It's not really about the avatar. No one really cares about the avatar... well, not about a functionless avatar anyway. No matter how good a little fake picture of you might look, 3D, 2D, blinking, jumping, etc..., if all it does is represent you, like a digital placeholder, it's value is going to be a little limited. (See my sidebar if you disagree.)
It's the voice.
Ooooooooh.... controversial. :)
People have been asking me a lot how an avatar product is supposed to make money and why anyone should care.
Well if I think of us purely as an avatar play, I think I'd seriously struggle to answer that question.
Yet, no one ever asks that question about voice applications.... and I like to think of us as more of a communication platform... a cute, dressable communication platform that you can make bald if you want to.
Now, when I think of voice on the web... it's just about the most boring visual experience I can think of. (And the web is supposed to be visual, right?) Ever watch an iTunes song play? You can just watch the little timer bar count down and that stupid little diamond inch its way across the tube.... or, for a truly riveting experience, you can use the Visualizer, in case you want to know what it's like to play iTunes while tripping on acid.
I mean, seriously what's that supposed to be?
Voice is a powerful medium. It invokes an emotional response and has been doing so for years... you know... with that phone thing that people hold so near and dear and pay 100 bucks a month for. And I don't think it's a half step to video either... I don't think we're going to one day replace all our voice calls with video calls, lest we wind up calling each other from the bathroom wall Spaceballs style.
But, on the web, it needs a visual... a compelling visual that resonates with the viewer and representative of something, but at the same time whose creation doesn't represent a serious barrier to usage.
Enter the avatar.... the speaking avatar.
Imagine a poker game online. All you see is a table and cards... players are represented by text.
Not so interesting.
Ok, so instead of text... how about life action webcam video.
Um... yeah... right... kind of complicated... and... well, I don't think you really want to see exactly who you're playing online at 3AM. Nor do I think they always want you to see them.
So you throw in voice... Voice is cool, b/c then SouthrnBoy32 now has a bit of a drawl to him, and now your game has character... except... it doesn't really have character.. it has disembodied voices emanating from the abyss. Sort of weird and uncentered.
But with a talking character, you visually center and give context to voice. So, its really avatar wrapped voice, not a voice enabled avatar.
So when I think of places I'd like to integrate Voki into, I think of all of the places I'd love to add and enchance voice communication... my fantasy league message board, invitations and cards, chat, mobile services.
So, if I don't always get excited about virtual worlds conferences, it's because I'm actually a voice guy first, avatar guy second.
PS... This post wasn't meant to be self serving... it was meant to explain why I get excited about what I do and what we're going to offer.