There is a bilingual (English/Japanese) user survey currently making the rounds of Twitter, which intrigued me, so I took it myself, and I also decided to amplify awareness of it by posting about it here on my blog. PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS NOT MY SURVEY!!!
According to the description of the survey:
The survey takes approximately 5 min and you can answer it only once. Please refrain from disclosing any personal information. Please share the survey with others.
Purpose: The purpose of this survey is to investigate the virtual life of social VR users that have increased in numbers since the beginning of COVID-19. Some questions focus on love and phantom senses (VR senses). The results of the survey will be published as a report in a form that does not identify the individual.
Eligibility: Users who have used social VR (VRChat, Rec Room, Neos VR, etc.) with a VR head-mounted display at least 5 times in the last year, and are English or Japanese speakers. (Please refrain from answering if your connect to social VR from desktop or phone)
Organizers: Research unit “Nem x Mila” If you have any questions, feel free to contact us on Twitter! – Nem (@nemchan_nel) : A virtual economist and the world oldest independent VTuber (self‐professed) from Japan. HTC official VIVE ambassador. – Mila (@BredikhinaL) : An anthropologist at the Geneva University from Switzerland.
I do find it a bit odd that there is not a university or college more strongly associated with this survey, although one of the surveyors is from Geneva University. There are no detailed instructions about data collection and any potential risks of participating, which normally are included with surveys involving human subjects; such statements tend to be the standard operating practice at most institutions of higher education, which leads me to think that this survey instrument has not been vetted by a university ethics board. It all seems rather informal (not that that’s a bad thing).
The fact that both the surveyors also give only their online Twitter handles raises a bit of a red flag to this academic librarian, too. Also, I don’t know how and when the surveyors plan to publish their survey results, other than they state, “The results of the survey will be published as a report in a form that does not identify the individual.” So it could be an academic report, or perhaps some other kind of report.
You should also be aware that the survey asks about sex as well as love in social VR! I found a few of the survey questions to be…rather interesting! 😉 So consider yourselves forewarned.
If you do want to participate in this survey, here is the link. Remember, you have to have had to have used any social VR platform (Sansar, VRChat, Rec Room, AltspaceVR, NeosVR, etc.) at least five times in a VR headset(they’re not interested in users who connect to these platforms on a desktop PC using a flatscreen monitor, or a mobile device like a cellphone or tablet).
Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 550 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the companies building it. Come join us! More details here.
Avatarism is a movement to recognize and protect the fundamental human right of freedom of form. Like freedom of speech, freedom of form is a claim on an endowed right to free expression. And like the right to bear arms, it is a right which will suddenly gain relevancy after specific technological breakthroughs.
Specifically, freedom of form is theright to choose the form in which you are seen by others...
Soon our physical form will become subservient to one or more virtualized ones. Fully controlling how we are seen by others will become more accessible, frequent, common, and culturally accepted, and be less like a radical, life-altering event, and much closer to how we think of changing our clothes today.
He mentions that some people choose plastic surgery or body modification to permanently change their real-life physical appearance, something to which I can attest. My dirty little secret is that I am obsessed with the dumpster-fire-train-wreck of the Botched Surgeries subReddit community, where I am routinely appalled by the horrible, botched plastic surgeries that people put themselves through in real life—butt implants that stick out like shelves, facial filler that gives unnaturally sharp cheekbones and chins, eyebrow lifts that make people look like they should speak Vulcan, and breast implants that look like overinflated balloons that are about to pop at any second. (WARNING:If you visit, you might need eye bleach afterwards! Consider yourself warned! I constantly come away from that Reddit community feeling much better about myself and my own body, though.)
Greg argues, though, that with the advent of consumer XR technology (virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality headsets, and eventually, glasses), we are at the cusp of an era where we can change how people see us, but in a less permanent way:
Soon our physical form will become subservient to one or more virtualized ones. Fully controlling how we are seen by others will become more accessible, frequent, common, and culturally accepted, and be less like a radical, life-altering event, and much closer to how we think of changing our clothes today…
Today, many are benefiting from virtualized avatars or by completely overriding their physical forms. Avatar chat apps and online games have allowed millions to embody avatars…
Meanwhile, phone-based augmented reality is taking off, letting people experiment with fully overriding how they appear to others. Snapchat filters, AR-generated clothing, and celebrity deepfakes are getting more and more sophisticated and accessible to your average person…
All of these point to a wider trend of virtualized, avatar-based representations becoming widely accepted and embraced.
(By the way, speaking of phone-based AR, you can check out my adventures with feeding Second Life avatar selfies into the WOMBO and Reface apps here.)
I was pondering all this when yesterday, news dropped that the Swedish supergroup ABBA (one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with an estimated 150 million records sold worldwide) had reunited after 40 years, and were releasing a new album in November.
The four members of the group spent five weeks being recorded in motion-capture suits for an upcoming series of London concerts produced by George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic studio, which will feature Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad as holographic avatars, pictured as they would have appeared at the height of their fame in 1979. Yahoo! News reports:
The 10-track album, ABBA Voyage, will be released on Nov. 5, and the new songs will also be performed during a virtual concert residency that will open at a custom-built arena in East London on May 27, 2022. The “revolutionary” show, also titled “ABBA Voyage,” will run six nights a week and will feature ABBA holograms — cleverly known as “ABBAtars” — and a 10-piece live band playing 22 of the Swedish superstars’ greatest hits.
The ABBAtars were designed by Industrial Light and Magic (the visual effects company founded by George Lucas), and more than 850 people employed motion-capture technology to recreate band members Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s “every mannerism and every motion” from when they were “in their prime.”
You can see a bit of these avatars at the tail end of this new music video:
I still vividly remember the live Lindsey Stirling concert I attended in Wave as a highlight of my social VR experiences in 2019, where the electronic violinist wore a full-body 3D motion capture suit and special VR gloves, which allowed her to completely animate her avatar in Wave, from her head down to her feet (including each individual finger on her hands), as she played and danced! Unlike Lindsey, who played a live concert and steered her avatar directly, the upcoming ABBA concerts will consist of prerecorded avatar hologram playback to the music (performed by a 10-piece live band).
Truly, when the members of a band can appear on a physical stageas they were 40 years agoat a concert series, we have entered the age of avatarism! We may yet witness things which we never would have ever dreamed possible in the past. As Greg Fodor says in the conclusion of his article:
Avatarism is about the sudden arrival of transformative, new answers to a universal question: how should others see you?
If you think the answer is a simple one, one day you might just look back and yourself, and smile at your naïveté.