Virtual Interactive Museums Part I

I’ve recently asked to participate in VWBPE (Virtual Worlds Best Practices for Education http://www.vwbpe.org/), since I was learning and working as a “popularizer” for new virtual world platform CloudParty.

For those who don’t know, CloudParty resembles SecondLife, but it can be accessed in a classical WebBrowser exactly as if it were a standard website like FaceBook.

Now the work I did in various virtual worlds during latest 6 years has a common background aspect which is to learn and teach how to find an organic methodology to allow educator or everyone wanting to communicate knowledge, art, or thoughts to others using new 3D technologies.

The ideal result of this task is to provide people wanting to use Virtual Worlds with some kits and ideas allowing them to start quickly in producing exhibitions with the minimal effort and without knowing so much from the underlining technology of the virtual world. This allows for having a common methodology that can be easily moved changing the platform without modifying the initial material. The general Real Life ideas of how to build an exhibition is described by this (unluckily almost empty) article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exhibit_design. This means that this area is still free for contribution by the community .

So how would we would organize a Virtual Museum?

Raw Materials

The very first thing is to collect and organize the raw material we have:

items. items can be either “static” 3D objects, or tags, labels, signboards,  texts, pictures, locally played music audible when coming close to the item. These aspects are self  evident, easily visible and understood and must provide hints to provoke further interaction

dynamic popups, are multimedia sources like music, songs, youtube video, or gamificated content where experience is gained from quiz and experiments, and usually triggered by touch, collision (walking on or through) or pressing some specific buttons or saying something special in chat.

create a database! so that search and scripting object to collect links can be greatly simplified and the exhibition can be easily upgraded or changed to show different content. Databases are usually mad on external websites using php/mysql. There is no standard of these kind of databases so you can deploy your own custom made.

Geography

Geography and topology come to aid us since it is a well known metaphore everybody knows and it is strictly connected with the way people tend to live virtual worlds AND very similar to the way people are experiencing real world. Talking about Geography we must have real maps (either printed one or a visual from the top showing us implicitly the map) and a coherent color scheme or arrow signing scheme allowing people to follow a predefined path or design their own.

A guided tour i.e. a kind of baloon, vehicle, moving chair or other is often important to let people explore the exhibition in a sort of automated way so to have hints and encouragement to find hidden things. Tours usually move from one region  to the other describing in abstract what are the single regions and providing enough material via chat, popups, or other to create incentives to explore them.

A search in the museum is also something quite welcome by visitors just wanting to search for specific items. This also means that it would be good if  you create a full database of the content and the geographical locations.

Special Interactions

People are looking for something unique and outstanding to be attracted to come to your exhibition. You should design something specifically important for them as an experience or a “new concept” for coming here. This is sometimes obtained by including some special kind of technological innovation or special possibility (it is more a marketing thing). Special interactions can be useful for instance adding animations (such as making items explode when touched) or including them in some gamified contest (such as collecting gifts or virtual coins), answering to questions

To sum up

Thus we refer to the whole exhibition as a kind of exploration where we find regions, rooms and we offer specific exploration paths. There must be obviously an entry point where people can collect general information about the exhibition, learn and visualize the designed traversal paths and have something appealing to be pushed to start exploring the exhibition (some kinds of retribution can be devised) for instance: collect some hidden gifts dislocated in the various regions to help people having a gamified approach.

Virtual Museums are thus NOT a total new concept but an augmentation of ordinary museums, where special activities can be done which we can not normally do (or at least not easily when visiting a real museum) such as flying around, teleporting rapidly from one point to another, playing and producing interferences with the environment and so help in producing a real Life Experience and so enhancing the possibility people can learn something new from the exhibit itself.

This is meant to be a “proof of concept” showing in a limited, experimental form form some of the techniques that can be used for reaching that goal. Being myself a newbie in CloudParty I still have a lot to learn, and I do this as an amateur in my free time.

Hope it can be expressive and interesting to you 🙂

Sample Scripts shown here:

Example 1: A MultiMarker mapboard

In this example a board can react in various ways depending on the place where it is touched. If the board shows for instance a complex environment it can easily implement getting of visual information textual or web pages of videos depending where it is touched.

It can be used as a map teleporter or to follow a sequence or quiz, such as click in sequence all the cities which are known to be of a certain type, and give a reward if user succeded in the task.

Example 2: Multi face poster

In each virtual worlds scripts (which are those who reacts to touch) are expensive, so there is a generic need for limiting their use. In CloudParty for example on an average island you can’t have more than 26 scripts, so you must devise ways to use a single script to handle multiple entities. A poster such as a n-faced kiosk where people can click on marker on each face to have proper indication is a good compromise. Also in this way you can have high quality textures, otherwiser on previous example there is a limitation for textures being only 1024×1024, which is really low quality.

Example 3: A rezzer

Rezzing or spawner is a simple yet intriguing way to show many things in a single spot. Every time user click on an object it cycles over a sequence of items to show. Items can have their own script, or the spawning script can add a sign with explications.

Examples 4: Navigating over slides (or a book)

It is possible to set up some books or slideshow, where people can read complex history flipping through the pages of a predefined sequence.

Projects examples shown here

Gallinara Island “Treasure Hunt” on Edmondo

ITEC adopt a scientist sample in Craft

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