San Francisco (CA) - The virtual denizens of Second Life will be getting a new way to communicate, namely voice chat. Starting next week, 1000 lucky people will be able to beta test voice chat technology. Linden Labs, the owners of Second Life, say this isn't just any voice chat because character animations will match speech volumes - talk louder and your character goes nuts. Characters can chat privately in addition to joining larger "chats" for concerts and public gatherings.
In addition to matching character animations to volumes, voices and sounds will account for distance and direction, giving the chat a 3D-like experience. Many people own private parcels of land inside of Second Life and those owners can disable public chat within their land boundary. Private island owners can also disable public chat. Private chats between two people can be initiated and those chats can be started even if the characters are standing on non-chat enable private land.
Several musicians have held "concerts" inside of Second Life. These concerts have basically been MP3 channels, but the upcoming voice chat can also accommodate these concerts. Users can set up public audio channels that can hold up to 100 talkers at a time.
But its not all about fun and games because the voice chat can also be used for educational purposes. In a press release, Linden Lab said that it anticipates that voice would help "educators, non-profits and businesses" for learning and training.
Linden Labs promises a worldwide public trial of voice chat if the initial beta test goes well. Second Life plans on formally launching voice chat in the second quarter of 2007.