Realism in VR teleconferencing

Vi Hart visited our lab today. She and some of the grad students and I had a great conversation about holding meetings in VR — a topic which is obviously of great interest at the moment.

One of the things we agreed upon was that it is not all that useful to focus on realism in the avatars of the participants. When you are meeting in VR, the important thing is that everybody can focus together on the task at hand.

The shared “information physics” of the objects you can see, hear and manipulate together is of paramount importance. Your view of each other doesn’t need to be literally correct, because you can use your innate human intelligence to convey meaning.

This will work for the same reason that talking on the telephone works. We don’t need to see each other to talk on the telephone — we just need to make sure our meaning is clear.

So in a sense, working together in a VR teleconference is like having a telephone call where you can see where people are looking, and also what their hands are doing. I don’t think you need realistic avatars for that to be a very rich interaction space indeed.

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