photostream

Back on Feb. 3, were pleased to host two Greg Moxness & Charles O’Connell, technologists from a major US defense contractor, who spoke at some length about their predictions for virtual worlds entering the mainstream. They were not speaking in their role of company employees, but they spoke knowledgeably about how technological advances might reshape 3D immersive environments.

I'll summarize some of their points below. You can read the entire transcript here.
  • Charles, on convincing coworkers of the value of virtual worlds, “Seed the young with ideas, soon become the decision makers or at least influencers–took about 4 years.”
  • Charles on developments to come “not sure military or defense is leading in this case. [Advances] more from commercial spaces, gaming and entertainment.”
  • Greg, on near-term advances: “the whole idea of gesture recognition and 3d worlds this could be this year or next”
  • Greg suspects we’ll see “full body haptics,” and Charles notes “Haptics–likely to be involved because it has such high value. [It's] never all or nothing. 2D and 3D will exist together….documents and spreadsheets along with 3D objects”
  • Greg on neural interfaces like those in Gibson’s Neuromancer: “[M]aybe a step too far. . .maybe 20-30 years but will the human become less and will the machines evolve?” Charles: “a key thing that might happen, if it can be done noninvasively, something outside the body that can monitor brain waves, nerve impulses.” (Iggy’s note to any student readers: from Anderson’s novel Feed, that is the early version of the Feed interface).
  • Greg agreed with the following remark by Charles, about the relative merits of 2D and 3D environments for training: “3D has immense possibilities, not an either/or question. Use 2D when better suited, or good enough. 3D [is for] experimentation or experiencing things not possible for some reason in RL.”
  • Greg on an advantage of virtual worlds, the need online for something approximating face-to-face contact. Charles notes his belief that “relationships are much stronger in VW.”
  • Charles also came out in favor of transparency in avatar identities (if not appearance) noting, “Treat people with respect, it’s a real place. One life, not two. It’s probably best to be yourself when dealing with others in VW.”
I look forward to their returning to the Roundtable in 2012.

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