iED Presentation on Immersive Collaboration Tools

July 24, 2009

For my presentation on the most practical immersive collaboration tools available for Second Life & Open Sim at Monday’s Immersive Education Day, I will not be showing them via powerpoint, but rather as a tour in the immersive environments.  I’ll post more on the tools I chose to highlight in a later post.  For now, here are locations and instructions on how to join the tour in-world.

Second Life

Time: approximately 1pm CDT
Location: ThinkBalm Island
http://slurl.com/secondlife/ThinkBalm%20Island/52/107/38

  • We will spend our time in Second Life surveying tools at the top of the ivory tower on the west island.
Second Life location of the iED presentation

Second Life location of the iED presentation

ReactionGrid

Time: approximately 1:30pm CDT
Location:  Jeff Lowe Region

  • When you login for the first time, you will appear in the welcome sim.  On the platform, there are touch-click teleports to several of the core regions.  Click on the region “Jeff Lowe”
Where you will first arrive

Where you will first arrive

  • When you arrive to the region, you should see the tour platform near the volcano lab.  That’s where the demo will occur.

ReactionGrid Demo Area

EDIT:

Here is a link to my field notes on each of the tools I will cover:
http://docs.google.com/View?id=dfnzv8zw_455hk5xn2xs


The DIY Immersive Laserpointer (or, the Pinoochio Technique)

May 25, 2009

pointing presenter

Anyone who has presented, trained, or demonstrated a tool within an immersive environment knows just how difficult it can often be to reference a specific position when communicating to others.  There is no simple physical world equilivant to pointing your arm and hand, or using a laser pointer to highlight focus.

Although I have just released a 3D Pointer tool, I also wanted to provide a simple, but limited in functionality, alternative for those do-it-yourselfers (or cheapskates) out there.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make your own laserpointer for the SecondLife & OpenSim immersive environments:

1.  First, create (rez) a cone.

Laser Pointer 1

2. Now, increase the height SIZE of the cone (the Z axis) to about 5 meters.

Laser pointer height 2

3. With the mouse, RIGHT CLICK on the object, and from the Pie Menus select MORE>, ATTACH>, HEAD>, NOSE.  This will attach the object to your nose.  This will replace anything you are currently have attacked to your nose (for example, a specialized avatar component).

Laser Pointer attach 3

4.  Laugh at how silly you look.

Laser Pointer funny 4

5.  Right click on the object and select EDIT.  Adjust the ROTATION of the Y AXIS to 90 degrees.  The object should now be pointing forward (still silly looking).

Laser Pointer rotate 5

6.  Finally, lets reposition it.  Notice the BLUE, GREEN, & RED axis arrows running though it?  Click & hold on the RED arrow then slide it forward.  Click & hold on the BLUE arrow then slide it down so the object is almost level with your chest.

Laser pointer adjust 6

YOU ARE DONE.  Try it out by moving your mouse around.  Notice how the pointer now points toward where your mouse is located.  You should probably rename the object (so you can find it easier in your inventory) and maybe change the color or texture.  Just detach when finished.  If you want to use it again, RIGHT CLICK on the object in your inventory & choose WEAR.

For those of you that might need a more flexible pointer (one not attached to your avatar, that can easily point out exact positions within the environment, and that multiple people can easily share use), you might checkout my newly released 3D Pointer.


BrainBoard Training Modules

May 3, 2009

In preparation for the upcoming release of the BrainBoard V1, I prepared 3 videos to help people get the most out of their use of the tool.

The user orientation is under 3 minutes and will prepare users to fully collaborate on the board.

The two owner/moderator orientations are roughly 2 minutes each, and cover how to import/export, adding a 2nd board, Collaboration vs. Moderator Modes, and a few other basics.


I also posted a text reference sheet covering the basics in one page.


Best Laid Plans for 3DTLC

April 18, 2009

I’m incredibly excited to be attending the 3D Training, Learning and Collaboration (3D TLC) conference in Washington, D.C. April 20-21st.  As a self-proclaimed conference nerd, I’ve set several specific objectives to accomplish:

To learn…

I like the logical progression of the agenda topics.   Seems to quite completely cover the spectrum of topics an organization will need to explore and progress through in implementing an immersive technology.  I hope to learn from each stage specific mistakes to avoid, successes to replicate, and best practices to emulate.

I admit, I rely too heavily on too few platforms (Open Sim & Second Life).  I hope to learn current and future developments of many other platforms, specifically through the lens of which are most promising (applicability to education, training, and collaboration).  I need to identify which few I should target to invest my limited learning time.

To scout out partners…

My and my University’s vision for immersive technologies cannot be accomplished without some additional human & organizational partners.  I’ll be on the lookout for individuals and groups that are the missing puzzle pieces to complete our plans.  What are those plans, you might ask?  Well, without giving too much away, OUCPM (my employer) will soon be pursuing several federal grants geared towards the utilization of immersive technology in future workforce development & in enhancing innovation.  For my personal immersive projects, I need a partner to help lighten the tool deployment load, so I can focus more on the R&D.

To capture inspiration…

Virtual environments need collaboration tools!  There are not enough of them, and many that do exist are user-unfriendly.  I’ve found my best tool ideas come from those user moments that start with, “I wish we could…”  I hope that through the multitude of comments and conversations, that I can synthesize several concepts for cool & useful tools to develop.

To earn clients…

This is not a sales trip for me, but I do intend to remain open and receptive to opportunities.  So, if you have any of the following needs, shoot me a tweet ( @JeffLowe ) and we can talk shop:

  • Turn-key video production for broadcast or web distribution (utilizing live and machinima footage )
  • Virtual and physical event management (from public lectures to 1000+ participant national conferences)
  • Virtual, physical, and online training development & management
  • Virtual collaboration tool development (see my Virtual Toolkit for examples)

To strengthen connections…

I’m absolutely pumpped to finally physically meet many of my virtual contacts, especially several members of the ThinkBalm Innovation Community.  Many of these people I’ve conducted business with, yet have only met via an avatar and voice/text chat.

Finally, for those not attending, if time permits, I will post a few post-conference observations and analysis.  You can also keep up with us real-time by following the Twitter hashtag #3DTLC.


Designing in 2D for 3D Adoption

April 7, 2009

Sounds confusing and counter-intuitive, but sometimes designing virtual collaboration tools in 2D can lead more to 3D thinking & adoption.  Hear me out…

A few months back, I worked with multiple clients to run a brainstorming event within Second Life® using the Ideaographer mindmapping tool.  When we demoed it for them, they just didn’t “get it”.  They asked if we could flatten it so they could see it better.  They wanted something familiar, like a whiteboard they use in physical world sessions.

My lesson…never underestimate how overwhelming a virtual environment can be for a new user.  Sometimes having a bit of familiarity in the environment and the tools can breed comfort and ease acceptance.  These new users couldn’t effectively navigate the space, they couldn’t ALT+Click to control their point of views, and they were relatively unfamiliar with the client interface.  They lacked the skills necessary to benefit from the use of the 3D tool.

Please don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that to be new-user friendly, tools must always be 2D.  But for broader adoption and ease of acceptance among new users, I’ve found using a somewhat familiar 2D approach is effective.   (However, never allow your design to be limited by the 2D.  Always identify the core need and working outward from that, pushing the envelope of the expected and commonplace.)


3 Virtual Brainstorming Best Practices

March 1, 2009

I recently moderated a brainstorming session with two large clients in Second Life.  It seems like everytime I attend or conduct a virtual event, I always learn something new.  To share some lessons, here are 3 best practices to consider before conducting your next in-world brainstorming session:

1. Conduct A Participant Orientation

If you are planning a virtual event, particularly one involving high levels of interaction, you must insure all participants know the basics of the virtual environment.  By basics, I mean how to move their avatar, how to participate in open chat conversations, how to send a private IM, how to adjust their camera angle, and effective voice management techniques (like don’t leave your Talk button engaged & move your speakers away from your mic to reduce echoes).  Never underestimate the knowlege and skill needed by those new to virtual environments and the time it will take to convey it to them.  The most successful approach I’ve found is to have a separate participant orientation session, well before the day of the event, to insure all can successfully operate their virtual environment interface.

2. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

Broadway performances require numerous rehearsals to insure consistent, expected outcomes…same applies to virtual events.  Sure, this takes more time for the clients and all parties involved, but it is essential in clarifying expectations and identifying potential problems before they happen.  At minimum, you should walk through the entire agenda as if you were actually conducting the event.  Use the tools, display the information, and travel to the locations planned for the event…and look for potential problems so you can proactively address.

For example, we conducted 3 separate rehearsals for the recent client brainstorming event.  Since I was the moderator capturing and inputting discussion points into the BrainBoard while a facilitator guided the voice conversation, it was vital for us to coordinate effectively.  The facilitator had to know the capabilities/limitations of the virtual tools being used & how the information discussed would be displayed.  And I needed a clear sense of the agenda flow, what elements of the discussion were vital to display at what times, and when to engage certain features.  A rehearsal allowed us to fine-tune our approach to the event and even develop outlines used to pre-populate the boards.

3. Increase Engagement With Distributed Collaborative Input

Whenever possible, use tools and techniques that allow participant contribution and interactivity.  The death of many virtual meetings (and physical meetings for that matter) begin with a talking head presentation and a powerpoint show.  Sure, there may be small segments (like a quick Industry Overview) that a power point-like slide show would be appropriate, but keep those to a minimum!  For brainstorming, it’s all about the interaction.  Our clients chose for voice to be the nearly sole vehicle for discussion, and for a single moderator to input the discussion information into the BrainBoard.  While this allowed participants to focus solely on the voice discussion, I believe it limited their engagement in the discussion and thus resulted in less than optimal results.  True, they saw their ideas eventually appear on the board, but it was based on what I heard via their voice discussion and what I typed.  Allowing participants during brainstorming events to input their own ideas/suggestions, edit theirs/others, & rearrange/reorganize contributions helps to engage more of their senses, to utilize more of their reasoning centers, and to feel that their contribution is valid and appreciated.


Why I Use Twitter

September 21, 2008
Who I Follow

Who I Follow

Like any cool web tool, Twitter can be a great help or an equally great waste of time.  It all depends on how you use it…and why.  At my most recent conference, Twitter was the hot topic among paraticipants.  I ended up explaining to multiple individuals why I use Twitter and how it has impacted my personal & professional life.

Question:

Why do I use Twitter?

Quick Answer:

First, because I see very beneficial business results.  Second, because it’s fun.

Detailed Answer:

1.  It augments my listening ability

By following those clients that use Twitter, I easily stay updated on their professional projects and personal lives.

By carefully following the right experts, I’m daily learning of new products & new techniques that will help me provide better solutions to my clients.

We have recently acquired technology that will soon be deployed for us to use in better serving our clients.  I currently have a RSSed twitter search on the technology fed to my Google Reader.  To put it simply, anytime anyone on Twitter mentions this technology (using it, installing it, troubles with it, successful applications of it), that twitter message is automatically sent to my Google Reader.  I can then read what others are saying about the technology.  This also allows me to identify potential user experts to contact in the future.

Speaking of RSSed Twitter searches, I also have them established for my clients divisions and keywords relating to their core business.  This really helps me know who is talking about our clients and what they are saying.

2.  It enhances my relationships with clients

Knowing a little personal information about clients, and vice versa, somehow seems to “humanize” us humans.  It makes us more approachable and more comfortable with one another.  It begins to establish in some small way a level of trust.  A paraphrase of a statement made by one of my clients, “Sure, it’s not mission critial for me to know that you frequently like to make your own sushi on Sundays, but it helps me to feel more comfortable with you.”  And likewise, me knowing that the client hopes their 8-year-old never grows out of their McDonald’s phase won’t solve the challenges presented by budget reductions, but it does help to foster the kind of safe environment needed to discuss and solve those difficult challenges.

3.  It’s an easy way to share knowledge

It’s extremely easy to share links to sites, videos, articles, blogs, you name it via Twitter.  I’ve used it to direct clients to information I’ve discovered pertinent to an ongoing project or effort.

4.  It increases serendipity

Often I find incredibly useful information, resources, and contacts via Twitter by chance.  For example, one of my clients follows numerous PR professionals in the OKC area.  I decided to follow a few to see what they had to say.  A few weeks later, a different client needed a panelist on short notice that knew the ins and outs of corporate volunteering programs.  Surprising enough I remembered that one of those PR professionals I followed (Sam Sims) had both a head and a heart for volunteering.  Problem solved, panelist secured…thanks Twitter (and Sam).

5.  It helps to promote my work

I like to Tweet when I complete work or start work on a major component of a client project.  It’s not only a simple way to keep client’s updated, it’s also a good way to promote the type of services you are capable of providing.  Of course, on sensitive projects the Tweets are kept generic enough to maintain confidential information (or not Tweeted at all).

For personal promotion, I send out a Tweet every time I post a new blog entry (like I just did for this one).  My page viewership typically jumps above 200% the day I Tweet.