UCL News


UCL in the News: Anti-social bot invades Second Lifers' personal space

2 November 2007

A software bot that masquerades as an ill-mannered human user within the popular virtual world Second Life is being used by UK researchers to investigate the psychology of its inhabitants.

The software, dubbed "SL-bot", was created by Doron Friedman, Dr Anthony Steed and Mel Slater [UCL Computer Science], who are interested in comparing the way people act inside a virtual world with real-life human behaviour. …

The researchers added a script to a ring that their avatar wore on its finger.

The ring connects the avatar to software that not only controls its actions, but can record everything going on around it. …

The control software sends the avatar off in a random direction until it finds another avatar or object to watch or interact with. …

In one experiment, SL-bot was sent on a mission to find other avatars that were alone. As soon as it did, it greeted them by first name, waited two seconds then moved to the virtual equivalent of within 1.2 metres away. It then recorded the other avatar's reaction for 10 seconds afterwards, and sent the data to the researchers.

Out of 28 avatars approached this way, 12 simply moved away and 20 also responded via text chat.

On a previous mission, 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. …

Tom Simonite, NewScientist.com