The Exploratorium’s team of Second Life staff and volunteers put on another mixed-reality webcast viewing event in SL on June 5th, 2012, extending the museum and online event of the Exploratorium’s live webcast of the 2012 Transit of Venus into the virtual world. Avatar-scientist Patio Plasma hosted the in-world event which featured the 6.5 hr long live webcast of telescopic images of the sun and the rare planetary transit. Volunteers in SL helped avatars see the stream. For this event, we tried a different method of putting the stream into SL–using the HTML on a prim feature of the SL viewer. This method proved to be workable, though not as easy to use for SL residents as the traditional approach of replacing a prim texture with a Quicktime stream. With each event, we learn more about the best ways to use the multimedia features of SL and how to engage avatars with live webcasts.
Archive for the ‘Second Life’
Recently, Paul Doherty and I met in SL with New York Hall of Science (NYHOS) curriculum developer (and Museum Virtual Worlds contributor) Ray Ferrer, along with some adventurous high school Explainers.
The Hall is working with their first cohort of high school Explainers to envision, design, and facilitate the virtual space that will be the new Virtual Hall of Science (VHOS). The meeting/tour participants had a look at what the Exploratorium has been doing with exhibit development in virtual environments and got an introduction to some of the environment and object building processes in Second Life. We played with different exhibits and chatted about things the Exploratorium has learned in developing exhibits there, including the interaction benefits of putting the avatar into the exhibit as much as possible and of moving the avatar as part of the exhibit experience. I’m looking forward to seeing how the new VHOS develops!
Since the beginning of the Exploratorium’s explorations with virtual worlds (circa 2006–I know, seems like a long time ago!), we’ve combined live webcasting with exhibits to create social events. To bring the outside world in using programs like webcasts, you need a capable audio/video encoding tool that can communicate directly with a streaming media server. Virtual worlds like Second Life, can then deliver that stream to the participant by accessing the stream location and rendering it in the viewer application. For video, we can make a surface act like a big projection screen and show the live stream. Two programs which we’ve found to be useful to encode digital video from a camera or other video signal are QuickTime Broadcaster from Apple and Wirecast from Telestream. Both are capable of connecting to a QuickTime Streaming Server (QTSS) which is the necessary server application you need to stream video into SL. I haven’t been able to successfully use a Helix Universal Server, another popular streaming media server, to get video into SL yet, but I keep thinking it’s possible. Also, I haven’t had an opportunity to experiment with using other server apps like Wowza for this but hope to at some point. QuickTime Broadcaster is only available for the Mac, but is free from Apple, and makes setting up an encoder system fast and easy. You may need to enter a username and password to authenticate with QTSS from QuickTime Broadcaster through the application’s Network configuration. Wirecast is a commercial application, though you can obtain a discounted educational license which makes it fairly accessible, cost-wise. It’s cross-platform and I’ve used it on both Mac and Windows to encode and connect to QTSS. Wirecast has many other features like video switching, which are very useful and worth checking out. Both programs allow you to select a video input source on your computer –webcam, external camera via capture interface or Firewire, name the stream (you’ll need this to know the stream url), and to simultaneously save an encoded file to your computer while it’s sending the encoded video to the streaming server (useful for posting the video for on-demand viewing after the live event). On October 9, 2009, we’ll be doing a live webcast from a remote location (the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton) and using Wirecast to encode real-time telescopic images and video of Exploratorium scientists Paul Doherty and Ron Hipschman who will be hosting a program about NASA’s LCROSS mission. The program will be streamed on the Exploratorium’s website and into our amphitheater on Exploratorium Island in Second Life.
Educational media developers and researchers at the Cornell University SciCenter put on a workshop with sponsorship from the National Science Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania called the Taxonomy of Virtual Worls for Education. The workshop brought together virtual worlds technology platform developers, educators, educational media develepers, assessment and evaluation researchers, youth facilitaors, and teens from Philadelphia area schools for two days to discuss our practices in making and working with virtual worlds. This was an intensive meeting focused on creating a basic taxonomy of virtual worlds and virtual worlds features which could be used by each of the meeting participants as well as by media designers, businesses, attorneys, school districts, legislators, researchers, funding organizations, and others to better understand virtual worlds and how they can be used by K-12 educators for STEM learning initiatives.
There were several technology platforms/projects represented there including Second Life, Active Worlds (a strong supporter of educational virtual world developers and one a company that has been developing and supporting its platform for over twleve years), Cobalt (open source P2P, object-oriented platform developed at Duke University, built on Open Croquet), Project Wonderland (Sun Microsystems open source platform with strong audio-conferencing elements), Blue Mars (new platform from Avatar Reality, based on a popular 3D game engine), Digital Spaces (open source platform from Digital Space with strong physics support, used by DS in their development of 3D simulations for NASA), and Medulla (an open source toolkit from the Federation of American Scientists for building learning object extensions in various virtual world platforms).
The beginnings of the taxonomy that is being created will be posted online and form the basis for further development of information best practices and organizational strategies for creating, delivering, and assessing immersive education initiatives in virtual worlds. Hopefully, the taxonomy that’s developed will also help the NSF develop some of it’s own guidelines for evaluating proposals for work in this area.
Creating objects and experiences that tell the multifaceted story of the number Pi is nothing less than serious fun. Now in it’s third year being celebrated by the Exploratorium community in Second Life, and in it’s twenty first year being commemorated world-wide, Pi Day is a unique opportunity to be amazed by the relevance of the ever repeating number yielded by dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter. Exploratorium staff and SL community members have created unique exhibits that let avatars experience, learn about, and contemplate Pi. Exhibits on display all month with a special event on Pi Day 3/14/2009 from 1:00 – 3:00 PM PDT on Exploratorium Island and at Sploland.
Douglas Gayeton said to crowds both corporeal and digital that Fabricated Realities, the mixed-reality screening of his film, Molotov Alva and His Search for the Creator: A Second Life Odyssey, was “surreal.” Not just because the simultaneous screening occurred at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and on Exploratorium Island in SL, but also because SL creator Phillip Rosedale was in the (real) audience. 40 people at the Exploratorium watched the film as well as projected views showing the same number of avatars, gathered in an amphitheater in SL for the screening and opportunity to dialogue with the filmmaker. The audience in SL enjoyed seeing the live scenes from their world streamed to the theater in real life, then back again into avatar space. After the screeniing, Doug spoke about his own odyssey making the film, collaborating with a SL resident who he’s never met IRL (in real life), and shared his insight about the continually changing virtual world medium.