|Put on your 3-D glasses|
|The following appeared in HME News, the publication for the home medical industry, on July 26, 2011. This year and last, I asked the residents of Addison Court, the low-income apartment for disabled and elderly in State College where I live, to attend a demonstration at the Immersive Construction Lab, described here. One of the participants was Lilian Hutchison, who celebrated her 87th birthday in January. No one can say for sure whether Lilian would have fallen several times in her apartment if this kind of technology were in place. However, the hope is that the future will be kinder to those of us who can benefit from design which residents are able to modify in advance.
The projectors behind the three, 8-foot screens show a virtual reality world that can improve the environment where home medical equipment HME is used. Professor John I. Messner’s Immersive Construction (ICon) Laboratory at Penn States Architectural Engineering Department is a dark, windowless room where the healthcare facilities being viewed seem so real there is a special world for it: immersion.
When Kaiser-Permanente began constructing a medical building in downtown Washington, D.C., pharmacists traveled 140 miles to State College to see how their workplace would appear. Among their suggestions: a partition so when two patients are served simultaneously, their privacy is insured.
There is substantial growth in constructing healthcare facilities from hospitals to housing for the elderly. Previously, a model of how a building would look required physical materials like wood and nails. By comparison, virtual reality offers interactive models early in the design process. The resulting efficiency and cost savings (making changes to a building before it is built) are creating a boom in the use of virtual reality in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. Expectations exceed the ability of the AEC industry to have virtual reality applications ready as quickly as desired.
Sonali Kumar, a graduate research assistant at Penn State, is developing a 3-D model for an independent living facility for elderly and disabled individuals based on the concept of experience-based design. Experience-based design often refers to a body of academic literature, primarily health-care related. Designers are urged to consider the perspective of the individuals who build, maintain, work and reside in the facility, including patients and residents. A common example is the decision of a Philadelphia hospital to build its bathrooms closer to patients beds.
My perspective on Sonali’s effort comes from my status as a disabled resident of a primarily elderly independent living facility. For example, I look at an early version of Sonali’s model showing a bathtub in the bathroom and say, No. There should be a roll-in shower here. I show an early prototype to Travis Barr, co-owner of T & B Medical here in State College. While fixing my scooter, Travis says, “There should not be cabinet doors in the kitchen. Doors are a nuisance for people with disabilities.”
Sonali’s model is based on a Blue Roof Technologies cottage in McKeesport, Pa. Pennsylvania has a larger number of elderly people in its population than any other state except Florida. The need for elderly housing is acute. In McKeesport, where the factory for steel pipes closed down leaving a near-ghost town and an elderly population of more than 20%, Robert Walters, a retired Penn State professor, created Blueroof. The cottages are constructed of pre-fabricated housing and have special sensors inserted in the walls to remind residents when to take their medicine (the walls talk) and to call 911 if a resident falls and does not get up in a timely fashion.
Sonali’s model of a Blue Roof cottage makes use of interaction, the most significant new development in virtual reality. Look at the screen shot Sonali took of the power chair inside the kitchen of her model cottage. For those readers who have not spent their productive hours playing video games, an avatar is a virtual reality representation of an actor functioning in a 3-D environment. The avatar in the Sonali’s kitchen is a power chair. The power chair makes coffee and toast, opening the refrigerator door to get eggs and milk, and scrambles eggs on a stove the avatar has just turned on. Interactivity is key to understanding how practical people in the construction industry have come to use 3-D technology for practical purposes.
Interactivity is arrived at slowly as Sonali experiments with a wide range of software. I suggested that Sonali replace the 3-D power chair with a scooter. In my experience, a scooter is more mobile and less likely to damage walls and take bathroom doors off their hinges. I ask a manufacturer to provide a 3-D scooter file, but for reasons I cannot explain (because I do not understand), the file does not yet open. Sonali explains, “We are in the process of integrating the computer model obtained from Amigo Mobility.” Keep your 3-D glasses on and await future developments.
Joel Solkoff writes about disability issues from a customer perspective. He is an adjunct research assistant at the Department of Architectural Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University.
This is not the right avatar.
The name of this avatar is Speedy Przhevalsky.
He was born in a laboratory in the Silicon Valley in a company called Second Life. Anyone writing about this technologies refers constantly to Wikipedia as in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Life:
“Second Life is an online virtual world developed by Linden Lab. It was launched on June 23, 2003. A number of free client programs, or Viewers, enable Second Life users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars. ”
What is a virtual world?
It is not this one.
It is the world you download onto your computer free of charge, loss of time spent living in this virtual world: incalculable.
Start at the Second Life site
Editorial note: Of course what everyone wants to know these days is what effect will Zynga have on Second Life? (Readers are encouraged to provide answers.) What follows is a guest blog by John J. Meier, assistant librarian at Penn State‘s Physical and Mathematical Sciences Library providing background on Second Life. This originally appeared in Voices of Central Pennsylvania with the title, “PSU’s Second Life Encourages Students to Get One.”
When I was trying to get a better understanding of the effectiveness of Sonali Kumar’s 3-D model of Blueroof Housing for disabled and elderly individuals, John introduced me to Second Life as a quick and free way of being immersed in a virtual world through the use of an avatar who shares this world with millions of avatars controlled by millions of globally immersed participants. Psychologists and human resources specialists use one of Penn State‘s islands in Second Life‘s 3-D universe to provide counseling to students in emotional distress.
This avatar is Speedy Przhevalsky.
Speedy is getting ready to change his appearance. I once spent two days trying to decide among a startling number of options regarding the size and shape of his ears, nose, eyes and so on until there was too much to decide and I decided to send him off to walk, run, fly, explore, buy, create, receive virtual therapy, and eventually convince me that he is more real than I am.
Second Life’s Virtual World Includes a Detailed Alternate Reality at Penn State
John J Meier, Science Librarian, Physical and Mathematical Sciences Library at Penn State
The future has made a great deal of promises, mostly through the voice of science fiction films and books, but we have yet to see flying cars or man on mars or The Matrix. Or maybe we do have that last one after all. In the eponymous film, The Matrix was a fictional world generated by computers, a virtual reality where every living person existed and some could fly and dodge bullets. There is actually a computer generated virtual world where anyone CAN fly and interact with other people in another Earth, it is Second Life.
Second Life is a computer program, available for free download, which allows anyone to enter and interact in the virtual world of Second Life via broadband Internet access. Unlike some online worlds, such as the popular World of Warcraft, Second Life has no monthly fees for the basic user. The money used in-game, “Linden dollars,” can be purchased with real money and provides the company behind the game with a source of income. They also lease the virtual real estate to individuals and organizations on a monthly basis. You must be 18 years or older to play Second Life, though there is a Teen Second Life in a similar virtual world for 13-17 year old users. Second Life has considerable “adult content,” which has areas specifically set aside in the game recently.
Each user sets up an avatar to use in the game, which is a representation of them in the game world. These avatars are often human looking, but can be anything such as an animal or fantastic creature or even an inanimate object. The avatar acts as the person controlling them: conversing with other avatars by chat, sometimes known as instant messaging; walking, flying or teleporting around the virtual world; or interacting with other objects in the world, such as chairs or buildings. Objects are created for the world by the users of the game and through a special programming language called the Linden Scripting Language. These objects can also move and operate on their own. This allows for creation of items like cars, clothing with moving images, or almost anything imaginable.
While Second Life could be called a computer game, there is no winner or official goals. Success is measured in some similar ways to real life, such as money and property as well as respect in the community.
Creativity is highly prized and since the cost of creation is mainly time, it is possible for anyone to be successful. Interactions in the game can even be recorded as videos, which spread outside the game as movie shorts or music video remixes. Since avatars can also be customized, the appearance of other users in itself reflects a dramatic diversity and can challenge the expectations of a novice user. Despite the seemingly limitless possibilities, Second Life seems more like the real world than many other virtual worlds and online games. Most avatars look human and objects are often those found in the real world at their normal scale.
Much of the real estate in Second Life is the property of organizations or companies, which often purchase one or more of the standard “island” sized properties. They often use this land to create a virtual presence in the world as a way to engage customers, interest potential employees, or to conduct meetings and informational events. In a global economy and worldwide commerce distance is often the limit, though it has no meaning in a virtual world where travel is instantaneous.
Penn State has a number of islands in second life: an island for the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), an island for the Penn State Berks Campus, an island for the Penn State World Campus and an island in Teen Second Life for the Penn State Admissions Office.
Since almost any object can be created in second life for only the cost of time, it is often used to create a presence for a real institution or service. It can also allow users from across the world to interact in a similar environment to the real world. Research projects in Second Life can also take advantage of the large-scale social and economic interactions going on between the millions of registered users.
Copyright © 2011 by John J. Meier.