AARnet is considering a move into hosting virtual environments on its academic research network, and is exploring the idea of creating an intra-world for Australia’s research institutions to whom it supplies superfast connectivity. The workshop (program here) was held at Wollongong University’s new iC (Innovation Campus).
I presented a ‘primer’ of virtual worlds, AARnet’s James Sankaar’s idea, which I am now going to expand for wider readership. Part of my presentation involved a hook up with RMIT’s Lisa Dethridge in Second Life as she took me (and the conference attendees via screens) through ‘Dark Luminance’, a gallery show which exists both at Mars Gallery in Melbourne and at RMIT’s island in Second Life. We were able to modify the exhibits in the virtual world, the idea being this creates a feedback loop of sorts for the artists. And arguably, there is a deeper engagement for the viewer/participant of the work.
Conference content incorporated a brave mix of media. On the technical side : well it worked and it didn’t. The u-stream feed relaying a conversation with Exit Reality’s Danny Stephanic was difficult to hear due to lag. Visually it looked like the moon landing. Some sound drop outs when Charles Mountain talked from SL.
My SL feed with Lisa worked well visually, but I had voice and she did not so we used instant messaging. The writing was too small for the audience to read on the projection screens so I had to read it out for everyone as I went. Clunky,
Then there was the set up time, 3 or 4 techies, high-end equipment and, conservatively, 5 hours set-up time. A lot of pre-production getting feeds and urls etc organised too. On top of that, the time zone is a f actor for Second Life crosses. (Eastern seaboard of Australia is +10 GMT. )
The iCampus itself looks like an SL build – free standing staircases and lots of steel and glass).
In particular, it was great to catch up again with Lindy McKeown, who has wealth of knowledge in respect to running mixed reality events (VW and physical world) a rare and valuable resource ! And to meet F2F with Denise Wood from University of South Australian University. Denise and her team are pioneering virtual worlds applications for users with special accessibility needs. (Denise demonstrated the ‘virtual guide dog’ application amongst others).
The verdict on hybrid reality presentations such as this? Still very much in beta mode but definitely a worthwhile trial. It’s important to expose audiences to these experimental elements and my hunch is they are happy to exchange the technical limitations for the experience and insight. For myself, there’s always lessons learnt for next time.