Everyone who is into Second Life has heard all the hype and hollering about voice coming into Second Life. Yesterday I finally got a chance to jump in world and give it a whirl. There is some good and some bad and I wanted to brain dump my thoughts for others to react and engage with.
A little white dot appears above your head if you have voice enabled. It's a quick visual as you walk into a room or pass someone in the sky that they too have voice
The audio is spacial so as someone walks away from you the sound gets lower. It was very strange to have someone walk in a circle around me while talking because I actually heard it out of different sides of the headphone. This is nicely done.
The visual indicator above your head when talking is helpful. It turns red if you are too loud and is another way of showing who is talking when you have several people in a conversation.
While not very intuitive at first there is a nice "Active Speakers" window where you can set different audio levels for everyone in a conversation. So yesterday one woman's microphone was very soft so I could boost her up while someone elses I had to turn down. This makes for a much more even conversation. I just hope that it saves these settings for the next time I meet the same people.
The Not So Good
Because of the way the audio is spacial it allows you to zoom in on someone to have their voice be the most clear. This sounds great and is useful, but it also opens up a huge problem in that I went way up in the sky and used my camera controls to zoom in on a group of people talking. I could hear them completely clearly and they had no idea I was listening. Spying has never been easier.
I noticed that because I was talking I did not pay any attention to what is going in-world. Someone came in and started typing and I didn't even notice it because the rest of us were on voice. I didn't even have to have SL visible on my screen. I was checking e-mail and still having the conversation. While this could be useful, it did take me out of being immersed in Second Life.
Unlike when it is all text and I can scroll back in the history if I missed something or got distracted by IM windows and such there is no history for voice. you miss it, it is gone. I know this is just like real life, but it's an observation.
I wonder about the legalities of taping conversations in SL without people's permission. I'm sure laws on the books carry over, but do they? I'm not a lawyer but who knows.
While I don't think it will cause huge splits I did witness someone not wanting to take part in a conversation because they didn't know us. Something about voice scares some people and I wonder how that is going to play out. Plus, I have no problem with women being men and men being women. But, what happens when say a female avatar won't do voice? Does that make you instantly question? I saw somewhere that this is going to open up a whole new line item for escorts to include voice as well. I can totally see that being an added bonus for their customers.
Voice as it currently is won't work for events because as of now I don't see any moderator capabilities. As an event organizer I'd love to be able to mute everyone but the speakers and then turn on people's voice as they asked questions and such to keep some form of order. I really hope that this ability comes along for land owners. It is a very needed piece to start using voice for large scale events.
This may sound overly negative and it is not meant to be. I just wanted to give some objective thoughts about it since I know people are wondering about it and haven't tried it yet. It's the next obvious step for virtual worlds. That is a no brainer to me. I do think that I prefer text at the moment though for some of the reasons mentioned above. Socially it's going to be a huge shift and it will be interesting to watch and take part in.