Books on Games, Virtual Worlds, Simulations, Cognitive Studies, and Performance Improvement

In the cue-

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal


Neuromancer by William Gibson; an old science fiction/cyberpunk book, but where much of the thinking on VR/VWs got started. I guess Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson would come next.


The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education by Karl Kapp

Fun Inc.: Why Gaming Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century by Tom Chatfield

Infinite Reality by Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson
Note: great book. Well worth the read. Will post a blog once I digest my thoughts on this.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration (Essential Knowledge Resource (Pfeiffer)) by Karl Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll

Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds: Strategies for Online Instruction (Jossey-Bass Guides to Online Teaching and Learning) by Clark Aldrich

Previous Posts

Last year I attended this conference virtually, which while less expensive, was like peering into a fishbowl and knocking on the glass (sending tweets for questions and offering comments) and attending via Second Life like sitting in the balcony seats with the cool kids, exchanging clever remarks. This event was hosted at the National Defense University which has a nice new modern building with a great auditorium (hey, this is where President Obama spoke when he explained to the public our strategy for bombing Libya) and presentation spaces, and put together by Dr. Paullete Robinson and her staff and colleagues. This cluster of buildings evokes the feeling of a US military academy (which it is similar to, except this is a like a graduate school for senior military and other related government officials etc.)

This year I had the honor and pleasure of attending in person (yes, can you imagine me, a proponent of virtual worlds- real human contact) conducting a workshop with my colleague, Dr. Anders Gronstedt and appearing  on two panels. You can watch my participation on the panel Virtual Worlds in Government: State and Federal Perspectives here:

and my participation in the other can be found at

Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge Artificial Intelligence Finalists – Technical Discussion also at the bottom, my avatar is Kazimir Malevich if you can catch me on the screen, although my name does appear there.

Note: there were some technical issues during this presentation, but, hey, what can you expect when you are on the bleeding edge of technology with so many firewalls.

One realization I came to during this conference is that I find that one of my greatest challenges on the job is finding time to play video games. So my recommendation to the kids out there is: play as many as you can before you get into the “real world” as you may not have time later.

The other one that came to mind was that our products (the course, exercises, tools, plans etc.) always have to be thought of in the Beta testing state of Continuous Improvement. This means we need to think about the development of our services and products in Beta stage with Gamma level quality delivery (i.e. always meets the expected needs, not a Beta product that does not function properly) and looking at how we can enhance them.

Some folks in the US Government are doing some highly creative work in virtual worlds (VWs). See some of the work of Eric Hackathorn at Who would have thought of a government guild in World of Warcraft?! Then there is the highly engaging work done by NASA’s Dr. Daniel Laughlin who has developed in conjunction with Virtual Heroes the space mission simulation Moonbase Alpha which you can find at the following link

This has an Educator Guide as grade school teachers have been using this for teaching students about outer space exploration. They now have a follow on space simulation that will feature a mission to mars see

The future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed.- William Gibson

David Smith, Chief Innovation Officer for Lockheed Martin, has been involved in VWs since their start and has developed some of the larger platforms, establishing Teleplace, among other accomplishments. He points out that we are only at an early stages in our incorporation of virtual worlds, virtual reality, apps, and other newer technologies.

The computer is an instrument whose music is ideas -Alan Kay

David Smith sees us wearing computer technology and integrating that increasingly more seamlessly into our lives. Just think of a GPS device, Facebook, or Twitter and their use in everyday life. He said that augmented reality will light up a room the way a light bulb will, and he is right. Look at Google or Bing maps, and how we use them to find a restaurant or other local services. Now think of a smartphone with an external facing camera, just point and look with an app like Layar and your get an image on your 3D visual that can point out a number of different pieces of useful data.

He did show us some nifty sites, like Google Body 3D, Where was this when I was taking high school biology?!

Chris Moore, CIO of City of Edmonton

Need I write more when this fellow has a desk-less office, has not printed out anything on paper in over two years (this is hardcore eco-friendly behavior to admire), and, more importantly, has developed a Second Life site for the City of Edmonton, see


They are using it for a range of outreach, tourism, culture, civic engagement. Some very forward thinking he is pushing a concept called Workspace Edmonton allowing any device, anywhere, anytime to access City data, whether that is a Government employee or Citizen, this means all platforms, Android/Ipod/Browser etc., creating total access (restricted of course for sensitive work and data) and freedom of choice.. This is brilliant.

Mandy Salomon, Sr. Researcher, Swinburne University, Australia

Mandy told us about a very ambitious project by the Australian Government to roll out fiber optic networks to every house, building etc. within 9 years in Australia; it will carry 100 mbs. The Gov’t has bought out Telstra and is undertaking this infrastructure itself. Universal access and universal speed., creating a national  broadband network.

Here are some other great VW uses that were presented, some that may be familiar….

Claus Nemzhov’s 3d Avatar School. This school started with mandarin Chinese. They created a role play in Chinese with the scenario of crime scene. Students then need to act out in court. In other cases, students need to come up with excuses for why they don’t do the laundry using the objects that they are
given, using their Chinese language skills for practice with native speakers in the VW.

MK Haley, Carnegie Mellon (while not entierly VW related) Wii is a cross cultural, cross generational game box. She talked about the the Marshmellow Challenge- Analogue way to explore how VWs can be useful for team learning and development. See

There was a presentation An Ecosystem Approach to Designing in VWS Reusing code, reusing simulations, with a way to standardize the way SMEs translate what they know into VWs.

Dr. Chris Dede from Harvard spoke about work they did with VW platforms teaching grade school kids ecosystems. He highlighted some of the Core Challenges We Face for teaching:

  • Shifts in the knowledge and skills society values
  • Development of new methods of teaching and learning
  • Changes in the characteristics of learners

Emerging IT is reshaping each of these and changing how we learn and know. Key questions:

  • How do people learn?
  • What are we learning?
  • What methods do we have to learn?

Collaborative Problem resolution via Mediated Interaction, i.e. team based problem solving:

  • Problem finding before problem solving
  • Comprehensions by a Team, not an individual
  • Making meaning out of complexity:

Some of the other points he made:

  • Situated learning and transfer.
  • Constellations of architectural, social, organizational and materials vectors that aid in learning culturally based practices.
  • Apprenticeship (the process of moving from novice to expert within a given set of practices) will come back into play in specific professions (think fellows/graduate based meaningful internships).
  • Wireless mobile devices offer substantial power at a fraction of the cost of laptops and with greater mobility.
  • Entertainment and learning are infused anywhere
  • One to one person to device ratio becomes affordable in education

They are aiming for an educational data-plans for $15/month/per user with Eco MUVE with Ecomobile, cloud computing.  From the Institute for Education Sciences US Dept. of Education  Intel, MS, and Cisco have begun an initiative to identify 21 century digital intelligence skills.

Naval Underseas Warefare Center (NUWC)

Design is not a single model but a process about how you got there.

Phillip Monte, NUWC. They collaborate through Virginia Block IV attack center. His unit is looking at VWs for command and control (C2) in  a visualized concept of  operations:

  • Audio Flow
  • Visual Flow
  • Control Flow
  • Data Flow

TANGO- VW Virtual Operation Center; able to provide a knowledgeable assistant. Intelligent Agents can replace the real agent. Create a whole record of an entire meeting.

The Future Beyond- Personal Next Steps

After this conference, some of the areas I am currently looking at exploring and possibly implementing are:

  • a capabilities assessment of virtual worlds. My friends at Daden Ltd. in the UK have developed a world finder that is a selection tool with a small number of virtual world (VW) platforms. You can find it here
  • Looking at how we might apply NUWC C2 VW designs in an emergency operations center (EOC) to facilitate the common operation picture and united action.
  • Applying what we do to mobile apps, in particular single person drills to cover those individual knowledge and performance based training modules.
  • Mobile apps for field guides: information that is just-in-time for work  in the field of operation.
  • Further analyzing teamwork and learning vs. the individual in our own VW based training (see SL Hurricane Shelter Training Course).
  • Looking at the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Bots to mimic certain behaviors in disaster scenarios and to create injects for responders to address.
  • Trying to cut down on my own paper use (thanks for the benchmark Chris Moore!)

That is all for now. The adventure continues….

1 Response to “Federal Consortium on Virtual Worlds 2011”

  1. 1 George Otte

    Fascinating stuff, Andrew.

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