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Say the words "virtual reality" to most people today and they think of head-mounted displays and violent combat games. Researchers at MERL and elsewhere, e.g., Pavel Curtis at Xerox PARC, use the term social virtual reality to emphasize a focus on the interaction among people in virtual environments. This contrasts with most commercial virtual reality products, which focus on maximizing the perceptual realism of an individual experience using special input and output devices.
At MERL, we envision group learning environments where people learn from each other and teachers, and by interacting with computer simulations. We envision collaborative work environments where people at different locations interact with each other and shared, computer-simulated artifacts to design a machine, plan a large-scale disaster relief effort, or diagnose a complex equipment failure. We envision on-line play environments where people participate in distributed games, historical dramas, or create virtual microcosms for each other's entertainment.
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