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Archive for the ‘Virtual Learning Environments’ Category

 

Last October I reported hearing Chris Melissinos from Sun Microsystems predict that in the future we’d all have Avatars which could move from platform to platform. That future may be starting to materialize. If you haven’t heard the latest news, Linden Labs (Second Life creator) and IBM have successfully collaborated on the transportation of avatars between two platforms - the Second Life Preview Grid and an OpenSim virtual world server. This is an industry-first in virtual world interoperability. But how sweeping is this innovation?

Start with the facts: check out the full story, and the video. However, be warned, the narration on the video is amateurishly dramatic.  IBM’s press release.       Video.

Here’s a good article from Business Technology explaining the significance of the avatar swap, “Avatars Teleport Away from Second Life.

Now, for a deeper analysis of, if not critical look at this news, read Craig Roth’s post, “Second Life Avatars Teleport, But the Virtual Moving Truck Stays Behind.” Here’s a quick excerpt: 

It’s worth noting that this (experiment) was from one test grid to another and only involved the avatar, not any items, script, or currency. (Clothes didn’t tag along.) To me, this is a nice stunt.  It gets attention for its sci-fi undertones, but doesn’t address the real barriers to mobility in virtual worlds, nor does it do much to address disgruntled Second Life residents. 
Roth raises the quintessential question about intellecutal property in a virtual world. He asks: “How can intellectual property be protected when it can be infinitely copied and transferred?”

Ok, so the sheer excitement of this recent announcement may have a limited shelf-life, as the pundits get down to nitty-gritty critques of just exactly what was – or wasn’t – accomplished here. Clearly, inter-application transportation of avatars has a ways to go, not just in terms of technical developments (transferring of digital assets) but also in terms of hammering out the myriad intellectual property (IP) and avatar identity security issues. We have been attempting to iron out IP issues with varying degrees of success, in the 2D educational world. I can’t imagine we’ll stop on that front, when we get to a 3D interface.

I don’t doubt for one minute that Chris Melissinos’s predicted future will arrive within a decade. Here’s an excerpt from my October post, commenting on Chris’ predictions:

Sooner or later, we will have access to virtual world (VW) identities where we only have to create one avatar which will be universally recognized after logging in. Applications will have layers of security, just as commercial sites have now via https (or the padlock) so we can choose when to render personal information or more importantly, when and how to share information and products such as course curriculum, that we build inside the VW.

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The Space Navigator

2D controllers move over. Here’s a relatively new product from 3Dconnexion, a subsidiary of Logitech. The Space Navigator  was originally designed as a controller for 3D applications such as CAD/CAM or 3D graphics programs. However, the Popular Mechanics review of the gadget (video below) claims that 3Dconnexion is billing it as a Google Earth controller.

 

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGBPKMgvSJQ&feature=user]

 

So imagine the possibilities of using this thing in Second Life (SL) for example. Well, imagine no more. Torley from Linden Labs just posted a YouTube video yesterday indicating how Linden Labs and 3Dconnexion are collaborating so this device can be supported in SL.

 

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEAyMDDSh5g&feature=related]

 

Here’s one more video, showing Beast Linden demoing the product.

http://www.3dconnexion.com/solutions/sl_video.php

The price of it? A quick Internet search showed it going at $52 at the low end. If anyone is using this product, let me know. User posts only (vendor posts will not be approved).

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Minnesota State Colleges and Universities logo 

I went to our annual RSP/ITeach Conference this past Friday. The conference sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning (of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system), was held last week at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. The conference brought together more than 1100 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities faculty to:

  • Discuss teaching in their disciplines
  • Demonstrate best practices in teaching
  • Present the results of innovative experiments in instructional development and instructional technologies

True to form, the conference was inspiring and provided a great opportunity to network with colleagues.  

I conducted one of the 100+ sessions and am uploading my presentation slides below.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable – the Landscape of eLearning is Changing

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Ok, another post on virtual worlds and immersive learning environments. Sorry, but this is a huge focus of my work these days, and I’m going to be pit bull-esque on this topic, for a while. 

I just came off of a couple of days this week filled with meetings and discussions having to do with 3D virtual worlds. In fact, I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Melissinos, Sun Microsystems’ Chief Gaming Officer on two occasions this week. I think Chris would describe himself as a gaming parent raising gaming children.

Chris Melissinos  

User AvatarChris’ Avatar

In my attempt to understand the differences among the existing 3D gaming engines, I think I finally have a handle on what distinguishes Sun Mircosystems’ new MPK20 (built on top of the Project Darkstar server infrastructure) from Second Life or the Croquet Project. Although the latter two are considered Open Source, whatever is built in those platforms, stays in those platforms. Conversely, Sun’s MPK20 (geez, that’s a techie name) will use open API’s which means any assets you want to work with (e.g., objects, tools, buildings, your own avatar) will be importable and exportable.

One thing you will be able to do with MPK20 is use other applications right in it.  So distributed teams of people, for example, can gather ’round a kiosk showing a Visio flow diagram or a 3D engineering model. The team can then work on building the model together in this virtual space, talking to each other via VoIP. You might say, well, we can do this presently in existing Web conferencing tools which offer desktop or application sharing, so why do we need to do it in a virtual space? 

I’m not sure I can answer this yet, but Chris would say, the virtual world is a train with no brakes - you can either get on the train or stay on the tracks. That the developers are adding the functionalities we already value, I believe is a good thing. But whether 3D worlds hold positive prospects for you or not, one distinction is worth noting. Instead of being an observer of what’s occurring in one dimensional software programs, with 3D worlds you actually become part of the environment momentarily forgetting about the physical space you occupy. People who are comfortable in these worlds likely will have a leg up on future careers.

The push of the 3D applications among other things, is proof that people are looking for a deeper means of approximating real connection with each other in the digital world. What’s is likely to occur once practiced in multiple 3D spaces is a blurring between one’s real self and one’s virtual self, as people seamlessly use one of their “selves” to meet up with people, transact business, or teach or take courses. Die-hard gamers may already know this phenomenon.

Chris envisions that sooner or later, we will have access to virtual world (VW) identities where we only have to create one avatar which will be universally recognized after logging in. Applications will have layers of security, just as commercial sites have now via https (or the padlock) so we can choose when to render personal information or more importantly, when and how to share information and products such as course curriculum, that we build inside the VW.

Here’s another Sun video, well-worth watching. It’s their new MPK20 virtual workplace demo video, fresh off the virtual cutting floor. (October 2007).

You’ll need Quick Time V7.0 to view it.

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