Posts Tagged ‘virtual worlds’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.)