Make an avatar in your coffee break with SitePal
This is my new Sitepal avatar. I can change the way she looks, what she's wearing, and add a short audio message. It's pretty easy to take the HTML and embed it in a web site. And every time you change the original character, the link updates itself.
Sitepal is intended for supporting sales on your web site, however it clearly has a lot of other potential uses. When you click "play", the eyes blink and the mouth moves, and it gives a credible imitation of a real person's movements when speaking.
Let your avatar try on clothes
I got an avatar while shopping at LL Bean one day [pictured]. I don't think they have these anymore, as I haven't seen this option for a while. They have more shots of the clothes on a human model, which feels superior to me, actually -- because everything looked good on my avatar, which is a problem. But it was fun taking my measurements and building the avatar. [I tried gaining and losing weight to see what would happen -- amazingly, she still looked great in LL Bean jeans, even at 300 lbs.]
Start a secret life with the avatar of your dreams
I have a Second Life avatar as well, called Trif Sixgallery. My Second Life avatar has very ordinary clothes, and a body shape that is reasonably close to my real self. I wear a leather jacket and an orange t-shirt with brown jeans. [not pictured]
Most Second Lifers appear to be going the cosmetic enhancement route, however, and my ordinary appearance has clearly marked me as a newbie. A lot of Second Life is clearly adult-only -- the clothing you can buy in boutiques would more than challenge anything you can envision from Frederick's of Hollywood. In fact, Frederick's should probably have their own Second Life boutique, since clothing design was among the first things to be monetized.
In my newbie-ness, I thought that the Second Life environment might be an interesting place to conduct research. Turns out that at least one organization is already doing it.
It's Time to Experiment
If you don't have anything happening in Second Life, you should probably start. And get someone exploring a few other ideas along those lines as well.
You will likely hear a bunch of dismissive stuff about this. And here's what you need to say: "It's not about making money in Second Life. It's about learning how the virtual world is evolving, so we can keep up". Think of Second Life, and other applications of this type, as a university where you can experiment and learn.
Second Life is not the pinnacle, any more than Pac-Man was the pinnacle of electronic gaming. It's clunky and hard to learn. Like, if you want to build a house, you have to learn a bunch of scripting stuff. If I want to design my own clothes, it's definitely harder than it was to do it for my Barbie doll when I was 10 years old. Second Life is not the pinnacle -- it's the beginning!
When we gave the world automated transactions, we made things easier, faster, cheaper. Now we are going to make the virtual world please our sense of aesthetics, and feel more like the real world. Or at least the real fantasy world.