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ActiveWorlds: Avatar Movement Restrictions

-Note: Based on ActiveWorlds Codebase 3.6 and Below-

As one of the major, established social VR platforms on the internet today, ActiveWorlds deserves more than a cursory look at its world system, its strengths and more importantly, its limitations deserve looking at, in detail.

Avatars in ActiveWorlds are cartoonish looking things, controlled either via the keyboard or the mouse/HMD/Dataglove with an impressively adaptable device driver.

Range of Movement

For such an old, established platform, avatars in ActiveWorlds have an extremely limited range of movement:
Horizontally they can rotate 360 degrees, yet vertically, only 180 degrees, preventing movements such as somersaults or loops.

Avatar Movements are restricted in pitch

Indeed, the only way to change direction when diving or climbing is to rotate sideways, then readjust your angle, as movement stops just shy of pointing straight up or down.

This limitation in movement may not sound much, but in practice, it makes all the difference when you are continually moving through an environment that opens in three dimensions all around you.

ActiveWorlds permits all its users to fly, so the sky is literally the limit for all avatars. Yet, disturbingly, there is no yaw control available. You can move left or right, up or down, pitch or roll, but not yaw, rendering six degrees of freedom of movement impossible.

This one critical oversight, coupled with the inability to pitch more than 180 degrees, does limit the possibilities as you try to explore the 3D space in a natural manner.

Perhaps the limitations on freedom can be traced to ActiveWorlds? origins as an artistic display program? Regardless, there is little excuse for the situation to be unimproved ten years down the road, and this limitation on movement cramps the immersiveness, rendering many attempts to create 3D enjoyment ? thrill rides, rollercoasters, flybys ? obsolete as the avatars cannot flow in ways necessary for true movement.

Also, this lack of full mobility does make it hard to use a full-immersion interface such as a head-mounted gyroscope properly, as some neck movements will translate, others will not, distorting the view received from the one your balance centre perhaps expected. Nine times out of ten, this sensory conflict, will induce vomiting, after 20 minutes exposure, making ActiveWorlds, despite its adaptive interface, a bad place to try for full immersion.

At the time of writing, ActiveWorlds 4.x is still in development, so hopefully this codebase will fix these issues. Until then, ActiveWorlds is best avoided as a full immersion interface.
Staff Comments


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