Open Wonderland on a Tablet

December 23, 2011

By Roland Sassen

With the availability of numerous tablets, it is a natural step to use these devices for all kinds of applications. But what to do when your applications need a lot of graphical power? Most virtual world toolkits have a heavy client, which uses the local graphics card for rendering.

The good news is that it is possible now to run your client in the cloud and enjoy your 3D application on your tablet. WonderSchool is an example of a virtual world service provider that allows you to access your virtual world from a PC client or from a handheld. Technically this is possible by using remote desktop software installed as an app on your handheld. The app receives the images and forwards these to your tablet screen. As an example, look at this video where you can see how to use the Open Wonderland virtual world on an iPad.

How it Works

The Sun Ray device, a stateless device, has been emulated by Oracle, and this emulation is available as OVDC  (Oracle Virtual Display Client). This small software component is also available as an iPad app (Oracle Virtual Desktop Client App for iPad) and can be seen demonstrated in this Oracle Virtual Desktop on iPad in Action video.

Our company, THINSIA, enhances this functionality with access to a server with the Open Wonderland client. This client connects to an Open Wonderland server and to a video server for the rendering of the images. The rendered images are sent directly to the Sun Ray server and are forwarded to your device, in this case an iPad.

WonderSchool offers hosted Open Wonderland servers and hosted OWL clients. It will be an interesting project to make these technologies available in a huge grid for many thousands of schools and universities. As all the components used here are scalable, the sky is the limit.

For more information, contact me at:

sassen@thinsia.com


Up Next: Telepointers and Improved Stickies

December 20, 2011

By Nicole Yankelovich

With the EZMove project complete, it’s time to move on to the next Wonderland Wednesday project. Instead of focusing entirely on a single project, we decided to research one project while implementing another. Join us tomorrow for the first Wonderland Wednesday session in this new series.

About the Projects

Improved Telepointers
While telepointers may not sound tremendously exciting, we believe a good telepointer implementation will dramatically enhance collaboration. Here are examples of what telepointers look like in a 2D environment:

Telepointer examples

Telepointer examples

They allow remote collaborators to point and gesture at specific items. The current telepointers in Wonderland do allow you to point to 3D objects, but they suffer from two major problems. First, they look horrible!

Current OWL telepointer

Current OWL telepointer

More importantly, they don’t work when a user has control of a 2D application, which is the time when you most want to be able to point to 2D items. The aim of this project is to improve telepointers such that they work well in both the 2D and the 3D cases, which will also involve improving their appearance.

Enhanced Sticky Notes
Sticky Notes are one of the most heavily used 2D apps in Wonderland.

Example of sticky note usage

Example of sticky notes used for brainstorming

While they are quite useful as is, they suffer from a host of problems. The worst of these is that if there are too many of them in world at the same time, they cause performance to degrade. The reason for this is that each note is a full-blown shared application. Other problems are that they are not resizable, the standard notes don’t support multiple fonts, you can’t add images or drawings to them, and they’re only a single “page.”

The major effort in this project is figuring out a way to redesign the notes such that each note is not such a “heavy weight” application. The exact way to do this, however, is not immediately obvious. It is for this reason that we decided to spend some time experimenting and researching the different possible ways to approach solving this problem.

How the Projects are Selected

A number of factors go into selecting these project ideas. The project has to be small enough to accomplish in a reasonable amount of time given that the group only meets an hour a week. We also want each project to focus on a different aspect of the system for maximum learning benefit. Finally, we want the functionality to be as useful as possible to the greatest number of people.

The Plan

In this selection process, quite a few people liked the “Enhanced Sticky Note” project idea. This project, however, is rather large and, as mentioned above, we don’t at this time know exactly what it will take to accomplish it. The Telepointer project, on the other hand, should be relatively quick and we have a pretty good sense of how to implement it.

So here’s the plan. Between now and January 11th, anyone who is available for the Wednesday sessions will focus on exploring the code and doing background research necessary to scope out the Enhanced Sticky Notes project. That research will continue in the background through January and February. In the mean time, starting on January 11th, the Wonderland Wednesday group will begin the implementation of Telepointers.

When the Telepointer project is complete or near complete, we will evaluate the Enhanced Sticky Note research and decide if it will be feasible to take on that project as the next Wonderland Wednesday project. Since it’s quite a large project, we are also considering having volunteers spend an extra hour or two a week working independently or with a single partner to write code or do testing between Wednesday sessions.

Why Participate?

If you are a Wonderland developer, Wonderland Wednesday sessions are about the best way to learn the intricacies of Wonderland programming. As with the Subsnapshot and EZMove projects, the sessions were an opportunity to learn about the development environment in a highly collaborative setting. Not only do developers learn coding practices from one another, but they also discuss best practices for testing multi-user, multi-platform software.

Even non-developers can benefit from participation. All of these projects involve end-user functionality. The more end-users who contribute to the design and testing, the better the outcome of the effort will be. Particularly at the beginning and near the end of each project, there are opportunities for non-developers to contribute. At the beginning, we focus on what functionality to include and we design the user interface – the way the feature will operate. Even for something seemingly simple like Telepointers, there are a lot of decisions to make about how the feature should work. Towards the end of the project, the group tests the new code. This is the fun part! You can watch the feature evolve from something primitive that barely works to a feature you don’t know how you managed to live without.


EZMove Now Available

December 16, 2011

By Nicole Yankelovich

We have now completed our second successful Wonderland Wednesday project. EZMove, a tool that makes it easier to move objects than the standard edit tools, is now available for download in the Module Warehouse. Here’s a quick video that shows how the feature works.

The primary thing to remember is that all EZMove functions are available when the ALT key (OPTION key on a Mac) is pressed.

For specific details on how to use EZMove, refer to the EZMove documentation.


NSF Funds Wonderland ESL Project at STCC

December 15, 2011

By Nicole Yankelovich

As I announced at the recent European Immersive Education Summit, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a grant to Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) to create an immersive environment for teaching English as a Second Language. You can read more about the project in these two press releases:

STCC Press Release

WonderBuilders Press Release

The project is currently in the design phase. One of the particularly nice aspects of this project is that it involves multiple departments at the school. I am currently working with students in the photography department coaching them on how to take and edit photographs for use in 3D modeling. In January, I will be working with graphic arts students to show them how to build models of buildings on their campus and apply the photographs as textures. In addition, I’ll be helping to train staff from various departments such as Financial Aid and Student Affairs on how to staff office hours in Wonderland so that ESL students can practice their conversational skills with actual college staff volunteers.

By the end of the project, STCC plans to have curriculum for four levels of ESL instruction in Wonderland.


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