Exit Reality… Enter Hyperbole?

Just a couple of weeks ago SLOODLE 0.4 was launched… which extends SLOODLEs integration with Moodle considerably – allowing, for example, slideshows (for presentations, galleries, or whatever use you like) to be prepared easily in Moodle then shown in Second Life. A week earlier I was shown some work at the University of Ulster who’ve extended SLOODLE to guide students through interactive learning objects in Second Life from a Moodle page – a Moodle page that also allows the students (and their tutors!) to track their progress through the 3D exercises. We’ve been using Moodle web-chatrooms to archive and provide web-access to Second Life chat for over two years now. LMS/virtual world integration is something I’m very interested in. And so I had to read up a little on ExitReality’s news “Web-based 3D Technology integrates Learning Management Systems, Moodle and Blackboard into the 3D web

Its quite different from Second Life – the core idea being to provide a 3D space ‘attached’ to any and every web-page out there on the interweb. However, from what I can see the LMS integration seems to be little more than using the LMS as a ‘launch pad’ and authentication tool for access to the 3D space – and once there few of the rich customization features available in Second Life are present for users. The owners of a space can modify it to their hearts content, but the visitors power over even their own avatars is relatively limited.

Time for some translations.

From the ExitReality web site:
Unlike other 3D technology, ExitReality does not require going to a closed virtual world destination such as Second Life or Google Lively with separate logins. All these virtual worlds can now be accessed by anyone on the web, once the ExitReality Internet browser plugin has been downloaded and installed.
Like a few other virtual world platforms, soon to include Second Life, ExitReality can be accessed once the appropriate Internet browser plugin has been downloaded and installed

From the Press Release (link above):
ExitReality is a free Internet plug-in that allows anyone to view every web page in 3D or convert their 2D website into a customisable virtual world.
ExitReality is a free Internet plug-in that allows anyone running an ActiveX capable browser on Microsoft Windows (only) to view every web page in 3D or convert their 2D website into a customisable virtual world.

In saying all of this, bear in mind that ExitReality may well be a better solution for many users than Second Life – but you need to know who your users are going to be and what you hope to do with your virtual world once you have it. There is some fairly balanced discussion from the Second Life educators mailing list late last year picking out some of the pros and cons here:
https://lists.secondlife.com/pipermail/educators/2008-September/026147.html

I’m going to quote Bruce Sommerville on this, a Second Life educator who’s spent a lot more time with ExitReality than I have:

In short, there is the *potential* to create interactive and immersive educational activities in easily accessible web pages, especially if a community of educators gathers around the technology, as it has in SL.

I’ve yet to see evidence that the potential is really being met, but look forward to seeing more compelling examples of immersive teaching spaces in ExitReality over time.

4 thoughts on “Exit Reality… Enter Hyperbole?

  1. Bruce Sommerville

    Thanks, Daniel, for taking the time to investigate and write on the subject of ExitReality and education, and for including a quotation from a post I made on the topic.
    However, I wish to take up a few points. Firstly, it is not necessary to ‘launch’ ExitReality from a Moodle page if one doesn’t want to – a window can be created in a Moodle page where the ExitReality 3D space with run live, with full functionality, thus integrating the 2D and 3D spaces. Secondly, ExitReality will run in the most popular web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Google Chrome on Windows, and any Apple Mac that has Windows compatible o/s (e.g. Parallels) installed. Finally, the quote you have use from my post is quite old (September 2008); you may have missed the more up-to-date post on the subject here: https://lists.secondlife.com/pipermail/educators/2009-February/030195.html
    I’ll state for the record that I firmly believe that ExitReality is providing a platform that has excellent educational affordances (and business and social affordances), and they are offering great support to educators. The *potential* of the platform has been realised, and educators are beginning to discover it.

    Reply
    1. Daniel Livingstone

      And thanks for the corrections Bruce! Sorry I missed the more recent comments in the SLED list – as you know its very high traffic, and I only dip in and out.

      Having it run inside the window in a frame is an improvement for some – I suspect some people might argue as to whether this makes the environment somehow less immersive, but it should not be too big an issue. Metaplace will also run inside a frame when it is eventually released to the public – albeit not currently in 3D as such. I think the competition is healthy, and I think these platforms all offer something different.

      For ExitReality the PC only issue is I think the biggest problem currently – not unsurmountable, but by the time that is cracked Second Life might well be running inside frames in the browser. Meanwhile, Metaplace is 2D/isometric (3D support is planned though), uses Flash for rendering and so should run on any platform that supports flash. Second Life has clients for Linux/Unix and Mac as well as PC. And both Metaplace and Second Life seem to offer a lot greater (and more direct) opportunities for creating interactive 3D content currently. Though I can’t imagine trying to have an online class with more than 40 or 50 students (if that many) using either of those, to be honest.

      Do you have any more details on how ExitReality plugs in to Moodle? I’ve not really had time to investigate it deeply myself, so happy to learn more about features I many have overlooked.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Sommerville

        At the moment, I only know that an ExitReality frame can be embedded in a Moodle page, and run there (I have seen a practical demonstration). Whether or not there is sharing of Moodle database info. between the two platforms is unclear. When I learn more about it, I’ll update comments.
        All the best,
        Bruce Sommerville.

        Reply
  2. mcfly

    Immersion is great, but not as necessary as convenience. Having the 3d world in the browser does make it less immersive, which imho is appropriate for a work environment.
    It also makes it easy to have several apps open….or even
    a seperate Twitter page (heheheh..work can be boring,heheheh). SOmetimes, I want to pull back from immersion but not leave the space, and making the window smaller (which is real easy with a browser) is how I achieve this.

    Reply

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