Posts tagged underwater

A Virtual Aquarius Reef Base?

2

I’ve started a second OpenSim project, but I’m still thinking about how I can expand the Undersea Observatory sim. Spending time building this sim has really caused me to consider how worthwhile an endeavor this could be. The vast majority of the ocean depths are completely unexplored, yet it’s all just lurking below us on the same planet. It’s one thing to look at the stars millions of light years away and realize we may never reach them, but it’s taunting to think that the ocean is just right within human grasp, but still mostly uncharted. Allowing students the chance to become deep sea divers, albeit virtual ones, gives them an opportunity few people will ever have.

One thing I’d like to focus on for the sim is the geological aspect, and create tectonic shift simulations and underwater volcano eruptions. It’s really quite beautiful and amazing to watch footage of this sort of thing. Check out the video shown below as an example.

I’d also like to focus more on the realism of such a setting, and create more true-to-life scenarios for the users. I’d like to include scientific tests and experimentation for the students, and add an actual lab to the observatory. In fact, the NOAA has a base in the Florida Keys called the Aquarius Reef Base which I think would be awesome to recreate as a separate scale model. To better accommodate large groups of students, I’ve been considering expanding the sim to four regions, with each region containing a satellite facility with its own unique layout and missions. Then the students could rotate between regions as necessary. Aquarius, or a structure similar to it, would be a perfect satellite laboratory. The Aquarius web site has a good amount of photos, lesson plans, and live webcam feeds during missions containing a lot of good educational material. A lot of these ideas could easily be adapted and incorporated into the overall sim for student information.

Undersea Observatory Available for Download and Featured at VWBPE

3

Version 0.9 of my Undersea Observatory for OpenSim is available for download. It’s available as a standalone OAR, which can be imported into your own OpenSim server, or another OpenSim host like Kitely. There’s also a standalone version packaged with Sim-on-a-Stick that you can basically just unzip and run. I’ve noticed a few bugs already in the sim, which I’ll fix. The permissions seem to be incorrect for the mini-submarine, so I don’t think visiting avatars can use it. Somehow my install got corrupted, and I can’t even modify the submarines, so I’ll have to figure something out. And I’m still working on scripting the squid and the kiosks, so I removed those from this version. They will be added in the 1.0 release.

I have a poster session exhibit set up at the VWBPE 2012 Conference, too, which is running from March 15-17: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/EduCommons%20Bravo/84/41/26

UPDATE 2012-03-16: My exhibit was nominated for the award for Best Example of Educational Practices in a Virtual World!

Undersea Observatory for OpenSim

20

I’m close to finishing an underwater simulation in OpenSim to help teach students about marine biology. I’ve been working on it for a couple weeks now, and it’s been interesting and fun to create. In this sim, students become underwater explorers. They board a submarine and take a trip to an underwater lab, which contains a classroom, observation rooms, and exhibits about marine life.

There’s two missions students will undergo. The first is to explore the ocean. After an orientation, students put on a deep sea diving suit and go out and walk around on the ocean floor, and participate in a scavenger hunt to locate, identify, and photograph different biological specimens using the viewer’s snapshot tool. The second mission involves the students creating their own posters about marine wildlife which are then added to the virtual world for the benefit of future visitors. Adventurous students may even be given the ability to texturize, script, and build their own undersea animals. This way, the sim will continue to build on itself as more students use it, and later visitors will enjoy the effort students have put into it. Since I hope to use this Underwater Observatory as part of a larger virtual world system in our school district at a later date, I believe it’s important to use a constructionist approach when designing our educational sims, where students are the main content creators rather than the teachers. Our teachers don’t have the time to create elaborate regions, so we need to encourage students to “Leave it better than you found it!”

The amazing thing is most of this has been created with freebies. OpenSim has a constantly growing repertoire of good, free content available on the web, which I was able to use. For example, the undersea building itself was created with Tube City. Much of the plant life and some furniture is from Linda Kellie’s collection, and some other components are taken from Universal Campus. There are other pieces from OpenSim Creations, too, and a lot of the details I created myself, such as the lights, the diving suit, the fish swimming around, and the squid. There are some other little easter eggs as well, such as a treasure chest and a shipwreck which the students may come across, and the squid will [harmlessly] follow around anyone who comes within 20 meters.

I’ve been trying to get Ferd Frederix’s blue whale to work in OpenSim, too, but have been having limited success. Apparently sculpties can’t use the llMoveToTarget() function in OpenSim yet. But normally this would be one of the other reasons OpenSim is such a great choice as an educational virtual world: there are thousands of free LSL scripts for Second Life, and most of them work quite well in OpenSim. Since teachers and students may not have the time to become master scripters, there’s often a script for anything they need that they can just “plug in” to what they create. There’s also plenty of tutorials to help those interested learn how to do it.

There’s still a few things I want to add, and I’d like to fill out more of the rooms because some of them feel a little empty. I still haven’t created a decent submarine to take students to the lab. I was originally going to use Garry’s Beaumont’s fantastic Submarine Nebuchadnezzar, but I’m taking a crack at building my own. Vehicle support is limited in OpenSim due to the physics engine, but I think I can come up with something that works decently enough.

As soon as the sim is finished, I’ll post the OAR files for download here.

UPDATE: 2012-02-27 – I’ve thrown up a few more photos of the work, including the vehicles created for the sim. The Deep Sea ATV is quite fun, but needs a more open space to really go wild. To reach the observatory I ended up deciding to give each student their own “personal submarine” that works as an attachable vehicle, rather than a single giant submarine to take everyone there. I did this for a couple reasons. Although I’m packaging this sim as one region, for my own usage I’m going to plan on everyone traveling across a couple underwater regions to get to the observatory. Physical vehicles can’t cross regions, and I don’t want to force megaregions on the OAR, so an attachable vehicle was the best solution. Crossing multiple regions to get to the sim will help make the descent a little longer to build the anticipation, and help mask the fact I had to raise the sim’s water level higher than the rest of the grid. Plus it’ll be cool to see a fleet of mini-submarines swimming around.

I’m extremely close to being finished now, and have just a few things left to accomplish: Making sure my jellyfishes and squid stay within their boundaries, figuring out why my jellyfishes keep falling (even though their buoyancy should be set to keep them afloat), preventing the squid from flopping around wildly whenever it follows an avatar, and adding videos and informational material to the kiosks in the lobby.

Go to Top