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:

nature-mind

“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:

Hypergrid Adventurers Club – Visiting the Center for Global Health’s East Africa Traveler Safety Simulation

hgac  9 28 2013 04

Wandering warthogs in the East Africa Traveler Safety Simulation

Yesterday, the Hypergrid Adventurers Club (HGAC) visited the Center for Global Health’s East Africa Traveler Safety Simulation.   About 20 of us made the voyage, initially gathering at JokaydiaGrid and then travelling together as a group.  This was the first HGAC trip in a long time, and it was wonderful to see so many familiar friends as well as some brand new faces.

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Rebooting the Hypergrid Adventurers Club and Thanking Latif Khalifa

singularityIf you’re a fan of the Hypergrid, you should definitely check out the new 1.8.3 release of the Singularity viewer for OpenSim and Second Life.

In particular, take a look at this section in the update notes.  The fact that it is a very brief sentence seriously belies the magnitude of its significance.

  • Fixed a problem with long teleports in OpenSim (“4096 bug” SVC-2941 FIRE-11593) (Latif)

Latif Khalifa has fixed the bug that, since the beginning of time, prevented Hypergrid explorers from jumping to places more than 4096 regions away.  No more mandatory intermediate hops!  No more “cannot reach destination – too far away” messages!

I encourage all explorers of the Hypergrid to please take a moment and thank Latif on Twitter.  His hard work has resulted in a major improvement to the use of the Hypergrid and the evolution of OpenSim as a constellation of easily accessible interconnected grids.

Which brings me to the topic of the Hypergrid Adventurers Club.  Since my presentation at the OpenSimulator Community Conference, I’ve received a great deal of interest in possibly restarting our tours of the Hypergrid.  Many people reached out to me, and the outpouring of interest was very inspiring.

So I’m rebooting the tours!  Our next tour will be Saturday Sept 28 at 10pm EDT.  For all the details, please join and read our Google Group.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

OpenSimulator Community Conference 2013 – My Presentation and My Thanks to Everyone Involved

Attending the Opening Keynote Presentation

Attending the Opening Keynote Presentation

This past weekend I attended and spoke at the very first OpenSimulator Community Conference (OSCC13).  It was an amazing event full of outstanding presentations, great networking opportunities, and spectacular venues with tons of attendees.  It was also truly remarkable to see how far OpenSim has evolved and matured as a virtual world platform.

I’ve seen my fair share of online conferences, and this was the most professionally managed and engaging online conference I have ever attended.  To everyone involved in making this event a reality, thank you! 

And thank you all who attended my presentation.  I apologize for not having time to answer all your questions, but if you leave a comment on this blog post I will be very happy to reply.

Lastly, for those of you interested in me possibly restarting the Hypergrid Adventurers Club tours (I got a lot of positive feedback at the conference), be sure to join the HGAC mailing list and post that you’d like to attend a future tour.  If I see enough interest, I’ll definitely start them up again.

Please read on for my own presentation summary, video and downloadable slides.  You can also watch recordings of all the other presentations in the Conference Archives.

“Exploring the Interconnected: How Past Dreams evolve into Future Reality”

Join us to hear more about how dreams from the past can dramatically change and evolve into something completely new. In this presentation you will hear all about John’s initial experiences in Opensim while still working at Linden Lab, the creation and mangement of “Pathlandia,” initial explorations of the Hypergrid, and how it all fits in with what he remembers as Linden Lab’s original vision of an expanding Metaverse of self-hosted and interconnected virtual worlds.

ADDENDUM 9/10/2013: Be sure to read this blog post: “The Future of Conferences.” It’s an outstanding summary of the conference by Crista Lopes, the inventor of the Hypergrid and one of the conference’s main organizers.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

How to convert a prim-based object in Second Life or Opensim into a mesh object on your hard drive using the Singularity viewer

prim cube

ye olde prim

This is pretty cool.

The most recent version of the Singularity viewer (version 1.8.1) adds a particularly interesting feature:

  • Wavefront (.obj) and Collada (.dae) Export by Apelsin, Inusaito, and Latif Khalifa - Allows export of your creations into Blender, Unity3D and other modeling applications and game engines

This means you can now take a prim-based object from within Second Life or Opensim and export it to your hard drive as a mesh object (either .obj or .dae file format).

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How to embed and play a video on an object in Unity3d and Jibe

step 06 play movie

Watching “Hedgehog in the Fog” in my Jibe world.

Note: You’ll need the Unity Pro editor if you want to work with Movie Textures in Unity3d.

Unity3d allows you to embed and play videos on any surface in a 3d environment.

This means you can easily create a web-based Jibe world where avatars explore a multiuser 3d virtual space while watching videos or movies playing on screens/signs/any surface you wish.

The most common way to add video to a Unity3d project is by adding a video file to your project’s Asset Folder, which automatically creates a Movie Texture (details here).

However, adding a video file directly to your project means the size of the video file will be added to the final size of your completed Unity webplayer file.  In other words, if your video clip is 50 Megabytes large, then your Unity webplayer file will have an extra 50 Megabytes added on to it.

For folks creating Jibe worlds with Unity3d (or anyone creating Unity webplayer files for streaming on the Web) this is not good.  You always want your webplayer file to be as small as possible so your webplayer file will finish downloading and start running as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, there’s a way you can download/stream a movie from the Web so it doesn’t add to the size of your Unity webplayer file.  Unity will immediately start playing the movie as soon as it has buffered enough of it, similar to how YouTube works.

Here’s a simple example:

Step 1: Get your video ready as an OGG file on the Web

If you have a video on YouTube that you want to use, you’ll have to download it.  I suggest using Flash Video Downloader.

Unity needs videos to be in OGG format (file extension .ogg).  If you need to convert an existing video file into OGG format, I suggest using VLC (it’s free and cross platform).  Take your OGG video, put it on a webserver somewhere and remember the URL.

Important Note: If you’re managing your own webserver, be sure it has the MIME type for Ogg Vorbis enabled.  For Extension use .ogg, and for MIME type use application/ogg.

Here’s a sample 60 Megabyte OGG video I made and uploaded to WordPress.  Feel free to use this URL in your own tests.  You can also click on it to see how it plays in your browser.
http://becunningandfulloftricks.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/hedgehog_in_the_fog.ogg

Step 2: Create a Cube

In this example, we’re going to make a basic cube and have the video play on its surface.  Of course you could flatten the cube so it looks likes a screen and then place it on a model of a TV or something.  I’m just being lazy.

step 01 creating a cubestep 02 creating a cube

Step 3: Create a new Javascript

I like the name of a script to remind me what the script actually does, so I’m going to call this new script ClicktoPlayWebMovie.

step 03 create a new javascript script

Here’s the code.  Copy and paste this into your new script and save it.

var url = "http://becunningandfulloftricks.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/hedgehog_in_the_fog.ogg";
function OnMouseDown () {
 // Start download
 var www = new WWW(url);
// Make sure the movie is ready to start before we start playing
 var movieTexture = www.movie;
 while (!movieTexture.isReadyToPlay)
 yield;
// Initialize texture to be 1:1 resolution
 renderer.material.mainTexture = movieTexture;
// Assign clip to audio source
 // Sync playback with audio
 audio.clip = movieTexture.audioClip;
// Play both movie & sound
 movieTexture.Play();
 audio.Play();
}
// Make sure we have audio source
@script RequireComponent (AudioSource)
function Update () {
}

You can see at the top of the script that I’ve included my demo URL as the default movie URL.  You can always change it later.

Step 4: Add ClicktoPlayWebMovie script to your cube

Drag the ClicktoPlayWebMovie script from your Project folder onto the Cube in your Scene view.  This will add the script to the cube.

step 04 drag javascript to cube

Now select your Cube in the Scene view and look at the Inspector settings.  You can change the movie URL by simply editing the URL field in the Inspector.

Also notice that there is an Audio Source added to the Cube.  This was added automatically when you added the script to the Cube, since the script needs an Audio Source component to work.  Don’t delete or modify the Audio Source component.  Just leave it be.

step 05 script in cube - check audio component and movie url

Step 5: You’re done.  Test it out!

You can run your Jibe world locally in the Unity editor and test it out that way.  Walk up to the cube and click on it.  The movie will start playing on all surfaces of  the cube.

step 06 play movie

You can also view an online version of this demo in my own Jibe world.

Enjoy!

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

Speaking at “Train for Success” Panel on the Future of Virtual Worlds – Nov 8 @ noon Eastern

The Gronstedt Group hosts a weekly “Train for Success” speaking series, and this week I’ll be participating in a panel discussion on the State and Future of Virtual Worlds.

The panel will be held in Second Life and starts on Thursday November 8 at noon Eastern. You can also watch and ask questions via the live stream on the web.

For more details, please see Facebook. Here’s a summary:

“The landscape of virtual worlds is changing. Social and game mechanics make virtual worlds more engaging. Browser-based virtual worlds make them more accessible to a wider audience. The panel will discuss the state and future of virtual worlds. Join this conversation about the emerging platforms and applications of virtual worlds in learning and business.”

Hope to see you there, and special thanks to Anders Gronstedt for inviting me to participate.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Video of panel on “Virtual Worlds Revisited” at the 2012 Chicago eLearning and Technology Showcase

I  just participated in a wonderful “Virtual Worlds Revisited” panel discussion as part of the Chicago eLearning and Technology Showcase.  The panel was organized and moderated by Mike Kemmler, and participants included virtual world innovators Anders Gronstedt , Mark Jankowski and Karl Kapp.

The panel was held in Second Life, but the focus of our discussion was firmly on the future of new virtual world platforms and new modalities for immersive learning.  We were projected into the physical world meeting room in Chicago where about 30 people attended in person.  Here’s a summary:

Still deeply entrenched in Gartner’s Trough of Disillusionment, is it time to revisit virtual worlds?  Mike Kemmler hosts a virtual panel discussion via Second Life with a distinguished group of virtual world innovators, presenters, consultants, and authors, including Anders Gronstedt, Mark Jankowski, Karl Kapp, and John “Pathfinder” Lester. Panelists address the current state of learning in virtual worlds, explain platforms they see organizations using for immersive learning, and discuss current challenges and future possibilities of using virtual worlds for learning.

Thanks again, Mike, for this great opportunity.  It was an honor to be on a panel with such a stellar group of pioneers in virtual worlds and immersive learning.


NOTE: The audio from Second Life is bit choppy for the first 30 seconds, but then clears up perfectly for the rest of the video.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Speaking at the Academic Librarians 2012 Conference – Syracuse University, June 12-13

I’ve been invited to attend and speak at the Academic Librarians 2012 Conference at Syracuse University from June 12-13.  This conference will be a great opportunity to connect with folks interested in building the future of immersive learning and information literacy.

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“We were here” – Discovering Footsteps in the Wilderness and Flags across the Hypergrid

I started the Hypergrid Adventurers Club because I think the development of Hypergrid-enabled interconnectivity between Opensim grids is a beautiful and fascinating evolution.  And in my experience, if you want to help cultivate growth and innovative uses of a new technology, it’s a good idea to do whatever you can to build a supportive community around it.

Recently I noticed a very interesting phenomenon across the Hypergrid.  On regions in areas that allow visitors to build or rez objects, some people are planting flags.

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