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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Class Meeting in 3D World of VirtualU

Virtual immersive environments come in all shapes and sizes even though many people tend to only think of Second Life when they think of virtual worlds. But there are many alternatives that are being deployed in a variety of applications. Last night the class ventured into VirtualU for a tour hosted by Jim and Steve Parker who have created a virtual platform build on Active Worlds.

Gathering in the lobby before class starts.

Jim gave us a description of how the software worked, went over the interface and provided navigation hints and direction. Then we began our tour of the virtual world.

Checking out the virtual exhibit hall.

The exhibit hall provided a show case for vendor products and services and if you clicked on the exhibit for information, the system could launch a web site and gather information to assist the vendor in tracking visitors. The hall is large and looks just like a conference exhibit hall. Jim admitted that many virtual world participants he's dealt with are not yet ready for the virtual conference hall and that it is not as popular as first anticipated. I think one way to make the hall a little more attractive is to change the venue, maybe to an outdoor area or within a factory or within some location relevant to the conference or exhibit. Imagine have a conference about manufacturing and the exhibit hall was set up in a factory or a medial conference set up in a hospital.

We then went to a large conference room that they use for hybrid events, with some people attending an event live and some attending virtually. Both have the ability to experience the same event through Twitter feeds and streaming video.

Checking out the communication channels 
available during large group gatherings.

Next we went to a venue that seems to be taking off in virtual immersive environments, museums.

Examining a piece of art and having 
the ability to zoom in very close on the details.

Jim indicated that museums see the creation of virtual immersive environments as a way of making their exhibits and offerings available to more people and of creating levels of immersion that might not be cost effective in the physical world. For example, one could hear the artists story of why a particular painting was created, see the artists at work on the painting and examine the painting up close all in an interactive environment. And, at times, the artist could appear at the gallery or museum and explain his or her piece to anyone who rezzed in the world.

Looking at detailed art work.

Checking out the T-Rex exhibit.
 You could never ride the T-Rex in an actual museum.

Another interesting use of the virtual immersive environment is for small museums, such as a home of a famous historical person. The museum can create a space that can be "experienced" and not just viewed behind barriers or glass. It can also make some of the small spaces which are inaccessible to handicapped individuals accessible.

Examining the Futon Room in first person perspective.

Students learned that when manipulating and avatar in small spaces, first-person view is often most effective. The subject of scale was also addressed. Jim mentioned that an issue they often deal with is whether or not to make the space 100% to scale (which can lead to the feeling of being confined when you have lots of avatars in the same space) or do you make it more avatar friendly but loose the authenticity of the original scale. Interesting dilemma for developers of authentic virtual reproductions of historical spaces.

Jim then showed the class how to conduct individual break out sessions by having private chat spaces where two or more avatars can carry on a conversation without the rest of the people in the area hearing what they are saying. You could have several such areas for group work during a session in a virtual immersive environment.
Conducting a private chat with 15 students.

Next we visited an authentic reproduction of the home town of Lucille Ball which is Jamestown, New York. The town is a reproduction so that people can understand how to navigate the town. I think the possibilities are tremendous for this type of application. Imagine a college setting up a town so potential students can "walk downtown" of the college to see what it is like or a town's tourism bureau could have this created so you could get the "lay of the land" prior to setting foot in the town.

The Lucille Ball mural.

Checking out the hotels, virtually, in Jamestown, NY

Finally, we visited a music festival venue where they plan to hold live concerts in a Webstock type of venue.

All in all it was a great tour of the VirtualU campus, we ended at a reproduction of the campus of an institute and learned a great deal about the potential uses of virtual worlds for museums, training organizations and others.

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jquinn95 said...

VirtualU was another unique experience. Certainly there were similarities to Second Life and yet it has in its own very different feel as well. We really did get to 'see' a lot of areas within VirtualU - I got kicked out a couple of times and what was disconcerting was 'losing' your class - certainly a condition unique to 3-D learning. You're not going to attend a university class on campus and have your classmates disappear (I hope!)... Luckily I have a friend in the class (thanks, Sheila!) who was able to let me know where everyone was when I got back in each time or I wouldn't have found everyone. Perhaps an agenda for 'stops' on the tour would be helpful so that people returning to the world can find classmates ;-)

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed my experience in VirtualU. In comparison to SL (Second Life) VirtualU was a lot more learning friendly. There were less distractions in VirtualU yet a lot to see and we were still able to customize our avatars.

I believe VirtualU was a lot less cluttered feeling and more clean cut then SL which makes it ideal for corporations to utilize.(In SL there are less limitations and more people running around doing whatever they want).

I loved the idea of having conferences, being able to break into separate groups, and have private discussions all while our avatars were in the same room. I also enjoyed the auditorium where users could watch videos of speakers however at first it was a bit awkward to be watching a video from a virtual world.

The environment ran very smoothly for me except when I had Firefox up behind it because it interfered with flying.

I also love the idea of being able to reproduce other places (although you could do it in SL but it seems like a better idea for VirtualU). I think it would be fantastic to be able to virtually explore a city/mall/university/etc.. before going there or even to visit restaurants in the virtual world and look at menus.

Sheila 207 said...

VirtuaU was more exciting for me because I did not have the difficulty I had with SL. This environment worked well.
I found the museum quite interesting. This would be great for an art teacher to use for a lesson. I have no doubt that the students would enjoy this type of learning instead of books. More engaging and motivating.
I also found the area that had music playing entertaining. It took a few moments to understand how to stop the music from playing so I could listen to the speakers. But still, another engaging way for students to learn about, possibly classical music, once a session was established.
I can see how these types of environments would make teaching a little more exciting. The only thing is having the time to locate useful ones or create your own. I need to be a bit more tech savvy.

Marina Miranda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marina Miranda said...

It was a great experience to be at Virtual U because, different from Second Life, it was much easier to use and it is a much more professional environment.

One of the things that it was easier was to change your Avatar. It was simpler and less time to show up the clothes in Virtual U. Another thing is that all the environments, as I said before, are very professionals and educational as well.

One thing in particular that I really liked was the tour in the museum. I thing this idea of being in a virtual world with actual pictures, and paintings are great! It makes you feel as if you were there!

This was a great experience for me because I was very impressed with all the new things that you can do with the virtual world. The guidance of Jim and Steve Parker were very important for us; it was very good that they were there to help us!

Jordan said...

VirtualU was certainily a cool experience. The attention to detail was incredible! It blew second life out of the water.I feel students and professionals would take this a lot more serious than Second Life. Jim and Steve were really excited to show us their world. They believe that 3D worlds can be the future of learning and they are working hard to ensure that. Though I think SL and VirtualU are really cool, I can't see every major company having it. I don't think companies have the time to create avtars, make sure their systems are up to date, and it takes time to get used to the programs itself. But hey I could be wrong! As for the school envoirnment I think that is where 3D worlds will excell. Students will be able to learn material and actually surround themselves with it! I would have loved to use SL when I was in grade school.

Unknown said...

Virtual U was definitely a different taste of 3D environments. I enjoyed Virtual U a lot! I think it had a lot more aspects that dealt with just learning than Second Life.

Second Life is also a unique experience, but I think the tour in Virtual U gave us all more insight to the learning aspect of 3D worlds.

The dinosaur room was one of my favorites! The captions that were by the paintings was a unique way to provide information to learners, too. I really enjoyed the conference tables where if you positioned yourself inside the outer circle of the table and chairs, you were immediately immersed in the "skype-like" atmosphere. But, when you stepped outside of the circle, you could no longer hear the audio from the conversation that was taking place. This is definitely a unique feature!

I've never heard of Virtual U until class, so I really hope this has a break through like Second Life. I can see this being a great asset to learning environments, and companies of all sorts.

Unknown said...

If I had to compare Virtual U to Second life, experience wise, I would say my Virtual U experience was more fulfilling. Don't get me wrong, Second Life is very detailed and a great experience, but the problem with Second Life is it's to inclusive. Virtual U limited your ability stray off, which enabled you to keep your interest longer.

The dinosaur room was very cool and immediately opened great ideas in my mind for a rich learning experience. As Dr. Kapp mentioned in this blog there are so many options out there to expand on, not just a closed auditorium room, why not have a real factory setting, with working machines.

I did some work for Kellogg's Pop-Tart factory earlier this year and using this kind of world in training would be exceptional! The current training we put together is a boring print-based compilation of monotonous information that bores the trainees very fast! Although this bores them, this is what Kellogg's specifically request. I believe the workers at that factory would gain much more from the training by using a controlled 3d world such as Virtual U. I remember the first time I went to the factory for my orientation tour. I was overwhelmed and totally lost as I walked around. Now imagine that before I went to that factory, I logged into a 3d virtual world like Virtual U and took an all-inclusive tour. It would have been an amazing and most of all a comprehending experience.

I give props to Jim and his and his team for putting together a great 3d virtual world that has a lot of potential. I believe with the right education on how to use 3d virtual worlds to educate, many people can benefit and most importantly save money.

Josh Rumpff said...

I found the world of VirtualU to be quite interesting. There were definitely many similarities between VirtualU and Second Life as everyone has previously mentioned. However though as Craig mentioned, Second Life while extremely detailed is far too massive in my opinion to beginners for a company to utilize. VirtualU can find strength in its smaller size by offering companies, business, schools, specific areas to fit their needs.

I have to agree again with Craig in saying that something like VirtualU would be amazing for the Kelloggs Company that we are working with. It would be great if a business colleague of Kelloggs would be able to take a virtual tour of the factory or even go through the training developed for one site, such as Muncy, from another site, Grand Rapids, via the internet.

As far as schools go, I'm with everyone else in that the dinosaur room was pretty cool. Lots of potential there in giving schools the field trips they may really want to take but due to lack of resources or geographical location, are unable to.

I feel that VirtualU has some massive competition in the virtual world but it surely has the potential to be something of use to a multitude of people.

Unknown said...

I feel that Virtual U was a little easier to use than Second Life, although I did get kicked out a couple of times while trying to move to a different location. Other than that small issue, I think that Virtual U was a great environment for learning.

I really enjoyed the private chat circles and I think that this is a wonderful tool for visitors to have access too. The museum was pretty neat too. I liked being able to learn more about the paintings and the dinosaur room was awesome. It seems to me that Virtual U serves the needs of educators and businesses more directly than Second Life does.

Patrick said...

Navigating Virtual U was cool to say the least. I can see VU being used in an educational setting. The dinosaur museum is a great example. If you can develop an exact replication of a popular museum in Virtual U, students can benefit from this.

I'm not sure if you could've clicked on the pictures, but if you could, and the picture would give you a short audio clip of what your are clicking on, then this can be used as a form of educational entertainment. Could be a new and more interactive way of learning from your home.

I also think the private rooms was very cool as well. I think this would work well especially for corporate conferences. I haven't heard of a virtual conference, but these private rooms would be a great way for private networking in a virtual conference setting.

Unknown said...

VirtualU was a much more structured environment than Second Life, which brings about a much quicker startup and orientation than Second Life can provide.

Teressa said...

Before having this class, I've never heard of VirtualU let alone experience it. I thought that it was amazing with everything it could do. I thought SecondLife was awesome but VirtualU seemed to be more advanced to me. I thought that it was very quick with everything that had to load and there was so much to learn it was sort of overwhelming. More people need to step out of their shell and experience a life like this.

Kirsten said...

Visiting VirtualU was a good experience. I have to admit that I saw a bit more potential for learning in VirtualU than in Second Life. I am not completely "dissing" Second Life, but this other virtual environment just seemed a little more focus and professional. I was impressed by all the things that VirtualU has to offer.