Archive for the ‘Virtual Worlds’ 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?

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.

MOOCs – Another Reason for Virtual Worlds

November 13, 2012

Dr. Endicott-Popovksy at UW

This is Barbara Endicott-Popovsky.  She teaches Cybersecurity at the University of Washington.  She now teaches the same class to approximately 13,000 people using a MOOC (see 3rd paragraph regarding what’s a MOOC).

Barbara just invited me recently and three other professionals to participate in a filmed panel talking about emerging technologies and cybersecurity – this includes social media, virtual worlds, gaming, etc.

We spent two and a half hours in a studio with a score of professionals, taking and retaking one shot after another.  We immortalized our thinking about this relevant topic in November 2012.  But, the interactivity was practically non-existent.

What’s interactive about a MOOC?

Our interactivity was about as vivid as the graphic above.  There were no people, no faces, no one actually interacting.  We sat face front looking at the camera, Barbara a bit to the side, acted as talk show host for the video version of the class and the panel. She talked to a camera man, and an imaginary “class”.

We panelists didn’t talk among ourselves at all.  Well maybe between takes.  But, we didn’t see the class, we never had any contact with anyone consuming our ideas, it was like being filmed in a zoo.  I think the only person that really got something out of it was the producer who was making the video and writing notes furiously.  After this experience, I concluded MOOCs are a great idea, but their interactivity model is all wrong.

The Huffington Post just blogged today that MOOCS are Massive Open Online Courses, offered free as online college-level classes open to anyone, and everyone, who wants to take them.  The blog touts Coursera, edX and Udacity.  Huffington says MOOCs are a potential game changer. I’m wondering whose game they’re changing if the interactivity isn’t even as good as a real classroom.

I’m wondering how anyone is going to make money at this? Or better yet, how much money people are going to spend to be part of this  I saw a lot of money being spent.  But Barbara wasn’t getting anything, none of the panelists were getting anything, and even the three guys video taping are working off existing salaries at the UW. Why is this the “Year of the MOOC“?

Well, what a great time for a virtual world to step up and start offering some real interactive experiences. In fact, we put together a video to show how this could be done.  We used the occasion of How to Conduct Government Conferences in Virtual Worlds with our co-conspirators: ASTD, the Technology and Telehealth group of the DoD, and the National Defense University.    Conferences in Virtual Worlds.

Well, there is something to be said about moving conferences and real interactivity inside a virtual world. And we asked that question five years ago, do you want to be 3D.  We are betting on — you do.

How to run a conference in 3D by 2b3d, ASTD, T2 and NDU.

We’ll be happy to do that for you.  Visit us at

2012-2022. Where are we going from here?

October 23, 2012

Wearable Technology:  Nokia patents a tattoo that vibrates when you get a call.  This is a wearable that is even more deeply embedded in you and provides added value. Google predicts wearable goggles, enabling augmented reality seen only in cyberspace science fiction.  Yet, it’s a work in progress.

Augmented reality in subways with smart phones are already in your hand, and is a smart phone not a wearable?  Do you put yours down very much?


Any Object is Digital:  Corning produced “A Day Made of Glass” to show some of the most amazing visions of the future on glass.

Imagine everyone creating 3D objects that can be access over the Internet and access and integrated into any object.  The image below paints that vision.


Work-Life Balance Technology.  Imagine every object with an IP address.  This could happen on glass surfaces, as Microsoft envisions in their recent video, and could happen on other surfaces as new materials are constructed as envisioned in the Engineer of 2020:Visions of Engineering the New Century report suggests.

Such access to information could easily add to the quality of life, creating work life balance.  The picture below says it all.


Compute on Any Surface:  As surface glass becomes available and high speed fiber reaches out everywhere, computing will occur on walls, mirrors, counters, real desktops, billboards, store windows, anywhere there is a surface.

And if you want access to “How To” and “Help Me” or “Show Me” or “Tell Me” services and you want either virtual worlds, or human avatars to come in and help, you will be getting them everywhere.

Transworld Communication..  So speaking across distances and sharing objects will be the norm.

A FoxNews 1:1 between one journalist and one interview is extraordinary in video conferencing in 2012.  By 2022, meeting walls with anyone present in the environment, waving 3D objects between users will be the norm, I bet.

Holograms.  And if you haven’t seen Tupac performing Coachella with Dr. Dre, you might not see that holograms are right around the corner.

Couple this technology, with recent Microsoft Research technology, and you can see our bodies making movement on the screen without using a mouse or a keyboard.


And, then when we can do that and access 3D images directly, we can move data in 3D without grabbing a mouse.


Avatar Realism:  Technology is advancing the digitization of our bodies fairly quickly.  Our avatars are becoming more real.

Look at the differences between an avatar in Second Life, and the digitization of John Noble.


When all of this convergence is brought together: Technology, People, Materials, Processes, Investment and Vision, we can imagine a world in 2022 when we might be able to have it all.

  • Abundance
  • Ubiquity
  • Realism
  • Natural Interfaces
  • Timeless Memories
  • Healing Computing
  • Economic Equality
  • Energy Efficiency

here is great promise in our advancement, and the next 10 years will not look the the world we are experiencing now.

Where is Virtuality?

October 23, 2012

If you have a device, you are virtual.
If you use twitter, you are virtual.
If you play games, you are virtual.
If you use augmented reality, you are virtual.
If you text constantly, you are virtual.
If you have a Facebook page, you are virtual.
If you Google your facts, you are virtual.
If you upload your creativity, you are virtual.
If you use a virtual world, you are virtual.
If you have an avatar, you are virtual.
And all of this is reality.

Predictions, 1995-2012

October 23, 2012

Ran looks at a trajectory of ground breaking ideas.

In 1995, Web Page Design was a different multimedia. Everyone wanted one, everyone was trying to figure out what made a good website, and how did you get others to see your URL.

In 1997, Intranets focused attention on internal business processes. The advise was, if you are going to go public, make sure you get it right, inside your organization first. Like Peter Senge suggested, become a learning organization. Knowledge management was born.

In 2002, the Secretary of Commerce published a 2020 Visions document in which ten of the top leaders came together to discuss what is going to happen with all this technology. This launched a Visions 2020.2 from the student perspective. Let’s look at their visions: make it small, I don’t want to type, make it part of the desktop, make it multifunctional, make it for everyone, make it speedy, wireless, safe, with 24-7 access, and make it work for me. Make sure I can get help all the time, and make the software intelligent, so I can ask questions and get good feedback. And finally, make it a game, take me there, let me learn on-line, and let me work digitally. Plus I want a different kind of teacher, a different kind of book, a personalized world, and give it to me straight.

How close did we make that one. Here we are ten years later, and what part of this list isn’t here?

In 2004, the National Academy of Sciences publishes The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century. Technology changes underscore the prediction. Medical breakthroughs, new energy devices, new materials, remarkable light sources and next generation computers are seen as where the innovations will come. Societal patterns will impact these technologies. The youth will bulge, the baby-boomers will retire, the demographics will equalize, but water, housing, and healthcare will challenge the areas of focus. The marketplace will be global and customerization will be dominant. Education is the game changer, and technology in education can change it. Not only do new skills need to be taught, but new ways of teaching have to be invented. And, key areas of growth must include: strong analytic skills, creativity, ingenuity, professionalism, and leadership. With Coursera on the rise, e-learning a standard offering in any university, and organizations like Google offering courses and meeting places, access to quality content and rich interaction with peers is within reach. With virtual conferencing and virtual worlds, the new workplace and learning place are more accessible to everyone everywhere. The society of engineers continues to build creativity and professionalism in every new venue. Our predictions are coming true.

In 2011, empirical evidence shapes how to design virtual world learning in Transforming Virtual World Learning, Cutting-Edge Technologies in Higher Education and in 2012, Engaging the Avatar is seen as providing leadership in the new digital economy.

Ubiquity is Making Us Smarter.

October 23, 2012

So, ubiquity had arrived, and Ran found himself attached to a computer everywhere. He found that when he keynoted at the Federal Consortium of Virtual Worlds in DC that “convergence” indeed became the key to his note. Ran lay out a vision for 2022, “Virtuality”.

He notes that virtual worlds, gamification, Avatar DNA, smart glass, smart devices require the technology and the processes to converge. The point is, we are unequivocally connected, receiving multiple feedback loops in a vast sea of content, in which we are now entering the accredited and peer reviewed stage.

Ubiquity is making us smarter.