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Not Quite Face-to-Face, But Getting "There"

Discover.com: A Chat Room Like No Other

I don't think there will ever be a replacement for good old fashioned face-to-face encounters, there are some online "worlds" out there that are getting closer and closer to the social queues that we depend on for really understanding each other in communication.

There.com is in beta testing now and it's supposed to take the interaction in virtual worlds to a new level.

When your on-screen representative frowns, his shoulders sag along with the corners of his mouth. The prototype version offers more than 100 different emotional states to choose from�??everything from surprise to anger�??and Melcher says the plan is to release 10 new emotions per quarter.

Most of the time users convey emotion by typing short keystrokes, intensifying or dampening down their feelings depending on the situation. For example, typing angry with one apostrophe in front of the word gets you a scowl, while typing '''angry actually bares the incisors.

I read in Wired article in January that there is also a commercial aspect to There. Your character can spend real money on "Therebucks" that allow you to outfit yourself with designer clothes and accessories. For the organizers of there, this is like real money for no "real" goods- virtual retail.

People can buy clothes from partners like Nike, Levi Strauss and in auctions by other users with There's very own currency.

Some "Therebucks" will be included in the monthly fee expected to be about $10. Users also can purchase additional "Therebucks" with a credit card or earn them by creating activities.

The rates are expected to fluctuate as testing proceeds, though $1 now buys 1,787 Therebucks or about one-sixth of the price of a virtual dog, available in two breeds, or a buggy.

 

I've never been into virtual worlds like Everquest or Myst, but I'm really interested in what these virtual worlds can accomplish in terms of mimicking the emotions and non-verbal queues that are a fundamental problem of online communication.

Via: Tomalak's Realm