The SLENZ Update – No 104, June 24, 2009

CYBERPSYCHOLOGY

The Virtual World challenges

facing mental health research

The challenges health professionals face in using virtual worlds have more to do with the commercial cost of developing serious games or health purpose virtual worlds rather than with the quality of the environments being delivered over the internet or through off-the-shelf games,  according to  Dr Andrew Campbell, an Australian researcher  in Cyberpsychology.

In a wide-ranging interview with  Lowell Cremorne, of  The Metaverse Journal, the director of the Prometheus Research Team at the University of Sydney,  said that in addition to this, research, looking at how  immersive environments could be used to tackle problems  in health, behaviour and education, was  facing a health professional vs tech industry challenge in trying to effectively harness the ideas for scientifically-based delivery of health interventions.

“In short,” Campbell (pictured left) said, “the health professionals need to learn more about the tech industry and vice versa. Once this bridge is finally built, I believe we will be entering a new error of technology consumerism – games for wellbeing and ICT for personal health management.”Campbell, Dr Andrew

Campbell’s primary job is an academic researcher and teacher in the field of Psychology, particularly Cyberpsychology, which is the study of how technology is impacting human behaviour, both in good and bad ways. Secondly, he is a general practice psychologist who specialises in child and adolescent mental health and behavioural problems. His clinical work is focused on treating children with ADD/ADHD, anxiety and depression, conduct problems, as well as parental counselling and family therapy.

His fascinating interview with Cremorne covers gaming and violence and addiction and  the often-hidden benefits of  video games – “parents themselves do not know anything about the games their children are playing” .

Based on his experience he is dismissive of the anecdotal direct causative link between the regular playing of violent games and violent real-life behaviour.

“Playing a violent game is no more likely to trigger someone’s violent behaviour than eating your favourite food is going to motivate you to become a chef,” he told Cremorne.

Conversely a  number of studies of gaming, he said, had shown wonderful results through helping people to ameliorate either behaviour or, in some cases, the management of pain.

This is only a very limited taste of the full interview which you should read  here.

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The SLENZ Update – No 16, October 16, 2008

CPAs get SL picture

One  never thinks of  accountants as being enthusiastic about innovation – it can put red on the bottomline – but Australia’s accountants have greeted the concept of Second Life with gusto.

Their enthusiasm came after Australian Second Life residents Lee Hopkins (Lee Laperriere), an online communications strategist and Lindy McKeown ( Decka Mah), an educational consultant, presented the first Chartered Practising Accountants’ event in Second Life for the CPA Australian Congress.

The presentation attracted Second Life accountancy professionals from Mildura, Tumut, Euroa, Tamworth, Cairns, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and London, Liverpool, Detroit and New York.

One of the CPA organisers, Alex Dalidakis, expresses the CPA delight at the success of the in-world congress and gives tips on how to run a congress in  his blog. http://lovenumbertwo.blogspot.com/2008/10/running-second-life-event.html.

Hopkins also provides details in his blog http://www.leehopkins.net/ and the presentation at http://www.leehopkins.net/downloads/virtu al-worlds-for-finance-professionals-v2.pdf

Y’all welcome

Dr Ross Brown demonstrates YAWL

The Queensland University of Technology, a pioneer in the development of Second Life applications such as “Air Gondwana” for law students, has devised YAWL, which stands for “Yet Another Workflow Language”, a business language based on Second Life. http://www.news.qut.edu.au/cgi-bin/WebObjects/News.woa/wa/goNewsPage?newsEventID=20357

Used for training people for work in hazardous scenarios such as mining, health and fire fighting, YAWL, among a clutch of new services fostered by the Smart Services Co-operative Research Centre, takes them into Second Life to give them a first taste of the risks they will encounter when they enter the workforce.

The centre, groups 18 industry, government and research partners across Australia including the Queensland and NSW governments,  with a seven-year budget of A$120 million, including a grant of A$30.8million from the Federal Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. QUT is its largest academic contributor and the Queensland Government and its local partners (SAP, Suncorp and RACQ) have invested A$38 million. Other partners include UNSW, University of Sydney, RMIT, Swinburne University of Technology and the University of Wollongong and Infosys, Telstra, Sensis, Austin Health and Fairfax Digital.

YAWL is the brainchild of QUT software engineering lecturer Dr Ross Brown, who says the way to create more effective lesson plans is to combine virtual worlds such as Second Life with workflow systems traditionally used to guide people through tasks within organisations. YAWL provides a simple interface that hides its complexities while exploiting the benefits of virtual-world technology.

Dr Brown says YAWL allows educators and businesses to take the learning process to where the students and workers are. “We can use YAWL to create virtual, training environments for industries such as health, mining or fire fighting where the actual danger is removed but people can train in a realistic environment,” he said.

Another use is the provision of One-Stop Personalised Financial Services project, involving SAP, Suncorp and QUT researchers, to help bank customers with their financial planning.

What’s the future?

Educators and  their institution administrators often question just where virtual 3D world technology is going. Many put off dipping their toes in the water for this reason. There are promoters, detractors  and fence sitters.

A recent SLED debate, however, has come up with some interesting “rants” on  just where immersive worlds are going and what the future for education within them is.

None was more interesting than that of wellknown – in immersive VW education circles  – than that of Modesto, California’s Stan Trevena (Quidit Small), in what he described as a”rant” on future virtual world developments.

Noting that all SLED debates on the future developments of virtual worlds were focused on Second Life, the Second Life beta tester said he believed inside of four years educators will be hosting their own servers behind their own firewalls, and “not all of us will choose OpenSim”.

“There will be public grids that we will attach to when necessary.  We will be able to link our grids with other education organisations through portals and linking grids.  We will teleport between places of interest, not walk or fly.  We will make our first moves towards a distributed or federated model in the next three years with our virtual worlds (we must come up with a new term, virtual to me means “not real”).”

But, he added, it was at least another year and a half before the first viable alternatives to Second Life  would emerge.

But even though everything was moving towards the Internet becoming the Metaverse and webpages becoming grids, he said, unless there was a breakthrough with Grid/Cloud Computing none of the models (including Second Life) could be scaled to the sizes necessary for mainstream adoption.

“Someone will come along and do for avatar transport what IBM did for eCommerce in the 1990s,” he said. “You will have a core avatar that is your personal (and verifiable) identity.  Dropping into different worlds you will be able to take on alternative identities while still keeping the link to your assets and identity.  We’ll get there in less than 10 years.   Early attempts at this will take place inside of five years.

“Private individuals and small business will be able to pay monthly fees for services to host anything from a personal space to a full size grid.  Some of these will be business and education-focused with heavy emphasis on applications, collaboration and communication.  Others will be more like the fantasy MMO’s of today.  Expect all the same advertising as you see on the web now to offset costs and drive traffic in these future grids.  And all of these will move to industry standard 3D file formats for compatibility issues.  If I want to bring my ‘Legendary Sword of Knowledge’ from World of Starcraft back to my OpenSim property to show it off to my guild, I’ll be able to do that.

“Second Life as it exists today has hit its limits,” he said. “Until there is a major shift in the infrastructure (database) and underlying design we will continue to be stuck in sub-100k concurrent user ceilings.  The performance of the avatars in Second Life pale in comparison to ‘games’ of today … portability will become more important in the equation, again pushing towards a OS and device independence.  Even at this early of a stage in Wonderland’s development upgrades to the client are a no brainer and everyone gets them on their next log-in because it’s web based.  Version 0.5 will be out after the first of the year, early look videos in the next month or two.  We’ll have to see how the new avatar skeletal system is implemented.

“We are passing through a necessary stage right now, but this is not what it will be like in the not too distant future.  We all need to expand our vision beyond just Second Life and OpenSim.  Far too many of our discussions and projections are limited to our fixation on this one platform for education.  And photo realism may not be the ultimate virtual world goal.  And let’s not forget augmented reality and the potential there for mass adoption by the mainstream in portable devices. “

Among the comments was one from  Tom Werner (Carston Courier) who said the only thing that had surprised him in the rant was the projected timeframes. He guessed half the timeframe for

a distributed/federated model and for asset-retention while visiting different worlds.

“It just seems to me that we hear about some new development or world almost every day (Wonderland, Croquet, Qwaq, OpenSim, IBM teleportation, Forterra, sandbox games like GTA 4, Google Lively, ExitReality, Ogoglio, etc., etc.),” he said. ” I just visited Prototerra last week. It was intriguing. They can handle an ‘infinite’ number of avatars in a space by setting a max number of avatars in a space to X and then duplicating the setting instantly at X+1.

“Anyway, I would have seat-of-the-pants guesstimated that open-source-on-your-own-server + distributed model + linking worlds + 3D file-format standards + import-your-own-assets would be here TWO years from now.”