At GTA, Andrew has been following recent developments in avatar worlds. I hadn't been paying much attention to the virtual world scene for some time, and was pretty surprised by how advanced (and alternately simply strange) the avatar software is becoming. Mac isn't supported by There, but the demo for this avatar world in which virtual personas “explore, play and hang out in a world full of parties, races, fashion shows, conversations and more” looks pretty impressive. Andrew also links to Seducity, an “adult” avatar world in which avatars do more than talk. This is all a far cry from the cartoon figures with the talk bubbles over their head I remember from the avatar MOOs of the early days.
Jill's also doing some writing about avatars for her trial lecture, part of her upcoming PhD defense, and has some great observations about the complex and relationship that gameplayers (or cybertext users, or interactors, or what you will) form with onscreen avatars in her dissertation.