Posts tagged Avatars


‘America’s mindless killer robots must be stopped’ by Noel Sharkey

Read Robots and Avatars’ project champion Noel Sharkey‘s opinion column  on the mindless use of robots in war  in this week edition of the Guardian (3 December 2012).

‘The rational approach to the inhumanity of automating death by machines beyond the control of human handlers is to prohibit it

Are we losing our humanity by automating death?

Human Rights Watch (HRW) thinks so. In a new report, co-published with Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, they argue the “case against killer robots“. This is not the stuff of science fiction. The killer robots they refer to are not Terminator-style cyborgs hellbent on destroying the human race. There is not even a whiff of Skynet.

These are the mindless robots I first warned Guardian readers about in 2007 – robots programmed to independently select targets and kill them. Five years on from that call for legislation, there is still no international discussion among state actors, and the proliferation of precursor technologies continues unchecked.’

Read the article.


Want to find out about Avatars – make your own!

Robots and Avatars discusses and debates the future implications of using avatars within education and for young people; how they might or might not be best used to mediate identity or how we can think about collaboration with them but it is important not to forget that one of the best ways to find out about virtual presence is by making and using your own avatar. On the right is one I have just created! Alex - Avatar

The progression from experts having to create avatars to pretty much any user being able to experiment with virtual presence and virtual worlds has enabled a far greater integration of avatars, not just into our experience of using the web but also, into our everyday lives. The foremost environment for this is of course Second Life but avatars pop up all over the place – sometimes we don’t even realise that we are using them. Facets of more complex avatar identities found in Second Life and online gaming environments can be seen in much simpler terms on our Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts and more and more sites are asking you to create an ‘avatar’ as an important basis for communication via websites, in comment boxes and so on.

As security is a vital issue for students who wish to have an online presence Robots and Avatars seeks to find ways to open out the discussion and create new models for leaners around how to safely, creatively and intuitively empower them to make these decisions themselves. There is also another more playful and creative exercise in actual the creation of avatars themselves. Underpinning this is a consistent interplay between your ‘real’ self/identity and the virtual version you choose to put out there.

OSOQ100525300YTBelow are a series of tools that you can use to create an avatar to express your identity but still retain a degree of anonymity. These would be an excellent starting point for teachers and educators interested in integrating avatars into their lessons as they allow simple, playful and creative engagement with virtual identity. Robots and Avatars is just putting the final touches into a series of workshops which explore these sorts of issues in more depth and with key experts and professionals. To find out more about this check out our new education section.

Avatar Making Tools:

Osoq – A nice little tool to create an animated Avatar, plenty of options and works very well.

Simsonize Yourself – Have you ever wanted to be in the Simpsons?

Doppel Me – Creates a very life-like Avatar in no time at all.

Build Your Wild Self – Something a little different. This allows you to build an avatar which is half human half animal.

LegoMan – Create a lego version of yourself. Not as lifelike obviosuly and you need to do a screen print in order to copy the image as there is no way to export the image.

Meez – The most sophisticated tool which creates an animated avatar to use as your identity. There are a range of download options, if it cannot be embedded directly to your website you can download the file as an animated gif which can then be inserted as an image file.

Mikons – This site doesn’t allow you to create a personal avatar but rather a personalised icon (Mikon) which could be used to represent your students. This is a screen shot and well worth a look if you are looking to create an online presence/logo etc.

Evolver – A new site that allows you to create a 3D avatar. Complete control over the look and avatar can be saved as a static image or an animated Gif. There is also a function to upload a real photo of you. This site also offers access to a 3D world.

HeroMaker – Create your own superhero avatar.

Voki – allows you to create personalized speaking avatars and use them on your blog, profile, and in email messages created by Oddcast

Avatar yourself – Oddcast is the leader in providing talking characters- a more sophisticated option over Voki. They produce tools for a range of marketing campaigns and they can be viewed as a collection by following the link. Simply upload a picture of yourself and begin.

Some sources from Web 2.0 in Education


Robot Resemblance

IMG_2279 (1)Little Island of Japan is a company that comes up with clone robots, and to date their efforts with robotic dolls have managed to bear a close resemblance to celebrities as well as politicians, being highlighted in TV shows as well as worldwide news.

For those who want a robotic avatar of yourself, it will take around 3 months from your order for the robot to be churned out and delivered right to your doorstep. These robots come with sensors built-in to detect when people are nearby, and are full well capable of waving its hands and saying a simple “Hello”. Each robot stands at 70cm in height and will set you back by a cool $2,200 after conversion.

Source: Ubergizmo

Social Robots and Social Networks

(Image: Mixed Reality Lab/National University of Singapore)

A core theme of Robots and Avatars concerns how young people might negotiate their identities online in the future.  For many, the multi identities that virtual spaces create afford them a certain freedom.  This brings with it empowerment and new possibilities for the ways that they craft their social spaces. The energy and openness that many young people show when talking about these questions should certainly be celebrated but questions of online credibility, security and cyber-bullying must of course be discussed as well. Petimos, due to be launched later this year, are aimed at 7 to 10-year-olds and are designed to place checks on the processes of interacting online, particularly through social networks.

Children will only be able to accept new online “friends” if their Petimos are brought into physical contact first, to guard against cyberbullies and paedophiles masquerading as children. The devices work in conjunction with an online social network called Petimo-World in which they are represented by avatars. By squeezing their physical Petimos, or pressing buttons on them, children can send messages or “gifts” to their online friends.

Parents are notified each time a friend request is made and can block approaches that concern them, so children only see and interact online with the avatars of approved friends.

“Internet and text-based communication is only a small part of human communication that we have evolved with,” says the device’s inventor, Adrian David Cheok at the National University of Singapore. “I want to use new media to help develop more natural human forms of communication. Petimo is one step in this direction.”

A study published in January by the California-based Kaiser Family Foundation found 18 per cent of 8 to 10-year-olds in the US use social networking sites. My Secret Circle, Yoursphere and FaceChipz are sites used by children in this age group. Other surveys suggest that as many as 3 in 10 children have been subjected to bullying while online.

In March, leading UK police officers called on social networking sites to place a standard “panic button” designed by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre on all pages.

Parents who took part in tests of Petimo in Singapore this year said the need for children to physically meet those who they wished to interact with online helped ease their fears about the risks posed by strangers.

While the devices will initially only be used with Petimo-World, Cheok hopes that eventually they could be used to provide safer access to other social networks.

Jennifer Perry of E-Victims, a group in the UK that helps victims of online crime, says the system’s appeal might be limited if children get bored with the restricted content of Petimo-World. “Children young enough to be content with a walled garden approach and its limitations will probably be too young to be seriously interested in the chat element,” she says.

Source: New Scientist


The Avatar Gaze

MulticolouredEyeDon’t know if your friend in the virtual world is lying to you or not? Well, now avatars that can mimic our real-world eye movements can make it easier to spot if someone is telling the truth online.

Most virtual worlds, such as Second Life, are full of avatars with static or pre-programmed gazes. One way to make interactions feel more realistic is to reproduce a person’s eye movement on their avatar, said William Steptoe of University College London and colleagues.

Now research has found that real-world eye movement could make it easier to spot whether an avatar is telling the truth or not. The researchers asked 11 volunteers personal questions, such as to name their favourite book, and told them to lie in some of their answers. During the interviews, the volunteers wore eye-tracking glasses that recorded their blink rate, direction and length of gaze, and pupil dilation. Then, a second group of 27 people watched a selection of clips of avatars as they delivered the first group’s answers.

Some avatars had eye movements that mirrored those of the original volunteers, while others had no eye movement at all. The volunteers were asked whether they believed the avatars were being truthful or lying. On average, the participants were able to identify 88 per cent of truths correctly when the avatars had eye movement, but only 70 per cent without.

Spotting lies was harder, but eye movement provided 48 per cent accuracy compared with 39 per cent without. It is unclear exactly how the eye movements help. However, the eye-tracking glasses did show that people tended to hold the gaze of the interviewer for longer when telling the truth than when lying.

“Perhaps they were overcompensating,” New Scientist quoted Steptoe as saying. What’s more, their pupils dilated more when lying – something previous studies have linked with the greater cognitive load required for deception. “This is one of a small handful of cues that you can’t control,” said Steptoe.

Enhancing expressive features such as eye movement could eventually make avatar-mediated communication feel more trustworthy than online video, because only relevant visual cues need to be displayed, said Steptoe. The technology could help in business meetings held in virtual environments, or to enhance communication between people with social phobias, where face-to-face interaction can seem daunting, he added.

The results of the study will be presented at the 2010 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Atlanta, Georgia. (ANI)

Source: Science News

Is your virtual identity credible?

Go for a walk around Second Life and you might well to bump into avatars wearing next to nothing or perhaps you might find yourself talking to a human sized dog. However with many companies and organisations using virtual worlds as a new workspace, the way that employees might present themselves as avatars is becoming increasingly important to consider. Analysts Gartner Inc. predicted that by the end of 2013, 70% of companies will have set behavior guidelines and dress codes for employees who use the remotely controlled online characters in business settings.

At the first Robots and Avatars Forum, Pear Urishima from Apple shared her visions of future jobs going beyond the presence of avatars in the future world of work, she placed emphasis on how we might manage the trustworthiness and credibly of avatars in the workspace and suggested the need for ‘Virtual Identity Managers’, who might manage an individual’s representation online. Click here to find out more about the Robots and Avatars Forum.

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