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NTT's InterSpace: Your Face in Cyberspace!
Figure 14.8.1: nt1a.gif
Hello avatar! My avatar friend waving to me from his office in real-space!
NTT Human Interface Labs (an in-house laboratory for NTT, a part of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, Japan's national telephone company) has created has created a truly brave new world, InterSpace, complete with avatars having video faces. This means if you have one of the popular QuickCams (those little 'eyeball' cameras), your very own face will be painted on your avatar! On top of this, they support voice and text chat, so you can have a thrilling experience of almost really being there inside Cyberspace.
Getting the InterSpace Experience
InterSpace is available as a free download from NTT Software. InterSpace world requires at least a Pentium 133MHz PC running Windows 95 and a 28.8Kbps modem connection. If you have a sound card, speakers and microphone you will be able to talk to and hear other people in their InterSpace avatars. A video capture device like a Connectix Color QuickCam (see http://www.connectix.com will give you a chance to get your own face in Cyberspace. Note that you can also use InterSpace with just text chat and don't need the microphone or video capture device.
To get InterSpace go to: http://www.ntts.com/interspace/ and fill in the forms to create your account, download the software, install it and start InterSpace VR Browser (isc95.exe) at which point you will have to enter the login ID and password you were emailed. The main entry world (at least when this chapter was written) is the virtual Palo Alto. To get to it, enter its world locator: vccp://is0.ntts.com/pa_downtown. If you have questions or problems, see the InterSpace FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) at: http://www.nttsoft.com/interspace/faq.html.
Figure 14.8.2: nt1c.gif
Meeting a group of friends in NTT Software's InterSpace interface
As you can see from the figure, InterSpace is a 3D world where the avatars look a little bit like kiosks. The interface to the world is a simple window with a 3D frame and optional text chat window (not shown here). The radar map on the right shows where other people are relative to you. My real face would be showing (instead of the smiley) except that I don't have a video capture device. I can see the other users of InterSpace painted every second or so on the front of their avatars. I am actually looking into their offices (the folks shown here are all NTT Software employees). Also on the right side of the screen are the audio controls. I do have a microphone so I am connected to the others and can speak to them.
Figure 14.8.3: nt1d.gif
Plastering my beautiful mug on my avatar
I really didn't like the smiley face so, to place a still image of myself on my avatar, I went to a dialogue (shown above) where I can bring in a still frame Windows BMP image of myself (80 pixels wide by 60 pixels tall). I could also tie in my video capture system (Color QuickCam) when I get one.
InterSpace uses the Sense8 3D worlds format (see http://www.sense8.com). NTT and others have constructed a number of different worlds, including the virtual Palo Alto, a Cybercampus, and shopping and gaming worlds.
InterSpace also runs over ISDN, a higher speed connection which will give you much better voice and music and faster video updating on the avatars. One world to visit at higher speeds is the Virtual Tower Records store. While in the store, you can play albums through a virtual jukebox, view streams of videos, jump through tubes to get to other floors and actually order music CDs from a linked website.
In some environments, you can use a plain old analog telephone line and set up InterSpace to actually dial your telepone and connect you into a conference. Of course, you need two telephone lines, one for your modem and one for the phone (but hey, NTT is a telephone company)!
I was fortunate enough to be one of the first people to user InterSpace through the Internet while composing this chapter. As this is a new world, the community is only beginning to develop. With the live video and audio working so well on a normal 28.8BPS modem, I expect to see quite a lot of innovative events evolve in InterSpace.