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Review: Voice In Second Life Gets Two Thumbs Up

Voice in Second Life, due to go live May 23, will fundamentally transform the virtual world. We tried out the beta version, and were extremely impressed.

But any sort of extreme disconnect between voice and avatar appearance can be jarring. I saw that in our test this afternoon -- one of the people who joined us for our impromptu chat was wearing a metallic dragon avatar, but spoke with a normal, middle-American accent. That seemed wrong to me; a dragon should sound, well, dragonny, and not like a database administrator from Pittsburgh.

Likewise, I've been enjoying visiting a sim called Caledon recently, which is based on Victorian England; it would be dissonant to start talking with a Victorian gentleman or lady and have them speak in a thick Brooklyn accent.

Eventually, I expect we'll get used to the dissonance, and we'll also see the evolution of software filters to make your voice sound how you want it to sound.

But voice won't be for everyone.

Some of Second Life's users have disabilities that prevent them from speaking. Some are hearing-impaired. One of my favorite people in Second Life has Asperger's -- in-world, she's charming, gracious and articulate, but she told me that if I could hear her voice in real life, it would sound harsh and unpleasant, almost robotic.

Some people just plain hate voice, and I respect that. Some people hate talking on the phone, and they see voice in Second Life as an extension of telephony.

I hope there'll always be a place in Second Life for non-voice users, although I fear that there might not be.

What do you think? Does voice make your more likely to try Second Life if you're not already in it? Will voice drive you out of Second Life? Will you use voice? Leave a message at the InformationWeek blog and let us know.