Who… are you?

I’ve been working with various representations of self inside Croquet. The other day, I had a kind off goofy cartoon-like avatar, and at the same time, I had a Web cam of myself displayed on the wall of the virtual conference room. We were looking at technical problems with both. David said, “Well, Howard looks interesting.” Do I? Which me? Or do you mean me?

I’ve also been working with 3D heads that are automatically generated to look like a person from in a 2D photograph. The software has some large number of parameters by which a canonical head is adjusted. The values for a particular person are measured off the photograph. Now, I think of a person’s ears as being unique as a fingerprint, but the software uses the same generic ear for everyone. Since there’s only one frontal picture used, there isn’t enough side-view data to make personalized ears. It made me think of Westworld or Neuromancer, in which future people recognize artificiality by flaws in the hands. A character says, “’They’ can’t do hands right.” In the near-term metaverse, it’ll be the ears.

On the other hand, one of these heads was a fellow I’d never met before, although I’ve been working closely with him days, nights and weekends for two months. I had seen him with a small 2D photograph where his face would be on his avatar. From his family name, I thought his ancestors might be Asian, but the ID photo was just too generic. Maybe Eastern Europe? However, the 3D head had a distinct Pac-Rim cast to me that just didn’t jump out at me in the photo. Interesting.

Lots of opportunities to define who the heck you are. And are you the same wherever you go? Am I different at work and in social gatherings? (Is there a difference?) Should I have distinct identities and distinct representations? I don’t want to walk into the virtual office wearing my B&D avatar! (And indeed, tonight I walked into a meeting not realizing that I was wearing Intel’s CEO that I’d been testing earlier.) Qwaq CEO Greg Nuyens puts it this way: after you meet and work with someone in Qwaq Forums, we want some of that relationship to carry over to a subsequent meeting in person. You shouldn’t feel like the non-virtual meeting is your first. (Greg’s in the video at the previous link discussing identity, but not this particular point.)

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.

One Comment

  1. Howard,

    I think this post would be imrpoved with an image of a hookah-smoking catepillar.


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