26 March 2011


Thanks to Andrea Kuszewski for the following: From Science Thrives In Virtual Worlds by Alan Boyle -- "Does the virtual reality world known as Second Life (see image above, click on any image to enlarge) have anything to offer real-world scientists? Absolutely -- and a trailblazing researcher says the payoffs are sure to increase when the Internet goes 3-D .... Virtual world have been around for decades, if you count immersive game environments such as World of Warcraft. But jacking into virtual reality still isn't a mainstream phenomenon. Some might be scared off by the fact that online worlds can offer havens for cyber-sex and other virtual vices. Others might see Second Life as downright clunky, compared with the photorealistic, hyper-responsive graphics of present-day video games or the all-consuming interaction available through Facebook or Twitter.

"But when it comes to scientific collaboration and outreach, CalTech physicist George Djorgovski thinks Second Life is a thick slice of awesome.

" .... Why is that? Djorgovski points to a couple of analyses suggesting that immersive telepresence is more engaging than phone or videoconferencing -- partly because multiple senses (hearing, sight, kinesthetics) are in play, and partly because there's more of a sense of inhabiting 3-D space. But those advantages apply to any type of virtual reality interaction. Djorgovski goes on to say that scientific applications in particular can be more fruitful because you can immerse yourself in your own data."

From virtual observatories and science centers to immersive teleconferencing and research sharing, venues like Second Life will only become more sophisticated, versatile, and accessible to both scientists and the interested lay public. Here is a present-day example, a video demonstrating San Francisco's Exploratorium currently available in Second Life.

Speaking of virtual reality and gaming, here are three innovative tools with which just about anyone can create educational or entertainment games. The world is changing quickly, in ways which our imaginations cannot begin to predict. Think of how relatively simplistic computers and the Internet were, a mere twenty years ago. The potential fairly takes one's breath away.

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