Monday, October 15, 2007

Active virtual lives for the disabled

…This gal is an avatar, a fantasy character HA has named Water Woman. HA wanted to make her the spokeswoman for a bottled water company but the stodges there didn’t “get it.”

…According to Rob Stein, Washington Post, some disabled people are using avatars to operate in a virtual world online—and this is leading to improvements in their real, actual physical condition and behavior.

…In one case, an autistic person learns online to pick up visual clues and talk to others.

…One doctor called it a major technical and social transition.

…Med schools are using virtual worlds to train doctors. First responders get tested for reaction time and judgments online.

…You pick your avatar—your fantasy self. If you can’t walk, the avatar can, if you choose.

…If you are housebound, your avatar can flit around huge worlds filled with shopping malls, bars, homes, and parks.

…And avatars of different people can talk to each other…using realistic shrugs and body language.

…Experts call this emotional bandwidth.

…Of course some people—through their avatars—take this too far, becoming violent or angry.

…Will this take people away from “real” relationships? experts wonder.

…Still, the government has engaged in this (eyeroll)…The Centers for Disease Control has an office in the virtual world Second Life. The American Cancer Society has a big operation—with doctor avatars giving talks.

…The CDC has also investigated epidemics in some virtual worlds to see how people might react in the real world.

…A disabled woman even walked again, visualizing it with her avatar in a field on Dreams, a secure part of Second Life.

…Her avatar even stumbled. Just like RL.

…Real Life.

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