The SLENZ Update – No 57, March 12, 2009

EVENT

“Virtual Worlds – Best Practices

in Education” Conference

March 27-29, 2009 in Second Life. Following considerable  SLED list debate on the “future” of  the SL education conference  – especially, apparently, from those MUVE “believers” who who want a  “real life” gabfest experiences that one travels to –  Pathfinder Linden  has posted an interesting interview with Kevin Feenan (pictured, SL: Phelan Corrimal ), the general chair of the conference, which will be held entirely in Second Life, rather than having a real life base. Taking its lead from a number of previous successful conferences  – the Second Life Best Practices in Education Conference in May 2007, the SLCC07 in Chicago, and the SLEDcc in Tampa in 2008 –  the SLEBPE has been  revived under the banner of Virtual Worlds because of the increase in virtual worlds which successfully cater for education, such as OpenSim, IMVU, Club Penguin, WoW, Wonderland, Entropia etc . For all those who complain about the “closed world, commercial” nature of Second Life – and there are a number –  Feenan has a message. corrimal-phelan He sees the future of the conference being “dictated by the way the educational community uses virtual collaborative environments”. “In the short term, definitely a heavy focus on Second Life,” he said. ” However, as avatars are increasingly able to teleport between virtual worlds I see the conference following those changes and perhaps expanding to bridge knowledge gaps that may develop as other virtual communities get established. And to bring back to this environment (SL) solutions that may not be so evident here because we don’t have to overcome the same challenges to get something to work.” For free registration: http://www.vwbpe.org.

Another new kid

ready to debut …

Sirikata Teaser

Stanford University plans to launch Sirikata, a BSD licensed open source platform for virtual worlds, in alpha release soon. The team behind the project which is being done in conjunction with Intel’s Cable Beach Project aims to provide a set of libraries and protocols which can be used to deploy a virtual world, as well as fully featured sample implementations of services for hosting and deploying these worlds. The video-teaser for the project is fascinating, and shows just where OpenSim technology is going. It appears to show a compelling,  easy-to-use virtual world with realistic avatars and movement. For techies the lengthy discussion  about Intel’s efforts in the open virtual world space and getting outside the “walled garden” scenario  between Intel’s John Hurliman, Stanford’s Ewen Cheslack-Postava, Daniel Horn and Henrik Bennetsen provides an interesting background to the project. .  Besides disclosing that Intel is currently working on connectors for all VW worlds, the conversation ranged from the  technical approach to the work and ended with  more general comments. But at 51 minutes it is long and could have done with considerable editing..

Workshop with Intel’s John Hurliman

There is another video in which Cheslack-Postava and Horn give a briefing on Sirikata which, for techies, also is worthwhile.

Meanwhile Nick Wilson (pictured), over at Clever Zebra, has predicted that open source rather than interoperability will drive  the masses to virtual worlds.wilsonnick2 He lists the top three technologies researchers/educators/businesses should be investigating right now as OpenSim, Wonderland and Open Croquet, with Solipsis and Sirikata waiting in the wings.

The SLENZ Update – No 33, December 10, 2008

SLENZ ‘open’ workshop

Registrations Closed December 12: December 15, from 9am to 5pm (New Zealand Time) (SL Time 12 noon – 8 pm December 14) : New Zealand’s leading virtual world learning research group, Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ), has invited interested educators to attend a free, one-day workshop in real life on Wellington Institute of Technology’s Wellington campus and in Second Life on the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology’s island of Koru (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/156/122/27). Registration essential on first-come, first-served basis as numbers limited. For registration email: Susan.Jenkins@weltec.ac.nz

OLIVE has a silver lining …

Self-proclaimed  market and technology leader in enterprise virtual world, Forterra Systems, is using the economic downturn and collaboration with IBM, to spruik  its virtual worlds’ experience as being “better” and less costly than conference calling, the mainstay of world business.

Offering innovative collaboration features and IBM Lotus Sametime Integration with its OLIVETM(On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment) 2.2 Release, Forterra Systems plans to ship the new software later this month.

The video demonstration of the new software shows it will be of interest to educators around the world given some of the vagaries of other virtual world systems.

Forterra Systems says the new features have been prompted by feedback from several customers in global organisations and analysts who have noted that virtual meetings in OLIVE are both more engaging and less expensive then traditional Web and audio conference calls.

“The combination of OLIVE’s spatially accurate VoIP-based audio along with several new media-sharing features and Lotus Sametime integration provides the next generation of interactive communications infrastructure,” Forterra says in a press release. (http://www.forterrainc.com/index.php/resources/109-forterra-announces-olive22)

“With the challenging financial times most enterprises are curtailing travel and rethinking how their organisations hold events, training sessions, conduct periodic meetings, or improve their collaboration processes.

“Audio and Web conferencing are inexpensive, ubiquitous, and generally easy to use,” the release says. ” However for meetings involving complex or longer topics the participants can be challenged to grasp the discussion context and maintain focus due to multi-tasking. Virtual meetings in OLIVE are proving to be less expensive yet more engaging and productive for users. Most enterprise-grade teleconferencing systems charge $0.10 to $0.25 per person per minute which can equate to thousands of dollars of expense per employee every year. OLIVE pricing is an order of magnitude less.

“Forterra believes the fastest path for large-scale virtual world adoption within organisations is for 3D meetings to be an easy-to-use extension of the existing unified communications tools employees already use every day. Forterra’s integration of OLIVE with Lotus Sametime is the first robust offering in the market to pursue this strategy. When integrated to Lotus Sametime, immersive 3D environments built with OLIVE provide an interactive communications platform that is unsurpassed for collaboration, training, and knowledge management use cases.”Second Life: ‘Second China’ Offers Foreign Service Workers First Impression

Diplomatic training

chinasl1

Picture courtesy ScienceDaily

United States diplomats or military envoys making their first trip to China may soon have a chance to visit a Chinese office building, stop in at a traditional teahouse or hop a cab – all before they board a plane, according to US web-based publication ScienceDaily (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081029154856.htm)
A team of University of Florida computer engineers and scholars has used the popular online world Second Life to create a virtual Chinese city  for users who want to familiarise themselves with the sights and experiences they will encounter as first-time visitors.

The goal of the federally funded research project is to educate and prepare foreign service or other government professionals to arrive in the country prepared and ready to work, .ScienceDaily reported.

Julie Henderson, an international program specialist at the UF College of Pharmacy and co-principal investigator and project designer for the effort, was quoted by ScienceDaily as saying: “I think what we hope is that this kind of environment can provide a bridge between knowledge alone and actually being in the real-life environment.”

One wonders how long the US’s three-letter agencies have been doing the same thing in Second Life.

Medical  VWs ‘suspend disbelief’

Evaluations of  virtual world simulation exercises for medical trainees  have shown that the trainees themselves find VWs to be adequately realistic to “suspend disbelief,” according to a Stanford University research project entitled, “Simulation for Team Training and Assessment: Case Studies of Online Training with Virtual Worlds.”

The results of the study done by  William LeRoy Heinrichs, Patricia Youngblood and Parvati Dev, Stanford University Medical Media and Information Technologies (SUMMIT),  Phillip M. Harter, Department of Surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine, Stanford University,  were published by The World Journal of Surgery. (http://www.springerlink.com/content/82211030u48h01l5/)

The authors said the trainees quickly learnt to use Internet voice communication and user interface to navigate their online character/avatar to work effectively in a critical care team. surgery

“Our findings demonstrate that these virtual ED environments fulfill their promise of providing repeated practice opportunities in dispersed locations with uncommon, life-threatening trauma cases in a safe, reproducible, flexible setting,” they said.

Earlier in their abstract of their paper they had noted that individuals in clinical training programs concerned with critical medical care must learn to manage clinical cases effectively as a member of a team.

“However, practice on live patients is often unpredictable and frequently repetitive,” they said. “The widely substituted alternative for real patients-high-fidelity, manikin-based simulators (human patient simulator)-are expensive and require trainees to be in the same place at the same time, whereas online computer-based simulations, or virtual worlds, allow simultaneous participation from different locations.”

In the paper they present three virtual world studies for team training and assessment in acute-care medicine: (1) training emergency department (ED) teams to manage individual trauma cases; (2) prehospital and in-hospital disaster preparedness training; (3) training ED and hospital staff to manage mass casualties after chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive incidents.

For the project the  research team created realistic virtual victims of trauma (6 cases), nerve toxin exposure (10 cases), and blast trauma (10 cases); the latter two groups were supported by rules-based, pathophysiologic models of asphyxia and hypovolemia.

Event

December 12, SLtime,  10 am-4:30pm: The Louisiana Invitational Conference, Virtual Worlds in Higher Education presented by the University of New Orleans, Southeastern Louisiana University, Southern University in New Orleans and Tulane University, at The Louisiana Regents Estate in Second Life. Keynote speaker: Jeremy Kemp, instructional designer at San Jose University’s School of Library & Information Science. Other speakers:  Thomas Kohler, of the University of Innsbruck, Joshua Squires, of the University of Georgia, Daniel Livingstone, of the University of West Scotland, and Gwenette Sinclair, of Kennesaw State University. No entrance fee. If you would like to attend the conference, visit http://virtualcampus.uno.edu/ and click “Register.” You will need to provide your name, avatar name, and e-mail.

The SLENZ Update – No 23, November 08, 2008

**ALERT: FOR SLENZERS **

Version 4 of the “Process for learning design for the SLENZ project” has been published by joint project leader Terry Neal and Leigh Blackall. Its aims are to set out a process for designing learning activities to achieve the SLENZ project objectives. The full text is available for SLENZERS at http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dd2zdcf6_0c5trmf3n or on this blog under the heading to the left, SLENZ Project.

Social network + Web 3 = VWs

If you have been thinking that Virtual Worlds are not the wave of the future a recent report from In-Stat should help to dispel those thoughts.
But, given the current world economy, there might be few at the New Zealand end of the world who can afford to read the US$2995, 58-page report.instat
“Evidence supports the conclusion that the ‘killer application’ that is critical to virtual worlds-and, by extension, to Web 3.0-is, in fact, already here and it is none other than social networking,” said Vahid Dejwakh, an analyst with In-Stat, a part of Reed Business Information and a segment of the US$8 billion Reed Elsevier global information network.
As blogging and the ability to comment on news items online are, in essence, popularising and decentralising the news industry, so too are virtual worlds popularising and decentralising the gaming, meeting, and 3D graphic design industries, In-Stat reported. (http://www.in-stat.com/press.asp?ID=2405&sku=IN0804326CM)
Virtual worlds – especially the 3D kinds, such as Second Life – were classified under the Web 3.0 category because of their profound ability to integrate multiple types of content, information sources, and feeds into one highly engaging and interactive format, the research organisation said.
In-Stat found:
* Total registered users of virtual worlds are expected to exceed 1 billion and total revenue is expected to exceed US$3 billion by 2012.
* 70 percent of the more than 300 million registered users of virtual worlds are younger than 18.
* Virtual world companies earn close to 90 percent of their revenue from the sale of virtual items, currency, land, and fees associated with these items.
In addition to Web 3.0 applicability, In-Stat identified nine other critical components of virtual worlds, including user-generated content, social networking, virtual items, an economy, and business integration. In-Stat then rated each virtual world company according to these ten components. All ten platforms scored the maximum points possible in the social networking category, which emerged as the one critical element to virtual worlds.
The research, Virtual Worlds and Web 3.0: Examined, Compared, Analyzed (#IN0804326CM), covers the worldwide market for virtual worlds. It provides analysis of this form of gaming and social networking including profiles of 17 virtual worlds.
It also includes forecasts of worldwide registered users and revenue for virtual worlds through 2012. User demographics and market shares of virtual worlds are also provided.
Info: http://www.instat.com/catalog/mmcatalogue.asp?id=212

Where will the girls be?

Given the ubiquity of Playstation buffs, especially  young (18-35) men, could “Home”, the upcoming, console-based virtual world for the PlayStation 3, eventually develop into  a serious rival for the current crop of  Virtual Worlds?

That question arose from a recent interview with Jack Buser, Sony’s Director for PlayStation Home who told Virtualworldnews that the immersive platform which is due to launch as open beta late this year “will always be evolving and living and breathing.”http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2008/11/playstation-home-to-be-evolving-living-and-breathing-platform.html

“We’ll launch within open beta,” he said. “That means two things. It will be available to all PlayStation users at no cost. But there will obviously be a certain percentage of people who want to stand out from the crowd andplaystation3 customise their avatar with certain items or have a premium space and they will have that option within the PlayStation Mall, but it is not required. Second, we are calling it an open beta for a specific reason. Home will always be evolving. You will be seeing new stuff, including new technology.

“It’s important to realise the scope of PlayStation Home. When you look around, it’s just the icing on the cake,” Buser was quoted as saying. “The cake is that it’s a development platform for third parties to develop content on. We want Home to scale rapidly, and we figured the best way to do that is to get third parties involved. After launch, you’re going to see Home grow rapidly with new media, new content, and new experiences, coming quite rapidly. That’s absolutely been the demand from the users.”

Given the demographic and social networking needs of the age group the only question is where will the girls be?

Stopping trash talk

censored

I’ve always been dead against censorship in Second Life believing that thought processes should never be censored but I recently received  my comeuppance while showing an elderly and rather conservative new user into  a PG-rated welcome area.

I had not been into a Welcome area for a long time (pre-voice days) and I was appalled -she was too – by the bad language in SL voice and trash talk by all and sundry, but especially loud-mouthed yobbo males, who referred continuously to various parts of their anatomy and what they planned to do with it or what they wanted to do with the girls present.

Muting worked but  my uncalled for feeling was that the Lindens should police PG welcome areas much more proficiently if businessmen and women, educators and their students are going to move freely through this michael-leeworld.

Thus I was interested in Michael Lee’s (pictured) blog  http://www.redherring.com/blogs/25281 in which he noted Microsoft had been granted a patent to filter and censor undesired words in real-time. The automatic system would process everything being said and alter the unwanted words so that they are, according to the patent, “either unintelligible or inaudible.”

Microsoft, he said, understood that “censorship of spoken language can be annoying if each obscenity or profanity is “bleeped” to obscure it so that it is not understood, particularly if the frequency with which such utterances occur is too great.” The company, theefore, has opted to either lower the volume below audibility, replacing the word with an acceptable word or phrase, or taking out the word completely.
Lee said Microsoft’s proposed technology would work in real-time – a practical solution when it comes to the many simultaneous conversations that take place in online multiplayer games.

Now when is SL going to avail itself of the technology?

Virtual crime

thief2

With virtual crime in virtual worlds on the rise, Nick Abrahams,  a Partner and Sydney Office Chairman of law firm, Deacons, has published an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald looking at online and virtual world theft, fraud, sex and relationships and their failure .http://www.smh.com.au/news/technology/biztech/virtual-crime-is-on-the-rise/2008/11/03/1225560726242.html

[Illustration: Screenshot from: “Thief: Deadly Shadows,” published by Eidos http://www.eidos.co.uk/gss/thief_ds/]

EVENTS

November 15 (SL time, 9am- 5pm): Virtual Praxis: A Conference on Women’s Community in Second Life will be held on Minerva, the teaching and research space in Second Life maintained by The Department of Women’s Studies, Ohio State University. Registration free, conference registration/information. http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/collingwood7/minerva/conference.html. Workshops for conference attendees who are new to Second Life will be held at noon and at 5:00 pm SL time on Friday, November 14. To participate IM Ellie Brewster, or e-mail collingwood.7@osu.edu.

September 24-26, 2009: SLACTIONS 2009, research conference in the Second Life® world as well as real world: “Life, Imagination, and work using Metaverse platforms”. Important dates – Current: Scope and call for papers covering full spectrum of intellectual disciplines and technological endeavors in which any Metaverse platforms are currently being used: from education to business, sociology to social sciences, media production to technology development, architecture and urban planning to the arts. February 28, 2009 – Deadline for paper submissions. OpenSim, Open Croquet, Activeworlds, Open Source Metaverse and Project Wonderland are among the other VWs are on the agenda. SLACTION currently has chapters in Brazil, Hong Kong, USA and Europe. The organisers, from some of the world’s leading tertiary insitutions, have invited Australian and New Zealand academic institutions or private research institutions to set up  local physical chapters. Information:  http://www.slactions.org/