Next generation Virtual Environments


A really interesting presentation by a couple of guys (Rick McGeer and Mark McCahill) on open source software they have built called Croquet that can trace its lineage back to HyperCard. The guys explained how HyperCard was killed off because of commercial pressures and that was one of the reasons they were determined to use open source for this application – big corporates would no be in control! In a nutshell this is a virtual environment similar in appearance to that which the massive multi-user games use, the term used was immersive virtual environments. The difference being that starting with a flat and bare landscape the users can build a world of their own that is 3 dimensional as contrasted to the www as we currently have it which is a 2D ‘document management’ approach driven by hyperlinks.

Where it gets really interesting from a learning perspective is the ability to upload multimedia media, text files, etc. as the application has a high degree of interoperability for a range of operating systems and new and older applications. So, you can share resources, make resources with authoring tools, discuss things, find other people/groups all within this virtual world of ‘authored 3D web pages’.

The information architecture supporting all of this is really clever – so I was told. When up and running widely (about 6 months away) it will depend upon a network of servers coordinated by one server. Each of the networked servers (worlds) can have many smaller virtual spaces either private or open. As a user, I log onto my worlds and see the spaces I belong to, I can create content, additional spaces, etc. All of this is stored on my world server but anyone joining the same spaces as me has the content located on their machine for the duration of the connection. We see each other and the same content.

OK, maybe this particualr offereing will not fly but the idea of moving from the flat world of web pages to easily authored 3D webspaces seems to be an exciting one to me. The future for online learning?

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