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Cultural Agents
and Avatars
85
on defining the interface. Eventually the entire school community is offered the oppor-
tunity to use and evaluate the system as it develops. Encouraged by the system develop-
ers, the school plans a low-key, six-months evaluation and intends to make the results
known to other schools and colleges.They plan to use the results of the evaluation to
support a grant to facilitate the take-up of the system.
The novelty of the new system invokes a huge amount of interest from around the
world, not only from other dance schools, and gains attention from the media when a
visiting international dancer has a short performance captured and replayed.This 3D
record of his visit is stored in the database, and the school decides to record as many vis-
iting dancers as possible for posterity.The staff also begin to contact national folk dance
societies in order to increase the avatars' dance range and repertoire.
129
Television, Avatars and an Art Gallery
A keen television viewer with her own home
media server decides to watch a programme about
an art gallery in Moscow. She selects the channel,
and her avatar appears in the corresponding room
in the virtual environment.This room serves as a
virtual art gallery with paintings that can be studied
in detail, together with background information
and links to related works. If there are other viewers
with compatible set-ups, their avatars will also be walking around in the space, and there
may also be an agent (or a group of agents) providing guided tours.
The user chooses a particular painting. It presents one of the popular squares of
Moscow in the seventeenth century.The guide explains to the user what the scenery is,
and suggests watching a video which shows how this place looks now. Since one of the
buildings in the painting is of major historic importance, the guide also suggests entering
its virtual model.
Thus the user is able to see the building first on the painting, and then on a video
presenting it in modern times.The virtual model adds even more.The user is able to
study architectural and design details which are impossible to see even if she visits the
real building, since part of it is closed for reconstruction, and many details on the ceilings
and pillars cannot be seen up close.The user is now accompanied by a new guide.The
guide is dressed as the chief servant in the house. He knows everything about the rooms,
and the furniture and fine arts stored in them. He is also well informed about the history
of the family.To keep the interest of the visitor, the servant shares funny, sad and scan-
dalous stories about the people who lived in the house. Some past members of the fami-
ly also appear as agents.
The visitor is invited to join a tea party in the afternoon, and a masked ball in the even-
ing where she meets other avatars. She is able to interact with the agents and with other
avatars using instant messaging technologies, although other developments are planned.
Thus she discovers other people from the real world interested in that historical period.
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Avatars representing remote participants in the City project
129 For an account of the procedures required to build a repertoire of avatar movements and behaviours
through motion capture, see Jehee Lee et al. (2002) "Interactive control of avatars animated with human
motion data", available online at http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=566607&coll=GUIDE&dl=ACM
&CFID=14533226&CFTOKEN=36034789
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