Personal Everyday Avatars

Some of you may already know that, in addition to writing for Games and Geekery, I’m also working on a Sci-Fi/Fantasy book called Hermes925. One of the ideas I try to explore in the story is augmented reality and how it might affect everyday life. One of the advantages of augmented reality becoming prevalent and normal is that you’d be able to digitally alter your appearance. Anyone looking at you through their own augmented reality device would see your avatar, your digital self, instead of your actual physical body.

I was curious to see what the Facebook community would chose to look like if such technology were already available today, and got some very interesting answers. You can see the original post by following this link. The first reply, and one that gets echoed later in another comment, is ‘a Dragon’.

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This is such an amazing idea, but not without it’s faults. When most people imagine what a dragon would look like in real life, they inevitably imagine something huge! If you did chose to appear as a big dragon, it would make life rather difficult for everyone around you. It would be a reasonable avatar for your car perhaps, but a little problematic as your personal avatar. For one, you wouldn’t see the world through the dragon’s eyes, you’d still be using your own. The dragon’s claws may also move in sync with your own hands, but if you wanted to actually pick something up you’d still have to pick it up yourself. People would see the object you wanted to interact with disappear inside the dragon before you got to it. Only as you were picking it up would a digital representation of the object appear in the dragon’s claw.

Then there’s the issue of space. The N•Viron system I describe in Hermes925 also stimulates your touch receptors, so people would actually be able to touch and feel your dragon, and you’d feel their touch in response. When your dragon bumped into them, they’d feel it. The physical presence of your dragon would seem as real as it’s appearance. You’d be taking up way too much space, which many would find unfair and downright obnoxious. Not only that, but doorways and other obstacles would become a problem for you. You’d feel every physical obstruction.

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It would be far more sensible if the dragon were more or less you-sized. Wings and a tail would be acceptable, since others would no doubt applying similar embellishments to their own avatars. Some may want angel, or fairy wings. Others, and you can see in the original comments would want to be 8-10 foot muscle-bound gods or werewolves, or even pieces of machinery. This would make you a little more imposing and steal a little more personal space for yourself, but nowhere near as much as a full-sized dragon, dinosaur, or other giant beast would.

A few people just wanted to be an idealized version of themselves. Younger, healthier, sexier, with longer hair, tanned skin and a slimmer waistline. I admit that this is probably the way I’d go most of the time. Except, I’d make myself even paler, edit my hair so that it was always the way I want it to look, and the perfect shade of black. I’d also make sure my clothes looked right, adding suitably gothic accessories, and add tattoos that I’m currently too chicken and too poor to get done. Perhaps even making them animated.

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My favorite idea though was suggestion that you could make yourself appear ghost-like. A translucent apparition. This captured my imagination for a couple of reasons. Instead of using the avatar to project you ideal self, it could be used to express the inner anguish and insecurities that others don’t normally see. A possibility had hadn’t occurred to me before. It could be argued that my choice to wear black clothes and eyeliner is precisely to express my depression and anxiety. I just think it suits me and looks cool.

Appearing bigger than you are is one thing, but having an avatar that’s smaller than you, or see-thru, presents another problem. Your actual physical body would be visible. Unless the system can project an image of the world behind you into the spaces the avatar doesn’t occupy. To do so the system would have to gather data from other users to fill in the blanks. Even then there would be glitches. You might see something thru the ghost-person that isn’t actually there in real time, but was there when someone last stood where you are standing.

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The computer network that supports this kind of technology would have to immensely smart and powerful. If it can make us see an accurate representation of the world through someone that wants to look like a ghost, what else can it make us see? How could you trust anything that you see, or feel? If you’d like to see what I’m doing with these ideas, please go check out Hermes925 on my own website, or read the story from the beginning as I’m editing and reposting it to Wattpad.

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