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

MOOCs – Is there a Real Degree Here?

November 5, 2012

Disclaimer:  I am for on-line learning, unequivocally.

Someone help me out here:  MOOCs are free, and no credit.  Somewhere in the back of my head, I can hear one of my teachers saying, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”.  And suddenly Ng has 40 people working for him, how does he pay them?  Why is this business model working?  When it failed so miserably before … what has changed? Expectations?

Remember the multi-university online consortium known as Fathom at Columbia University. Donald MacLeod boasted in The Guardian: “

Fathom was “Set up by Columbia University in alliance with 13 partners, including the London School of Economics, Fathom offers lifelong learning and professional development online. The member institutions include Cambridge University Press, the British Library, the New York Public Library, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the American Film Institute, RAND, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum . With these huge storehouses of knowledge on tap and providing a lot of material on the site for free, Fathom aims to attract people to pay for distance learning”.

This is not the Fathom of 2001 – but if it had been, they’d be making money.

Yet two years later In the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, January 2003, “Columbia University announced plans last week to close its for-profit online-learning venture, Fathom, from April 1st 2003.  After almost three years in operation, Fathom’s board voted to dissolve the company and reorganise the university’s digital media projects, citing failure to turn a profit and insufficient connections with Columbia’s core business as primary motivations.”

How can failure to turn a profit work again?  How can connections with core business be established? Is this the real Ivory Tower? A Fiber Optic Glass Tower? 

Help! Someone from the iSchool, the Business School, speak out — why? why? Is this Coursera model going to work? And why are so many Universities giving their content away?  Are they charging for it? Is someone exchanging money here?  Or Is Ng going to accredited courses and issue degrees that will be more digitally relevant than a REAL certificate?

The Virtual World Boom is Happening

November 1, 2012

Mary Meeker recently put out an outstanding report on the future of the Internet.  She calls it her Eyepopper.  And, I refer to it, because it is influencing how Serious Play or Serious Gaming is really booming.

Why does this data mean that the Virtual World Boom is Happening?  First, virtual worlds means: you are immersed in data, all of the time.  You are virtually in the network, working, thinking.

Ms. Meeker makes four points:

  • Internet growth remains robust while rapid mobile adoption is still in its early stages.
  • Re-imagination of nearly everything is the trend in every walk of live.
  • The economy is full of mixed trends with negative bias.
  • USA, Inc, there is a lot to be excited about, and a lot of worry in certain areas.

So, is it excitement for virtual worlds, or something to be worried about?

Ms. Meeker tells us there are 2.3B global internet users with an 8% growth, driven by emerging markets.  That means that distance is a key driver in re-imagining things.

We are global, we cooperate globally, and work globally.  Working globally means creating new spaces to work in that allows us to feel present, allows us to see each other and each other’s surroundings.

Sounds like a dream for virtual worlds innovation.

Add that there are 1.1B global mobile 3G subscribers with 37% growth, and you realize that virtual worlds must be designed for technologies that are “on the move”.

If users are global, and they are using SmartPhones, and they want to be immersed in the content, in the experience, they are on-line and ready.

But,  Screen Size is Important for Virtual Worlds

So, with what we know so far, we have the ubiquity factor fairly complete.  There are a lot of people using technology, immersed in a virtual world already.  The screen size is fairly small for the enriching, engagement experience that we know as virtual world interaction.  So let’s look at another factor indicating where we can leverage a boom in virtual world design and development.

The surge in the iPad is a strong indicator that our interest lies in having more than one immersive technology.  The screen needs to be bigger to experience more visual input, and to include highly interactive, gestured based experiences.

The proof is in Ms. Meeker’s data.

More to come on what the implication of this is.

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.

Mentor Networks

October 23, 2012

With virtual worlds, come real people.  Imagine a world in which you can call in experts to drop in from your LinkedIn List, or your internal SharePoint Lync list.  Imagine virtual conferences in which users can interact with each other while an expert is talking in the environment.  Imagine facial gestures reflecting your feelings, and body gestures indicating your next move.  Imagine augmenting the environment and providing not only individual feedback to the speaker, but group feedback to everyone.  In a mentor network in a virtual world, individuals can engage with each as well as they do in the physical world – and because of the tools available to all users, providing content, signalling reaction, offering feedback, polling opinion, crowd sourcing a solution – interaction is value add.

Mentor networks show amazing potential for enabling virtual world and virtual education.

A Brief History of Virtual Worlds – the Sumerian Period

October 23, 2012

1956.  Morton Heilig creates the Sensorama, a multisensory hardware device, resembling one of today’s arcade machines.  Patented in 1961, it places the person in a one viewer world full of color films, motion, sound, wind and smells.

1968. Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) launch the creation of virtual reality applications.  The Sword of Damocles is widely considered to be the first VR and augmented reality (AR) head-mounted display system.

1975.  MUDs and MOOs were the first text based virtual worlds.  This is all before Doom, Ultima, Rouge or even Zork, before Second Life, and World of Warcraft.

1982.  Tron was the first CGI based full length motion picture visualizing immersion.  Steven Lisberger wrote and directed Tron.  This is virtuality, in other words, where virtual and reality come together as a visualization that immerses.

1986.  Habitat from Lucas Films is the first on-line commercial game-based virtual world connecting avatars.  This was a role-playing game.  Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar were the pioneers.

1992. Snow Crash offered the “multiverse” as a vision. This vision would succeed at envisioning what happens after the Internet — a world in which we could not tell the difference between real and virtual. Either you were a player or you’re not.  Sounds a lot like today.

1995.  Alpha World combines social interaction and content creation.  Alpha World has slowly morphed into Active Worlds.  Nice way to stick around, change your name, and keep on creating content.

1998.  Bruce Damer produces Avatars 98 and economical conferences in virtual environments begins.  It was built in Alpha World, where users simultaneously navigate and interact in a trade show conference, an art gallery, a webcam wall, a worlds portal.  This sounds so normal now.

2005.  Second Life.  This is not a note about when it was created, but a note that not only did Phillip Rosedale take content creation to the next level, but in September 2005 alone, commercializing digital goods equaled $3,596,674 USD and it’s still climbing.

2007.  Open Source decentralized development, enabling convergence.  Open Cobalt, Open Wonderland and OpenSim.  Business models notwithstanding, this is an opportunity for creativity.

We are at the five year point now in looking backwards, and very few people have NOT seen a virtual world, if they are on the Internet.  Why?  Virtual Worlds are everywhere: they are twitter, email, texting, contact lists, e-bay, facebook, youtube. And as a 3D interface, they are Second Life, Open Sim, Club Penguin, InWorldz and on and on, as K-Zero points out.

Why are virtual worlds increasing in importance as the interface of the future?   Our brain requires 3D to process information effectively.  There is no text in nature, and biology rules our adaption.  Currently, our brain compensates and we create the familiar as we move from one virtual scene to the next. It doesn’t matter how realistic the environment is, how many polygons it supports.  What is real is the social connection, the visualization ability and the amazing creativity unleashed   And, because our avatars move through the environment, they create visual pleasure, through the use of buildings, landscaping, clothing, water sources – it’s amazing.

The history has just begun, and we are in the early stages of it that is to say the Sumerian stage.

Basic Theory about Virtual Media in Virtual Worlds

October 23, 2012

* Virtual worlds are a place where humans wander to shed their feelings of isolation. 

* Virtual worlds are a place where people tell their stories on walls and in 3D objects.

* Virtual worlds are a place to find heroes, pioneers, risk takers, and people as avatars.

* Virtual worlds are a place where technology scales our knowing through visualization and experience.

* Virtual worlds are a place where we can imagine.

Key Messages at the Federal Consortium of Virtual Worlds

October 23, 2012


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.