was an undergraduate in Canada. Although he was aware that the University of North Cartolina had a long-standing research program in virtual environments, in California he could see that VR was beginning its journey from the lab into the home. It was becoming not a mass medium, but a medium for the masses, a "personal reality engine," with all the social implications and meaning that these words now imply. Although many were heralding the emergence of a new communication medium, he could not find a single communication researcher truly exploring it. So he decided to explore it himself and to encourage other communication researchers to do the same.
The VR community of researchers is an interesting and open group. We would like to acknowledge some of the many who were ready to sit down and talk about the communications implications of the new medium. At NASA Stephen Ellis, Mike McGreevy, and Bob Welch eagerly discussed their work; at SRI Tom Piantanida and Duane Bowman warmly received Frank and allowed him to test drive their new VR system that was "fresh out of the box." Jaron Lanier sat down for a long interview on the communication implications of VR, while Howard Rheingold enthusiastically discussed the social implications of VR and gave us a sneak peek at his manuscript for Virtual Reality. At conferences, VR diva Sandra Helsel introduced Frank to some of the other early members of the VR tribe, pioneers like Myron Krueger and new visionary designers and entrepreneurs eagerly creating the public reality of virtual reality. In the heart of Silicon Valley, he met fellow communicators like cyberjournalist Ben Delaney, who had just launched the CyberEdge journal. Together with Kenny Meyer, VR journalist, entrepreneur, dramatist, and all round "great guy," they argued and speculated about VR over cups of Italian coffee in San Francisco's cafes.
Back on the east coast, Mark Levy was tapping into the early buzz about VR on the nets. When Frank called him to discuss an unorthodox journal article (an interview with Jaron Lanier), he seized on the importance of the new medium and asked not just for an article, but for a whole journal issue. At that moment, this book began to take shape. Some of the chapters took their initial form as a special issue of the Journal of Communication. As the first VR wave swept the nation, this book was created to add the voices of other communication researchers and to bring these ideas to new readers. This book, our collective attempt to probe some of the implications of VR, is only the beginning of the exploration of communication in the age of VR. We hope some of our readers will join us in helping shape, define, and understand this new medium.
Frank Biocca Mark R. Levy