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Nudge gently.

Virtual Coffee Shops

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Shortly after registering for SecondLife™, while still in Orientation Island, a mentor offered to teleport me to a virtual coffeehouse. Someone passed an animated beverage cup and told me how to “wear” the mug.

Image of four avatars seated on a terrace, several holding mugs.
Brewsters Coffee House, first visit away from Help Island; TP offered by a mentor (February, 2007).

It was 2007, and there I was, marveling at how one could mingle with others in a simulated coffee shop. Steeped in fascination, I began thinking about the role of simulated spaces in a virtual world. Why a coffee shop? What purpose did it serve to design that space in that way?

In meatspace a coffeeshop offers two opportunities: coffee and community.

Sure, that virtual coffee shop simmered with community. In fact,  the personal socializing in VWs surprised me from the start. But where is my virtual caffeine? Are we merely duplicating one environment within another?

Image of virtual world coffee shop

OSGrid user Patrick Saccoccia’s Starbeans
Art Town’s Coffeeshop in OSGrid

Early last year, Prof. Ken Perlin from NYU spoke to rezidents of the Google campus about the future of Augmented Reality, imploring the audience to imagine how such technology might be employed, how it would be most useful.

“These issues…these discussions have to be very public and people have to be talking about them so that we can figure out what we all want…so that we can go keep [sic] moving ahead with our technology without everyone looking over their shoulder and mistrusting it.”

—from Perlin’s Google Tech Talk (video)
(Watch him sorting algorithms at 35:50, or the topographic mapping demo at 38:24.)

Any average avatar will yammer on about the role of technology. However, this is an Academy Award winner who teaches graphics to grad students. I mean: come on, the man received an Oscar for programming virtual reality.

“The solutions have to be: everybody gets together and says ‘What do we want as a society?’ ”

Meanwhile, back in the grid, I am thinking that virtual world design should inform augmented reality. So, regarding VW java…”Where’s the juice?”

How can we optimize the function of virtual world simulations? Dressing up at virtual shopping malls, we dance at virtual clubs. We drive digital dirigibles and slide down virtual carnival rides. But, what can be consumed in a virtual coffee shop?

Well…what if our virtual coffeehouse served up Internet media?

Instead of beverages, what if we found links to websites and blogs; in place of caffeine, information? We could meet to share links, swap perspectives, discover stories together. One user picks up a link, another drops one off. We could still wear animated mugs and mingle minds…let’s just splash some virtual books and magazines on the coffee tables.

This idea has been percolating for years. Now that I am back in the metaverse, it is time I ask…

image of coffee urn with website logos emerging from spigot

Image by Flickr member: Stewart Black

If virtual coffee houses were media cafés

…would you pour yourself a cup?


Written by azwaldo

January 29, 2013 at 6:59 am

Posted in media cafe, narrative

Tagged with ,

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