Postulate on the Importance of Avatar Visibility

All the recent improvements in the ways we as humans interact with the digital (see Project Natal for a good example), and Cameron’s Avatar movie which depicts a direct brain interface control, got me to thinking…how important is it really to see the avatar you control?

Most immersive environments either show your avatar within the environment (3rd person overhead view), or show the environment directly from the avatar’s eye (first person, mouse look view).  Many give you options to change between viewpoints, and some allow you to “disconnect” your viewpoint from the avatar (like a movie depiction of an outer-body experience).  A view of the avatar helps the user control the avatar, making it easier to move & interact.

I postulate that the importance of seeing your own avatar decreases (and seeing others avatars increases) as it becomes easier to make your avatar mimic your own body.  Here’s a simple little infographic I sketched this afternoon to convey my thought:

I would be interested in hearing if others agree or disagree, and their rationale.

2 Responses to Postulate on the Importance of Avatar Visibility

  1. “I postulate that the importance of seeing your own avatar decreases (and seeing others avatars increases) as it becomes easier to make your avatar mimic your own body.”

    I agree with this in general, Jeff, as it seems we only need to see our avatars to ensure that they are doing what we want them to do. However one of the first questions my students, who are new to OpenSim, ask is how they can change the camera view to see their own avatar’s face. I expect once this fascination passes, that your thesis will prove true.
    I hadn’t thought about it until now, but my favorite FPS games (Half Life 1 and 2) actually prevent me by default from seeing my own face. For some, being reminded that they have an avatar may reduce the immersive experience, while for others, it may enhance it.
    Sounds like an experiment coming up!

  2. Ener Hax says:

    interesting point and certainly one that psychologist will debate for years

    off the top of my head (pun intended as in viewing the top of my head) i like seeing my avatar. not from as far as the default follow distance, but i for sure like seeing all of her and a few feet on each side. for two main reasons: one is for safety. i need to see a bit around me and will defend my avatar if needed (more an sl experience than reaction grid). this point may be somewhat culturally and/or gender dependent

    i think it was stanford that did a study that concluded that female avatars stand closer to others and make it a point to be facing them, whereas male avatars tended to be further apart and not make as much eye contact. i know that it is important that my avatar be looking at the face of whoever is chatting with me (but that may be a canadian thing too, we have that rep for being polite and all) =)

    the second point is that i feel a connection when my avatar is near another avatar. an intimacy (not sexual) that i don’t get with a video skype. seeing my little me there with another makes me feel more immersed and collaborative, rather than just s face (and hands for signing) on someone else’s monitor

    i think part of that intimacy is also created out of my ability to do more projection onto the other person. since avatars can’t be very expressive, it’s easier for me to imagine the best from the other in things like smiling and agreeing for example

    my two cents anyway, thanks for the thought provoking post, it is a very good topic =)

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