White House Deputy CTO Holds Dual Reality Event
On July 20th, 2009, Yesterday, Beth Noveck, the Deputy Chief Technology Officer at the White House and the person responsible for Open Government, gave a conference to to discuss her new book "WIKI GOVERNMENT: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful."
So what, you might think. This has nothing to do with virtual realities, augmented or alternate lives. Well, actually it did, for the manner in which she chose to give the conference and corresponding question and answer session, was via twin medium realities. A virtual reality and a physical reality were used in concert.
Beth presented in a physical conference room in New York with roughly 50 people in the audience. Meanwhile, over 100 people congregated at the MacArthur Island conference amphitheater in Second Life, to watch her speak on a large screen there, in real-time. Admittedly, second life was not the best venue; Linden Labs, the company behind the platform, kept the event very, very quiet until after it had occurred, fearing protesters might show up in droves. As it was, 100 avatars in the amphitheater was pressing the limits of their technology.
Still, this marks a notable milestone in government interaction with a VR. It's the first time an official government event has acknowledged that avatar based communication is a viable and worthwhile medium.
After Beth was introduced, she began her 30 minute discussion on ways that we can use emerging technologies and social media to help our government institutions make better decisions and solve problems more effectively.
The avatar based attendees were permitted two-way feedback, via active textual conversation which was relayed back to Beth, via Rik Panganiban, the Assistant Director of the Online Leadership Program at Global Kids. They were also of course, visible to all VR participants - and read aloud by him, for Beth and the physical participants, although the latter obviously could not participate in the discussion that evolved these questions, it was not really practical to do so.
Thus, those attending in virtual reality gained an advantage over those physically present for the same conference. This is a trend very likely to continue, due to the very nature of virtual environments themselves.