Virtual reality needs more realistic expressions, less fox-people, says Second Life creator

One of the obstacles to virtual reality is, well, that it’s virtual. Most people would just naturally hang out with real people opposed to a plastic-faced, bushy-tailed Second Life avatar. This was the gist of the conversation when The Atlantic talked with Linden Labs founder Philip Rosedale, whose new project High Fidelity seeks to seamlessly combine the interactions of a virtual world with those of the real world. Here’s what he had to say:

Virtual reality is not any different than reality once you close the communication gap,” he said. “Most of the progress has to come in this face-to-face interaction.” To improve people’s perceptions of avatars, “the thing that’s going to be really demanding is your face and your eyes and the sound of your voice and the nuance of your body movement. When everybody says ‘real,’ oh, we’re going to lose the real—that’s what they mean.

This is a good point. While the traditional school of thought has been that realistic graphics alone make the virtual believable, what Rosedale is saying here is that it’s more about capturing the small details of the way we interact with one another, such as body language and facial expression. This sounds like a positive step towards making virtual reality more people-friendly, as long as I don’t have to give up my centaur avatar.