The internet has drastically changed the mode of scientific communication in the last two decades. However, another wave of change has recently become evident with the development of online virtual worlds, such as Second Life. This medium enables users to interact with each other in a freely available online ‘metaverse’. Second Life is currently experiencing exponential growth, and has over 10 million users worldwide. The health industry has been instrumental in its evolution and Second Life is increasingly being used by governmental bodies e.g. NASA, educational institutions e.g. Imperial College London, and scientific communities e.g. Nature.
The 3D virtual world presents unique capabilities: through the use of an avatar, which represents each member, it is possible to see and communicate with other users as in the real world. Residents can communicate either by voice (VOIP) or by typing via instant messaging, body gestures, and slide or movie presentation. This gives a ‘virtual sense’ of spatial proximity which facilitates a more organic method of interaction. Furthermore, experimental surgical products or models can be created in 3D detail so that they can be used and manipulated by other users.
iVAS is a group of surgeons and scientists who want to change the way scientific communications are currently conducted, we will organise conferences entirely within the virtual world. This lowers the cost of attending, negates the need to travel and creates novel surgical research networks across the world.