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Philip Finlay-Bryan

Research and Development, Microsoft Partner

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Robots vs Avatars : Social interaction can be better facilitated through a robot or through an avatar?

An avatar I shall be referring to is one created in Second Life (secondlife.com), a global 3D cybercommunity discussed in an article on cyberculture (onlybrackets.hubpages.com). Firstly an avatar is capable of a far greater range of gestures and interactions than a robot. It can be modeled and dressed to suit any virtual or real environment. If it is winter where one user is they can mimic the real world and dress accordingly. An avatar is ideal for communication at a distance. Real family's exist in second life and I have witnessed 3rd generation interaction. Young avatars can interact with grandma avatars. Grandma will assist the youth in creating their avatar thus creating a sense of identity and ownership. Interactive play goes on. Currently a 16 year old age limit is in force but could this not be reduced?

Communication can be through voice (microphone) or for those able through typing in a chat box.

As a learning / teaching aide an avatar may attend programmed classes, a gym for example and will be expected to follow a regime in the real world. By engaging in a virtual group activity as an avatar peer support can be had. It would be possible to mimic an overweight avatar, programmed with the users bmi and, as they progress in the real world the avatar would change shape. Virtual classrooms with programmed study exist.

An avatar is also your cyber representative able to meet new people and explore new environments. An avatar is ideal for those with mobility difficulties.

This is all on screen therefore would fall short of having the physical interaction that a robot can provide. We anthropomorphize robots how much easier this is with an avatar. I found an article http://www.robotsandavatars.net/documentation/writing/artificial-intelligence-report/ that looks at the skill sets of young people required up to 2020 that is of interest. Note the article is from Robots AND Avatars. Therefore perhaps it is not "either" but rather "both"?

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