Open Wonderland 2nd Anniversary

March 31, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

This month marks the 2nd anniversary of Open Wonderland. In the release meeting last week, the group brainstormed about some of the past year’s highlights.

Wonderland Wednesday Projects

Wonderland Wednesdays continue to be a great way for developers to both learn more about Wonderland development and contribute to the community. They are also an excellent testing ground for new features and bug fixes. In the past year, we have completed one Wonderland Wednesday project, EZMove, and are close to finishing the more recent Telepointer project.

Telepointers: All evidence points to Jagwire
Telepointers: All evidence points to Jagwire

New Monthly Release Cycle

Starting in January 2012, we put into a place a monthly release mechanism. The main goal was to ensure that when people download the Wonderland binary, they are running a recent stable version. With the previous system, someone could download a binary that was almost a half a year out of date, which was causing support issues.

The new system has had a number of unexpected positive consequences. We are now holding monthly release meetings to review which new features and bug fixes should be included in the release. In addition to being another venue for developers to meet and discuss issues, these meetings have provided us with a framework for reviewing bugs and feature enhancement requests (RFEs). During the meetings, we can also enlist volunteers to tackle problems or work on RFEs.  Developers are pushing to get code finished in order to have their code included in the next release. We never expected changing the release cycle would have an impact on progress, but it’s turning out that bugs are now getting fixed at a faster pace with more people participating in the process.

Immersive Education Participation

It has been particularly gratifying to see the number of Wonderland projects being presented at the Immersive Education (iED) conferences.  Community participation in my remote keynote “show-and-tell” session at the most recent European Immersive Education was amazing. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch the video, or read the blog post about the event.

Community members participating in the Euopean iED conference

Community members participating in the European iED conference

Although I’ll be attending in person, I have signed up to do another similar session at the upcoming Immersive Education Summit in Boston June 14-16. Please contact me if you cannot attend the summit in person, but would like to show off your Wonderland world or Wonderland feature in the Boston show-and-tell session.

Start-up Activity

This year there has also been some activity on the business front. The WonderHealth team from Vmersion is looking for funding from the Knight Foundation to create a social networking environment for people with common  health concerns. The new environment will allow participants to hear from doctors, share experiences with one another, and discuss educational media together.

Also in the healthcare space, WonderBuilders has entered their new VMed Learning Spaces product offering into the MassChallenge start-up competition. VMed Learning Spaces are a collection of simulated clinical settings such as a doctor’s office, an intensive care unit, an emergency room, a maternity ward, etc. that medical, nursing, and other allied health students can use to practice critical skills.

VMed Learning Space by WonderBuilders

Example VMed Learning Space by WonderBuilders

Please cast your vote for both these projects on their respective competition web sites to help them gain momentum.

Press Coverage

In the past year, Hypergrid Business and other news outlets have picked up quite a few stories originally posted on WonderBlog. A search for Open Wonderland on Hypergrid Business reveals stories published about Wonderland’s use in Africa, in the +Spaces debating project, in the Singapore Games Village project, in an English as a Second Language project, and in the Virtual Cockpit. You will also find reports on new Wonderland features such as drag-and-drop of Microsoft Office documents, exporting of objects, and streaming a Wonderland world to a tablet.

Hypergrid Business Search Results Page

Hypergrid Business Search Results Page

Final Thoughts

We are looking forward to another year of community projects, collaborations, and interesting activity around Open Wonderland. If you have a Wonderland project you would like to highlight on the blog, simply email a few paragraphs and a screenshot or video to me or to info@openwonderland.org and someone will work with you to edit the article and publish it as a guest post.

Last year on the Open Wonderland anniversary we ran a series of educational workshops to commemorate the event. We’re in discussion about how to commemorate it this year, so please keep your eye out for a discussion the forum on this topic.


Virtual Valley e-Health Application

November 23, 2010

Our guest bloggers today are soon-to-be or recently graduated students at the University of Seville (Spain), and the developers of the open source project Virtual Valley.

Virtual Valley: e-Health with Wonderland

By Ángel Brasero, Santiago Hors and Salvador Romero

An overview of the Virtual Stadium from the Learning Center

An overview of the Virtual Stadium from the Learning Center.

We have been kindly invited to write a post in the Wonderblog by the Open Wonderland staff. Thank you!

Virtual Valley is a virtual world to assist patients during physical rehabilitation at home. The world is entirely controlled by low-cost game controllers like the Nintendo Wii Remote, and non-intrusive medical sensors. Virtual Valley is currently in an experimental phase.

In its early conception, it was intended for middle-aged people with chronic diseases who need physical rehabilitation to control the evolution of their illnesses. We believe, however, that it can also be useful for athletes and other injured people.

One of the most difficult challenges in rehabilitation is to keep the patient motivated once they return home and dealing with the expectation of performing the exercises independently. Based on previous research and experience, we anticipate motivating patients through the use of exergames, education, and the socialization that a virtual world provides.

Advantages / Innovations:

  • Low Cost: A deployment of a Virtual Valley client only requires a PC at the patient’s home plus some popular game controllers connected to the patient’s home TV. We can also convert affordable exercise devices into wireless smart devices through the use of the game controls.
  • Medical monitoring  and personalization: All the exercises and activities performed by the user are registered and can be monitored by a doctor. Exergames can be configured for different demanding levels or even completely different kind of exercises.
Reviewing health data in-world

Reviewing health data in-world.

  • Socialization / motivation: Patients can meet and exercise with other patients, doctors or even relatives, who can enter in the world to perform keep-fit exercises.
  • Embed existing software: Through the use of Wonderland’s X11 application feature, we can embed previous health and exercise systems into the virtual world, adding the social layer to these legacy systems.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uehfcT77CE]

Devices

We make use of the Nintendo Wii remote, Nunchuck and Wiimotion Plus through a modified version of the open source Wiigee library. We are using Bluecove for wireless communication, as well as the Widdcomm Bluetooth Stack, provided with a $10 bluetooth dongle. We have built our own Java libraries for the Nintendo Wii Board and the Nonin Pulse-oximeter.

We have also developed some other libraries to provide abstract functions from the sensors data, such as the WiiMote Pointer, a library that converts the information from the Wiimote IR camera to screen coordinates (avoiding the corner problem present in other libraries), and a mouse and keyboard emulator based on the java.util.Robot class.

All this  software is encapsulated in a high-end ‘comm library’ that hides the devices to the user, and instead, provides ‘services’ following an event-driven model.

Exergames and Modules

All exergames (with the exception of legacy X11 system) are implemented with Wonderland Modules. The comm library described above, in the form of a .jar file, is used by Wonderland Modules to provide a way of communicating with the devices. We also make use of MySQL Database to keep patient data and exergames configuration. There are also other modules such as X11 application launchers and medical information displays.

Development

Virtual Valley is an Open Source project developed by master thesis students of the University of Seville (Spain) in collaboration with the Northern Research Institute – Norut (Norway). We expect to have a web site and to start uploading the code soon, focusing first on the game controllers.

The project is still in an experimental phase, as we stated before, and under development by undergraduate students at the University of Seville and Norut. We expect to start testing soon with volunteers both in Spain and Norway.

Exercising in the Virtual Gym

Exercising in the Virtual Gym.

Acknowledgments and Miscellaneous

Some scientific papers have been published regarding Virtual Valley in international e-Health conferences and the IEEE. Salvador’s master thesis was awarded second place in the 2nd Ed. National Master Thesis Award by Sun Microsystems Spain.

We wish to thank our tutors: Professors Dr. José Luis Sevillano and Dr. Daniel Cascado (University of Seville), researchers Luis Fernandez-Luque and Dr. Lars K. Vognild (Norut) for their invaluable support and guide, and Dr. Miguel Fernández (Sport Centre at the University of Seville) for his priceless collaboration. Thanks also to Telefónica Chairs for its financial support.

The authors:

Angel, Salvador, Santiago

Ángel, Salvador, Santiago


“Games for Health” Virtual World Session

May 10, 2010

It seems like there is an increasing interest in using virtual worlds for health care applications. You may recall the recent COMSLIVE Wonderblog post describing the health care communication project at Birmingham City University.

Birmingham City University's new Open Wonderland hand washing module that assesses who has washed their hands and how often

To learn about other projects related to virtual worlds and health care, you may be interested in attending the “Virtual Worlds and Social Games for Health” day, which is part of the “Games for Health” conference. I have been invited to speak on using Open Wonderland as a platform for creating health-related virtual worlds. Here’s the agenda for the day:

Virtual Worlds and Social Games for Health (pdf)
May 25, 2010
Boston, MA

If you’re planning on attending, please let me know.


COMSLIVE – Communication Skills Learning in Immersive Virtual Environments

February 26, 2010

I have the pleasure of introducing another guest blogger today. Nigel Wynne is a Senior Academic in Learning and Teaching within the Faculty of Health at Birmingham City University in the UK. In this article, he describes some of the very exciting work he and his colleagues are doing using Wonderland in a variety of health care related projects.

Birmingham City University Logo

It’s always struck me as slightly odd that many virtual world platforms divorce the user from the tools they use every day as they communicate, collaborate and work with colleagues. One of the strengths of Wonderland is its capacity to integrate real world tools within a virtual world setting. Staff within the Online Simulation and Immersive Education Research Group, Centre for Health and Social Care Research, at Birmingham City University, UK, are applying Wonderland in order to enhance Communication Skills Learning amongst learners preparing for work within the National Health Service. Following a nine month scoping exercise during which a range of virtual world platforms where explored in terms of their potential application to communication skills development, we decided that Wonderland could have a significant transformative impact in this area of our provision.

Birmingham City University Wonderland Simulation Center

Most of the unintended mortality and morbidity within the health sectors in the UK and USA have communication deficits as a contributing if not root cause. How then can Wonderland help to provide a more creative solution to what is a very real social imperative? Well, when we break down communication we get three rough subsets: verbal, non-verbal, and written components.

Verbal communication within Wonderland is enhanced by its support of 3D immersive audio. Here, for example, learners are aware of the direction from which verbal communications and sounds emanate and may be more strongly prompted to respond to verbal communications by facing the direction from which they came and by facing the person they are communicating with.  We think that this will add significantly to the fidelity associated with the learning activities we are planning.

Birmingham City University - example of interactive animated objects

Non verbal communication can be facilitated by the gesture controls that learners can activate when communicating with other learners. How do they acknowledge understanding and receipt of a request, do they use non-verbal communications to emphasise their own verbal communications? By encouraging deliberate use of non-verbal communication in Wonderland, can we help support more effective communication within real world settings?

Within the health care sector, practitioners are required to record every aspect of the care they are associated with, to follow protocols, and use proformas. Written communication skills are therefore essential. Using the Open Office word application within Wonderland, we can encourage learners to collaboratively complete care plans, patient assessment forms, and observations charts as well as access policy documents, just as they would in the real world. If we can enable access to Wonderland from within a Trust either by deploying behind their own firewall or by providing access to a world hosted elsewhere, then hospitals could have a very powerful tool with which to train their staff to use the systems that they are legally required to use and are judged against in the real world.

Birmingham City University collaborative care planning via shared application

In addition to the above, Wonderland allows teachers to open up a fully functioning Firefox browser. Whatever one student views in the browser is viewed by all other students co-located in the same space. We believe that this application on its own adds incredible value to our virtual world learning scenarios. If we look at virtual world technology as a simulation technology, then it is impossible to simulate the real world without enabling learners to access the web in their virtual world. From a pedagogic perspective, we can use the browser to transfer any web-based content into a trigger for collaborative learning, all within a 3D immersive space!

For example, as an adjunct to our virtual worlds work we have developed a wide range of online patient simulations using software known as Virtual Case Creator (VCC). With VCC simulations, learners find problems, solve problems, and make decisions. One aim of our project is to explore how effective VCC learning is if students collaborate in-world as they access the VCC simulations using the web browser.

Birmingham City University Flash-enabled web pages

One more feature of Wonderland that attracted us to this platform is its telephony integration. So many referrals within the health care sector take place over the phone. Nurses have to communicate patient information via telephone in order to persuade doctors to see their patients, for example. So important is effective telephone communication that in health care we have communication protocols to help ensure that staff can bundle and convey information as effectively and efficiently as possible. Within Wonderland, our students will assess a patient and then make a phone referral in-world to a phone in the real world. If their  referral is effective they will persuade a doctor in the real world to attend in-world. How cool is that!!

Birmingham City University - interaction between real world and virtual world

One of Wonderland’s unique selling points is the utility it affords teachers. By this I mean the ease with which scenarios can be created. Using the drag and drop feature, images, 3D models, and PDF’s can be dragged from a desktop into the world. A great example of this is the Wound Care learning activity we set up in 20 minutes. We simply dragged and dropped some wound images into world, dragged in a PDF document with information about wound care practice, (which automatically opened in its own viewer), added some care plans and an assessment chart for students to complete collaboratively and then added a poster with guidance for the learners.  For a little extra context, we dragged and dropped in some models from the Google 3D Warehouse or from our own Wonderland inventory. Hey Presto!!! With no scripting or modeling required, we created a rich, student-led, activity-focused learning scenario.

Birmingham City University - drag and drop images for collaborative learning

There are lots of other reasons why Wonderland seems such an attractive choice for teachers and trainers including, authentication, 100% Java, being free (yes that’s right, free!). I already stand the risk of being accused of blog hogging, so I need to quickly move to a close!

Our COMSLIVE Project aim is to design a communication skills Wonderland environment and assess the extent to which this fosters real world change within our students as they engage within our high fidelity simulation centre learning activities. We are also exploring how scalable Wonderland set up is in terms of the number of worlds we can run concurrently, the number of scenarios in a world, and the number of avatars in a scenario. This is all looking good at the moment as we conduct a series of stress tests. In common with most Faculties of Health, we have high student numbers. There are 3000 student nurses in one course alone.

The project is funded by the Joint Information Services Committee with a significant additional contribution by the University. We  have also partnered with Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust and Middlesex University.

More information on COMSLIVE can be found at the JISC project website and at the Birmingham City University project website (very nascent). For more information please feel free to drop me a line.

Nigel Wynne

National Teaching Fellow
Senior Academic L&T
Head- Online Simulation and Immersive Education Research Group
Faculty of Health
Birmingham City University
nigel.wynne @ bcu.ac.uk


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