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Apr 30, 2007

Benefits of virtual world learning

Apr 27, 2007

New IBM Mainframe Platform For Virtual Worlds

Re-blogged from 3dPoint

The International Herald Tribune breaks the news that IBM is launching a new mainframe platform specifically designed for next-generation virtual worlds and 3D virtual environments. In concert with Brazilian game developer Hoplon, IBM will use the PlayStation3’s ultra-high-powered Cell processor to create a mainframe architecture that will provide the security, scalability and speed that are currently lacking in 3D environments — a lack that is one of the factors keeping them from becoming widely adopted. If it works, it sounds like worldmakers working on IBM’s platform should be able to support concurrencies far above todays’ capabilities, and implement commerce systems far more secure than is currently possible.

Apr 22, 2007

Avatar experts

From Emerging Technology Trends 


Researchers from Illinois and Florida are developing a networking system which will create virtual representations of real people to improve our knowledge. They will use artificial intelligence and natural language processing software to enable us to interact with these avatars. The goal of the project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is to give us the possibility to interact with these virtual representations as if they were the actual person, complete with the ability to understand and answer questions. We should see the results at the beginning of 2008 - if the researchers succeed.

Language learning in Second Life

From Technology Review


Immersive language learning in a realistic environment with native-speaking teachers will soon be available online, in the popular virtual world Second Life. Starting in September, a language school called Languagelab.com will offer English and Spanish classes. The cost of the classes will be comparable to those in the real world, which can cost several hundred U.S. dollars for a semester-long course. "You won't be taking classes in LanguageLab because it's a lot cheaper," says LanguageLab founder David Kaskel, an entrepreneur and PhD candidate at the Center for Computing in the Humanities at King's College, London. "We think it's a lot better than in a physical space because there's more you can offer than in a classroom."

22:41 Posted in Virtual worlds | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: virtual worlds

Apr 20, 2007

A virtual reality environment for designing and fitting neural prosthetic limbs

A virtual reality environment for designing and fitting neural prosthetic limbs.

IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng. 2007 Mar;15(1):9-15

Authors: Hauschild M, Davoodi R, Loeb GE

Building and testing novel prosthetic limbs and control algorithms for functional electrical stimulation (FES) is expensive and risky. Here, we describe a virtual reality environment (VRE) to facilitate and accelerate the development of novel systems. In the VRE, subjects/patients can operate a simulated limb to interact with virtual objects. Realistic models of all relevant musculoskeletal and mechatronic components allow the development of entire prosthetic systems in VR before introducing them to the patient. The system is used both by engineers as a development tool and by clinicians to fit prosthetic devices to patients.

Apr 17, 2007

Virtual reality and acupuncture research

Preliminary study on force feedback of acupuncture in virtual reality based on the visible human

Zhongguo Yi Liao Qi Xie Za Zhi. 2007 Jan;31(1):5-9

Authors: Cheng Z, Wang HS, Min YJ, Yan ZG, Hong ZT, Zhuang TG

This paper discusses the application of virtual reality technology in the 3-D visible human body and acupuncture research. Based on the 3-D visible human fused with the localization information and hierarchy of acupoints, the paper analyzes the force against the needle and haptic rendering during the needle manipulation according to the physical properties of different tissues. A haptic model is constructed to demonstrate the force behaviors during acupuncture, and the force will be produced and passed to the manipulator by a force feedback device. It enriches the contents of 3-D visible human project, provides a dynamic simulation instrument for acupuncture teaching, and supplies a platform for acupuncture research.

20:11 Posted in Virtual worlds | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: virtual worlds

Apr 15, 2007

Virtual Reality Forever

Re-blogged from KurzweilAI.net

The University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Central Florida plan to combine AI, advanced graphics and video game-type technology to enable creation of historical archives of people.

The UIC's Electronic Visualization Laboratory will build a state-of-the-art motion-capture studio to digitize the image and movements of real people, who will go on to live a virtual eternity in virtual reality. Knowledge will be archived into databases. Voices will be analyzed to create synthesized but natural-sounding "virtual" voices. Mannerisms will be studied and used in creating the 3-D avatars.

The team hopes to create virtual people who respond with a high degree of recognition to different voices and the various ways questions are phrased . 

Apr 01, 2007

VR 2.0 & gesture recognition

Via Pasta & Vinegar

An Intel Chief Technology Officer predicts that within five years we “could use gesture recognition to get rid of the remote control” and “drive demand for its important new generation of semiconductors, the superprocessors known as teraflop chips, which Intel previewed in February”

virtual reality 1.0 was a bust. The hype was too loud, computers were too slow, networking was too complicated, and because of motion-sickness issues that were never quite resolved, the whole VR experience was, frankly, somewhat nauseating.
VR 2.0, enhanced by motion capture, is different in many critical ways. Most important, the first batch of applications, such as the Wii, while still primitive, are easy to use, inexpensive, and hard to crash. You don’t get anything close to a fully sense-surround experience, but neither do you feel sick after you put down the wand. The games are simple and intuitive
system enables a presenter to take audiences on a tour of a 3D architectural design or on a fly-through of a model city. And the presenter’s measured theatrics make a big impression. “Everyone’s looking for the new, sexy way to communicate with their employees and their clients. We’re selling their ability to sell,”

Mar 19, 2007

An Interview with Virtual Reality Pioneer Jaron Lanier

Human Productivity Lab blog has a very interesting interview with Jaron Lanier about the reasons why virtual reality technology has not yet become commonplace.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:


JARON LANIER: Well, first of all, I personally think that a lot more could have happened with Virtual Reality than has happened. I feel that what went wrong with VR was that decent software standard platform didn't happen. The ones that were most in the forefront like VRML just didn't work well enough. So to get back to your question: what were people looking for? I still believe that what people really want from VR is to be able to touch upon the feeling of being able to share a dream with someone else - to take a little step away from the sense of isolation that people feel today. I think this is a universal and very healthy desire. (VR isn't the only way to address it obviously.)

But in VR, at some point, you would be able to be inside this place with other people where you were making it up as you went along. What people really wanted was a kind of intimacy where you're making up a dream together with other people. You're all experiencing it. I was calling it post-symbolic communication. The basic idea is that people thought that with VR they would be able to experience a kind of intense contact with imagination, some sort of fusion of the kind of extremes of aesthetics and emotional experience you might have when you open up the constraints of reality.

You can divide the requirements of the technology that will give you that into two pieces. You can call one piece the production quality or production standards - how detailed is the resolution? How realistic do surfaces look? That boils down to fast computers, high quality sensors and displays: the tech underpinnings of it all. But then there's this other side; the software side, which involves how you can get a virtual world to do things. My feeling is that even a low-res virtual world can get people the kind of experience that I was just describing. And I think we did have some great moments and great experiences in the `80s, even with very low- res systems that were available then. I think that the failure since then is that the software that's been developed is very rigid.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One was that there was a bizarre alliance between people doing military simulation and people doing recreational gaming. There are a lot of
different kinds of games, so I don't want to put them all under one critical tent here. I think a lot of them are OK. But one of the dominant ideas is that a person who is playing is capable of being in the location, moving, shooting, or dying [laughs]. That's pretty much it. You might pick up an amulet or something, but it doesn't give you a lot to do.



00:45 Posted in Virtual worlds | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: virtual worlds

Mar 16, 2007

Egocentric depth judgments in optical, see-through augmented reality

Egocentric depth judgments in optical, see-through augmented reality.

IEEE Trans Vis Comput Graph. 2007 May-Jun;13(3):429-42

Authors: Swan Ii JE, Jones A, Kolstad E, Livingston MA, Smallman HS

Abstract-A fundamental problem in optical, see-through augmented reality (AR) is characterizing how it affects the perception of spatial layout and depth. This problem is important because AR system developers need to both place graphics in arbitrary spatial relationships with real-world objects, and to know that users will perceive them in the same relationships. Furthermore, AR makes possible enhanced perceptual techniques that have no real-world equivalent, such as x-ray vision, where AR users are supposed to perceive graphics as being located behind opaque surfaces. This paper reviews and discusses protocols for measuring egocentric depth judgments in both virtual and augmented environments, and discusses the well-known problem of depth underestimation in virtual environments. It then describes two experiments that measured egocentric depth judgments in AR. Experiment I used a perceptual matching protocol to measure AR depth judgments at medium and far-field distances of 5 to 45 meters. The experiment studied the effects of upper versus lower visual field location, the x-ray vision condition, and practice on the task. The experimental findings include evidence for a switch in bias, from underestimating to overestimating the distance of AR-presented graphics, at sim23 meters, as well as a quantification of how much more difficult the x-ray vision condition makes the task. Experiment II used blind walking and verbal report protocols to measure AR depth judgments at distances of 3 to 7 meters. The experiment examined real-world objects, real-world objects seen through the AR display, virtual objects, and combined real and virtual objects. The results give evidence that the egocentric depth of AR objects is underestimated at these distances, but to a lesser degree than has previously been found for most virtual reality environments. The results are consistent with previous studies that have implicated a restricted field-of-view, combined with an inability for observers to scan the ground plane in a near-to-far direction, as explanations for the observed depth underestimation.

VR and museums: call for papers

Via Networked Performance




Deadline: Friday April 27, 2007 :: Contributions are welcomed for a new book addressing the construction and interpretation of virtual artefacts within virtual world museums and within physical museum spaces. Particular emphasis is placed on theories of spatiality and strategies of interpretation.

The editors seek papers that intervene in critical discourses surrounding virtual reality and virtual artefacts, to explore the rapidly changing temporal, spatial and theoretical boundaries of contemporary museum display practice. We are especially interested in spatiality as it is employed in the construction of virtual artefacts, as well as the roles these spaces enact as signifiers of historical narrative and sites of social interaction.

We are also interested in the relationship between real-world museums and virtual world museums, with a view to interrogating the construction of meaning within, across and between both. We welcome original scholarly contributions on the topic of new cultural practices and communities related to virtual reality in the context of museum display practice. Papers might address, but are in no way limited to, the following:

* Authenticity and artificiality
* Exploration and discovery
* Physical vs virtual
* Representation/interpretation of virtual reality artefacts - as 3D spaces on screen or in a physical gallery
* Museum visiting in virtual space
* Representation of physical museum spaces in virtual worlds and their relationship to cultural definitions of museum spaces.

Please send a proposal of 500-750 words and a contributor's bio by Friday
April 27, 2007. Authors will be notified by Thursday May 31, 2007. Final drafts of papers are due by Monday October 1, 2007.

Please send your proposal to:

Tara Chittenden
Room 201
Strategic Research Unit
113 Chancery Lane
London WC2A 1PL

Or via email: tara.chittenden[at]lawsociety.org.uk

Mar 15, 2007

Impaired Short-term Motor Learning in Multiple Sclerosis: Evidence From Virtual Reality

Impaired Short-term Motor Learning in Multiple Sclerosis: Evidence From Virtual Reality.

Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2007 Mar 9;

Authors: Leocani L, Comi E, Annovazzi P, Rovaris M, Rossi P, Cursi M, Comola M, Martinelli V, Comi G

OBJECTIVE: . Virtual reality (VR) has been proposed as a potentially useful tool for motor assessment and rehabilitation. The objective of this study was to investigate the usefulness of VR in the assessment of short-term motor learning in multiple sclerosis (MS). METHODS: . Twelve right-handed MS patients and 12 control individuals performed a motor-tracking task with their right upper limb, following the trajectory of an object projected on a screen along with online visual feedback on hand position from a sensor on the index finger. A pretraining test (3 trials), a training phase (12 trials), and a posttraining test (3 trials) were administered. Distances between performed and required trajectory were computed. RESULTS: . Both groups performed worse in depth planes compared to the frontal (x,z) plane (P <.006). MS patients performed worse than control individuals in the frontal plane at both evaluations (P <.015), whereas they had lower percent posttraining improvement in the depth planes only (P =.03). CONCLUSIONS: . The authors' VR system detected impaired motor learning in MS patients, especially for task features requiring a complex integration of sensory information (movement in the depth planes). These findings stress the need for careful customization of rehabilitation strategies, which must take into account the patients' motor, sensory, and cognitive limitations.

Mar 10, 2007

Performance on a virtual reality spatial memory navigation task in depressed patients

Performance on a virtual reality spatial memory navigation task in depressed patients.

Am J Psychiatry. 2007 Mar;164(3):516-9

Authors: Gould NF, Holmes MK, Fantie BD, Luckenbaugh DA, Pine DS, Gould TD, Burgess N, Manji HK, Zarate CA

OBJECTIVE: Findings on spatial memory in depression have been inconsistent. A navigation task based on virtual reality may provide a more sensitive and consistent measure of the hippocampal-related spatial memory deficits associated with depression. METHOD: Performance on a novel virtual reality navigation task and a traditional measure of spatial memory was assessed in 30 depressed patients (unipolar and bipolar) and 19 normal comparison subjects. RESULTS: Depressed patients performed significantly worse than comparison subjects on the virtual reality task, as assessed by the number of locations found in the virtual town. Between-group differences were not detected on the traditional measure. The navigation task showed high test-retest reliability. CONCLUSIONS: Depressed patients performed worse than healthy subjects on a novel spatial memory task. Virtual reality navigation may provide a consistent, sensitive measure of cognitive deficits in patients with affective disorders, representing a mechanism to study a putative endophenotype for hippocampal function.

Mar 03, 2007

Flying with disability in Second Life

Via Mattew Lombard

(From Eureka Street magazine ("a publication on public affairs, the arts and theology")

The virtual world Second Life has had a lot of bad press recently in Australia that has focused on the narcissistic and unprincipled behaviour of some of its inhabitants. Nearly six million people have joined Linden Lab´s Second Life since it went public in 2003 and there are currently 1.75 million 'active' members who have logged on in the last two months.As a 3D virtual world, everything that exists in this virtual world-objects, buildings, clothes, land-has been created by the residents. Amid all the bad press, it is sometimes overlooked that Second Life also offers a very positive experience to people, especially with regard to understanding disabilities and offering opportunities to those with disabilities.As a student Niels Schuddeboom travelled to Australia and was a reporter in Sydney for the 2000 Paralympic Games.

Based in the university city of Utrecht in the Netherlands, he is confined to a wheelchair and was forced to drop out of his media course due to an uncompromising academic regime that was unable to work around his physical disabilities.Known as Niles Sopor in Second Life, Niels has found an opportunity to forget his disability and experience walking life through his avatar. "Perhaps the most profound difference I have experienced is that people have treated me differently" he said. "In real life, due to my wheelchair and lack of physical coordination, people often regard me as intellectually as well as physically disabled."In the Netherlands it is unusual for people with physical disabilities to have jobs and there is a culture of protecting them from many aspects of life.

Second Life has offered Niels the opportunity to break the mould. He runs his own company as a consultant on communications and new media.Some companies are now using Second Life to experiment with alternative marketing campaigns. As well as offering commercial opportunities, Second Life has also provided Niels with the tools to express himself in artistic ways denied him in real life. He has, for example, been able to hold a camera in Second Life and take photos and make short movies. Australian David Wallace, a quadriplegic who works as an IT coordinator at the South Australian Disability Information and Resource Centre in Adelaide has also found an outlet for his artistic side in Second Life. He recently held an exhibition of his Second Life art at the building that Illinois-based Bradley University have established on Information Island. Unlike Niels, David wanted to buy a wheelchair when he first entered Second Life and couldn´t find one! He has tried to build one in Second Life but has only had limited success (...)


Read the full story


Feb 25, 2007

Seconde Life on cell phones

Via textually.org








Second Life Reuters reports that Comverse Technology has developed an application that runs Second Life on Java-enabled mobile phones. The platform includes also a software that allows integrated SMS and instant messaging and the streaming of mobile video within SL.


Feb 06, 2007

Diagnosis and rehabilitation of patients with hemispatial neglect using VR

Diagnosis and rehabilitation of patients with hemispatial neglect using virtual reality technology.

Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2004;7:4908-11

Authors: Baheux K, Yoshikawa M, Tanaka A, Seki K, Handa Y

Our objective is to develop and test a system for diagnosis and rehabilitation of patients with hemispatial neglect. The system consists of a 3D-haptic virtual world seen through stereo shutter-glasses. Patients interact by manipulating a haptic interface. The software adapts the virtual world accordingly to haptic interface and eye tracking feedback. Offline analysis is possible by reviewing recorded data. Observations made during experimentations with hemiplegics patients and future works with hemispatial neglect patients are discussed.

Jan 27, 2007

An Internet virtual world chat room for smoking cessation

Evaluation of an Internet virtual world chat room for adolescent smoking cessation.

Addict Behav. 2006 Dec 19;

Authors: Woodruff SI, Conway TL, Edwards CC, Elliott SP, Crittenden J

The goal of this longitudinal study was to test an innovative approach to smoking cessation that might be particularly attractive to adolescent smokers. The study was a participatory research effort between academic and school partners. The intervention used an Internet-based, virtual reality world combined with motivational interviewing conducted in real-time by a smoking cessation counselor. Participants were 136 adolescent smokers recruited from high schools randomized to the intervention or a measurement-only control condition. Those who participated in the program were significantly more likely than controls to report at the immediate post-intervention assessment that they had abstained from smoking during the past week (p</=.01), smoked fewer days in the past week (p</=.001), smoked fewer cigarettes in the past week (p</=.01), and considered themselves a former smoke (p</=.05). Only the number of times quit was statistically significant at a one-year follow-up assessment (p</=.05). The lack of longer-term results is discussed, as are methodological challenges in conducting a cluster-randomized smoking cessation study.

Jan 25, 2007

Second Life gets virtual mobile operator

From Textually.org






Vodafone is planning to launch itself as a mobile operator in the game Second Life alongside its Vodafone Island area within the popular virtual world, reports TechDigest

"Second Life users will be able to use branded handsets to call each other within the world, as well as send text messages."

Second Life Cell Phones can SMS real world Phones


Jan 24, 2007

A second life for educators?

Re-blogged from 3Dpoint

The New Media Consortium has announced that it has established a new services unit, NMC Virtual Worlds, to cater to “educational institutions wishing to explore, build, or establish a presence in a range of virtual worlds.” NMC itself is a non-profit consortium of more than 225 research and educational institutions, so it will be interesting to see what kind of virtual world educational initiatives the organization can catalyze both within its own ranks and in the broader educational realm. While there’s only one project on their portfolio page at the moment, NMC is apparently working with Second Life creator Linden Lab to create a specialized new-user experience for educators, and is already working with a number of groups within SL.

23:07 Posted in Virtual worlds | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: virtual worlds

Robotics and virtual reality

Robotics and virtual reality: a perfect marriage for motor control research and rehabilitation.

Assist Technol. 2006;18(2):181-95

Authors: Patton J, Dawe G, Scharver C, Mussa-Ivaldi F, Kenyon R

This article's goal is to outline the motivations, progress, and future objectives for the development of a state-of-the-art device that allows humans to visualize and feel synthetic objects superimposed on the physical world. The programming flexibility of these devices allows for a variety of scientific questions to be answered in psychology, neurophysiology, rehabilitation, haptics, and automatic control. The benefits are most probable in rehabilitation of brain-injured patients, for whom the costs are high, therapist time is limited, and repetitive practice of movements has been shown to be beneficial. Moreover, beyond simple therapy that guides, strengthens, or stretches, the technology affords a variety of exciting potential techniques that can combine our knowledge of the nervous system with the tireless, precise, and swift capabilities of a robot. Because this is a prototype, the system will also guide new experimental methods by probing the levels of quality that are necessary for future design cycles and related technology. Very important to the project is the early and intimate involvement of therapists and other clinicians in the design of software and its user interface. Inevitably, it should also lead the way to new modes of practice and to the commercialization of haptic/graphic systems.