Thursday, March 01, 2007

Voice in SL?

Once upon a time, movies were silent. Actors emoted with grand gestures, with the occasional shot of a pasteboard with crucial dialog. ("I'll pay the rent!" is hard to get across via pantomime. :))

Then came talkies... and suddenly actors had to sound good, too. Oops...

LL has announced that voice is coming to SL. This is proving a controversial issue, and not the unalloyed benefit that one might think:
  • There's the voice, and then there's the avatar. Bela Lugosi may have met a Brooklyn Gorilla, but will you be able to suspend your disbelief if you meet someone with a gorilla avatar and a Brooklyn accent, using voice? It will be Tony Curtis's apocryphal line, "Yonda lies da palace of my faddah, da Caliph" writ large. When the folks at a Texas Renaissance fair close with "Fare thee well, y'all," it's for laughs. Someone on SL portraying a knight but having a Texas accent will have a hard time keeping up the illusion. (Not to mention the gender and age issues...)
  • Some of us lisp; some of us stutter.
  • Some of us are deaf.
  • Voice is often urged as good for lectures or discussions... but OTOH, text gives one an immediate transcript, reliably identifies the speaker, and save in extreme cases, avoids the cacophony of voices one hears at, say, a party in real life. Will public gatherings sound like the ends of net@nite podcasts, where Leo Laporte throws the controls open and tells everyone to talk at once? Will there be sufficient cues that you will be able to tell when to start talking again without talking over someone?
  • It opens up a whole new world for griefers... will you be able to tell whom to mute?
  • What if you use SL in a noisy environment, or one where quiet is important? Sure, you can turn off sound, but if everyone's talking, there's no point in being there without being able to hear them. You can use earphones, but where others are talking, there'll be pressure for you to talk, too, even though you don't want to make noise, or be overheard.
I'm not sure what I think of this yet.

1 comment:

Véronique Lalonde said...

LOL! I love the accent observations. Tony Curtis indeed! And a Renaissance fair in Second Life now would be so much more convincing than what we can do in First Life, where it's basically about costumes and eating with one's fingers.

I've got used to DJs like Barely Schlegal (talk about Texas accents!) speaking on mic, but that's in a club, and his is a special function. My significant other is amazingly tolerant of our fundamentally polyamorous relationship, but there is no way I'm going to make love with Patrice by talking -- or even make out. That is so not going to happen.

It's a curious thing, and it brings up as many philosophical questions as technical ones.