• NECC 08 Opening Reception

29th June 2008

NECC 08 Opening Reception

One Horse ShyFLEventWhile there were several events leading up to it, the Opening Reception was one of the events that marked the beginning of NECC 08. The Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center was full and the floor was bouncing to the rocking/country sounds of One Horse Shy, playing live just down the road from the Alamo in San Antonio Texas.

Meanwhile the music was streaming into SL where the band’s avatars performed to a crowd in front of the Alamo on ISTE Island. From time to time the lead singer, back in Texas, would look at her SL Avatar displayed on a huge screen to the left of the stage – and mimic her moves. (Life imitates art, art imitates life, or we and our avatars inform each other.)

Not far from the physical dance floor, at the Second Life Lounge, those too shy to dance in FL grabbed their laptops and their dancing shoes and cut the rug on the virtual dance floor.necc-crowd.jpg

This year the National Educational Computing Conference will offer workshops, poster sessions, hour long presentations, special interest playgrounds, and exhibitors for 18,000 K-20 educators who are concerned with the role of technology in education.

– posted by Esme Qunhua

Written by Esme Qunhua

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23rd June 2008

ACM Siggraph: Sandbox Symposium 08


Call for Participation

The third annual ACM SIGGRAPH Sandbox Symposium on videogames calls for papers, panel proposals, and presentations. We are looking for work that describes or illustrates innovative research in videogame theory, practice, and criticism. Video games are a singular technological medium, comparable in cultural impact to the telephone, television or the Internet. What are the creative, technological, and commercial challenges facing this medium in the future? How do we relate great stories that leverage advances in technology? What is the continuing impact of this medium on individuals and society?

We seek original papers from the creative and technical communities that develop videogames and from academic researchers who study videogames and relevant technologies and disciplines. We also invite proposals for panel discussions. Selected papers will be those judged
to have the greatest potential for impact on the practice of videogame development. All papers should meet the standards of their respective disciplines and will be peer-reviewed. For an indication of the conference’s breadth, please visit sandbox.siggraph.org for a look at last year’s program.

Suggested Topics

  • Real-time animation and computer graphics for video games
  • Distributed simulation and communication in multi-player games
  • Game console hardware, software, tools, and middleware
  • Psychophysics and user interfaces
  • Artificial intelligence in games
  • Interactive physics
  • Uses of GPU for non-graphical algorithms in games
  • Multi-processor techniques for games
  • Speech and vision processing as user input techniques
  • Development tools and techniques
  • Procedural art
  • Sound Design and music in games
  • Mathematical Game Theory applied to video games
  • Cinematography in games
  • Game design and game genres
  • Story structure (setting, plot, character, theme) in games and
  • interactive fiction
  • Games (e.g., Casual, Serious, Mobile, Networked, Alternative Reality, Pervasive)
  • Legal, political, and societal impacts
  • Women and diversity in games
  • Gamer culture and community (e.g., modding communities, LAN parties,
  • creative gamer content and machinima)
  • Independent game developers
  • Economics and business models in the game industry
  • Game production and labor
  • Papers

Please submit full papers (maximum 8 pages). All papers will be reviewed by an independent review committee, which will provide written feedback on each paper.
Panel Proposals
Proposals for panel discussions should include a statement of purpose (1 page) and 3-5 participants.  Each participant should provide a biography and a brief discussion (2-4 paragraphs) of the topic under discussion.
In addition we seek demonstrations of innovative projects and/or previews of unreleased videogame titles. Presentations should be two minutes in length and must show gameplay. Use Quicktime format, either NTSC (480p) or HDTV (720p).
The web site for submissions is sandbox.siggraph.org. The deadline for paper and panel submissions is March 24, 2008. The deadline for
presentations (see above) submissions is June 30, 2008. All submissions should be PDF or DOC format and follow the SIGGRAPH style rules and Instructions for Authors
Sandbox 08 will be co-located with SIGGRAPH 08 and will start August 9, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. More details about location, times, and dates will be posted on the conference website.

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12th June 2008

Spotlight: Virtual Chemistry for Real Students

SpotlightIf you’ve ever seen a floating molecule in Second Life, chances are it was created by Dr. Andrew Lang, a mathematical physicist at Oral Roberts University, otherwise known as Hiro Sheridan in-world. Hiro recently demonstrated working prototypes of several different tools in collaboration with Jean-Claude Bradley, a chemistry professor at Drexel University, known as Horace Moody. The demonstrations included a molecule rezzer that allows a user to name a compound in text chat and watch as it builds itself in front of you atom by atom, and a docking simulator that demonstrates how molecules bond together to form more complex structures.

Molecules in Second Life

Molecule docking simulation. Image courtesy of Eloise Pasteur.

“This shows the docking of one of our molecules in a malarial enzyme,” said Horace, “I collaborated with Rajarshi Guha at Indiana University for the coordinates, and Hiro did the rendering.” The molecules floating in air move together step by step, and students can control and replay the process by using chat commands. “This demonstrates a chemical reaction with all the intermediates shown,” says Hiro, “This is really hard [for students] to see on paper, but easy to show here.”

docking station

Molecule reaction mechanism. Image courtesy of Hiro Sheridan.

Hiro also built a 3D periodical table of the elements, based on a 2D spiral peridoic table created by Professor Theodor Benfey. The 3D table shows approximate relative sizes of the atoms for comparison, color codes each group, and when each atom is clicked, information about its atomic structure, chemical properties, and typical uses spits out from the device. A free copy of the 3D table is available on the ACS island.

3D periodic table of elements

3D periodic table of elements. Image courtesy of Hiro Sheridan.

Hiro and Horace are using these tools to help students prepare for exams or projects, but they use Second Life in other ways as well. Hiro teaches an honors course called Science and the Imagination, and he recently arranged to bring science fiction author Joan Slonczewski into the virtual world for a presentation to the class. “I give my ‘virtual reality in science and science fiction’ lesson in virtual reality, they get a kick out of it,” said Hiro, “That’s the kind of use that I’d like to see more of, really taking advantage of Second Life’s affordances.”

Hiro also built the presentation and HQ areas where the American Chemistry Society holds meetings, and discussed residencies for chemistry faculty available on the island. “Kate Sellar has started an ACS resident chemist program, she offers free land to ACS members to form a community of faculty collaborators and students get to build too as ‘resident helpers’,” he said. In addition to the cafe, Hiro has a number of science related freebies at the ACS HQ as well as a science fiction set at the Second Nature sim.

“As the technology gets better, so will the benefits of Second Life for education. Right now it is still in its early stages but I see it becoming mainstream in about 4 years,” he says, “The things that are possible already are almost unlimited right now, they’re just hard to do for the average educator. But Second Life is ideal for showing students 3D concepts that they just can’t get by looking at a static webpage.”

Be sure to stop by and check out Hiro and Horace’s work at the ACS island!

~Posted by Fleep Tuque

Written by Chris Collins

posted in Locations, Spotlight, tools | 4 Comments

12th June 2008

SLEDcc 2008 Update and CFP Extension

FLEventHi all,

With apologies for cross-posting..  The Second Life Education Community Conference 2008 planning team has been hard at work and we have several important updates for you:

The main SLEDcc 2008 website is now available at http://sledcc.wikispaces.com.  This will be your one-stop-shop for important information about the SLEDcc conference, in Tampa or in Second Life.   Please note: SLEDcc is part of the official Second Life Community Convention ( http://slconvention.org).  Registration fees cover both the SLEDcc and SLCC events!   Conference registration and fees only apply to those going to SLEDcc/SLCC in Tampa, in-world only participants do not need to register or pay any fees.

The Call for Proposals deadline has been extended to June 17, 2008.  See the CFP below or view the complete details on the website.  Don’t want to do a big paper presentation?  No problem!  The SLED Sparks and Speed Mentoring formats are designed for rapid information sharing.  Can’t go to Tampa?  No problem!  SLEDcc will have presentations in Second Life as well as real life.  You’d really rather show off a great build or project than do a presentation?  No problem!  “The Sleddies” award competition might be just the thing for you.  See the CFP below or the website for more details.

There are many low overhead ways that you can help with the conference, from putting a link/logo to the SLEDcc website from your own blog or webpage, to volunteering for a few hours in Tampa or in Second Life – we can use your help!   See the Volunteer Opportunities page and the SLEDcc Social Media page on the website to find out how you can join the team.

In addition to these updates, the website also has more information about “The Sleddies” Award competition, sponsorship information, and much more.  Please take a few moments to have a look around and if you have any feedback, let us know.

Thanks for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you in Tampa or in SL this September!


Chris Collins (SL: Fleep Tuque)
Hilary Mason (SL: Ann Enigma)
Jonathon Richter (SL: Wainbrave Bernal)

Co-Chairs, Second Life Education Community Conference 2008
Member of the Second Life Community Convention 2008
September 5 – 7, 2008 in Tampa, FL and in Second Life

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10th June 2008

Summer’s Here! What are you working on?

FeedBackSummer is here! It’s time for fun in the sun (real or virtual) and finding time to work on projects that you don’t have time to work on during the school year. The SL-Ed blog wants to know what you’re working on. Are you writing an article? A book? Traveling to a conference? Starting a big project for the fall?

Drop us a comment and let us know what you’re working on. We’d love to learn more about it and write a profile of your work. Help us toot your horn!

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4th June 2008

Susi Spicoli’s Beginner’s Guide to Good Machinima

Bright IdeasSo what is machinima? Machinima is a film filmed in an interactive computer generated environment without the use of professional 3D animation software. Basically, a film filmed in a computer game or virtual world. Machinima started out on First Person Shooters and MMORPGs. Now, more people are using virtual worlds like Second life to create machinima because you can pretty much do whatever you want on Second Life, which is great for filming.

Now, what is good machinima? I (Susi Spicoli) myself have made quite a lot of machinima, and I’m going to share with you some tips and techniques on how to make a simple, but decent, machinima. Making long, very good machinima is a very complicated process, really not that different in many (but not all) aspects from making a “real” movie, but you can still make good simple machinima with not much effort and time.

So, first off you’ll need a script. This should have info on what the overall story is, but then also where the scene is and of course what an actor or narrator is saying, in subtitles or voice. Next up comes the filming. You’ll need filming software for this. For PC, a lot of people use Fraps and for Mac users (which is pretty much all I am using now) I would recommend SnapProX or Screen Capture.

Ok, now you have filming software you need to actually film it. If your filming a Story machinima then you’ll need actors. Often you can just ask some friends to help out. You’ll also need a decent set for filming. I sometimes build custom ones for the more complicated things, or I ask friends if I can use their scene (make sure you’ll give them credit in the film at least).

The rest is pretty much up to you in terms of filming but you will need to adjust your filming style to suit what type of machinima you’re filming, a storyline machinima, a commercial machinima or a machinima promoting something etc.

Here are some tips on how to avoid making your shots during filming look completely amateurish:

  • Don’t repeat the same type of shots over and over again. For example, don’t zoom in, zoom out, zoom in, zoom out, zoom in, zoom out etc.
  • Try not to confuse the people watching the machinima. Don’t randomly film someone else when someone is talking. Best is to think about what you want to accomplish (that’s what the script is for) and pick the right filming angle for that.
  • In making machinima, the one huge advantage is that it’s totally easy to film things that are very difficult and expensive to do in “real” film.  So-called dolly shots, crane shots, steady cam (the spooky angles you see in Shining), all that is child’s play in a machinima.  But as they say “a fool with a tool is still a fool”.  So if you don’t know what you are doing conceptually, your film still won’t be very good. 

Finally comes the editing.  Often this is where you really determine whether it’s going to be a good or bad machinima.  The raw footage is the basis, and you have to have some decent scenes, but you can even with bad footage improve the story a lot by what you do in the editing phase. Here you can use (I just know the mac programs), iMovie on the low end (but you can actually do a lot with it) and Final Cut Pro/Studio for the high end (and I really mean high end, big budget cinema movies are edited with this tool). Again, in editing, having these great tools, that are so much more powerful than what real film makers used to have, still doesn’t mean you’ll make a great movie. You still have to think, write, plan, work hard.

I am thinking to perhaps open a film school, with professional partners, in Second Life.  So people can learn about the concepts and practice.

Until then, if you want to come to see what others have done, bring your friends and come to my “machinima gallery”, in Ochreous.  Twenty different machinima makers all have their own invidual cinema there and can watch their movies there, or you come to one of my machinima screenings in my drive-in/fly-in movie theatre.

If you want to see a few examples of machinima, here are some of the ones I did:

A music machinima, for the launch of a RL CD by Fabrice Collette
A documentary, commissioned by the NMC about a SL sculpture exhibition  (including my own music)
or, in general, about my activities .
And, finally, my office is here.

*Written by Susi Spicoli and posted by Intellagirl Tully

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2nd June 2008

Inside the Lab Podcast on Education

Pathfinder Linden and Claudia Linden have recently recorded an “Inside the Lab” podcast about education in Second Life. Be sure to give it a listen or peruse the transcript.

* The picture included here was taken at artist Madcow Cosmos’ newly opened show. Be sure to visit!

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