New Scientist has recently published an article suggesting that as virtual crime is increasing, researchers are beginning to explore ways in which we can identify individuals from their online personas. One company in the US is working on a system to fuse a person's real biometrics with their 3D avatar, so players can know exactly who they are conversing with in a digital environment.
Previously the creation of an avatar has enabled gamers to be present themselves as anything they want; a means to create an alternative persona which is completely removed from reality. However, people are reportedly now using the ambiguity of avatars to steal virtual property from others. The idea of a virtual mugger may seem strange; however games such as Second Life thrive on people paying real money for gaming privileges such as houses, land, and luxury goods. The notion of virtual theft has even been comically portrayed in popular television shows:
The article uses the word ‘artimetrics’ to refer to this new form of identification of people from their avatars. The introduction of facial recognition is described as the first step in the battle against online fraud. However, Roman Yampolskiy at the Cyber-Security Lab at the University of Louisville admits that the variety of colours and features available to avatars makes this a difficult task.
by Lisa Thomas