Student Projects – Community Meeting

July 22, 2014

Johanna Pirker from Graz University has volunteered to organize and run an Open Wonderland community meeting this coming Wednesday. We will meet on the community server.

Open Wonderland Community Meeting
Two Student Projects
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
1pm US Eastern time
(see event in your time zone: http://tinyurl.com/OWL-Student-Projects)
Community server – http://owf1.virtualnorthstar.org:8080/

Session Overview

The first student, Lisa, is about to finish her Master’s Thesis. She is developing tools to support exploratory collaborative learning settings in the form of scavenger hunts in OWL. This includes (a) an itemize functionality, which provides objects with info text, (b) an info inventory, (c) a student manager, where the teacher can assign 1-4 roles to students, (d) an item board, which provides students with the gathered information, and (e) a quiz. As a first application scenario, Lisa displays the approach and her tools in a setup to learn about the Egyptian culture.

Patrick is also about to finish his Master’s Thesis. He is developing a graphical OWL editor, which can be used to move, rotate, and duplicate objects in the world in a 2D window. He will focus on the architecture and implementation of the tool.

OWL Showcase: STCC ESL Virtual Campus

December 3, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

Please join us for an informative OWL Showcase on Wednesday. We will be visiting Springfield Technical Community College’s (STCC) virtual campus currently being used to teach English as a Second Language (ESL).

OWL Showcase: STCC ESL Virtual Campus
Wednesday, December 5th
1-2pm US Eastern time
(see event time in your time zone)
Registration on Eventbrite required

WonderBuilders has worked with the STCC faculty to create an extensive learning environment for ESL students.

Collage of STCC virtual campus

Selection of STCC virtual campus spaces

In this US National Science Foundation sponsored project, two ESL classrooms are completing their first semester-long deployment of Open Wonderland. During the tour, attendees will have the opportunity to try out some of the in-world activities designed for students including recording audio conversations, going on an activity scavenger hunt, participating in a photo hunt, and creating a custom fair booth.

Registration is required for this event. Since this not a public world, the URL for the server will not be made public. The login information will only be sent to people who register using the Eventbrite link above.

If you plan on attending and have a smart phone, please consider taking some photos using Instagram so you can more fully participate in the “photo hunt” activity. You can see a preview of this activity in the ESL Department’s recently published Photo Hunt album on Facebook as well as a preview of the Multi-Cultural Fair Booth Activity.

If you are not able to make the tour on Wednesday, there is a possibility of another tour on Sunday, December 16th at 2pm US Eastern time. If enough people express interest, we will set up a second tour on that date. To express interest, please leave a comment on this blog article or post a message on the Open Wonderland forum.


Fall Meeting Schedule, etc.

September 18, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

As many of you know, we held a series of Open Wonderland meetings recently to discuss the future of community meetings along with a number of other topics.

September 5, 2012 Community Meeting
September 5, 2012 Community Meeting

Fall Meeting and “Code-a-thon” Schedule

The major new idea we discussed was holding longer weekend “code-a-thons” approximately once a month rather than weekly one-hour coding sessions. A code-a-thon is where developers come together and work on a project from start to finish in one day.

Instead of coding during the weekly meetings, we talked about cycling through a number of other types of meetings. First, we’ll move the monthly release meetings into a regular meeting time slot. The other weekly meeting slots will include planning for the code-a-thon sessions, hosting community showcase events, and having discussions on topics of interest to the community. The showcase events will involve a person or team providing a presentation and / or a tour of their Open Wonderland virtual world. The discussion topics will primarily be non-technical, but we may occasionally include developer-oriented content.

Open Wonderland Fall Schedule

All Wednesday meetings start at 1pm US Eastern time and run for 1 hour and all Sunday code-a-thons start at 1pm US Eastern and run for 5-7 hours.

Wed Sep 19 Monthly Release Meeting
Wed Sep 26 Discussion: Business Case for OWL
Wed Oct 03 Code-a-thon Planning Meeting
Wed Oct 10 Showcase: Ryan’s Builder Project
Sun Oct 14 Code-a-thon

Wed Oct 24 Monthly Release meeting
Wed Oct 31 Discussion: Wishlist for Data Collection
Wed Nov 07 Code-a-thon Planning Meeting
Sun Nov 11 Code-a-thon

Wed Nov 28 Monthly Release Meeting
Wed Dec 05 Showcase: STCC ESL World
Wed Dec 12 Code-a-thon Planning Meeting
Sun Dec 16 Code-a-thon

Holiday Break

Everyone in the community is encouraged to submit discussion topic ideas and volunteer to showcase their project.

The Open Wonderland Meeting Calendar is now available as a public Google Calendar with the calendar ID:

openwonderlandfoundation@gmail.com.

You can add it to an iCal application using this URL:

https://www.google.com/calendar/ical/openwonderlandfoundation%40gmail.com/public/basic.ics

Webcasting and Recording Meetings

Over the past year we have gotten quite a few requests to webcast and record meetings. After brainstorming about this topic, someone suggested we try Livestream. Since this costs $45 a month, I decided to experiment with the free version of UStream first. We now have a UStream Open Wonderland Community Meeting channel. It has a few drawbacks, but I would like to try it for a few meetings and see how we like it. The drawbacks include advertisements and what may be an inability to capture both microphone and computer audio. I don’t think either of these are show stoppers. We can capture in-world audio, so someone will have to set up the capture computer as a “camera,” but do any talking on another computer.

Priorities

An additional topic we covered was listing priorities. Different people had different opinions about importance, but most people agreed that these items were significant areas to focus on:

  • Avatar improvements or a whole new avatar system
  • Audio improvements
  • Updating OWL graphics
  • Addressing firewall issues and tunneling
  • Creating additional developer APIs to make development easier
  • Improving stability

Recruiting New Developers and Other Community Members

Another topic we discussed was how to grow the community in terms of both developers and non-technical community members. For the more technical people, we discussed coming up with a preliminary code-a-thon project that was glitzy enough to make a demo video and post it on developer sites to inspire interest in Open Wonderland. We also talked about putting time estimates in the issue tracker so that new developers could find small projects to volunteer to tackle.

For both technical and non-technical people, we should do a better job of publicizing our meetings in places like Hacker News, the agile software development community, and LinkedIn groups related to virtual worlds, distance education, serious gaming, collaboration, or software development. In addition, we should get people already in the OWL community to publicize the event to their local colleagues as well as to their social networks. For that purpose, it would be great to have a PDF flyer that people could either email to friends or print out and post on a physical bulletin board.

To attract more students, it would be helpful to update our student project list and then send the list to as many Computer Science departments as possible.

For a general audience, we talked about launching a “Do it in Wonderland” campaign.

All of these publicity ideas require some additional volunteer help. We’re hoping to get a work/study student volunteer from St. Paul College to help out during the semester, but it would be great if community members would volunteer to take the lead on some of these publicity items.


Using SketchUp to Create Models for Wonderland

August 30, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

Today was the last in our series of Back to Basic Wonderland Wednesday summer sessions. The focus of the final two sessions was on using SketchUp as a modeling tool for Wonderland worlds. For those of you who were not able to make the sessions, I thought I would provide a quick recap of the material that we covered.

Using VNC, DropBox, and Screen Sharer to Collaborate

Even if you’re not particularly interested in SketchUp, the tools we used for the workshop can be applied to many other teaching and collaboration scenarios. To support the workshop sessions, WonderSchool generously donated the use of their VNC server. The server was running Windows with SketchUp and DropBox installed. I added a VNC Viewer to the world so everyone in workshop could watch as I demonstrated how to use SketchUp.

Sketchup and DropBox running in a VNC session

At the beginning of each session, I shared the shared DropBox folder with each participant. I seeded the folder with a set of textures that we used during the session as well as a sample script to open and close a house door. As I demonstrated how to create models in SketchUp, I was able to save the models into the DropBox folder so each person in the workshop could have the models on their own computers as a reference. Some of the participants also shared the models they created in the DropBox folder.

When someone in the session needed extra help, we added a Screen Sharer and had them show us their screen. That way, we could pinpoint where they were having trouble. It’s a lot easier to understand a problem when you can see the remote person’s screen.

SketchUp Basics

Since there are lots of fantastic tutorials on the basics of how to use SketchUp, I won’t cover that in this article. Here are few resources to help you get started:

Introduction to SketchUp – this self-paced tutorial from Google is an excellent place to start.

Creating and Importing Artwork for Non-Artists – this tutorial on the Wonderland web site shows how to use photographs to texture models in SketchUp and reviews the process of bringing the model into the world and adding capabilities.

SketchUp Training – this page has links to hundreds of tutorials and video demonstrations so you can learn the specific skills you need for your particular project.

Wonderland Specifics

In the workshop, we covered a few tips for using SketchUp specifically for Wonderland. Here’s a summary of the important points.

Wonderland only supports a single texture per surface.
In SketchUp, you can apply different materials to the front and back face of a single surface. Wonderland, however, only supports a single material per surface, so when you are modeling for Wonderland, you should always apply the same textures on both sides of a surface. This means that if you wish to make a house that has a brick exterior and a wallpaper interior, you need to make the walls double thick. That is, you need to give them just a little bit of width. If you do that, you can safely add different textures to the inside and outside walls.

Use textures not colors.
When you add materials to your surfaces, be sure to use textures and not the plain colors. SketchUp does not come with a very good selection of textures, but you can find many excellent free ones on other sites such as ShareCG, CGTextures, or WebTreats. The best textures are ones that are marked as “tilable” or “seamless.” Be sure to reduce the file size of any large texture before using them in SketchUp. Large texture files can significantly impact performance in Wonderland. You want the texture size to be as small as possible and still look good.

Export to Google Earth (.kmz) format.
When you have finished your model, save it, and then use File –> Export –> 3D Model to save the file in the Google Earth (.kmz) format. You can then drag and drop the resulting .kmz file into your Wonderland window and your model will be imported into the world.

Fix the lighting.
When you import a .kmz file into the world, you almost always have to fix the lighting to brighten up the model. To do this, right click on your model and select “Properties…” In the Object Editor window that opens, click on “Model Component” in the Capabilities list and uncheck “Lighting Enabled.” Once you Apply the changes, the model will more like it did in SketchUp.

During the workshops, each participant created a simple house. We made the door a separate file so that we could bring that into Wonderland, align it with the door opening in the house, and animate it using EZScript. One tip for helping to align models is to always axis-align the models before you begin to position them. That is, make sure the Y-rotation of all the models you wish to align is set to 0, 90, or 180 degrees. You can parent the objects after you have them aligned and change the rotation, but it is much easier to work when all the models line up exactly with the world axes.

Houses made by Wonderland Wednesday workshop participants

Simple houses made by Wonderland Wednesday workshop participants

What’s Next?

Today was the last in the series of Back to Basic workshops. What other topics are you interested in having covered during future Wonderland Wednesday sessions? Leave comments here or post a message on the Wonderland Forum with your ideas.


Wonderland Showcase – iED Boston 2012

July 13, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

At that Immersive Education conference in Boston last month, eight Open Wonderland community members from 6 different countries joined me remotely to show off their work. Here’s a brief summary of the worlds and features presented during the showcase. In all cases, the presenters have agreed to leave their spaces running on the community server. If you missed the conference, you can explore the spaces on your own. Simply log on to the community server and use the Placemarks menu to navigate to the different spaces.

WonderBuilders Outpatient Clinic

I began the session by showing one of the simulated medical spaces created by my company WonderBuilders.

WonderBuilders Outpatient Clinic

WonderBuilders Outpatient Clinic

This virtual outpatient clinic is designed for communications skills training. Each of our virtual clinical spaces comes with a soundproof observation room with one-way windows so that instructors and others can observe students during role-playing scenarios. This space also features a non-player character that speaks, a poster with links to different portions of the space, an App Frame for organizing documents, and pop-up questions using a modified version of the Sheet Suite developed jointly by WonderBuilders and the University of Missouri.

+Spaces

Michael Gardner from the University of Essex talked about the +Spaces (pronounced “positive spaces”) EU-funded project aimed at engaging citizens in policy-making. Michael showed excerpts from this role-play video:

To learn more about the use of role playing in the +Spaces project, as well as the Wonderland modules developed as part of this project, see these previous WonderBlog articles or search the blog for articles by “Bernard Horan.”

Entrepreneur Space

Johanna Pirker from Graz University in Austria took us on a tour of the space she created for teaching entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneur Space

Entrepreneur Space from Graz University

This space includes an informal area for students to get to know one another, an area for presentations, and a work area where students, mentors, and instructors can collaborate.

WonderSchool

Roland Sassen demonstrated WonderSchool, an on-line school that takes advantage of Wonderland’s ability to run shared applications within the virtual world.

WonderSchool

WonderSchool with the Alice programming environment.

Roland demonstrated how he can teach students to use complex software such as the Alice programming environment from within the virtual world. He also demonstrated other dynamic applications running remotely inside a VNC Viewer window.

Seekers School Maze

Chris Derr, head of the Seekers School, talked about using Wonderland in his innovative curriculum to motivate kids who have had difficulty in other school situations.

Seeker School student activities

Seeker School student activities

The students spent the past semester learning how to build Open Wonderland worlds, including making their own 3D models in SketchUp and creating simple animations using Wonderland’s EZScript capability. Among other things, the students created a fun maze, mountain climbing challenges, and a colorful spinning roof.

iSocial

Ryan Babiuch from the University of Missouri iSocial project showed one of the many learning spaces used as part of their curriculum for remotely teaching social competency skills to students with autism spectrum disorders.

iSocial

iSocial space used in teaching students with autism.

This curriculum was pilot tested this past semester in two schools. While the data has not yet been fully analyzed, the initial results were extremely positive.

ImmerHire

Michel Denis and Gery Winkler from ImmerHire showed the Survival on the Moon space they use to help assess logical thinking skills.

ImmerHire - Assessing Logical Thinking

ImmerHire – Assessing logical thinking in the Survival on the Moon scenario.

The ImmerHire environment is intended to help employers evaluate communication, personal, and social skills of job applicants using a range of virtual role-play activities.

STCC Virtual Campus

Kristy Perry, an English-as-a-second-language (ESL) professor at Springfield Technical Community College, showed one of the spaces she designed on the STCC Virtual Campus.

STCC Virtual Campus - patio

STCC Virtual Campus – patio

This patio space is intended as a venue for small group projects and conversation practice. The STCC Virtual Campus will be deployed for Level 2 ESL students starting in September.

Wonderland Wednesday Projects

Jonathan Kaplan, our Wonderland architect, demonstrated the three Wonderland Wednesday community projects that he has lead. These projects – Telepointers, EZMove, and Subsnapshot Import/Export – were all developed collaboratively on the Open Wonderland community server. In the weekly Wonderland Wednesday meetings, developers worked together using NetBeans and other shared applications.

Telepointer demonstration

Telepointer demonstration

The new Telepointers are considerably more aesthetically appealing than the old telepointers. More importantly, they now work when you have control of a 2D application. For multi-user applications such as the Whiteboard, this is particularly helpful as it allows users to see where everyone else is working.

Be sure to visit the community server to see these spaces and try out the set of Wonderland Wednesday features.


Wonderland Wednesdays – Back to Basics

June 28, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

Now that the telepointers project is wrapped up (article on that topic coming soon once the final code is ready), we are going to take a hiatus from software development over the summer and focus instead on world building and basic scripting. With the exception of two sessions for more advanced script writers, these sessions will all be geared towards non-programmers.

“Back to Basics” Sessions

Here is the list of sessions that we have planned along with the dates:

  • July 4th – US 4th of July holiday – no session
  • July 11 – Basic World Building
  • July 18 – Basic Scripting – no programming knowledge – Object Movement
  • July 25 – Basic Scripting – Javascript users – dynamic worlds
  • Aug 1 – Basic World Building
  • Aug 8 – Basic Scripting – Object Creation
  • Aug 15 – Basic Scripting – Object Creation – Javascript users
  • Aug 22 – SketchUp to Wonderland
  • Aug 29 – SketchUp to Wonderland – part 2 – using textures

Since it is a considerable amount of work to put these sessions together, we want to be sure people are interested in attending and can make the meeting time. If you are interested in  any of these sessions, please express your interest by taking a moment to complete this Doodle poll:

http://www.doodle.com/vx2ai674n4wwf5ba

For reference, the poll is from 10am to 6pm US Eastern time on Wednesdays. If you are interested in attending some of these sessions but can’t make any of the times on Wednesdays, please post a message here or on the forum with times that work better for you. We will do our best to find times that work for the most number of people.

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.


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