Round and Round

Although I have been enjoying the use and exploration of Second Life, I have to admit that it is beginning to make my RL  a bit more frustrating than usual. Aside from the usual perks of SL that simply cannot be implemented in RL  such as hovering names above avatars (great for people like me who have trouble remembering everyone’s name – particularly when looks can be changed so drastically) and the ability to teleport between destinations, there are many capabilities in SL that can implemented in RL to enhance or improve RL activities or tasks.

I recently attended a seminar given by the FHWA at the local DOT in Ottawa, Ill., which covered the design and implementation of roundabouts. Although the speakers gave an excellent presentation, I could not help but dwell on how SL would have made this class so much better.

First of all, classes and conventions held in SL do not require anyone to travel outside of their home or place of business. This provides the obvious benefits of not having all of the attendees use energy resources to get to the class. This also allows more people to attend even if they had a short conflict on that day – something which would have normally prevented them from being there that day. If attending in SL, they can easily take off for a short time to take care of this task and then return to class without causing a disruption.

Next, the class material which was presented through a powerpoint presentation could have easily been shown in SL on one of the many tools that have been created for this purpose. The third-party voice capabilities offer the opportunity to add voice, and of course, soon voice will be a regular feature on the grid. The books which were handed out to supplement the class presentation could have been mailed to us prior to the class.

SL also offers the ability for attendees to ask questions during the presentation, and if someone missed a certain point, they have the ability to IM a fellow attendee for clarification without having to disrupt class.

Also, If the FHWA had a permanent site in SL, an area could be set up to store these presentations, so an attendee could go back later to clear up any point or question that may have been missed.

Of course, all of you who have attended classes in SL already are fully aware of these benefits. In the case of this particular seminar, the ability in SL to build and interact with the topic of our class – a roundabout – would have greatly enhanced the class. Although roundabouts are widely used in England and other parts of our country, most of us in the class, which was held in Illinois, were not familiar with roundabout design or function. All of us would have benefited to have the chance to leave the class and visit an actual roundabout built in SL and then drive it with our virtual cars. The FHWA could have signed the roundabout and textured the pavement with the suggested striping to show us visually how a proper design looks. The agency could also have built one or more with design flaws and let us drive them to better illustrate why those flaws must be avoided in our designs. Then this exhibit could have been left in place for a while so that others  could benefit from the presentation.

I have to admit that I could not help but try to convince one of the presenters of these benefits and encouraged him to check out SL. But so far he has not been able to visit so that I can demonstrate the features of SL. I can only hope that with all of the other federal agencies setting up virtual spaces, that the FHWA won’t be far behind. And maybe the next time I need to go to a class, I’ll be able to bring my virtual Nissan.