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FCVW 2011: Virtual Worlds Conference Live-Blog

2011 May 12

I’m virtually attending the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds 2011 conference today. The purpose of this conference is to discuss innovation in the area of 3D virtual worlds in government service. This entry will be a live blog of my experiences at this virtual conference.

Day 1 10:20 AM – About half an hour after first attempting to get to this conference, I am finally able to listen to a session.  The conference has multiple gateway points to get to the live streaming content, all of which are inside virtual worlds.

That’s fine theoretically, but it doesn’t really meet my needs as an attendee – I need simple, straightforward instructions such that I can get into the conference material easily and quickly.  Instead, there’s an artificial barrier to entry.  Instead of viewing a webpage with the live video stream, I have to download software and walk over to a webpage with a live video stream.  Why?!  If there was dedicated content inside the virtual world that encouraged participant interaction, that would be fine, as that is added value to the experience – but as it is, I had to hop between 3 virtual worlds to find anyone else even present, and when I finally got there, the only added value I received was that one of the other users was having microphone problems, which was covering up the conference speaker audio.  Hopefully this experience will improve now that I’m settled in…

10:30 AM – Apparently we’ll now be listening to another presenter through Second Life, through the live-stream, through another VW.  A lot of layers

10:33 AM – Speaker: there is no reason to have a 3D environment unless it is valuable in a way that can’t be replicated elsewhere, e.g. on a webpage. Yes! 3D virtual worlds add specific value, but using them blindly across situations without specific consideration of their value in those situations doesn’t make any sense.

10:37 AM – Apparently kids REALLY get into role playing in 3D virtual environments.  Is it better engagement than in-person though, I wonder? Apparently Chinese kids are very shy in-person, so the MUVE gives them an opportunity to act out in a way they would not otherwise feel comfortable to do.

10:39 AM – “Artificial intelligence is not yet good enough to replace a real teacher.”  Inevitable though?

10:54 AM – The best projects, with the most added value, are those that benefit from creative use of the 3D virtual environment – for example, 3D content creation.

11:04 AM – Panel disagreement: “Be one person” and determine who you are online and offline versus “Multi-persona” approaches, where you choose to be a different person depending on the goal – social media, virtual world, whatever. Tricky, tricky. But I wonder what effect these different approaches would have on the person engaging in them.

12:50 PM – The feed has been dead for over an hour now – we’re in a lunch break and vendor fair. Keynote upcoming in about 10 minutes.

12:57 PM – At a vendor booth for the National Center for Telehealth & Technology. They have a PTSD simulator, which starts with the simulation of a “traumatic event.” Disturbing… but looks effective.

1:08 PM – Sitting in the virtual expo hall, but no video. Not sure what’s happening.

1:17 PM – Switched to Internet Explorer… didn’t seem to like Firefox. Working now, but have to catch up with what’s going on.

1:21 PM – Keynote by Ms. Mk Haley: VR not being used so much in the public sphere, but more so behind the scenes.  Working on full-body interfaces.  Considers “virtual reality” to be a much wider term – Disneyland as a virtual reality, for example.

1:33 PM – I am definitely using the Marshmallow Challenge.

1:38 PM – Engineers given a basically-unwinnable game to play as an exercise in innovation. By working outside the perceived “rules,” the engineers could have won, but considered that cheating. Sometimes the innovation/cheating line is unclear. The engineers got mad.

3:07PM – Legal ambiguity surrounding virtual environments (e.g. what happens if your student vandalizes something online while in your class?), although scary, is not really important because “on the whole, we want to use these spaces for fairly well-known, fairly understood, fairly innocuous things” and thus teaching activities online are no more risky than doing them in person. Not sure I agree…

3:15 PM – The tech needs to evolve such that anyone can access MUVEs anywhere, from mobile phones to immersive VR systems, for them to be truly valuable for getting things done.

3:19 PM – Question from the audience: How do we create standards of behavior in MUVEs? Sometimes people come out of their shell online and the thing that comes out of that shell isn’t very pretty.

3:45 PM – That’s it for me for today – tune in tomorrow!

Day 2 8:48 AM – Back in the saddle! This speaker’s content makes sense – using virtual worlds for science education by creating simulations that accomplish what cannot be accomplished in person (situated learning). Personal simulated ecosystem, for example.

9:01 AM – Paper-and-pencil tests are invalid in education? Methinks someone doesn’t write very good tests. The immersive assessment strategy can certainly assess different competencies than a paper-and-pencil test, but that doesn’t invalidate paper-and-pencil tests – that argument is unnecessary.

9:13 AM – Has similar goals to mine: virtual environments automatically customizing themselves to student needs.

9:16 AM – Oi… my concern with that video is that it encourages children to run in seedy back alleys without supervision. 😉

10:36 AM – Panel on the use of VWs for “command and control centers”

10:40 AM – Again, the appeal of simulations seems to be largely in the ability to quickly make cheap simulations. Rapid prototyping with VOIP and instant messaging.

10:47 AM – Using VW-built prototypes to model hypothetical tactical systems and system displays… sounds similar to the process modeling work by Ross Brown but with more of a focus on information flow rather than physical flow

11:07 AM – “People do better playing war on XBOX Live than we do in the field in…urban occupation environment[s]”

11:35 AM – In Q&A with command and control session… and I’m out of time. Very interesting comments – will summarize thoughts in a dedicated post Monday.

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