Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Eye Gaze Interaction

For those of us having problems navigating Second Life, there's some new technology about to hit the market.

The video shows eye gaze interaction with Second Life using our "Snap Clutch" software; developed at De Montfort University, UK in collaboration with University of Tampere, Finland. The software allows us to change quickly between
interaction modes to allow for a more real-time gaming experience. This research will be presented at ETRA 2008, US.

For more information on the project please visit: http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~svickers/ and http://www.cogain.org/

When looking at the video, I'm pretty impressed with the technology. However, when you've got both hands left, use them, as this is getting very passive.

Thanks to Pieter Bosch for the Tip.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Western Illinois University in SL

Western Illinois University's College of Education and Human Services, or shortly named "Western COEHS" has recently acquired "land" to enhance its academic offerings. I read at the Western Courier, the student newspaper.

Although Western COEHS is about educational institution number 1.000 to purchase a speck of land in Second Life, it still needs to start of with an introduction of what Second Life or an avatar is... it still is a niche market.

Here's the Western Courier article (without the What is SL introduction):

Western's COEHS has leased land through the New Media Consortium - a group of universities from across the country - to build academic classrooms and centers that will provide virtual learning opportunities for students and meeting space for faculty.

According to Dawn Sweet, COEHS instructional technology systems manager, Leaunda Hemphill, an instructor in instructional design and technology, is currently using "Second Life" to prepare IDT graduate students and their counterparts in China to collaborate on activities related to technology integration in K-12 schools.

"Teachers can use 'Second Life' for such events as
virtual field trips, role playing, re-creating worlds and so much more," Sweet added. "For example, Lincoln's boyhood home re-created in 'Second Life' would allow educators to take their students to this land to learn more about
Lincoln's childhood; students learning about social responsibility can visit such sites as Camp Darfur and other islands that illustrate social responsibility at work.

"COEHS's foray into the virtual world started during
the Fall 2007 Semester when college officials participated in a college fair on "Teen Second Life." From there, the college began exploring virtual uses for the academic realm.

"I'm interested in using virtual worlds, specifically 'Second Life,' to create richer learning experiences for my
students beyond the flat Web environment I currently use," Hemphill said.


"There is currently a debate among educators whether or not it is worth the effort of preparing learners and teachers to use the environment as the steep learning curve. Increased hardware and connectivity requirements are just a few of the issues that need to be considered. In my IDT 534, Issues in Instructional Technology and Professional Development for
Educators, course, we will be reviewing these issues as well as the professional development opportunities in 'Second Life' for teachers," she added.

In addition to using "Second Life" in the classroom, Western's Faculty Innovators, a 24-month faculty professional development program, will use the virtual world for workshops and collaborating with other professionals. The college will also maintain a virtual presence where
prospective students can learn more about Western, COEHS programs and university events.

"We have a central goal to provide a challenging and supportive learning environment that is widely recognized as meeting the new technological demands of a global society," COEHS Dean Bonnie Smith-Skripps said. "By becoming a tenant in 'Second Life,' we will be able to foster greater research and development in teaching with technology in the education and human services field.

"Other Western faculty entering the world of virtual reality as a teaching tool include social work associate professor Karen Zellmann, who will use "Second Life" as a mode for her students to participate in role playing and mock interview situations. Students will provide supportive counseling to clients (other avatars) in "Second Life." Jim Allen, art, is currently using "Second Life's" Virtual Harlem project to display art and lesson plan ideas. Virtual Harlem is a learning environment that lets students experience the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and '30s.

Mid 2007 we saw an enormous landrush in Second Life by Colleges and Universities from all over the world. Many of these have probably jumped in on the "everybody is here, so we have to be here as well" idea, without having much of a clue of what to do.

Many of these universities have bought complete islands at first, but since they don't really have a use for it (yet) we've seen the trend in the last months of 2007 that these institutions are clustering together in a sort of Educational Mainland, sharing sims and seeking to establish a virtual foothold on smaller parcels. Western COEHS is one of these. Here's a pic of the rest of the sim, which for example also hosts the University of Reading.

Here's the Educational cluster with NMC islands mixed with dedicated university sims.






SLURL: http://www.slurl.com/secondlife/Teaching%205/204/116/37









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Campus Hamburg

At the Eduverse Symposium Dr. Torsten Reiners of the Hamburg University (a.k.a. Xon Emoto in Second Life) gave a tour of the virtual Campus Hamburg. The island is still in development, but there are several spots that are really worth looking at. Upon entering the island you immerse at a very nicely designed auditorium.



Although I'm under the impression the simulation isn't fully finished yet, it contains several student projects. The largest project (both in terms of decorum and potential imho) focusses on Supply Chain Mangement.

As the city of Hamburg is a former Hanzetown and one of the larger Northern European ports it's no suprise it starts with life at the docks.



While building the simulation, the students must have been frustrated with Second Life at times, and have made several jokes as you'll find containers like "Linden Lab - Bug shipment" and "Prims R Us - Butt Uggly Plywood Prims" on the ship.




The second simulation is on top of the supply chain area and is a project on waiting lines. It simulates how queues are formed and how they can be designed.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ohio State Testis Tour

One of the best presentations last wednesday at the Eduverse Symposium was the presentation of Douglas R. Danforth, Ph.D. at the Ohio State University who took us on the "Testis Tour", or as us non-biological or medically educated say: "The Virtual Sperm Tour" which sounds kind of cheap for such an impressive build.

It is impressive in my opinion as it shows the potential of virtual worlds in visualising concepts which would be very hard to explain otherwise. It somewhat reminded me of Isaac Asimov's "Fantastic Voyage" in which we are miniaturised and get on a submarine to explore the human body.

First of all, you get prompted to open a webpage containting the Telrport code of conduct and some more information on Telr.

"TELRport is a Second Life island sponsored by Technology Enhanced Learning and Research (TELR). The mission of TELRport is to provide an exploratory educational Second Life forum for The Ohio State University community; to
further TELR’s capacity to support virtual environments for teaching, learning, and research; and to establish an Ohio State instructional presence in Second Life."

The island itself appears to be quite empty, but teleport yourself to Danforth's location and you'll be up for the "Testis Tour." I'll spare you the details on spermatogonium, adrenal hormones or seminiferous tubule (There's an excellent tourguide programmed into the simulation) and will provide you with a visual summary of the build:



Up to here it's been introduction stuff. Pretty well documented. Now, let's get on to the tour...








Some facts about the build:

  1. It took his students 15-30 minutes to get through the SL orientation on average
  2. It took the doctor with no prior experience in VW’s to get settles in SL
  3. It cost him 6 months of 1 hour a day of work to build his presentation (last 2 weeks 4/5 hours a day)
  4. The medium of text messaging where for none of the students a problem

Danforth said he'll probably start working on an ovary and a demo of the fertilisation process in the near future. Right now it's a pretty expensive project if you consider all the hours of (spare) time put into it, and maybe this isn't your exact field of interest. I hope it will inspire you to think about the potential for your own field of expertise.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Eduverse Symposium




Today's world is getting more complex by the minute. Terms like Information Overload have been buzzing around for many years now, but are getting more and more quantified off late.


Scientific research has shown that we've actually started to walk 10% faster since we've fully adapted email and internet and your average kind of NY Times reader (which basically is 'old media') is getting more information a week than a person in the 1800's would have access to in his whole lifetime. The amount of information on the net doubles about every year and we've produced more content in the last year than we've done in the past 5,000 years in total.


Product and Information cycles alike are growing shorter and shorter. It's like when you buy a computer, you'll find yourself with an outdated model as soon as you leave the store. Pretty much the same goes for information. As soon as you're in year 4 of your education, there's a good chance everything you've learned in year one is outdated. Students have to juggle such vast amounts of information these days that in a lot of cases it's getting impossible to learn facts. Virtual Worlds can play an important role in modelling these complex issues


This is one of the many reasons why the Eduverse organisation has been formed late January after an inspiring Metaverse Meetup in Amsterdam


VeeJay Burns, a.k.a. Johan Vermij (Networked Virtual Environments consultant for Sogeti) and David van Gent (IBM Learning Consultant) will be hosting the symoposium which managed to secure an impressive list of speakers like:



  • Trevor Burton (Paperworld3D)

  • Stephanie Smith (NASA learning technologies)

  • Dr. D. Danforth (Ohio State University)

Main force behind getting this incredible lineup is Eduverse founder Robert Sheperd (a.k.a. Ollie Kubrick) and the rest of the Eduverse team, including Frank Husmann (Up the Vortex), Bart Bockhoudt (Dutch Xchange), Jeroen Franse (Vesuvius Group) and little old me.


The symposium will be held in RL Amsterdam and various SL locations (to be announced). More info and complete programme on the Eduverse website here.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Virtual Education: Enst Bretagne

In the northwestern area of Second Life dozens of Universities and Colleges are under construction, some in an advanced state, some still in conception stage. Today I visited the island called Telecom Bretagne, just between the University of Oxford and the Technical University of Delft.

The island is home to the Enst Bretagne, A prestigious graduate engineering schooland international research centre in the field of information technologies.

"Created in 1977, ENST Bretagne is one of the most prestigious graduate engineering schools ("Grandes Ecoles") in France. It is a public institution, under the aegis of the Ministry for Industry and is a member of the Group of Telecommunications Schools (GET). The college trains future professionals for careers in industry, services and research."

The island consists of various buildings ranging from classroom to sports centrew with research, information and meetingrooms in between. It's not a build that will win an architectural prize, but it's functionality that counts.
Originally the intention was to build a virtual representation of the Real Life campus, but that was soon abandoned as the real campus is about 5 times bigger than the virtual island.


Marie-Catherine Mouchot, the Head of Communications was kind enough to provide me with some details on the build and its intended use.
"We want to use it for both teaching and meeting. Our alumni already use it for their own meetings and we have 40% of foreign students and it's a good way to get in contact with them prior to their venue in France. We also want to use it for our students registerd in continuing education programmes so that they can get in conctact after the teaching sessions and exchange experience with the other students."

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Princeton - a Preview

This post first appeared at 3pointD... but here you get full set of pictures.

The number of universities entering the virtual world of Second Life never ceases to amaze me. One that I have been keeping an eye on for some time is Princeton. It has been closed to casual strollers while construction proceeds, but following a bit of string-pulling, I was able to get an advance preview earlier this week. I have only one small problem: the amount of information I now have is so huge it is going to take all of my ingenuity -- and there’s precious little of that -- to prune it down to the bare essentials. The sim will not formally open to the public until the next academic year, but much of the work is now complete.

Incidentally, aware that I over-use the term "iconic" I have opted in this post to go with "signature" instead. Time will tell whether this is a sensible move.

My tour guide was the charming and ridiculously well-informed (not to mention often downright hilarious) Persis Trilling, who, apart from heading up the Princeton in-house IT education support services, is something of an expert on the History of Architecture and is overseeing the build in Second Life.

There is a strong architectural spine running at 45 degrees across the island, along which several of Princeton’s signature buildings are situated. On arrival you find yourself facing a simulation of Nassau Hall. The original was, at the time of its completion in 1756, the largest stone building in the colonies. However, a couple of fires in the 19th century put paid to that, and the building now standing -- and reflected in this Second Life build -- dates from the 1850’s, though the college continued to tinker with it for many years. Clearly some compromises have to be made when looking to reproduce buildings in Second Life, and in the case of Nassau Hall there is a great simplification of the interior -- with 2 large rooms set up for seminar groups of around a dozen participants, and what appears to be a debating chamber. The texturing of the building, indeed, of all the buildings in this sim, is excellent.

Behind you as you arrive is a simulation of Chancellor Green Student Center, which was originally the college library building and dates from the 1870s. It reeks of Victorian Gothic. Inside is a library (surprise!), which the college plans to build into a Second Life-based online resource, together with a couple of informal meeting rooms that would house around 6 people.


The third major building along the spine is Alexander Hall. Following some hiccups with construction of the simulation, this has been taken on by CJ Carnot of New Media Consortium and is currently being reworked, but even the version I saw was most impressive. Again, as with the other buildings, the texturing brings out a great sense of physical presence. The actual building, built in 1892, was designed (and still serves) as a convocation hall for commencement exercises and other large gatherings. It therefore made sense to preserve this function in Second Life. This is where concerts and many meetings will be held. [Given the current state of reconstuction, I don't have any good pictures of this building]


Off to one side of this trio of signature Princeton buildings lies another jewel -- but this time there is no Real World counterpart. The Art Gallery is the work of Canadian master-builder Scope Cleaver, and anyone who knows his work will spot the style immediately. Persis was full of praise for the way in which Mr. Cleaver has gone about fulfilling his brief: "If Chancellor Green is about Ruskin's seven lamps, Scope’s building has them in spades too. He is just using a different architectural vocabulary.The sense of craft; of expression of essential human qualities and the emotive use of light and space is a lot like the more modest drama of Chancellor Green." She went on: "It's a very nice build, and I think reflects well on the existing major buildings -- each one perfectly modern in its day, in fact, forward-looking. I showed him a lot of spaces that I admired. He did not copy anyone but respected an element of each design. I told him what I liked about each -- so a little Carlo Scarpa; a little Gehry; a little James Stirling."




So what is the aim of the Princeton island? Is it just an architectural display? The current aim is to offer classroom sessions and writing seminars for the Schools of Architecture and Visual Arts. There is also a human behaviour experiment being designed for the island. They will also be offering performances, "cocktail parties" and conferences, recognizing that in Second Life an island needs people if it is to be of any value. As for information, the plan is to offer a rich set of resources, including RSS feeds, podcasts and vodcasts. There is already a shop offering free Princeton shirts (the closest I'm ever likely to having one!) and a number of training notecards for would-be builders.

There is more on this island that I have not covered -- for example, the Prospect Garden,
and the debating society buildings -- but hopefully this gives you a feel for what to expect in September, when we may all get a chance to visit. Thanks to Persis for giving me far more information than I could ever hope to include in this posting, and for being such a gracious host.

Al Kronos appears by kind permission of Ambling in Second Life.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Sprouting Tufts

This post originally appeared at Ambling in Second Life.

Tufts University, Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, have an island in Second Life. I picked up a notecard, which I will now quote from liberally:
  • "This Second Life island is an experimental studio environment for the course 'Physical Planning & Design.' The purpose of the course is to introduce students to the fundamental ideas and tools in the work of planning and designing the built environment. As a capstone project for the course, we are developing a physical plan and design for vacant land surrounding the Forest Hills MBTA Train Station. On this island, you will find a 1/2 scale model of the Forest Hills site. We will use the Second Life environment to both conceive our plan and then to present our ideas. We will make a final presentation of our ideas on Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at 9AM ET. The public is welcome to join us here in Second Life for the presentation."
So I'm a few weeks late then. Ho hum.

The build is not dramatic (though it is interesting to see half-scale, I'm not used to that in SL) - but then that is not its purpose. Rather, it shows yet another means of innovating using 3D environments. I wonder whether they found that SL helped?

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