The SLENZ Update – No 109, July 07, 2009

SLENZ PROGRESS

Otago’s birthing centre pilot

goes live with real students

Birthingcentre070709_001

Open for class…  SLENZ Project lead developer Isa goodman (RL: Aaron Griffiths)
“polishes”  the  Te Wāhi Whānau (The Birth Centre) build before students “arrive”.

Otago Polytechnic and  Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology midwifery students have begun taking part of their midwifery course on the SLENZ Project island  of Kowhai in Second Life.

The 27 Otago Polytechnic and CPIT Year 1 extramural students from Central Otago, Southland, and Nelson/Marlborough, began for the first time on Monday to use  the specially-constructed  Birth Centre (Te Wāhi Whānau) with the help of  qualified midwife facilitators from their home areas to do the “virtual world” portion of their coursea via Broadband from their homes.

The joint co-leader of the SLENZ Project, which has sponsored the pilot programme, Terry Neal, said she was excited that “the real learning” had to begun.

The movement of real life students onto “real learning tasks” within Second Life, she said,  meant an important milestone had been achieved on schedlule by the SLENZ Project which is one year old.

“We will now find out whether the students value the opportunity of being able to learn in a virtual world,” she said. “Later, as part of the evaluation process, we will find out how great the benefits are they receive from this type of learning.”

Lead educator for the pilot Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky), talking about the first day, noted that  students had had a variety of reactions to their first day, with some having the usual minor difficulties and thus needing help  and others wanting to be left alone to find their own way around.

Sarah quoted one of the students, who had joined the class Facebook group, as saying of her initial experiences, “”I have popped in a couple of times to the birthing unit (after Petal Stransky got me out of the underwater bubble – which I am very grateful for!) and had a look around. Then my hair fell off. “Another student from ChristChurch took me to a shop where I got new hair and I got some proper clothes from the same place rather than my warrior outfit. So far I seem to have spent a lot of time ‘fixing myself up’. Apparently I had elf ears … I am still walking into walls and getting stuck to the ceiling and getting lost. So it’s taking me quite a bit of time to get orientated.”

In another aside, Sarah (Twitter: SarahStewart) said interest in the midwifery pilot had been growing on Twitter, with the pilot YouTube video being passed around.

The innovative pilot programme has been funded by the New Zealand Government’s Tertiary Education Commission as part of a project to determine how multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) might benefit New Zealand education and how this can best be done.

The project, which has selected midwifery and foundation learning for its two pilot programmes, aims to delineate and demonstrate to New Zealand educators and students the educational strengths or otherwise of learning in a virtual world.

To celebrate the milestone and the first birthday of the project  the SLENZ Project team held a well-attended celebration “party” on the adjacent Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology  island of Koru on Sunday night.

korupartI_014Line dancing in celebration …
korupartI_001Toddles Lightworker, with the dragon wings, appears to be directing the dancers.

EVENT

Kiwi Educators Group

to be revitalised

Meanwhile SLENZ Project lead developer Isa Goodman RL: Arron Griffiths) and joint leader Arwenna Stardust (RL: Dr Clare Atkins) are keen to re-vitalise the Kiwi Educators group and in response to popular demand plan to hold regular meetings again.

The duo have issued an invitation to all past and potential members – in fact, anyone with an interest in education in New Zealand – to a meeting on Sunday July 12 from 6pm – 8pm (NZ Time) (Saturday, July 11 11pm-1am SLT) beginning at Kauri Grove, Koru.

The plan is for attendees to gather at 6pm and then visit  the Particle Lab to see the wonderful fireworks display which starts at 6.30pm and runs for an hour before returning to Koru to chat and catch up, and plan for the futureof the organisation.

Birthingcentre070709_002A useful addition to the SLENZ Project build
… “all” the information you need to get started.
Birthingcentre070709_003and the Skill Mastery Hyperdome

􀀁

The SLENZ Update – No 66, April 8, 2009

SLENZ PROJECT

Foundation Learning Kowhai build begins

foundation_020

The contrast between the build for The Birth Place (Te Waihi Whanau) and
The Foundation Learning project’s new build is quite striking.

There is a futuristic, almost organic building  growing out of the ground on the Kowhai Island, where the three-pilot   SLENZ Project – Midwifery, Foundation Learning and Orientation – is being created in Second Life.

Being designed/built by SLENZ lead developer Aaron Griffith’s (SL: Isa Goodman) , the “Clothing Centre”  has been designed to be  rezzable-on-demand, like all the Foundation buildings are likely to be.

The “centre” will be used by Foundation Learning students in the pilot programme to choose and put on the appropriate clothing for  job interviews and other interactions  set up by Foundation Learning lead educator Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa)  and her colleagues, before being assessed as to appropriateness for purpose by themselves, fellow students and educators.

When the build is finished it will be joined by rezz-at-will “classroom”  “conference” and interview spaces  for use by the students taking part in pilot programme.

The initial building  has been designed by Griffiths in close consultation with Lemon, to ensure relatively low lag – it will contain comparatively prim-heavy clothing, hair and other avatar accoutrements – and for ease of newbie camera use and movement.

foundation_008

In the beginning …

The ground or first floor has been designated the display area with pose stand changing areas on the balconies on the second floor, closed changing rooms on the third floor and a fourth floor, at the top ,with the ability for a room ( holodeck) to  be moved  or fired 100 metres  into the air for complete privacy, something Lemon considers necessary and which may be in demand because of the cultural and religious diversity of her student body.

“It’s more to cater for those students, mainly female, who are culturally sensitive and do not wish to change their clothes within sight of anyone having the remote possibility of seeing them changing, even as an avatar,” Griffiths commented.

The floors will be connected by easy-to-use TP points.

Lemon, Griffiths said,   had specified a circular building with glass and metal. Working with her  – she had supplied pictures and sketches of her ideas – he had begun with mega cylinders before moving eventually to sculptie prims because they proved both easier to get the desired shapes and also were more attractive.

The build although having a light airy feel because of the arches and  iconic  Aotearoa-New Zealand panels of blue-green, see-through  paua (abalone) shell textures, still has form and substance. It is only 30 metres in diameter.

foundation_009

Those “paua shell” panels
foundation_014
Progress … the builder, Isa Goodman, and the “client”, Briarmelle Quintessa,
are working together.

The SLENZ Update – No 64, April 2, 2009

THOSE SLENZ BUILDS

Getting immersive realism on the SL ground

birthisa_002

The “real” thing … the drapes and Isa Goodman

AN essential ingredient of getting the SLENZ Project  off  the ground  has been to ensure the builds have enough realism to ensure a “suspension of disbelief” occurs, according to the project’s lead developer, Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman).

This, Griffiths (pictured) told the SLENZ team recently, was to allow users to become fully immersed in the experience without feeling it didn’t look/feel real. “This is a difficult task when faced with the rigidity that building using Second Life’s 3D primitives have inherent in them, given the hard lines that these building blocks present,”  he said.

It had been circumvented in the past, he added,  through an intense use of multiple primitives to form every bend or curve of an object but this not only loaded a scene with primitives (more download requirements) but also added to the workload in creating and aligning textures to each of the primitives to create a complete object.

Although noting that the creation of organic shapes was now possible in Second Life using sculpties (sculpted prims created with texture maps), Griffths said, the creation of the number required to achieve the desired results within the hours defined by the SLENZ Project budget “just wasn’t a possibility.”img_05021

Therefore, he said, he had been excited to discover within  Second Life Rusalka Writer’s large sculptie sets with what he feels is the desired level of realism to make the build “that much more than a  2D  drawing” one can move through.

“So now, in the birthing room for example, we have rumpled eiderdowns and flowing drapes as opposed to the not so real faked 3D using shadowed textures on rectangles,” he said.

The   Rusalka Writer sculptie sets at her shop in Bahoozamoth, Griffths, a director of  F/Xual Education Services, said, were full permissions and inexpensive compared to most of the sculpties sets he had seen in-world.

Griffiths said that besides the realism/immersion issue he also had been concerned for sometime about the lack of interaction with the build in Stage 1 of the SLENZ midwifery build.

“Yes one can open doors and walk around, draw or open curtains (now beautifully flowing *smiles*) etc., but really in terms of  interactivity this stage of the build is currently limited to clicking on objects and
receiving information either in the form of notecards, dialogs or links out to the web,” Griffiths said. “The realism mentioned above will definitely create a more immersive experience and given that this (build) has been designed as an ideal birthing unit ( i.e. one that generally cannot be experienced in the real world) there will be a learning aspect in terms of sensing the atmosphere that such a unit could bring to the birthing
experience.

“But interactive… well not quite,” he said adding that he had been struck  by the fact that when he had recently met some of the midwives in-world for a walk-through  without exception, when they had entered the birthing room, they had attempted to enter the birthing pool.

birthisa_005

The “real” thing … all the midwives wanted to try the birthing pool.

“Well you would wouldn’t you?” he asked, and added, “… yet this aspect of engaging with the build had not been really considered for this stage despite his and other’s interest in the capability of MUVEs to present the aspect of play in a learning experience.
Building on that observation,  he said he had talked to the midwives about the possibilities and it had been suggested that, as well as clicking on each of the items displayed to present different birthing techniques (e.g. the birthing pool, the leaning mantle, the rope etc) and linking out to information on the  web relating to the theory involved, “we create pose animations for each of the objects that would optionally allow the users to “assume the position.

“Not only would this be instructive in a sense but would insert an element of fun that I feel is distinctly lacking in this stage,” he said, asking for the team’s thoughts on the idea.

Looking forward to Stage 2 of the midwifery build where the SLENZ Project intends to simulate a normal childbirth scenario there had also been a boon in discovering the Rusalka Writer sculptie sets, he said.

“Again in terms of suspending disbelief it is important in my view that we create as realistic a ‘baby’ as is possible,” Griffiths said.

The creation of a prim-based, scripted robot, or an avatar-based bot, logged in specifically for the birth, had been discussed but both had their drawbacks: the prim bot ,though easily manipulated through scripting ,would be hard to make look real, while the avatar would have to be logged in (complete with floating name and title) and manipulated, with the problem of animation permissions to be overcome.

“What a joy then to find amongst the sculptie sets a full set of body part shapes that with good texturing may solve our problems in this respect,” he said.

“All-in-all a good week for the developer with a much better sense that the midwifery unit will immerse, engage and have the end result that we all are heading towards,” Griffiths concluded.

birthisa_004

The “real” thing … a bed that looks soft enough to sleep on.

The SLENZ Update – No 40, January 20, 2009

Birth Centre takes shape

birth1_001The beginning …

The SLENZ project’s “ideal birthing unit” is taking shape quickly with the  basic walls constructed on the  floor plan and already trialed for ease of  avatar use (movement, camera views etc).

The trials were done by  Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman), the Lead Developer for the SLENZ Project,  Deborah Davis (Aastra Apfelbaum) of the birthing unit design team and Sarah Stewart (Petal Stransky) (midwifery lead educator).

Griffiths, announcing progress on the build, said, “Consideration has been given to the fact that many of the users will be new to the SL environment. Therefore the overall plans have been scaled up to accommodate this in terms of  ‘room to move around’.

“Doorways have been made wider than they would be normally and the ceiling height extended for the same reason,” he said. “The central corridor, which contacts almost all the rooms has been given semi-transparent walls to allow users to view their surroundings and better orientate themselves, especially on occasions their camera crosses a wall boundary (the “my camera is here but where’s my  avatar” syndrome).

The build is taking place on Kowhai [the sim situated next to Koru(http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/156/122/27) ] which has been dedicated to the SLENZ project for both the midwifery and the foundation studies units

Believing the basic layout is now satisfactory the team has started  to “flesh out” the the detailed physical aspects of the build; cupboarding, mantels, furnishings, shelving etc., and the relationship of each object to the design in terms of its assistance of the  birthing process.

birthx_001Progress…

It’s not Google but …

What is claimed to be an unique virtual world search engine has  been developed by a team at the University of Teesside, UK. (http://www.tees.ac.uk/sections/news/pressreleases_story.cfm?story_id=2903&this_issue_title=January%202009&this_issue=188)

Although not yet live Meta-Mole.com (http://www.meta-mole.com/Default.aspx), the Meta-Mole, created by the Centre for Design in the Digital Economy (D-LAB) based within the University’s Institute of Digital Innovation, will ultimately be a dedicated searchable online resource for the 350 plus virtual worlds currently existing on the Internet.mole

‘We were analysing virtual world platforms and realised that there doesn’t appear to be a comprehensive service offering to list and compare key data for major 2D and 3D environments,” Philip McClenaghan, deputy director of D-LAB said. “This surprised us considering the current popularity of virtual worlds. We intend to fill the gap with the Meta-Mole.”

The Meta-Mole has been designed to help both new and experienced users looking for virtual world environments as well as platform developers who want to gauge competition through providing a searchable directory of available platforms, “easily definable according to the need of the user”, according to Dan Riley, a Metaverse Architect at D-LAB. All data contained within the Meta-Mole will be  provided by the platform developers themselves along with official images and videos. The Meta-Mole allows for the sharing and comparing of information and provides access to the latest core, technical and specialist features on current virtual worlds, as well as those in development.

The Meta-Mole will initially be released as a Beta version focusing on 3D virtual world platforms. Forterra, Blink 3D and Twinity are among those who have already uploaded their details.

Watch out for

Watch out for  Virtual World developments at the Uni of Auckland’s, Architecture and Planning School.  Judy Cockeram (JudyArx Scribe), a senior design tutor at the school,  is doing the ground work for a proposed  100-student  virtual world course in and about Architectural Media.

Recipe for success?

forterra-whitepaper

To prepare for the coming hard times in the real world  its worth reading a white paper authored by Chris Badger,VP Marketing, Forterra Systems Inc, entitled “Recipe for Success with Enterprise Virtual Worlds.” http://www.forterrainc.com/images/stories/pdf/recipe_for_success_10509.pdf

He notes that with the slashing of budgets for travel and gabfests, virtual world applications are significantly cheaper than video conferencing, telepresence, and travel, yet represent a more engaging and enjoyable learning medium than Web or audio conferencing and most Web-based learning content.

The study is based on a Masie Center Learning Consortium’s (a think-tank focused on enterprise learning and knowledge)  exploration of   learning use cases in a virtual world through the use of  a virtual world sandbox provided by Forterra and using  Forterra’s On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment(OLIVETM) software platform.

The balance of the white paper describes the use cases for Accenture and ACS Learning Services, the results of their efforts, the lessons learned, and the “recipe for success” going forward for new organisations considering how to convert their interest in virtual worlds to tangible field pilot programs that deliver business results.

Useful links

Links to transcripts of the weekly meeting of the SL Education Roundtable as well as transcripts of the annual EDUCAUSE Virtual Worlds sessions. All transcripts open in a new tab or window. http://homepage.mac.com/jessid/slroundtable/

Good free skins, shapes, hair, clothes etc for the newbies amongst us -

The Free Dove: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Gallii/113/54/33

The Changing Room for Women-Ladies at Noob Island: http://slurl.com/secondlife/NOOBISLAND/245/13/22

FREEBIES STORE of Free Union: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Thinktank/33/23/24

Free clothes etc – men and women in cubes: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Richmond/42/142/23

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