What comes to mind when you hear the term Virtual World? Wikipedia defines it as:
…a genre of online community that often takes the form of a computer-based simulated environment, through which users can interact with one another and use and create objects . .
Three years ago I worked with a great group of local government officials to put on a virtual conference in Second Life. We wanted to explore the potential value of conducting meetings in the virtual world.
The conference was successful and was an innovative way to interact. There were some hiccups, mostly relating to the technology and a couple of ”griefer” interruptions. (In the virtual world, a “griefer” is someone who disrupts gatherings with the goal of annoying people.)
So I set out to learn how virtual world use has changed since then. I found a lot of creative work happening both in instructional design and platform development. One of the most exciting uses comes out of the DOD’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology. Inside the computer-based program, soldiers can anonymously learn about the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and find where to get help.
NOAA’s virtual islands are another great example. NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab developed the site for users to have experiences they may not have in the physical world and learn about cutting-edge science from NOAA.
They allow visitors to soar through a hurricane, rise gently through the atmosphere atop a weather balloon, interact with a 3D weather map of the U.S., or search for a hidden underwater cave on a side trip from a NOAA submarine.
Government agencies are using virtual worlds to:
- Visualize data, educate
- Create content
The benefits extend beyond what is possible in social media and include:
- Ability to build in collaborate in 3D
- Cohesion of Presence (the feeling we know someone we have only met in a virtual world)
- Real-life training simulations
The use of virtual worlds for training in emergency management, combat, and cybersecurity enables trainees to to learn in a realistic simulation of the environment they will be working in for a low cost.
Do you want to know more about virtual worlds? Download the Digital Gov University webinar Intro to Virtual Worlds.