Imperial College London | Treet TV

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Imperial College London | Treet TV.

Imagine making a live TV show with a bunch of potentially maverick scientists and a studio audience. Nervous? Good. Now imagine that you’re going to do this in a virtual world with all your presenters and guests represented as avatars and communicating using text, in-world voice, and VOIP. Not to mention you need them to face front at the right time, have in-world voice turned on but not up so you get lip sync without echo, and nobody’s connection cracks up. That’s the challenge faced by the Treet TV team that followed Dave Taylor, Robin Winter and me through the various sets in which medical training, research and development takes place in Second Life.

I am not at all sure what I had expected and, as all of this kind of interaction often takes place in one’s own very familiar environment at home, there is always the risk of being slightly ‘off duty’, as it were and forgetting that you need to sit up straight and pay attention. In my case, I had to get rid of the sheep helicopter that had followed me from an earlier steam punk exhibition and stop the cat purring into my microphone. I should also have ditched the hat and remembered to park my cursor so that my avatar held her head up instead of  peering intently into an invisible gutter.

Clearly, marshalling amateurs like us is what this team does supremely well although at least one of us, (Mr Taylor, mentioning no names), had to be constrained to stop rushing around and just please stand still. Of course it was essentially the Imperial College Show and the build and animations designed and produced by Dave and Robin, the in-house 3D designer, were the stars. I have known about this work for some time but even so, I was astonished at the complexity of the models and interactivity available to trainee doctors and nurses in these realistic environments. In theatre, we looked at the workings of intricate positioning equipment for different operations as Robin ran through the animations and, on a ward, we saw the trail of information designed to alert nursing staff to developing risks.

Later, Dave demonstrated a patient examination animation in which lab tests could be ordered and treatmenttreet tv clip2 applied after palpating the patient’s abdomen. The chap even demanded water after perking up with his newly applied salbutamol nebuliser although this is plainly unrealistic. In my experience as a nurse it was always the loo they needed just as you got them kitted out with their tubes and lines. Maybe in the next iteration!

Meanwhile, I was hanging about, microphone muted so as not to introduce spurious and alarming domestic noises, outside the waiting room of the Royal Sussex County where we had run our study on consent last year. That was where I discovered I was still carrying my sonic screwdriver and also where I realised just how difficult it is to be spontaneous to order. Thank goodness my avatar was handling the hair, makeup and motion end of things or I would probably have tangled my feet, walked into the lamppost and delivered a glassy spinach-in-the-teeth beam to the air. Instead of which, my hat hid most of me while I examined the pavement in minute detail then walked sideways into the door frame.

Once successfully indoors, Saffia Widdershins and I did the tour of the examination room, operating theatre, and recovery room treet tv clip3where we had taken twenty adults with learning disabilities in late 2009.  This was an unscripted Q&A guided only by our run-through earlier in the evening.  I should not have been surprised at how elements of our casual conversation were woven into that scene to give the impression of a planned interview. That’s professionalism.

Today, seeing the final product (see link above), I was struck by how much less ‘real’ it seemed as video than it had at the time and that, precisely, is the value of an immersive interactive virtual environment. However good a video presentation, and this is a remarkable production for so many reasons, it does not have the sense of co-presence, the personal volition, the capacity to change at will one’s perspective or some element of the environment. It does not involve because it is passive. Virtual technology is active, allows for change, capitalises on the social psychology of human interaction, and is responsive to the presence of its inhabitants. That’s why we use it for research, for training, for development of human services, and for management of risk.

That and the sheep helicopters.

What Havok and Smurfs can do for you

Remember my post about Havok7 and things tumbling about in virtual worlds? Well this week, events in my real world have been tumbling about too! First up, I played football in Second Life with Dave Taylor (Our Man at Imperial College ) using an on-the-spot created ball by way of a demonstration of what the current version of Havok can do. We already have bump, jiggle, and dislodge, it seems so next time we can maybe incorporate it into our build. That’s the value of teams – Dave knew what could be done but not that it might be useful, and I knew what might be useful but not that it could be done.  One short game of footie later and we’re both clued up although I doubt I’ll be troubling Fabio any time soon.

Then there was our meeting as a nascent research community with Dame Sally Davies, Director General of Research and Development and Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health and NHS, who set up the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). This was a huge compliment to the efforts of our director of research and to the Trust itself for having the foresight to place research at the heart of its activity. This meeting also gave us an oppportunity to discuss directly some of the glitches and anomalies that seem to beset applications and the positive response we received to those was extremely encouraging. I’ll say more about that when we have tangible results about which we can wave flags.

Well if all that wasn’t mind-boggling enough, I just participated in a seminar in Second Life, touring a group of post graduates and medical specialists from Imperial College around our Brighton simulation. It is quite a bizarre experience, knowing that there are unseen others ‘out there’  listening to me sitting here in Sussex (with the dogs safely stowed out of bark and holler range) but seeing ‘me’ in my SL representation. Dave was also in-world and so I was not alone although it’s an interesting notion that the presence of one bunch of pixels is reassuring to the driver of another bunch when neither is actually there. The authenticity of the engagement was illustrated for me when Dave said goodbye and took his audience off to another part of the simulation and I stood in our empty waiting room wondering whether to go home or not. What if there were stragglers?

The power of 3D experiences is likely to become increasingly apparent as this is introduced into film and TV with greater sophistication and ease of popular access. Interactive 3D will then be such a short step away as to be almost an essential in the process of information giving by services and organisations wanting people to understand their product. What the giant smurfs started…!

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Outing SL researchers

Second Health by ICL A&EVery interesting meeting at Sussex uni this afternoon with academics and clinicians from Imperial College, Brighton uni, Sussex uni, Brighton & Sussex medical school and Sussex Partnership looking at using SL as a training platform for medical students. So many SL afficionados, so much other research going on, so few spring chickens doing it! Contrary to possible expectations, these SL researchers seemed to be the antithesis of the stereotypical young male gamer and came in at the older, female, rather sensible but highly creative end of the spectrum. Eat your heart out, WoW! Second Health by ICL HDU

Migrating from MySpace

Today I’m having a rationalising session and that has included coralling several of my disparate online presences (if there is such a word)  into one enclosure. WordPress has a nicely manicured lawn, tidy edgings, and neighbours with eclectic tastes so it makes sense to move in and put up the curtains. I came here on a visit from MySpace, hauling along a nascent blog offering views on the world that may or may not be shared by others. It liked what it saw and pitched its tent so I went back to fetch Dem and now I won’t get lost making my way in the dark between the two late at night. If you’re here and wondering what the heck it’s all about, go to the MySpace link on the right and entertain yourself with a bit of catch-up. Having got the hang of tweeting without inadvertent indiscretion (mostly), I have become more inclined to post snippets for public consumption and those can be found also over on the right of the page.

Off to design a SurveyMonkey survey (well what did you expect?!) and take a tour of the Brighton sim before we go back in tomorrow with a study participant.