Virtual You, a New View


By Phil DeSimone

When people hear the word avatar, they may likely think of a large, blue being native to the planet of Pandora. Although not exactly on topic, the movie "Avatar" in this case can be a respectable comparison. An avatar can commonly be defined as an electronic image that represents and is manipulated by a computer user. With innovations from NTT DOCOMO, you yourself can now be represented as an avatar through the electronic world.

DOCOMO is operational out of Japan, and is one of the world’s largest companies dealing with mobile communication. They have created very sophisticated glasses that map your facial features to create a real-time avatar. The cameras then translate your facial features through a software program, resulting in a surprisingly accurate interpretation of the user displayed on a video screen. On the back of the glasses is also a camera that monitors the background to represent a true dimension of a virtual world.

This product follows the same idea as you would see with services such as FaceTime® or Skype™. It is meant to be a communication device, but with a twist. Instead of viewing a self representation, you are being projected as a cartoonish figure. This can produce some curious questions, as in why would you want to be portrayed in this way? The intentions at DOCOMO seem to be aimed toward a more informal way to communicate with one another. The video chat glasses can bypass the unnecessary need to prepare for a casual call to the family or even for a meeting. This is also an appealing feature for the more timid users. People that can relax and focus on conversation would potentially have a better overall experience rather than worrying about their appearance.

DOCOMO plans to release this product commercially within the next five years. They are still developing an easier-to-use, portable version. People might not be jumping out of their chairs to integrate this new technology into their lives just yet, but in due time, this technology may likely replace household phones and change communication forever.

Classroom Discussion

  • Would you be more interested in using these video chat glasses over other communication services such as FaceTime or Skype? Why?
  • Name examples where these glasses may be useful.