So my company (DiamondWare) has developed high-definition 3D proximity-based voice technology. It is now available in Second Life (on the beta grid at the moment). It lets you walk up to people, have a conversation, and then walk away when you’re done. Each voice sounds like it’s coming from the respective avatar. The sound is clear.
For those of you who haven’t been in Second Life yet, it is a 3D virtual world. People make their avatars look the way they want, face, hair, clothing, etc. Some of them even look like people! They also make other objects, like buildings, trees, lampposts, and hookahs. Yes, those large pots for burning plant material. They have multiple hoses so that a group can all smoke at once.
I was completely blown away on the first day of the open beta.
I heard voices down by the beach and walked over there. I found a group of young adults who were talking and joking and smoking. It was like any gathering you might find on a beach or in a city park somewhere. There was even a guy playing guitar. They were having a grand old time. I spent about 15 minutes there before I realized how unique this experience was.
I’ve been involved in developing this technology for almost 10 years. I know intimately its architecture and components. I worked through the process of integrating it into Second Life. But on that virtual beach in this online virtual world, I forgot all this.
Because of the guitar.
It’s something you almost take for granted in a group of people hanging out. There is the talk, the girls flirting with the guys, the clink of a beer bottle being pulled from a cooler chest, and a guitar. Music sets the mood.
My career is in streaming media over the Internet, so I’ve thought about streaming music. MP3, Podcast, etcŠ But this was different.
This was a guy playing guitar-strumming some chords for the most part-in a live group of people hanging out. It is not a “streaming music” application per se. Though there was music and it was being streamed. Sorta. It was _live_ music. It had that interplay with the conversation and the antics that made all the difference.
It was completely unique because it it wasn’t possible before. It takes everything this new technology has to offer. 3D means the guitar sounded like it was coming from the guitarist. You can move around the beach and it feels solid and real. Proximity-based means that there is no “chat room”, you can walk up to the guitar to get closer, or farther away to emphasize a more intimate discussion. High-definition audio means this is the first mainstream VoIP application with sound quality good enough where a guitar sounds like a guitar making music. You wouldn’t want to hear a guitar over Skype, let alone a mobile phone.
And these folks didn’t care about the technology. They weren’t even talking about it. They take technology for granted, and just use it. In this case, to hang out, talk, joke, laugh, cry, strum a guitar, and pretend to be a little naughty smoking a hookah .