New World Notes calls our attention to Avatar Kinect, which basically brings graphical chat rooms to the XBox Live platform.
This is indeed a powerful development. The Kinect has been selling like hotcakes (8 million of them in sixty days), and as a result, there’s now a pretty substantial install base that could get into this.
It’s clear to see the potential for sales of virtual goods and the like; right now, they offer scenes in which you can conduct your chats, but over time, adding in the features to make those into virtual apartments is not at all hard to picture. Add in robust enough objects to buy and the ability to customize your space, and you start getting something that feels like, well, Metaplace.com or Second Life with voice chat and kinesthetic controls. But for now, it’s more like IMVU or Lively, probably, and we shall see how it goes.
One thing that is interesting is that Live is centered on avatars that are pseudonymous but strongly identifiable; there’s an intrinsic extant reputation system there that this system will effectively plug into and leverage. This may reduce the amount of prurient chatrooms and the like (which something like the Kinect surely invites!). It is also telling how little the video centers on technology and how much it centers on women.
Given the connectivity, I cannot help but ponder why avatars as an intermediating technology, rather than video chat.
- Avatars intermediate; this lets you put all participants in one environment, rather than stitching together disparate couches and living rooms
- There may well be plans to leverage the pseudonymity into synchronous social game experiences
- The avatars do allow for a more radical expression of personality that video would, essentially making for a richer profile; I can’t have my weird pet from Limbo cavorting around me in a video call, but I could here.
All in all, an interesting development; I look forward to trying it out.