Future of Virtual Worlds in Education

I am currently taking a “Virtual Worlds” course online with the Univeristy of Manitoba.  The synchronous aspects of the course have taken place almost entirely in Second Life with a few side trips to Metaplace and World of Warcraft.  We have spent the first 4 weeks getting to better understand virtual worlds, how they work, what others have done, etc.  We will soon be moving into the phase of the course where we discuss the potential use of virtual worlds in school and specifically for instruction.

Although I can see (and have seen) many interesting uses of the virtual worlds in schools, I am not sure we optimize this technology when we completely remove it from our real world space as we do now in Second Life and others.  I recently finished reading The Daemon, and in this sci-fi book the author creates a world in which virtual worlds are part of the real world. One of the antagonists wears special glasses that contains a CPU and heads up display which allows the virtual worlds, and elements in them, to be overlayed on the real world.  Specialized gloves allow for the user to interact with the virtual worlds but in the context of the real world.  I am not particularly concerned about the type of glasses, or gloves, or other hardware that makes this possible (I am sure we will evolve good solutions sooner rather than later).  What interests me is how we can take the best of the virtual worlds and combine them with infinite possibilities into our real space.

For educational purposes, I think this will bring us to a real example of augmented intelligence that Ray Kurzweil discusses in The Singularity is Near.   I can imagine teachers creating and managing layers of virtual worlds (similar to data layers in Google Earth) that students and others could interact with.  Project based simulations (similar to quests in WoW minus the violence preferably) could be set in the real world with actual characters, real time information and feedback, and shared and published deliverables.

I know we still have some work todo on the hardware and software front to make this happen.  And who knows what it will actual come out looking like.  However, as I see these pieces coming togther, I can’t help but wonder about the power my “networks” will have and what the “networks” for students  will be like in the near future.  I believe, tha it is  more or less agreed upon in the progressive education commons that schools are not teaching in a way that is relevant to the changes we are seeing in modern society.  I see virtual worlds either helping to bring schools rushing forward or creating an even  greater digital divide.

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Second Life Speaks

Just finished reading an article on TechCrunch about Linden Labs implementing the ability to “speak” in Second Life. This feature has been a long time in comign as far as I am concerned. I think this is a real step in eventually creating the wanted/needed Metaverse!

One more Wii thing…head mounted Wiimote!

As I was going to bed last night I couldn’t get the Wiimote video out of my head (see last post). I was also thinking about Phillip Torrone from MAKE Magazine and the work he has done with Second Life regarding virtual glasses (ie monitors in wearable glasses versus a typical monitor)  and other hacks.

The thought that I couldn’t get out of my mind was…

What if we found an elegant way to strap the Wiimote onto ones head….keeping the other end of the Wiimote in your hand. One would then navigate the Second Life environment by simply turning your head while viewing the world in some sort of glasses/monitor. Head movements would guide looking up down left right, turning etc. The other controller could handle flying, interacting with objects, etc. And instead of the keyboard we could possibly integrate Skype for communicating with others as well as the interface via voice commands.  I would love to see the Makers out there (in addition to the good folks at Linden Lab) to take a shot at this.

BTW – Can you please throw in Hero Protaganist’s Librarian while you are at it!!?!?!?

Metaverse and Multiverse

I just read a great article about the 3D virtual worlds marketplace, where it has been, where it is going and analogies from near technology history.

The Next Big Thing – TSC Daily

I can not do a better job than the article all ready does discussing the move from a 2D data world (current WWW) to a 3D connected world (what WoW and SL are starting to show us signs of) so I am not going to even try. What I did find very interesting was the discussion in the comments section. There seemed to be two camps. One making the case for the current 2D WWW as the optimal format for exchanging information and the other making the case for a 3D WWW which the first camp seems to think would be excessively cumbersome and bloated simpyl for information exchange. I immediately see a third way. Why can’t I “live” in a 3D virtual world and be able to view media when needed in a 2D world when appropriate. IF we have both the 2D and 3D technology at our disposal why not take advantage of both, inetgrate the two, and use each when needed.

Read the article and read the comments….very interesting as to where we might be going! Long live Netscape….

Resources:

Croquet Project

Multiverse

Second Life (Metaverse) as the next user interface!?

I just finished reading “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson. What a great book. I had heard references made to this book over the past year from Doc Searls and others but never had the opporutnity to read it. My recent Martha’s Vineyard vacation finally gave me sometime.

From Amazon:

” From the opening line of his breakthrough cyberpunk novel Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson plunges the reader into a not-too-distant future. It is a world where the Mafia controls pizza delivery, the United States exists as a patchwork of corporate-franchise city-states, and the Internet–incarnate as the Metaverse–looks something like last year’s hype would lead you to believe it should. Enter Hiro Protagonist–hacker, samurai swordsman, and pizza-delivery driver. When his best friend fries his brain on a new designer drug called Snow Crash and his beautiful, brainy ex-girlfriend asks for his help, what’s a guy with a name like that to do? He rushes to the rescue. A breakneck-paced 21st-century novel, Snow Crash interweaves everything from Sumerian myth to visions of a postmodern civilization on the brink of collapse. Faster than the speed of television and a whole lot more fun, Snow Crash is the portrayal of a future that is bizarre enough to be plausible.”

What I like best about this book is the “Second Life” like world called the Metaverse. Characters in the book plug into this MMORP world via fiber to talk, fight, file share, learn, race motorcycles, etc, etc. It is almost as if the people at Linden Labs used the Metaverse as their road-map for creating SL.

Over the past couple of months more and more people have been discussing SL/Metaverse as the next GUI including Curry and Scoble. I have to say I am very excited that this is on their radar screens and hopefully now on other radar screens as well.

Th most interesting application for me in “Snow Crash” was the librarian. The main character, Hiro, interacts with this program in the Metaverse. The librarian software appears as a 3-D avatar that can be summoned at Hiro’s will to help guide him thru the massive online databases that have been built. Hiro can ask questions and narrows and refine searches through natural spoken language using the librarian. The librarian is even coded to have natural human mannerisms to symbolize processes (ie-breaking eye contact when “thinking”/searching). To me the librarian app is the holy grail of the search front end and back end we have been looking for.

Imagine what will happen when Google and others continue to link and tie together ALL the worlds information and we can then slap a natural language librarian on the front of this so that we can query it as easily as we have a conversation!