leola avatar onlive utopia yuri avatar

Haven't gotten around to uploading my talks, images, vworlds ... of OnLive yet,

~ see one of the follow talks or papers: ~

· Comdex '01 - Invited Speaker, “The Future of Interactive Entertainment", 2001. Video stream (similar talk).
· Siggraph '00 - Panelist on “Interactive Storytelling: New Genres & Directions", 2000.
· Stanford Learning Lab - “A Real-time Group Communication System using Immersive Natural Metaphors”, 2000.
· Stanford Seminar: People, Computers & Design - “Internet Interactive Character Design: Agents to Avatars”, 1999. Video stream.
· Siggraph '99 - Presented paper "A 3D Natural Emulation Design to Virtual Communities", (Sketch Section), 1999.
· Siggraph '98 - Moderator/speaker of the panel "Characters on the Internet, The Next Generation", 1998. Review.
· "Chasing Alice", 3D Interactive Performance, Stanford Department of Art Lobby, Stanford, CA, 2000.
· The Now Newspaper,Simulating the Future” (Article on my work and human approach to technology), Jan. 24, 2002.
· "Exploring Face Space" - Submitted Paper - Siggraph ‘02 (Sketch), 2002.
· "A 3D Natural Emulation Design to Virtual Communities" - Presented Paper - Siggraph '99 - (Sketch), 1999.
· Avatars, by B. Damer, Peach Pit Press - pgs. 446-48, 193-234, cover artwork. 1998.
· Computer Facial Animation, by Parke & Waters - Book Excerpt - pgs. 101-104, 214-219, cover artwork. 1996.
· Journal of Visualization and Computer Animation, "Extending the Range of Facial Types", Paper & cover artwork. 1991.
· Siggraph Facial Animation Tutorial, "3D Parameterized Facial Modeling & Animation", 1989.

~ or try out onlive yourself: ~


~ or take a look at this white paper on OnLive! Traveler: ~

The Design Approach For OnLive! Traveler, Avatars and Worlds
(Excerpted from my SIGGRAPH talks on Designing Virtual Worlds)

OnLive’s Internet-based Virtual World software and communities allow groups of people to socialize with each other by navigating through 3D spaces, meeting others and talking with their own voices through emotive, lip-syncing 3D head avatars. Currently, there are over 30,000 worldwide users on several sites including commercial sites for ABC Sports, MTV, MCA/Universal and community sites for Univ. of Texas at Austin and a user created site called OLGate. Considered one of the leading 3D virtual software environments and general internet software innovations for the PC, OnLive Traveler has been written up in or broadcast on:

            The New York Times        Wall Street Journal     ABC and MTV              c|net Central (TV)
            Wired Magazine               USA Today               Discovery Channel         MSNBC’s The Site

The design ethic at OnLive! is to develop avatars and their virtual communities which emulate natural social paradigms. The goal is to have the virtual community participants sense a tele-presence – they are really there in the virtual space with other people. This collective sense of "being-there" does not happen over the phone or with teleconferencing; it is a new and emerging phenomenon, unique to 3D virtual communities. While this group presence paradigm is a simple idea, the design and technical issues needed to begin to achieve this on consumer-based platforms (i.e. PCs, modems, the internet) are complex.

By taking a design approach that tries to emulate natural social mechanisms, we attempt to anchor virtual users into familiar or comfortable reality-based social situations. This approach relies heavily on techniques to make the user feel that she is really interacting in the virtual space. These techniques include:

These techniques, which borrow from disciplines such as group dynamics, facial animation, architectural design, virtual reality and cognitive sciences allow the system to draw from the natural social neural programming inherent in all of us rather than creating artificial, social-enabling user interface mechanisms. The main goal of all of these techniques is to support multi-participant communication and socialization in the most natural way, thereby helping to bring a sense of community to its users.


Below are listed some more detailed examples of design choices we have made to create virtual community avatars, spaces and software that try to emulate natural group socialization and communication:


Community comes from communication: 3D voice with 3D navigation.

The structural process of a community, whether real or virtual, is communication, of which the most natural human form of communication is verbal. As a result, we developed voice audio as a first step in designing virtual community technologies.

What user interface mechanism do you use to manage multiple voice inputs? One approach would be for a user to click on the avatar he wants to hear and which avatar he wants to mute. We tried to answer technical/design issues like this one by emulating natural processes, and thereby chose 3D spatial multi-participant voice with distance attenuation and stereo positioning. Avatars closest to you are heard the loudest; those to your right, louder from your right speaker. Using this approach the user interface mechanism becomes as simple as navigating towards the avatars you want to talk to and thereby away from those you no longer want to talk to, just like you would at a real cocktail party. By using spatial sound with 3D navigation, natural group dynamics situations occur; that is, several small circular conversational groups of 3 to 6 avatars form and dynamically reform depending on individual and group social preferences.


Avatar design - heads as a design consideration, you are your avatar.

Given the finite CPU/polygon/bandwidth resources, we needed to invest them in the most natural form of socialization first: face to face communication (especially given our interest in verbal communication). The body with its hand gestures and body language is secondary for human communication and can be added as our resource limitations improve.

The goal for us is what we call "binding the pair" -- binding the real person at the computer with his virtual avatar in cyberspace so he experiences this feeling of tele-presence, of really being there. You cannot believably bind a person with an inanimate object or a texture mapped photograph that does not emote. You need to have an expressive, lifelike avatar. We try to achieve "life" and believability with avatars that have autonomous blinking and facial movements (e.g. "breathing"), that lip sync to their voices and can display (at user control) a range of emotions.

We now have some early positive results that this technique is working because it has been noticed that users make "eye contact" with each other; they turn towards the speaking avatar and can feel uncomfortable when another avatar comes too close and "invades their personal space". This last point was very encouraging considering our goal of "binding the pair". If someone in real life comes within too close a proximity of you, you feel an uncomfortableness along with a physical tightening of your stomach muscles. This same sensation happens in the Traveler worlds showing that users perceive at some level that they are really there with other people -- avatars are perceived as beings not as objects being manipulated by other users on their home computers.

Major Design Issue: Physically Based Spiral of Infinite Betterment

Given the natural emulation approach we have taken, one might assume that the design choice is to strive to make things more and more realistic. However this is not the case. A major truth in computer graphics and facial animation is that the more realistic you make something, the more open it is to criticism for not being realistic enough. So, we have tried to emulate natural paradigms just enough to achieve recognition of familiarity -- when the brains’ neural programming kicks in that it "knows what this is", be it an avatar face, a functional object like a floor or a chair, or a natural process like human hearing. Once this familiarity is achieved, you are just wasting limited resources going any further; it is better to use these resources/efforts to achieve another natural metaphor instead. It is the combination of several natural metaphors that brings this "sense of being" in a socially comfortable space with others, not the perfect attainment of one or two metaphors.


Evolving Issues: Getting beyond infrastructure and into community creation.

Even if we have achieved all the goals I have spoken about here (which we are still far from doing), we would end up with users feeling they are their avatar, really in a place with other avatar beings collectively existing in the same virtual place. This place is a comfortable place to talk and seems to support basic social interaction. However, this merely provides infrastructure – the streets and buildings of a community, but not a community. It is akin to being in a plaza in a foreign country with other foreigners; while it is interesting to meet and be with people from all over the world, you find you are constantly struggling to break the ice in order to form a topic of conversation with people you do not really know. In OnLive! worlds this icebreaker is typically greetings such as "Can you hear me, how does my voice sound", or "Where are you from", or observations about avatar appearance. This level of interaction is not the basis for a community. Communities need more than streets, buildings and people; they need post offices (ways to contact avatars when they are not there when you are), newspapers (ways to record and discuss newsworthy situations that have occurred and to inform them about upcoming events, meetings, holidays not to mention who the celebrities are, the heroes, the villains).

What are the web-based mechanisms for these community-building metaphors? What are the conventions and laws of these communities? How do you deal with crime and foster social responsibility? As we have begun to tackle the infrastructure issues and are now getting thousands of people daily in our sites, we are just beginning to grapple with the social community issues. This requires the involvement of social engineers, event coordinators, reporters and sociologists, to begin to understand the nature and requirements of a virtual community.


OnLive! Traveler, software and worlds can be accessed at

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Portfolio images and other material copyright © 1997 Steve DiPaola - All rights reserved.