I guess everybody will be blogging about voice in Second Life over the next few weeks. The latest download released has voice fully enabled, and despite my initial experiences with the trial grid being frustrating, I had an amazingly positive experience with the new version. Last night I tried it out with friends and fellow bloggers Jerry, Sharon and Alja. I should disclose that I have met Jerry and Sharon in “real life”, they are fellow Australians, and I’ve been enjoying a renewed enthusiasm for Second Life since they joined (I wonder if other people experience peaks and slumps in their enthusiasm?). I’ve also talked through the live streaming function a number of times for conferences. So the thought of voice wasn’t in any way intimidating, and didn’t threaten any sort of fictional persona I had going on (I think these are the two main concerns reported to date).
All four of us experienced technical difficulties to begin with, and I have to say getting it working is not for the faint of heart or the (like me) easily-frustrated-when-technology-doesn’t-do-what-you-want. But after maybe an hour or so, it was all sorted out and we’d launched into a full scale party, with Jerry playing his fiddle (Jerry is an incredible musician!), all of us dancing, and lots and lots of laughter. Jerry has a photo and a great write-up here. It was lovely to hear Alja’s Slovenian accent and to learn how to pronounce her name properly! We had a few other people come and go – one guy was practising his English on us – and it was all wonderfully entertaining. It was fun to share the experience at an entirely new level – so much so that when one of my other friends came along who didn’t have voice enabled, we felt terribly sorry for her because she was missing out on all the hilarities.
I think voice will offer the opportunity for much more full scale immersion, interaction, and engagement. And now that I have such a fantastic experience I can easily see it revolutionising communication. The only negative thing I have to say about it is that personally, I found it exhausting after a few hours had ticked by – it was quite intense and I couldn’t multitask like I usually do. Trust me, being chatty and engaging for hours at a time can be draining, especially if you’re more naturally an introvert. I look forward to seeing how others are experiencing it.