Archive for the ‘Serious games’ Category

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.

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?