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g2gp 17-01-2009
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Section 4: Collaborative Virtual Environments#

4.3 Interaction and communication#

The avatar (see Section 4.2) is a user's main device for interaction within the 3-D environment. Many of the avatars in on-line communities have predefined scripts which, when executed, cause the avatar to move or gesture in a certain way. The gestures available are most commonly such things as waving, dancing, smiling or, in other words, actions or emotions that are easily conveyed by movement.

Gesturing is not the only way to communicate. All on-line communities have chat-boxes and chat-logs. A chat-log shows the conversation between all users and a chat-box is where a user enters a contribution to the conversation. Some chat tools have features that give users control over the conversations that they take part in. For example, messages from all users in the same room (area or world) are usually displayed for all to see. But some chat tools allow users to prevent messages from specific individuals from being displayed in their chat window. Other chat tools allow private conversations between users and offer a 'private chat' mode where the conversation is invisible to the other inhabitants.

Users are easily distracted from the 3-D environment when writing and reading chat messages. In general, once inhabitants have started to be engaged in a conversation, there isn't much movement or interaction with the world. This is a paradox for developers, who hope that users will interact using both the 3-D interface and the chat tools.

The Virtual Reality Case Study Library includes some guidelines on the 'netiquette' of collaborative virtual environments.

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