Hands down, no doubt, the best conference I’ve attended. Since there were so many stimulating talks, questions, & conversations, I will attempt to synthesize my observations topically in the next few postings.
Terminology Tossed Salad: What do we call this technology? Is it Virtual Reality, Virtual Worlds, Immersive Internet, Immersive Technology, 3D Virtual Environments, Multiple User Virtual Environments? Keynote Joe Little (BP), prefers 3D Virtual Environment (3DVE), the ThinkBalm team prefers “Immersive Internet“, although most individuals’ default is still virtual worlds. I have a problem with the terms “virtual worlds,” “virtual reality,” and “virtual” for that matter. All have baggage that cloud the clear perception and potential of the technology.
First, the “virtual”. I’m a huge sci-fi fan (but was humbled at the ThinkBalm Innovation Community meetup by the sci-fi prowess of Mark Oehlert & Sam Driver…I am in awe). Sci-fi is a double-edged sword to immersive technology. It sparks the imagination and feeds the possible, but it brings with it the entire genre. It’s entertainment, it’s accessible only by those with advanced technological skills, it’s speculative & not practical, it’s not real. Basically, it’s niche entertainment for nerds. To some, the term “virtual” brings images of “Tron” or “Lawnmower Man” or any number of low budget 80’s alien or mind-control films. A collection of entertainments that reinforce the “unrealness” of the virtual. Link that term with any other, and you still bring the associated baggage.
As far as “reality” goes, isn’t it all real? We don’t call talking on the phone “virtual” or “simulated” interaction.
I choose to use the term “immersive”. It brings with it a sense of presence, space, of surrounding oneself in something. You can immerse yourself in a sport, in a hobby, in work, in an environment. It’s focuses on the person experiencing and the potential for the subject being experienced to impact that person. The degree of immersion is important, since the greater the sense of presence, the greater the engagement in the subject becomes. Immersive technology is thus any technology utilized that incorporates the 3 dimentional in creating an experience of presence.