Multidisciplinary approach to probe impact of real, virtual worlds

December 24th, 2009 - 8:46 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 24 (IANS) Avatar, a stunning 3D realisation of an alien world, leapt to the top of box office charts soon after release. The imagined other-world setting, called Pandora, lived in director James Cameron’s mind for 20 years before Computer generated imagery (CGI) could realise his vision.
CGI in movies has made possible unprecedented levels of realism. It has developed in tandem with technological advances in computer games development, and some games sales are overtaking movies.

For instance, Modern Warfare 2 computer game became the biggest entertainment product launch in history, after its November release, yielding sales of $550 million in five days.

However, few coordinated investigations of virtual world behaviours and real-world users have been conducted until now.

Now researchers at The University of Nottingham, SRI International in Silicon Valley, two Canadian universities, Simon Fraser and York and online games developer Multiverse are to begin a new three-year project examining online behaviour in virtual gaming environments.

The project, Virtual Environment Real User Study (Verus) will examine how individuals interact within online environments and their spinoffs, enhancing the entertainment value of games and their effectiveness as teaching and learning tools, professional training etc.

Cameron, the Oscar-winning director of science-fiction epics like The Terminator, Aliens and The Abyss, sits on the advisory board of one Verus research partner, Multiverse, says a Nottingham release.

John Murray, who leads the project at SRI, said: “We have formed a strong, multidisciplinary team of international researchers and organisations with extensive knowledge of behaviours in virtual worlds, as well as in experimental economics, social and behavioural sciences, education research, linguistics, cognitive engineering and artificial intelligence.”

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