Universal Opensource Virtual Worlds Client Whitepaper
From FAS Virtual Worlds Almanac
New modifiable simulations and Web 2.0 technologies have the potential to revolutionize the way people learn, train and conduct research. Numerous research pilots have shown the potential of simulations, virtual laboratories, collaboratories, games, shared virtual realities, and intelligent tutoring environments to greatly enhance learning. Game-based learning, virtual worlds, and the emerging 3D internet represent the next generation of educational, research, and training tools.
Virtual worlds offer collaborative technology and new tools for knowledge creation, information management and dissemination. Virtual representations for the physical world become a readable index and serve as a scaffold to host many layers of information. Imagine researchers and scholars around the world collaborating in real time. Novel and innovative experiments that are prohibitively costly and time consuming to run in the real world could be simulated while electronic resources could be called up and examined while research projects are running. Once the initial research is complete, it could be immediately shared with a colleague. Later an infinite number of copies could be used and modified around the world, enabling students to see first hand the cutting edge research being conducted and allowing researchers to contribute their own knowledge and understanding to the virtual models. This sort of scenario only begins to touch on the potential of technologies currently being explored.
There is strong evidence that the time is right for us to take action to enable affordable, routine use of these types of learning environments and to facilitate the development of education and training content. Yet education markets today are highly fragmented and have produced a landscape of small, often unmaintained projects. No coherent vision for organizing, storing or delivering these materials has emerged as neither funding models nor the market provide support for the coordination and management of these projects nor incentives for innovations that promote the sharing and leveraging of content and best practices. The enormous rate of change in new digital media adds an additional hurdle.
To harness the potential offered by these new technologies, a wide range of interoperable, easy-to-use, extensible software tools that can decrease the cost of entry for educational materials and a framework to provide a supporting and organizing structure are needed. The following entry is a proposed architectural roadmap that will guide the creation of a simple set of tools to enable the academic, research and training communities to create and publish content, design learning experiences and effectively use the content and experiences.
Most of the tools needed to implement the vision as outlined are already available or being built to serve markets other than learning and scholarship. These tools need to be tweaked for learning and training needs, and connective tissue must be built that will enable the use of existing tools. Continuous improvements in these tools will be driven by powerful market forces. Tables that match functionality to existing open source software packages will appear at the end of this entry.
The ultimate success of leveraging virtual worlds rests on content creation, including the creation of objects, activities, evaluation and assessment.
Constantly changing software and hardware standards make it difficult to maintain digital material and have created a graveyard for investments in technology. This constant shifting of technical standards, coupled with high costs of construction, made it extremely difficult to create or maintain a product that a team could continue to collaborate on and upgrade once built. Technical incompatibility of different software only worsens the problem.
A military historian wishing to share a revolutionary war musket with a virtual world audience would first need to use 3D modeling tools to create the musket and its associated moving parts in 3D. Then the historian would need to add scripting to describe how the device functions so that it can be used and examined by the audience. The complexity of these tools ranges from the professional engineering level with full object oriented scripting support to simplified editors that use pre-existing components. This level of technical expertise may be beyond the skill level for an average historian. For this reason it is critical that the barrier to content creation be lowered, allowing interested experts to create high quality content easily.
Virtual world platforms themselves are not technically compatible. Work done to create materials in one world can not be easily transferred to another. Scholars collaborating in one platform can not easily communicate with groups working in another world or even make use of their work without extensive redesign and recreation. Battles over the preferred platform have made many hesitate to participate in an experiment that may leave extensive work in yet another obsolete format. For example, content created for Second Life, a popular virtual environment, may not be easily transferred into another virtual environment without an additional investment in the building of custom tools to extract and convert content built in this world.
Technical innovations in several key areas are needed in order for widespread adoption of this new technology. First the barrier must be lowered to enable easy creation of new quality content. Secondly, sharing content and communications among different world and on different platforms is not available or is very limited. Finally, the technology must offer a means of satisfying its users. End users currently face a landscape littered with non-interoperable content, compatibility issues between hardware and software and a dearth of search capabilities. Successful end-user features such as rating systems and easy methods to purchase or sell objects, expertise and experiences need to be integrated.
An open, community-built set of middleware designed to expand educational use of the emerging 3D internet is needed. We propose to create a simple set of tools that will allow us to use the services available from is software system that will support the following services.
Creating and Publishing Objects
Objects for the virtual world could range from data on an individual musket that would appear in a virtual world, to entire cities that embody complex collections of objects and behaviors. They could be individual molecules, cell structures, or complex organs. Methods encapsulated could include simple physics models and highly complex simulations of cell signaling. In each case, large organizations are in place to establish standards, including standards for metadata. The Universal Open Source Virtual Worlds Client proposed here would attempt to embrace these standards wherever possible -- including use of any standards for metadata describing the material. Specifically, this will mean building directly on groups developing standards and converters that can, for example, take 3D objects written in one format and map them to another format. It also means linking directly to ontologies designed for technical specialties such as gene ontologies.
The cost and complexity of building a virtual world engine makes it difficult and costly to create them. Creating content within existing virtual worlds also requires a fairly sophisticated level of technical knowledge. While it may be possible to build a simple shape in Second Life, expertise is needed to convert an idea or concept into an object that can function in a 3D digital environment. Currently, subject matter experts frequently team with developers, requiring them at a minimum to learn to operate as a part of a professional software development team.
Several groups are working on simplifying the process of creating content for specific subject areas. For example, Stanford’s Dryad software uses a simple point and click interface to create life like tree structures quickly, a process that is time consuming and difficult using traditional 3D modeling. While this is a great start, tools for building and maintaining the virtual worlds themselves such as project management tools that will allow conversation and collaboration during the creation process are critical. Project management tools allow a “virtual site manager” to define objectives, recruit contributors, connect subject matter experts and content providers with needed software development support (e.g. convert the data on a museum object to a high quality 3D object), monitor and manage the workflow of an object from being submitted to being modeled in 3D to being peer review and finally approved for inclusion in the setting. An example of a useful project management tool is a program for content creators to collect user comments and ratings of their objects that can be included with the object as metadata.
Successfully managed, the process of creating content or contexts could become the new publication paradigm. Software tools that provide a scholarly apparatus for such a 'publication' (such as footnotes and bibliography) are needed.
Because the platforms themselves are not technically compatible, scholars collaborating in one platform can not easily communicate with groups working on another or use their work without extensive redesign. In addition, there are few provisions for sharing and maintaining the scholarly discourse that is generated during the process of collaborating.
Project management tools need to support a variety of arrangements for building components of virtual environments ranging from objects to behaviours (for example towns or the physiology of a biological system). The collaborative agreements could range from rigidly hierarchical to open collaborations. The tools would permit keeping track of the identities of participants (when appropriate), and facilitate reviews, discussion and critique of materials proposed. It would also make it easy to link multidisciplinary teams making it easy for subject matter experts, graphic artists, software engineers and others to work together.
Many of the software tools needed to tie these objects together and view them have already been developed. What is needed is a set of tools that make it easy to tie the component objects together and display them in one of several available viewers such as Wonderland, Croquet, or Second Life. This software will be in effect a “kernel” for the services delivered. The kernel will be agnostic about which viewer is used. There are literally hundreds of competing virtual world platforms currently in existence; initial efforts will not attempt to provide converters for each of them. Instead, we will offer a proof of concept by developing converters or “translators” to allow data to be viewed and manipulated in at least two separate platforms.
Project management tools for virtual world projects will allow distributed teams of content creators an effective way to work together. Simple but critical functionality such as version tracking, the ability to track how newer editions of an object relate to an older one, are critical for virtual objects. Adding in the ability for the creators to annotate disagreements and discussion items also gives end users a lot more knowledge when using a digital object in a virtual world.
Finally, the raw novelty of the kinds of communication created by these new worlds can be intimidating to individuals and organizations comfortable with traditional tools. The new environments can provide powerful tools for finding and understanding traditional published materials and visualizations. But they also represent an entirely new medium – and new tools and ways of thinking will need to be developed around them. It is essential to find a way to build a collaboration and conversation about how to use the potential. The technical and procedural problems outlined above provide an easy excuse for delay. But given the clear potential of these new tools, a delay in starting the process represents missed opportunity.
Searching for Objects
Searching, the ability to find relevant materials to a given input, revolutionized the web and made it useful to the masses. So too will 3D search for the virtual world environment. The ability to find objects, experiences, people, and ratings within the virtual environment is critical for building, sharing, modifying using virtual environments. In order for 3D objects and non-textual objects in general to be searchable, metadata tagging is necessary. A proposed system based upon the Dublin Core is being investigated. This would include descriptive text, pointer to source materials, comments, ratings, version identification for version control, and intellectual property rights information.
A tool is needed for managing the lifecycle of objects--from their creation to long-term preservation. This tool or toolset would maintain the provenance, track the chain of custody to verify authenticity, and preserve an archival version (high quality) of a digital object.
Creating Activities & Experiences
A by-product of building is the resultant rich set of accurate objects and environments that can serve as settings for learning experiences. Creating age-appropriate, compelling experiences will require another set of tools and functionalities.
Managing Teams to design individual and group experiences
Teams (and team management) are needed to design learning and training activities in virtual worlds. These activities may include self-tours, tours guided by non-player characters or real actors. Game activities and learning challenges can also be incorporated into the worlds. Teams will also be needed to design assessments for these activities.
A sample scenario for creating a virtual world learning experience
1. Team leader registers the project and creates standard metadata
- a. Type of experience (tour, game/challenge, assessment)
- b. Learning objective (or what is being measured by the assessment)
- c. Teams that will be needed to operate the experience (is it stand alone or should the instructor be present, is it for group or individual instruction, will role-players or other real world specialists be needed in the VW)
- d. Authors, date created, revised, other standard stuff
- b. Learning objective (or what is being measured by the assessment)
- 2. Team members identified and given assignments
- 3. Virtual world identified and assembled. (for example)
- a. A specific virtual city selected from an available set
- b. Specialized material inserted into the baseline city (e.g. objects to be found)
- 4. Specialized simulations identified and connected as needed (e.g. an assignment involving diving into a river would need to turn on fluid simulation features)
- 5. Non-playable characters identified and programmed
- a. Voice scripts for what avatars they say when prompted
- b. Scripts for human and animal avatar activities and how they will react to triggering events
- 6. Event design (game design)
- a. Start conditions
- b. Completion conditions
- c. Scenario designs (timers, triggers, etc.)
- d. Prompts and help (when to give advice and when not to)
- b. Completion conditions
- 7. Data capture (what to collect about participant activity)
- a. Time and motion
- b. Chat
- c. Information resources used
- b. Chat
Sharing and Using the Designed Experiences
Managing events (assemble instructors, learners, role-players, SMEs in one virtual space at one time)
Quests or missions are easily enabled by some game engines and these tools can be used for creating educational challenges, events, and assignments. However, these tools still need additional work as many of them require programming or other specialized knowledge. Additionally, quests and missions are not necessarily transferable from one virtual world to another. This limits the portability of the assignment and means that large amounts of redundant work are occurring
The ability to share content between different virtual worlds depends on a multitude of issues. While, in many virtual worlds it is possible to recreate content this leads to a waste of resources. Currently, we are aware of multiple detailed models of the Washington, DC area. Currently every virtual world would need to recreate an object using that virtual world’s proprietary toolset. This redundancy can be addressed by offering a standard format for its content. This would allow virtual world platform programmers to allow imported objects into their system. In addition to allowing 3D objects to be imported if the virtual world adhered to a define API then scripts and object properties could be defined across platforms. This would add functionality to the respective virtual world as users could take their content and avatars (3D virtual representations of the user) from virtual world to virtual world. Note that these ideas are not a pipe dream. In 2007 a virtual meeting was held between IBM and Linden Labs to discus the possibility of creating transferable avatars. This however, leads to privacy and serious authentication issues. The scenario where a third party virtual world fails to secure their authentication process, allowing an unscrupulous user to log in as someone else is a problem. In an future scenario where multiple worlds share a authentication process when one party fails to authenticate correctly someone virtual identity is in jeopardy among multiple worlds even ones without a security flaw. While a virtual world identity theft does occur now, by allowing for interoperation between worlds the problem becomes larger.
Sample scenario for using experiences
- 1. Stand alone experiences
- a. Individuals or groups register to engage in the selected experience
- b. An instance of the VW and associated resources needed for the experience is created and the registered participants enter
- c. The participants engage in the activities required (there may be no requirements in open ended visits)
- d. If specified, information about the individuals activities is recorded and sent to the appropriate archive (including records of whether they have completed an assignment)
- e. The participants are asked to rate the experience
- b. An instance of the VW and associated resources needed for the experience is created and the registered participants enter
- 2. Moderated experiences
- a. The team leader (instructor) selects an experience
- b. The leader identifies required participants (role players, SME, counselors) as required
- c. The team leader schedules an event and invites attendees
- i. Students or student teams along with role players etc in the case of an educational experience
- ii. Visitors invited to register in the case of a public tour
- d. The participants engage in the activities required (there may be no requirements in open ended visits)
- e. If specified, information about the individuals activities is recorded and sent to the appropriate archive (including records of whether they have completed an assignment)
- f. The participants are asked to rate the experience
Satisfying end users
Saving and rating objects, activities and experiences
While virtual worlds claim to be excellent collaborative spaces, many of the tools needed for collaboration are found outside of current virtual worlds. This temporary lack of basic tools leads to vast implications for truly interactive global collaboration if virtual worlds can be improved.
One needed component is a virtual world plug-in that would allow someone to rate and examine reviews of an object in game. This data would also be accessible across platforms. This would mean that a larger group of users could take part in the review process leading to more complete data. A plug-and-play module available in-world with a point-and-click interface would go a long way to making the process easier for virtual world users.
In order to have an effective rating system, two groups need to be combined. First there has to be high-end scholarly use of the 3D web. Experts need to be invested in the virtual world community. Second, a reliable, dynamic, and accurate consumer rating system needs to be in place. For consumers and business to be involved financial transactions must be possible. While some virtual worlds such as Second Life have fairly advanced ways to transfer money, their system is isolated within the Second Life platform. Linden Dollars, the currency used in Second Life, can not be applied to alternate virtual platforms, such as Active Worlds. This economic fragmentation is a contributing factor to lack the lack of a reliable rating system.
Another area that could be provided to content creators is a means of capturing casual user interaction with object, and storing this data on the object. This would allow a nuanced understanding whether learning experience is unfolding as intended. This could potentially be achieved by coupling an automated analyzer to the content which would track interaction and provide feedback to the creator.
Tracking and evaluating individual and group behavior
As the internet itself has shown, the types of abuse are often completely unexpected. Gatherings in virtual environments ranging from World of Warcraft to Second Life have been disrupted by hecklers and malicious behavior. Second Life has been the victim of a large number of abuses both because users can enter without registering their identity or making any payment and because of its huge growth. Hackers have found ways to steal objects and vandalize others.
In another incident a vendor in Second Life whose virtual objects had been stolen is attempting to sue the thief. This is, of course, difficult to do in since identity is difficult to establish given the registration requirements. The thief was forced to use eBay to convert virtual income to real income thereby providing an avenue for detection.
Clearly there is an urgent need to address these issues before education and training institutions can make widespread use of virtual worlds.
The current state of unique, hand-crafted assessment is hard, expensive and often not undertaken. Current bespoke models of assessment also present challenges in comparing projects and products. A plug –and-play module that is easy to use and automated should be designed.
Many initiatives are underway to analyze and map required skills, knowledge, and abilities into content, job or performance domains. Such analyses result in lists, clusters, and hierarchies of skill components (or learning/assessment objectives) at various levels of granularity. Before reusable, standardized in-game/in-world assessment is created, agreement must be reached on the most promising general components of performance across domains, specific task/content analysis, assessment design and score interpretation across domains or across learning systems.
In addition, new metrics must be designed to measure and assess what can be learnt from these new synthetic learning environments. MMOGs and VWs may be especially effective in developing higher-order skills — such as strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, and decision-making. These higher-order knowledge and skills are typically not revealed by tests of facts, or standards of learning-types of examinations.
The assessment technology embedded in the virtual environment, therefore, should assess these various dimensions of the in-world experience. Those building or contributing modules, game challenges and curricula should determine the “correct” outcome for the visitor to get credit for the experience. This outcome must also be mapped to the agreed-upon skill categorization framework. All of the assessment data should be standardized across games, worlds and other 3D experiences. It should also be able to be automatically exported to a specific, validated user identity or into a learning management system. Assessments of external conditions should also be measured and included. Evaluations of the same technology-based intervention could vary widely based on the way the technology was implemented. Metrics should be designed to record instructional practices, real-world environment, and other factors that could influence outcomes. A common assessment framework and technology is needed to allow generalization and integration of the assessment efforts.
Virtual Worlds have been designed to serve a wide variety of markets – primarily for games and social networking. While many could clearly be used to support complex education and training experiences, few have been designed for this purpose and none currently offer the full suite of services needed to support education and training services.
A variety of products will be produced in the creation and use of the Universal Virtual Worlds Client. For example, there will be newly digitized content, metadata, learning materials (such as text and video curricular materials and assessment modules), simulations and the software powering the virtual world. A variety of boiler plate agreements for participating, contributing and using virtual worlds is needed.
There are two interrelated issues: (a) controls imposed by the provider of the virtual world platform, and (b) controls imposed by users on their own creations in the virtual world. The extent to which platform providers offer protection for intellectual property is a related issue.
Existing virtual world platforms offer a range of licensing agreements. For example, Croquet is available under a license that allows essentially unlimited use – including incorporating the software into proprietary products. Client-side software for Second Life is available under a GNU “copyleft” license but the crucial server side software is not. Other platforms such as Olive and Entropia are entirely proprietary.
Currently the rules governing ownership of user created content varies widely across virtual world platforms, ranging from completely open ones to entirely closed, proprietary systems. Croquet allows each user to create their own inventory of objects and find ways of sharing them. Second Life provides built-in tools for sharing objects with all users and gives users ownership of all their creations. The platform provider retains the right to use the material for software testing and promotion. On the other end of the spectrum, Entropia claims ownership of all user developed content.
Users who create their own content, however, are not necessarily willing to share their creations under a Creative Commons or other license. Many charge fees for using their material. An educational community would need to come to some agreement on the rights claimed.
Separate protection may be sought by education and training institutions when assembling objects in the virtual worlds, creating challenges and assignments, creating tools for measuring individual student progress, providing advice and instruction through real-time guidance from experts, etc. Rights to the created content could be claimed by individuals, universities, or companies contracted to provide related services. Provisions must be made to accommodate proprietary or classified information. The precedent of the “open courseware” initiative can have some bearing in this level but the complexity and cost of developing courses in virtual worlds is considerably greater than the task of putting readings and videos of lectures online.
Policies governing financial exchanges could be developed to help generate income that allows educational content creation to become economically sustainable. A payment/micropayment system is needed for accessing areas of virtual worlds, or specific objects or experiences within them. Micropayments allow for transactions (often as small as 1/10th of one cent) to be processed where it would otherwise be impractical because of the small size of the amount. The financial system for the Virtual Learning Environment should provide myriad pathways to secure sustainable models including advertising, sponsorship and payments. Payments/micropayments should provide incentives to commission work or reward completed work. This system capability could automate the “free for non-profits and educational institutions” or a “pay-for-profit” model.
The ancient tension between liberty and order plays out as vividly in Virtual Worlds as in the real. Networked transactions have evolved over the past decade to provide high levels of trust through encrypted communication, identity management, and other tools. But many problems still exist. Virtual worlds face an identical set of problems, but have not managed to build adequate tools for identity management and trust. Closed, proprietary game systems that require monthly fees and some form of verification, via credit card or similar payments, have comparatively few problems. It is possible to imagine a walled garden for education and training applications. Some virtual worlds, for example, allows users paying a fee to create protected areas where access is granted only to avatars given permission (assuming that they have not misled the owners about their identity). Secure sites must be available to support a range of privacy needs such as commercial proprietary projects or military training exercises. However, openness should be encouraged. The value of open virtual worlds, like the value of the web itself, is diminished by placing limitations on users or creating walled gardens.
Software Design Requirements
The architecture of the proposed system presents the following four main challenges. First, the architecture has to be implementation independent to accommodate tools developed using different technologies[ ]. Second, the architecture has to be flexible enough to accommodate system-level & technology-level changes that may occur in future. Third, the architecture should address and separate concerns of different user communities. Last, the architecture should facilitate the integration of web components with virtual world components to provide a unique virtual world based user experience that leverages 2D web content. Overcoming these challenges is challenging and needs a sophisticated system architecture. We envision a layered architecture for this system that includes the virtual world platforms and web user interfaces such as webforms, browser add-ons, etc. In principal, there will be three layers: a virtual world based presentation layer, a functionality oriented toolset layer and a database management layer.
Presentation Layer: At the client side, Medulla will provide access to workflows that wire different tools into a logical sequence. Medulla will work in a variety of virtual worlds to provide a content presentation mechanism for displaying, accessing, modifying and contributing content Medulla will provide a user interaction mechanism, which will allow user communities such as casual visitors, subject matter experts, educators, learners, etc. to access functionalities that are common across all projects and platforms such as identity management, peer review, information sharing, data exchange, file conversion, etc. to create and manipulate text, 2D and 3D content for educational purposes. The workflows will guide users as they undertake a variety of activities including: uploading references, creating work orders, inviting developers, identifying milestones, etc. Reusable software units or functions defined in different tools or services such as given in appendixes will hold operational logic for these activities. The user interaction mechanism will seamlessly integrate pieces of data coming from these tools and services with each other, hide process-level complexities on intuitive user interfaces, and link these pieces with virtual worlds scenery components to meet with user-level or application-level demands.
Toolset Layer: The toolset layer will reside in the middle between the presentation layer and the database layer. It will be comprised of a hosting infrastructure for the variety of tools & services, each developed for specific business need. These tools will interoperate together, but can be managed and operated separately. For example, a virtual content creation workflow will need four different tools viz. a project management tool, a bug tracking tool, a versioning service, and an invoicing & payment service along with virtual world built-in components, to interoperate. Moreover, the hosting infrastructure will include an additional layer of workflow management for executing and controlling reusable units of software code, which are developed for specific business activities and embedded in these tools, to perform activities defined in custom workflows. These tools, which might be developed using different technologies or programmed with different programming languages and distributed over the Internet, will interoperate by means of XML based communication protocols for data exchange and data delivery, and through connection points that are developed with respective application programming interfaces (API) of these tools.
Database Management Layer: The database management layer will provide storage infrastructure for storing two different types of data elements. First, data elements such as ready art assets, subject-knowledge bases, software code units, etc. that are generated during users’ interaction with the system specifically for content creation or content reuse purposes. Second, data elements such as discussions, reviews, citations, etc. that generate during users’ interaction with other users. Further, these data elements will be coming from heterogeneous sources in different delivery formats for different data types like text, images, texture maps, 3D models, audio & video. The organization of these data elements could be structured or semi-structured or unstructured and might be using open or proprietary metadata standards. In other words, these data elements could be embedded in 3D objects or in code objects or in flat text files, or linked with each other in tabular or hierarchical or networked fashion. All these aspects are important and cannot be ignored in the designing of database management layer. Further, tools in the toolset layer will be having different database schemas and database-level constraints. This will require the storage infrastructure to have flexible database architecture to accommodate such tool dependent database schemas. Tools in the toolset layer may have different configuration requirements. Some tools may have designed for one particular database system, while others may only be supporting hierarchical database model or may only be supporting object-oriented database model, or only be supporting flat files. Therefore, the database management layer will have to be designed with the appropriate combination of relational database systems, object oriented database systems and file repository storage systems. The database layer will also require an additional layer for storing search engine indexes, on which unstructured queries (search queries) can be executed for information retrieval. Furthermore, to deal with storage space problem the database layer will also have to accommodate tools and services for data compression and data archiving.
Virtual worlds show an enormous potential for education, research, and commercial use. However, the technology is still in its infancy. Some basic tools and resources are not yet available. By creating a central repository for content, more resources can be spent building newer tools and objects rather than redundant objects. As the technologies progress, interest will attract more developers and users leading to new tools. The potential is here, but leadership is needed in the interest of research, learning, and training to promote a set of standards for interoperability for scalable virtual contexts and robust middleware infrastructures. This community must actively build and shape this new technology if it is to attain its transformative potential.
Appendix A: Software Design Requirements for Creating & Publishing Objects and Experiences
Functionality Candidate Technology Work Needed First Year Priority Comments Project Management: Project planning & scheduling Open Workbench Yes Managing Teams: User Profile & Skillset Search Facebook API, My Space API, etc. Ability to search third party databases XML API issue Project Management: Bug Tracking Mantis Yes Project Management: Version Control SVN, CVS Must offer URLs that restore objects or assemblies, can track to a specific time-stamped version, ability to roll-back changes Yes Converters: Text and Image available Convert text into formats needed by each platform (assume that they can consume standard formats) yes XML data APIs address this Converters: 3D graphics files Collada (www.collada.org) Converters: Connect to viewing platforms (Croquet, Wonderland, Active World, Second Life) Build on Multiverse? Create XML data APIs Need to develop new tools to push material in standard form in the archive to each platform and perform updates as needed. Security yes (for at least two platforms) Data Storage: Digital Stewardship Need tool for managing the life cycle of objects--from creation to long-term preservation. Toolset would maintain provenance, track chain of custody to verify authenticity, and preserve an archival version of digital objects
Appendix B: Software Design Requirements for Sharing, Using and Improving Virtual World Content
Functionality Candidate Technology Work Needed First Year Priority Comments Data Storage: Hosting Leverage existing infrastructure distributed database, clustered servers, & load balancing techniques yes If we make it flexible, then we can leverage existing infrastructures as a first step. Data Archiving and Security (federated ownership and management responsibility, tiered access allowing rapid access to most commonly used assets, search tools, version control) Leverage Mellon-funded efforts and work with object database group http://www.odbms.org/ Determine whether to use relational or pure object database approaches. Latency issues will need to be addressed. Need data migration tools and techniques to retain less-relevant and rarely accessed data online but in lower cost storage. Yes Should leverage Mellon-funded efforts Data Storage: Metadata (including SCORM) Organization Domain specific Dublin core for library materials. Gene ontology for biology, etc yes Data Storage: Data Compression Several open source options available Obtain lossless compression of media datasets wherever necessary ? Data Storage: Unstructured data sets Google appliance on server side content (worlds and content). Given a metadata spec for objects (in Croquet and Wonderland), leverage the XML data APIs to permit Google to search live world content. Data Storage: Digital Stewardship Need tool for managing the lifecycle of objects--from creation to long-term preservation. Toolset would maintain provenance, track chain of custody to verify authenticity, and preserve an archival version of digital objects Interfaces: Simulation models and scripts (such as collision detection--a component of a physics engine) that operate on the client to reduce latency. Client side plug-ins? Uncertain whether this is possible on most platforms limited support essential Interfaces: Connect to simulation models and scripts not running on clients XML data APIs address this tools to ensure unambiguous interfaces to simulations not running on a client machine. For example, a sophisticated hydrodynamic model could operate on a server and push results to a client viewer. Simple scripts could be stored in standard Open Source Scripting formats such as Lua limited support essential Interfaces: HTML and XML-RPC RPC tools to ensure that full access to the 2D web are available in the viewing platform (perhaps not possible for all platforms) yes Assessment automated and easy-to-use tools to gather data on the user experience; map to knowledge and skill categorization; optionally export to learning management system Rating & Evaluation Modify the Helium.com Model? TBD
Appendix C: Shared Tools for creating, using and improving Virtual Worlds for learning, teaching & research
Functionality Candidate Technology Work Needed First Year Priority Comments Intellectual Property Management Internationally recognized boiler-plate use agreements such as Creative Commons, etc. Tools to ensure proper rights management and (if necessary) making payments. How to integrate with VW IP management modules? Leverage Mellon-funded efforts Project Management: Invoicing & payment Bee-Tokens for micropayments, Paypal for payments? TBD Not an immediate priority Identity Management for managing teams of contributors, object creators, reviewers, users InCommon, Shibboleth the identity of faculty & students can be handled in Shibboleth. The identity of non-affiliated creators and content creators is a different challenge but can build on Shibboleth. Identity for "visitors" needs to be added Yes Security Private/secure settings for objects and meetings Yes
- b. The leader identifies required participants (role players, SME, counselors) as required