Wiglet Diversity: A Spectrum of the Wonderfully Strange

This post also appears on Wiggle Planet’s Blog.

strange-011The first thing you’ll notice about Wiglets is that…well, let’s be honest, they look kind of strange.

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That’s because Wiglets are not hand-drawn cookie-cutter characters.

They’re artificial life forms that look and behave a certain way because of their genetics.

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They’re neither homogenized nor pasteurized.

And unlike video games where you have limited character creator options (Choose from these 5 hairstyles!  How about these 7 different noses?), a Wiglet’s DNA can recombine through breeding to create a highly unpredictable range of physical and behavioral diversity.

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Kind of like real life.

Which is exactly the point.

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In the near future you’ll be hearing more from us about a Wiglet breeder app that will let you experiment with just how diverse they can be.

We think you’ll fall in love with their quirky appearance and behaviors.

Not because they look like something familiar and common.

But because they don’t.

- John “Pathfinder” Lester

My Keynote at e-LEOT 2014 – “Augmented Mind: The Evolution of Learning Tools from Language to Immersive Reality”

The 1st International Conference on e-Learning, e-Education and Online Training is being held September 18-20 in Bethesda, Maryland.  This conference will assess a wide range of progressive ideas for the future of e-Learning, focusing on the idea of technology as a means to education rather than an end in itself.  The conference organizers have lined up a wonderful range of interdisciplinary speakers and are planning to attract a wide group of heterogeneous scholars and practitioners.

I’ll be attending the entire conference, and I’m honored to be giving the opening keynote presentation.   Here’s what I’ll be talking about:

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“Augmented Mind: The Evolution of Learning Tools
from Language to Immersive Reality”

Innovative educators are constantly facing the challenge of matching pedagogical goals with complementary technological tools.  Unfortunately, given the wide range of technologies and devices that vie for consumer attention, the right choices are not always clear and are typically obscured by media hype. In this presentation, John Lester will describe how focusing on the way the human mind interacts with the world and other human beings can help identify the right tools for the right jobs.  From a mind-augmentation perspective combining constructivist and behaviorist approaches, John will explore web based tools ideal for knowledge management, augmented reality based self-animated autonomous agents, and finally the unique (and sometimes over-hyped) affordances of perceptually immersive multiuser 3d virtual worlds for collaborative learning.

My goal will be to tell an interesting story with examples and demos of technologies that I think really leverage how our minds naturally embrace the world around us.  One such technology that I’m currently exploring and that you’ve probably never heard of are Wiglets.

Visit Wiggle Planet to learn a lot more about Wiglets.

Visit Wiggle Planet to learn a lot more about Wiglets.

Wiglets are autonomous, evolving, self-animated and self-motivated agents that can exist in both completely virtual and augmented reality environments.  They exist at a wildly creative intersection of artificial life, art and gaming.  And perhaps best of all, you can interact with them directly through touch and gestures.

Another topic of discussion will be the affordances of multiuser 3d virtual worlds, especially how one can reduce the barrier to entry for people interested in leveraging them for educational purposes.  ReactionGrid has recently developed some new tools that integrate with the Unity3d-based Jibe platform to provide on-the-fly content editing in a simple yet powerful way.  I’ll be giving a sneak preview during my presentation.

Want to easily change this web-based 3d environment on the fly without having to muck around in Unity?  
Now you can. I’ve got some new tricks with Jibe to show you.

I’ll also be discussing and giving examples of innovative uses of commonly used virtual world technologies such as Second Life, Opensimulator and the Oculus Rift.  If you plan on attending and would like to connect with me at the conference, please drop me a line on Twitter or email.  And if you’re looking to interact with the organizers and other attendees and speakers, be sure to check out the e-LEOT LinkedIn Conference Group.

After my keynote I’ll be updating this blog post to include my slides and links to any recordings.

UPDATE Sept 19, 2014

Here are my slides:

My Presentation at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology

The Department of Computer and Information Science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway is hosting a seminar this week on “Virtual Worlds & Educational Technologies.”

The seminar will be held on Wednesday April 25th from 11:00-14:00 CEST, and it’s free and open to both staff and students.  Here’s a summary of speakers and topics: Continue reading

Presentation at 2012 Follow the Sun: “Integrated Reality and Next Generation Virtual Worlds”


Follow the Sun 2012 is a free online conference that runs from March 27-30.  Here’s a summary from their website:

“Digital Futures Institute, Beyond Distance Research Alliance, Athabasca University, and our commercial partners are proud to provide this year’s 48-hour, online learning festival at no charge to all participants. The theme of this year’s conference moves beyond educational technology to examine knowledge development and exchange across the disciplines.”

I’ll be giving an online presentation on Thursday March 29th at 2:30am EDT (yes, that’s 2:30am).  The topic will be “Integrated Reality and Next Generation Virtual Worlds.”

Here are my slides on SlideShare to give you a preview of what I’ll be talking about, and I’ll update this blog post with a recording of my presentation after the conference is over.

Update 3/29/2012: Here’s the recording of my presentation.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester
Chief Learning Officer
ReactionGrid Inc.

Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts – Virtual Broad Art Museum in Jibe

The Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts (IDIA) at Ball State University is a research and design studio exploring virtual reality, simulation, games and interactive interfaces.

IDIA been commissioned to design and build a virtual presence and artworks for the upcoming Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.

And they’re building it with ReactionGrid’s Jibe platform!

For more information, check out IDIA’s project website.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester
Chief Learning Officer
ReactionGrid Inc.

ReactionGrid invited to present at the U.S. Coast Guard’s “Innovation Expo 2011″ in Tampa, FL

The U.S. Coast Guard holds an Innovation Expo each year, and ReactionGrid has been invited to attend and present at this year’s Innovation Expo 2011 in Tampa, Florida on October 25th.

If you’re attending the Expo, or if you’ll be in the area and would like to meet with us, please drop us a line at create@reactiongrid.com.

The USCG Innovation Expo creates an environment for Coast Guard Innovators to resolve organizational challenges by showcasing their initiatives in a rich collaborative learning environment alongside other innovators throughout DHS and across Government, industry and academia.

One area of interest is 3d simulations and virtual worlds as platforms for immersive learning.   I’ll be giving two presentations on Tuesday, October 25th:

Keynote Speaker #2
11:30am – 12:00pm (Oct 25)
“Learning Through Three Dimensional Simulation and Virtual Worlds”

In this presentation, John will share his experiences using virtual world technology to enhance education and his current work at ReactionGrid to create web and mobile-based virtual word platforms for learning. He will describe best practices for creating effective alternative reality learning scenarios, common pitfalls when exploring immersive learning technologies, and ways to effect cultural change within an organization by using online collaborative environments.

Breakout Session #1
2:00pm – 3:00pm (Oct 25)
“Alternative Reality Learning: The Potential of Virtual World Platforms”

In this breakout session, John will lead a group discussion and hands-on demonstration of the potential of virtual world platforms for immersive learning. Specific examples of virtual learning environments using ReactionGrid’s Jibe platform will be presented, running on both the web and mobile devices, and attendees will be walked through a typical virtual world development workflow using the Unity3d editor and 3d mesh models. Attendees will also learn about the unique affordances of virtual worlds when they are integrated with existing social media (e.g., Facebook) and web-based educational content.

You can learn more about the Expo here and here.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

 

5-minute Video Tutorials on Jibe and Unity3d

I’ve written a bunch of tutorials and general articles on how to use Jibe and Unity3d.  Many people have told me they have found these articles helpful.  Thank you again for the feedback.

Now I’d like to start an additional project.  I’m going to build a library of short and very focused tutorial videos for Jibe users.

The catch: each video will be 5-minutes long.  No more, no less.

I’m limiting myself to 5 minutes because I think that’s a critical threshold for most people.  And I want these videos to be very easy to digest.

Here’s my new YouTube channel.  Please subscribe if you’re interested.  I’ll do my best to post a new video every few days.

And if you have any suggestions on specific topics you’d like me to cover, please let me know.  I want to create videos that are useful!

Creating these videos will be both fun and a challenge for me.  It’s always much more difficult to create something concise than it is to create something with no limits.

Which reminds me of a memorable quote by Blaise Pascal.

“I would not have made this letter so long except that I do not have the time to make it shorter.”

Here’s my first video: “What is Jibe?”

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Peru and the Future of Virtual Worlds

Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) is the #1 ranked university in the country of Peru.

It is also home to a wonderful research project called Grupo Avatar.

Read on to learn more.

Continue reading

Making the Most of Meeting in the Physical World: Evocative Artifacts

MIT’s Technology Review recently published an article on how CardCloud Spells the End of Physical Business Cards.

As someone who spends most of their professional life immersed in the online world, I tend to agree that physical business cards are not an ideal tool for information exchange in the physical world.

But I have a slightly different idea about why I feel that’s the case.

Continue reading

Augmented Cities and Dreaming Wisely

Technology has amazing potential to help us be more human.  And with virtual worlds, we have the ability to shape our embodiment and create environments that convey a great deal of emotional bandwidth.  There are many challenges in building such worlds, and we need to view these new spaces with a fresh perspective.  But I believe the unique affordances of virtual worlds will make all of our work worth it in the end.

In the future, I see the meeting of augmented reality and virtual worlds as a key intersection.  Once we have the ability to view the world around us through “augmented reality glasses” that combine the physical and virtual in our daily lives, things will get really interesting.

And I have no doubt that such technology will eventually arrive.  It’s just a matter of time.

For a mind-blowing vision of what this future may look like, check out this video called “Augmented City.”

This brilliant video was created by Keiichi Matsuda, a designer and filmmaker who studies the implications of emerging technologies on human perception and the physical environment.  Notice how the guy in the video can shape his environment, combining virtual architecture with the physical world around him.  I love the use of the yellow hashmark lines as a visual cue for “don’t try to walk here!”  A very clever way to safely indicate borders between physical spaces and the virtual.

If you’re wondering why the video looks a little funny, that’s because it was filmed to be viewed in 3d using red/blue anaglyph glasses.  You can pick up a nice pair of them for about 5 bucks on Amazon.

Now, imagine someday being able to go to Amazon and buy a similarly cheap pair of “augmented reality glasses.”  We’re probably about 20 years away from that day, but it will happen.  The first handheld cellphone cost $3,995.  Today, you can get one that fits in your pocket for $7.

Many of us (myself included) are working on the development of virtual worlds, both the underlying technology as well as figuring out innovative ways to use them.  I think the trick for all of us working with virtual worlds right now is to not only focus on building out the technology, but to also carefully think through how they might be integrated into our daily lives.  We still have many lessons to learn on how we can best use them to improve the world and augment our ability to deeply connect with other people.

The lessons we learn today will shape tomorrow.  So we must dream wisely.

What have you learned in your work with virtual worlds?  What are your dreams of the future?