Applications and Tools, Business in Virtual Worlds, Collaboration, Identity and Expression, Second Life, Virtual World Platforms

Getting It: Virtual Worlds, Enhancing the Human Condition

Forgive me if this seems like self-congratulatory back patting, but recent coverage by the Department of Defense of the Amputee Virtual Environment Support Space (AVESS) has another message other than how wonderful we are: it shows how it doesn’t take much to move from, um, “how do I move around” to “the use of avatars can have a real impact”.

And that’s a bit of the back story to the project, because although the project manager at the project sponsoring organization (Ashley Fisher at TATRC) knew that there was more to Second Life and virtual worlds than “just a game”, she very quickly came to realize the deeper potential of virtual worlds:

Comparing the concept to what moviegoers saw on the big screen in “Avatar,” Fisher said she sees tremendous therapeutic value in enabling amputees to define their avatars as they choose, and to immerse themselves in those characteristics as they interact with other avatars.

Some may elect to reveal their amputations in their avatars, assigning them prosthetic limbs to match their own. Others may choose not to, preferring to use the virtual world as a temporary escape, as depicted in the “Avatar” movie when Jake’s avatar was able not only to walk, but also to fly among the beings in the magical land of Pandora.

But for users in the latter category, Fisher said, she expects many to reveal their true characteristics as they become more comfortable communicating with other people in the virtual environment.

For some, the transformation may come as users come to accept themselves and their new appearance – something Fisher said is difficult enough in a hospital setting, where military amputees are surrounded by other people who look like them, but even more so as they try to reintegrate into their communities.

Fisher, and others on the project team, have clearly come to understand that avatar representation offers a deep spectrum of possibility – to be someone different, or the same. To withhold real life characteristics or display them.

And to create connections with others –

The avatar will be able to interact with other(s) – fellow amputees, caregivers, even friends and loved ones – in a virtual world that’s unencumbered by the restrictions of time, distance or disability.

As AVESS develops, users also may be able to check in with their professional caregivers, asking questions, getting information updates, and even seeing online demonstrations of the best way to do a physical therapy exercise or adjust a prosthetic device.

Your World. Your Imagination. With the opportunity to improve and enhance the human condition.

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