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.

Grupo Avatar PUCP is a multidisciplinary research project whose goal is to develop and promote the use of video games and virtual worlds for education.  Their group consists of students, graduates, professors and administrators.

As a keynote speaker at their Virtual Worlds and Video Games Seminar, I was invited to share my experiences and research findings on why virtual worlds are a powerful tool for both formal and informal education in schools, universities and businesses.  It was a real honor to participate in the seminar, and over 200 people attended.

My presentations were “The Power of Immersion: What’s Special about Virtual Worlds and Education,” “The Right Tool for the Right Job: Virtual World Platforms and Social Media” and “The Big Picture: Virtual Worlds and Goals.

I was particularly impressed by Grupo Avatar’s investigations of the many different affordances and applications of virtual worlds across a broad spectrum of learning possibilities.  They were interested in everything ranging from classroom education to informal learning and even business applications.  I kept meeting people with wide range of expertise (e.g., artists, programmers and psychologists), and the term multidisciplinary kept coming up in conversations.

Virtual Worlds provide tools for creating immersive learning environments that encourage multidisciplinary collaboration.  Likewise, the effective study of virtual worlds requires a multidisciplinary approach.  The folks at PUCP and Grupo Avatar understand this, and it was thrilling to see it all come together at the seminar.

Grupo Avatar recently set up their own Jibe virtual world server to allow students to create their own virtual worlds embedded on the web and linked to each other.  We discussed future projects ranging from immersive language training environments to recreating archeology sites.  It will be great to see what they accomplish, and I’m looking forward to ReactionGrid’s support of their efforts into the future.

I’d like to thank everyone at PUCP and Grupo Avatar who made this seminar possible.  Ines Evaristo Chiyong, Isabel González Roa and Claudia Cecilia Lam, thank you so much for all your help coordinating my visit to Peru.  José Domingo Elías Arcelles, your leadership of Grupo Avatar is inspiring.  And Carlos Fosca, your administrative vision and support is creating something amazing at your university.

One of the goals of PUCP is to become a center of excellence for virtual worlds research and development.  Keep an eye on them, as I think they’re well on their way to accomplishing that goal.

Grupo Avatar PUCP

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

ADDENDUM 13/9/2011: Here’s an interview I did while in Peru on the future of virtual worlds.  “Technology alone will not save us.”  If you want an English translation, try this link.

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