virtual reality

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Virtual worlds colliding

Two interesting pieces of news emerged on virtual worlds:

  1. At the Virtual Worlds Conference, IBM and Linden Labs announced plans to develop a set of open standards that would allow avatars to traverse from one virtual environment to another.
  2. Multiverse Network is building tools that will allow virtual world developers to access and incorporate elements from Google‘s rapidly expanding warehouse of 3D models, based on real objects.

This appears to be trending toward an open standards-based grid, which allows for the rapid development of virtual worlds based on the real world. As society increasingly prefers virtual reality over “real” reality, what can impacts in education, the workplace, and other knowledge-producing environments can we expect from this de-realizing?

Top ten signs the "Singularity is near"

ten-days-sm.pngAs we stated in yesterday’s top ten list, human-surpassing intelligence will guarantee that the future is far more different than we can imagine. Our second top ten list plays off ideas from Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is near, Hans Moravec’s Mind children and Robot, and the work of Vernor Vinge. Onward Singularitarians!

  1. Accelerating returns: S-curves of change are occurring much more rapidly, forcing humans to cope with unexpected resource diversity. Much of this exists in the form of bona fide forms of abundance, for which there are few or no means of effective absorption and equitable distribution.
  2. Advances in genetics: By many definitions of creation, including those within religious systems and conservative science, humans are about to become as gods.
  3. Advances in nanotechnologies: Richard Feynman pointed out a basic new direction for R&D: toward the much, much smaller. After a clumsy start that attempted to blend Newtonian mechanics with nanomachinery, the field has broadened and moved into chemistry, circuitry, and molecular self-assembly.
  4. Advances in robotics: The more spectacular advances in robotics are occurring at the level of microelectromechanical systems. In many ways less sophisticated than nanobots, mems offer the potential for a myriad of near-term applications, including some within the human body.
  5. Advances in computational capacities: According to Ray Kurzweil, reverse engineering of the human brain is on a path to duplicate the brain’s circuitry within one or two decades. Cost estimates of such systems are projected to follow the now-familiar downward curve even as capabilities skyrocket.
  6. Advances in understanding human intelligence: Intelligence may need to be redefined as higher-order domains of potential and capability rather than properties specific only to humans. Dovetailed intelligent humans and smart machines have already begun to generate a gradual equation of organic and inorganic intelligence potentials and capabilities.
  7. Virtual reality is beginning to complement reality: In a yin-yang manner, virtual reality (VR) and classical reality (CR) are dovetailing as well as coexisting. Distinctions between VR and CR may gradually dissipate as the properties of both are defined and measured empirically and as more blended systems and experiences are created.
  8. Paradigm shifts in thought and the senses are emerging as important cultural software: It will become ordinary to speak of paradigm changes outside the boundaries of cognition. Knowledge and innovation workers must change their thinking and feelings both anticipatorily and reactively to create opportunities and cope with sudden changes.
  9. The future is more difficult to imagine than ever before: The more information that becomes available through trends, scenarios and visions, the more that numerous alternative futures can be created. Alvin Toffler recognized this in 1967, but it is an insight that continues to provoke claims that humans are incapable of entertaining more than a handful of future alternatives, most of them utopic (all too “unlikely”) or dystopic (all too “likely”).
  10. Accelerating technological change is accelerating social change: Technological advances routinely change our cultural norms, political systems, economics, and modes of thinking. New cultures are routinely created, both as new configurations of blends of existing cultures (transcultures) and innovative, designed, personal cultures (postcultures).

New AERA SIG: Applied Research for Virtual Environments for Learning

Brock Dubbels is looking for more people that belong to (or that can soon join) the American Educational Research Association (AERA) – for a Special Interest Group (SIG) especially for 3D Virtual Worlds, such as Second Life.

The Applied Research for Virtual Environments for Learning (ARVEL) special interest group at AERA, “is a community of educators, scholars, and practitioners dedicated toward research in and on virtual environments. Using a variety of research methods, we support a diverse approach to understanding the optimal use of virtual worlds and environments for educational purposes. We’re interested in developing a comprehensive research agenda, intended to encompass the breadth and scope of learning potentialities, affordances, challenges, and shortcomings of immersive virtual learning environments.”

eLearning Games and Simulations workshop

For those of us in Minneapolis/St. Paul, this looks good:

May 24: 8:30 – 4:00

Normandale Community College

Learn what your students already know
Games and simulations are powerful tools – changing the way we learn

Hands-on Instruction Enables You to Play the Games Yourself
Seated at your own computer, with an instructor as your guide, you’ll be taken into virtual worlds and 3-D environments where you become

The newly elected President of Chimerica, responsible for stabilizing the country’s troubled economic and social situation, changing public policy and forming a new administration.
(Hidden Agenda)
  A 21st century student traveling back in time to a town besieged with health problems. Working with others, you track clues, form and test hypotheses, and make recommendations.
(River City)
A rookie newspaper reporter for the Harperville Gazette whose job is to write an article on the health and environmental implications of a toxic spill.
(Behind the Message)
  Leader of a pharmaceutical company’s research team. You must determine the product’s features, estimate demand, and set price and production levels.
(SimSeries Business)
A $100,000 investor in the stock market,
using real Internet research and news updates to determine how to build and grow your portfolio.
(Stock Market Game)
  and more

Integrating Games/Simulations into Education
Now that you’ve played the games, the afternoon sessions address key issues that will help you take the next steps, topics include:

  • How Games Improve the Learning Process
  • Preparing the New Learner for the New Economy with Games
  • Breathing Virtual Life into the Classroom
  • Integrating a Game/Simulation with eLearning
  • Like a Rock Star: virtual character development

MTV leapfrogs

I just received this note from Janet Cohen:

John –
You are going to love this one – from the Feb 2007 Wired.
A Second Life for MTV by Mark Wallace
article is not online yet, but this article explains the part you’ll like, MTV is calling their Virtual MTV a Leapfrog Initiative!
I’ll try to blog about this soon, if you don’t beat me to it.
cheers, janet

Although MTV’s Virtual Laguna Beach has been out for a while, this is a great example of digital media converging with culture — and new culture creation. No wonder they call it leapfrogging!
Thanks Janet!


Update – Jan 24 @ 20:08

You should really read Janet’s thought’s on “leapfrogging” at MTV:

December 12 Horizon Forum recap

At yesterday’s Horizon Forum meeting, Chris Dede delivered a presentation via Skype on using multiple-user virtual environments in educational contexts. These environments, he argues, allows students to co-design and co-instruct their own educational experiences, allowing for guided social constructivism and learning that goes beyond what traditional schools try to accomplish through test-based assessments.


Scott McLeod continued with a discussion on preparing students for the new millennium rather than the industrial age. With the pace of change accelerating, schools, by design, are not able to keep up with society. Schools are in danger of becoming irrelevant unless if they do away with reactionary, compliance-based management and build future-oriented, proactive (and preactive!) leadership.


Finally, with Garth Willis’ help, we experimented with recording the session as a Macromedia Breeze meeting. The recording is available online at: (sorry, the first twenty minutes of audio are missing).

The next Horizon Forum is scheduled for February 5, 2007, and will focus on advances in innovative learning in Latin America.

Horizon Forum on educational technology

horizon-web.jpgJoin us for the next Horizon Forum meeting!

Tuesday, December 12, 12-3 p.m.

Room 303, Coffman Memorial Union
University of Minnesota, East Bank Campus
300 Washington Avenue, S.E. Minneapolis

Dr. Scott McLeod, Director of the University Council for Educational Administration Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), will discuss the skills that students need to survive and thrive in the digital future. Dr. McLeod will highlight disconnections between current schooling practices and future workforce needs and will emphasize leadership practices necessary to bridge the gap. Dr. McLeod also will focus on the policy, political, and organizational barriers that impede schools’ ability to be future-oriented.

Introduction by Dr. Chris Dede, Harvard University, Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies

The Horizon Forum is a “mold breaking” round-table initiated by the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota to facilitate action-oriented discussions on how we may design outstanding educational futures for Minnesota.

Lunch and validated parking will be provided.

Please RSVP by December 5 to John Moravec, 612-625-3517 or

Map to event:

Horizon Forum on the Web:

Virtual teachers and virtual ecophagy

Two articles surfaced recently regarding Second Life.

First, CNN reports that over 60 educational organizations are using Second Life to explore how to promote learning in the virtual world. Whereas there is a concern that mainstay online education providers do not provide a sense of community or social interaction, virtual, three-dimensional online communities may fill the need:

John Lester, community and education manager at Linden Lab, the creator of “Second Life,” echoed that view. “There is a real human being behind every avatar — the people are very real. It’s just the medium is different,” he said.

Second, New Scientist reports that a flood of self-replicating objects in the online world have created a “grey goo” that overwhelmed the servers:

The trouble began with the appearance of a virtual gold rings in several areas of the virtual world. As users touched these rings, they starting replicating wildly and, eventually, the servers on which the game is hosted began creaking under the strain of the additional activity.

Virtual doomsday, anyone?


Wired: Play Warcraft? You're hired!

This is a great article!

Online education often provides too much explicit knowledge and too little tacit knowledge and social interaction. In this article, John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas identify an avenue for tacit knowledge production in virtual settings. As virtual reality is becoming more-and-more preferred over the real world, perhaps the “Leapfrog U” would find its greatest success embedded in the World of Warcraft, the Sims, Ever Quest, Final Fantasy XII, Second Life, etc., etc., etc…

Cyber society

From the IST program:

If computers could create a society, what kind of world would they make? Thanks to the work of an ambitious project that adds a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘computer society’, in which millions of software agents will potentially evolve their own culture, we could be about to find out.

With funding from the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) initiative of the IST programme, five European research institutes are collaborating on the NEW TIES project to create a thoroughly 21st-century brave new world – one populated by randomly generated software beings, capable of developing their own language and culture.

Read the full article.