Virtual world offers new locale for problem solving

September 29, 2008

Second Life, a virtual world created in 2003, currently boasts more than 12 million users worldwide who go there for everything from college recruiting to shopping. Now, Penn State researchers are investigating how virtual teams can better solve real world problems by collaborating in Second Life.

Nathan McNeese, undergraduate, psychology; Gerry Santoro, assistant professor, and Michael McNeese, professor, information sciences and technology and psychology, Penn State; and Mark Pfaff, assistant professor of media arts and sciences, Indiana University-Indianapolis, created an experiment in which students formed teams and were asked to solve a problem, posed by a video, using different meeting styles.

The researchers set up 10 teams to work face-to-face, 10 teams to work through teleconferencing, and 12 teams to work as groups of avatars in Second Life. An avatar is a computer user's representation of him or her self. It is the user's persona inside virtual space.

The assigned task revolved around the video "Rescue at Boones Meadow", an episode of "the Adventures of Jasper Woodbury," a series produced by the Vanderbilt University Learning Technology Center that focuses on mathematical problem finding and solving. Participants watched the video individually and then convened to decide how to rescue an injured eagle according to the information given in the video. All groups had to decide which character would rescue the eagle, which methods of transportation would be used and estimate the time it would take to complete the task.

The groups using Second Life were confined to text-based communication and had to learn how to master the complex keyboard strokes required for avatar movement. These barriers did not deter the groups from completing the assigned task, however, the teams using Second Life took the longest to finish.

The face-to-face teams felt most confident of their performance, yet the Second Life teams provided the most accurate answers in the task.

"Overall, Second Life is a viable option for group work," Nathan McNeese said. "But there's definitely a learning curve with it and accomplishing even basic tasks can be difficult, especially if you've never used it before." He reported their results in September At the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society meeting in New York City.

Some of the participants, college students ranging in ages from 18 to 22, were already familiar with online chat and gaming tools, making them more comfortable working in Second Life. Nathan McNeese, whose own knowledge of Second Life was limited before starting this project, said the research opens the doors to explore more uses of Second Life with different age groups and solving different problems.

Second Life was created by Linden Labs.

Source: Penn State

Explore further: TaskUs takes unpleasant job of customer service off startups' hands

Related Stories

Technology won't replace the back-to-school ritual

August 25, 2015

Students heading back to school can always count on one thing: Technology will be a little bit more advanced than it was last year. After all, 21st century learning experiences are increasingly enhanced by gadgets and software, ...

SpaceVR aims toward a VR camera in space

August 11, 2015

SpaceVR is a virtual reality platform set to share live 3D, 360 degree content from the International Space Station (ISS) so that anyone with virtual reality gear can feel like an astronaut. The company was founded in January ...

DynaFlash is a high-speed projector with 3ms delay

August 5, 2015

A team from the Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory at Tokyo University and Tokyo Electron Device (TED) have come up with a prototype of a high-speed projector called "DynaFlash" which can project 8-bit images up to 1,000fps with ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bob_B
not rated yet Sep 30, 2008
Gee, a commercial. Maybe if the Second life teams had to PAY to use the service they would not be so slow, hehe.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.