Merging Cool Stuff Collective and Second Life for the BCS

Last night I was invited by the BCS Berkshire branch to give a follow up presentation to my Washing Away Cave Paintings but this time do the pitch in Second Life. It seemed a great time to join some dots. I offered to talk both about the experience and content in Series 1 of The Cool Stuff Collective, and at the same time show some other ways to deliver information in a virtual environment to a mixed audience of new SLers and some very experienced ones.
Also it was a goto time to use Robert Gittin’s Bangor university sim where an auditorium and BCS office is located. Robert is treasurer of the committee that we have with the BCS Animation and Games Development specialist group and a long time fellow metaverse evangelist. He very kindly came along too to chaperone and help what turned out to be quite a large group. Gatherings in SL of 5-6 people are manageable, but once you get to up to 20+ as we did it is good to have more than one person helping everyone.
I was busy talking and presenting so I did not take very many pictures, though in the post event mingle I snapped this one.
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For me this was almost a flashback, having been in virtual worlds so long it is refreshing to see new people come and try it. Whilst there is sometimes some embarrassment from new people to an environment it is nice to be able to settle those nerves and show that we are all new to this and there things for anyone to discover, ways to work, things to see that are just as easily spotted by someone new as an old hand.
I opened up with some traditional powerpoint, just a few slides on a single screen. Mostly about the BCSAGD, but primarily it was about the simplest way to present, replicate real life.
I then rezzed a giant Cool Stuff Collective poster, the aim to start filling the virtual space and start the line of conversation about the technology and some anecdotes about the show.
In order to start to be a little more extreme in presentation terms I rezzed a shot of the cool stuff website hovering horizontally across the floor. This page is a grid of thumbnails and labels for each of the pieces of tech I presented on the show. Rather than a static image behind me I made it a phantom object which allowed my to walk around in and on the image. Using the avatar as a pointer and having the image cut through me is a very basic way to break the real world illusion. A reminder that things don’t have to mimic real life.
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Here I started talking about Lego universe, and its similarities in building and programming to Second Life.
As I went on I started to use more in world rezzed props. This started when I explained how I rehearsed the very first show items using my own virtual world. I have written about this before but this was the first time I had talked about it in world and live. In order to get the points I needed to make in the piece when talking to Sy I built some small plinths in my local Opensim to represent the key points. I then walked past them in turn making a mental note. It meant when I was talking about it in the concise 3 minutes I had a visual cue of where I should be and what was next in my minds eye. In the pitch last night I started to build some of those plinths live to demonstrate how easy these visual sketches can be. You can see the remnants of that quick live build in the top photo in this post on the left.
I had two other main props, my Parrot AR drone, which was another quick build but a physical item in SL. I rezzed to of these and was then able to lift them up, hover them over the audience (just with edit tools), and then describe how the emergency cut out works on the device and how it drops to the ground. Which I did by dropping into the audience. Again its quick and easy and much more effective when you are telling a story or getting a point across. The other prop was my Kinect in SL, which I built when this was called project natal.
Project Natal SL Style
A nice piece of reuse as I built this back in June 2009 ! Part of the conversation about Kinect was about the rise of the Kinect Hacks and how important it was that people shared what they did and that the web and social media is a powerful force that, when used to share, makes things happen really quickly. This was an excuse to rez the old favourite, the giant hands attached to my avatar and explain and show how that can have a different impact on a pitch.
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My final quick prop was about audience participation. I rezzed a physical sphere and kicked it into the audience. As a presenter it is hard to know if people are listening, the visual cues and feedback from an audience is hard to judge, but when you throw a ball into the audience and people start kicking it around it is a very obvious reaction. That is not to say I did not think my audience was engaged, they were, we had some questions both voice and text, but it seems better to get people using their avatars, either doing things that make them look around and cam around, click on things, or in the case of the ball have a kick around.
I finished up on using web pages, with the Cool Stuff Collective website as an example. Of course at this point the older residents of SL pointed out they were using different clients, so I kept that a bit more brief but tried to explain to those new to SL how web on a prim works, and how it can be confusing.
After the official end of the hour lots of people stayed to talk and ask questions, we also formed a BCSAGD group in SL, open to anyone as we are very keen to have more presentations and gatherings and build on the BCS work that Robert has been doing.
I really enjoyed doing this pitch, for me being able to talk both about the technology and gadgets, about the future, whilst referring to the experience of the TV show and at the same time demonstrate some ideas of how to engage people in SL was such a multi dimensional conversation that it really got the adrenalin flowing. I have obviously be enthusing about virtual worlds for years now, but still the spark of human connectedness, the ability to be open and natural whilst still in a quirky virtual environment is fascinating. If you have not tried to demonstrate something in ways other than powerpoint, do on give it a go 🙂

2 thoughts on “Merging Cool Stuff Collective and Second Life for the BCS

  1. John Herd

    Hi,
    Thanks for the article on SL. I have only dabbled around the edges so far and am currently restricted by poor connection speeds, but am interested in the area of developing “mods” or props for SL worlds and especially in “movie making” within such worlds. People like Chantal Harvey http://mamachinima.eu/ have done innovative work in creating movies inside SL. I wondered if you have also come across the animation software “Moviestorm” – http://www.moviestorm.co.uk. It is a dedicated “Machinima” engine and is building momentum as an inexpensive way for users to make their own movies. They were very well reecived at the BETT education conference recently.

  2. Mamachinima/Chantal does wonderful work. She if a true pioneer in the field too. It was great her films were on display at the shanghai world expo recently too. I will check out moviestorm too 🙂 It is always interesting to see creative animation packages to help people start to understand the movie making process. Very often there seems to be a misunderstanding of virtual environments. Moviemaking, narrative, composition and photography still require effort. The virtual worlds make set building easier, but to get good production values in it still needs the talent (as Chantal shows)

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