Disability and Virtual Worlds: New Frontiers of Appropriation

Virtual AbilitySaturday October 26th will see three well-known figures from Second Life sit as a panel at the Association of Internet Research (AoIR) conference, which takes place in Denver, Colorado between October 23rd and October 26th.

Together. they will be presenting Disability and Virtual Worlds: New Frontiers of Appropriation, and the event will take place simultaneously in real life and Second Life on Saturday 26th October, commencing at 09:30 SLT. Following their initial presentation, all three panellists will be answering questions from both their real life and virtual audiences.

The three researchers are:

BoellstorffTom Boellstorff (Tom Bukowski in SL), a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. His interests have included the anthropology of sexuality, the anthropology of globalization, the anthropology of virtual worlds, Southeast Asian studies, the anthropology of HIV/AIDS, and linguistic anthropology.

The winner of the 2009 Dorothy Lee Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Ecology of Culture, Media Ecology Association, his has authored several books, including Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human, (Princeton University Press, 2008), the result of two years fieldwork in Second Life, living among and observing its residents in exactly the same way anthropologists traditionally have done to learn about cultures and social groups in the so-called real world. He has also co-authored Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method (Princeton University Press, 2012) a concise, comprehensive, and practical guide for students, teachers, designers, and scholars interested in using ethnographic methods to study online virtual worlds, including both game and non-game environments.

davisDonna Davis (Tredi Felisimo) is a strategic communications professor at the University of Oregon who specialises in mass media & society, public relations, strategic communication, virtual environments and digital ethnography.

Her research focuses on Second Life culture and the influence it has on our physical lives, which is currently centred on individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Within Second Life she founded and runs Frantastica, which is located alongside the Creations (for Parkinson’s) Park region, and is dedicated to the research and support of individuals touched by Parkinson’s Disease.

KruegerAlice Krueger (Gentle Heron) is the president and co-founder of Virtual Ability Inc, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation based in Denver, Colorado, which is dedicated to empowering people with a wide range of disabilities  by providing a supporting environment for them to enter and thrive in on-line virtual worlds like Second Life.

Virtual Ability operate a number of regions within Second Life, centred on Virtual Ability Island, and offer a range of programmes for those with disabilities who enter Second Life, as well as providing in-world residential opportunities, events, activities, and talks and presentations on a range of subjects which are geld throughout the year and are open to all.    

Those wishing to attend the panel in-world can do so at the Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability Island. Voice + text transcription will be available.

The Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability Island -
The Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability Island – setting for the in-world presentation by Tom Boellstorff, Donna Davis and Alice Krueger on Disability and Virtual Worlds: New Frontiers of Appropriation, Saturday October 26th, 09:30 SLT

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CtrlAltStudio: Bringing the UI to your Oculus Rift

CAS-logoStrachan Ofarrel (Dave Rowe in RL), has issued an update to the experimental version of his CtrlAltStudio viewer with Oculus Rift support. It’s an update those with the Rift SDK and headset are likely to find interesting, as it includes some initial work on bringing the viewer’s UI to the Rift.

Version (Alpha 4 release) of CtrlAltStudio appeared on Wednesday October 23rd, and Strachan was kind enough to poke me about it.

It’s important to note that this is only a first pass at things, so if you have a headset, keep in mind what you see of the UI may change as Strachan  tweaks things further. Commenting on the work, Strachan himself says:

I originally wasn’t intending to do any UI as I thought Linden Lab’s viewer with Rift support would have been released by now, but it hasn’t been and there’s a pressing need for at least some UI so I’ve added some as a stop-gap measure.

The viewer UI in Oculus Rift: preliminary work undertaken by Strachan Ofarrel in CtrlAltStudio (image courtesy of Strachan OFarrel / David Rowe) – click to enlarge

There are some limitations with this first pass in that the menu bars and toolbars are not yet displayed in Riftlook, and for those who prefer the Pie menu, right clicking on in-world objects will only display the context menu (no Pie). Even so, this is an impressive start to the work of enabling the UI, and does much to increase people’s ability to interact with the world when using the Oculus Rift.

In order to use UI elements effectively with the headset, Strachan recommends users:

  • Turn on Show User Interface In Mouselook and Enable Context Menus In Mouselook (both under Preferences > Move & View > View)
  • Consider enabling Show Chat In Bubbles Above Avatars (Preferences > Chat > General).

He notes that with the above settings enabled, shortcuts can be used to show / hide dialogue boxes (e.g. CTRL-I for showing / hiding inventory), which again significantly adds to the usability of the viewer when in Riftlook. He also reminds people to use the cursor to left-click interact with windows and right-click interact with in-world objects, and that cursor movement can be defined / refined in Preferences > Graphics > Display Output.

The Display Output options for when Using Oculus Rift: note the new depth slider and the options to define / refine camera / cursor movement
The Display Output options for when Using Oculus Rift: note the new depth slider and the options to define / refine camera / cursor movement

As well as adding preliminary UI capabilities to Riftlook, this release of the CtrlAltStudio Alpha version also brings with it a range of updates and fixes, including:

  • Some adjustment of the depth at which the Riftlook UI is displayed
  • Enabling the display of avatar toasts and floating text in Riftlook
  • Esc in third-person Riftlook will return you to Riftlook first-person (instead of having to exit then re-enter Riftlook)
  • Esc in flycam Riftlook with SpaceNavigator will return you to Riftlook first-person
  • Entering / leaving stereoscopic 3D display mode now recorded in the program log
  • Work-around added to get stereoscopic 3D working with AMD Radeon on Windows
  • Added “–riftlook” command line parameter that toggles into Riftlook after a successful login
  • Fixed OpenSim “4096 bug” that limited the range of hypergrid teleporting
  • Fix to ensure view remains in Mouselook when TPing or when an alert dialog pops up, if UI is turned on in Mouselook
  • And more: please refer to the release notes for this version for a complete list of updates, changes and fixes, together with the correct attributions for those contributed by others.

Sadly, I don’t have the Oculus Rift SDK, so can’t speak first-hand has to how things look. So if you do have a headset, why not pop over to the CtrlAltStudio website and download this version of the viewer and take it for a test run? Strachan would doubtless appreciate all constructive feedback received!

At the time of writing, the viewer is only available for Windows, but the Mac OSX  version is promised soon – so be sure to check back with the CtrlAltStudio website if you’re a Mac user.

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