Digital Identity vs Digital Self.

This is a beautiful video which outlines how your identity is formed on the web. While I am an advocate for children and adults figuring out what this means, and how to manage it, it reinforces my belief that virtual worlds are in fact a far safer place for children to begin using the Internet. I used this video with my eight year old daughter today to help explain why she wasn’t going to play some Zanga game of Facebook, not least supported by fact she doesn’t have a Facebook account. What I didn’t expect is that she largely understood the technical terms and certainly the concepts. She has learned that with her friends in our game world – so do I mind her playing vide0-games and having several avatars? No, what I fear more is what would happen if she didn’t.

This is another one I showed her, to explain how identity follows us around. I really like this kind of project – it’s a really great way of acting out the discussion. I’d love to have a go at something like this one day. It brings the idea into an open public space – which really is where identity ends, whether people believe it or not.

Her avatar lives. She lives in Steam, Xbox Live, World of Warcraft, OpenSim, Massively Minecraft and more … and that is where she’s learning how to manage user-accounts, profiles and participation. Rather than be freaked out by this, I think it’s a far better place, given the enormous amounts of data-mining that occurs. It remains to be seen how peer-pressure will impact her choices, but I’m very sure that she won’t gain sufficient knowledge or experience to make good choices at school (not that her school doesn’t work positively in this area). At some point we can only teach water safety, but allowing kids to get wet. It makes sense to swim between the flags – but I guess to many people, it doesn’t make sense to let an 8 year old play games.

Augmented Reality Toys

This post kind of follows the last few and looks at why TOYS will create digital-emigrants from 2D learning, before you can say podcast. The trends in creating online virtual worlds around product and game is stepping up, and will see kids stepping out of using laptops and desktops …

The traveling STAR WARS exhibition had an interactive table, where with a few crude black and white shaped cards, you could build a moisture farm using augmented reality.

These are toys you will be buying. Free software online and a web-cam. Given that all consoles can deal with this and so can most laptops – even phones – you will be using this technology sooner than later.

This short demo from James Cameron’s movie Avatar – shows this at a new level. Although the movie is going to be just that – a passive movie, it is interesting to see how toys and peripheral materials are increasingly focused on mashing physical objects with virtual ones. There are a number of examples of people messing with cameras and applications (check this Transformers home made one) or an academic project to see what people are doing. but this is the first one I’ve seen which has obviously been developed around what will be a big-commercial-movie. This interaction, blending real with virtual is already happening with things like PS2 Eye-Toy. But objects are now beginning to appear in the middle. Not just camera sees person and visa versa, but camera recognises object and persons interaction with it. – That makes it an assessment tool as well as a learning tool.

With digital camera’s already fitted with projectors — 3M mini-projectors on Amazon — and POV cameras — it’s significant that a major movie/game enterprise starts to fund the mashing of these together in commercial ways. Think it’s hard teaching with an iPod – imagine what the science lab will look like in a decades time – when this kind of thing is old-hat and been in the lounge room since they were pre-schoolers.

The point is that much of the driving forces that power the web itself are more interested in escaping the small screen. While we live in a time where hyper-connected-social-twittering is the new cheese … it is likely that the generation now playing GT5 on PS3 will see much of Web2.0 as ‘historical’ much like dial-up.

While adults might discuss the decline of traditional media trending down and to the right – it is facile to think that one is simply replacing the other. Statistically, youth-online is not flocking to 2D spaces – and FB has discovered games are it’s killer app, not comment walls.

Yet, virtual worlds and games – are still regarded as less important than the new-standards – and god knows, they are hard enough to access in public schools.

If you have 10 minutes – watch this amazing video story  ‘world builder‘. Especially if you are not yet seeing what ‘virtual worlds are for’.


picture-72Meetsee is a 2.5D virtual office built on Adobe Flash platform (so maybe it won’t be banned). It is a pretty simple idea.

I set up my panel discussion room, and have been fiddling with using a pair of web-cam screens and using ‘live’ audio broadcasting to the room. It takes minutes to set up. One neat feature is that you can upload a presentation to it. People in the room don’t have to just use the 2.5D view – they can click the presentation and see the slides in 2D, and they can do that with the webcam too.

Build and customise an office, then invite people to visit you and have a meeting. It has a 2.5D view with chat, webcam, Twitter feed, file sharing, Polls, RSS feeds, virtual wipe board and a clever video feeder from YouTube. Of course you can fiddle with your avatar (though one niggle, I hit the girl button by mistake and can’t switch it). You can upload a photo of your own head, which is cool too.

Meetsee also has a 2D chat and videoconference mode, so in may ways operates just like a simple Elluminate, Wimba Live Classroom or Flash Meeting. I really liked the way you can load up YouTube in your entertainment centre, or select a Twitter feed too –

It is also really simple to move around by just clicking on objects, or clicking chairs, filing cabinets and TVs to interact with them. Meetsee is highly functional, looks great and will appeal to kids and adults alike.

picture-81As the owner of the room, you can of course move the furniture around and choose the interactive items that you need and well as change the décor. Meetsee has a good ‘owner’ interface that lets you track activity in your room and it also lets you download that as a report, so in a classroom setting, it has an audit trail. The applications for its use could be from simple interaction and communication to live blogging. You could use the poll function to give a quick test – and use YouTube to give them the context for that test. Students could upload files or download them from your cabinet.

MeetSee has a flash based webcam feature, so you can broadcast on one of the interactive screens. You could use it in competency tasks for ‘interacting with clients’ or as a role-play. Meetsee could be used in school, or perhaps as distance or out of school tutor groups.

There are a range of ‘settings’, the corner office, the video conference, panel discussion etc., and at the click of a button you can launch a different setting. I think that there is sufficient 2.5D ‘engagement’ to make it fun to use – but backed up with some great features that are really simple to use.