Like the first lecture, this is just an outline.
NVEs must pay more attention to human to human interfaces. This is the Computer Mediated Communication, CMC, part of an NVE.
Contrary to say, Jaron Lanier, designers of NVEs have to take into account human factors like any other software designer.
Lots of research has been done into CSCW and CMC. Don't ignore it just because it isn't VR.
For the same reason, research from the 60's, 70's, 80's is still just as valid today. Your Pentium 4 may be a zillion times faster than the computers back then, but the human beings trying to use your software have the same capabilities.
There is no new generation of computer users with a magical understanding of technology. Kids today may have grown up with computers, and are therefore less or not at all intimidated by them, but that doesn't mean they understand your design any better than anyone else.
In fact, having grown up with smart toys and game consoles with superbly designed user interfaces and interaction, they are likely to be less tolerant of bad design than those who learned to use older and more painful systems.
Essential for CSCW, including NVE, because the impact of each bug or crash is multiplied.
If given application crashes about 1 day in every 100, and lose 5 minutes each time:
Individual user uns every working day, will crash about every 5 months,
= about 15 minutes per year
Group of 10 collaborating (same time) every day, now crashes 1 in 10,
or every fortnight.
Each crash loses 50 minutes since failure of one affects whole group.
= 22 hours per year.
And this is assuming that the system is still as reliable when ten copies are interacting with each other rather than just a single user!
Jonathon Grudin, Microsoft, 1988: In any kind of CSCW, those doing the work should be those who benefit.
Counter example: networked calendars. Everyone had to fill them in, but only senior managers gained any advantage - and they had secretaries to manage their own calendars.
Why will people want to use your NVE? "Because it looks really cool" won't be enough!
Just because you can create a virtual model of the real world doesn't mean you should.
Good: simulators. Both military and airlines need highly realistic VEs.
Bad: forcing people to walk everywhere in virtual environments. MUDs and MOOs allow teleporting directly and instantaneously to any given location.
Example: Mac desktop for navigating file system. Command line interfaces relied on user memory and symbolic commands. The Apple Mac introduced a 2D spatial layout for the filesystem, so users could rely on recognition instead.
This is breaking down for todays huge internal hard disks, and doesn't work for the far more complex WWW. Lots of companies have tried creating 3D version of the web, a William Gibson style cyberspace. They've all gone broke.
Real solution to the "unthinkable complexity" has turned out to be Google, which isn't even 2D graphics.
Here we will look at CSCW type software: a team of people who (probably) know each other and who have come together to perform some real world task within an NVE.
Task is why people are in NVE.
Channel is how they communicate
Task types: (very broad overview):
How rich a channel is how expressive it is in conveying not just ideas but also emotional context.
The more important the task, the richer channels should be. It is very easy to be misunderstood with just plain text of email or instant messaging.
Predictions that video conferencing would replace face to face meetings in business have not come true, partly because of awkward implementations but also because people are simply not comfortable making important decisions without a same place, face to face, communication channel.
Don't overlook existing technology! Rather than implement a computer voice chat system, why not just use cell phones?
Identity and role are the basis of
A real world individual may have multiple online identities, or multiple roles for a single identity depending on the task. Example: Within ANU computer systems system administrator has unlimited powers, a staff member can do lots of things, a student very little. A single person may have three identities, one for each. The staff identity will be used for browsing the web, reading email, and so on without worrying about system-wide consequences. The student identity will be used to test that lab exercises haven't been accidentally written to require staff authorisation.
Early researchers and VR writers often predicted that people online would frequently change their identities. This has not happened, at least in work-related NVEs, because other people become upset if they find out that you've been pretending to be someone else. Even so, most people show some differences in behaviour online compared to offline.
This is perhaps disappointing: online CSCW theoretically removes gender/status imbalances that exist in the real world. Unfortunately, the richer channels put them back! Hope for future (from Donald Norman) is real time special effects generation, which will allow anyone to speak or look how they wish over video/audio.
NVEs are also created for as public access systems, museum/installation art pieces, and in particular MUDs, MOOs, and MMOGs.
It may not be "work", but this does not mean that users will accept an inferior system or be less emotionally involved in tasks. Since they are paying to use the NVE rather than being paid, they often have much higher expectations and commitment in time or money.
Work based NVEs are usually written for an existing community: company employees, fighter pilots, etc. In playful NVEs existing social groups may move online, and social groups will form from people who meet online.
Online identity is virtual, "constructed", and very changeable. If you are becoming an elven wizard or post-apocalyptic warlord, changing your personality is not a big deal. It can still be disconcerting to those used to the real world where identity is fairly stable. Gender swapping - males online as females or vice versa - is very common in NVEs.
Avatars are the visual/aural/whatever representation of your identity in an NVE. Your avatar need not have any resemblance to your real world appearance, and participants will expect a great deal of control over the appearance of their avatar.
Guidelines, mostly from Brenda Laurel:
Example: Sony EverQuest sale of virtual things.
In traditional RPG games you must struggle and bleed to achieve rank, property, or possessions. This is also how you are "supposed" to behave in EverQuest.
In the real world, you can buy stuff without having to go through all this. So people now buy, with real money, EverQuest virtual property and possessions, even in some cases whole identities.
Sony try to crack down on this, because they regard it as "cheating." More sensible to set up another virtual world where it is allowed and take their money.
MUD player types from Richard Bartle:
Player behaviour survey from Habitat:
Very close to 25% in each of four possible combinations.
These different perceptions of online identity can cause severe problems. If I regard the avatar (online identity) as me, acting as myself, I will be deeply offended if I am virtually killed by another player who regards avatars as someone else and not bound by real world behaviour. They, however, won't understand what the fuss is about.
The results are often fascinating, and if you are planning to build a commercial MMOG, you really need to be familiar with the differences between how people were expected to behave in MMOGs and what they actually do.
One example is real world social groups. MMOGs, or at least the first few, did not take into account real world social groups. People started using email and instant messaging to communicate over distances that weren't "allowed" by the MMOG itself. Most players don't build their online avatars up by hard work as the designers intended, instead they are twinked by their friends to higher levels and abilities.
Another is the interaction between the virtual and real world economic systems. Huge amounts of real money are being spent, already, on virtual properties and goods. This was completely unforeseen by the original designers. Economics professor E Castronova has written a number of entertaining and thought provoking articles on the topic.
Written by Hugh Fisher