Future Genesis is the Second Life avatar name of the machine driven cyborg designed to serve as a station tour guide in a futuristic transformation station that provide students with a unique experience in changing avatar identity prior to sending them on a journey of scientific discovery through Second Life worlds.
This immersive simulation is the Second Life component of an interdisciplinary science course titled the Future of Being Human.Throughout this course, students discuss biological enhancements, advances in neuroscience, medical breakthroughs, technological change and exponential computing. They use scientific experimentation to analyze how the experience of virtuality is changing human beings and their environments and assess implications of science and technology policies related to technological advances. Finally, they participate in a simulation of virtuality reflecting Vittorio Gallese’s theory of embodied simulation.
The immersive learning activity provides students with the opportunity to experience transformation, transport to various worlds, and explore future, past and imagined worlds in their new form. Students use scientific methodology within a framework of biological advances, artificial life, and emerging technologies, and write a 500-word scientific report based on their experiences. To do this, students enter the transformation station, transform their avatar, and receive a heads-up display (HUD) to guide them through exploration and discovery using the scientific method.
The machine driven avatar Future Genesis was developed as a solution to provide students with 24/7 assistance in introducing the student to the transformation station and providing hands-on instructions on how to operate the station, transform avatars, and receive the heads-up display.
Instructor(L) with student at the Victorian bedroom that leads to the transformation station.
Things have changed dramatically since the economist Edward Castranova wrote his seminal work Synthetic Worlds in 2005, which made predictions on the emergence of virtual worlds based on a rising real economy in virtual games. Many higher education institutions, particularly those involved in online learning, have discovered the great potential that virtual environments, such as Second Life, bring to their programs.
In The Future of Being Human, we use Second Life to create an embodied transformation in which students can experience a transformation of their virtual selves, transport to various worlds and explore future, past and imagined worlds. For this activity, the College has created a replica of one it’s beautiful Victorian buildings (28 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs , NY ). The virtual building houses a “transformation station” which will transform students into differently-abled avatars (from human to animal to cyborg). An interactive transportation HUD (heads up display) will transport students to different locations to conduct experiments using the scientific method as they explore various worlds and their technologies.
As with any experiement, students approach this activity using the scientific method. They are required to develop two hypotheses before they start the experiment about: the world(s) they expect to see and the technologies they chose to use; and their experience as an avatar in Second Life. Then, they participate in the activity making observations based on these two hypotheses.
Empire State College participated in the annual Saratoga ArtsFest in June 09 with its exhibit Art Across Boundaries: Virtually Real and Really Virtual.
This event used the Second Life platform to simultaneously feature artists performing at the festival while their Second Life avatar broadcast their performance in real time through Second Life at the 28 Union building on ESC Island. Taking advantage of the global use of SL, the event began with classically trained vocalist Jaynine Scarborough (Juliane Gabreil) performing live in Germany, while her music streams live in Second Life through her virtual avatar. Large projection screens allow an audience in Saratoga to watch the Second Life avatars performances, while participants in Germany could watch the live performance and the SL performance.
Next, professional Argentine tango dancers David Wolf, of the Saratoga SAVOY, and Jackie Lin Wong of TangoPulse performed several dances ranging from the traditional melody ‘Lo Pasado Paso’ by Fransisco Canaro to the more contemporary ‘Cuoro Sacro’ by Andrea Guerra. Finally, the event ended with Sonny and Perley performing international cabaret. Their performance included Perley singing Brazilian melodies in Portugeuse, French melodies, as well as songs in English.