On 12 April the New York Times carried a piece entitled “3-d avatars could put you in two places at once”. According to the article researchers in virtual reality are predicting that 3-d conferencing could be available in as short a time-space as 5 years. This would give people the feeling of actually being physically present at the meeting when, in fact they could be at home in their living room. Indeed the researchers talk of people sleeping while their avatars represent them at meetings (they would be programmed to laugh at jokes etc)! The lazy sleeper could (later) catch up with had happened via a recording of the meeting.
While 3-d conferencing may be just around the corner I am very sceptical as regards the idea of your avatar being able to represent you, in your absence in bed or otherwise engaged. Meetings don’t always run as planned, agenda items may be added, deleted and discussions may go off on unexpected tangents. I can’t believe that artificial intelligence is, anytime soon going to be able to cope (in the absence of human intervention) with the complexities of meetings.
More generally I wonder whether this kind of conferencing is appropriate for all discussions. For example when discussing very sensitive matters how many people will be prepared to use 3-d avatars?
For the article please visit http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/science/12tier.html?_r=1