Category: virtual worlds


If you’re like me, you detest most commercials. I primarily watch HuluPlus instead of cable television anymore and the commercials irritate me to no end (usually I lower the volume or simply choose to get up and do something when they’re on) but a few months ago, a series of commercials caught my attention. These were from Verizon and they were promoting an accessibility technology called Velasense that Verizon is integrating into their system.

I have to say, from the videos, I am deeply impressed. Velasense not only uses GPS to help guide visually impaired users to their destination, but even to doors and other structural elements. It has facial recognition built in to not only recognize friends but also tells users what their facial expressions are. It also reads things, like cans, money, newspapers, etc.

I’ve wondered how the visually impaired might be able to use virtual worlds such as Second Life. I realize that screen readers can often pick up text chat, but what about the graphical interface? Seeing technologies like Velasense coming into the marketplace makes me wonder if, someday, these technologies won’t be able to interpret online graphics for their users, painting a picture through descriptions of what is happening on the screen. Such a breakthrough would be amazing, not just for virtual worlds/vr, but online education as we know it.

For more information about Velasense and to see more video of it in action, check out their website and Tumblr.

http://www.velasense.com/

http://visustechnology.tumblr.com/

 

Nine years ago today, a rather geeky avatar with the name of Desmond Shang officially opened a sim called Caledon with much frivolity and festivities. It was different from other areas of Second Life, Victorian steampunk in design with a covenant to keep it in theme and apart from the hodge podge and patchworked chaos that typified much of the grid at that time. The sim filled quickly and a waiting list formed. Soon there were more sims and a micronation was born with “Guv’nah Shang” as its land baron leader. The rest is virtual history as they say.

I wasn’t around in those early days. I discovered Caledon sometime in the fall of 2008. It was so vast, I immediately misplaced myself but in doing so, fell in love with the community, the theme, the builds, the ingenuity–you name it, I was utterly enchanted. When my initial home sim in SL closed its doors, I knew where I would be settling next. I have never questioned that decision in the six plus years since.

Having a virtual home in Caledon pulls you into an odd type of family. There are certainly a number of standing traditions as Caledon has been building its community history since day one. For someone unaccustomed to these traditions, the existence of founders plaques, seals, letters of marque, Caledon roses, mushrooms, cavorite chunks, pounds, etc. may seem silly, but for those who are ingrained into the community, these become valuable treasures–bits to remember the history of the community and where they were within that history. Newcomers may be confused by the plethora of animal images or personae–bunnies, dodos, catgirls, tinies and other “cultured furs” or knights, princessas, dukes and duchesses, captains, barons and baronesses, etc.–but most long-term Caledonians understand and appreciate what these personalities and segments of the population have brought to the nation, both in terms of the community and its infrastructure.

Since I’ve been in Caledon, I’ve witnessed first-hand how virtual life can intermix with real life. I’ve celebrated members of our Caledon family falling in love and eventually getting married in the real world. I’ve cried with joy at the news of  little ones being welcomed into the lives of Caledonians who are, in reality, across the country or the world from me and yet I’ve keenly felt and shared their bliss, because we’re neighbors and “family.” And I’ve felt this elation, even while aware that such events would eventually pull them away from the virtual world and I knew how madly I’d miss them. (As many know, I’ve had my own virual/real crossover relationship, thanks to Caledon, and hope that one day soon, our friends and neighbors in the community will be celebrating our announcement.) I’ve also mourned the passing of members of our community as keenly as I would someone in my everyday real life–because, virtual world or not, their friendships were very real to me. This is what it means to be “of Caledon.”

As a “family,” the relationships are not always perfectly harmonious. Along with the laughter, fun, and collaborative magic, there have also been the “dysfunctional” moments–friendships shattered over a Caledon rose (who found it first or didn’t, etc, etc) or the “stealing” of guests from one ball or party to go to another; neighbors moving out because of bird sounds “invading their parcel,” a shadow falling from a parcel nearby, garish holiday decor, a better draw distance suddenly showing storm clouds coming into view where none was visible before; and too many rage quits to count.

And yet, here we still are, the Independent State of Caledon, turning nine years of age.

Upon anniversaries, our tendency is to look back at history and talk about all the “good ole days” and maybe gaze forward and dream of the future. I enjoy delving into Caledon history possibly more than most. The founding of such a micro-nation and it’s living community is a fascinating topic and I’ve spent hours reading through the old forums and wiki. Imagining the future and the potentials also has its place–without dreams and goals, it would be all too easy for such a community to shrivel and die (and we’ve seen all too many virtual communities do exactly that). That said, I’ve recently come to the realization that too much of doing either does a disservice to those who are active in the community in the here and now. To all who are now active in the Caledonian community, currently writing what will be part of our communities history and memorable moments, I salute and thank you.

Thank you to Des and Kami for being hanging in there for 9 years of what must have, at times, seemed to be barely managed insanity. Thank you to those original residents, without whom Caledon would not have bloomed. Thank you to all of the EMs over the years who have volunteered their time and energy and put up with much nonsense with very little appreciation–you helped keep the nation safe, many times without any acknowledgement. Thank you to Carl Metropolitan and the many Oxbridge deans, professors, mentors, and tutors. While Oxbridge is, in many ways, it’s own “animal,” I cannot fathom what Caledon would look like without Oxbridge being a part of it. Your work has added a depth that cannot be ignored (and allowed me to complete my Ph.D. work so THANK YOU!). Thank you to Excalibur Steamlander for providing a place on the web to keep the history alive and also thanks to all those writers, bloggers, reporters, etc. who have dedicated their time and talent to cataloging what it is to be Caledonian. Thank you to the myriad of event planners and sponsors over the years for helping create many many fun shared memories. Thank you to Team Caledon’s organizers and planners, builders, team members, and all-around cheerleaders for the amazing yearly efforts put towards RFL in SL. Thank you to the builders and scripters whose work continues to amaze and delight, sometimes with unintentional and awe-inspiring grandiose bungles. Thank you to the countless group owners and leaders who somehow manage to organize Caledonians and other Steamlanders periodically for events (I realize that at times, it’s much like herding cats). Thank you to our “sister nations”–Winterfell, Steelhead, New Babbage, Marikesh Mondrago, etc.–for being an extended family. And finally, thank you to those who are active in the community right now–I hope to know you for years to come.

I am privileged and blessed to be amongst you.

Hi everyone!

Still trucking away gathering data for my dissertation. I’m still looking for people who have used Particle Laboratory to teach themselves how to work with particles in Second Life.

The survey can be found here .

Thanks in advance!

This week, we’ll be visiting some sites in SL dedicated to science. First, we’ll visit the inworld session area for NPR’s Science Friday which airs weekly on Fridays. Then we’ll head to Genome Island to tour their training areas for students and finally, we’ll experience Virtual Hallucinations.

We’ll meet up at Jaguarland (http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Jaguarland%20USA%20Education/128/128/30) at 3pm slt (5 pm central) and head out from there!

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Note: Tours venture into Mature as well as PG sims. If you are not able to access Mature rated sims (if you are below 18 years of age), you will not be able to fully participate in these tours.
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First, we’ll drop in on the Science Friday program area which streams the show weekly and sometimes takes questions from the SL audience.

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Science%20School/26/211/26

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Science Friday in SL

Next, we’ll head to Genome Island.

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Genome/119/145/53

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Genome Island

Genome Island is run by Texas Wesleyan University and supports genetics classes for university students studying biology.
From the rez point, we’ll walk up the hill. Look for the hovering block with the question mark on it. Click for a tour chair. Sit and click again for a guided tour of the island.

Once the chair derezzes, look for another box with a question mark. This will give you the guided tower tour chair. This chair will derez at the Gene Pool.

Look for another box with a question mark for the next tour leg. We’ll end with the abbey section tour.

Need more information? There’s a notecard full of information back  at the rez point. 🙂

Finally, we’ll visit the Virtual Hallucinations Lab, sponsored by University of California, Davis.

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Sedig/26/45/22

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Nurses’ Station at Virtual Hallucinations

The Virtual Hallucinations Lab was designed to allow visitors to experience some of what those with schizophrenia live with–visual and audio hallucinations. Info cards can be picked up at the entrance.

We also need to pick up and wear a badge which will produce the audio hallucinations. As we enter, each visitor needs to select their gender for the correct audio.  Look for the blue pyramid shapes for info about the experience.

This Friday (1/21), I’ll be leading a tour of USC Marshall School of Business in SL and we’ll then head to Wyoming Entrepreneur if the sim is available.  We’ll head out from Jaguarland (http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Jaguarland%20USA%20Education/128/128/29) at 5pm central (3pm slt).

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Johnny Cash’s Childhood Home in SL

This week, we’ll be visiting the Arkansas State University heritage sims, home to Dyess, childhood home of country legend Johnny Cash.  (We’ll meet up at Jaguarland at 3pm slt–5 pm central and head out from there. http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Jaguarland%20USA%20Education/107/128/34 )

The Dyess Colony project is a virtual reminder of the real life colony, begun by President Roosevelt. Five hundred families were chosen on the basis of need, farming ability and fitness–these families were awarded 40 acres and a mule (this was during the Depression) to come to Dyess and set up homesteads.
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Note: Tours venture into Mature as well as PG sims. If you are not able to access Mature rated sims (if you are below 18 years of age), you will not be able to fully participate in these tours.
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Our first stop will take us directly to the replica of the childhood home of country legend Johnny Cash.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/ASU%20Dyess%20Colony/57/220/23

Next we’ll head to the “Colony Homes” street, with it’s examples of the home styles build in Dyess in the 1930s.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/ASU%20Dyess%20Colony/47/82/23

Walking down the street to the east, we’ll work our way around the big white house (the admin building) and find our way to the general store, made to look much like the one in Dyess in the 1930s.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/ASU%20Dyess%20Colony/147/46/23

On the other side of the circle, we find the Dyess Theatre, featuring photos of real life Dyess residents over the years.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/ASU%20Dyess%20Colony/138/122/23

Right next door to the theatre is the Dyess Cafe, based on residents’ recollections of the real world cafe from the 40s and 50s.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/ASU%20Dyess%20Colony/148/134/23

If we make our way west, back down the Colony Homes street, we’ll find ourselves in the next sim, in front of the Dyess Colony design office with its real life pictures of Dyess.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/ASU%20Virtual%20Heritage/174/84/23

Just around the corner is the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, set in a representation of the Bank of Tyronza.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/ASU%20Virtual%20Heritage/128/52/23

Your media player will need to be working in order to fully experience the museum. Don’t forget to click on and teleport to the cotton field (the teleporter is in the small theatre at the end of the museum tour).

There are other historical builds scattered around the sims, including a Delta shotgun house (right across from the museum) and Lakeport Plantation in the sim to the south.

Next we’ll head to Napoleon, AR, the underwater town. (note: as of 1/14, their media stream wasn’t working, but we can still tour).
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/ASU%20Virtual%20HeritageS/218/240/22

Head down the dock and jump in the water. Here we can see the virtual remains of a once thriving small farming town on the Mississippi River. By 1870, erosion from the Mississippi had caused the bank (with the town included) to topple into the river, becoming an underwater ghost town.

Flight is turned off, so we’ll have to walk back up to the shore. Just down the path, we’ll find a carriage ride to the Lakeport Plantation. Each carriage seats two and you’ll be dropped off near the front door after a ride around the grounds.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/ASU%20Virtual%20HeritageS/211/136/24

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Please give us feedback on these tours, so we can make everyone’s experience a fun one!
The survey can be found at:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/14i5wAUqJSlpyXqjjLVCxjpw_1aCE24tsjwPgR-OeLu8/viewform
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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
CC2014 Aether Education and Travel

Jury’s Still Out on Cloud Party

When Cloud Party first hit the scene, there was a lot of metaverse press about that it may eventually topple Second Life as the king of virtual worlds (at least for us Westerners).  It was easy to get in and get started, could run in a browser window, was less laggy than SL–the list went on and on. Over the past six months or so, it seems that there’s been a new announcement from Cloud Party each week of some upgrade or another–a new physics engine, Oculus Rift capabilities, new art installations, inworld games being developed, new avatars, free building privileges, template builds, etc. Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education even had a portion in Cloud Party this year. I recall myself saying that, if Cloud Party kept on the trajectory, it could catch up to SL in a few years. The connection to SL hasn’t been lost on those working on Cloud Party.  They’ve been drawing the boundary lines of late to put to rest any confusion, pointing out the differences between Cloud Party’s Terms of Service and that of Second Life’s, as the latest Linden Labs debacle rolls on.

I like Cloud Party, but mainly as a visitor.  I like to go and hop from location to location, visiting the art installations and taking pics. I also play with the building tools and have used the building template to create an immediate virtual classroom. That said, I haven’t felt the urge yet to “live” in Cloud Party like I do in Second Life. My avatar is little more than the standard fare. Building seems to be more complex than it should be (some tools are in one location and others in another place–it’s part SL prims, part Minecraft). There’s also no privacy. One could make the argument that there’s no privacy in SL, but you can set a parcel or a sim to owner/group only which isn’t available in Cloud Party unless you are willing to pay a monthly fee.

This is my main issue with bringing students into Cloud Party. I love the free builds and access part because students can easily log in and start playing and working collaboratively on builds. This freedom also poses a risk, though. People who haven’t necessarily logged into Cloud Party can come through at any time (they’re the ones with “Guest#####” above their heads). This opens the door for trolls and griefers. (At least, from what I’ve seen, Cloud Party doesn’t have the adult seedy stuff proliferating throughout–at least not yet.)  So the jury’s still out.  I’ll continue to visit Cloud Party and encourage others to do so too but will it become part of my virtual routine? We’ll see. With each round of updates and improvements, my interest gets piqued a little bit more.

Aevalle in Cloud Party

Aevalle in Cloud Party

inside_my_classroom

Instant Classroom in Cloud Party

How_far_will_it_push

A Guest Inquires About the Cannon

It was a busy weekend for me in Second Life.  Sunday, Wrath and I began looking up inspiration for a new very special build, one that would be the virtual home for the Teal Life Foundation in Second Life.

Teal Life is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to educate women about ovarian cancer and assist those who have been diagnosed get the care and support they need.  It was founded by Crystal Elliot after she, herself, was diagnosed.  Crystal lost her battle in May of this year but her legacy, Teal Life, lives on to help others battle this cruel disease.  I’m very honored to be able to play a small part in bringing TLF into Second Life to educate more people about ovarian cancer as well as network with and support other organizations in the fight against cancer.

Currently, the TFL headquarters is in Caledon Steam SkyCity (http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Caledon%20Steam%20SkyCity/105/138/75).  I liked the idea of “rising above” cancer as the entire build of SkyCity floats in the sky above open water below.  Wrath took my suggestions of a Victorian orangerie and images of the Palmenhaus Schönbrunn and ran with it, creating an oriental steampunk inspired build with a tree atrium and windowed rooftop.  Main color scheme?  You guessed it–teal!  We’ll probably be tinkering on it for a while but I adore the results–lots of etched metal, lots of ornamental girders, all focused on the teal tree in the center (Teal Life’s symbol).  The main floor is primarily for education and outreach–so far there are a handful of interactive boards, leading to various websites (including Teal Life’s).  The lower floor (in the “belly” of Steam SkyCity, so to speak) is to house a conference/presentation area and events area.  This will be accessible via a teleporter just inside the front door.  There is an in-world Teal Life Foundation group as well which is open for anyone to join.  I’ll be adding updates as we get events planned and on the schedule.

TLF in SL

TLF in SL

It’s been much too long since I’ve chronicled here.  Since mulling over adding some attractions to Caledon Sound, I was curious as to the subject–what games do Caledonians play?  I set out to find some locations with regular or ongoing activities.

The first location I visited is high over Caledon Prime.  Every Friday night, Duke AV Parabola and crew host Primtionary, a game where players build “clues” to the titles of books, movies, events, etc.  (Think charades but with prims instead of gestures.)

Primtionary over Caledon Prime

For those who like exploring and shop style hunts, they can fly a few sims south of Caledon Prime to find the Caledon Quest in Caledon Oxbridge University.  Questers start off in the Hall of Caledon on the Oxbridge campus, but quickly find themselves following clues to locations all over the nation, ending up in the skies over Middlesea dodging air kraken.

Caledon Quest Starting Area at the Hall of Caledon
Not far from the Oxbridge campus, in Oxbridge Village, the Oxbridge Fencing Club caters to those who want to hone their swashbuckling skills.  Using the En Garde gaming system, mentors and champions help beginners learn the finer skills of the game while working their way up the ranks in the En Garde system.  The Club also has an in-world group to arrange tourneys and team activities.
Inside the Oxbridge Fencing Club
You’ll need firepower more than sword skills in the skies below Middlesea’s Iron Cloud.  Kraken hunting has become infamous in the sim.  Kill enough kraken and your name will appear on the leader board in the Iron Cloud lobby.  (The sim has avatar flight turned off, so vehicle flight is required–may want to bring a partner to navigate the skies while you blast a few tentacled critters from the aethers.)
Kraken Lurking below the Iron Cloud Airbase
(photo taken by Wrath Constantine)
Finally, for those who prefer a more leisurely pursuit, full of pets and prizes, there are multiple locations in Caledon that offer 7Seas Fishing.  To catch best fish and custom prizes, you’ll need a pro rod and bait–these are usually available at vendors at the fishing sites.  I have fishing set up in both Caledon Sound and Caledon Speirling at Tempest’s Point.  Kitiwickshire Fishing Supply is also listed on the 7Seas website as having customs (in this case, a Jaeger Duck!), but there are many unlisted locations–just wander around and you’ll probably find some fishing holes.
Aev's Gone Fishing...as a tiny
A Wee Pink Jaguar Fishes from the Tempest’s Point Dock.
(Originally posted on the Caledon Memoirs blog.)

My proposal is finally starting to shape itself into something I can defend.  Trying to unlearn MLA in order to learn APA format has been tricky to say the least.  At least I know I’m closing in!  Aiming to defend within a month!