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Innovations in Interfaces: Implications for VWs?

A variety of new human-computer, or human-machine, or human-gaming, interfaces have been revealed recently, and each could potentially impact the mainstreaming of virtual worlds.

Each interface portends to offer a new way of engaging with the content that is being relayed through the technology: in these cases, the computer or the console/handheld gaming device.

  • John Underkoffler, who worked with Steven Spielberg to realize the holographic computer interfaces in the Minority Report, discusses how they have been creating a strikingly similar computer interface.  Calling it the Spatial operating environment, the technology represents computer files as 3D images that can be manipulated into a variety of layouts to facilitate access.  Manipulation is done through motion sensors on the hands — the same type of manipulation found on smart phones or devices with touchscreens.  The difference being that by placing the sensors directly on the hands the screen vanishes, as it did in the movie.
  • Microsoft unveiled the update for their X-Box 360.  What had been codenamed “Project Natal” is now Microsoft’s Kinect.  As competition to the Nintendo Wii, whose naturalized interface propelled it into the stratosphere of sales and promoted more causal gamers to move to console games, the Kinect hopes to do away completely with a handheld interface device.  Instead, motion sensors, voice recognition, and facial recognition are supposed to give Kinect the ability to have the person’s actions directly correspond to the actions in the game, making it the most naturalized gaming interface devised that did not require virtual reality body gear.  Kinect will also provide an additional competitive edge as it includes interface software to play movies without the use of a remote.
  • Finally, not to be left behind in the innovation race, Nintendo is releasing a version of their handheld system, the DS, to produce 3D imagery without the need of wearing 3D glasses.  Nintendo 3DS is the first 3D gaming system that is not the vertigo inducing redness of Virtual Boy (also Nintendo) and does not require the use of any additional interface device, aka the Virtual Boy or 3D glasses.

The first two innovations in interfaces discussed here could potentially foreshadow the type of naturalized, or more naturalistic, interface virtual worlds need to become more commonly accepted by the public.  This assertion, of course, is assuming that one of the barriers to the wider distribution of virtual worlds technologies into the mainstream of medium use is the requirements placed upon the user for how to engage with the world, i.e. the interface.  The argument being that because virtual worlds are 3D representations of space, then the most natural means to interact with/in them would be as we do in the 3D space that is the physical world: with the entirety of our bodies and not just our hands.

This point is up for debate: would more naturalized, body motion control interfaces make casual users more likely to engage in virtual worlds?

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  1. CarrieLynn says

    The question I have, Decka, is the extent to which Kapor’s camera is being backed by a corporation. Microsoft, Nintendo, Apple — these are transnational corporations known by the mainstream and general public. The idea would be to create a groundswelling of support for such interfaces among the general public — i.e. to increase the amount of casual gamers who play more than just online puzzle games and Facebook apps — so as to increase the familiarity and comfort with engaging in more complex virtual worlds.

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