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Posts Tagged ‘design

Video Vocab, Looma, and a new virtual world

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I have recently learned about a small non-profit that is working to deliver ICT support to rural educators in Nepal.

Looma lady 1
Nepali educators learning about the Looma.

That’s right, Information & Communication Technology in the villages and classrooms of the Himalayas.

VillageTech Solutions have designed Looma, a standalone audio-visual device that

  • is self-powered (solar-rechargeable batter)
  • is operated with a wireless “wand”
  • has a built-in audio system
  • comes loaded with CC-Licensed content (games, videos, songs, etc.)

The device projects the “desktop” onto a wall and comes with a hand-held mouse (the “wand”) to navigate. The prototype has been field tested and now they are looking for volunteers to help search for—and evaluate—content that can be loaded into the drive. (Most classrooms in rural Nepal have no electricity, much less an Internet connection.)

I would write a bit more; but, I am up to my elbows producing some educational content…gotta go. Holler at “azwaldo” at gmail dot com, anytime.

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real world knowledge via virtual world content

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One of my earliest design gigs in virtual worlds was the development of a HUD* used by students learning the Chinese language. After four or five years, that design is still in use. The image below is from the Chinese Island simulation.

* Heads Up Display – an interactive display with buttons and text that mediates their interaction with the virtual environment.

Snapshot_001

News stand at Chinese Island. (Click for full size image.)
Note the blue dialog prompt, and the HUD in upper and left perimeters.

Early next year, a group of Monash University students will enter the virtual world of SecondLife™ to experience a variety of simulations; a restaurant, an airport, a medical clinic and a train station. Later, they will actually travel to Italy for a program of study, abroad.

The virtual environment in which they will immerse themselves is modeled on the neighborhood in Italy where they will be staying. The simulations are designed to prepare them for their visit. They will study maps, use currency, become familiar with local fixtures…like signs.

Snapshot_002

Avatar, virtual workshop, and assorted educational objects.

In support of the Italian Studies project, I am developing interactive objects—mainly the scripts—to provide a number of interactions. Students can open a “wallet” at the “ATM” and withdraw virtual currency, then visit a coffee shop and…maybe purchase a cappucino. On touching some of the things they see (think “mouse click”), the name of that object appears as text in Italian and they hear an audio-stream pronunciation of the term.

They will be required to buy tickets, read a public transit schedule, and complete many other tasks during their lessons.

My mother and I did something similar before our visit to New York City. After opening Google Earth and “roaming” the virtual streets around our hotel to prepare for our trip, we were able to navigate that neighborhood as though we had been there before.

So, thanks Mom…for helping field test this sort of technology.

Written by azwaldo

December 9, 2013 at 1:25 am

post-conference hash

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The new Spicy Vanilla group was granted a 24 x 24 meter plot in the Poster Session region for the recent education conference in which to display the Basic Skills Gauntlet (BSG).There was also a live presentation; but, let’s not talk about that.

BSG_VWBPE_PosterPlot

Poster Plot granted for display of Basic Skills Gauntlet

The BSG project has gained momentum and the activity seemed more than a mouthful for conference goers; so, a smaller bite-size version was wedged into the 576 square meters. The configuration and components were chosen by selecting several modules that are in working order. (One attendee asked an insightful question: What do [you] consider to the basic skills? Skills addressed in the demo version at the conference included use of Inventory, Ctrl-Alt zoom and pan, and familiarity with sit targets.)

SV_BSG_VWBPE_PosterSession_007
Aerial view of BSG exhibit. Does that look like a game to you?

During much of the conference the BSG site—and the entire poster region—seemed quiet. This worked out, as there were plenty of bugs to chase down. At times, a brief flurry of visitors would leave evidence of folks having jumped in with both feet.

BSG_VWBPE_07
BSG Scoreboard with multiple scores displayed; a sign that visitors were having a go. Cooper Macbeth, seen in list here, had high score for the event.  (The “10:64” entry, midway in list, puzzled me for hours until I realized my User Reset button – added just days before – was carving into the scores list in a bad way.)

Near the end of the final day, a number of visitors tried the activity and hung around to offer feedback, ask questions, and just chat about the conference in general.

BSG_VWBPE_1
Several visitors to the poster region, hanging around to yammer. User in the foreground has just completed the activity (evidence: colorful particles fluttering around her).

A happy little project was born of the event, itself. On day two of the conference, I noticed my own lack of consistency in describing the activity to visitors. There was also the fact that I was not hanging ’round 24/7. Wanting to provide a user with an effective tour—introduce the activity and some of the principles addressed—I decided to cobble together a widget that does the job, automatically.

BSG_VWBPE_003
New widget: Guided Tour Chairs

And the Guided Tour Chair was rezzed. ESCape camera control, then sit, and the object moves camera position and focus while loading a narration via sound file. Also whittled away at a HUD version of this interaction. There seems to be more flexibility for designing instruction with the HUD, but it also requires more of the user; get it, find it, and wear it, as opposed to the simple sit-n-learn.

A project-site-specific version of the Guided Tour Chairs Site Preview HUD can be found by following this link with this SLURL. And, if you are curious and the tour chairs just don’t do it…

Holler anytime.

Written by azwaldo

July 31, 2013 at 4:43 pm

a Deefoult avatar

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New alt, “Deefoult”, created today for observing latest Linden Labs design of the new user experience. Say hello, Deefoult.

image of female virtual world avatar in pleasant, outdoor setting

Hello, World!
—Deefoult (new alt)

This avatar was the first default character presented in a revolving group of avatars. The group included male and female avatars, each with a different appearance (though I did not pay much attention to those). Screenshot there might have proven useful, too.

The SecondLife™ client viewer* routed my agent to “Destination Island 9” and started up with the Destinations panel open (see image, below). Other avatars were chatting soon after my arrival. The Chat button flashed, indicating there was conversation to be had.

image of outdoor, virtual world scene with various interface elements shown

Screenshot on first login with SL’s client viewer*.

* Second Life 3.6.1 (278007) Jun 27 2013 12:41:07 (Second Life Release)

The location was a very simple space; a small island with tall trees and an ornate rotunda sporting eight portals, each one leading to a different type of virtual world experiences.

Destination Island portals, eight of them; all glowing and pulsing with intrigue.

Destination Island portals. There were eight of them, in all; all glowing and pulsing with intrigue.

A message had arrived, according to the small “chiclet” in upper right corner. I wonder if I would have noticed that were I a true nueb. However, it turned out to be a system message, notifying me of a viewer update; so, it is unlikely that a new user would have received that one.

Viewer Update Notification - Note the tiny "chiclet" in upper right.

Viewer Update Notification – Note the tiny “chiclet” with the numeral “1” showing, upper right.

My first thought was to open the Preferences panel and begin to see what is waiting for the new user…

image showing the preferences panel with many checkboxes and radio buttons for chat settings

Preferences panel opened to Chat tab on first try

…and I was surprised to find the Chat tab open when the Preferences panel appeared. Makes sense, SecondLife™ is a social medium; help ’em chat…off the bat.

The plan for is for Deefoult to remain in original condition, to preserve all initial settings for future reference. This might inform the design of a new user activity.

First thing learned: Hover-Tips appear to be disabled, by default.

Written by azwaldo

July 1, 2013 at 2:29 am

interactive design at alphatribe

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Twice, recently, I have been asked what I mean when referring to virtual world designs as “interactive“. I bumped into a fine example today…

Flying about, I came upon an oddly abstract assembling of objects, finely shaped and all textured in monochrome. Look closely and you find various sit-target animations; hidden, whimsical surprises.

Skybox doodling at alphatribe sim. It is a joy to watch Alpha Auer dance.

Skybox scene at alphatribe sim; the space designed for a party.
For scale, note avatar near center, up and to the right.

SecondLife™ veteran Alpha Auer has a sixth sense for virtual world design. Her alphatribe sim (SLurl, or blog) is only her most recent space to capture my attention.  Perhaps you remember Syncretia?

Sit-target animations let the visitor dramatize the scene.

Closer view in same scene as image above.
Sit-target animations help visitors dramatize the scene.

Apparently, this particular corner of the metaverse is a stage, custom-designed “by Kikas and Marmaduke” for a party. Very cool.

Here, we are not left to merely look upon the scene.  We can interact with objects, immersing ourselves in the setting. This is what I think of when I imagine “interactive” design. Keep me clicking and you keep me coming back.

It is probably a joy to watch Alpha Auer dance.

Written by azwaldo

March 18, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Landmark Exchange

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Image of animated virtual world with maps as big as cars laying on the ground

SciLands region map at STEM Island
(Click to view large image.)

We have plenty of opportunity to swap and share web links. Think about how often you have said (or heard) “thanks for the link.”

There are quite a few ways to learn about locations in the metaverse, too. And, given the medium, you can find some creative approaches to sharing destination information.

Elucian Islands
3-D Site Map at Elucian Islands, now closed*
(Click to visit image at Flickr)

My favorite destination information location was the Destination Station (image below). But, I rarely saw anyone there. I may have been late to the party.

Still, I enjoyed seeing the design of the space; especially the casual seating in the middle (appeared later than the image here)…it looked as though rezidents might hang around. I imagined them talking design, recommending sites to visit, swapping landmarks.

image showing virtual world location with many pictures

Destination Station; Browse images, touch to visit
Image by Daniel Voyager; click to view at Flickr

Destination Station is also missing from the grid.

So, if you are ready to discover a new space…how do you find it? Or, if you have found a great new space…how do you share it? Are you a profile surfer? Do you check out Profile Picks to discover new content?

image of a common pushpin in virtual reality animation

The Landmark Exchange

The Landmark Exchange is an attempt to design a new way to share content. Got landmarks? Drag one and drop it. Looking for a new place to look? Touch, and learn. What if you could touch a prim in one grid and learn about landmarks submitted in another?

I am curious to see where this widget goes.

The first version can be found at my SeaPrior Plaza parcel in OSGrid (where I have buried my nose in scripts for a few weeks). There is another one placed in my new SecondLife™ parcel in the NW corner of the Urdu region (SLurl).

Quite a few features fill out my wish list. My nose goes back in a script right after this post.

Working features, so far…

  • Any user can touch the object and receive landmarks.
  • The object is easily set to only receive landmarks from members of a group.
  • Object checks new LMs for copy permissions (because a locked-down landmark is no good to any avatar).
  • Drop a good LM and object will IM the owner with the name of the landmark and name of the user.

The landmark pushpin is a recognized symbol, and my Landmark Exchange should be an easy addition in any location, to any design. So, next time you see one in world…give it a push.

Mine are loaded.

Written by azwaldo

March 5, 2013 at 4:12 am

Endocrine Squish

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It is like being on auto-pilot, watching ideas emerge.

Occasionally, and often when designing a new widget, my brain passes a threshold of excitation. A particular number of signals fire in succession, a precise amount of cells move into an altered state, or a particular alignment of neurons forms some new and unique network whose cells collectively squish an incredible chemical cocktail into my tank. Senses raised, I step aside inside and marvel at the very fabric of time being woven around in space, pushed and bent far enough outward that it reaches back inside again.

I am addicted.

This also happens in unexpected, random moments. If I am out and about, I will usually look around to see who else is paying attention.

A week ago, I was reading a blog when a question posed by its author caught my attention. Previously isolated ideas swirled and collided, distinct elements in a gaseous state, until saturation occurred and that airy moment condensed into solid realization.

Apparent problem, meet possible solution.

I was sitting under my laptop with no one nearby; no need to look around. The only person that might share this was the blog’s author.

Minutes later, I had a short message drafted relating my conjecture to the stated problem. One last, lingering thought; a bit of reflexive evaluation to indulge itself in consideration…then click; I press the “Submit Comment” button and the whole event passes into calm, quiet release.

Fleeting, but intense.

Yes, it was brief. But you can’t judge creative moments. That is what I have learned…because it did reach out into space and time. Days later my hair fairly bristled as I read the email sent in response.

Thank you, this is great!!!!!!

Verification. Resolution. Validation. I had forgotten about the comment I submitted, completely. Who knows where serendipity takes us? Any brief moment, when shared, might lead to new realizations spawning bigger ideas; especially possible in this case, given the nature of that person on the other end of the message.

Such rare, creative moments must be where we are closest to perfection. No matter what I am right now, I am doing my best when random notions gather momentum and propel my thoughts beyond control; because then I just step aside and this world sorts itself out, one problem at a time.

And my grey matter squirts a bit of endorphin, perhaps reinforcement.

Written by azwaldo

February 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Posted in narrative

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