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.
This past year, we’ve been seeing more and more physical devices connected to objects and avatars in SL, adding further complexity to mixed reality and augmented reality environments for exhibits and installations.
Artists have often been at the forefront of interfacing the real and the virtual and in exploring the grey zones where these worlds meet. New media arist and sculptor Joe Delappe re-enacted Ghandi’s historic Salt March of 1930, a protest against the British tax on salt at the time. At a gallery in New York and in Second Life this past March and April, Joe walked 240 miles on a treadmill he connected to SL to control his avatar MGandhi Chakrabarti’s virtual world steps, recreating the march. As much a performance as an installation, his work demonstrates the interesting time displacement effects and physical connections that are possible when RL elements are combined with telepresence and virtual environments. We often think of things in a virtual sense as being instantenous, so it’s somewhat jarring to put something like the slower speed of a real person walking next to flying avatars. With a nod to the Slow Food and Slow Art movements, real/virtual connections like this might allow us to savor our virtual interactions a bit more.