An Introduction to Second Life Ergonomics

Wednesday, January 2, 2008 Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ergonomics? Isn't that about how you place your hands on a keyboard? How you sit in front of your screen? Yes, but that's Human Ergonomics. Today I am talking about Second Life Ergonomics.

What exactly do I mean by "Second Life Ergonomics"? I mean that those little avatars that we control (or is it the other way around?) have needs just as their human owners do. They can't see as well as humans, they have restricted ways of moving around and have utterly terrible dexterity. Some of them are pretty ugly, too!

But seriously, these "physical" characteristics of avatars really do affect how we travel throughout the Second Life grid. Who hasn't been stuck trying to navigate to a precise spot, overshooting, and backing up? And repeating 0ver and over? Crashing into walls? Getting stuck in a rotating door? Falling off the edge of a ramp? Try moving while the grid is bagged out!

Frustrating, these be.

When I first built my Caso Milo store, I wanted to right some of these wrongs so that visitors would not encounter those issues. But immediately I had to realize that:

Real Life buildings are made to accommodate Real Life people with their physical capabilities


Second Life buildings should be made to accommodate Second Life avatars with their virtual capabilities

Often I encounter Second Life builds that replicate real life buildings, or incorporate real life building ideas. While these builds are not wrong, they may introduce problems for avatars who do not have the same physical capabilities as humans. Our quest to be realistic sometimes results in difficulties for visitors.

What are the characteristics of avatars that make them different than humans? Let's make a list:

  • Sight is normally set to a specific view - from behind the avatar, not from its eyeballs
  • Motion is normally in straight lines, and difficult to perform accurately in a curve
  • Teleportation is possible
  • Flight is possible, except in sims where flight is disabled. (FYI - there is a secret way around this, revealed to me late last night by Veyron Supercharge at her demonic industrial build site... but that's another story for another day)
  • Dexterity sucks. It is very difficult to accurately touch or manipulate small items
  • Smell and Taste are absent - thankfully!

And let's add one final one:

Knowing that avatars have differences from humans, do you think that buildings should be made differently to accommodate them? I do! I built my shop after considering these differences. You might be interested in knowing how you can build in an ergonomic way... but I will save those tips for another post.


Peter Stindberg said...

I identified two things many builders (at least new/unexperienced) builders get wrong:

Headroom - Most advanced users accessively use the camera to fly around. If a structure in SL is close to real word dimensions, your camera hits the ceiling and it is really difficult to get a good camera angle. For my taste, enclosed spaces in SL should be at least twice as high as you would have them in RL.

Proprtions - Many builders seem to get the proportions wrong. Probably because they take the headroom into account, you also end up with windows way above your head and doors suitable for a royal palace judged by their size. Even if a room has lots of headroom, I want the windows where I can actually use them to look through them, and I want the door be in proportion with my own size.

And finally I would like the encourage builders to be boring. In SL a table does not need legs. A lamp does not need a power cord from the ceiling. Water does not need to abide to the laws of gravity. Be creative! Be visionary!

ArminasX Saiman said...

Peter, Peter, Peter! You are jumping ahead to next week's post! Seriously, thank you for the great tips. It's this kind of thing I am concerned about and I want to make a good, hopefully definitive list of them.

Carl said...

These are really good ideas, and I'm sure they apply to other virtual 3D environments too. Thanks for writing them.

ArminasX said...

I believe you are correct, Carl. Many virtual environments would indeed have the same issues. We just have to realize that VE's are simply not the same as real life, no matter how hard we try to make them. Is that bad? No - it's just different. And let's make the most of those differences!

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