Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Canterbury Uni puts another $1M to waste

The Canterbury tales have gone virtual earlier this month. At least, the New Zealand version as the Canterbury University receives $1.77 NZD from the Government's Encouraging and Supporting Innovation Fund for a three-year project designing virtual work environments to give students practical experience. According to Canterbury University HitLab director Mark Billinghurst New Zealand is lagging behind in Virtual Technology. The funding will go into research for chemical engineering, audiology and health sciences.

Online newspaper Stuff did an extensive report on this funding on Januari 1st and gave us some ideas where the money would be going:

"Audiology students would work with virtual human subjects to test different rates of hearing impairments that could be difficult to find in the general population, he said.Students could even be virtually shrunk and find themselves walking inside a 3D model of an ear canal with sound waves floating through the air.."

There might not be a lot of Government investment in virtual worlds in New Zealand, but Canterbury Uni joins a host of universities spending millions of dollars in Virtual Worlds such as Second Life. The really sounds like something the Ohio State University has done a long time ago, be it on a different field of expertise in recreating a testis for students to explore.

The university is working with the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology to create a virtual work environment for nurses in training.

With virtual technology, they could practise their bedside manner and diagnostic skills without leaving the campus.

"This fills a gap in traditional education. There's a lot of book learning, but when people start jobs they don't necessarily have that hands-on experience," Billinghurst said.

Exactly the same thing has been done by the Ohio State University as well. I don't see a lot of innovation there. Don't get me wrong here though.

I'm a huge fan of educational institutes using the power of virtual worlds to enhance their programmes. The thing is, each and every institute is reinventing the wheel time and again, spending millions of dollars on projects that have been done before and can be modified for a few bucks. It is time for Educational institutes to organise themselves and create a widespread vision and cooperation to make an interactive, interoperable virtual curriculum instead of isolated projects.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Past4Ward Licences Rome Reborn

Last week I blogged about Google Earth starting to explore the 4th Dimension by adding a special layer on Google Earth featuring ancient Rome. A few people had the idea they'd seen it somewhere before, like my chum from Ambling, Al Kronos:

AlKronos @vjburns Looks like the Virtual Roma DVD that was made a few years ago (got a copy somewhere). I assume they've decided to "re-purpose" it.

Well, he was absolutely right according to this article on Virtual Worlds News:

Past4Ward Licenses Rome Reborn for Educational Virtual World

Past4Ward announced this week that it had licensed Rome Reborn for use in a supplemental educational platform, games, and virtual worlds. I haven't written anything about Rome Reborn because, so far, it's been more about mapping and building a detailed virtual re-creation of the ancient city, but I've been following it with a lot of interest. As it stands, Rome Reborn includes over 7,000 buildings and covers more than 13 square miles of a city modeled strongly on research. You can check it out in a recently added Google Earth layer.

Past4Ward plans to incorporate it into a product for middle and high school students "featuring game play similar to a Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) title as well as other Virtual World techniques that will be integral parts of the design, which will map to existing curriculum standards."

As the license for video games is exclusive, Past4Ward also plans to make it available for licensing by game developers and publishers. The educational project appears to be in conjunction with Past Perfect Productions, which is also working with the Virtuality Group and Parco Colosseo to launch 3D Rewind Rome, an "edutainment center" near the Colosseum based on the Rome Reborn model.

“We are extremely excited to be working with Past4Ward in providing the historical architecture that will become a new format to teach kids about ancient Rome,” Joel Myers, CEO, Past Perfect Productions, said in a statement. “A video game of this nature, used in classrooms, combines a stimulating and entertaining learning process with the strengths and familiarity of communications tools students use in their everyday lives, from PlayStations to the Internet.”

New, or old, it still looks good

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Entering the 4th Dimension - by Google

In the past months I've blogged quite a few times about the use virtual worlds in visualising and understanding history. One of these examples was IBM's recreation of the Forbidden City in China and I also blogged how cool it would be to walk more of these Ancient Sites.

One of the things I wrote when speaking of these ancient sites was;

"From about the day I signed on to Ancient Sites I've had the believe that this had the potential to change our Educational system in the way which students could globally interact, learn languages, geography, history, art and you name it."

There are many ancient sites I would like to visit. In real life I have walked across the ruins of Olympia, of Mycaena and Sparta but one place I like in particular is ancient Rome. Currently I act as a Gladiator in the online game Gladiatus (by the way, I changed my handle from VeeJay to Verritus in this game) so Iam pretty excited of yet another Google thingy. Although I got pretty negative on Google yesterday in their quest for world dominance, this is a cool thing as they bring the 4th Dimension into Google Earth. Here's the full story from Thomas Clayburn at Information Week.

The mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, on Wednesday invited the hoi polloi to visit Rome in Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Earth.

Not modern Rome, but the Eternal City as scholars believe it was in 320 A.D., based on the Rome Reborn model constructed by the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.

"What fascinates me most about this project is the accuracy of the details of the three-dimensional models," said Alemanno in a guest post on the Google blog. "It's such a great experience to be able to admire the monuments, streets, and buildings of Ancient Rome with a virtual camera that lets you go inside and see all the architectural details. From the Colosseum to the Ludus Magnus, from the Forum Caesar to the Arch of Septimius Severus, from the Rostra to the Basilica Julia, you can get up close to them all."

To view the new Ancient Rome 3-D layer in Google Earth, open the "Gallery" folder in the "Layers" panel and select "Ancient Rome 3-D."

This marks the first time an ancient city has been incorporated into Google Earth. "Going back in time presented some new challenges, such as how to handle the ancient terrain which was clearly different than modern day," explained Google Earth product manager Bruce Polderman in a blog post. "We needed to ensure that modern day imagery, terrain, and buildings didn't interfere with the ancient Rome model so we opted for a simple overlay."

In conjunction with the debut of the Ancient Rome 3-D layer, Google is sponsoring a curriculum competition for K-12 educators. Teachers interested in participating can sign up, waive assorted rights, and submit a lesson plan and supporting materials in the hope of being among the top six entries. Prizes include an Apple MacBook laptop, a digital classroom projector, a digital camera, a 3-D navigation mouse, $500 in gift cards to Target or Office Depot (NYSE: ODP), and an engraved Google "Top Educator" plaque.

Below is a video demonstration produced by Google:

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Virtual History

Last week I wrote a lengthy blogpost on IBM's virtual Forbidden city and wondered:

"The first time I walked the city and marvelled at its detail, I thought back to my days at Ancient Sites and wondered how it would be to walk from this city, to say ancient Rome or Athens, to have multiple sites like these exist. "

Fortunately I'm not the only one to think that Virtual Worlds can play an enormous role in our educational system in terms of recreating our cultural heritage. Today I came across Joe Rigby's blog, MellaniuM where he explores how virtual environments can aid in this way. There's a number of blogposts on his site I'd like to point out. Especially in regard to quoting myself above, here's part of a blogpost titled Archaeological Serendipity:

"Just imagine wandering at your leisure through a recreation of Athens or Rome at the height of their power and influence. At MellaniuM our very "raison d'etre" could be distilled as the creation, nay, I should say the actual resurrection at a virtual realistic level of the achaeological remnants of these glorious civilisations. Indeed there are vast assets of 3D models in databanks of acedemic institutions around the world which have been used to provide vistas and fly-through movies of the plethora of cities which flourished in the core of ancient civilizations from Mesopotamia to Egypt and from Athens to Rome. These models can now be used to their full potential to create a vast interactive space available for hundreds of participants from all over the World. What an experience it would be to be immersed with your friends in walking around these cities? To explore the art and decorations of some sumptuous villa in Pompeii or walk through the Parthenon as it was on the first day it was completed by Pericles in 435BC.

It has been stated that it will be another 5 years before this feat of virtual representation can be accomplished"

Read full blogpost here. A second post I'd like to point out is the most recent entry to the MellanniuM blog, titled Industrial Archaeology.

"Could you imagine that MellaniuM virtual realistic environments would ever connect industrial cultural heritage and a massive intrusion of granite under the South-West tip of England?

Well MellaniuM will be participating in the VAST 2008 workshop "Serious Games and Cultural Heritage”. As an example of virtual engineering we have recently finalised the replica of a famous old steam locomotive 0-6-0 “Jinty” 47279 designed originally in the early 20th century and still running at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway."

Read the full blogpost here.

Now, you might start to wonder if there's an end to my interest, but this is once again a great hobby of mine. Actually, while writing this, I even start wondering how it is possible to find time enough to actually get some work done. Truth is, I like railroads, and especially the early railroads. In real life we just bought a new house which finally has enough room on the attic again to set up a new railroad and in the past months I've done some research on the great first years of Railroads in England and Scotland. As I'm also a Wiskey lover I'd been working on a railroad plan along the Great North of Scotland railroads, with its numerous branches like the Banff - Strathisla railway which provides narrative and scenery for the model railroad I'm designing, but now I'm ranting.

Anyway, in the real world we may visit historic sites, but many of these treasures have been lost, buildings as well as classic trains due to wars, reconstructions or just by rusting away in some trainyard. I'm sure virtual environments can work miracles in education in many ways. One option, like for example Joe's recreation of the Jinty in Second Life is just to provide an image of things lost to real life, but another approach is to exactly recreate the engine, make it larger so you can walk through and use it in a course to explain the history of engineering. This is also a thing we could do with historic structures. In medieval buildings there are various solutions in preventing the roofs to collapse. They didn't have steel or concrete beams strong enough to hold up the roof, so they had to use tricks. In a virtual environment with a proper physics engine you can demonstrate what happens if you take out a keystone for instance, something which you wouldn't do with a real life monument, just to demonstrate your teachings ;).

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Historic Worlds - Monastery of Dordrecht

Yesterday I blogged (again) about the beaty of IBM's virtual Forbidden City from a historic and educational point of view, rather than it being technologically advanced. Today, I'd like to take you on a tour to a different historic setting: The Monastery of Dordrecht.

The Monastery of Dordrecht is not a fullgrown virtual world or a game, rather a simulation of one of the key locations in Dutch history.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands started in 1572 in Dordrecht. This historical fact formed the basis for an exposition in late 2007. The city archives organisation, DiEP, inivted Paladin Studios to create an interactive 3D visualisation of the so called ‘Court of Dordrecht’. The goal was to recreate the old monastery at the site, of which the only remains are some of the foundations, and show the changes of the site over the centuries. The result is an interactive visualization which provides historical insight and the experience of “being there” in the late Middle Ages.

The Monastery of Dordrecht has been developed by a Dutch game company, Paladin Studios. Its managing director Dylan Nagel has a backround in Archeology and it shows in the level of detail of this simulation.

Monastery of Dordrecht by Paladin Studios

Wireframe rendering of the Monastery


The final simulation has excellent graphics and wonderfull lighting, small wonder that it ended up as Quest 3D's Award winner in the 2008 competition.

The application starts with a short intro with singing monks in the background. When the intro is finished the user can navigate trough the monastery and its courtyard with a single click navigation system. The lighting creates subtle accents of sunlight and shadow. The 'gimmick' in this presentation is that the user can travel through time by using buttons that pop up at the bottom of the screen. When the user clicks in the time line the scene changes to different situations in time.

As I said, it's a simulation, not a world. You can't walk through this with an avatar, which is a pity, although it's rather easy to navigate.

Another feature is the bird's eye view that allows the user to have several overhead perspectives of the building. In stead of using the mouse to drag the perspective it uses a fixed camera path which is easily controlled using two buttons on the left and right side of the screen. Without a doubt this presentation would work very well with a touch screen interface, even for users that have little experience with navigating in a 3D environment.

The polished look and feel, the excellent use of lighting and surprisingly simple user interface made the jury decide to make this presentation this year's best entry.


When looking at the graphics, the Monastery of Dordrecht is a winner as a simulation. The next step I would love Paladin Studios to take is to make it a multiuser environment so we for instance could reenact the Dutch declaration of independence (1572) or the synod of Dordrecht (1618/1619), which once again makes you wonder about standards in 3D environments and interoperability. When I'm teaching history, I'd like to take my pupils along with me to the Forbidden City as well as the Monastery of Dordrecht without having to register again and create new avatars.

Quotes and images from the Paladin Studios Portfolio and Quest 3D 2008 Award website.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

The Forbidden City - an ancient site

The Forbidden City

Today I strolled around the virtual Forbidden City once more to drink in some of the ancient Chinese history, thinking of great tales of Marco Polo, the Silk Routes or the terracotta army. I must admit, I'm a sucker for history.

Speaking of which, here's a short history of the Forbidden City, which launched october 10th and to which I already devoted two blogposts:

Exactly one week later, the number of registered users has grown to 128.101 users, which I think is great. This isn't exactly a social world but more like a dedicated virtual environment. Dedicated to one single real life space that spins a thousand tales. Over at the Eightbar blog, IBM's Metaverse evangelist Ian Hughes finally blogged the Forbidden City today in a blogpost in which he gave us a little insight into the history of this build.

John (Tovla) was exploring options for the project that rolled on from his previous one of Eternal Egypt. John specializes in running large innovative projects that use the web for more philanthropic reasons as part of what is called corporate community relations.

So there we were in SL, I had my personal shiny new island Hursley and he and his team were looking at how they might represent the forbidden city in the growing world of the virtual, non game metaverse. So I loaned the team the island, and a massively detailed chinese build started to form in the sky over the next few weeks whilst they procured their own official island. [read full article here]

What I do like to point out is that once again, it clearly names Second Life as the catalyst, the testing grounds for dedicated virtual environments. The other thing that excited me was the mention of Eternal Egypt.

I'd hoped this would be yet another virtual endeavor, which unfortunately it wasn't. It's a great resource website on the ancient Egyptian culture. This however does bring me to my next point.

The first time I walked the city and marvelled at its detail, I thought back to my days at Ancient Sites and wondered how it would be to walk from this city, to say ancient Rome or Athens, to have multiple sites like these exist. Given the current meme one would start talking interoperability right away, but I'd like to turn the other way for now.

Ancient Sites

The Ancient Worlds community started in the early 90's I think , under the name Ancient Sites, as a bulltetin board based community which initially focussed on history, but later developed into a widespread community with a lot of roleplay as well. Initially it was split up into 4 cities, Rome, Athens, Babylon and Thebes if I recall correctly and was later expanded with Machiu Piccu and the Ancient Celts. It grew in the early 90's to about 120K users, which historically speaking in pre-web2.0 times was pretty good. In the late 90's it went bankrupt, but started up again shortly after 2000 under the name Ancient Worlds but in 2005 returned to its former url: http://www.ancientsites.com/. In this second evolution of the community it was no longer strictly focussed on cities but more regionally. It was also extended with the Orient (hence the Forbidden City association) and the early German tribes. It never rekindled this old spark though, and now holds about 35K members.

Inside Ancient Sites I created my first internet handle, Johannes Nestor. It had about the same user format as Second Life has, predefined last names and free first names. These last names were familynames from well known historic people and families from these ancient cities. My initial interest in this site was history. At the time I was writing my senior thesis, titled "The Alternate Word - A comparison between Fantasy Literature, Mythology and Religion" and was looking for resources on various myths, both ancient Roman and Greek as well as Scandinavian and Etruskan. Through the bulletin board system I could easily find the tales I needed and came into contact with experts from around the world to find out more on these topics (who ever said the social web is a post 9/11 thing?)

I got caught up in Roleplay pretty soon though and one of the roleplays I got into was the recreation of the Byzantine Empire in which I tried to set up an economic system which earned me an estate on the isle of Naxos, made me a Patriarch and finally earned me the title of GrandMaster of the Knights Templar.

The plot thickened and we were up for war. So I created my second handle, Uriah Atrahasis, a Hetite named after Bathsheba's husband Uriah, which became one of the leading generals in the Byzantine army. We 'blogged' our travels to Syracuse and waged war on the Moors. It was a sport to do this as historically accurate as possible. So everything was checked against Sun Tzu's Art of War (which wasn't untill much later and on a different continent, but that made me win the wars), I dug up every scrap of information I could about old Roman galleys and other seavessels of that time, got into smithying, Phoenician and Hetite cultures, etc just to get the facts straight. In my roleplaying days at Ancient Sites I learned more about history and culture than I ever learned in school.

My third handle on Ancient Sites was Finn Folcwalding. In the initial plans for the extention of the ancient sites with the Germanic Tribes the creators focussed on the Goths and other tribes like Blatand (Blue-Tooth), Meroving, Habsburg and Scylding I urged them to included the Frysians as they were one of the strongest tribes fighting the Romans. Hence, the Folcwalding family was born. Not that it's a typical Frysian name, but Finn Folcwalding appears in (e.g.) Beowolf as one of the Frysian Kings.

From about the day I signed on to Ancient Sites I've had the believe that this had the potential to change our Educational system in the way which students could globally interact, learn languages, geography, history, art and you name it. Shortly after it's revival I worked shortly with the creators of the site to see if we could find a more 'immersive' way to set up the site and we experimented with flash based maps of the ancient cities. Unfortunately this wasn't sponsored by IBM, as is the Forbidden City, and had to make do with limited funds and knowledge so we never got that makeover work out.

The Eduverse Foundation

A couple of years later, i.e. present day, I still see potential behind this site in order to change education. Last year I encountered a recreation of Ancient Rome in Second Life, and again I wondered how this would work out at Ancient Sites. A short proposal didn't work out, the crowd there isn't into VW's much, but in the end it was one of the reasons I got involved with the startup of the Eduverse Foundation, which tries to chart the educational benefits of virtual worlds for educational purposes.

No doubt you'll find all sorts of arguments of why not to do this. Within the Eduverse Foundation itself I've had a number of discussions on this topic. Quite a number of Metaverse Evangelists are of the opinion that recreating Real Life things in a virtual environment is a bad thing, and shos a lack of understanding 3D-ness. I partly agree, but cannot deny its power to explain present and past as well.

In this regard I'd also like to point out the "Otherland" series by Tad Williams. When speaking of the Metaverse we always name Neil Stephenson and William Gibson, but I think Tad Williams should be mentioned in the same breath as it comes to visionaries on the Metaverse. In the Otherland series he describes a virtual world which has two aspects:

  1. A digital city, sort of a mainland area where people spend their time socializing and shopping, somewhat alike Stephenson's "The Street" from Snowcrash
  2. A vast realm of simulators, like Second Life Islands, which are connected through a river. Each of these simulators has its own theme. These themes range from scifi to fantasy.

A number of simulators described in the Otherland series are historical sims. We find ancient Egypt and Troy for instance. I would recommend reading this series to get an idea of what could be created in Networked Virtual Environments and what this could do to aid education.

Image from the upcoming Otherland Game

Concluding I'd say: IBM, please go on. Not from an innovative point of view, but from a historical point of view I'd like to see more environments like the Forbidden Citycoming

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Rosedale at Eduverse Symposium 3

With the Virtual World Conference and Expo barely underway, two conferences are lined up for Europe. Probably the biggest of these is the Virtual Worlds London edition (20-21 october), but the more promising one is happening right at my doorstep (well... practically): The 3rd Eduverse Symposium.
The Eduverse Symposium 3 is scheduled for September 23rd in Amsterdam and has an impressive line-up:

Some (like Philip Rosedale) will be present in the flesh, others will be adressing the symposium through a variety of media.

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What Works in Second Life

Over the past year many companies have wondered what in Metaverse's name they should, could or would do in Second Life. Throughout this search for added value, one particular application has stood out as being succesfull: Training and Simulation.

Marked by Forrester as one of the key areas of Virtual Worlds, a number of succesfull training programmes have been initiated over the past year. Here's two recent projects in the media:

Quick Stat: Second Life Boosts Canadian Border Guard Training Scores by 28%


Through Virtual World News

Wagner AU, of New World Notes has been following the use of a Second Life-based simulation for training Canadian border guards designed by Loyalist College's Virtual World Design Centre. It's saving money and having real-world impacts on the interview section of the students' final test. "2007 - Without using Second Life, student interview skills average grade: 58%," Ken Hudson of Loyalist told New World Notes. "2008 - after using Second Life simulation, student interview skills average grade: 86%."



How to Set Up a Second Life Presence for Federal Agencies


Through Virtual World News

Anne Laurent who blogs about virtual government at The Agile Mind and reports for NextGov is putting together a YouTube series on how agencies can join the virtual world. She's following the story of the National Defense University's Information Resources Management College in Second Life, beginning with the process of convincing management, buying islands, and setting up its environment before looking at its current use with students. It might be basic as an introduction for some readers, but it's an interesting case
study as well.


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Monday, March 24, 2008

vBusiness Expo - April 2008

It's been a couple of months since I heard the first plans from Clever Zebra to organise yet another vw conference and expo. Here's the first announcement:


The vBusiness Central project in Second Life will launch in April with a 4 day Expo, to be held bi-yearly in April and October (which coincides with the Virtual World Conference).

The conference aims to cover 4 key areas:

We'll be announcing dates and details very shortly. If you want to keep up with developments, including other Clever Zebra events and product updates then join our email list to be first with the news.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

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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Eduverse Symposium Report

As requested by Johan, I cross-posted this article from my blog to the MindBlizzard blog as a (pretty long) report on the Virtual World Symposium we attended yesterday. As Johan already introduced the meeting in his previous post, I'll just get started with taking you trough the day:

Information Overload

The Virtual Web symposium started with an introduction of Johan Vermij, who did a good job at outlining the problems the educational system faces now, and will increase in the very near future. The very real problem of information overload was illustrated by the amount of information we produce and consume. Someone reading the New York Times for a week will be exposed to more information then a person would receive its entire life 100 years ago. We have produced more information in the last year, as we did the previous 5000 years, and the amount will double every year for the next decade.

The question as presented by the Eduverse organisation is with this constant river of information, education would still be able to catch up, deal with this flow if content and present and filter it in a meaningful way before it became outdated or obsolete. Combine this with the fact 80% of our cognitive skills are visually oriented, and you get the mission statement of the evening. How can Virtual Worlds contribute to making the information overload a source of value, help index and understand it, and contribute to the educational system? Continue reading below (long post!)

PaperVision3D / Paperworld

Papervision3D - Paperworld

We started to look for an answer in probably one of the least engaging and interesting presentations of the day, so bare with me on this one. A visually tired Trevor Burton explained in 4 slides of Powerpoint how the new Flash-based technology of ‘papervision3D’ would be able to create ‘clientless immersion’ - 3D worlds running in your browser. It took about 5 minutes to race trough the technical slides at which point the presentation came to a halt.

When he was reminded he could actually show us the (alpha stage) application Paperworld we saw an Internet Explorer browser window with the scene of a really simple ‘outer-space’ scene, where he could control a space ship with mouse and arrow keys. Trevor said the quality of the visuals were about the standards of the Playstation 1 console. Opening another browser window he could log in a second aircraft and it would show in both windows, demonstrating the ’social’ possibilities of this clientless 3D environment.

The technology itself has a long way to go but obviously had potential. Having your 3D environment directly in your browser removes the hassle of downloading, installing and updating the client, Trevor pointed out the upgrades/updates of the papervision would be ubiquitous, and the software runs on any platform and is completely open source. The link to education remained unclear as Trevor rushed off to some much needed sleep.

The Education Coop

Journal of Virtual World Education

Next up was a Skype video conference, but Skype didn’t want to play ball, ad we ended up with a half Second Life voice conversation on both the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research and the collaborative program of teachers world-wide, ‘The Education Coop’. The Journal was (unsurprisingly) a ‘elearning’ track record, a gathering place for information on interactive learning in Virtual Worlds as ran by Jeremiah Spence.

The Education Coop can best be described as a community for ‘metaverse’ teachers. Joe Sanchez told us in order to join this virtual community in second life, which consists of a virtual Village you need to be verified as a person (name, occupation etc) to keep the community a professional, high quality collaborative program for eduction. The Education Coop organises seminars and meetings to discuss their work strategies and experiences with (Virtual) teaching.

Both seem good examples of the organisation of Virtual Learning from inside universities. These are both ‘teacher/professor’ initiatives to find a way to use Virtual Worlds as an added value to their traditional ways of teaching students.

Peer 2 Peer and Virtual economies

The fourth speaker of the evening was Brandon Wiley, a student in Texas University who has been working with Peer 2 Peer programs ever since it surfaced on the internet. The recent developments in Virtual Worlds going open source gave him new insights in creating ‘virtual’ value.

He explained looking closely at the economy of Second Life, it’s problem with the current economy is the same as the music industry is facing at the moment. Virtual Goods can be copied and quickly become infinite, reducing the effective value per unit to $0. The problem is the economy of Second Life is made by placing money from the real world into the Virtual to buy objects, but when these objects become free, the economy crumbles.

Another economic model is found in closed systems, like games. The economy in World of Warcraft is not created by an outside source, but by user participation. Clicking on ‘monster’ creates gold from the items it drops. Though time is invested in killing monsters, the problem with this model is it doesn’t scale well. The value created only exists within a controlled environment, which is going to disappear in an open source, peer to peer Virtual World Network. One could simply ‘cheat’ the system by adding limitless amounts of ‘gold’ into your own environment, then transfer this to someone elses, thus creating the same problem - a collapsing economy because it lacks value.

According to Brandon, a solution can be found in a game for kids and a system you are certain to have seen before, the ‘Captcha‘ - the question you get before commenting or sign-ups, where you are asked to type in the letters you see in the distorted picture to verify you are real. The game which inspired Brandon was Puzzle Pirates, kids solving puzzles for rewards. The interesting thing about puzzles is that it requires human attention, and human attention (focus) can not be copied, and is limited.

The implication of this is the ‘currency’ of peer to peer Virtual Worlds is attention, being able to retain its value anywhere, in any world/platform. When asked for the relation of this ‘insight’ and eLearning Brandon saw a future for using these puzzles as a new learning process. A direct (instant) reward system for training and obtaining knowledge, and a new way of motivating education.

NASA Learning Technologies

Last presentation before he first break was Stephany Smith of NASA. Stephany showed us what NASA has found in Virtual Environments so in a Powerpoint supported presentation from within Second Life. The work NASA does mostly focusses on visually presenting complex data, and creating direct visual representations of real-time events. Programs already in use are:

  1. Rover Ranch - A place to learn about robotic engineering. You can learn about the development of robots, their elements and systems.
  2. Volcano Viewer - A 3D visualisation of real and simulated volcanoes to see their activity or the education process of understanding the way they work.
  3. World wind- Same as the Volcano Viewer, only focussed on the phenomena of whirlwinds.
  4. Virtual Lab - A program adopted by Microsoft to explore surfaces on Nano Level

Furthermore she indicated NASA is working on their new eLearning Roadmap, and vision on eduction. The Roadmap consists of the essential ‘3E’ program: Educate, Explore and Experience, and is a way for NASA to interest possibly future employees (children) in science and technology.

Ph.D. D. Danforth shows the ‘Virtual Sperm Tour’

Ph.D. D. Danforth showing his Virtual, 3D educational presentation

After the break we were introduced to a highlight in showing the potential of 3D environments in teaching complex matters was a demo by Ph.D. D. Danforth of the Ohio State University who build a model of how sperm grows. Apparently this is a very hard thing to explain and visualising this has greatly aided the students in understanding the process.

The education process is a completely animated 3D presentation, supported by text in the chat window. The ‘interactive’ part of the tour allowed students to get a close up, step by step of the process of the growth of sperm cells. The tour concludes in a virtual ‘camp-fire’ place, to discuss the material with fellow students or Ph.D. D. Danforth himself. The response to the 3D presentation are positive, but real results won’t be available until next month, when the students get their exams on the matter, and Ph.D. D. Danforth can compare the results to students who haven’t had the virtual tour experience.

Some details on the presentation:

  1. It took his students 15-30 minutes to get through the SL orientation
  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

Campus Hamburg in Second Life

Campus Hamburg in Second Life

The German Campus of Hamburg created a platform for Second Life studies, but real life degrees. Hanno Tietgens and Dr. Torsten Reinders guided us trough the virtual harbour. Students where challenged with both building the platform, and eventually providing a collaborative learning platform for students. On the advantages De. Torsten provided the following points:

Building/prototyping
Trough the process of building the students learn the details of the environment much better, rather then just description or pictures. Insignificant looking details become more obvious and understanding of the topic (in this case the shipping of containers)

Gather international expertise/speakers
Because of the virtual space, the Hamburg campus is able to invite speakers and experts from all over the world, to review the work and assignments done by the students.

Avatar anonymity
Though somewhat dubious, the Hamburg Campus explained it could use the anonymity of the avatars to gather unfiltered information from the students. This could be feedback on the program itself, the content of the courses or even doing ‘ubiquitous examination’ of the behaviour of the students.

Work with things that are normally not accessible in the real world
The shipping process involves heavy machinery, not to mention ships, space and all sorts of other physical complications. By simulating this in the virtual World, the students can control all aspects of a scenario, and operate machinery normally unavailable to them without cost or risk.

Blend of theory, visual scenarios and practise
The interactive visualisation supports the the theory as it is educated within the virtual setting (represented by the virtual office actually being inside the harbour itself). While the theory is explained, someone could directly show it to the students.

Collaborative Learning
The social aspect of the Virtual environment allowed students to collaborate on one task or program seamlessly. One could operate the crane, the other the boat, a thirds be a transport supervisor or harbour master in the same scenario. This kind of collaborative learning has shown to get students much more involved, and learn from each other in the process.

Georgia Tech on Augmented Reality

Georgia Tech on Augmented Reality

for me the highlight of the evening was something I had so far only seen on youTube. Jay Bolter (a.k.a. James Lillenthal in SL) of the Georgia Tech university had modified their client in such a way it could be used for augmented reality: Effectively blending the virtual and the Physical Worlds. Several avatars had gathered in a small 10 by 10 stage in Second Life, surrounded by a number of screens displaying these avatars in a scene in the real world, a bunch of piled up Lego blocks.

To create the illusion of Virtuality in the real world you need a camera aimed at the real life scene with fiducial markers to allow the camera to orientate and place the virtual images over the real world in on the video. Though pretty impressive already, Jay Bolter tells us there is still some difficulty creating seamless video and audio, and the process of augmented reality doesn’t scale well yet. Needing both the real life scene covered with the fiducial markers as well as a virtual environment to simulate the ‘bumping paths’ - the process of the computer recognising a wall, or a door you’d be able to walk trough.

Even though Bolter compared the demonstration to the ‘first flight of the Wright Brothers’, his ambition is remarkably similar as well. The goals and application of the research and the technique are as follows:

  1. The experience of ’shared space’ - mimic physical presence
  2. Collaborative design of 3D augmented prototypes
  3. Walk trough historic locations
  4. Use HUDS (Heads Up Displays) to make the real world more intelligent by a providing Virtual Layer off digital information on people, objects, locations. (Example, looking at the Eiffel Tower will display its meta information such as year of construction etc.)
  5. Get the technology into the living room of people

On the last point Jay Bolter had some interesting information. He told us he thinks the client of Second Life used to create the augmented reality experience will be available in the summer this year. The hardware used (glasses and displays) is no longer dependant on technical mechanisms, but depends on an economic system, seeing as they projector glasses are currently in between 100.000$ and 10.000$, but could be available for little over 100$ once mass production sets in. If this is to happen any time soon it will be because of gaming applications Jay Bolter concludes his most impressive presentation.

Virtual World Teaching Programs

After the second break we resumed the symposium with Dr. Yesha Siwan. A much respected metaverse thinker who has created a program to introduce students into Virtual Worlds, and a course on how to set up an eLearning process for these students. In an estimate of 13 lessons, starting with understanding the interface, onto building in the virtual world, customising the avatar onto business models and understanding the communication inside Virtual Worlds.

Dr. Yesha Siwan uses the following description of Virtual Worlds (such as Second Life, where this presentation was given)- the ‘3D3C Metaverse’. This means a Virtual World has to be three dimensional, have a community, allow (user) creation and commerce in order to be part of this Metaverse.

Philosophy about the educational system

Philosopher Ph.D Rhett Gayle as seen in Second Life

Philosopher Ph.D Rhett Gayle took us back into the real world. That is to say, the world of philosophy. Trough a Skype/video conference Ph.D Rhett Gayle challenged the audience to define the role of the educational system. The goal of education. Though no real consensus was reached within the audience, when he confronted his own students with the same question 80% of them answered ‘to get a job’.

He continued to say that’s the way the ’system’ feels for these students: “like a circus dog jumping trough hoops and getting a biscuit at the end”. Ph.D Rhett Gayle said this is a worrying thought, especially concidering the words of Johan Vermij at the start of the symposium - the phase in which information is produced and becomes obsolete. He concluded the these two things lead him to believe the process of education is more important than the content of the lessons themselves.

The process of today can be influenced by the students, but the students are not thought they are able to change things in this new day and age. These are the same students who felt a world without jobs would be a dystopia rather than a utopia, a world they wouldn’t want for themselves. On the other hand, the 20% who didn’t feel the goal of education is ‘to provide a job’ thought a world without work would be liberating, a new freedom of the future.

The idea behind these thoughts was, as far as I could gather - looking at the future we need to evaluate the role of education as a process of relaying information, and the approach towards the students who feel less and less inclined to learn, instead of having a motivation to acquire knowledge driven by a passion on a certain topic.

Sensory replacement- Seeing trough Sound

The head mounted camera glasses of The vOICE

Last up was Dr. Peter Meijer in a ‘live’ presentation ‘Sensory Replacement’. A fancy sounding term for turning vision into sound and back into vision again. The presentation was more than impressive, introducing a technology to allow the blind or visually impaired to recieve images trough audio. Here is the The way it works is it takes a 2D black and white ‘frame’ of the video mounted on the glasses, and the software called ‘The vOICE’ translate this ‘pixel by pixel’ into a sound.

Left and Right
Video is sounded in a left to right scanning order, by default at a rate of one image snapshot per second. You will hear the stereo sound pan from left to right correspondingly. Hearing some sound on your left or right thus means having a corresponding visual pattern on your left or right, respectively.

Up and Down
During every scan, pitch means elevation: the higher the pitch, the higher the position of the visual pattern. Consequently, if the pitch goes up or down, you have a rising or falling visual pattern, respectively.

Dark and Light
Loudness means brightness: the louder the brighter. Consequently, silence means black, and a loud sound means white, and anything in between is a shade of grey.

Though a remarkable technology by itself, I didn’t see the direct implementation in Virtual Worlds or education, except for the fact The vOICE trains the brain in a new way of recognising objects.

And so, after over 7 hours(!) of presentations the symposium ended with an ‘after-chat’ and some much needed beer. I really enjoyed the symposium and think bringing these concepts together (especially the ones a little outside the realm of Virtual Worlds such as the last 2 presentations) provoke really interesting thoughts, and developing the educational system - and ways Virtual Worlds can contribute in this process.

P.S. Thank you Frank and Stephan for the pictures/photos, and the entire 7 hours can be seen here.

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Eduverse Symposium (1) Introduction








This weeks second cross reality event was held at the exact same spot (de Balie in Amsterdam )as the Fasion show in the previous blogpost. This time it was the massive Eduverse Symposium on Virtual Education.




I had the honour to kick off the 7 hour marathon session with a short introduction on the programme and a couple of brainwaves on virtual education in which I remarked that were still basically dealing with traditional forms of education (i.e. books and classrooms and stuff) which have been around since the 1700's while our life has become more and more digitized in the past ten years. All our ways of communicating, information gathering and learning experiences have been affected by technological advances, but it has barely hit the classroom yet. No wonder that 90% of everything we learn is learnt outside school in our private / social time. Teachers are no longer the authority when it comes to knowing things. They've been substituted by wikipedia.




On the other hand the amount of information we have to juggle is getting bigger and more complex every year. (read some thoughts here) so Education has a challenge. Today was about giving some demo's to get people inspired in thinking about Virtual Worlds as a tool in modelling complex issues and add some playfulklness along the way as well.




We had an impressive list of speakers who gave their pitches from the real life location, from Second Life and through Skype Video on a range of subjects, varying from technology updates to a philospophical session on why we have education anyway.


Augmented Reality




One of the Key Pitches today was in my opinion the one by Jay Bolter (a.k.a. James Lillenthal in SL) from Georgia Tech on augmented reality. At the GT they'd made a little lego room on a table, put a camera on it and we were able to walk into the video in Second Life.


3D Sperms


Another highlight in showing the potential of 3D environments in teaching complex matters was a demo by Dr. D. Danforth of the Ohio State University who build a model of how sperm grows. Apparently this is a very hard thing to explain and visualising this has greatly aided the students in understanding the process.





I'm kind of relying on Rick Cassini from Digado to (cross-)post more detailed information on the demo's.

We didn't fill the hall as much as we'd liked, but what can you expect when you organize an event like this on such short time notice. We got the idea only about two weeks ago. And aside from people being physically present, the event was streamed to about 10 SL locations to start with, each attracting a crows and ending up with about 20 locations as streams got added continuously. The event was also streamed to the web at Meta.Live.Nu and a full replay can be found here at de Balie archives.


ThankU's


A big thanks to Damien Simons of the UptheVortex blog for the pics, and to Bart Bockhoudt of the DutchExchange and DeBalie for sponsoring the event.


Another word of thanks goes to one of the speakers, Dr. Yesha Sivan (a.k.a. Dera Kit in SL) from the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv, Israel. He was kind enough to use the MindBlizzard blog as one of his sources in his presentation. It's a funny thing to see when you're in the audience, watching a presentation and suddenly recognise your own writing (though it isn't the first time it happened to me).


Just a quick overview of how widelyspread the symposium was:


The event will be streamed on the web at: http://streams.live.nu/ (UK) http://www.debalie.nl/live (NL) and will be viewable afterwards from De Balie archives
The event will also be available to be seen live in Second Life at these locations:
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Virtual+Holland/157/79/23
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Caledon+Eyre/210/203/23
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Groningen+Centrum+ZO/205/208/113
http://slurl.com/secondlife/maya/163/66/24
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Business+Exchange/153/207/32
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Amsterdam+2/205/205/25
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Enschede/133/212/22
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Nuova+Sicilia/88/166/33
http://slurl.com/secondlife/New+Berlin/131/131/31
http://slurl.com/secondlife/New+Berlin/244/166/33
Should you wish to stream it yourself, then it is possible using this url:
rtsp://82.94.217.140:80/balieh264-320x240.mov.sdp
It will also be streamed live simultaneously with the following codecs for low speed internet connections:
http://live.nu/1.ram ( RealVideo)
http://live.nu/1.m3u (Mp3 audio mono)
http://live.nu/1.jpg > http://cam.live.nu/ ( image refresh 'webcam')

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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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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

vBusiness Expo

I got pointed towards a video on YouTube about the vBusiness Expo. This will be an event about the Virtual Workspace, working in a virtual environment. The video states that there are over 200 companies working in Second Life right now. At 1.09 minutes you'll see Sogeti logo fly by...




I*t doesn't really say who uploaded the vid, except "posted by vBusiness" but I think I recognise Nick Wilson's (Clever Zebra, ex Metaversed) voice there.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

(Educational) Self City on Teen Grid

Dutch MDC [Lost in the] Magic Forest finished developing an island on the Second Life Teen Grid for the Waag Society a little while ago. As I don't have TG clearance it took some time before I picked up this story.

The Waag Society is an organisation which started in 1994 as 'Society for old and new Media', de Waag'. Founders were Caroline Nevejan and Marleen Stikker, who is still Waag Society's director. Before, Stikker was the mayor of the Digital City, the first internet community in the Netherlands.

The Society's -soon to be called 'Waag Society'- mission was to make new media available for groups of people that have little access to computers and internet, thus increasing their quality of living. After a complete restauration of the Waag building, a small group of enthousiastic idealists began their activities in 1996.

The island in Second Life (TG) is called Self City and is an educational project to experiment with new teaching methods for pupils with special needs in the age of 12-14. It is about students which cannot function properly in a normal classroom, often through social emotional or light mental handicaps.




Dobre VanBrugh from Lost in the Magic Forest says:

"We developed a complete city on the island with a movietheatre, (fake)gambling hall, basketballcourt and a Heads Up Display (HUD) to assist the pupils in their interaction (see screenshots). The scientific findings of the new teaching method in Second Life have been gathered in this report (Dutch only): Research Report Self City"

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Prokofy Neva vs. Woodbury University

Late last night the infamous Prokofy Neva posted a mega post over at Second Thoughts over an intervention Linden Lab performed. This is bound to create another stir in the community.

Here's the short version:

Prokofy has long faught the presence of griefers in Second Life. Whereas some (including Wired magazine) approached them pretty naively, Prokofy (rightfully) saw these anarchists as a threat to a civil metaversal society. In 2007 the Woodbury University was taken off the grid, suspect of facilitating griefer activities. Ever since Prokofy claims to have been haunted, stalked and harassed by MC Fizgig, the alt of a Woodbury professor. Now Prokofy found out the Woodbury Griefers moved in next door...

"Land bought in Furness next door to me in Ravenglass for the sole purpose of harassing me and my tenants has been confiscated by LL, in a move which some might find as suspect and controversial, but others might see as part of a growing willingness by Linden Lab to leave their hippie anarcho-capitalist technolibertarian days, and become a more established business determined to make a grid viable for civil society online."

The bottom line:

"For once, they've (LL) responded within 24 hours, and responded very decisively in a way which is sure to raise controversy..."

Because of Prokofy Neva's reputation it didn't take long for the first insinuating posts have started to appear on the Second Life Herald and Your2ndPlace.

The SLH speculates in FIC Tables Turned - Ex-Critic Crows About LL Land Seizure that Prokofy apparantly has some tie-ins with Linden Lab and thus becoming part of the FIC (Feted Inner Core -- the group of alledged Linden Lab adorers which receive friendly favors of the powers that be) Prokofy has so assidiously fought over the past year.

Your2ndPlace also speculates on the same issue:

"But for the topic at hand - if she claimed that she had something to do with someone having their land taken from them and banned, even by innuendo, she's claiming the power that she accuses others of having. If she didn't say that,
then Shaun Altman is a liar - as are a few other people I have communicated with. And if she said it and actually had something to do with it, well, the latter would explain why Prokofy Neva has lead such a charmed Second Life."

Both these reports are based on Shaun Altman writing:

"Prokofy Neva went on to inform me that the avatar who purchased this land had been banned from Second Life, after the seizure of the avatar's property (land) by Linden Lab. He then asked me a very chilling question. I didn't log it, so I can't quote it verbatim, but it was directly along the lines of, "Do you see what I can get done if I want to?".

The issue here is in Shaun's last line: What's stirring up the fuzz is:

"Do you see what I can get done if I want to?".

The weakest link here is:

"I didn't log it, so I can't quote it verbatim,"

Now, I don't have all the evidence at hand, but here's a number of thoughts which have crossed my mind:

  1. There have been suspicious activities at Woodbury in the past. Evidence seems solid enough to justify the removal of the sim from a legal point of view when looking at the ToC.
  2. Where possible, action should be undertaken against griefers. Although they can perform very little actual damage, they are a threat. They will hamper growth in qunatity as well as quality.
  3. I personally it is a bit overdone to call the whole scene a "Woodbury Conspiracy", but I can imagine griefers not being happy over expulsion and stalking the person responsible for their exposure.
  4. Based upon Prokofy Neva's narrative of the situation, Linden Lab has taken a rightfull decision. When this is going to cause havok, I hope LL does have some unbiased evidence to support their case.
  5. The sole reason for the SLH, Your2ndPlace and Shaun Altman blowing this skyhigh is Prokofy's reputation. I'd rather see them try to figure out facts - though must admit

    "Do you see what I can get done if I want to?"
    is an interesting line. I do have some thoughts there, but won't articulate them yet as they are thoughts, not facts.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Phil's pick on Virtual Business

Wednesday, January 9 Philip Rosedale wrote Year-end Updates, and thanks for the Emmy! on the Second Life blog. One particular paragraph interested me:

"There has been lots of speculation and skepticism in the media regarding the success that businesses are having in-world. I’d like to point out that most of the most visible media coverage has focused narrowly on attempts to use SL
for brand marketing.

In reality, the majority of the business use we are seeing now in SL is focused on meetings and collaboration, and is rapidly increasing as more companies discover the efficiencies and unique capabilities that working together in a virtual world can offer. As I’ve said in the past, I think Second Life is going through a natural evolution which mirrors other new communications mediums, as individual early adopter usage shifts to include education and work collaboration. As far as we can tell, education and work use is now growing at a larger relative rate than the overall growth of SL, so we can expect to see lots more of it in-world."

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Christian's Keynote: What''s next?

Christian Renaud , Cisco – What’s Next?


This isn’t the first attempt to start virtual worlds and virtual business. This has a long history. And there are many steps to be made to get to the next level.



In 1988 there was a seminar on interoperability, TCP/IP and there were just a few attendees, five years later it was mass market.



What’s different right now is that we have all this creative energy. We’ve got mmorpgs, we’ve got unified communication tools. Taking that and combining it and slamming that together at this high speed and you can use Second Life or World of Warcraft as business tools.



It fills a need in the technology toolbox. Cisco likes to make probabilities from possibilities.



  • We have 6.5 billion people on the planet.
  • 2.3 b mobile phones (1/3)
  • 1.2 b internet connectivity (1/6)

That’s the audience for virtual worlds.



  • 465 M VW users (excluding Asia) appr. 1/12)
  • 45 M are active virtual residents, not tourists.

That’s about as big as all the early communities (compuserve, the well, aol, eworld etc) together had at their peak.


“We have to make the community grow, so I don’t have to explain what I do over and over again to the guy sitting next to me on the plane.”



We’ve failed with instant messaging. We’ve got these big walled gardens and need multiple clients to talk to all our friends. Do we need to find a standard, or do we have to have just one platform? We have to have interoperability. There has to be no switching cost. You have to be able to choose which platform gives you the best return on your investment.



There’s a 40 million people market, and as a business you have to choose one in 40 platforms, that’s a bad choice to get your ROI.



If we had this discussion about platforms 10 years ago we wouldn’t have web. Platform shouldn’t be the discussion. It’s the content put on it.


There are too many genetics and too many usecases to get one-size fits all jacket. It’s different tools for different jobs. There’s a number of different dimensions, like mobile and peer to peer needs that have to find a place in this landscape.



It’s not my intend to be a big corporation that brings in a bulldozer and levels the diversity of the landscape and put out a huge concrete mall strip. There has to be different modalities, variation between fun and work.



Attention is the only currency left. Attention needs diversity. Howver, work needs to be fun as well. Screen, desk, a very industrial setup will have to change.



We also have to rid ourselves of stereotypes like:

  • A 12 year old girl: level 70 night elf
  • A 70 year old couple: owning 8 neopets
  • An asian businessman: Puzzle Pirate.

There’s too much overlap throughout the industry to categorise. Think of the industry and it will get bigger, don’t focus on the little piece of the pie you cut out for yourself.



There are things we can do from a technology point of view to help secure the content of VW’s. We need to have a strong concept of idendity, it’s based on trust. We haven’t been able to solve open-ID for the internet, but maybe we can do so for virtual worlds.



A strong Identity can give you credit, a reputation, a trust that helps you sell, make your business, How do we manage our presence? Let people know we are busy etc.

  • Identity
  • Reputation
  • Presence

There are things we can't do as good as we can in RL, but there are things we can do better than in RL as well. Augmentation, specific content based upon who you're talking to.

The new math:

If it's just amongst us we can throw out every number we like. When talking to people outside we have to rationalise, come with metrics. Real facts and figures. The industry has to step forward and come with universal metrics. Business needs to know where the money is.

One of the good initiatives is MMI, the metaverse market index. (spin off from Metaversed's Grid Safari's and Metanomics sessions. This is a derisking and industry building initiative.

Common Platforms:

There's work going on on interoperability. Content is core, platform flexible. Convergence over divergence will benefit the industry.

MIT Collective Intelligence:

We've gotta look for pitfalls and not stick to the "we could this" suggestions, but also consider if "we should this" element. What can we do for collective intelligence. What can we do for collaboration, for culture? What can we instrument, do to overcome deficiencies in our options in Virtual Worlds?

Wrap up:

  • Common Identities
  • Common Denominators
  • Common Platforms
  • Common Understanding

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

TU Delft: Putting SL to use

Yesterday I was triggered by an article in the Dutch (print) Magazine "Computable" on the activities of the Dutch TU Delft (Delft University of Technology). There's actually 2 things that triggered me. First was the presence of the TU Delft itself, which I've noticed several months ago but couldn't get in yet, and secondly an advanced importscript for importing technical drawings into Second Life.


FLOATING CITY

[text and images from this TU-Delft webpage]

"The Floating City is a concept for sustainable, innovative urbanization in a densely occupied delta area. The concept was developed by Deltasync 04, a multidisciplinary team of master and doctoral students at Delft University of Technology. It was awarded first prize in the international Royal Haskoning Deltacompetition, which was held October 2006."





In the near future, visitors to the virtual world of Second Life may come across a floating city with a TU Delft logo.

Uses of Second Life are becoming more serious
Until recently, virtual worlds were associated with entertainment, but now the emphasis is shifting more and more towards serious uses. This is why Dr. Igor Mayer from the Faculty of Technique, Policy and Management thought it high time the University made an appearance in this virtual world. Dr Mayer is a research worker and also one of the leaders of the project on Second Life which, according to him, “is a wonderful arena for promoting designs and inventions that originate in Delft. You may soon be able to travel around the campus in the submarine Wasub, or go kite-flying with one of Professor Ockels’ energy-generating kites.”

Floating city becomes campus
At the moment, a team of researchers from TU Delft are developing two islands – as the units of land are called in Second Life jargon. One of the islands is going to be transformed into a revolutionary campus, surrounded by virtual water – something which has never been done before. The TU Delft’s floating campus is modelled on the floating city idea.

The other island will be called Next Generation Infrastructures. Once it is has been completed, researchers will be able to experiment there with new interactive communication techniques. This island has the same name as a national research programme in the Netherlands that is focussed on new knowledge infrastructures and in which TU Delft is taking part.
Second Life is sustainable

The Second Life version of TU Delft aims to give its students and employees the chance to see how the University’s objectives are being accomplished. The theme ‘sustainability’ is particularly suitable for this purpose.

SLURL: (not open yet)



Importing 3D structures in Second Life

The main point of the Computable article was on importing technical drawings into Second Life. The Second Life Research Group has created a Maya script (MEL) which can translate 3D models into a textfile which can be read by the Thraxis Epsilon "Offline Builder".

"In the virtual world of Second Life, objects can be constructed from so-called prims (cubes, cylinders etc). By means of tools known as ‘offline builders’, it is also possible to import components from CAD (computer-aided design) programs such as Autodesk Maya and 3DStudio. However, these tools cannot convert complex or exiting models. Bart Roeffen, one of the members of the TU Delft Second Life Working Group, has written an import function which does allow the conversion to take place. Using Maya, every technically drawn object, such as a building or a car, can now be transferred to Second Life.

TU Delft is applying this import routine to the many eye-catching prototypes made by researchers and students for Second Life. These prototypes can then be demonstrated and experienced. TU Delft will make the script available to the Second Life community as soon as the TU Delft islands are opened at the beginning of September. This allows others to be able to use the import routine so that it can be developed further in other countries. Until this happens, we want to develop and expand the script ourselves.

At the moment, we are working on import routines for other packages such as 3D-Max and AutoCAD. We are also investigating how textures can be imported. The behaviour of objects cannot be imported so they will have to be programmed in Second Life for the time being.

For more information about the script, please contact Bart Roeffen, b.roeffen [at] deltasync [dot] nl"

Importing textures and working around large objects are the biggest challenges the SLRG faces at this moment.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Get your Divers licence in SL

Whilst trying to get some new Dutch sims in front of my camera I stumbled into Diveworld, close to Dutch content creators DNB Media. Suspecting a tie in I went in, and immersed in front of a PADI office. And guess what, my wife's work is just next to a PADI diving center.



However, PADI isn't Dutch, it's everywhere, it's the Professional Association of Diving Instructors is the world's largest recreational diving membership and diver training organization founded in 1966 by John Cronin and Ralph Erikson.



It's HQ is based in California and all over the world you will find Diving Centers using the PADI method. PADI is the way the world learns to dive.



Their main venue - at least, the place where you immerse - is a 2-storied infocenter with instruction movies on diving, telling you what the gear is all about and links to the e-learning pages on the PADI website.






But off course, diving isn't about instruction, especially not in Second Life where you can dive without using all that cumbersome equipment. It's time to get out to the beach!




This is what diving is about:



It's not the real thing, but it looks good.

The sim isn't completely finished yet, and this beautiful reef is just a few yards wide yet. I'm curious to see how PADI is going to use this virtual venue in educational and promotional ways.

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Dive%20World/120/112/60

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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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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sogeti Netherlands SL savvy

Dutch IT provider Sogeti Netherlands, part of the Sogeti SAS Group is getting a little press attention on Second Life.

Virtual Education

Dutch blog Second Life Blogo, the respected IT magazine Automatiserings Gids and E-Learning.nl report that Sogeti will have 25% of its regular techcourses in Second Life by the end of 2007

Metaverse Evangelist

Sogeti Netherlands' presence hasn't escaped the attention of big sister Capgemini as it takes a prominent spot in the VW Gazette, an internal circulation on Virtual Worlds. Here's a little quote from the introduction:

"In this edition I am very pleased to have a contribution from Johan Vermij, the Second Life evangelist from Sogeti Nederlands, giving a background to their work to date and plans for the future."

Thanks Tim, now I've got some explaining to do!

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Dutch Edu: Inholland University


The Dutch University InHolland is the next Dutch Educational institution that's active in Second Life. Their sim has been around for several months now, but hasn't been open for public sofar.

However, a Communication & Media student from the University of Applied Sciences INHOLLAND, Rotterdam, has graduated in Second Life as first virtual graduate in the Netherlands on thursday june 14th.

"From a marketing perspective virtual communities are an interesting research and investment area," says graduate Josje van Beek. "Two dimensional virtual communities like weblogs and forums have been the subject of research and marketingstudies quite often in the past. Now that there's 3D added tot this 2D community by means of gaming and video technology I wanted to study how interesting this would be from a marketing perspective. This is the subject of my thesis; "3D Virtual Communities as a Marketing Instrument."

To Josje it seemed a logical step to defend her thesis in Second Life, as she uses it as case study.

The tutors involved have been enthusiastic from the start and appeared last thursday in the Inholland E-Lab. Prior to the graduating there was a short introduction to SL. The graduation presentation was a simulcast event utilising various assorted media

"In the defense of my thesis I will both visually as textually explore the possibilities of a 3D environment," Josje said upfront. The graduation is put on tape by real life video and snapshots and movies from an avatar point of view.
Thanks to Dobre @ Secondlife Blogo / Lost in the Magic Forest for pointing out this story.

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Dutch Edu: Fontys University of Applied Sciences

Fridaynight I was too busy with the Geek Meet to notice the Fontys University
of Applied Sciences
open up in Second Life. Fontys has been building the sim in the past three months, setting up a virtual campus in 9 bits and pieces, each faculty build their site, which makes up for the somewhat unorganised appearance.
In short they plan to explore and experiment the technical and education options in Second Life. There's Fontys Campus Radio all over the place and several students from the Fontys Rock Academy can be seen on the many video screens. Then there's mixed reality experimenting by the Faculty of Education, who have put up twitter and the internetbunny 'Nabaztag' This RL bunny is equiped with an AI and hooked up by WiFi and transmits messages from Second Life into the realworld.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gartner digs SL

"The grid is down while we bang on things..." says Linden while leaving me time to ponder the immersive world study by Garnter, one of the leading information and technology research and advisory firms headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut.

Gartner concludes that SL has pedagogical advantages in several subjects [Gartner, 22 March 2007/ID Number: G00147015] and has published an analysis of NVE's (Networked virtual environments) and states that there is a lot of potential. [Gartner 22 December 2006/ID Number: G00145046]. This study also names the top challenges for NVE's or immersive worlds (or whatever)
  • Technology
  • Implementation
  • Access
  • Governance
  • Productivity
  • Security and Privacy
Well, when Gartner says it, it's truth ;)

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Aimee Weber

Aimee's one of the sexiest names in virtual content creation. She's a social butterfly that traverses the grid with grace. She entered the metaverse early 2004 and rapidly became one of the top designers.



Being very mediable, the web is littered with articles and blogs about her, but she's been a very prolific builer in Second Life as well. She rocketted to stardom which does seem to take its toll:



Some jobs are done quite sloppy and like big time celebs she's very much into charity right now with projects such as Second Life Relay for Life from the American Cancer Society, The United Nations Stand Up Against Poverty and (very Gorish) National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association.




What remains is the fact that she comes up with original ideas, contrary to Rivers Run Red and the Electric Sheep Company, and it's the ideas that keep SL in motion. She's been active in the fields of clothing design, virtual education and simulcast events (such as the 2006 solar eclipse)

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