Online Worlds: Convergence of the Real and the Virtual

Part of the series Human-Computer Interaction Series pp 187-200


Speaking in Character: Voice Communication in Virtual Worlds

  • Greg WadleyAffiliated withDepartment of Information Systems, The University of Melbourne Email author 
  • , Martin R. GibbsAffiliated withDepartment of Information Systems, The University of Melbourne

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This chapter summarizes 5 years of research on the implications of introducing voice communication systems to virtual worlds. Voice introduces both benefits and problems for players of fast-paced team games, from better coordination of groups and greater social presence of fellow players on the positive side, to negative features such as channel congestion, transmission of noise, and an unwillingness by some to use voice with strangers online. Similarly, in non-game worlds like Second Life, issues related to identity and impression management play important roles, as voice may build greater trust that is especially important for business users, yet it erodes the anonymity and ability to conceal social attributes like gender that are important for other users. A very different mixture of problems and opportunities exists when users conduct several simultaneous conversations in multiple text and voice channels. Technical difficulties still exist with current systems, including the challenge of debugging and harmonizing all the participants’ voice setups. Different groups use virtual worlds for very different purposes, so a single modality may not suit all.