Image courtesy Bruce Damer
Last Saturday November 21, Avatars 98 a conference in cyberspace and about cyberspace was held. The conference was arranged just like a real physical conference. There were exhibits, speakers, an art gallery and special events. The conference was organized by the Contact Consortium who's primary force is Bruce Damer, long time Avatar guy. (Be sure to check out Bruce's book "Avatars!") The conference attracted a few thousand people.
Wow! Avatars98 sure went way beyond all of our expectations! By best estimates we had over 4000 people flow through the events in all the virtual world platforms over 24 hours, with a respectable 200 to 300 constant occupants in the AV98 hall and satellite spaces in Active Worlds alone. The face to face locations hosted another 1000 people and reported in positive experience both in-RL and in-world and many appeared on the live webcams. Speakers were able to hold meaningful and often deep discussions. The exhibits and art gallery shone. Hosts guided guests very well and peacekeepers kept conversation cordial and considerate. Servers and webcast streams pumped. Bots worked wonders and marched to the tune of the day. And lastly, the Avvy Awards was a fitting grandee finale and an emotional high point for the whole event, with the spectacular "Summer" sweeping up the grand Avvy and best humanoid categories.
The grand finale of the conference was the Avvy Awards. It consisted of the selection of the best Avatar in a variety of categories, including a Grand Prize Winner. And the envelope please...the Grand Prize winner is a shapely and scantily clad "VR Avatar" called "Summer" created by Victoria D'Onofrio and Rody Galeano of VR Avatars.Check out the winners.
The conference was run just like a "real" physical conference, there were speakers, exhibit booths where sponsors bought space.
Given that the conference took place primarily in cyberspace, a conference map, naturally, was really a teleportation map. Click on a location and zap you're transported there. The main multi-user world client was Active Worlds. Active Worlds is not quite VRML but can display VRML worlds and clearly have very good support for large scale users interaction, i.e. it supports lots of people.
The conference got a respectable amount of press including an article in Wired, always a plus for the digerati.
The show was certainly a success according to one avatar and world builder Miriam English who reports (ed. note - added links):
ULTRA-COOL !!!! I spent 5 1/2 hours online! Most of it at ActiveWorlds. There were _throngs_ of people... it was a thrill !! I attended a couple of talks there, one of which was being given by a guy named Hannes (can't remember his last name) from MIT Media Lab. Very interesting with a fair bit of audience input. It was about next generation avatars . Felt so weird having the talk about avatars being delivered by an avatar in VR. I was at the closing ceremony and saw Victoria (MyTwoKeys) who, with Rody (netropolis), took out the first prize with an ActiveWorlds avatar (ed. actually a VR Avatar) named Summer. She is an utterly gorgeous avatar with a very skimpy costume constructed of flapping butterflies, and she holds, and from time to time strokes, a rabbit (in that wonderful way AW avatars have of fidgetting). Just brilliant! They deserved to win. The fact that it was not a VRML avatar highlights that we all have lots of work to do. The mainstream VRML effort needs (in my opinion) to more fully embrace the H-Anim effort to make it more of a well known guideline. We have our work cut out for us... ActiveWorlds are moving the goalposts way ahead. Speaking of work to be done... the number of people simultaneously at the ActiveWorlds conference was stupendous. We need to get VNet up to somewhere near that capability. ActiveWorlds proves that it can be done.
Of course all was not perfect, Cati Laporte, well known cyberartist, couldn't get her avatar entered as her ISP went down, and other folks report problems getting into the Avatars98 site. Let's face it, if there were no problems I'd probably not quite believe it all!
Clearly Bruce Damer, the Contact Consortium and all the other folks involved in
this event should be congratulated. It was a great event, ambitious like most great events and pushed the bleeding edge for virtual events a bit farther.
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