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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Elements of a Virtual World/Metaverse



Using a virtual world or metaverse for training is not as science-fiction as it sounds. A metaverse or virtual world is simply the natural extension and convergence of several technologies currently used for online learning.

The first software element that makes up a virtual world is a synchronous learning tool similar to WebEx or Adobe Connect or Saba’s Centra. Synchronous learning tools allow for real-time interaction on a computer among learners separated by great distances. At a designated time, an instructor logs into the software as do the learners.. Then instructor and learners have the ability to speak with one another through text or voice-based chat.

The second software element of a metaverse is the ability to easily create content within the virtual world. This is similar to the Web 2.0 capabilities of wikis or blogs where changes, updates and additions are easily made to web sites without the contributor needing to know HTML or any programming language. In a metaverse, learners can build their own items such as houses, cars or even giant routers.

Another important element of a metaverse is the social networking capability. The social networking aspects of a metaverse allow learners to interact and share data and information with each other while in the virtual world. When a person, in the form of an avatar, creates an object such as a briefcase or laptop, they can share that item with other people.

While these software elements are available in many different programs, what pulls all of them together is the fact that the social networking, real-time interactions and creation of content is done in a world similar to video game interfaces where characters and the environment are rendered in three-dimension. This provides a realistic feel to the interaction and helps the learners feel that they are in an actual space working, learning and collaborating together.

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2 comments:

rjservant said...

Speaking of video game interface adaptation, how long until SecondLife incorporates Nintendo Wii-style interface into it's software? It's probably a little ways away, but it allows for some interesting possibilities.

Karl Kapp said...

rjservant,

I've already seen some hacks on YouTube of the Wiimote and Second Life. I imagine not long until a commercial version becomes available.