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Instant Messaging Goes Graphical 229

williampiv writes "For most of the millions of people around the world who regularly use instant messaging, the communications tool has largely been a text-only experience in which typed emoticons offer only minimal clues to someone's state of mind. The recent launch of two services -- a brand new, fully three-dimensional chat-room product known as IMVU, and AOL Instant Messenger's new 3-D SuperBuddy icons -- is putting the spotlight on a major shift by the leading IM providers toward making graphical avatars a fundamental personalization feature."
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Instant Messaging Goes Graphical

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  • Been There (Score:5, Funny)

    by mr.nicholas ( 219881 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:37AM (#10275464)
    A graphical, 3D chat environment? Oh, you mean Star Wars: Galaxies!
    • Re:Been There (Score:2, Informative)

      by pHatidic ( 163975 )
      I was about to make the same joke, but let me instead add this. Back in 6th grade I used to play the Star Wars Collectable Card Game a bit and they had a weekly chat in an environment with custom star wars themed backgrounds where each person chose an avatar. Or at least that's what I heard because it was a 24 meg download and I could never get it to actually work back in the day. So this technology is at least 9 years old, probably even older than that.
    • by killmenow ( 184444 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:09AM (#10275645)
      SW:G? I thought a graphical, 3D chat environment was a coffee shop...or maybe a strip club if you want more graphics.
    • Re:Been There (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 3terrabyte ( 693824 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:20AM (#10275719) Journal
      "she's not sure it is going to be the big hit the IM services want it to be. 'I think it's kind of's one of those faddish things that people are going to want to have for a while" *GROAN*
      I know I'm getting old, but come on. This crap has been tried before, and it wasn't a success then, it's not going to succeed now. To be truly revolutionary, you need to either get more immersed in an online world (covered by Everquest, etc), or more graphical with your own face (Covered by web cams, etc). Personally I think the 'next big thing in chatting' is next to impossible to reach because the very things that make it the next big thing, go against what makes chatting work right now. Text. Why not voice. Or vid phone. Or the telephone? Text is great because it allows you to ignore people, allows you time to think about your thoughts before replying. Allows you to be away for a while. Text is also small. Can you imagine trying to run 4 other apps while chatting with someone with those big goofy graphics? Not only that, but how do you manage multiple people? I'm sure some guys are really into 1-on-1 cyber chatting with fake girls, but text allows managing of multiple/random/sporadic/temporary chatters. "So AIM is charging $2 for each SuperBuddy a user buys. The company sees SuperBuddies a little bit like ring tones -- one-off customizations for a communications tool. And AIM hopes its customers won't stop at one SuperBuddy, but that they'll want different ones for different moods." Yea. The crap just keeps going...
      • They key, IMHO to a revolution in instant messaging over chat will be when PeeCees start shipping standard with microphones...

        Most end users I know don't have a mic, so that's why text-based chat's so huge.

        The only people who have mics are nerds who use voice chat over online games.
      • Re:Been There (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ultranova ( 717540 )

        Personally I think the 'next big thing in chatting' is next to impossible to reach because the very things that make it the next big thing, go against what makes chatting work right now. Text. Why not voice. Or vid phone. Or the telephone? Text is great because it allows you to ignore people, allows you time to think about your thoughts before replying. Allows you to be away for a while. Text is also small. Can you imagine trying to run 4 other apps while chatting with someone with those big goofy graphics

  • MS Chat? (Score:5, Informative)

    by softwave ( 145750 ) <`eb.savlavda' `ta' `sneppoc.divad'> on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:38AM (#10275466)
    I thought Microsoft had a similar product a couple of years ago. Microsoft Chat or Comic Chat or something in the kind... You could select a comic character and assign it facial expressions and such.
    It died a silent death :)
    • Re:MS Chat? (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:45AM (#10275519) Journal
      MS Comic Chat was an IRC client that spammed the channel with some meta-data used to create the comic. I used it a few times, and found that most of the time I never bothered to change my character's emotional state, and neither did anyone else.
    • At least someone's still using it Jerkcity [] NSFW and it doesn't make alotta sense either. Come to think of it, it's just like IRC.....
    • Re:MS Chat? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by lphuberdeau ( 774176 )

      I do remember this, or something called The Palace where people had avatars and could move from rooms to rooms... I don't have much memories from... 8... years ago, but it's enough for this 'new technology' not all so inovative.

      The entire thing seems useless to me anyway. The good part of instant messaging is that it's quick and requires little attention. There is no way I'm going to start staring at graphical stuff taking up half my screen while I'm suppoed to work.

    • Re:MS Chat? (Score:2, Informative)

      by scambaiter ( 703904 )
      actually ms comic chat was a crappy graphical irc client that tried to build some kind of comic strip from the stuff happening in the channel. since it was the 90s, age of the non-standard extensions (yes, i mean you, mr. blink tag), ms comic chat sent special lines that would be interpreted by other clients so it could create matching images. for some funny reasons there are still people around who use this client; whenever you see some guy entering a channel and sending a line like "scambaiter appears as
    • Re:MS Chat? (Score:3, Funny)

      by grazzy ( 56382 )
      You're missing: This is in 3D - three dimensional space. Taste the word: threeeeedeeee.

      Its the future you know.
      • I think the last version was v-chat 2.0. []

        I can't honestly remember if the avatars were 2d, it claimed that you could design them in ms paint. I remember experimenting with it when the MSN chat site switched to pretty much pay only, and was trying to be helpful and exploring easy to use irc clients. MS v-chat 2.0 was basicly a chat room, a virtual room that you can wonder around with your avatar and explore. While this was cool-beans, this wasn't really practical because it was too much work to just ch
    • Comic was the font used by default by MS Comic Chat.

      You can regard this font as a clueless-meter. The fact that it was used on a formal document tells you something about its author.
    • I hold the dubious honor of introducing the first Bender character to Comic Chat. I painstakingly copied him from a 'sneak preview' of Futurerama in some magazine.

      There was only a couple of shots of him, so I had to add some more for the expressions. IIRC, it featured him taking a bottle of 'xxx' out of his chest. I haven't used CC in years, but I thought it was nifty at the time. Occasionally, inadvertent comedy resulted from sudden placement in a new frame.

  • Eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Exiler ( 589908 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:39AM (#10275470)
    Why [] is [] this [] news? []
  • Deja Vu??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vexler ( 127353 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:40AM (#10275474) Journal
    A webcam pretty much does the same thing - except you don't have avatars, you ARE the avatar.
    • you mean, like, Ultima VII ?
    • But its more fun assigning your own avatars and icons to people:

      Devil - PHB
      Weasil - SCO
      Dragon - mother in law
    • Re:Deja Vu??? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bagel2ooo ( 106312 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:06AM (#10275627)
      >> A webcam pretty much does the same thing - except you don't have avatars, you ARE the avatar.

      I think a lot of the desire for these things is to still have that layer of abstraction/anonmnity between you and the people - likely strangers - of who you communicate with online. It can be an intimidating thing to plaster your face in a window with an anonymous party. Also, while this has gotten better, setting up a webcam for IM applications can be fairly non-trivial.
  • Nothing new here. :) (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gwala ( 309968 ) <(adam) (at) (> on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:40AM (#10275478) Homepage
    If I may point out, this isnt anything new. Blaxxun, Activeworlds, Secondlife are all similar 3D platforms, but have a great deal more experience & interactivity (having all existed for some years now). I posted some info on my favourite 3D platform at the moment (Secondlife) here []

    (Also check out Activeworlds [] & There [] (nb: there is more a social use, like the topic, rather than a 3D platform on it's own.))
    • It'll never work. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nurgled ( 63197 )

      This won't catch on, because people generally use IM while doing something else. I can type a message and then read some email (or type a message to someone else) while waiting for a response. When the other person does respond, the window icon blinks or jumps around or whatever is usual in your chosen environment to get your attention.

      These 3D environments (I've tried a few of them) generally require more attention, since firstly there are generally lots more people involved in conversation, and your "rel

  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:40AM (#10275480)
    Is there a skin of someone who looks like me sitting at their computer in their underwear and sipping folgers? Perhaps with some 3D rendered clothes on the floor and a bowl of dried up ramen next to the keyboard?
  • IChat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kc0re ( 739168 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:41AM (#10275484) Journal
    From a person that uses Apple, Windows, and LInux on a daily basis, I hope that Apple allows Whatever technology they are building into Tiger for the new IChatAV Teleconferencing, they allow to be ported to other OS's.
  • Makes Sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    I suppose it's fitting that AOL is building the metaverse. In Snow Crash the Street was run by "computer graphics ninja overlords." I think AOL could fit that role.
  • ActiveWorlds (Score:5, Informative)

    by bjb ( 3050 ) * on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:42AM (#10275499) Homepage Journal
    There has been a service, ActiveWorlds [] for years now.. I think it opened in 1996? Basically, it is a fully 3D environment that you would walk around in, interact with other people, build houses, etc.

    I haven't logged on to it in years (read: since maybe 1999), but I always remember that I thought it was pretty cool given the 3D capabilities of x86 machines at the time (read: none), and it wasn't TOO bad for dialup. Even played MIDI tracks while you were walking around. I think they eventually went to a pay-for-service model, and hopefully they eventually adopted some kind of 3D acceleration technology (via ActiveX?)

  • just a toy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PerlDudeXL ( 456021 ) <jens.luedicke@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:46AM (#10275524) Homepage
    I'm probably just too much of an IRC addict to like the idea.

    "[..] It feels a little like a solution in search of a problem. [..]"

    Come on, text-based chats are more than enough
    for easy real-time communication. If you want
    something fancy use a Webcam-chat or video-conferencing instead.

  • by Sidicas ( 691633 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:49AM (#10275541) Journal
    "IMVU gives you the sense that you are in the presence of the person you are chatting with,"

    Wow, that sucks. Now I'm not going to put any family members in my buddy list.
  • by YetAnotherName ( 168064 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:49AM (#10275542) Homepage
    With recently discovered security holes in JPEG imaging and perhaps other graphics libraries [], graphical chat doesn't necessarily sound like a step forward ...

    Crystal90210: OMG!!!1 dont chat with CuteA0Lb0y!!!!1
    my sister did and now she's pwned!!!!1
    FLAgrrl: LOL!!!!1
  • What (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BAILOPAN ( 694545 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:49AM (#10275543) Homepage
    Honestly, not only has this been done before with other chat clients (didn't Microsoft have a failed attempt), but what's the point? Who would actually use this? When I use AIM I specifically disable smilies and such because they're annoying... why would I now want disembodied aliens on my intarweb screen? AIM having those "themed" IM windows in 5.0 was a terrible idea. They just keep adding more crap into their client, kind of how they ruined ICQ.
  • by sawb ( 187496 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:49AM (#10275544)
    should include more animation.

    Nothing funnier than having your friend make fun of you and you execute the / command and your avatar ... er, won't go there.

  • by tod_miller ( 792541 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:50AM (#10275550) Journal
    Basically graphical chatrooms, or graphical IM, have been around for a while, in different guises.

    However, will it actually add to the user experience? Will it improve comprehension and communication?

    I herefore provide prior art for a system that will take readings frmo a human and transform them into human readable signs in a virtual avatar on a computer.

    IE, you can smile, and you avatar will smile, you can get angry, and you avatar will become flustered also.

    Hey there you go, might not be enough, but when these little things hit me, I just like to chisel down those 3000 patents to 2999.

    maybe should be created where all good ideas are copylefted and recorded with prior art and defended.
  • A bit of Criticism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Indras ( 515472 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:50AM (#10275551)
    My main problem concerning buddy icons and avatars and such is that the selections are simply too limited. I mean, sure, there's a few thousand to pick from, and even categorized, but still finding something that seems to fit me just doesn't happen. I imagine this will be far worse with a 3D avatar based system, since the selection will be much larger, and it just won't be possible for the average person to make their own (like they currently do with animated GIFs and such).

    Also, it mentions charging for the service. I personally wouldn't not pay any amount, not even a few pesos a month, for such a service. Instant Messaging is just not something I associate with fees, like web page browsing, or IRC. Besides, if it becomes popular, someone will make a free version of it, or if everyone else thinks it costs too much, it will die a quick death.

    It will take some real work to pull this off, but gratz if they do.
    • Improvisational (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AllenChristopher ( 679129 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:16AM (#10275686)
      "My main problem concerning buddy icons and avatars and such is that the selections are simply too limited."

      You're right, this is where it falls down. I collect a bunch of emotes, then I find I want to express wry exaperation. None of them are quite right... so I find myself wishing I had one, searching for it forever, not using it ever again.

      What I've discovered is that if you install a Messenger Plus Handwriting plugin, everything changes. If I want a different expresison I just draw it. If I'm trying to show how I set something up, I draw it.

      Admittedly I'm an illustrator... I spend more time drawing every day than I do talking. You don't have to be professionally trained to draw cute smiling faces. Most people have trained for hours in boring meetings.

      I think this is where microsoft is really missing the boat on their Tablet PC system. My MSN plugin is error-prone because it's not supported by the OS. I have a wacom tablet, but I can't buy the Tablet OS because Microsoft invented a fictional market of brilliant young businesspeople rushing about and jotting cocktail napkin ideas worth a million dollars to each other. They locked the OS to licensed tablets and pitched to that market, so I'm stuck.

      As usual, a marketing concept has crushed a real possibility. Writing isn't a very good way to conduct business, but drawing is a great way to get a feeling across to someone who isn't there. My friends have picked up on it and draw back to me... they're not all artists, but they do alright. Many people spend their time on PaintChat for this reason, but only the ones who can wander through the labyrinth of the various incomplete English translations and bizarre server rules.

      The graphical experience is definitely missing from chat. 3-D is just a silly way to go about it.

    • I imagine this will be far worse with a 3D avatar based system, since the selection will be much larger, and it just won't be possible for the average person to make their own (like they currently do with animated GIFs and such).

      It's not so hard if you give people the right tools. Check out the avatar building in EVE-Online, EverQuest 2 and The Sims 2 (aka The Sims Bodyshop) for some examples. People don't create the avatars and their faces as such, they just set some parameters. Previously, there were a
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:54AM (#10275575) Homepage
    A system where you could talk to anyone else in the world, in real-time, by simply entering the person's ID into a device. I'd definitely use that!

  • Y! Avatars (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Southpaw018 ( 793465 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:54AM (#10275580) Journal
    Does anyone else use Yahoo! Messenger? :p They've had an avatar system for a while now (previous to AIM's SuperBuddy icons), and it's fairly nice if a tad limited in choices. Check out (ie only, lazy ass yahoo coders). The avatars have multiple facial expressions each, and they react to emoticons used in chat.
  • overkill? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by techefnet ( 634210 )
    Oh this seems cool. But think about it.. whos really gonna have a use of this? I think its a little overkill.. I got enough with normal msn (with amsn ofcourse:) But what do i know hehe..
    • Re:overkill? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lachlan76 ( 770870 )
      Not to mention, I don't always want to share my emotions with a particular person. If I were to have a score calculated, based on what I write, emoticon usage, etc., etc., it might tell people more than I really want them to know.

      The big advantage IM has over face-to-face/phone is that the other person sees what I want them to see.

      If I'm really pissed off about something, I may not want everyone to know about it. Often they can tell when I talk face-to-face. Not on IM.
  • Palace (Score:3, Informative)

    by remikun ( 748998 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:00AM (#10275609) Homepage
    I thought there was already a similar software doing the same thing a few years ago... I think it was called The Palace. Probably someone already mentioned that.
  • Yawn (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kid-noodle ( 669957 ) <> on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:02AM (#10275620) Homepage
    Wake me when the avatar responds based on your facial expressions and body language.

    Not a bad idea, given the missing aspects from text/emoticon communication, but too half-way house.
    • Re:Yawn (Score:2, Funny)

      by Daagar ( 764445 )
      Wake me when the avatar responds based on your facial expressions and body language.

      No No NO! I do not want to see an avatar responding to someone's body language/expressions while they are off surfing porn in another window.

      • It is a risk, true.

        You'd want some sort of sanity filter.. Teach the avatar not to stark jerking off in your mum's IM window...

        BAD Avatar! Stop that!
  • by jonr ( 1130 )
    It's like it is 1999 all over again! []. Lets do the time warp again...
  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:08AM (#10275640) Homepage Journal
    When my mom and dad were kids, they worked on the farm. (29 hours a day, etc, etc) But they played with nearby kids.
    When I was a kid, I mostly played with nearby kids, but my parents drove me to a few friends' houses. (and vice versa)
    My kids played with a few neighborhood kids, but mostly we drove them to friends' houses. (and vice versa)

    Do you see a trend here?

    In the old days, we adapted and adjusted to the people around us. We are progressing toward simply finding people like us, so we don't have to adapt and adjust. The widespread availability of the car was probably a driving factor in this. But even as we are more choosey about our friends, we have to retain the same set of acquaintances, because there are after all the limitations of the physical world.

    Now add the Internet. It makes it more possible than ever to withdraw from the real world. To some extent, it even allows you to minimize interactions with real-world acquaintences. Now we can pick our friends AND, to a good extent, our actuaintances. Or at least, the Internet allows us to manipulate our focus more easily, ignoring or bashing those who do not fit our world-view.

    I would submit that our interpersonal skills are atrophying as a result, and that one place it becomes evident is the current election cycle. When you pick your friends and acquaintances, it becomes easier to turn the world into "us" and "them," and that seems to be what the world has been about, the past few years.


    Virtual Universe? I don't WANT a virtual universe that looks just like the one I'm in. A brisk walk in the real universe at least gives me a little cardiovascular exercise and stimulates my other senses. The only thing that really interests me in the virtual universe would be places I can't go, for reasons of money, time, or accessability, or places that just don't or can't exist.
    • Yeah, well, most of my friends live a long, long, way away. And I'll be honest, quite a few of the people that I know live nearby are shitheads. Are you saying that rather than being friends with the people we trust and are comfortable with, I should just spend time with the people living nearby? I have a few friends living in the same area (For me, nearby means less than 45min walk), but the majority live far enough away that it'll take 30mins - 1hour to get there.

      Most people meet more people at high s
      • Are you saying that rather than being friends with the people we trust and are comfortable with, I should just spend time with the people living nearby?

        To some extent, I think yes, you should. Maybe not you in particular, but one should. There's an awful lot to be learned from dealing with people who aren't exactly your favorite people in the whole world. If nothing else, you get really good at dealing with people you don't like, and that's a valuable skill.

        Besides that, you'll often find that those sh

        • As I said in another comment, these people have almost broken my neck. That was about 1.5 years ago. I still feel it now. Not the kind of thing that encourages me to get to know these people.
          And the people living VERY close to me are all outside my age group. I don't get on very well with people under the age of 10.

          I already deal with plenty of people I don't like at school.
          • Like I said, "maybe not you in particular, but one should." I don't know you. But in the sense that, in general, one should not be so quick to dismiss those around him, I stand by what I said. And, just to throw the idea out there, maybe you should consider that it could be worthwhile to spend some amount of time with people outside your age-group as well. Not all your time, but learning how to deal with young'uns and adults isn't too terrible either.
    • And then we begin to fear other's that are NOT like us and have different cultures? Hmmmmmmmmm...Where is that happening?
    • Virtual Universe? I don't WANT a virtual universe that looks just like the one I'm in. A brisk walk in the real universe at least gives me a little cardiovascular exercise and stimulates my other senses. The only thing that really interests me in the virtual universe would be places I can't go, for reasons of money, time, or accessability, or places that just don't or can't exist.

      I don't know if this sort of cross-posting is frowned upon, but this just seemed really close to a discussion I was just having [].

  • Communication (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:10AM (#10275652)
    Instant messaging exists as a communication tool. It is more interactive than e-mail but more convenient and less expensive than the phone. Trying to gussy it up with 3D garbage and requiring you to use the mouse a lot to communicate makes the whole process less efficient and more expensive.

    Why not just let me communicate? This is the same reason I don't have games, text messaging, a pepper mill, or a camera in my cell phone - none of these things would make it a more effective tool for verbal communication or an efficient tool for non-verbal.
  • Avatars (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alatesystems ( 51331 ) <chris AT chrisbenard DOT net> on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:11AM (#10275659) Homepage Journal
    Am I the only person who hides the buddy icons and who turns off the ability for other people to set fonts for me to see?

    I see IM as a vital means of information exchange. I don't need to see someone's AIM "expression" or "super duper 3d buddy icon".

    Why can't text based communication just be text based(information based)? That's why I liked irc before mIRC decided to allow color codes.

    _ and ! should be enough for anybody. -- me

    • Come on, don't be so curmudgeonly, this stuff is actually sort of fun.

      For example, this is my current Yahoo messenger avatar: []

      I spend about 9 hrs a day in front of a computer, anything that makes it slightly more enjoyable is more than welcome.

      Also, it is fun to get messages like:
      Dude, WTF is a horse doing in your office?

      One more thing, my wife uses these things too. Any technology that passes "the wife test" is indistinguishable from magic.

    • Why can't text based communication just be text based(information based)? That's why I liked irc before mIRC decided to allow color codes.

      Buddy icons, emoti-icons ok I'll grant you are twitish features. But imbedded graphics in text messages can be most useful in the fact that we live on a planet and many people speak diffrent languages, and an icon can be understood by more people then a word at times. A picture of an iron, a gas tank, and a cup of coffee communicate information.
  • by Sophrosyne ( 630428 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:25AM (#10275759) Homepage
    Just forget the rancid way people behave on IM for a minute... This graphical chat thing is just absolute garbage!
    If anyone has been around for a while you may remember back when Instant Messaging was functional and innovative- nowadays it seems development by these big companies has stagnated-- and these are the new features? 3D heads floating in space??
    The only cure for IM is to allow interoperability between clients, this would allow for greater competition-- because as it stands now people are stuck with whoever has a monopoly on IM in their country- AIM in most of the U.S. and MSN Messenger everywhere else...
    Could someone (or some company) save IM!? ...Google perhaps?
    • From my experience, MSN has had everything I need for IM really (IM, and it's installed on just about every computer in the world, and on Linux I can just use Web Messenger).

      The question is, does IM really need any new features? Or are we making a solution and looking for the problem.
      • I'd say there are fundamental shortcomings with MSN Messenger.
        First it is overloaded with too many-- junky features. It isn't cross-platform (yes there is a light-version for the Mac OS, but there is no version parity). You cannot leave a message to a person who does not appear to be online, there is a cap on the size of your list, the program is also weak in the options you have to let other people know what you are doing (eg away, busy, offline) and with how you can block people, or interact with others
        • Right now I'm using gaim [] to talk on there. If you want to use it without gaim or messenger, then you can use Web Messenger [].

          And to be honest, I've never found having long sayings as a name to be a problem. But this could just be that I know the people I talk to on there well enough that I can recognise the names.

          If you want to leave a message to someone wwho is offline, just send an email. Most MSN users use hotmail anyway, so it registers with MSN. But I just use MSN to talk in real time, and if I n
  • It's a bad idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by math major ( 756859 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:35AM (#10275831)
    Emoticons and animated "emotions" inherently make people less able to convey their actual emotions. If you just use the best approximation out of a collection of pictures or animations to express yourself, you are limiting yourself much more. With words, you can say something that has never been said before to describe precisely what you're feeling. I don't see pictures doing that. While people who know you closely might be able to make correct inferences about your state of mind based on your use of these icons, the redundancy caused by everyone else in the world using them too makes this difficult for people who don't know you as well. Also, if the animations are actually supposed to be important in the context, the program is demanding a lot more of your attention, which would make many of us more reluctant to use it.
  • didn't we learn from iChat that this graphical/cartoon nonesense just detracts from IM? it makes almost as much sense as watching TV on your computer!

  • Not a new concept (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SageMadHatter ( 546701 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:42AM (#10275901)
    The Palace [] did this back in 1994. They key difference between The Palace and this new IMVU, is that The Palace uses 2D avatars, where as IMVU brings in 3D.
  • language (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oyenstikker ( 536040 ) < minus caffeine> on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:47AM (#10275942) Homepage Journal
    "typed emoticons offer only minimal clues to someone's state of mind."

    What happened to using language to explain the state of your mind? Is humanity throwing out the significant advancement of expressing thought with an abstracted language?
    • Re:language (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Oddly_Drac ( 625066 )
      "Is humanity throwing out the significant advancement of expressing thought with an abstracted language?"

      Not only that, but do you really need a _bad_ facsimile of body language to stop people flaming because they're too darned quick to anger?

      A friend of mine once said that he doubted that Shakespeare would have been enriched with emoticons.

      This is a technology looking for an application, and bunging graphics on things appears to be the 21st century equivalent of bunging a clock on everything.
      • Re:language (Score:3, Funny)

        by andfarm ( 534655 )
        To be or not to be, that is the question :-)
        Whether 'tis nobler in the mind :-P to suffer:-(
        The slings and arrows :-(( of outrageous fortune :-(((
        Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
        And by opposing end them? 8-) To die X-P, to sleep -_-,
        No more... I can't handle mangling Shakespeare this badly.
    • I like a laugh. I'm rarely serious when talking to friends.

      "Jim, you're a cunt". I say it all the time. I say it with a smile on my face. Jim doesn't mine. It's friendly banter. He calls me names too. I call everyone cunts. They don't mind as long as it's said properly.

      It needs a emoticon online or the meaning is lost.
  • by kars ( 100858 )
    Actually, what I'd -really- like to see is a "shared" canvas, where you can both just doodle on. Sometimes a quick picture, even if it's just a few lines, says more than a thousand words.
  • by CGP314 ( 672613 )
    "If you have ever played casual games on the internet -- chess, hearts -- you are familiar with how rude and impersonal people are to each other," Harvey said. "Anyone who has ever met people and socialized in a compelling (virtual world) knows that people act differently when interacting as avatars than they would if they were interacting in a chat room with text alone. The visuals matter. You treat people as people, instead of as screen names."

    This is the only part of GIM that seems like it could actual
  • by Johnny Mnemonic ( 176043 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `eromsnidm'> on Friday September 17, 2004 @10:15AM (#10276157) Homepage Journal

    A 3D environment that suffers for all of the reasons listed above: takes too much attention, learning curve is too steep, bandwidth is too much, still doesn't reflect emotional tides in the conversation. Essentially, it is too cumbersome to be able to add anything to a conversation, and is expensive to implement (either in terms of bandwidth, developing cost, etc) that 3D chat environments aren't widely used.

    However, what I think these systems are really trying to do is to add a sense of "belonging" to a virtual space. Instead of chatting in the abstract, without grounding in real-world metaphors, these systems are trying to associate the chat with real-world analogs. Therefore, anything that accomplishes that goal would be a success.

    Based on my experience of MUSHing, I have to say that I think the same could be accomplished if the MUSH environment was wedded to a chat protocol. When I MUSHed, I always felt more comfortable chatting in my built environment, even when I was OOC. Why? Chatting in any given place carried the same information. But I had some custom coded objects that I could show off, but more than that I knew the objects that were described and I could much more easily imagine myself sitting and chatting in a place that I knew than trying to picture doing it in a random place.

    So instead of going 3D, I think folks like AOL or whoever would do better to develop a chat environment that allowed for descriptions to be viewed and some interactivity with objects. Also for characters to "pose", that is I type ":: glances into his wallet" and YOU see "Johnny Mnemonic glances into his wallet." You can't currently do that with chat systems with which I'm familiar, although you can see that it adds depth to the narrative in a seamless way. That would be enough to simulate presence in a "sitting room" and would allow more complex interaction, although would still have all of the benefits of text-based chat.

    The reason that MUSHes lost out to other kinds of gaming is that when gaming one really wants to have a visual experience; but when chatting, one wants to communicate with as much control as possible. When you're chatting, I think people are willing to read; so they might be inclined to read through your descriptions of your "room."

    For this to work, you wouldn't want to have to log in to a MUSH server, although I'm surprised that there aren't more just chat MUSH servers (seems like they all want to put you through this chargen thing, whereas I really just want to shoot the breeze.) You would need a client that can interpret the action commands itself and display back the requisite info, so a client and server should be balled up into one; and the syntax would need to be ubiquitous enough that the command actions from my friends could be interpreted by my server reliably. But would that really be that complicated?
  • The IM client that Google purchased has more compelling graphics features. No avatars. Kinda neat []. Nobody uses it. It's not integrated with AOL IM or Yahoo or MSN, but it beats finding a real imagehost for your blogspot blog, and if you have someone you actually want to talk to about pictures... it's perfect.

    It's screenshot thing could actually make it handy for discussing GUI development... maybe.
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Friday September 17, 2004 @10:33AM (#10276324)
    Anyone who thinks it is only possible to have a "minimal" sort of conversation over a textual medium is not sufficiently familiar with the medium. Nearly all languages use arbitrary symbols to convey meaning and connotations, and text-chat is no different. Sure, ":-)" a priori carries only a minimal amount of information, but use of thisand many other, non-emoticonsymbols, in context carries quite a bit more information.

    It's probably reasonable to say the the bandwidth of textual communication is lower, and thus the total amount of information transmitted has to be lower, but it's not correct to say that this requires it to be a crude medium with no connotation. When you've been talking to a person or group of people over a textual medium long enough, you start to speak it fluently, and use the arbitrary symbols in a useful manner.
  • didn't cybercities (I think that's what it was called) have this way b ack in 1996?
  • by ceeam ( 39911 )
    Great! It's so revolutionary! I mean, see how VRML has changed the old text+bitmap web we've had before! ;-)
  • hl2 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by smallguy78 ( 775828 )
    There's a half life 2 mod in production that promises to be a virtual chat room, but will of course have the benefits of hl2's physics and graphics (people able to knock a coffee of the table, for example), instead of the early-90's looking wrml. I imagine the chat will be like ever other multiplayer chat interface.

    It's somewhere on [] I can't remember the exact link unfortunately.
  • Some more /. anti-news. How about a new metric: Is this earth-shattering or just nuked meatloaf?

    (I'm not knocking meatloaf but a meatloaf icon would help).

    My team built 3d chat with avatars at Cyber Technologies International in Tokyo, a fun hack in like a week. The year was 1995.

    I think it would be a smart idea to (1) double or triple the number of articles on the top page, and (2) for each one, denote by icon or coloration the "notmeatloafitude" as ranked by mods or perhaps by users (weight by avg ka
  • IMVU (Score:3, Informative)

    by eries ( 71365 ) <.slashdot-eric. .at.> on Friday September 17, 2004 @02:04PM (#10278598) Homepage
    Hey, I'm one of the engineers at IMVU []. I thought many of the coolets things about IMVU weren't even mentioned in the article, and figured I'd post a link. Please feel free to post your comments. Oh, and if you're interested in joining one of our many [] free [] software [] projects, drop me a line.

    For those of you too lazy to click here is some text from our About Us [] page:

    Our philosophy

    * Censorship-free micropayment economy - We're creating a marketplace for digital goods that (as one of our customers put it) is "for the people, by the people." We have worked hard to prevent the IMVU experience from ever being overtaken by our opinions, preferring to leave it up to our customers to decide what they want to create and do with IMVU.

    * Open platform - We know that good ideas come from all over, not just from our office. So we're committed to creating every opportunity to open up our platform to new kinds of creativity. Let us know if you've got a good idea.

    * Eat our own dogfood - We've set up our business so that if our developers don't succeed, we don't succeed. We like it that way, because it prevents any distinction between our developers' interests and our own. Developers use the exact same tools we do to create content for IMVU, and can sell in our economy just as well as we can.

    * Release early, release often - We are committed to fast fixes and rapid iteration, and strive to incorporate as much feedback as humanly possible. We think the fastest way to grow a successful product is to release the product as early as possible and to improve it over time in collaboration with our customers. We appreciate everyone's patience, and believe that we will all share in the reward of seeing IMVU's exciting and rapid evolution.

    * Free and open-source software - IMVU would not be possible without the countless contributors around the world that have developed, tested, and maintained the many open source and free software projects we use. We strive to use free and open-source alternatives whenever they are available, and actively engage with communities that produce the software we use. We are contributors to many projects, and have even started a few of our own.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI