Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Virtual worlds, all things considered

Luckily for me, I have a lot of friends who send me research and stories about the use of virtual worlds, some in particular for learning, since my nose has been to the grindstone building one of my own.

Its only fair that I share the wealth and pass along some of the stories I've found most interesting lately (although they've been published over the last few takes me awhile to get caught up).

There's already been a bit of research done on using virtual world technology for medical education, surgical training, etc., but this article talks about the use of virtual worlds for patient education. Given the opportunity to connect with other patients and maintain a certain level of anonymity, I would surmise that very soon, virtual worlds will be one of the most interesting ways that patients receive disease and therapeutic information, in addition to building strong support communities.

MSN recently featured this story about body consciousness and avatars. I spent a lot of time researching and thinking about avatars, especially as the development of our virtual world identities evolve and avatars are our primary means of engagement with others in-world. I still believe avatars are one of the keys to the success of virtual worlds; understanding the psychology of how we identify ourselves in digital medium will reveal important data on how to increase participation and maintain user engagement.

What if the future isn't really virtual, just augmented? Augmented reality has been much discussed recently; check out this game to see how merging the real and digital can make for some extremely innovative ways of interacting with others, and the world. I particularly like the idea of augmented reality in allowing for competition and game play. Maybe augmented reality experiences will be the catalyst to bring virtual worlds more mainstream?

Finally, love this talk by Jane McGonigal. If you don't have time to check it out, I want to draw particular attention to the four points that she identifies as keys to engagement:

1. satisfying work to do
2. the experience of being good at something
3. time spent with people we like
4. the chance to be part of something bigger

She makes note of how World of Warcraft addresses these points--interesting that no matter what world you're in, these are probably the things that matter most to keep you engaged.

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