Postcard from Wonderland: Lecture Hall

A while ago, Jon wrote about his first World Builder world, which is a lecture hall. Since then, this has become a standard part of our Wonderland "demo tour". What’s nice about the lecture hall, apart from the fact that it showcases how easy it is to build spaces using our web based World Builder application, is that it’s packed with cool features that make for a really great demo.

Let’s take a quick tour:

Project Wonderland lecture hall

Let’s start with where I’m standing.

First notice the floor mounted microphone, just in front of me and slightly to my right. This is a functional in-world microphone. It’s not just a prop. If I stand on the white square by the microphone, my voice will be amplified so that everyone in the lecture hall hears me at the same volume. Having a microphone in this space provides virtual world users with a familiar real world model for addressing questions to the presenters. The microphone enforces a one-at-a-time mechanism by requiring proximity to the microphone. Of course we could have done away with this completely and given everyone the ability to address the room at full volume, but the virtual microphone allows us to use social mediation to control question asking. Why create a new mechanism when, there’s already an established solution we can bring from the real world?

If you look carefully there’s also a white square on the stage which works in the same way for the presenter.

On the far wall of the lecture hall are two collaborative applications.

On the left is a PDF viewer. This allows a PDF document to be displayed in-world and can be used by the presenter just like they’d use a laptop and a projector to give presentations in the the real world. Unlike the real world, though, audience members can un-sync from the presenter and flip through the slides on their own. Each user can do this independently, and when they’re done, they can re-sync with the presenter to go back to the slide they’re currently on. All without interrupting the presentation. Try doing that in the real world!

To the right is a video application. Presenters can use this to load videos to show during their presentation. The video application supports recorded videos in a wide range of formats courtesy of the fobs video library which provides Java bindings to native video and audio codecs. The video app can also be used to stream live video from Axis webcams, courtesy of the jipcam library.

New in Wonderland 0.4 is a heads up display (HUD). You can see the control panel for the video application in the bottom right. The button that looks like a chain is the sync button. Just like the PDF viewer, individuals can un-sync from the presenter and play the video at their own pace.

Finally, there’s one more interesting component in this feature packed space. On the far left there’s a table with a phone. This phone allows us to dial out from the virtual world to real world phones and have so-called "out worlders" (thanks, Jordan for coining that phrase!) join the meeting in the virtual world. This phone acts like a conference call, people can also dial into the meeting from their phones.

So, that’s Wonderland’s virtual lecture hall. I hope this encourages you to use the features we’re building into Wonderland to create really effective collaborative spaces of your own. We’d love to hear about your projects. Better yet, invite us into your worlds for a show-and-tell. We’d love to meet you!

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4 Responses to Postcard from Wonderland: Lecture Hall

  1. Tom Poe says:

    Absolutely amazing stuff. I live in a small rural community in the middle of the corn fields in Iowa. I’m thinking we need a community virtual world. Where to start? Why, our library, of course. We need to set up a virtual world in the library, but it needs to be off-line. In order to connect, residents will have to pay $50 for an open-mesh.com unit they plug into their wall socket. They give the MAC address and registration information to the librarian, who registers them on a local broadband infrastructure based on the mesh network. Each resident then has to use chat, or invest in home equipment to have a webcam, VoIP setup, and whatever else they want to use.
    Where are the biggest pitfalls in such an approach?

  2. Nigel Simpson says:

    Very interesting idea, Tom! I think the biggest issues you’ll run into are bandwidth and network quality of service for the mesh network. Wonderland supports high fidelity stereo audio which is helpful in giving users a feeling of being present in a space. This requires bandwidth and consistent quality of service. Wonderland can scale down to phone quality (8KHz mono), but with a wireless based network, even if you have sufficient bandwidth, quality of service is still a factor. The issue is that network latency can vary a lot and this can disrupt audio quality. What you experience is noise akin to static on a phone line. The only way to know if it’s going to work, though, is to set up a trial deployment and see what happens. If it turns out that you can’t use the network for audio, we recently added a feature to Wonderland which allows you to join the world using a conventional phone. So you could use the network for accessing a shared Wonderland world, and the phone for audio. Fortunately, these days you don’t need a PBX to do this. You can "outsource" that to PSTN gateways services such as those provided by junctionnetworks.com.

  3. Swagata Ray says:

    Thanks Nigel Simpson for your virtual tour.It’s really amazing and i want to create virtual world by myself. So from where can i start. I know java technology but do not know graphics design. From your snap shot it is like you are doing a lot of graphic related coding. So how can i start to build my own apps?

  4. Nigel Simpson says:

    Hi Swagata,
    If you want to create a new virtual world, there are a number of options.
    The first option is to use the World Builder application which is a 2D layout tool with a library of 3D assets. Read more about it in the following tutorial:
    http://wiki.java.net/bin/view/Javadesktop/ProjectWonderlandWorldBuilder
    If you’re interested in creating your own 3D assets, then you can use a 3D modeling application such as Blender or Google Sketchup. Here’s a tutorial on how to import Blender models into Wonderland:
    http://wiki.java.net/bin/view/Javadesktop/ProjectWonderlandArtImportTutorial
    Finally, if you have further questions, please feel free to post to the Wonderland discussion forum, where there are a lot of people who can help you:
    http://forums.java.net/jive/forum.jspa?forumID=112

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