The Virtual Building Company


Enterprise Applications for Virtual Worlds

Antoine Lavoisier's Laboratoire (Paris 1772) - Virtual Reconstruction

Photo: Antoine Lavoisier's Laboratoire (Paris 1772) - Virtual Reconstruction

Why do avatars wear clothes and why are we embarrassed, when as occasionally happens, our avatar inadvertantly appears in-world without any clothes?

A key fact about virtual worlds is that behind every avatar is a human being sitting at a keyboard and all of the events that occurr to his/her avatar are experiences similar to those in real life but at a distance.


The word which describes this experience is 'immersion'. A real life example of immersion would be a stage or cinema actor who in preparation for playing a role does character research by living the real life experiences of a blind person or a polar explorer.

In a virtual world immersion in the character of the avatar is the same and if that character is yourself the experience can be very similar to that of a real life experience. Think how easily cinema can scare us, even though we are sitting safely in a comfortable armchair.

Similarly immersion can be enhanced by the scene. In the context of the theatre or cinema attention to detail is brought to the scene by the set dresser and prop designer who's skill enhances our experience of believability. The same is true of a virtual world, a desert of sand creates the ambience of 'desert', a building without walls or roof would be more of an al fresco meeting space than an office or domestic residence.

Of course there is no reason why an imaginative employer couldn't relocate his telesales staff to a beach bar with pino coladas and sun cream to hand, the distractions of bikini clad employees and the sound of surf may be a distraction from the business at hand but it may also be an incentive for your customers. Truth to appearance is key to the immersive experience and in a virtual world or online game the users sense of psychologically 'being there' is often a very intense experience.

As in theatre there is also the willing 'suspension of disbelief', where we allow ourselves to temporarily believe the reality of what we are watching and the role of the virtual world designer is to enhance that experience whereby the user feels to be fully part of - immersed in the visual on-screen action. The comparison with cinema is apt, but the big difference is that in a virtual world you are one of the actors and not simply part of a passive audience.