Thursday, February 26, 2009

Educational Shift Happens

This afternoon I was honored to give a masterclass at the Christian University of Applied Sciences in Ede, the CHE, on the future of Education. In this masterclass I gave an overview of new technology, such as virtual worlds and augmented reality and how it will change the future of education.

To most readers of this blog, Virtual Worlds aren't new anymore, but it was too the students, future teachers. To get into the right frameset I started off with the famous video "Did you know - Shift Happens" by Karl Fish. It's always a good teaser to get the imagination going.

I think it is very important to future teachers to know what new technology is out there. I used to be one. When I was teaching, they always told me my students could not focus for 1 hour and you had to temporize your classes. Same happens when you get to church. Sermons shouldn't last too long, because our attention span is too short. Well, that's bull...

Kids growing up in these days grow up being used to massive amounts of information, able to handle multiple information streams simultaneously. It is all about captivating them, challenging them and that is what often lacks in schools. Children stop learning when they get to school. Once back home they turn on their computers and start learning again, according to some studies. I think these researchers have a point. We can use the games of Neopets or whichever kidworld and use it in the classroom to teach mathematics. We can use Google Earth and Rome Reborn to teach Geography and History instead of using old maps. These are the media they are used to.

Finalising my masterclass I zoomed in on Augmented Reality. One of the things I brought with me was the freshly published English version of "Me the Media" by ViNT, Sogeti's research institute. It was so fresh that the book I brought with me was actually the first to leave the office. I drove upto the office to pick it up as it had just been deliverd by the publisher today. It has an extensive section on Augmented Reality and it was fun to live demonstrate the cool tricks.

Last video I included in the presentation was on the Future of Education, an Italian video on Augmented reality which really show the opportunities this technology has in education.

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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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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

Coco Deep bridging the gap between web and virtual environments

On september 23rd I attended the 3rd Eduverse symposium in Amsterdam. To me, there was one presentation that lead the show, which was the presentation by Joaquin Alvarado, CEO of San Francisco based Coco Studios, who presented their upcoming 3D environment.

In my opinion this one by far is the most exciting new startup to dig into the Virtual World industry by far, and absolutely one to watch. Over the past weeks I've had some communication with Alvarado about their first product, named Coco Deep, which he kindly asked me to keep private until they were ready for live beta. Right now, they're moving stuff towards production servers to get ready for that kick off.

Since they're not live yet, I'd leave out the details for now, but what I do like to show you is their presentation from the Eduverse symposium.

Coco Deep is not a full virtual world, but rather a 3D environment, a room in with just one dominating element: a wall. Coco Deep is more than just another brick in the wall though, its strength lies in the fact that it's a split screen application. The upper half is your 3D wall, the lower half is your pc and the web. In a Minority Report kind of way you can drag documents, feeds or 3D models from the web or your PC onto your 3D wall, which you can share with others.

The first implementation of the CocoDeep environment has been done in a large educational system and integrated with Sakai, a free and open source Courseware Management System. It features a set of software tools designed to help instructors, researchers and students collaborate online in support of their work--whether it be course instruction, research or general project collaboration.

More to come soon.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

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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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Eduverse Symposium videos online

Finally... they're there. The online video's of the Eduverse Symposium.

"After a considerable amount of time transcoding, uploading and and messing with WP plugins, I have managed to get the entire first symposium parsed and online. The videos are viewable on the “Symposia” page"

If you can stand the sight of me, pay attention to the first intro video, titled "VJ's intro" where I try to start up the conversation on Education in Virtual Worlds. I'd advise you to pay close attention to Dr. Jay Bolter on Augmented Reality and Dr. D. Danforth on the Testis Tour.

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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: and

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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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Virtual Healthcare 2: Palomar Pomerado Health

This week I suddenly was confronted with more hospital visits than I'd hoped for (though not personal), and kept delaying writing this post for days.

Early april 2007 I wrote a short blogpost on the Cleveland Heart Clinic in Second Life which was probably the first hospital to enter Second Life. The question I ended that particular blogpost with was: "I wonder though, are they about to perform virtual surgery? I'm hoping they can explain what SL can add to hospital care."

The times, they are changing though. Nearly a year later I see how virtual worlds can perform a massive role in education and training. A world like second life offers a lot of opportunities for modelling the complex human anatomy (see for instance the Testis Tour) and virtually practising surgery would overcome a shortage of breathing guinneepigs.

Research company Forrester also sees virtual Healthcare as one of the promising areas when it it comes to the virtual workspace. In the "Getting real work done in Virtual Worlds" they describe one healthcare project in particular:

Developing effective healthcare team coordination. Duke University and Virtual Heroes are collaborating on a high-fidelity 3-D virtual environment for healthcare, funded by the US Army. The initial project, targeting healthcare team coordination skills, is called 3DiTeams and combines gaming concepts with the healthcare team coordination training curriculum developed by the US Department of Defense and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In the past year we've seen several smaller 'medical experiments' in Second Life, but late February saw two major projects enter Second Life; the IBM Healthcare island and Palomar West, both opening in the wake of the HIMMS'08 healthcare conference.

The Palomar West simulation is a joint effort by Cisco and Palomar Pomerado Health, though in developing the Second Life sim, Cisco has had major help from Millions of Us. The february 25 press release reads:

Cisco® and Palomar Pomerado Health (PPH) today cut the ribbon on a new hospital in the online virtual world "Second Life." The virtual hospital, a simulation of a real-world hospital campus due to open in 2011, gives visitors the opportunity to tour the hospital years before its doors actually open.

The virtual hospital showcases the rich assortment of design and technology innovations planned for the real-world Palomar West Medical Campus in San Diego, Calif., and to gather feedback that will be used to enhance the way that care is delivered. The immersive quality of "Second Life" allows visitors to experience the progressive nature-embracing design of the hospital firsthand. Visitors will also be able to experience Connected Hospital technologies that will be delivered in the real hospital by Cisco. (Full press release here.)

In short, The Second Life island is a representation of a new Healthcare campus to be opened in 2011. It actually is a very good build. For n00bs there's a short introduction to navigating Second Life near the entrance of the hospital.

I received my Hospital tag which guided me through the hospital, making sure I went to the right rooms to have my gall bladder repaired. Throughout the tour a lot of information was pushed through excellent movies, but they essentially are a promo talk on the Cisco solutions for Unified Communications, telepresence monitoring, rfID, etcetera. I can see this part of the simulator become real in the near future.

Fully automated, or robot-driven surgery probably won't be integrated in the RL campus opening in 2011.

After surgery I returned to my hospital room for a few second to recuperate, but soon was sent outside as 'clean air' helps a lot for speedy recovery. The downside is that I entered into an 'Al-Gorish' speech about minimizing the footprint, low emission products and more green bla bla.

For information about Cisco Connected Health technologies, visit


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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Autism in Second Life

Second Life can be a place to meet and greet, and because of the anonimity an NVE offers hope for many who have social disabilities. Here's a YouTube movie about Autism in Second Life:

Although I've been writing about Education in virtual worlds, I really wasn't looking for this one. I got pointed to this one while keeping up with my favorite authors. The one pointing out to this particular video was one of the metarati, William Gibson, who wrote:


Absolutely . [hat-tip to my wife]

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Friday, February 29, 2008

NMC closes 250K deal with Sun

Today I read in the NMC Campus obser, the blog for the New Media Consortium that they've closed on a 250K deal with Sun Microsystems earlier this week (Feb. 26th).

The New Media Consortium (NMC) is an international 501(c)3 not-for-profit consortium of nearly 250 learning-focused organizations dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and new technologies

NMC Launches Open Virtual Worlds Project

"Today the New Media Consortium (NMC) announced a $250,000 two-year collaboration with Sun Microsystems to launch the Open Virtual Worlds Project, an effort that is aimed at making it easier to learn, work, and exchange ideas in virtual space. The project will develop a range of standards-based, portable open-source educational spaces, content, and objects, and use them to extend Sun Microsystems’s open source Project Darkstar and Project Wonderland virtual world platforms. "

Read the rest of the article or see the official press release for more information

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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.


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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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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:

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.


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: (UK) (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:
Should you wish to stream it yourself, then it is possible using this url:
It will also be streamed live simultaneously with the following codecs for low speed internet connections: ( RealVideo) (Mp3 audio mono) > ( image refresh 'webcam')

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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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Saturday, January 19, 2008

NOS: NOAA Oil Spill

Today I went for a first look at one of the new National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sims, named Okeanos and like before, they've hired Aimee Weber for the build. No surprise the build is of high quality. The main venue of this sim is an oil spill demo. The tanker was easily spotted, but no sign of an oil spill.

That was soon solved as I started the demo by sitting on one of the ships. Slowly the oil leaked out of the tanker and I got to practice sucking up the oil.

There's a number of other interesting things to do and explore at the educational NOAA sim, such as the Hydrographic Survey. The build has lots of detail, above and below sealevel. One thing though: I think Aimee's a lot better at building cars (such as the Peugeot 308) than at building boats.



It's worth checking out the surrounding sims such as and Meteora (below) as well.

At Aimee's portfolio we read:

"NOAA's sim is called Meteroa,which is derived from the Greek adjective meteoras which means 'suspended in the air'. On this lovely island sim you can find fully interactive educational demonstrations about the ocean and weather including a sea life submarine ride and a tsunami. Other fun stuff includes a demonstration of a real-time temperature map, narration by Exploratorium Chief Scientist Paul Doherty, an airplane ride into a hurricane, and a melting glacier."

No I wouldn't really call Tsunami funn stuff, but again, a good build.


A number of other islands seem to be under construction here as well, such as Second Earth and Thetis

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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.


[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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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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Saturday, July 07, 2007


Early april Aleister Kronos blogged on the University of Woodbury entering Second Life (he does keep up with Universities). I've meant to go over there to take a look for some time, but haven't gotten around to it.

Let's start with a quote from Al's blog:

"First stop, the brand new island of Woodbury University, also called, by a lucky happenstance, "Woodbury University". The build is only in its infancy, but since I could TP in there I thought it worth a mention. I was particularly taken with the Millennium Falcon - but I don't suppose that will survive to the final stage of the build. "Woodbury University is committed to providing the highest level of professional and liberal arts education." It is in Burbank, California, and has just over 1500 students."
Soon it became evident that their arts education may have been somewhat too liberal
By the end of april Prokofy Neva reported in the Second Life Herald on a Griefer attack of Woodbury island.

The Linden police blotter reports the following:
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2007
Violation: Community Standards: Harassment, Soliciting Abuse
Region: Woodbury University
Description: Organizing abusive attacks on regions.
Action taken: Suspended 3 days.

Well, Griefer attacks (annoying buggers starting scripts on your island such as particlescripts or floating nude images) may happen. It is a nuisance to most serious Secondlifers and more so to people investing in land, but usually it is no big deal - disturbing the peace for just a few minutes usually.
Second Life Herald reporters seem to have been monitoring this sim afterwards and
pried into this as Woodbury University was closed by Linden Labs at the start of July on account of violating the Terms of Service.
Below is a short piece from the Herald (July 3 2007):
"Sometime Saturday, Woodbury University’s Second Life island dropped off the map of the virtual world. Second Life players have grown accustomed to intermittent outages from their metaverse service provider, sometimes spinning fanciful stories about tsunami and seismic activity as part of in-world roleplay. A virtual catastrophe does not appear to have been the cause of Woodbury’s demise, however..."
Below is the notice received by one of the island admins:
Tizzers Foxchase: (Saved Sun Jul 1 12:19:36 2007) Linden Lab has continued to find inappropriate uses of the Second Life region "Woodbury University" under your control. On the 16th of April, you were informed of problems with the activities taking place in the region. Many members of the Woodbury University group (which controls the region) have been detected before and after that date causing severe problems in Second Life, in violation of the terms of service. These problems include incidents of grid attacks, racism and intolerance, persistent harassment of other residents, and crashing the Woodbury University region itself while testing their abusive scripts. Due to the ongoing problems, Linden Lab has no option but to immediately close the Woodbury University region. If you believe that this notice has been sent in error, or that the details of this incident have not been adequately examined, please address your concerns in an e-mail to Sincerely yours, Customer Support Linden Lab 945 Battery Street San Francisco, CA
Mark Wallace at 3pointD reports:
"What do you do when a group of troublemakers is disrupting the operation of your virtual world? If you’re Linden Lab, which runs Second Life, you ignore the griefers themselves and simply go after the owners of the land they happen to be operating from. Big props to our managing editor over at the Second Life Herald, Pixeleen Mistral, for catching the story of southern California’s Woodbury University, which had its private region in SL deleted a couple of days ago. Why would the Lab wipe Woodbury’s investment? Because a group of SL residents who were not part of the university and who have long been accused of causing trouble have apparently been using the Woodbury land to build and test their disruptive devices. There’s definitely culpability on the part of both the griefers and the university, but LL has shown some really poor judgment in the way they’ve handled the situation thus far."
From Woodbury's point of view:
"I think it is unreasonable to invite universities into the world and then ask them to stop acting like a university. I am deeply repulsed by the eagerness of otherwise smart, well-intentioned people to try to solve all the underlying tensions of SL by banning residents or entire islands at the drop of the dime. This strategy needs to stop at the doors of academe whose whole existence is founded on the idea of educating others (presumed a priori to be lacking in the knowledge they seek) and exploring new ideas together in the open communication forum known as the classroom.
We created a living campus in Second Life where people of all stripes got together, shared ideas, and learned from each other. An art gallery had just been built that was going to house a student show on homelessness in LA and powerpoint lectures on Darfur were planned. Metaverses are a burgeoning phenomenon, and rightly so, but their controllers will need to assume a more relaxed stance before users give them full credibility. I see them in the future functioning much more like a utility or internet hosting company as more people become accustomed to living out their fantasies-- and realities-- in these worlds."
said Dr. Edward Clift, Deputy Director, School of Media, Culture, & Design and Chair & Associate Professor, Dept. of Communication at Woodbury University to the reporters of the Herald
The story continues on the Second Life Herald in a piece by Pixeleen Mistral and extensive commenting by Prokofy Neva:
"Where is the academic activity? Where are the other academic groups in SL standing up for this sim? Unless somebody is willing to really, really stretch it, I fail to see how griefing posses and fooling around with builds that they themselves destroyed or were supposedly infiltrated and had distroyed (very murky story there) can be construed as academic. Self-expression perhaps, but then the kind of self-expression that fails to realize that your right to swing your fist ends at someone else's nose."
Finally the row made it even into serious Real Life press as the Chronicle of Higher Education reports:
"The company (Linden Labs) took the drastic step, officials said, after administrators for the university's area ignored warnings to stop avatars -- digital characters -- affiliated with its region from engaging in disruptive and hostile behavior."
The story is shrouded in many ways, but here's my two penny thought:
Fact: There has been Griefer activity on Woodbury Island
Fact: The activities are a violation of the Linden Terms of Service and spread into the region surrounding the Woodbury sim.
Linden: Woodbury has provided space for Griefers
Woodbury: We are victims
The truth is hard to find out, but there are several issues that lead me to believe that Woodbury is not entirely clean in this matter, and Mark Wallace's remark "LL has shown some really poor judgment in the way they’ve handled the situation thus far" seems a little premature.
In fact I do tend to agree with the ever critic Prokofy Neva that Linden is taking the right steps, though a little more sensitive communication would have been in place.
Quotes and Related articles are linked for further reading.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Sistine Chapel

Second Life seems to be a fine place for preserving Italian art and architecture. After the wonderfull sims of Venice and Tuscany, now there's the Sistine Chapel, brought to us by the students of Vassar College, a highly selective, residential, liberal arts college located in the heart of the Hudson Valley in New York.

Tonight at the Things to do you can get a tour and learn how it was done (1 PM SLT)

Late Nite update

Here's some pics from the things to do (churches always look better with people in it)

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Friday, June 29, 2007

The Virtual Dutch

Here's a few spots coming from the Netherlands;


On a satelite skim I came across a new sim called Utrecht. The town and province of Utrecht is...well... where I slow down twice a day due to traffic jams.

It's still empty, except for some "under construction" elements. The build will be done by Evident, a Utrecht based communications and design company. It appears that Utrecht will be their SL showcase.

Here's a little teaser I managed to get hold of:

Then there's some news from Second Life Blogo, a few tidbids that flew by these past weeks


One of the Dutch lady-mags organised an introduction to Second Life for its readers. The event took place june 15th and is said to have been very succesfull. After a short introduction to Second Life (basic movement, editing appearance etcetera) everyone received a goodiebag with clothing designed by Barnowgirl Sinatra. The Dutch Randstad corp gave everyone a makeup bag with several types of skins so everyone would be good looking if they went out jobhunting in Second Life

[picture taken from Second Life Blogo]

Theatherplay by "The Empty Space"

The rather small town of Assen is capital to the Dutch province of Drente. Nothing much is happening here (most of the time), except for the yearly Grand Prix races, the TT (today).

The 26th saw a nice event though as theater group "The Empty Space" performed Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Him" in Second Life.

The theater was build by students of the Windesheim University of Applied Sciences based in the town Zwolle - which happens to be where I got my Bachelor.

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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 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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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

STA travel

Next to UGS, in the Electric Sheep Company cluster lies Virtual STA Travel, targeted at travel in Second Life. STA is a big player in the student travel market. Next to the main sim, that's set up as an arena with styles from all over the world, there's a residential sim to give students a place to dwell.

Other aims are:
  • Enrolling students in Second Life
  • Orient them, and teach them basic skills
  • Engage them in educational and entertainment pursuits in the form of events, competitions and other group projects.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

VIrtual Dutch Tourism and GLR

While researching the new build for Grafisch Lyceum Rotterdam (GLR) I came across the SL Toerisme site - a useful, and growing, pointer to a number of Dutch Second Life locations of all types. Mind you, it has not given me any further insight into the state of the build at GLR, most of which is not open to casual ramblers like me.

There is a building decked out with "Grand Opening" banners that is accessible - but I could not find any information as the whether the event was in the past, or is yet to be held. The general state of the build would suggest to me that there is more work to be done, but much of the island has already been constructed.

Presumably as a means of covering some of the costs, GLR are renting out small parcels of land. I will leave it to you to translate the notecard:

GLR Campus Woning - huurovereenkomst Iedere student van het GLR kan een GLR campuswoning huren die beschikbaar is voor verhuur. Gegevens woningen:
Wekelijkse huur: L$500,- Aantal prims: 351 Oppervlakte: 1536m2
Wekelijkse huur: L$300,- Aantal prims: 234 Oppervlakte: 1024m2
Wekelijkse huur: L$150,- Aantal prims: 117 Oppervlakte: 512m2

Studenten die een functie op het eiland hebben en één van de genoemde woningtypen huren krijgen bij hun wekelijkse uitkering een woonvergoeding van L$300,00, bovenop hun normale vergoeding (afhankelijk van functie)
De eilandbeheerder is ten alle tijden gerechtigd de huurovereenkomst niet te verlengen, dan wel te verbreken. Hiervoor moeten dringende redenen aanwezig zijn.

All of this leads me to conclude that the site is not yet officially open for business.

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

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Virtual Classes

Shortly after the Second Life seminar at Media Plaza, earlier this month, I visited the virtual campus of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The sim was build in just a couple of weeks by a team of 4 students. The main structure is quite similar to the Real Life campus, but the college room hovering at an altidtude of 10 m. certainly is not.

The classroom is used for actuall classes. One of the courses given in SL is Law, which is a real happening. Groups of students observe (odd and frequent indecent) behaviour in SL and describe the legal implications of the observed actions.

Other Dutch Colleges and Universities:
[most still in development mode]

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