Canadian-based Leap In Entertainment (http://www.justleapin.com/ ) thinks it can do what Google couldn’t, and has launched (Mid-January) a brand new virtual world that might actually stand a chance, according to Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch (http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/01/12/just-leap-in-tries-to-succeed-where-lively-failed/)
So, geek wannabe that I am, I downloaded the wee application to open JLI spaces, and set to work. This is still in beta (is anything ever NOT in beta anymore?). Because each space is self-contained, the graphics get loaded up quite fast, even on satellite-net. Movement controls are standard, allowing 1st and 3rd person views. Preloaded textures, objects, ‘characters’ (don’t know what these are supposed to do – chatbots maybe?) can be dragged-‘n’-dropped into the space. New spaces can begin with templates, or it appears that you can begin with a tabula rasa – but if building is your thing, this probably isn’t your space. If you want a quick and easy MUVE however…
What might make this a useful environment for education is that audio and video can be uploaded with drag-n-drop into the space – tv frames and projectors are provided (unlike in SL, where you have to search to find one, or build it yourself). So, you could imagine a group project, where folks are dispersed across the land, meeting in a JLI space, easily bringing in videos etc. Media streams quiet easily. Chatting is text-based. Spaces can be embedded in blogs or webpages, facebook, the usual gamut. ‘Portals’ can be created (a red British phonebox is one option), networking together the different spaces, so one could easily set up a series of classrooms if one wanted.
I can’t embed the space here, since wordpress strips out iframes etc, but you can go here to see the demo space, with a movie of one of my ABM models as it (the model) runs.
Anyway, this will be one to watch!