Tag Archive for 'virtual worlds'

Towards “the real feeling of presence”

Many organizations today are having employees working remotely. This may be working from a home office or perhaps they are based at a client’s office.  In my case i’m currently working from home as i’m recovering from an accident and not being able to travel. Not being able to be physically present at the office brings along some issues with team collaboration or knowledge sharing. Not to forget that having (physical) contact with colleagues inspires, engage and provides energy.

Many technologies can help getting a bit of a feeling of “presence”, connectiveness, immersive… etc. One example is using tools like Twitter to keep connected. I’m also using Skype a lot, which i still think ROCKS in this technology. To date i’ve had several opportunities to attend meetings at the office through the use of Skype. Having the webcam pointed at the team absolutely helps to have an improved feeling of presence. Being able to see someone speak and watch their non verbal signals is of absolute great value in this respect.

Lately i’m also involved in a project where we investigate the value and design and development of virtual worlds. I’ve seen several (recent) initiatives that focus on the use of virtual worlds for team collaboration.

Immersive Workspaces in SL

Linden Labs just recently issued a press release in which they anounce the Immersive Workspaces initiative. This is a collaboration with Run Rivers Red and is developed exclusively on the Second Life Grid. The movie below gives you a view on what Immersive Workspaces is.

I’ve not been able yet to actually experience the new service myself, but the promo video looks very interesting. I think this is the first really innovative attempt of Linden Labs to get more into the corporate use of Second Life. What i like about the initiative is that it is designed around real world business processes and applications. It does not attempt to provide a Second corporate Life, rather it attempts to enhance or complement real life experiences. A sort of same approach we see in other initiatives like Sun’s “Project Wonderland” or IBM’s “Bluegrass” initiative.

Project Wonderland

Project Wonderland is a Java based open source initiative in which’ development Sun Microsystems plays an important role. Wonderland has been initially developed by Sun in order to provide their employees an immersive 3d space for collaboration.

Part 1: Project Wonderland Technical Overview from Nicole Yankelovich on Vimeo.

Wonderland is currently still in early stages of development but offers great perspectives. The 0.5 release is soon to be expected which among others will include radically improved game graphics and avatar engine. These two important aspects are quite unacceptable in the current release, especially for those who are used to advanced graphics in commercial games like World of Warcraft. For more info watch the Wonderland 0.5 video. What i like about the project is that it is initiated by Sun from a real business process issue. They have 50% of their workforce working remotely at any given day, says Nicole Yankelovich. From this perspective they are creating an environment in which employees can work together and have all their applications shared in the 3d world.

I don’t  know if  3d online spaces in which i can use all my tools and collaborate constantly with my collegues and others are the ultimate solution, perhaps video conferencing can be more efficient in some situations. But it is sure a very interesting topic of research. The problem is real and the issues that it brings along are evident. As the number of employees working remote  are likely to increase more and more, initiatives like Wonderland and Immersive Workspaces are steps towards environments that are able to facilitate collaboration processes that provide the real feeling of presence.

[last edited on November 20 at 12:00]

Design of virtual worlds

I’ve just listened to an intersting interview with Jim Bower of Whyville, a virtual world for kids to chat, play and learn.

Jim argues for more understanding in how to design engaging learning activities. He tells us that engaging experiences in virtual worlds need to build around the combination of three major components:

  • social objects
  • economics
  • creation

A nice example of such a learning experience seems to be the new music maker in Whyville. Kids get the opportunity to create there own music tracks. They are able to listen to their music with friends and they can sell their music for so-called “clams” on the Whyville market.  From the sell records (out-sell of iTunes?) we can tell that there is maximum engagements though its hard to tell or measure what have been learned, I think.

Jim Bower argues that “traditional education is going to have to come to terms with the fact that its methods may no longer be the most effective way for learning to happen.” He’s trying to get schools to use Whyville as a didactic tool but sees a lot of resistance, “its too different from traditional school”. Jim thinks that vitual worlds best fit in the “workforce curriculum” as this is a rather new curriculum and schools are more open for new approaches. An interesting point from a organizational change perspective.

Virtual worlds for learning

This week I’ve spend a couple of hours on updating my knowledge on the latest developments in virtual worlds and their possibilities for learning. In this post I’ll outline some of my finding. When I’ve reviewed this weeks material of CCK08 on networks I hope to publish soon about the possibilities for learning networks in virtual worlds.

I’ve tagged interesting sites at del.icio.us under virtualworlds.

I was specifically asked to look into Croquet and Active Worlds but being used to resident in Second Life I found the interface of AW difficult and graphics boring. Then i reminded myself that i still didn’t look into Google’s new service called Lively so started with that.

Basically the concept of Google Lively is that everyone can easily create his own little virtual world, which they call rooms. The idea is that you can easily integrate a room to existing websites so you can add your Lively Room to your weblog for example. In that sense Lively is different then eg Second Life because its not one big world but many separate rooms. I’ve tried it as well and added a room to my weblog. You can enter my sunny Island and if you are very, very lucky someone will be there to chat with you :) , all you need is a Google account. Graphics are great and its very easy to use. I really think it could add value to the conversation on weblogs. It makes real time communication added with the context (= blog items) possible.  Lively rooms make a connection with what already exists, namely a website, blog, wiki or moodle environment instead of creating an external world thats not connected with our reality. Unfortunately the software at this time is relatively closed and its not easy for the community to contribute. If that’s going to change I would love to see more Lively rooms in learning environments!

Another thing i looked into was Multiverse.

“Multiverse enables development teams to create high-quality, unique, and engaging virtual worlds and MMOGs faster and for less cost than ever before.”

This is more like a platform (OS) for development, but they recently have started with a new virtual world which is called “Multiverse Places”.

I really like the concept of this virtual world in which every member has his or her own appartment. I see this as your 3d Facebook profile. There are also ways to connect with your Facebook profile. It is a way to profile yourself and who you are in your real life. Its important to have connections with real life. Besides your appartment you can visit other people appartment or you can visit publice places like the Times Square, this is a place where you can network and meet other people. Multiverse says that within time, game elements will be added as well.

Many posibilities but i hope learn more myself about how learning networks in these types of virtual worlds can be established in order to provide our learners a great virtual learning experience.