NASA has published a report from the workshop on virtual worlds and immersive environments held in 2008 at Ames Research Center. The report, created by workshop organizers and participants, summarizes the presentations and discussions at the workshop, which was attended by a diverse group of people from the research, commercial, education, and gaming sectors. Key themes include remote exploration, global participation paradigms, and the narrowing boundaries between physical and virtual experience. For training simulations and outreach purposes, NASA continues to use virtual worlds. Check out the STS-125 Hubble servicing spacewalk simulation and stay tuned for more interactive virtual worlds about future moon missions. I don’t have a current update on where NASA is with it’s RFP for a MMOG platform but will be keeping my eye out for the latest on that.
For those not familiar with the VHOS project, it is essentially a virtual space within the Active Worlds Universe in which the New York Hall of Science intends to create explorable/interactive exhibits through a collaborative process involving the contributions of Hall staff, Hall Explainers, participants of the Hall’s camp programs and finally (and ideally) casual visitors. The first phase of the VHOS project was simple enough– train a group of 18-23 year olds to use Active Worlds to a point in which they are comfortable creating things as well as showing others how to create things in-world. The second phase was a reminder that no design can be efficient without prototyping; middle schoolers have knack for showing you that the way you think they think is wrong and so anything designed for them will likely have to be revised on the fly. The third phase of the VHOS project was an interesting reminder for myself about how the process of designing something that actually meets needs is iterative. So while I was thinking that I could have veteran participants take a hand in delivering basic skills to newer participants, they just weren’t interested in being teachers. As a solution to this we introduced the “Easter Egg“. As new participants acquainted themselves with the basic navigation and building skills, veteran participants were given a “mission”; first, create an easter egg containing some scripting skills considered advanced for the newbies, then secretly place that egg somewhere on a newbies virtual property. So here we have veterans showing off there skill in a way that newbies can glean important skills from. Some veterans went as far as to create portals that will take you to a secret location containing your personalized easter egg.
Unlike the second phase, the third phase was focused on one content area. Participants designed and developed virtual exhibits dealing only with the phases of matter. During phase two of the VHOS project it appears that participants were a bit overwhelmed by the option of selecting any STEM topic of their choice. Too much time was spent narrowing down the focus of their designs and not enough designing. The effects of this can be seen when contrasting a phase two exhibit, which often illustrates a broad concept, with a phase three exhibit illustrating some characteristic feature of a substance transitioning from one phase of matter to another.
As we continue to run camps the VHOS becomes richer with educational experiences which will inevitably lead to the issue of categorizing the exhibits and directing the user/casual visitor in a way that facilitates learning. I’m excited to see where this is leading as there is already a feel of being in a place where someone has been before you, giving the space and how you experience that space siginificant thought.
Hello World! My name is Ray Ferrer. I’m a Digital Learning Curriculum Developer at the New York Hall of Science currently incorporating virtual worlds into the learning experiences here at the Hall. As the Hall’s first endeavor using 3D virtual environments to facilitate learning, I’m excited to report that our first run was promising as an indicator of the type of learning experiences that can be had.
Using an Active Worlds space graciously donated by Cornell University, participants of the VHOS project went through a four-day camp learning how to navigate and build in the environment, research a STEM topic of their choice, learn exhibit design from and expert, and finally design their own exhibits in-world. But that’s not where it ends– in fact that’s not even how it began. Prior to the camp, a team of Explainers (the Hall’s equivalent of a docent) went through a series of AW trainings in order to help camp participants realize their designs. At the conclusion of the camp participants completed a draft of their exhibit designs. The images included below are samples.
During the week of April 14th-17th, new participants will begin the process of populating the VHOS space with their own exhibit designs while returning participants work on reiterations of their designs as well as help teach new participants the fundamentals (and obstacles) of designing in the AW environment.
The aprenticeship model that we are using has been succesful for the Hall in past programs and I trust that it will be as effcective in virtual environments. I’m eager to see the designs that come out of this project and will keep the readers of this blog posted.
Using digital design tools to develop ideas for and to prototype real world museum exhibits is an important aspect of contemporary exhibit design. The Tech museum of innovation in San Jose, California is experimenting with a twist on this by inviting people outside of their exhibit design staff to create exhibits virtually in SL that will be created IRL and exhibited at The Tech.
In The Tech Virtual Museum Workshop, they opened up a design competition and gave in-world classes and workshops to help guide exhibit developers in using SL to realize their ideas. They selected seven winning designs and fabricated the exhibits which have been installed as a first exhibit in The Tech Virtual Test Zone Gallery at the museum in San Jose. Peter Friess, President of the institution, welcomed a group of San Francisco Bay Area museum and education professionals to the opening of the new exhibit at the Tech on June 4, 2008, along with Philip Rosedale, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Linden Lab — creators of Second Life and the Second Life Grid. Friess stated that The Tech was committed to using experimental methods such as prototyping and developing exhibits in SL as a way to develop new museum exhibits and that sharing information and practices about the approach with other museums and interactive developers was an important part of the museum’s process.
Visit The Tech virtual on The Tech island in SL