Usually, any discussion of avatars is related to virtual worlds and the metaverse. They do also refer to icon images on things such as Twitter profiles. The word has evolved from religious connotations of the embodiment of a deity into a physical form. It also is used, minus deity, in the Avatar movies referring to the controlling another physical being at distance. For this post I thought I would share some more avatar experiences and reference yet another BCS animation and games webinar that might be of interest.
Present at a Presentation
I have delivered a lot of presentations over the years, both professional and more socially, on stage, TV screens and streamed. This was not something that came naturally. At college and uni we did do some presenting and it was usually of our own work, but often it was a group effort taking a part of a written script so as not to get anything wrong. Once I started work my mentor (thanks Soheil 😊 ) threw me into presenting for a techie work project. We were using printed transparency sheets on an overhead projector, or an LCD passthrough screen if lucky to nab it (go 90’s!). My body decided that this mini pitch was not a great idea and gave me a nosebleed. However, I was thrust on the “stage” anyway (about 10 people I recall), once the nosebleed had subsided. Now this might not be the ideal way to figure out presenting but I was so focussed on whether I would start dripping again so I just launched into the subject matter almost on autopilot. It went well, I survived, and I spoke about the things I knew to help others understand. I did not fully realize at the time that this was the way I would continue to present things. It seems that I approach a presentation with two parts of me. One is just focussed on maintaining a presence and the other riffs on the subject and talks away. It sounds weird like that but I think it is similar to when we hear our recorded voice and say we don’t sound like that. Hence, when I present in person I let my inner Avatar out and let it do the talking for me. This is the essence of active to be able to retreat from one’s usual approach and present another. The different is that both these are still me, nothing much changes in that respect. Those of you who present a lot, or who loathe/like it I wonder how that resonates? I do find in person presentation is a huge energy drain, usually because I care a lot about the subject and also maintain this quantum entanglement with my own self. Talking to a webcam though, not a huge fan of that at all. In small conversations, like talking on a panel regardless of how many people are watching is OK, but lunching into a presentation like a webinar I tend to try and avoid seeing my own video feed. It is mentally horrible because it reminds me that I am me, rather being in my presenting persona (dare I say Avatar?). It also reminds me people are seeing that me, maybe not the me I am projecting. All that takes up valuable mental processing cycles that should be delivering the pitch. Which brings me to my most recent webinar.
Avatar do your thing
The most recent non-work presentation I did recently as chair of the BCS animation and games specialist group it was on “What’s with all the animated dancing in games?”. It was recorded so by the time you read this it should be live if you are interested in checking it out. For this event I decided to attend as an avatar using a program called Animaze that takes input from the web cam and presents a digital character and background that can be used instead of the web cam in any situation, such as Zoom or Teams. I also used a Leap controller that senses hands and arm movements to also apply to the avatar.
(epredator in Animaze with ReadyPlayer.me avatar)
This meant digital me was smiling, blinking, talking and arm waving whilst I went through material about the significance of animation and specifically dancing gestures in games and the metaverse. You may have spotted where I am going with this? Whilst yes, it was a bit of fun, the avatar representation of me I found did not distract, far from it, it was an extra tool to express ideas with, I waved more and moved my head more too. It was the external me, presenting and in full flow. This is not a new feeling as presenting in VR or in virtual worlds has long proven to me that avatars and their puppetry is a comfortable, enjoyable and productive way to engage online. All I need now to complete my journey is to find a nose bleed animation and the circle is complete.
“It’s not you”, “You are hiding”, “I don’t want to do that”, “Doesn’t make me feel better”. All valid comments. 1. It is me, but equally I reserve the right to be an actor/performer and be someone else. 2. I am not hiding, in fact there is twice as much of me or more out there talking. 3. Don’t then, likewise don’t go on stage, don’t present TV you don’t have to its all fine. 4. Firstly, have you actually tried it and do you have anything to compare it with? secondly see point 3. I would suggest there is nothing to lose in trying out an avatar either on camera or in a virtual world for a presentation or just chatting to people, let me know how you get on, I am @epredator on twitter.