The SLENZ Update – No 74 , April 30, 2009

How to demo SL to non-users …

IN UNDER FIVE MINUTES

Although it’s been up on YouTube for  some eight months still one of the best introductions to  Second Life, particularly for  those in the health and medical fields, is  the University of Michigan’s Health Sciences Libraries’ machinima  highlighting Second Life and Public Health.anderson-patricia-f

The video, which I was again alerted to by SLED lister Patricia F. Anderson (pictured right – UMHSL emerging technologies librarian and longstanding head librarian for the UM Dentistry Library),  shows  Second Life as a virtual world through which an active public health community is simulating disaster scenarios, creating interactive health games, offering people with disabilities a place for support and social networking, and providing a space for professionals to view presentations and attend international conferences.
The video gives a good overview in under five minutes without any major hype. It’s well worth watching.

It is only one of a  number of introductory Second Life health care videos on YouTube but is still probably one of the best.

The SLENZ Update – No 73 , April 29, 2009

SL:  import-export with ‘SLENZ Shuffle’

The new ‘Arfur Daley’?

slenzshuffle_004

Import-export “expert” bot, SLENZ Shuffle, with creator, Toddles Lightworker

SLENZ Shuffle? Well he might not be the new “Arfur Daley” (of TV Minder fame) but it looks like he might be able to do a good job in the virtual world import-export business.slenz-shippingnode1

He has already successfully “shifted: the lower floor of the  Foundation build on Kowhai, in Second Life, to one of Nelson Marlborough Institute 0f  Technology’s regions on a node on the ONGENS OpenSimulator, set up by Otago and Canterbury  Universities, in the SouthIsland of New Zealand.

A creation of WelTec’s Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker), a  SLENZ developer, he can only export-import an object’s textures and prims, including mega-prims and sculpties, rather than scripts, at the present time but, according to Cochrane (pictured left), it  should be possible “to drop stuff onto an object which wakes up our robot avatar. “

“The robot then exports the objects and with the help of in-world script other items,” he said, pointing to the SLENZ shipping node (right). “Eventually we could get the robot to logout and then login to ONGENS and complete the transfer.

“At present the object wakes up our robot and under the right conditions it exports the object … I’m using the same avatar name in both universes.”

The robot is being developed as part of the SLENZ Project to ensure all project builds and other elements created by the SLENZ team can be  backed up outside Second Life as SLENZ-owned IP.

img_0501The team has  previously trialled other “back-up” methods but found them not to be suitable for the SLENZ needs, mainly because the IP is held in another organisation’s storage.

Cochrane stressed that SLENZ Shuffle could not be used to export IP  developed/owned by Second Life, Linden Labs and other Second Life developers and residents.

Cochrane also pointed out that the creation of the import-export facility is not unique, it is an extended version the existing OpenMetaverse code.

And for example IBM has already done something similar as well, teleporting avatars led by Second Life’s Zha Ewry RL: David Levine) between Second Life and OpenSim.

WelTec currently is running two regions in the WelTec Virtual Lab, and at the Petone Campus, as part of the Weltec programme to trial a varietyof virtual worlds for education under a variety of conditions.

Cochrane  is currently considering allocating space in Weltec’s ONGENS regions for Human Computer Interaction students doing Interaction Design projects.
“Having our own node means we are contributing to the New Zealand Virtual Worlds grid.” Todd said.

The node is currently on WelTec’s 3D server, deep.weltec.ac.nz, but may eventually be connected through KAREN, New Zealand’s tertiary institution high-speed Broadband link.

The SLENZ Update – No 72, April 28, 2009

No the SL sky is not falling in …

Chicken Little got it wrong!

userhoursSecond Life  user hours are still growing

Surrounded by negativity!!! It’s frightening how the world of “yellow  journalism” even if in its latest form of  blogs permeates  the thinking of otherwise  sensible individuals.

It’s right to take precautions to lessen the effects of  the worldwide financial crash, swine flu,  so-called,  man-made climate change, the  imminent collapse of Second Life, as some of the doomsayers, have been predicting, or for that matter the end of the real world – Got religion anyone? – but Chicken Little “sky-is-falling-in” news, like that created by tabloid bloggers of the Valleywag-Gawker variety – February publication –  should be read in the same vein as the US rag, the National Enquirer. Valleywag-Gawker has been predicted the  imminent demise of  Second Life since 2006, if not longer.

There are a myriad of constructive criticisms which can be thrown at Second Life and which are based on fact, but which  often forget that Second Life, like the real world, is still under development and always will be by its very nature.  As in the real world, it is being created, more often than not, by the choices we as Second Life residents make: that is the choices the majority of us who stay with Second Life make as interpreted by Linden Labs, rather than the choices made by the minority “wankers” who nevertheless stay with Second Life even though they whine continuously.

However, for research purposes – particularly  education research, it is probably the best, most practical, and most economic MUVE currently available for New Zealand ( and other Western World) residents, despite  the problems with Broadband, which I lay at the door in New Zealand of our two major Telcos and the short-sightedness of the previous Government, a lack of  Second Life stability (it is improving almost every day) and what is often seen as the dictatorial, totalitarian influence of the owners and creators, Linden Labs.

Only the beginning

One can either dip one’s toe in the water of Virtual Reality, as SLENZ and numerous other educational institutions and organisations are doing with Second Life, or be left behind: there is no doubt in my mind that MUVEs are becoming mainstream, and that Second Life and worlds like it are only the beginning.

But, at the same time, I believe the drive for  educational research results within Second Life and other Virtual Worlds should not be blurred by either attempting to move into time-consuming and expensive real-life replica developments which use all one’s research budget, or into negativity of the Chicken Little variety -sometimes the latter results from the first – when we are attempting to determine and measure the  learning benefits in virtual worlds and how to make the most of  the opportunities.

That is not to say there are not numerous beautiful replica builds in Second Life which belong to educational institutions and others, but to me they have more to do with ego and sometimes branding,  rather than actual educational  outcomes. All the same they are still great to look at and if one cannot visit them in real life, a virtual visit is better than nothing.

However,  that long rant is not the basis of this blog.

I’ve been cheered by the latest stats  for the first quarter of 2009 from  the Lindens and Second Life, even if one discounts the spin that is invariably put on company  public relations releases. All the same  they mirror my daily experiences in Second Life and my feelings about where Second Life is going  after four years in-world almost on a daily basis. That is  even though I  often visit commercial sim developments where most of the stores are empty and avatars are few and far between and seldom seen.

Key points

In reporting strong growth for the period the key points T. Linden  made  were:

* 124 Million User Hours, an increase of 42 per cent  from the same quarter last year.

* Peak concurrent users of 88,200, an increase of 33 per cent from the same quarter last year.

* 120M in user-to-user transactions, up 65 per cent from the same quarter last year.

* The Island market has stabilized, although overall square meters of resident owned land has decreased, following changes in Open Land policy.

* Gross sales on the Xstreet SL marketplace grew 23 per cent over Q4 of 2008 and 72 per cent over the same quarter last year.

If you are in that negative place and wondering to which world you should turn this Linden blog is really worth reading. Yes, for the moment anyway, Chicken Little has it wrong!

userpeakc

Second Life peak concurrency… *grin*  No voice? Got lag? Get over it.
Oldtimers will tell you it was once much worse.

The SLENZ Update – No 71, April 27, 2009

EDUCATION IN SL

A lesson from Mexico

palaceofmining_0011The UNAM Palace of Mining in SL .. and in RL.

Despite the “tabloid” critics of  Second Life and Virtual Worlds educational use of  Second Life and other virtual worlds is becoming more and more  mainstream, especially in the Open University environment.

This growth  has been strikingly demonstrated in world  in world by creation of the virtual campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), a school with more than 300,000 students and the largest university in Latin America.

George Linden in the  Second Life blog details UNAM’s current work on building its campus in Second Life for its Engineering School (11,000 students) Distance Education Programs and also its establishment of connections  with companies in the real world to help take engineering design and training to the next level.

“Developments began in November 2008 but a lot has happened in that short span of time,” Linden said, and that’s somewhat of an understatement.

And as SLENZ joint project leader Dr Clare Atkins noted, “A good example of how education in MUVEs is (possibly) poised to become mainstream in the fairly near future.”

The UNAM’s main center in Second Life (slurl here but access limited) is built to look like the Palace of Mining, considered to be where science first set foot in the Americas. Here there are a wide range of projects including 3d demonstrations involving mathematics, robotics, and engineering, many with adjustable vectors (x, y, and z coordinates) giving hand’s one experience for students.

In  another area UNAM is using Second Life models to act  as a visualization of and an interface for a  real power world plant as in the machinima  below.

The SLENZ Update – No 70, April 22, 2009

SECOND LIFE ORIENTATION

Quickstart Guide  for ‘noobs’,

and ‘not-so-noobs’ …

It’s been around for a little time now but it was still good to see that the Lindens have put out a new Quickstart Guide to Second Life in PDF format

Terming the seven-page document “elegant” and “stylish” ,  Second Life guru and training video-maker Torley Linden (pictured) says that  it is perfect for perusing and printing  (to paper) either to prime your  basic Second Life skills  or getting started as the “noob” we all have been.torley-linden

The only problem is that Kiwis apparently only read instructions or how-to-do messages as a last resort be it  assembling lawn mowers or clotheslines, joining a blog or downloading software.

However, I would suggest that all educators should either print and distribute this “airplane info booklet” style Quickstart Guide to all their “noob” students before they move into Second Life as well as placing the link/pdf in their “Freebie orientation pack”.

It could save  tears later … or for the ‘not’so’noobs’ right now!

While you are in the mood for learning you can’t go past Torley’s  “learning to live in Second Life “ tutorial videos on YouTube.

One of his best recent tutorials, if you have a good graphics card, is  WINDLIGHT: Using the Day Cycle Editor

The SLENZ Update – No 69, April 20, 2009

PERFORMANCE ART

Bridging the  Second Life,

Real Life  divide  …

isabelperf1
Dancing fingers from reality – Butler2 Evelyn (RL: Isabel Valverde) and
Toddles Lightworker (RL: Todd Cochrane) in Second Life.

What are we losing through living more and more encapsulated lives in crowded urban areas, following the consumption driven “modernist-technical” standard of living, becoming disconnected from sensing ourselves, one another and earth’s living-system cycles of which we are and will be always part and dependent on for survival and well-being?

That is the question that Portugals’  Butler2 Evelyn (RL: Isabel Valverde) and Aotearoa-New Zealand’s Toddles Lightworker (RL: Todd Cochrane)  will attempt to answer in SL with the transnational  “Weathering In / Com Tempo: An Intervention towards Participatory Multi-modal Self-organising Inter-corporeal Environments”, in Room E104. Whitireia Community Polytechnic, Wellington, New Zealand, and in Seccond Life, above the SLENZ Project island of Kowhai,  between 10:30 -11:30 am on Friday,  April 24,  New Zealand time.

The event is being staged as part of the  Whitireia learning and teaching conference with the theme of: Engaged Teachers, Engaged Learners: Partnerships for Success. The keynote speaker is Professor Russell Bishop, of Waikato University.

valverdeisabel1

“We lose and suffer in exchange for communication and knowledge gains by using awesome but at the same time restricted, exclusive, unbalanced, un-integrated technology,” Valverde and  Cochrane said in an abstract on what is basically an integrated, interactive, real world/virtual world performance.

“For example, large parts of our lives are spent sitting still with screen, keyboard and mouse,” they said. “”Due to this extreme stillness we do not have truly an embodied, inclusive attitude where the physicality is expanded, not compartmentalised into less-demanding intellectual activity.

Playful interaction

The pair – Valverde (pictured right), of the Institute for Humane Studies and Intelligent Sciences,  Almada, Portugal, and Cochrane (pictured lower right), of the School of Information Technology, Wellington Institute of Technology ,  Petone, New Zealand – will attempt to provide answers in an” immersive embodied environment” where five invited participants  “will playfully interact with one another physically and virtually as hybrid-embodied entities within intelligent, physical and virtual sites”.

The event, Valverde and Cochrane said,  would “capture motion, location and biometric information through non-invasive clothing and motion capture investigating new modes of human-human and human-environment dialog/sociability, by expanding inter-corporeal interactions through non-intrusive non-restrictive technology, adapted to the participants’ way of moving in space”.

“Performing arts’  knowledge directs the work, providing perspectives for example as in: Postuman Embodiment [1], Mobious Strip [2], rhizome body [3], reversibility as described by Merleau Ponty, and distantiation as coined by Bertolt Brecht,” they said. “Environmental, biometric and meteorological data is captured using well understood techniques, for example, motion capture that uses the AR Toolkit as in [4]. We also investigate pragmatic application of self-organising information systems theory [5] to feature recognition from multi-modal data streams and to the automatic determination of system control.

“Weathering In intervenes using cross-disciplinary practice in performing arts and computing engineering with the goal of more inclusive, integrated and connected human-environment (physical and virtualised) hybrid living systems,” they said.img_0503

Valverde  and Cochrane, previously  staged an Emergent Hybrid Performance Environment for Second Life avatars and video-mediated guests, from Kowhai and a physical site in Lisbon where they offered partipants opportunities for converging their physical and virtual possibilities for creative embodied communication.
“We believe Second Life provides the most inclusive, embodied mode of being with people around the world in a free, networked platform,” they said of that performance. “(This) Real Virtual Games Project is interested in questioning and developing more corporeally inclusive physical interfaces for this type of embodied global network mode of communication.”

Performer/choreographer

Isabel Valverde is a performer, interdisciplinary choreographer and researcher originally from Portugal, with a PhD in Dance History and Theory from the University of California, Riverside. Her work was  supported by the Foundation for Science and Technology/PRAXIS XXI (Portugal). Her dissertation is titled “Interfacing Dance and Technology: a theoretical framework for performance in the digital domain”, (publication forthcoming by FCG/FCT). Valverde is continuing her research as a post-doctoral fellow of the EU/FCT, affiliated with the Institute for Humane Studies and Intelligent Sciences, the Visualisation and Intelligent Multimodal Interfaces Group (VIMMI/INESC-ID/IST/UTLisboa), College of Social and Humanities Sciences/UNLisboa, and Lusófona University of Arts and Technologies. She holds an MA in Interdisciplinary Arts from the Inter-Arts Center, San Francisco State University, with a Fulbright/IIE fellowship. Her dance studies include the Licenciatura in Dance from the FMH/UTLisboa, and diploma from the School for New Dance Development/Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, under the ERASMUS Fellowship Program.

Todd Cochrane, a developer with the SLENZ Project, teaches a range of topics in Wellington Institute of Technology’s  Bachelors, Diploma and Cybertechnology programmes including client-side and server-side scripting (ASP JavaScript), Ecommerce Website Design (DB), Human Computer Interaction, Operating Systems, Software Engineering, Software Quality Assurance, Prototyping, Programming Practice (Visual Basic). He is a polyglot programmer, writing software in a number of imperative/procedural languages (C/C++,Delphi, Visual Basic, JavaScript, Java, Flash ActionScript) as well as being able to produce code in functional (RUFL and Hope+C) and declarative languages (Prolog).  His current research is focused by the development and extension of a visual programming language. He ran Human Computer Interaction using Second Life as the development platform last Trimester and is delivering Computer Systems Architecture in Second Life and Real Life synchronously this trimester. He has become proficient at Second Life development, and Second Life to Real Life crossing. He recently presented Cross-worlds art work , also known as Club Temp, at the International Symposium on Electronic Art  in Singapore.

isabels-beach_007

A stranger on the shore …  part of Isabel Valverde’s beach in the sky
above Kowhai, with a visitor.
[References: 1.Hayles, N. K, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatic, The Univ. of Chicago Press: Chicago and London,(1999); 2. Grosz,E. A.,Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. Indiana University Press (1994); 3. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (1987); 4. Sementille, A. C., Lourenço, L. E., Brega, J. R., and Rodello, I. A motion capture system using passive markers. In Proceedings of the 2004 ACM SIGGRAPH international Conference on Virtual Reality Continuum and Its Applications in industry (Singapore, June 16 – 18, 2004). VRCAI ´04. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 440-447 (2004); 5.Haken, H. Information and Self-Organization A Macroscopic Approach to Complex Systems 3rd Edition. Springer Series in Synergetics , Springer Berlin, Germany (2006). Note the abstract was accepted by HCii2009 as a poster]

The SLENZ Update – No 68, April 15, 2009

Is this the SL future

of ‘real’ reporting?

Those who attended the Virtual Journalism Conference at Washington State University last week may have glimpsed the future of global journalism in a brief documentary about an avatar-to-avatar news conference, according to Steve Kolowich, of  The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The news conference, which took place in February in Second Life, gave eight Egyptian political bloggers a chance to directly question James K. Glassman, the head of public-diplomacy  under former President George W. Bush.

“This is the ultimate situation of breaking down barriers of time and space,” Kolowich quoted Lawrence Pintak (pictured right), director of the Kamal Adham Center for Journalism Training and Research at the American University in Cairo – or, rather, his slightly-less-gray-haired avatar – as saying  in the documentary on the event.”We’re putting together people who are on opposite sides of the world for a real-time conversation.”

The Second-Life news conference, according to Kolowich,  was the final stage of a project, overseen by American University in Cairo and paid for by the US Agency for International Development, that brought the Egyptian bloggers to the United States to cover last fall’s presidential election.pintaklawrence

While some might dismiss a Second-Life meet-up as little more than a glorified conference call, Rita J. King, a former journalist, said the difference is tremendous. Ms. King is CEO and creative director of Dancing Ink Productions, which designed the virtual space where the news conference was held and also helped create the documentary.

First of all, “teleconferences put people to sleep,” she told Kolowich. They’re also expensive. But most importantly, the experience of interacting in a three-dimensional space is much richer, sensationally and psychologically.

“Neurologically, people feel they are sharing an experience if the brain perceives that they are sharing space,” she said. “I have found that people are very likely to be candid in interviews that are conducted virtually, much more so than over the phone or even in person…. It is safe physically, first of all, but it also eliminates elements of discomfort that are part of the physical world, related to socioeconomic status, age, gender, race…. There are all sorts of limiting factors that prevent people from being candid with one another in person.”

The  video archive of the conference is here while another interesting blog on change in journalism is here.

NEW PRODUCT

Will this become

VW interface?

gamesonline

OnLive has just begun promoting the beta version of a  service (in the US only at this time)  which  should one  day to allow the consumer to run  even the most complex virtual worlds on  entry level desktops.

Promising to work over over almost any broadband connection (DSL, cable modem, fiber, or through the LAN at your college or office)  into your TV, entry-level PC or Mac and start a game with out the need for download. OnLive says it will be able to provide Standard-Definition TV resolution over  a 1.5 Mbps connection. For HDTV resolution (720p60), OnLive needs 5 Mbps

The  game or MMORPGs run in a state-of-the-art OnLive game server center, ONLive claims, connecting an individual  to game servers through the Internet, instantly sending your controller actions upstream and the results back downstream at blinding fast speeds.

One wonders whether this will really deliver though especially  into countries with third world Broadband coverage, like New Zealand.