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Bot-avatar Pesters Second Life Users (For Science!) 124

holy_calamity writes "A bot-controlled avatar that tracks down lone avatars in Second Life and purposely invades their personal space has been created by UK researchers. The idea was to see if users value their virtual personal space. Bots avatars are not encouraged by Linden Labs — although this one is being deployed by academics, presumably spam-avatars (spavatars?) won't be far behind."
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Bot-avatar Pesters Second Life Users (For Science!)

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  • by freg ( 859413 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @11:04AM (#21241233)
    This begs the question... do Westerners stand further apart than Asians when chatting in a virtual world? I would guess so. For some reason I occasionally find myself backing up my avatar a step or two and facing it towards the avatar I'm talking to, without even thinking about it really.
  • by jhRisk ( 1055806 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @11:08AM (#21241279)
    A few choice selections from Section 4.1 of their TOS []

    (v) take any actions or upload, post, e-mail or otherwise transmit Content that contains any viruses, Trojan horses, worms, spyware, time bombs, cancelbots or other computer programming routines that are intended to damage, detrimentally interfere with, surreptitiously intercept or expropriate any system, data or personal information;
    I'd consider that detrimental interference. Also, there's this one

    (vii) upload, post, email or otherwise transmit any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, or promotional materials, that are in the nature of "junk mail," "spam," "chain letters," "pyramid schemes," or any other form of solicitation that Linden Lab considers in its sole discretion to be of such nature;

    There are others that I believe apply to the utilization of a bot, potential exploits through bots (ex. spamming) or both. Also, what they're extrapulating from the empirical evidence is off IMHO as well.

    SL-bot observed pairs of normal avatars as they interacted. It found that users are, on average, six times more likely to shift position when someone comes to within 1.2 m. That backs up the idea that people also value their virtual personal space, say the researchers.

    I'm sure it had nothing to do with being courteous, putting the new character into view to inspect or anything else. Yeah, they wanted their "personal virtual space"... sure. Sounds like another misread on cause and effect at the expense of opening a pandora's box.
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Monday November 05, 2007 @11:17AM (#21241373)
    Ring of power
    The ring connects the avatar to software that not only controls its actions, but can record everything going on around it. This is an extreme example of the way objects can control characters in Second Life

    Once again proving that Second Life is becoming more and more like Tolkien's world of Lord of the Rings
  • Re:Personal Space (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dintech ( 998802 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @11:41AM (#21241635)
    Hold on, I post a comment about wifes and the first thing you think of is shotguns? :)
    You should be posting in this thread. []
  • Re:IRB issue (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kebes ( 861706 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @11:49AM (#21241741) Journal

    Yes, I serve on an institutional IRB, and no, this would never pass in my institution.
    Out of curiosity, why wouldn't it pass?

    It doesn't seem too different from psych experiments where a researcher stands in a public place and does something or asks a certain question. (E.g. a famous one was to have an attractive female and male person ask passerbys on a college campus if they wanted to go have casual sex right now.) I was under the impression that experiments in public places didn't require the explicit consent of each unwitting participant (provided, of course, that the experiment involves only normal everyday interaction, like asking questions, and does not induce undue stress on participants, etc.).

    I fully agree that any experiment involving humans (even over the Internet) should require internal review and approval. But why would this experiment not pass? It doesn't seem like the burden imposed on the unwitting participants is very large, considering that they are voluntarily participating in an interactive "public space" online and have no expectation of privacy or even peace (the bot wasn't doing anything that a human player couldn't or wouldn't).

    Of course another aspect of passing review is that the data recovered should be sufficiently robust, meaningful, and significant that it warrants intruding on the lives of subjects. Perhaps it is this criteria that you feel it fails?
  • Re:Personal Space (Score:3, Interesting)

    by garett_spencley ( 193892 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:22PM (#21242147) Journal
    I think the issue really applies mostly to random situations in public. For example, the other day I was at the bank. It was not busy at all. There were two tellers and each was serving a customer. I was next to be served and there was no one else. Then a man comes in and gets behind me in line. He came up RIGHT behind me to the point where I could hear him breathe, almost feel his breath on the back of my neck and he reeked of bad after shave.

    I couldn't help but think to myself what the fuck is this guy's problem?! There is absolutely no one else in the bank. Mind your own personal fucking space asshole. It's not like it's busy as hell and the line was cramped and he had no choice. He chose to get so close to me as to make me feel very uncomfortable when there was more than plenty of space for us to both keep our distance.

    Had I been in New York I imagine I might have had the nerve to turn around and punch the guy in the nose. But I'm a regular customer at that bank and I knew I was going to be served any second so it wasn't worth making a scene.

    My guess is that's the type of situation that this "study" is examining. Whether people in virtual worlds would be as uncomfortable with random assholes getting too close as people in real life.
  • Re:IRB issue (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Atreide ( 16473 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @01:00PM (#21242743)

    I was under the impression that experiments in public places didn't require the explicit consent of each unwitting participant

    this raises the question : "when connected online with other people, are you in public space or private space ?"

    * when online, i (presumably) am at home, in private space
    * only a part of my self & conscious is in relation with other people (the same if i am telephoning)
    therefore it can be seen as a huge private phone conversation ?

    after all there are regulations & debates worldwide regarding online privacy and what can be and cannot be done

    also the answer has repercusions on marketing (can you advertise), on law enforcement (can you be "watched" upon), on free speech (can a journalist report your statements without your consent because said in "public")...

    finally, it can be a private or public space but it can also be defined as a new type of "environment". This can lead to give such virtual world its autonomy and own regulations.
    "no sir, only my avatar commited the robbery of linden dollars, my 'self' is in a totally different world and cannot be prosecuted for robbery. it can only be prosecuted for benefiting the stolen money".

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller