Presence is the Key to Virtuality

April 18, 2014

Virtual worlds extend human perception. Facebook certainly thinks so, because they just bought the Oculus Rift, one of the new headgear devices that are going to popularize virtual reality. There have been people talking about the impact of virtual worlds and virtual reality for a long time. For example, E. Carter and his colleagues discuss presence in virtual worlds in their article called Not Quite Human: What Virtual Characters Have Taught Us About Person Perception, one of the chapters in the Oxford Handbook of Virtuality that I said I was going to blog about.

If you want to know whether you have been successful in creating a virtual world, your clients will say, “I felt like I was there”. They are referring to feeling present in a virtual world.

After spending more time virtually, others might say “I felt like we were working there together”. Recently, when 2b3d Studios was building a virtual building shaped in the form of an airplane, one of our clients said “the ability to point to the wall and say I’d like that window moved down just a bit is like no other experience. You can do that in an email, or an edited design document, but standing in the building and pointing to the wall like this is incredible”. People who describe things this way are experiencing virtuality. They know what they’d like the 3D design to look like. Asking an avatar to pick up the window and move it down so they can compare it to the line of sight with the virtual furniture in the room is extraordinary.

Working together virtuality like this is called co-presence, and it is most felt when users spend several hours, days, even weeks together working in a virtual world. Once the avatar begins to work in a virtual world, they begin to need tools to do different things in the virtual world. They are, in essence, adapting to the environment, and using tools to express themselves and to collaborate. If the avatar could pick up the window themselves and move it down about six inches, that is liberating. Why asked the developer to do it, when you can do it yourself after the developer has set it in place for you. This is like web pages, and editing on the fly.

Avatars can change human behavior by working together in virtual environments – so they can impact the outcomes. Baileson and Blascovich talk about this a lot in their book Infinite Reality – a must and easy read.

Avatars can change their own behavior. When one avatar looks at another avatar talking, there is a chance their attention spans will increase. When one avatar moves when the other avatar moves, it is likely they can say, “you are following me, aren’t you”. If the avatar moves to the next piece of information or interactivity, there is almost a game like effect in place.

Following someone, and being there when they turn around is a great example of presence. When crowds move like this together, they are creating a sense of social presence. When you have social presence, you have relationships form, and collaboration happening. When collaborators know they can rely on someone being there, the environment becomes more trusting, and uses can influence each other.

Cognitive neuroscience and social perception studies are being used to design avatars, their gestures and their animations. Carter talks about that a lot. If you learn the techniques for perceiving each other’s behavior in virtual reality, you create a stronger sense of presence, copresence and social presence. When you achieve this gain, you can use virtual environments to enhance your physical world.

Imagine the potential.

You can create global, virtual offices, in which people come to work every day, moving their work place closer to their home place. Such an evolution could save a lot of fuel, save a lot of driving, and save a lot of wear and tear on your body. Imagine focusing on innovating in your company, rather than driving to work and driving away from it every day. Imagine stepping away from the virtual world for lunch and having lunch with your kids instead of other people who have been driving all morning to get to work.

Perhaps virtual worlds can increase the number of hours your workers are focused on innovating on your products or on your services. Virtuality is all about being there, and of course it’s about doing there, once you arrive. The sooner you get there, the more likely the sooner you’ll start getting thins done.

Next we’ll talk about how to get more active in a virtual world.

I know it works for 2b3d Studios.

The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality

April 18, 2014

Every now and then a perfect book comes out that captures a movement. Ray Kurzweil suggested in 2014 that Virtual Reality was going to hit its inflection point. It has.  Look at the data points: Facebook bought Oculus Rift, the only company to date (April 18, 2014) selling a virtual reality headset.  Sony enters the market in Q1 2015 with a consumer version of Project Morpheus.  Microsoft, Samsung, Apple and Google are right behind.  Estimates are forecast for total cumulative unit sales of 56.8m by K-Zero.  We are about ready to explode beyond our immersive imagination.  Couple these forecasts with Philip Rosedale and Ebbe Altberg’s two different keynotes at Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education – both portending a rise in avatar interfaces and a second Second Life focused on education – not the darker side of its old reputation.  The multiverse is expanding in every direction, and everyone is gearing up for it.

The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality came out in 2014 like a double underline, bold typeface edit on the year. The handbook is a just-in-time, intellectually ripe anthology of 44 chapters that deals with the key aspects of virtuality in online worlds. The book opens with my co-authored chapter that sets the tone of the book: a book that will become the definitive handbook on studying virtuality and designing virtuality for the next two decades.

Hinrichs, CEO of 2b3d Studios and his colleague, one of the virtuality framers, Bruce Damer from DigitalSpace, offer “a bird’s eye view of the origins, development and trajectory of digital virtuality.  We were both there, both implementing, both grabbing the hearts and minds, and both pushing the technology and methodologies into the future. Bruce moved on to looking at A-Life, while I formed 2b3d Studios to develop one virtual world after another.  We know what works, what the secrets are, and what the challenges are to frame how virtuality rolls out.  So, I’m going to use this book to help guide the dialogue even more.  This book is a testimony of literary thinkers,  who look at psychology, perceptions, culture, society, sound, image, economy, law, AI, A-Life, applications and on and on.  2b3d Studios are builders who have defined a lot of this discussion, and will jettison users even further into the future.

Since this is the book to read — I’m going to take a hard look at the book in the next blog sessions to help readers dig down from a practical perspective and talk about how to use it to get an advantage and provide access to virtual environment to wider audiences with greater impact.  I will give hints on how to think about virtuality.  How to identify its affect on your organization.  How it will help you adjust to the demands of globalization.  How we can teach you, guide you and support you in your virtual opportunities.

I will blog until I’m blue about how to enhance your physical world with an extended, value added virtual one.

Stay tuned.  We are going to bust this open just as Kurzweil suggested we all would.  I come armed with a golden rolodex and an award winning portfolio.

See you in a week.

I Never Thought I’d See That

August 26, 2013

Ross Smith, from Microsoft sat at the Serious Play Conference which I hosted last week with the Serious Game Association and Digipen Institute of Technology.  Ross came to see Nolan Bushnell, father of Atari and more currently CEO of Brainrush, a game company based on neuroscience.

Nolan had to rearrange his presentation day for family and within 24 hours we decided we’d put him on the second day.  2b3d Studios asked Nolan, “Have you ever been in Second Life before”.  Nolan said, “Yes, let’s give it a whirl”.  We jump into action.  Paulette Robinson from the National Defense University graciously steps into Nolan’s original space.  We announce a change in the program – Nolan Bushnell will keynote tomorrow afternoon.

Nolan sends me his avatar name, we set up permissions to access 2b3d Studios Theater.  Our graphics guru pumps out real-time signage.  Our team preps and sends out invitations before the day is over.  Slides are loaded up.  And, we conduct midnight rehearsals the night before, Nolan tweaking Mountain Lion on one side, us tweaking the PA system on the other side.  It all works.  We green light it, and wait for the next day’s show.

As Ross Smith sits down in his real chair watching the big screen at Digipen, the camera zooms into 2b3d Studios Theater, closes in on Nolan Bushnell’s avatar, and pans across the backstage .  Ran Hinrichs, CEO of 2b3d Studios, double checks everything with Nolan at the podium – well one is in California and the other is in Washington, but the avatars are in the same place at the same time.

As the screen is ready and Nolan’s taking the podium, suddenly Ross Smith, sitting in the front row, shouts out loud to me from day two of the Serious Play Conference.  “Hey Ran, I’m putting this on my “I Never Thought I’d See That” list on my blog.  Ran grins.  A twitter rushes through the audience.

What a wonderful honor, and what a twist of fate.  Ross Smith is a speaker at the conference, but he is also the director of test for the Microsoft Office Lync Client team and now the newly acquired Skype. He leads a team of testers who put the Lync family of unified communications products through the paces to find defects.

When would anyone ever have guessed that we’d pick a technology, virtual worlds, to save the day and make sure our Keynote presenter, the father of Atari could bring a new and fresh experience to a serious gaming conference.

We thought, the technology gods are serious gamers too, so let’s roll, let’s see what they do to us today.  It worked! Nolan’s avatar faced the audience.  The lip animations began the minute he spoke.  His hands gestured with his words.  His jokes were on point.  He ran his own slides.

In the background, the 2b3d Studios team produced a show – moving camera angles, supplementing with on screen text, zooming on presentation – in short, it was a full scale production television-like team, working on the fly in a virtual world.

Come question time, the audience rose at Digipen, asked their questions, interacted with Nolan as if he were there.  Nolan picked up the nuance of the question, paced himself in the answer and acted as though he were standing in front of the speaker.

His avatar somehow suddenly had a twinkle in its eye.  Apparently, when the situation is real, we project into the environment, making it real.  Whatever – this was a serious use of gaming technology, it was used as a business application, it was an instant solution, and it worked like a television production.  And it was pulled off with only the team’s time to make the production flawless.

What a day for serious games, serious players, and serious software.

Whatever software we use to deliver content over the web, the more it acts like a human, the more human the experience.  When we say serious games, we mean gaming software that does serious things – like deliver on a business goal.  So, I’m delighted we made Ross Smith’s list, and I’m even more delighted that Nolan Bushnell had fun in 2b3d Studio’s Theater in a virtual world.  In addition to making Ross’ list, I heard Nolan say as we were closing, “You know, I think this experience is really neat. I think I’ll do this again”.

Score.  Level Up.

Serious Play, Everything is Going Virtual, Relevant and Actionable

August 12, 2013

As I blogged recently, conferencing is changing.  People can’t afford to go to physical conferences.  So, I troll conference websites for info.  I recently looked at one of the conferences I used to attend in Orlando to see where it thought learning was going.  I was hoping for serious play.

The conference is called Masie’s Learning 2013. The first thing I saw was the word “Rebranding” and “LMS”.  Oh, no, that’s like talking about MOOCs – more content, less interaction.  Then, I saw an anti-article about virtual worlds.  Uh-oh.  Elliot goes after Linden’s Second Life – okay that’s fine, that one company pioneered us into virtual worlds as a social phenomena, but didn’t take us all the way home.

But the real talk should not be hype caution, it should be deeper, especially from a learning maven.

I’m thinking.  It’s not about Second Life okay, but it certainly is about serious play and everything going virtual – people, laboratories, environments, interaction, big data to 3D objects.  That’s what learning is about now — “interplay in the data with people around the world, who know what they’re talking about”.  I read on, hoping to see something like “Everything is Going Virtual”.  But I don’t see it.

So I turn my attention back to an article I’m writing on Virtual Worlds as Communication Tools for enhancing personal relationships – the bread and butter of interaction.  And then, I go back to the virtual world application we’re building and do a “sprint” review with my worldwide team.

I then jump over to the conference website and I smile looking at the titles at the Serious Play conference:   “The Power of Serious Games”,  “Playing Between: Weaving the Internet of Things into 3D Environments”, “Global Cooperation Spurring Innovative Health Games”.  I see “Problem Based Learning, Wicked Problems, and Virtual Environments”.  I see “Using Games to Make a Large Scale Health Operation More Efficient”, “Serious Games and Leadership Development”, the “Psychology of Fun”. the “Attack of the Algorithms:  Serious Play with Netbots”.  I see THE FUTURE.

I’ve been going to learning conferences for 30 years.  What I’m looking for now is a bonanza of more virtual, more interactivity, more immersion, more synchronous mentoring.  I’m looking for interacting with the experts who are talking about how to assess serious games, how to create them and how to set up evaluations to make sure they are doing what they designed.

I’m just thinking — is there a game for this?  Then, I go back to another virtual meeting with another team, and say, “keep building, keep testing, this release will blow them away”.

So, I’m sticking in Seattle.  Grounded again.

The Serious Play Conference will start on August 19 at Digipen, one of the leading game development schools in the world.

The marketing data from Ambient Insight will tell us that gaming is definitely the future of learning.

2b3d Studios will focus on interaction, integrating every device onto the Internet and virtualizing both the environment and human psychology.  We’ll beat a drum – adapt, embrace, build, play, measure, rebuild, adapt again – move into the Internet of Everything – what if I could hook up a sensor on a tire … what if I could hook up a nanometer on a cell …. what if I could hook up a brain interface to …. Isn’t it grand.

Clark Abt wrote something prophetic in his Serious Games book in 1971.  He was talking about high school education, but look at how relevant his statement is to all learners today.

“A students who drops out of school because it does not seem relevant to his life, because he does not understand the material being taught, or because school forces him into a passive role, will look elsewhere for relevance and action … We have talked about the ability of games and simulations to improve motivation and to relate the learning environment more specifically to the real world.  The growing trend toward increased game use in the classroom is likely to continue into the future as schools seek additional ways to make learning active, relevant, and exciting for students and teachers and to lower the barriers which often make school “foreign” to young students”.

Mr. Abt adds about the necessity of teachers: “The teacher must decide in what order concepts can be taught most effectively, by what method they can be communicated most memorably, and at what point review and evaluation are needed for “closure”.  Abt, Clark. Serious Games. 120. Maryland: University Press of America.

I’m a teacher and a businessman.  Serious play design shapes order for lots of players quite nicely.   Serious play increases interaction with the other players.  And by using protons to increase engagement and communication, serious play teachers can achieve closure on any topic – making it more relevant and more actionable.

The joy is: we can do that anywhere in the world with any subject area, working in any environment that looks just like the physical world – nano, micro, macro.

Oh you all know this. Do you want to change the game?

Serious Players Make and Play Serious Games

August 7, 2013

The Serious Play Conference begins in two weeks in Seattle (August 19).  And what a great place to have a conference about serious play.  Seattle hosted a world’s fair in 1962 that ignited the country about the enchantment of science.  Everyone was invited, and everyone came.  Today, Seattle’s historic Space Needle and the location of the fair is a thriving civic center.  Our founders had a vision.  Use entertainment to teach a serious subject and ignite everyone’s imagination.  That tradition is literally in our blood, and in our water.  What a great place to keep the serious play tradition alive.

So, the Software Game Association, 2b3d Studios and Digipen are inviting the luminaries and serious player dreamers to Seattle.  We are hosting the conference at Digipen Institute of Technology – a dedicated world-renowned leader in education and research in computer interactive technologies. Ran Hinrichs, 2b3d Studios CEO will be emcee.  The SGA is the executive producer of this playful event.  Our keynoters, speakers and attendees make up an intriguing line-up of serious people, who play serious games. They come from all walks of life.

Jesse Schell is a luminary in serious play and will be keynoting.  I first met Jesse at Carnegie Mellon, as he had just been recruited by Don Marinelli and Randy Pausch, author of the Last Lecture to supercharge their Entertainment Technology Center program.  Jesse is on fire, and his associations with Walt Disney Imagineering, CMU, Freihofer’s Mime Circus and the Juggler’s Guild is renown.  Jesse is a serious player. If Jesse Schell isn’t in the play yard, we won’t have as much fun.  When he’s there we might even encourage him to juggle more than the art of game design.

Nolan Key Bushnell is a serious player. Nolan will be keynoting. Nolan is an American engineer and entrepreneur who founded both Atari, Inc. and the Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza-Time Theaters chain.  I first met Nolan at the Defense GameTech User’s Conference in Orlando last April.  Nolan has turned his battleship to Serious Play with his Brain Rush company, in which he has been studying neuroscience to convert gaming addiction into serious play and serious learning.  Now that is my quote, not his, or maybe that was his quote and is now ours.  Without Nolan, we wouldn’t have the daVinci factor in the conference.

Mihayl Csikszentmihalyi will be keynoting.  Csikszentmihayli’s flow model is the secret to keeping the player motivated in a serious game.  In the field, we say intrinsically motivated.  That means, we are in flow, and we’re happy when we are in flow.  We all know when we are in flow.  But, do we know why we are in flow? Mihayl says we need to meet three conditions: set goals, provide feedback, and teach the player the right skills.  If your serious game misses those cornerstones, think it through again.  Mihaly is a pioneer in understanding happiness and creativity.  Serious players need to experience great outcomes when they learn, and they need to be in flow.  Flow is good business because the player learns new skills and emotionally engages in the play space.  His Fligby leadership game is a great example.  I first met Mihaly as a graduate student at UCLA in a book.  Then, I met him at every conference I attended on learning.  And now I can’t talk to a serious player who doesn’t mention the need to create flow in their game. Without Mihaly at the serious play conference, we would be missing the river.

James Rosser is a keynoter.  I first met James at Elliot Masie’s huge Learning Conference, this is a more traditional learning conference, but Butch (aka James Rosser) came in one year and ignited the future with talking about Are Video Games Better at Laparoscopic Surgerical Tasks.  He cited superior eye-hand coordination, faster raction times, superior spatial visualization skills.  Former President of the Society  of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons said serious games might make better surgeons.

Now you have to come.  I’m very excited about continuing the tradition of our forward looking city and our luminary colleagues to advance serious play.

Serious Play, Serious Jobs

August 6, 2013

The Serious Play Conference at Digipen Institute of Technology, a leading game institute is right around the corner.  2b3d Studios in collaboration with the Serious Games Association will be producing the conference.  Our intent, leverage the expanding market of serious games and turn it into serious jobs.

Serious play is simple.  The mission is to use gaming technology, gaming techniques and gaming mechanics to create learning.  By serious, we mean the outcome is serious.  You play the game, and you improve a skill.  You play a game, and you do your job better.  Maybe serious play makes you a better sales rep by simulating customer interactions that you role played in a serious game.  Maybe you’re a more informed field nurse because you have practiced setting up a mobile health unit in rural location in a virtual world.  Maybe you’re a more strategic business decision maker because you’ve been running a wine business with several other people in your daily serious game.  Whatever your profession, serious games and serious play are designed specifically to improve your performance and possible create serious jobs — some of those virtual, where you commute to your 3D space rather than down the freeway across town.

What we are doing this year in the Serious Play Conference has not been done before.  We are bringing together the industries across the board – whether you’re in the business of architecture, finance, human resources, education, or health care, you are using gaming technology to impact your business.

Using gaming to create more interactivity and more immersion is the brass ring.  If you can get people collaborating together in a place where they are focusing on solving a problem, you have increased your interactivity.  If you use high level graphics that look like the environment they work in, you have more immersion.  If you use rewards, recognition and points, you increase the motivational factors.  The technology lends itself to adding more play to learning, and more rapid development for working.

Serious play is controversial in the work place.  But we want to change that, and make it a strong component of the work place.  So we are reaching out to various groups in industry, government and education who have accomplished three tasks:  a) assessed the technology and related it to relevant business objectives; b) created something in the technology that can be used and measured; c) evaluated the technology that they created based on their objects to determine if it is hitting the goals.  We are doing that to bring hard core expertise to the table to help you take advantage of this technology.

In advancing serious play, one has to take a serious approach to it.  You must understand the theory driving the significance of this emerging trend.  You must actively create something meaningful in it.  You must test it against your objectives.  This is a serious game of cutting costs, increasing productivity and being ahead of your competition.

As the web evolves into a 3D environment, and incorporates the physical world, you can think of ingenious ways to make that happen in your organization.  We believe if you focus on serious play, you can end up with some serious jobs.


Virtual Conferencing is Coming

July 23, 2013

The Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education begins tomorrow.

There is a trend in conferencing coming that is unstoppable.  That trend is virtual conferencing.  I don’t mean virtual conferencing with Skype like services, where you see a video of someone talking and a set of Power Point presentations on some media board.  I mean the replacement of physical conferences.

We’ve talked about it for the last five years – virtual worlds are ever present and they are going to be replacing live events.  Well, we are being hit at a less transcendental level — our pocket book, and even more defining — policy. It’s simply too expensive to travel to conferences in Orlando, Washington DC, New York, San Diego.  It costs our companies far too much money to send several people.  It costs an enormous amount of money to house the folks who attend conferences and even more to feed them all.

If cost isn’t enough to not sign every requisition that passes your desk, the Department of Defense is simply telling people “you can’t go”.  You need papal dispensation to even go to a conference across the street from your facility.  And, you’ll likely be on a furlough anyway that day, so if you do go on your own, it’s now going to cost YOU money to go to the conference. The Department of Defense is a big employer in the USA.  Do you think that policy will extend to your organization?  Yup.

So, the solution that we’ve all been talking about is staring us right in the face.  We can recreate the physical experience of going to a conference in a virtual environment. In a virtual environment you can place all sorts of 3D objects in the environment.  If you can place a 3D object in the environment, chances are people are going to know what to do with it.  If they touch it, slide it, bounce it, move it around, it’ll likely do something that will make them think about why that is happening.  If they look at something, anyone in the environment standing by them can look at what they are looking at, and suddenly, you know what someone is paying attention to.

This kind of interaction is exactly what it’s like to attend a conference in a physical location.  Sure you can’t eat the local food, or meet a couple of new people in a bar to talk about the conference, but you can bring your own food to your computer, and still meet new people in a bar and talk to them about the conference.  There is no compromising here really.  The argument that face to face is extremely important just isn’t that important anymore.  1/3 of relationships have started on-line.  Virtual schooling is soaring.  Collaborative work across virtual environments is becoming the norm.

You can do lots of things in front of your computer that you can’t do in the physical world in a room full of people during a presentation.  You can’t watch a video, or chat rapidly (well, you can Tweet with your thumbs), or you can’t ALT TAB and open several windows at the same time and reference your little heart away, looking at things someone is talking about.  You can’t run a program demo, or group up with five other people to back chat.  But, you can do that in a virtual world. And even way more!

I guess, I’m going on about something everyone knows.  But, the point is virtual conferencing is coming, and innovation is going to be happening even more than we originally suggested.  The question becomes how do you now make a conferencing interesting.  How do you make it more than just sitting your avatar in a chair and listening to a Power Point presentation.

It is now incumbent upon the presenters and the conference organizations to  figure out how to engage the avatar, transform virtual world learning and begin to define, mold and support virtuality.  Here’s a start

I’m ready to dig in and take it way beyond our imagination.  How about you?  Attend the virtual worlds best practices in education and start thinking about it hard.

See you there.  And at your next conference too.  Call me!

3D comes out of the box

July 8, 2013

I recently watched Jinha Lee’s Ted presentation entitled “Reach into the computer and grab a pixel”. The point of the video is to demonstrate how boundaries are being removed by computers to access 3D content outside of the computer.

In our writing and business, we have been discussing 3D technology for almost a decade and how it will impact learning, business, and social interaction just to name a few of the influences.  We have talked about how learning by doing would be accelerated by 3D environments, virtual worlds and the like.

We have witnessed a huge cognitive shift from feeling “present” on-line, to managing not only your attention, but other’s attention when using 3D environments, to getting data out of everything to stimulate our critical thinking in unprecedented ways.  We have witnessed and actively promote understanding avatar psychology in immersive information environments and using it to augment human communication.

And now as computing innovation begins to accelerate, we see the emergence of 3D outside of the box, in essence 3D objects that we can interact with in real time as Microsoft Research, MIT and Jinha Lee demonstrate in the video.

Without thinking about it too hard, the implications of these innovations will be a boon to STEM education.  Students will be able to experiment more by playing with the physics of an object.  They will be able to observe phenomena in controlled environments and ask questions that stimulate unbridled curiosity and interaction.

When Eddington wrote to Albert Einstein and asked him if he could explain why Mercury was behaving badly based on Newtonian explanations of the universe, this simple question became the “ah-ha” moment for Einstein.

Their correspondence about Einstein’s math and Eddington’s patriotic desire to confirm (or deny) Newtonian physics helped Einstein recognize that space had shapes, and that Mercury was responding to those shapes in explainable ways.  In answering Eddington’s question, Einstein confirmed that time was different for everyone.

Let’s fast forward that relationship to today.  Imagine the speed that correspondence could have happened today – not through World War I’s ravaged Europe postal system, but through email.

Now imagine the two of them appearing together in a virtual world to experiment with 20 million polygons that defined a virtual solar system.  Now image them feeding those shapes with big data streaming live from space.  And, finally imagine them reaching their hands into that space and spinning Mercury around on its axis, and reacting to its bending orbit — feeling the magnetic pulse.

This is a time in history, when 3D computing and inquiry are leap frogging us creating scientists out of everyone. With computing becoming so practical and inventive, and the physical and the virtual becoming so intertwined,  it’s hard to not believe we are at the brink of a new Renaissance in Understanding.

Watch for yourself and see if you have a similar reaction.

Virtual Reality becomes Immersive Environments

June 27, 2013

Charles Jan Anders writes in Real Life how our visions of virtual reality have changed in the past 40 years. I read the article and thought to myself even before I began reading, “well, we’re not virtual anymore, we have incorporated the physical world into our virtual world, so the lines have blurred”, and my second thought is that it has always been reality. Yes, some of it has been fantasy, but the human experience is the same. We are immersed in information and we have to figure out how to adapt to the environment that we are immersed in. We learn to perceive the environment, ascertain what resources are needed, then which ones are available. Then we find a home base and collect resources until some sort of conflict happens in the environment. So now, let’s see what he says.

So I read it again and I walked away not seeing how virtual reality has changed, but how graphics have changed.  I saw cinema, not virtual reality.  I saw depictions of virtual reality, with me looking at a lot of 2D images that were used to show “otherly spaces”. I didn’t see places where people were interacting, making decisions, advancing their own story.

So I offer this.

Virtual worlds, virtual reality is about allowing individuals to transport themselves across time and space, and to interact with others to achieve goals, build things, combat things using digital technology – some of the environment may be graphical, some of it may be physical.  Graphical images can be manipulated.  Physical artifacts can be wired with sensors to produce information.  The key is to play with these things – to make them do something for you – to put them together – take them apart – share them – pile them up, anything that allows you to experiment and do some serious play.

If I were going to talk about how virtual reality has changed in the last 40 years, I would say we no longer watch virtual reality – we can actually build a part of our lives in it.

Virtual reality has evolved into immersive environments – places where people can interact and create a new culture.

IEEE publishes Security Awareness Training with 2b3d Studios, UW and NSA

May 14, 2013

The 2013 IEEE Professional Communication Journal recently published Leveraging 2nd Life as a Communications Media: An Effective Tool for Security Awareness Training with 2b3d Studios CEO Ran Hinrichs, Dr. Barbara Endicott-Popovsky, Director of the Defense Center’s of Excellent at the University of Washington and Dr. Deborah Frincke,

2b3d Studios shares its CEO with the University of Washington. Mr. Hinrichs developed and teaches the Certificate of Virtual Worlds at the University. He instructs his students in the process of gamifying educational environments. 2b3d Studios with its award winning products seen on their website shares some of its expertise with visits to the class, in something known as Building Jam sessions.

As a consequence of Mr. Hinrichs instruction and 2b3d Studios modelling expert building behavior, the students have a great example of how to succeed in the world of virtual development. Although 2b3d Studios is not directly involved with the University in their Certificate program, Mr. Hinrichs has created this class in order to stimulate the market with a future of developers. One of the key tasks is taking on a “simulated client” and creating their idea of an educational environment.  In this case the client was the Pacific Northwest National Labs, where Dr. Frincke formerly served.

In the paper that was produced for the IEEE, Dr. Frincke provided the gaming script for computer security education that was built under the tutelage of Dr. Endicott-Popovsky’s subject matter expertise, and Mr. Hinrichs’ expertise in serious game building.  The students did the work. The result was Cybersecurity Island, in Second Life.

Unfortunately, the island had to make way for the next generation of students who continue to benefit from Mr. Hinrichs teaching leadership, and the occasional look over the shoulder from 2b3d Studios to glimpse at the emerging stars. But, the class filmed a machinima, “a video episode taken into a virtual world with avatars as the actors, and the virtual environment being the setting. The producers then overlaid sound effects to tell a story. The end product can be viewed at  Student work is collaborative and raw, but definitely shows how to go from script to concept given the emerging skills of the students.

As CEO of 2b3d Studios, it is an honor to work at the University to provide industry mentoring.  In the past years of the mentorship, the students have built ideas around Sustainable Seafood, a Virtual Media Museum, a game based Mayan Island, and currently an InfoVille town in which students have to compete for points by trading a service or a product to the residents of Infoville.   Engaging with the University is inspirational in looking at the way students handle ideas.

Security training awareness is a key development opportunity for cybersecurity education. Mentoring the University class is a first step in playing with new ideas for the security community.  Moving forward 2b3d Studios looks forward to engaging the security community in some hard core development of security awareness training.  See you in a virtual world.  Will it really be me?  That is the security question of the year.  The answer will be Yes, it is me and I can prove it.