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An Introduction to Virtual World

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  1. An Introduction to Virtual World Second Life and Beyond

  2. Outline • What is Virtual World • Second Life • How Second Life Works • Business in Second Life • Research in Second Life • Problem with Second Life • Other Virtual Worlds • OpenSimulator • Wonderland • Summary

  3. What is Virtual World • “A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars.” - Wikipedia

  4. What is Virtual World • Virtual world evolves from: • Social Networks • Online Games • World of Warcraft: a very popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMOG) that takes place in a fantasy virtual world. • Simulations

  5. What is Virtual World • Besides World of Warcraft, there are also more realistic virtual worlds, which do not focus on gaming. • These virtual worlds can be used for: • Communication • Business • Education • Social Networking

  6. Second Life • Second Life is the most popular non-gaming virtual world right now. • Statistics: (source) • User-to-User transactions in 2009 totaled US$567 million in 2009, growth of 65% over 2008. • The total amount of virtual currency in circulation reached L$6.95 billion, growth of 23% over December 2008. (1$ ≈ 270L$) • Residents spent 481 million hours in Second Life in 2009, 21% growth over 2008  • Monthly Repeat Logins reached an all-time high of 769,000 in December 2009, 15% growth over December 2008

  7. How Second Life Works • Users download the Second Life client to enter the virtual world.

  8. How Second Life Works • Client/Server Architecture • Server: Like web server, stores all the information (avatar, object, finance, land) about Second Life and deals with all the requests. All servers are hosted at Linden Lab • Client: An open-source 3D virtual world viewer that renders the graphics to users. Server@Linden Lab Internet Clients

  9. How Second Life Works • All the objects and activities in Second Life are created by its residents. • Residents have different tools within Second Life: • Communication tools • Text Communication • Chat (Public) • Instant Messaging (Private) • Voice Chat • Using Gestures and Animations

  10. How Second Life Works • Transportation tools • Walk/Fly in a region • Teleport to other regions • Build tools • 3D Primitives Building • Linden Scripting Language • Texture, Sound and Animation Import

  11. Business in Second Life • Second Life currency: Linden Dollar (L$) 1 US$ ≈ 260 L$ • L$ can be used both on Web or in the virtual world.

  12. Business in Second Life • Business Opportunities • Selling virtual goods (C2C, B2C, B2B) • Building communities • Customer support • Training & research • Public relation • Marketing

  13. Business in Second Life • Despite the economic crisis around world, business in Second Life ,including user-to-user transaction (lower-left figure), and virtual store sales (lower-right figure), has been growing steadily.

  14. Business in Second Life • Real companies in Second Life

  15. Research in Second Life • The burgeoning of Second Life has attracted researchers from various fields. Interesting research questions are raised in disciplines across business, education and social sciences. (Messinger, Stroulia, et al. 2009) • Business domain: • Strategy: How can virtual worlds like Second Life support themselves? By single up-front fee, periodic subscription fee, advertising or virtual product sales? • Marketing: How should an avatar agent’s appearance be designed? • Organizational Issues: Can virtual workspace improve group productivity?

  16. Research in Second Life • Education domain: • How can virtual worlds be used for education and distance learning? • What topics are particularly suitable for classes in virtual worlds? • Will most Internet learning evolve to use virtual reality technologies? • Social sciences domain: • Sociology: Do behaviors and attitudes learned in virtual worlds affect behaviors and attitudes in the real world? How? In particular, do virtual worlds influence attitudes toward violence, sexuality, and conservatism? • Psychology: What are people’s motivation within virtual worlds?

  17. Research in Second Life • Though most research on virtual worlds are still at infancy, we see several existing research that have addressed some of the questions. • Education • Franceschi, Lee, et al. (2009) conducted experiments in three learning environments: • Traditional classrooms • Text-based e-learning • 3D virtual world. • The experiment results show that virtual classroom in Second Life is a better learning environment than text-based e-learning. • Lester and King (2009) did experiments to compare the average grades between two classes of students, with one class taught face-to-face and the other in Second Life. The findings show that face-to-face learning results in a slightly higher average grades: 84/100 compared to 80/100.

  18. Research in Second Life • Sociology & Psychology • Yee (2006A, 2006B) studied the motivation of people playing massive multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs) and virtual worlds. Based on his study, user motivation consists of five factors: achievement, relationship, immersion, escapism, and manipulation. • Yee and Bailenson (2007) used experiments to show the Proteus effect, which states that individuals’ behavior conforms to their digital self-representation independent of how others perceive them. • Yee, Bailenson, et al. (2007) and Friedman, Steed, et al. (2007) studied the nonverbal communication (NVC) in social interaction among Second Life residents. Both research shed light on how social norms evolve from real world to virtual world.

  19. Problems with Second Life • During the past two years, Second Life did not gain its popularity as expected (compared to Facebook and Twitter). Some companies even began to close their virtual companies in Second Life. We can see there are several problems with Second Life, and all other virtual worlds: • High system requirements – few personal computers can run Second Life client smoothly. • High learning curve – May be difficult for people new to 3D environments. And the object creation techniques is extremely difficult to manage. • Little integration with Web – Though there are websites selling virtual products, we see little application that utilize the power of both Second Life and Web 2.0.

  20. Other Virtual Worlds • There are several open source projects that provide people the chance to host their own virtual world. Among them, two projects have gain some success: • OpenSimulator (OpenSim) ( a C# based 3D application server that emulates the protocols of Second Life. With OpenSimulator users can build a small scale Second Life-like virtual world. • Wonderland ( a Java based virtual world server that is undergoing fastest development. It supports more operation between virtual world client and other programs running on users’ computer. Users can drag “anything” from their computer to create virtual objects in Wonderland.

  21. Other Virtual Worlds • Why having other virtual worlds? • Scalability: While Second Life is a world-wide virtual world, sometimes people may only need a small-scale virtual world, whose settings can be freely adjusted per users’ request. • Accessibility: These virtual worlds also allow data to be stored on local servers. Hence there is no access problem for a virtual world deployed in a local network, as many companies enforce strict network access policies. • Confidentiality: As 3D application server and databases are hosted entirely on local machines, instead of on Linden Lab’s servers, there is no risk of leaking confidential data when using these small virtual worlds. • Cost-effective: The cost of setting up these open source virtual worlds are far less than buying lands from Second Life. So these virtual worlds are more favorable for education and research purposes.

  22. Other Virtual World • Who is using OpenSim and Wonderland? • IBM released Lotus Sametime 3D last year, which is a collaboration product based on OpenSim. It targets at large organizations needing integration with other Lotus products and corporate LDAP directories. Current customers of Lotus Sametime 3D includes Northeastern University, Northcentral Technical College, and Raytheon. • ReactionGrid provides OpenSim hosting and maintenance services. It also created tools to facilitate region building for users. Current customers of ReactionGrid includes Intel, Microsoft and the American Cancer Society. • The MediaGrid Immersive Education Initiative led by Boston University is doing cutting-edge experiments in Wonderland for learning purposes.

  23. Other Virtual World Screenshot of OpenSimulator

  24. Other Virtual World Screenshot of Wonderland

  25. Summary • As of today, Second Life is the most popular and most commercialized virtual world. It is most representative of the status quo of virtual worlds. • OpenSim has been widely adopted by companies to develop virtual world-based communication and collaboration tools. • Wonderland is more widely adopted for education purposes. • It is expected that in near future, Second Life, OpenSim and Wonderland regions will be interconnected, allowing avatars to teleport freely among regions hosted under different technologies. • This breakthrough will transform virtual worlds into a “Web”, where every company or organization can host their own virtual world regions. • Virtual world client can serve as a web browser to direct users surfing within the “Web” of virtual worlds.

  26. Reference • Franceschi, K., R. M. Lee, et al. (2009). "Engaging Group E-Learning in Virtual Worlds." Journal of Management Information Systems 26(1): 73-100. • Friedman, D., A. Steed, et al. (2007). Spatial social behavior in second life Intelligent virtual agents 2007 Springer-Verlag • Lester, P. M. and C. M. King (2009). "Analog vs. Digital Instruction and Learning: Teaching Within First and Second Life Environments." Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 14: 457-483. • Messinger, P. R., E. Stroulia, et al. (2009). "Virtual world - past, present, and future: New directions in social computing." Decision Support Systems 47: 204-228. • Yee, N. (2006A). "The Demographics, Motivations, and Derived Experiences of Users of Massively Multi-User Online Graphical Environments." PRESENCE: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments 15: 309-329. • Yee, N. (2006B). "Motivations for Play in Online Games." CyberPsychology & Behavior 9(6). • Yee, N. and Bailenson, J. N. (2007). "The Proteus Effect: The Effect of Transformed Self-Representaion on Behavior." Human Communication Research 33: 271-290. • Yee, N., Bailenson, J. N., et al. (2007). "The Unbearable Likeness of Being Digital: The Persistence of Nonverbal Social Norms in Online Virtual Environments." The Journal of CyberPsychology and Behavior 10: 115-121.