Friday, September 15, 2017

Everything is logged at EVA Park

I have done many educational projects with OpenSimulator, but EVA Park is something completely different. On this island all people are really working!

EVA Park
EVA Park is a multi-user online virtual world, created in OpenSimulator, that gives people with aphasia unique opportunities to practise their speech and establish social connections. It was created at City University of London, via a process of co-design where people with aphasia collaborated with researchers in human-computer interaction and speech and language therapy.

Group session in EVA Park
EVA Park contains a variety of virtual locations including shops, restaurants, a hairdressers, houses, a bar and disco, together with fun and fantastical elements.  Users are represented by personalised avatars and communicate by talking through their headset to each other (yes they talk!). The initial study involving 20 people with aphasia showed that using EVA Park led to an improvement in functional communication. Now a new study started where groups of eight people with aphasia and four volunteers enter EVA Park all at once, to see how social interaction works with these people within this virtual world. The first session was great, so in the comming weeks EVA Park will be busy.

Logged data of user
Very useful for research is that all movements are logged in EVA Park. So as soon as the user logs in, a hidden detector will send information to a script on the website that will log this information onto a database. But also when a user walks or flies around, every 30 seconds the HUD (Head Up Display) sends information about the location to the database. Also the interaction with objects is logged, so if a user clicks on a board, sits on a chair or clicks one of the buttons of the HUD, this event is logged, including the location and time. Very useful information for the researchers. These logs can even be shown on a map of the island, thanks to HTML5 Canvas which give the option of drawing over a picture, on a webpage.

Map of the logged data
The HUD is attached automatically whenever a new user logs in. A great feature of OpenSimulator called 'osForceAttachToAvatar'. And if an avatar loses his HUD, it can always be reattached by simply clicking on a box at the service desk in EVA Park.

Unfortunately for outsiders, this island can not be visited, it is a closed environment where we want the people with aphasia to feel comfortable and free to do whatever they like.

If you want to know more about EVA Park and the research we do on it, please go to evapark.co.uk 





Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Media on a prim in OpenSim, how educators can use it

Working and educating in a virtual world can be a lot of fun, but sometimes you also want external tools to appear in this world. The best way for this is to use MOAP (Media on a prim)

Webkit
To use MOAP (Media on a prim) in OpenSim you need a viewer that can show this. The viewer needs to have a so called 'webkit' built in, to show a webpage or any other media on the side of a prim. This webkit is not always the same, like the Singularity viewer until recently had an older version that did not really work great with https formatted websites and gave some kind of SSH error.
Now it is up to date, like the Firestorm viewer for OpenSim, both are now capable of showing many sites so the webkits are updated to the latest version. I tried some educational websites, to see if it was possible to use educational webcontent on our 3DLES EDUgrid.
 First on my list was Voki, a website where you can create talking heads for free. This can be a very handy tool to have some item in your virtual world explained. So I created this character that welcomes new visitors in the virtual world and explains a bit what the visitor can do here. On the right you can see the working version and below a picture of the voki in the 3DLES virtual world. In order to get this working on the prim I only had to copy the given link of the Voki to the media settings of the prim side and change the settings of the horizontal and vertical scale and offset, so that it fits. And I did not want to show the control bar over this prim so I untagged this option.

Voki in the welcome area of the 3DLES EDUgrid
Learningapps.org
The learningapps website offers all kinds of quizzes that you can create for free. These 'apps' can also be placed on an object in the virtual world, and they can be controlled by clicking with the mouse. So a student can do any interactive quiz in-world.

Learningapps puzzle on a prim
Also embedding youtube video's is an option that can be done quite simple, the only thing that needs  to be changed is the URL of a video so it will be fullscreen (embedded). You can do this by copying the link of a video and replace /watch?v= in the URL to /embed/  so the url should look like this... https://www.youtube.com/embed/NKzcSoD-QCc Below you can see how this looks in the virtual world.

Youtube video on a prim
These three tools run fine on both the Singularity and Firestorm viewer. Any other tool, like Prezi, Quizlet and Infogr.am only ran on the Firestorm viewer, when Singularity was not updated yet. The update solved the problem. (updated June 1016) 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Windows tablet will save education in virtual worlds?


Last november I spoke at the the first National Congres on Education in Virtual Worlds in Tilburg (NL) about what the future might bring. And tablets was one of these hot future items.

Lots of schools are using (or planning to use) tablets, most of them use iPad at the moment. But on an iPad it is not really possible to work with virtual worlds like OpenSim and Second Life. The only solution I found for iPad is 'SL Go', which allows you to log on a server that connects to the virtual world, creates the graphics for you and sends the stream to your tablet, for only 10 $ per month (only available in the USA at the moment), but it does not run voice chat yet. 

Surface Pro 3
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
With the new Windows 8 tablets and '2 in 1' systems a whole new world opens for working in virtual worlds. Now we can have a full Windows tablet running our favorite software to enter OpenSim or Second Life. With even the audio and voice chat working. Starting at € 300 we see brands like: Asus, Acer, Dell, Medion, HP, Sony, Lenovo, Samsung and even Microsoft in the higher range with their Surface Pro series. These tablets offer full Windows so you can work with all your favorite software tha you used for all these years but now on a tablet, including the software to enter OpenSim and Second Life! 

Archos 80 Cesium running
Singularity viewer.
So I did a little test and bought myself a cheap Windows tablet (Archos 80 Cesium - 8" screen) at the local drugstore in our village for 125 Euros ($145), and installed the Singularity viewer on it. After logging in at the 3DLES grid I found everything working fine. It loaded all the graphics fast, navigation works well with the on-screen navigation arrows (a bit small on a 8" screen) and even voice chat works fine. Just wear a headphone and use the microphone in the tablet. So I tested it some more to see if I could also do some video conferencing using Big Blue Button, which also worked fine. The webcam at the front does the work. The only thing that is not really great is shortage of memory. 16 Gb is not really enough to have a great running tablet and the 8 inch is actually a bit too small, but it is a start. So anyone who wants to use a Windows tablet for OpenSim of Second Life, go for the 10 inch with at least 32 Gb memory.

This month we had the Dutch National Education Show in Utrecht (NOT) and I expected to see a lot of Windows tablets there running educational software. Unfortunately not so many as I hoped. So we should spread the word that a Windows tablet is the best choice for education. Want to see the videoreport of my trip, watch this...


Want to see some more about this item?
  • Short video of the National Congres Education in VW at Fontys Tilburg (NL), click here.
  • Video of S√łndermarkskolen, Denmark that used Dell tablets for a 3D project on the 3DLES demogrid, click here.