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Why this new newsgroup?

    This is a proposal to create a new newsgroup on Usenet,
sci.virtual-worlds.  This proposal is being made by the Human
Interface Technology Laboratory at the University of Washington,
which proposes to host this newsgroup for the study of "virtual-
world" phenomena.

    According to the procedures agreed upon by Usenet adminis-
trators, a new newsgroup must be offered to the Usenet community
for from 14 to 30 days' worth of discussion prior to the taking
of a formal vote on the newsgroup's desirability.  Please accept
this as our offer to discuss the new newsgroup we propose,
sci.virtual-worlds.  We have until December 15th.

    We are making this proposal because we believe that the coming
proliferation of virtual-world phenomena, made possible by powerful
virtual-interface technology, requires the scientific community
served by Usenet to begin debating how this technology will be
employed.  Further, with additional research on virtual-world
phenomena taking place at more and more research sites, and in a
growing number of fields -- aerospace, medicine, entertainment,
education, and science -- it is imperative that there be a forum
where the outcomes of this research can be shared most widely.

    Initial directions for this newsgroup have been suggested by
various participants in the alt.{*filter*}punk newsgroup and its
derivative newsgroups.  However, to ensure the highest level of
discussion regarding virtual worlds, we believe that this subject
should be elevated to the level of a sci. newsgroup, with the
formal endor{*filter*}t of the Usenet community.

What is a virtual world?

    A "virtual world" is a unique, intangible but highly designed
information environment generated by a computer and transmitted
by "virtual-interface" technology to a user who "enters" the
virtual world via appropriate sensory-exchange devices.   Best
known of these devices are the Super{*filter*}pit, a cabled helmet-
and-uniform ensemble worn by Air Force pilots to "bond" them
to their planes; and a video facemask and data glove developed
by NASA and refined by VPL and Autodesk.

    The virtual-world environment can be as complex as a three-
dimensional "sense surround" comprising seamless visual, aural,
and tactile cues; or as simple as a computer conferencing system.
Virtual worlds are designed to increase the bandwidth of communi-
cation between the computer and the human being, to facilitate
their interaction, and ultimately to improve the human being's
understanding and performance.  In short, a virtual world is
created to exploit the perceptual and cognitive skills of human
beings:  to design computer systems that communicate with
human beings on human terms, rather than the other way around.

    Virtual worlds are also known by the popular term "{*filter*}-
space," coined by the author William Gibson (NEUROMANCER) to
describe the environment within future computer networks as
experienced by future "cowboys" who "ride" the global Net via
headsets and laptop "decks."  Other terms used to describe
virtual-world phenomena are "virtual reality" and "artificial

The substance of the proposed newsgroup

    The subject of this newsgroup will be virtual worlds, in all
their aspects:  the theory of virtuality, the technology that is
being developed and employed to create virtual-world environments,
the people and places working on virtual worlds, and the philoso-
phical questions and social consequences attendant upon the
emergence of this new medium of communication.

    Sci.virtual-worlds will be a scientific, economic, philoso-
phical, and spiritual examination of the particular phenomena that
are associated with the creation and experience of virtual worlds.
Moderating the conference will be Howard Rheingold, WELL host and
author (TOOLS FOR THOUGHT) who is currently researching virtual-
world developments for a book in preparation.  Assisting Rheingold
will be Drs. Thomas Furness and Robert Jacobson, director and
associate director, respectively, of the Human Interface Techno-
logy Laboratory at the University of Washington.

Who could join this newgroup?

    Anyone with a serious interest in virtual-world phenomena
and/or technology would be invited to join this newsgroup.

    Researchers are currently developing sophisticated virtual
interface systems at the University of Washington, MIT, the
University of North Carolina, the University of Utah, Brigham
Young University, Autodesk, VPL, and NASA.  In the next year,
several books on virtual worlds will be published.  There are a
number of articles about virtual-world theory and practice
already available in professional and popular journals.

    Additionally, practitioners in many professional fields and
practices are beginning to investigate the use of virtual-world
technology to solve problems in the conduct of their work.  Among
these are chemists, aerospace engineers, medical doctors, educa-
tors, and motion-picture special-effects producers.

    Sci.virtual-worlds would be a place where this diverse and
active community of researchers and practitioners can join
together to share knowledge and reflect upon its meaning.

Future plans

    The Laboratory intends to make available via Usenet a database
referencing the items in its considerable library regarding
virtual-worlds phenomena and research.  The database is in prepara-
tion.  An announcement will be made when this archive is publicly

Please join in the discussion!

    This is your opportunity to voice an opinion regarding the new
newsgroup proposed in this article.  If you agree with our general
premises, your can also help shape the future of sci.virtual-worlds.
Please take advantage and let us know what you think.  The dialogue
will be conducted in newsgroup news.groups, where you should
direct your comments.

    For more information, contact Robert Jacobson at the follow-
ing telephone or email numbers:

(206) 726-1537 (Home)          MCI Mai:  Robert Jacobson

Mon, 19 Apr 1993 06:41:00 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

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