A virtual world (VW) is a social virtual environment depicted by a rich graphical landscape, where visitors come together to interact. The inhabitants of a VW, are represented by graphical avatars, communicate using verbal and non-verbal means, and can navigate the world and modify the virtual environment. The world is persistent, so it exists and evolves even when no inhabitants are present. Some VWs are goal-oriented, e.g., World of Warcraft™, there the inhabitants are participating in well-defined activities, solving quests, following explicit rules. These worlds are often called Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs). Other worlds, e.g., SecondLife™ are goal-agnostic, where the visitors generally invent the goals for themselves, visit places, attend events, or simply gather to talk. VWs and MMOGs are relatively new but important media for information exchange and social interaction. Some estimates put the current number of VW users in excess of a half billion. As participation in these VWs broadens and deepens, the need arises for understanding the nature of interactions and behaviors in these worlds and reconstructing them in Virtual Humans (VHs) – computer-driven characters that can communicate and act with human inhabitants in the VW.

We are interested in addressing the following issues:

  • Studies and theories of how human group interaction in virtual worlds is similar or different from interaction in the real world?
  • What kinds of joint activities are well-suited to virtual worlds (e.g. distance-education, virtual collaborations, etc.)
  • What kinds of roles can virtual humans play in such activities in these worlds?
  • What are the best ways of constructing virtual humans for virtual worlds?
  • What are the best ways of observing, and analyzing interactions in virtual worlds?
  • How can we work together in the future to create the best possible virtual humans who can live in and support meaningful activities in online worlds?

The workshop will consist of talks, discussion and possibly activity breakout sessions.