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Posts Tagged ‘virtual worlds

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.

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Written by azwaldo

December 9, 2013 at 1:25 am

newest project takes space today

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Given how much time I spend building and scripting in virtual worlds, I also spend a considerable amount thinking ’bout where this technology is going. I do not intend to indulge that obscure topic here, today. Instead, I want to mention the finely wrought underpinnings—the granularity, if you will—of what lies behind and beneath this virtual platform which has become a thoroughly engaging activity, by way of announcing a new project.

What is a virtual world? Ultimately it exists as the particular electromagnetic configuration assigned to a few gadjillion magnetic grains arranged in the surface material coating a small space of a magnetic drive.

diagram depicting cross-section of magnetic material in hard disk drives
Precisely arranged magnetic grains define the distinct magnetic regions in the surface materials of hard disks. The grains separate one magnetic zone from the others.
(Click image to open Wikipedia entry for Hard Disk Drive)
TransitionNeel image courtesy of Wikipedia

Whatever surface area on a hard disk drive platter that is needed to store what I have sketched with my “build tools”, whatever incredibly large number of magnetic grains it takes to store the binary code for the (up to) 15,000 prims, scripts, sounds and assorted textures that will make up the new virtual world region that I will “buy” today for Zero Lindens (talk about virtual); not to mention the larger patch of cobalt-based hard disk drive alloy needed to house the simulator, the incredible software engine served up and driven by design; whatever puny patch of ‘puter platter percolates with my particular predilections for prims; that can all soon be linked and located, fetched and transmitted, parsed, interpreted and rendered finally as a newly crafted, interactive, educationally motivated virtual space, one by which other netizens and reZidents might also be engaged.

In short, I am told that the “purchase” of an entire SecondLife™ region will occur today. This new project will reside in a full “sim” (or simulator); it will occupy an entire server. It seems appropriate, then, to give this project its own page in this blog…yep, there it is in the NavBar: “The Virtual Cell”.

I have been logging time for over half of a century. Hard disk drive technology is older than me. Still, considering what we are already doing this technology, imagining might come next takes a lot of my magnetic grains, too.

NWS_VC_003Avatar looks to the horizon from within a virtual cell mega-model.

Written by azwaldo

August 5, 2013 at 11:30 am

first collaborative design project begins

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The first collaborative design has officially begun with its first meeting to discuss the project. (Please see previous two posts for more about project, group.)

image of four virtual world avatars in quiet setting

First meeting of the SV1-BSG design team in world.

Four group members have been active in early discussions about the first collaborative design; all were able to make time to attend…very encouraging. Two members have similar professional roles in common, two have been long acquainted, in world. All share a sincere interest in effective instructional design in the virtual world.

It seemed to be a productive session. I was pleased to find discussions moving rapidly; but, hoping to finish within one hour meant cutting in once or twice, to move along in the proposed agenda. I hope that the polite avatar showed up…the one who decided to interrupt the others.

I have been passing out a notecard with the following:

Group Mission:

  1. To design a series of projects that deliver 
      effective educational content while providing
      the best user experience we can muster.      

  2. "Learn from the pros." To observe the design 
      principles and techniques of professional 
      content creators in SecondLife™ and share 
      that knowledge.

In this post I begin to try to live up to that last bit: sharing the knowledge. I hope to make regular—if not frequent—entries in this blog to record observations, describe the circumstances encountered by the group, and generally report on the process.

One aspect of this will involve fielding surveys to solicit input. Many educators are familiar with this; attend a curriculum development seminar and expect to fill out a survey or three.

Hopefully, those group surveys will stir up collaborative juices, and open a dialog among educators and expert content creators, as well as provide helpful feedback to inform the process. I return to writing the pre-workshop surveys right after posting this.

What would you want to know about your colleagues prior to the beginning of a collaborative project, if you were an educator on the team? … if you are an expert designer?

One priority for me in the meeting, as acting “team leader”, was to emphasize the need for each of us to find effective ways to communicate; with each other, as well as within the group. Studio Wikitecture taught this lesson clearly; effective design collaboration follows efficient communication.

Wiki-Tree, 3D Wiki, Wikitecture 4.0
Studio Wikitecture’s Wiki-Tree, a 3-D wiki

Studio Wikitecture has served as my model for creating a dynamic mix of creative folks. However, without using the Wiki-Tree (image above, YouTube video), sharing of content (objects, scripts, textures) becomes an issue that must be resolved; the topic already emerged at the meeting. A Google Group forum has been created, but will need to prove itself as a useful tool among the team members as the custom forum did with Wikitecture.

We might find the combination of commenting and change-notifications with Google Drive spreadsheets provides enough of a “forum”. And lastly, without use of a wiki and Reddit-style voting for ideas, we have not even begun to approach the layers of communication used in the Wikitecture projects.

But, the project is only officially one day old.

Written by azwaldo

June 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Pixieviewer – New Browser Based Virtual World Viewer

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Update:
screenshot: browser aimed at PixieViewer website with result being "Access denied."
Screenshot: browser aimed at PixieViewer (July ’14)

Registered and logged in to Pixievieweranother virtual world—today; but, this time it felt different.

screenshot of Pixieviewer web page with hyperlink that opens virtual world viewer in the browser

Hyperlink to a virtual world, courtesy of Thomas at Pixieviewer

See that familiar blue hypertext in the middle of this screenshot? This time, when I stepped into the metaverse, it happened from within my Google Chrome browser.

Pixieviewer is a browser based viewer for virtual 3D environments.

It is designed to run on any device (including tablets and mobile phones) which supports modern HTML5 capable browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Safari and others.

(from the website)

This seemed significant; it felt like a virtual world, not just a world rendered in a browser…and we need browser based access to VWs if the platform is to expand its niche.

screenshot of avatar in virtual world standing on top of cube

Pixieviewer virtual world avatar atop custom widget.
(Click to view full size.)

Pixieviewer creator Sunny Salamander describes the technology behind Pixieviewer at his website, and explains:

One of my goals in virtual worlds is to lower the hurdles that come along with the new technology and make it easier to use.

Will I be able to point Pixieviewer toward my own OpenSimulator region? Does this relieve the casual user from the complexity of standard viewer interfaces?

I clicked on a link in a webpage and a moment later watched as a new world revealed itself. No downloads, no waiting; no worry about installing software from an unknown vendor.

I think the metaverse just got a little bit bigger.

Well done, Thomas.

Written by azwaldo

March 10, 2013 at 1:03 am

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

Media Cafe is BYOB

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Survey Says…

I have visited at least two dozen virtual coffee shops; locations in SecondLife™ that use “coffee” in their name or description. I have so many mugs they get their own folder.

About a third of those places have no music, at all. Most have audio streaming, several even have a radio or other device (such as a phonograph); but, only one gives media access to vagabonds. Not one presented shared or parcel media.

image of modern design virtual world coffee shop

Coffee Shop at TSTC commons
Nice furnishings, no music.
(Click image to view full size.)

Granted, I may have overlooked radio buttons here or there; and, a space like Texas State Technical College’s  (image above; SLurl)—a location designed primarily for a small community—is not designed to attract traffic. Still, you want me coming back? Feed me some content. Give me some options, at least…a bit of control over the space.

It is a simple thing to let users select an audio feed. The scripts are easily found, and there are hundreds of streams if you know how to find the URLs. Or, you can just check out the list of Music Streams at the SL wiki.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Bepop)

The Media Cafe project is not just about interactivity, though. It is sticking virtual toes into the cool water of user-generated content.

image of virtual world scene with an object that looks like an old radio

Not just any radio will work in the Media Cafe…

Quite a few issues to be sorted. Is a chat-driven menu better for this than blue dialog boxes? You can choose the soundscape at your favorite hangouts from a list; but, can you load a new URL into the radio? Streams can be submitted via chat, after all. If you knew you could submit a stream URL, would you bother?

You could allow any user to load a new stream, or restrict this to members of a group. Parcel media even lets us provide different audio content to different users. If you are not using parcel media for video, why not make a self-serve, unique audio selection available to every visitor?

Everyone gets their own iPod.

If we want the synergy of sharing socially, we all have to generate some content. So, if you visit the Media Cafe

bring your own bebop.

(It’s a Fair Exchange.)

Written by azwaldo

February 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Think Banana

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I have spent the last hour trying to describe something. What a mess I made…

Select > All

Delete

I had been stuck all day. A friend pointed out a flaw in my Media Cafe design project: Nobody needs to be in a virtual world to read the news or surf the Internet. The fun just fizzled right out of it. I needed to find something that I had lost. I needed to get back on track.

The deleted mess was me trying to explain the process; but, I will simply say:

Lateral thinking did it.

Media Cafe is not about designing a re-purposed virtual coffee shop. It is about what I would like to see in every virtual coffee shop I have visited. I should not be trying to get someone to come. They are going already.

So, if we are there anyway, let’s make it worth the visit, eh?

The Inkwell in Bonaire region (slurl).Click to see full image.

The Inkwell Coffee Shop in Bonaire region (slurl).
Click image to see full size.

Written by azwaldo

February 1, 2013 at 8:35 am

Posted in design, media cafe

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