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Austin Tate :: Blog

July 23, 2012

I will give a presentation on my MSc dissertation work to the MSc in e-Learning Dissertation Festival on 1st August 2012 at 4pm BST. This will take place on the Vue South region in Second Life.

The thesis is titled "Activity in Context – Planning to Keep Learners ‘in the Zone’ for Scenario-based Mixed-Initiative Training".

A number of threads have been brought together in this work:

  • to study the cognitive psychological foundations for situated social learning;
  • to identify effective learning methods relevant to mixed-initiative interaction between agents;
  • to describe the relationship between cognitive psychological activity models and an AI research-informed conceptual model of activity;
  • to provide a methodology for how the concepts identified could be utilised in a training-orientated “I-Zone” – a virtual space for intelligent scenario-based interaction; and
  • to create, document and demonstrate a resource base for experimentation and potential re-use on projects in this area.

 The core message can be summarised as:

Constrain the environment,
Inject and Induce


The dissertation is due to be completed by the end of August 2012. More details of the project, access to the dissertation once complete, and various resources related to the work are at http://atate.org/mscel/i-zone/.

Keywords: AI, Dissertation, I-Zone, MSc, Second Life

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June 22, 2012

Cloud Party is now becoming available with little "cloud" islands that can accommodate up to 25 avatars - see https://its.cloudpartytime.com/

FaceBook login is the norm unfortunately, but you can login anonymously for tests if you do not want to use FaceBook.

Keywords: Cloud Party, Virtual World

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June 19, 2012

In continuing experimentation with OpenSim Non-Player Character (NPC) technology (http://opensimulator.org/wiki/OSSLNPC) as part of work on my MSc in e-Learning dissertation, I have collected together the NPC creation, persistence, movement and removal scripts as resources for potential future projects. See http://atate.org/mscel/i-zone/npc/


An NPC can be created in OpenSim based on the current appearance of a specific avatar, including any attachments it has.  This allows a range of reactive capabiities and web service connections to be established through scripts running in attachments on the NPC itself. OpenSim NPCs are being epxlored as potential tutors in the "I-Zone" - a space to support mixed-initiative scenario-based training. See http://atate.org/mscel/i-zone/ for more resources.

Keywords: NPC, OpenSim

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Ai Austin participated on 19th June 2012 in an interview for a research study looking at the OpenSimulator community.

The interview was conducted in Second Life by:

  • Robin Teigland (www.knowledgenetworking.org) is an Associate Professor at the Center for Strategy and Competitiveness at the Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden. Her research interests focus on the relationship between knowledge flows in networks and performance at the individual, organizational, and national levels.
  • Paul M. Di Gangi (http://paulmdigangi.com/) is an Assistant Professor at the Loyola University Maryland, USA. His research focuses on the intersection of social and digital networks and organizations for value creation purposes.
  • Zeynep Yetis is a PhD student at the Center for Strategy and Competitiveness at the Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden. Her research interests focus on the dynamics of open-source communities and user-driven innovation.

Image without Second Life Viewer GUI.

Keywords: OpenSim

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April 24, 2012

Having been an enthusiastic user of Flight Simulator for the PC  since the mid 1990s, its been nearly 10 years since I last used Flight Simulator 2002... I skipped FS2004 (a.k.a "A Century of Flight" or FS9), and did not get FSX when it came out in 2006. But I returned recently as the Microsoft ESP (Environment Simulator Platform) is now being licensed and extended for serious simulations from underwater, to land, to air and near space by Lockheed Martin as Prepar3D. I had also previously created a number of science fiction vehicles based on the TV shows of Gerry Anderson, and especially Supercar for Flight Simulator, so I wanted to test if they were still operational and performing well. As the MSc in e-Learning Game-Based Learning course come to an end, and a new PC with much improved Nvidia GTX580 graphics card was acquired, it was timely to look back at Flight Simulator and see how it has progressed.

With a new copy of Flight Simulator X, now relatively cheap compared to its original release pricing, and the two service packs installed (SP1 and SP2) which were necessary to correct black parts on some add-on craft (including Supercar), I was ready to fire things up. And things look good with high frame rates at ultra settings for the displays. Its nice to see 3D models that improve over time in new releases of Flight Simulator without change to the basic visual model.

I have always liked the Lockheed Martin SR-71 "Blackbird" and North American X-15 rocket plane and am amazed that these craft designed and built in the 1950s could achieve such performance.  I take every opportunity to see the real craft at museums in the USA. An X-15 is in the Smithsonian in the Mall, and an SR-71 can be found in the Smithsonian at Dulles Airport and at the Intrepid Museum in New York for example.

Reasonably good free add-on craft are available for the SR-71 and X-15... but the improved visuals prompted me to try a paid for add on X-15 which is reported to be one of the best Flight Simulator add-ons.. and it really does look very good indeed...


Keywords: Flight Simulator, FSX, IDGBL

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April 17, 2012

J.K. Rowling has created an on-line experience for fans of the Harry Potter series of books... to accompany a site which is the only on-line source of Harry Potter e-Books... a potentially vast market.  The pottermore.com site has been in beta test for some months with over a million beta registrations, but has just now become available with open registrations.

The experience itself runs through in a chapter by chapter format for each of the books.  Myst style graphical elements are overlaid and respond to mouse clicks and interactions as the various features and artifacts are gradually exposed. Items can be collected into a "trunk".  After you discover Diagon Alley, and open an account at Gringotts Bank with an initial 500 "galleons", further gold galleons can be found in various places and saved in your account to purchase necessary supplies. Then you must explore Diagon Alley to get all the required items for your first year at Hogwarts.

Your wand will choose you at Ollivanders - makers of fine wands since 382 B.C. - via a set of questions and choices.


The its off via Platform 9 and three-quarters to Howarts.  And term starts.  Points can be earned for you and your "house" as you go along. The Great Hall shows the progress of all four school houses, your Common Room shows the progress for your own house, and your own profile area maintains all the information about your progress, skills acquired and artifacts collected.  You can also make friends and pass around gifts.

The currency used in the experience is all provided and does not require real money to play.  The e-books do cost real money. 

Keywords: IDGBL, Potter, Pottermore, Rowling

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April 12, 2012

The University of Edinburgh Moodle Virtual Learning Environment is now available at https://www.moodle.is.ed.ac.uk

A playground for experimentation with Moodle for the School of Informatics distance education initiatives is now available with course name "Playground Informatics" (pginformatics).  The UoE Moodle is currently only available for such distance education courses as the service is built up.

People who would like to participate as a course teacher or student should initially contact Austin Tate and provide their EASE UUN, as all users are currrently being added manually.

Note that we also have our own experimental Moodle setup, running in Appleton Tower on an AIAI server... for testing use only as its on one of our manually managed windows desktop servers at http://virtual2.aiai.ed.ac.uk/moodle/

Keywords: Informatics, Moodle, Playground, VLE

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March 30, 2012

For my MSc in e-Learning IDGBL Game Design exercise I have created an exploration style game with a Na'vi/Avatar theme.

The web site for the game information and links to allow access to the areas in which some elements of it can already be played in Second Life are at:


More details of the elements that went into the design are in this blog entry - Game Design Preliminaries.

Keywords: Game Design, Moon Bloom, Na'vi, Pandora, Second Life

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The University of Edinburgh has chosen Blackboard Collaborate as its virtual classroom. It provides Adobe Connect style tools with multi-way video and audio teleconferencing, particpants lists and profiles with hand raising and AFK indicators, and text chat with emoticons. A tools area can be used as a whiteboard with slide upload and markup by participants. It can also be used for application sharing and co-browsing.  The session can be recorded and played back.  Elements like the text chat, participants list and whiteboard contents can also be saved either during a live meeting or from a rercording.

One possibility for use could be to record a synchronised speaker and presentation, and make that available via the recording.  Screen capture tools such as TechSmith Camtasia can be used to capture off a recording to allow for transcoding into a regular video format for other uses, YouTube, streaming, etc.


Keywords: Blackboard, Collaborate, IDGBL, Recordings

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March 17, 2012

The Fellowship of MSc folks met at the Aerie Peak gryphon point to fight our way North towards Shadowfang Keep. Avoiding death is not an option on this journey, and you quickly become accustomed to making a little progress, dropping dead from the onslaught, appearing as a ghost in the graveyard, returning to your body, and placing yourself as far onwards as possible.  Then looking round for the baddies who may show as ghostly figures near you. Then resurrect and run as fast as you can onwards again. It takes a few goes to get through heavily fortified gates.

Shadowfang Keep is entered via a portal into an "Instance" of the game. These are special areas in World of Warcraft where your group or raid party is able to interact with a dungeon privately; that is, without interference from other parties. See http://www.wowwiki.com/Instance

I also learned that taking in plenty of food in advance, to sit down("x" key), and preferable to eat as well, is important to allow a quicker recovery. Free to play accounts cannot receive health boosts or food supplies from other players.

Good team support meant that weakening players, like my dwarf, were assisted when set upon by multiple "mobs". Carnage did at times occur.

The team prevailed and completed the quest.  We all now have stronger bows thanks to the rewards given by the grateful occupants of the Keep.



Keywords: MSceL, Shadowfang Keep, World of Warcraft

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