The SLENZ Update – No 100, June 15, 2009

The boy from the future

XBox 360’s Milo  takes virtual

reality into another  world

I’ve been mulling over, for a few days now, whether  Microsoft’s latest offering in virtual worlds, Milo and his virtual friends, is going to prove a greater boon to  video games and MMORPGs or to personal computer-based virtual worlds.

Is Milo the next step along the road  to virtual life becoming mainstream or will he ,being console and television screen-based, kill off the  virtual worlds like Second Life. In other words is he the next step.

The benefits are obvious and the reality of Milo is in many ways astounding. But  I will let you judge for yourselves.

The anonymous blogger (Cv, picture and “occasional” avatar, “Head Teacher”,  but shy about real name) who writes Crossed Wires for said the launch of  Microsoft’s Project Natal controller at the E3 gaming conference earlier last  month  appeared as though it would redefine how “virtual and non virtual worlds ( i.e. the real world) interact”.

Project Natal is a hands-free control system for the Xbox that recognises facial expressions and body movements and allows, so it is claimed, virtual characters  to recognise not only voices and even faces but also read moods  [Interestingly, one could pose the question: Is Milo, Microsoft’s answer to Eve? Massey University, New Zealand, announced earlier this year it had developed a virtual teacher, Eve (pictured right), who can read and react to a student’s emotions].Eve

Head Teacher said, “If anything was ever worthy of the description game changing this is it … Microsoft  may have done for virtual what the Iphone has done for the mobile interface. Others will surely catch up but if Microsoft can really deliver on this, virtual experiences will soon be split between clicking in a make-believe world and apparently walking around something we can almost touch.

“For me,” he said, “the conclusions are that the future of virtual experiences won’t be limited by uptake or not of the current crop of virtual worlds: it is virtual experiences which overlay and blend with our real lives in ways we are only working out now. Virtual worlds will continue and thrive but will not define our experience of virtual reality.”

Meanwhile on the BBC,  film director Stephen Spielberg described Project Natal to journalist Peter Emery as “a window into what the future holds”.

Saying it was an evolutionary step for games, Spielberg said, “It’s like the square screen we saw all of our movies on in the early 1950s. Then The Robe came out in Cinemascope. And then came CinRam and Imax followed. That’s what [Natal] is.

“The video games industry has not allowed us the opportunity to cry, because we were too busy putting our adrenalin rush into the controller, or wherever we swing our arm with a Wii controller to get a result,”  Spielberg said. “Because of that, there is no room for a video game to break your heart. We now have a little more room to be a little more emotional with Natal technology than we did before.”

The SLENZ Update – No 99, June 15, 2009


Foundation Pilot  gets  new

‘stairway to knowledge’

foundation interview_003

Stairway to knowledge … the  SLENZ Project’s Foundation Learning
Pilot’s “rez-on-each step” guide to interviewing

SLENZ Project lead developer Aaron Griffths (SL: Isa Goodman) and  the Foundation Learning Pilot’s lead educator, Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmell Quintessa)  have come up with some interesting ideas to make learning easier for Merle’s students.

Their stairway to interviewing knowledge, on the Government-funded SLENZ Project’s Second Life virtual island of Kowhai,  is the latest – a concept which allows a student to “rez” each knowledge notice by stepping in front of it and allowing it to vanish once absorbed as she or he proceeds up the stairway.

At the same time  Lemon is  nearing the completion of  a video for publication on YouTube, “Bridging education interview skills @ SLENZ”, which  has be designed mainly to explain to lecturers the benefits of using Second Life and the facilities created by  her and Griffiths to hone student’s interview skills compared to those of a real life classroom (You will alerted here  when this goes live).

At the same time Griffiths has constructed among other things,  an  interview room which  will be able to be used by a variety of  students and lecturers to overcome hurdles  which  stand in the way of many of them  achieving success in interview situations and thus securing jobs.

The interview rooms,  which are in reality holodeck skyboxes, will be “private” for students and/or their lecturers.

interview room_001_001

Waiting for a job interview … learning how to handle the  stressful moment of truth.
Meanwhile  Griffiths has invited casual educator visitors to Kowhai  to test out the midwifery  animations and other facets of the Midwifery Project’s Birthing Centre on Kowhai as well as the animations and other facilities created for Foundation Learning.
He believes testing by casual users will enable him to eliminate any bugs before the system goes into full operation.