The world of immersion has expanded in the past couple of years to include Artificial Intelligence that has human-like conversations and Virtual Reality that seeks to create scenarios and worlds for consumers to explore while not leaving their homes. Eviebot.com and VR headsets have been two digital objects that have furthered the immersive experience for consumers. The four affordances: procedural, participatory, encyclopedic, and spatial have had an interactive hand in creating, maintaining and expanding both digital objects.
Eviebot.com is an interactive website where people can talk to a female interface that tries to logically respond. The website describes Evie as “an AI and an advanced, emotional chatbot avatar” (eviebot.com). The website goes beyond just simple text log but even puts a face to the AI system that tries to mimic the way a human face moves when it speaks and it would be quite impossible to make if it was not digital. Eviebot.com is a more advanced version of Eliza mentioned in Dr. Janet Walker’s article about the four affordances by Dr. Murray. Evie, similar to Eliza, follows the affordance of the procedural medium as she does “represent and execute conditional behaviors.” (Walker 51). Walker stresses the importance of computer science in the procedural medium in “making sound design decisions” (Walker 52) for digital objects and this rings true for Evie. On the designers detail the process of how Evie learns through using a database that grows as more people interact with her. The database also brings in another 2 affordances, participatory and encyclopedic. Evie is continuously evolving in her language skills as more and more people interact with her on the site. The point of the site is to be “a learning AI.” (eviebot.com). The designer of the website conveys that they Evie and their other AI systems to advance and become human-like in their interactions with other humans. In order for that to build the participatory medium plays a crucial role in Evie’s learning and development. The role of the encyclopedic medium is represented in Evie through the growing database of dialogue is stored. With each word typed into Evie’s textbox, the database expands and gives Evie an infinite space from which to vary the experience for each person that encounters the website. The spatial medium is where Eliza and Evie differ the most. Eliza was a simple text based design whereas Evie has an actual digital face and voice that interact with people. However, this design does take away from the human-like illusion the designers of Evie try to convey because people can see the flaws in the AI’s speech. Evie’s and voice do not fully conform to the annunciations of words and she even seems a bit glitchy at times. Eliza might have fooled more people with her interactions due to her simple text design making it harder for people point out flaws.
Virtual Reality seemed more of a dream in the Back to the Future Part 2 film than the major innovation of the 2010’s. Many disregarded VR in the 90s when an early version of it appeared on markets but now it has become a must-have for video game enthusiasts across the world. VR could not have the experience it does if it were not for its digital components as it seeks to place people in a digital reality where anything is possible. However, it is more of an adaption of legacy media such as films and regular video games that have the same objective of displacement. The procedural medium is evident through the complex design of VR machines. There is some variety in the type of experiences a person can have with VR through getting different VR headsets and VR games. Contrarily, due to its adoption of legacy media, VR tends to have a linear design that can still give similar or the exact same experience to consumers. The participatory medium varies in VR as well. Consumers can have a more interactive experience with gaming VR but the participatory design is still quite minimal. Consumers can have more interaction with digital objects in the games but the VR games still tend to be linear and do not give many unique experiences. VR headsets for cell phones have rarely any interactions as they typically display videos that are shot in 360° so the only interaction the consumer has is the moving of the head to viewed what is around them. The encyclopedic medium does not have much of a role, as there is not an infinite amount of information being created due to the line harness of VR. While VR did not play enter mainstream media when Walker wrote this article, the spatial medium is, however, the key component of VR. VR disrupts the consumer’s knowledge of spatiality by creating visual designs that immerse them into new worlds and scenarios. Consumers tend not to have a grip on space in reality when in virtual reality causing symptoms of nausea and dizziness in many who put on the headset.
The affordances for both digital objects, VR and Evie, are quite varied. The procedural affordance is crucial for both objects as the computer science for both are quite complex though have resulted in a different experience for consumers. Evie bot relies on a database algorithm that helps her grow and learn to interact with different people while VR relies on digital animation or video shooting to create immersive experiences for consumers. The participatory medium is more evident in Evie as the program relies on text interactions to function but that is not the case for VR as interaction is varied for different VR products. The encyclopedic medium is a key component for Evie as the database acts as a digital memory and this medium is nearly non-existent for VR. Finally, the spatial medium is critical for both digital objects that seek to give a more immersive experience to consumers through digital design, for Evie, it is a face and a voice but for VR it is total scenarios.