An interesting moment in transgressing my own boundaries between self and avatar. Rarely have we appeared together and here only in the name of science.
This video came about from a little research that was carried out in advance of an upcoming, 7th July, symposium that we will be presenting to a remote audience in Kuala Lumpar. We cannot be there physically so my question was, if we decide to use Second Life in what ways can we create maximum social presence?
I am an immersionist, that is I let StevenW build his own space inside SL, yet I am interested in ways to move information in and out of Second Life, punching holes through the membrane and linking in-world and out-of-world experiences. The porosity of SL has changed over time with channels opening for blogging; twitter, web-browsing, SL to Flickr, audio, facebook links, and streaming video. Taking the scenario of a face-2-face conference blended with SL participants I took a peek at the different ways to stream live video into SL. Inspired by posts from both AndyPowell and Rob Smart's blogs I set up a quick trial with Veodia, knowing their live video webstreaming service is now available for free and is offered in a format compatible with Second Life.
So how was it? Well simple, so simple I was left wondering what the catch was, bandwidth issues aside. Here is a quick run through of the steps I followed:
- Opened an account with Veodia, a straightforward exercise;
- Clicked through the screens to start my first broadcast;
- Pressed the appropriate button and let my Apple MacPro do the audio-video and capture;
- Previewed the stream to check I was on air and then copied the rtsp URL provided by Veodia from the live broadcast page;
- Launched Second Life;
- Made a coffee while I waited to get in-world ;)
- Knocked up a quick media screen, set the textures and then pasted the rtsp stream URL into the land parcel settings;
- Pressed the media player button in SL;
- Bingo, there I was alive and kicking in the virtual universe.
Whether we will use this for the symposium I am still unsure, my preference I think would be to have the audience streamed into SL so that we have some sense of those who are watching and listening in the conference room. Testing the set-up with fellow panelists uncovered three issues that are driving me away from using SL as a conferencing tool:
- First and most obvious is the heavy bandwidth requirements for this configuration and the related issue of delay, around 3-5 seconds, between the capture and delivery of the video stream;
- Second is the lack of status or feedback indicators, the kind of thing you find when using a tool like Elluminate where you can ask the audience questions and get feedback through a series of emoticons that includes useful items like the 'hands-up' attention grabber;
- Third follows a similar line and concerns the difficulty in providing a mechanism for live audience participation. Setting up a back channel would be an ideal solution and making use of the main SL chat window would be the natural place for this. Yet to my knowledge it is still impossible to remotely work with SL chat so delegates would need to log into SL if they wanted to use the chat window. The option of using a lightweight client such as AjaxLife might be a solution, if the audience all have SL accounts or deploying a non-integrated chat client bought in through the in-world media browser. Both options are still not ideal.
There is perhaps a fourth reason, intimated at the start of this post, the separation of avatar and typist. My avatar and me do not appear in public together, or least not very often and somehow that feels right. The quandry of where to post snapshots of us both together, Flickr seemed at first the obvious place, confirmed to me that despite the fuzzy boundary between real and virtual identities they remain in many aspects decoupled. SL is a different space and there exists a differentiated person which goes someway to explain my discomfort in completely collapsing our two identities.