Persistent Immersive Synthetic Environments for Knowledge Transfer and Collaboration.
The next three sessions will focus on the use of virtual worlds, in this case, Second Life, as a tool for knowledge transfer and collaboration. What makes this particularly interesting is that the presenters are not here in the auditorium. They are presenting virtually and these sessions will be presented simultaneously in real life (here, at Caltech) and also in Second Life.
There about 20 folks logged into Explorer island at the virtual JPL site in Second Life. (You may join us, if you wish).
What you are seeing here is an experiment in knowledge collaboration. Every avatar you see is actually a person, somewhere in the world, who's joined us virtually to attend this meeting. We are using Skype to do audio.,
As I said, our presenter's not here. He's somewhere else, but he's our presenter. How cool. Uh oh, someone just walked up on the stage; they called him an interloper. OK, we are all seated virtually. and the presenter is ready. Troy McConaghy and Daniel ... are co-presenting. Troy is up North and Daniel is in Maryland.
Welcome. Dr. Troy McConaghy from Canada, holds a degree in applied physics, and aeronautics and astronautics; director of international space flight museum.
Troy's used second life for 2 years.
What is Second Life?: It's a place, like Stockholm, simulated on computers. Get a free account at Secondlife.com. There's stuff there, like grass, phone etc. You can create your own stuff. The most interesting part is the other user's what they create.
In Second Life (SL), you can communicate with other people by voice or text chat. That's public, You can also chat privately.
Ability to frame a meeting in context, using tone and architecture. People behave differently based on environment. E.g. people are sitting. Why? They don't have to...
All this leads to greater sense of personal presence, even though they might be on the other side of the planet (or in New Zealand).
Q: Are there architectural services. A. yes, there are many designers out there, creating virtual avatars, worlds, architecture, etc. perhaps 5000 people making full-time living there.
I'll stop typing for a moment so that I can watch the screen.
Q. Can we purchase this to have our own private VR world on our intranet. A. Right now, Linden Labs is controlling the infrastructure. There's an opensource movement to create an opensource client and possibly the server. How to maintain the relationship to the "gird" has yet to be developed. But ye, there will be a way to do this, someday. However, there are other worlds of VR tech that can be deployed internally.
NASA is looking at a combination. Some will be private and some - outreach for example - will be public in second life.
Discussion of science in SL
Lots of Q&A between audience and Try in Canada. During this, Charles (or JPL) aka Jet Burns is moving around the vworld so that we can see what's going on.
This is like 1993, when Mosaic came out. Took us on a tour of the NASA facilities hosted in SL. Weekly meetings are already being held in SL.
Note: I'm unable to log into SL because Caltech has blocked SL on their WLAN. I wonder what businesses will do? Could be a big issue.
Q. We see the virtual NASA employees wearing NASA badges. Where are they and what [cost center] are they charging this to? Jeanne: They are working, collaborating, in meetings.
Second Life is not good for
sharing large amounts of text, very large events in one place (e.g. sports), complex simulations or modelling.
Someone in the virtual audience just chimed in that it is not good for making mashed potatoes. ha ha
SL is also not very reliable. Like Google, it's in constant flux and updates. By end of June 2007 5 million people tried second life. Of this only 495K used SL in June for more than an hour. It's still an early stage technology, used by early adopters.
Q. What is distraction factor when you are speaking and someone flies over? How does virtual lurking affect knowledge work? It's eye candy, but the guy floating there is distracting? How do you respond? Troy: Humans are good at filtering out distractions. SL increases engagement. You could be on the phone, distracted by email. In SL other things distract you. There will be lots of research done to determine what works and what does not.
What Second Life is good for;
Live Bands, focus groups, meetings, discussions, tours, watching space shuttle activities, connecting with people. Creating communities. based on similar interests. SL is great for attracting visitors and getting feedback on designed (e.g. building designs).
Audio breaking up. OK, fixed. More questions from audience.
Q. About facial expressions and the role they play in communication. I shared about the demo we saw at the Enterprise 2.0 conference where they used a webcam to transpose movement and facial features onto an Avatar.
Charles: Distinction between virtual reality and virtual world. VR is the ability to don goggles and see into a virtual environment. Virtual worlds is the ability to enter and participate in a virtual world.
Q., Is SL a good venue for reaching young people, for answering questions such as "why do we go into space?" A. yes, we are doing it now, engaging with young people all over the world, doing virtual presentations and getting feedback. In this context, people are uninhibited to ask questions. That is, people are more willing to engage. There are two grids. the teen grid cannot access this. age 0-12 cannot access SL at this time.
Jet Burns is flying around, giving us a tour of the space museum.
Q. Asking about ability to embed audio and media into SL for viewing on demand. Yes, multiple ways to embed images, audio, and video into SL.
Q. on navigation in SL. Jet gave us a demo. We are multicastng to 40,000 people right now.
Teleports are link hyperlinks on the world wide web.
Discussion of security on SL.
Q. What is cost of system? A. No cost to be an avatar in world. You can buy virtual real estate. e.,g. JPL pays $4500/yr for its explorer island.
Q. What about disruption or terrorist activities and malware? A. No malware, yet. SL is policed and certain people have ability to remove disrupters.
Real-life and virtual applause for Troy. THANK YOU, TROY.
Next virtual presentation by Daniel Laughlin, PhD. University of Maryland. NASA Learning technologies Project Manager.
Audio problems. They will do a computer changeout. Macbook not cutting it. Moving to a PowerBook.
Discussion of cultural sensitivities (e.g English names, scantily dressed avatars, dress codes, or lack thereof). How do we manage this? How do we move past the video game feel and get serious about virtual collaboration? e.g. It would be socially unacceptable to come to a conference in a bikini. Do we impose limits for social behaviors in-world? How do we maintain our seriousness if we are in bikinis and holding a meeting? Also, how do we address the cultural issue, e.g. naming, dress, body shapes, sizes, and colors?
SL Respondent: Bikini not OK? Wings OK?
Jeanne: Virtual worlds are still in their early stage.
We [NASA] cannot ignore virtual worlds, some of these odd-looking avatars we are interacting with are engineers, students, the next generation of NASA. If we don't reach these minds, we'll lose them to Google or other companies.
Daniel presenting now.
We are sitting in virtual chairs, looking at a virtual stage where Danial is presenting.
Persistent Immersive Synthetic Environments:
- World of warcraft: 8.7 million
- Second life: 8.2 Million
- Average MMO: 125K-500K
Latest industry estimates are that between 30 and 40 million Americans currently participate in persistent immersive synthetic environments. For comparison, only 26 million Americans golf.
[I will replicate this up to the web, in case someone wants to ask a question, however, I will continue to update this.]
Discussion of studies where people who use avatars think and act differently, often more expressively, in collaboraton environment.
Discussion of avatars and social flattening effect
We are not yet pushing the barriers of how to use this. For example, most bvirtual meetings happen in board rooms where audience sits in virtual chairs. Why not have a meeting sitting... on an asteroid?
How will avatars change our perception of people, decision makers? Better or worse? What about
Audio breaking up, terrible., Unintellible presenttion due to skypeness.
Using cell phone.
Jeanne; There's an entire social networking aspect to SL that does not exist in current tools, like WebEx, IM, etc.. People engage differently, and we are seeing new styles and levels of productivity.
There's a sense of Being there it means more to our brains and we think differently with a context. (see slide on concept and planning documents for academic research. This world offers new way to collaborate by shifting what audience sees.
Q. on knowledge capture: Can we replay what we are seeing, in context?
PISE are not just connection points, they are meeting places. (It's all about collaboration.)
PISE are the new public squares, village centers, malt shops, malls and pubs all rolled into one/.
PISE come with a sense of "thereness" that engages the mind like a real place does.
The Knowledge Petting Zoo
Users can find information (search) by physically going there and looking at it ; the key is going there and experiencing the information.
Discussion of how these environments contract with current technologies, e.g. video conferencing technologies, for collaboration.
Will immersive environments replace face-to-face meetings? Presenter argues that they can, and probably do it better.
Virtual teams can use PISE as meeting places where they can share ideas and brainstorm with a powerful sense of being in the same place as a real team.
Rather than imagining or seeing a 2D representation of a concept, the team can share 3D versions of tools or equipment rendered in the PISE. Early versions can be very low fidelity yet still ensure team members "are on the same page."
Rather than simply debating approaches, PISE provide a simple way to render ideas into graphics to test competing approaches early in the early planning stages.
OK, wrapping up. heading off to lunch - birds of a feather session.