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: 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 24, 2008

Philip Rosedale at Eduvere Sympoisium

Yesterday I visited the 3rd Eduverse Symposium in Amsterdam, which Sogeti Netherlands kindly sponsored. Probably one of the highlights of the long and intensive day was Philip Rosedale's talk on his dreams for Second Life.

Phil's speech started with his initial dreams for Second Life, a lush green forest world -a sort of Utopian Garden of Eden - and how it evolved to what it is right now. The good thing about stepping down as CEO from Linden Lab is, according to Phil, that he nw once again has time to work on his dreams, one of them is to bring SecondLife to the 3rd world.

His speech was passionate about how virtual worlds are easier to use as an interface to knowledge than the worldwide web. He admitted it was a troublesome experience to get to know Second Life and people would have to go through extreme pains for 7 or 8 hours to try and understand how to navigate the world, but... That's far less than the time it would take to teach a n00b how the internet works.

His second argument was that virtual worlds are cross-cultural and do not stop at language barriers whereas the internet has difficulties to overcome these barriers as it needs you to understand the language of the page to be able to navigate and understand the contents .

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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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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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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:

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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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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