Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Speak up! Maybe... Emergent Voice in SL

I left a comment on the official Linden blog in response to Joe's announcement about the voice features coming to Second Life, yet felt it necessary to repeat my comments here, in a differently visible forum.

My general position is fairly neutral, I'll probably use voice within a close circle of friends, who already use voice extensively via Skype. Yet, I'm a bit disappointed in the implementation for a number of reasons. Here's the comment I posted:

It's interesting how proximity-based seems to mimic hard-wired phones. In RL, we live in a world where wireless communication allows us the ability to move about. That's one of the frustrating things about those Vivox phonebooths. We *have to* be there, and no other place. Group IMs and IMs in general, do afford us the luxury of moving around.

It won't be surprising to see Skype, TeamSpeak, or Vent continue to be used, because they exist regardless of where we may be.

The same exists with music streaming... the community over time, had decided to share URLs for people who couldn't get to an event, or had someplace else to be-- even though the SL client and the music streaming parts are separate, music is tied to a parcel. From my understanding, this has been done for purposes of immersion, and vetoed before (even before my time).

The thing I'd encourage everyone to watch is the emergent uses of the voice aspects of SL. It might be used for things far more creative than simple communication, since it is limited in its design.

While writing this, another issue came to mind: when building or camming about, I don't hear proximity-based sounds like typing and effects, especially if I'm zooomed out. Music, however will still play because my avatar is located on a parcel, and that system is not affected by my camera movements.

Will the voice system operate like this or is it true proximity that will be voided by the position of my camera? My thoughts are (if I read this correctly), that no, I'd not be able to hear you talk if I'm cammed out. Time will tell.


  1. My experience of voice in SL was somewhat unexpected. Having long thought the absence of voice was a hole in the system (a view I still hold), and not being a fan of Vivox, I was pleased when SecondTalk came out and I could leverage the use of my existing Skype account to chat with friends, new and old.

    In order to test it out, I encouraged an SL friend to install the cute little "virtual bluetooth headset" and we were all set to have our first ever voice conversation when we both realised we were uncomfortable.

    We had been chatting/IMing happily for quite a while and part of the discomfort was moving to a form of communication that was alien to the nature of relationship. But there was more to it than that...

    The strength of voice is its immediacy and its ability to convey nuance. No more tedious typing, with constant use of emoticons. However, we quickly realised that was also its greatest weakness. In chat or IM the asynch nature of the interaction allows you more time to consider what you want to say, rather than just blurting out the next response. I think we'd both argue that the quality of our chat conversations was significantly better as a result. In speech, as in radio, there is a need to fill "dead air" - and we humans are geared toward a very low threshold in this regard: "Human nature abhors a sound vacuum."

    In the event, we had problems getting SecondTalk working - but verified Skype setup was OK by conversing directly outside of SL. I have to say, it was good to talk, but it was "us" talking, not our avatars.

    We concluded with the view that, counter-intuitively, voice would be more suited to relatively impersonal conversation - say, in the delivery of training, or professional meetings - rather than to chats with good friends.

    Obviously, it's different strokes for different folks - but I was so surprised by this outcome in my case, I felt it worth sharing with you.

  2. Voice chat will work via IM as well.
    "Scenario 3 - One-to-one personal communication. This enables
    Residents to privately share a conversation, which can be initiated by an Instant Message. Residents don’t have to be on voice-enabled land to do this."

    "there is a need to fill "dead air" - and we humans are geared toward a very low threshold in this regard: "Human nature abhors a sound vacuum." "
    I have allways found that interresting, i never really had that need(I'm wierd i know). And it is great to just sometimes say nothing and see how people react. They will feel the need to speak, and often will then go right deeper into the subject we where talking about. It is easier then asking a good question. :D

  3. Hmmmm.. sounds like Frans would make an ideal psychoanalyst!

  4. I'm wierd like Fran. My audio and video remain muted except for specific odd uses. Voice will as well. I don't generally play the radio in the car or leave the TV on for noise either. A quiet atmosphere is much more comfortable and relaxing for me than one filled with spatial ambient racket.