My SOLSTICE Fellowship work was based on 3D Virtual Worlds, and included things such as running introductory staff development sessions, collecting a list of relevant research to help researchers and teachers get started using the environments,using it as part of a course for online role play and practicing risk assessments including preparing students to use the environment, and writing up a report on the financial costs of taking the next steps in moving the use forward in the institution.
Since 2011 when that Fellowship ended, there have been some major developments. There has been further growth in the use of OpenSim as an alternative to Second Life (SL), and Linden Lab decided to reinstate the educator discount, possibly in response. Linden Lab also announced a 2015 beta release of a ‘next generation’ virtual world “that will be in the spirit of Second Life" although they will keep Second Life running at the same time. They have also enabled some use of SL using the Oculus Rift, which seems an appropriate development. Finally 'SL Go' was released to allow access on mobile devices. In this post I wanted to explore these things further, answer some of my own questions, and consider what the changes means for use of 3D Virtual Worlds at the institution.
Firstly why might you use OpenSim instead of SL?
Hypergrid Business have an intelligently written article comparing the two. The key things that come out of it are that OpenSim costs less and therefore allows you to use more space, and the open nature gives you flexibility. SL will offer stability though, and the large community there has created a large amount of content that you can buy. On an individual level you would have to consider your budget and what space you need for your activities. On an institutional level it would depend on the amount of use you were expecting.
What do we know about Linden Lab's next generation platform?
It will be a creators platform like SL, but one that appeals to a larger audience. They've taken on 40-50 people to build it, and it should be about of beta by 2016. Finally the work on Oculus Rift integration might mean that it is going to allow something more like a Virtual Reality experience. I'd say that currently SL has limited uses in the institution, but a new platform that looks really good, that appeals to a larger group of people. and that works with virtual reality headsets might be worthwhile investing in at an institutional level.
What kind of experience do you have in SL using the Oculus Rift?
Phobos Jamberoo has posted a video of what SL looks like through the Oculus Rift which gives us an idea of the experience. SL is usually used in 3rd person perspective and much research has been done about your relationship with your avatar. As David Burden points out '5 key differences between virtual worlds and virtual reality', virtual reality makes sense in a first person view, and therefore you are reducing the importance of the avatar and possibly reducing use of camera controls.
What kind of experience do you have in SL using SL Go?
I've not tried it myself although it's only 70p to try it for an hour so I might as well have a go. Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins has written about the experience and was very impressed by the graphics, but less by the controls.