Oculus Rift Second Life Viewer Has Been Released

It’s here! Second Life announced their new viewer specifically for the Oculus Rift is now available for download. This means users of Oculus Rift will be able to get a full, immersive experience in Second Life. Second Life has been in the virtual world business for over 10 years, so there is solid community and an enormous amount of rich content. Being able to view it as a fully immersive environment is going to be amazing.

Here are some of the features, according to Second Life’s news release. Check out the video below.

The Project Viewer features:

  • Full Oculus Rift Hardware Support – includes automatic hardware detection and display calibration for quick and easy setup.

  • Full UI Support – users can access the entire Second Life UI and HUDs while in Oculus Rift mode, so there are no limitations on what a user can do inworld while using the headset.

  • Customizable UI – users can tailor the settings for Oculus Rift mode that work best for their needs.

  • Avatar Head Motion – Oculus Rift head-tracking data is mapped to the avatar, so users’ avatars look where they do.

  • New First-Person View – allows users to enjoy the immersion previously available with mouselook mode, but thanks to the Oculus Rift, the mouse is free again to control the cursor, allowing for interaction with the UI and objects inworld.

  • “Align to Look” – allows users to quickly start moving the direction they are looking.

  • “Action Key” – interact with objects by pressing a key, works great in mouselook mode.

A Kids Book Where Every Character Can Be 3-D Printed

Wired posted an article recently about a book that should be on the “to buy” list of everyone whose library has a makerspace: Leo the Maker Prince.

Characters from the book can be 3D printed.

Characters from the book can be 3D printed.

From Wired:
Leo the Maker Prince is a twee tale about a Brooklyn-based engineer-in-training named Diana, and Leo, a 3-D printer robot that transforms her drawings into functional objects. It’s a heartwarming story, equal parts The Little Prince and Bre Pettis, and it’s squarely aimed at the bedtime rotation of children with maker parents. What separates it from other stories is that kiddos can follow Diana’s lead and produce the characters and objects from the book on their own 3-D printers.”

What an excellent way to excite kids about technology!

Digital Library Branch – The Time is Now

At the Imagine.Create.Innovate conference held at Rochester Public Library, there was a lot of talk about the future of libraries. Where we are now. Where we might be going. What we need to do if we are to move in a direction that helps libraries and, more importantly, helps our communities.

Jamie LaRue was keynote speaker for the first day of the two-day event. The short version of his speech: “The mission of the public library is to gather, organize, and present to the public the intellectual content of our culture.” Wait, that’s big. Let me repeat that.

“The mission of the public library is to gather, organize, and present to the public the intellectual content of our culture.”

This means not only curating and preserving, but also enabling those who create the intellectual content of our culture. Providing free access to it. Publishing it. And of course, sorting it and cataloging it all.

The “threat” of ebooks has many wringing their hands wondering if libraries can remain relevant going forward. Jamie did extensive research before embarking on the creation of a digital library branch for his community. He found that 20% of his readers prefer ebooks. Despite this, his library’s ebooks comprised far less than 20% of the collection. He noted that his collection of ebooks is always checked out. The same is true in Rochester – we just don’t have enough ebooks yet to meet the demand.

The fact is, publishers are making it very difficult for libraries to circulate ebooks. The restrictions are high. The costs are high. And many publishers won’t sell ebooks to libraries at all.

So what is a creative, innovative solution to this problem? If you ask Jamie LaRue, he’ll tell you to spend less time worrying about the Big Six publishers and focus your efforts on independent small press publishers and self-publishing authors.

He set up an Adobe Content Server for ebooks that his library would purchase. He set up a second server at clicweb.org for items in the public domain. He dug up Creative Commons content. And then he set up agreements with publishers.

The result of all this is a ebook catalog that pulls together all econtent to one place. Adobe Content Server attaches DRM, and regulates the check out to Adobe-enabled devices in order to restrict the use to one user at a time, and to disable the content at the end of a due date.

Take a look at Douglas County Library’s digital branch. They have set a precedent with this, which is useful to all of us.

Using Art and Wonder to Spark Interest in STEM

Have I mentioned lately that I’m the luckiest person on the planet? It’s true. I am part of a team that is building a Mars Rover Art Car.

The MRAC crew is building a fully functioning, larger than life replica of the Mars Rover, not only in homage to the real Rover, but also as an educational tool. The idea is to imitate Curiosity, by analyzing soil samples and broadcasting from the desert, and giving people a chance to see a Rover replica up close and have their questions answered by knowledgeable people who are enthusiastic fans of NASA and JPL.  It will also be used to educate about permaculture and sustainability and to encourage thought about future colonization.

From the crew:

“Our mission is to spread knowledge about space, wonder about Mars, conscious thought of environmental impact on Earth, and spark interest in science, engineering, and art.

“While Burning Man is the first stop on our mission, we plan make appearances year-round at schools, science fairs, tech conferences, and environmental talks. Our dream is to provide tangible access to what humans dream of… space exploration, permaculture, sustainability, unity through community, and the strength of self-expression.”

The Mars Rover Art Car will have a fully functioning set of scientific instruments similar to those on the real Rover: robotic sampling arm, GPS tracking system, weather station, simulated crowd-sourced navigation, on-board cameras and sensors. The back of the Rover will feature a permaculture rocket stove which we will use to cook food, as well as using as an example of how to use energy virtually waste-free.

And it’s going to be fun! The debut event will be at Burning Man 2013. The MRAC crew is currently in the process of scheduling school visits, as well. Imagine the excitement for kids to climb on board and explore and learn, while taking a ride on a Mars Rover!

We’re currently up on Kickstarter, working on our last few days of fundraising. Please show your support for our project by donating and sharing our project: http://kck.st/ZEHLyt

And follow our progress on facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/MarsRoverArtCar

And twitter: http://Twitter.com/MarsRoverArtCar

*Disclaimer: This is a citizen funded art car. Any employees of NASA or JPL who are working on this project do so on their own non-work time.


Amazon Puts Your Library at the Top of the List

A couple of months ago, I read an article about LibraryExtension. This extension is for your Chrome browser and it allows Amazon users to opt for borrowing from their local library rather than buying an item. Here’s a screenshot:

amazonSetting this up is extremely simple. Just open up your Chrome browser (download Chrome if you don’t already have it), and go to LibraryExtension. Click on Install Library Extension from Chrome Web Store (don’t worry – it’s free.) Click on the pile of books in your tools bar to manage the extension. Select your state, select your library. Close browser, reopen, and go to Amazon.

Now when you search for a book or DVD, the extension will search the database of your library system and let you know if your library owns the item. Click on “Reserve your copy” and you are directed to your library catalog. Boom! Done! It couldn’t be easier.

And with Amazon’s humongous user base, this is an amazing add-on to promote your library’s collection and increase circulation of your materials. I love the fact that the option to reserve a library copy appears ABOVE the Buy Now option. I suspect people who are looking for a book to buy will see this and say, “Hmm…. I can get this at the library instead. For free.”

If your library is not listed, don’t worry. Mine wasn’t either. I contacted Library Extension and asked how to get my local library listed. I got an immediate reply saying they would add us to their next release. This morning I received an email from Andrew at Library Extension saying that Monroe County Library System is included in the new release. I went to Amazon, clicked on the extension, and added my library. It took only a few seconds, and I was browsing for library books on Amazon.

Awesome. : )

Top 20 Android Apps for Librarians

I had the pleasure of presenting at Tech Camp Rochester 2012 last month at Rochester Institute of Technology. This event, held in the Wallace Library at RIT, was a full day of technology sessions: apps, augmented reality, the cloud, google docs, ebooks and ereaders, as well as software for presentations, storytelling, screencasting, and more — 16 sessions in all. It was a fantastic day where the only drawback was that I could only attend one presentation at a time. Each session was truly useful and immediately relevant.

Here are the slides from one of my presentations: Top 20 Android Apps for Librarians

Top 20 Android Apps for Librarians

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Augmented Reality: What’s Coming and How Does it Affect My Library?

Next month, along with members of our Emerging Technologies Committee, I will be giving a talk on augmented reality for staff members in my library system. This is a big thrill for me, as I have spent the last ten years excitedly watching and anticipating AR’s development. It has now burst through its embryonic sac and is quickly becoming a part of our daily lives.

The rapid formation of an information layer on top of our reality should cause librarians to sit up and take notice. As information specialists, libraries should be leading, not following, in this opportunity. The tools to create something useful have never been easier.

QR codes are extremely simple to use (Google “QR code generator” for a slew of free options) and can be an early stepping stone for people to begin dabbling in the creation of an information overlay. Why not slap some QR codes onto your DVD collection and link it to a trailer so that people can get a better sense of the content of the DVD than what they’d get from reading the back of the case? Cost: A small square of paper and about 30 seconds of your time. Or how about putting QR codes on book shelves that will guide readers to additional selections? “If Hunger Games is checked out, try something similar from this list.” How about next to the car repair books, a QR code to link patrons to the online Auto Repair database? You’re already paying for the database — encouraging more use gives your library a better return on investment. The uses of these easy-to-make tags are only limited by your imagination.

Moving beyond QR codes, you can build custom apps based on GPS using a free service like Layar. This is a do-it-yourself-able option for creating GPS-based AR apps. The Museum of London’s Street Museum app could be used by any library or museum with an archive of historic photographs. Or use it to locate books on your shelves, or to link those books to alternate resources.

And then there’s Aurasma, an AR building application that uses object recognition to overlay data onto the real world. Whether it’s a photo of your library, your library logo, or any number of objects found in your physical library, you can make them interactive in a way that is both fun and educational. Living books or interactive charts and graphs for data are the low-hanging fruit. Add in some ingenuity and the opportunities are endless.

Augmented Reality is now here and is not going to go away. It will continue to grow and evolve and expand into almost all aspects of our lives. The time to embrace it is now, while libraries can still have the option to play a role in how data is compiled and content is delivered.

Book Review: Digital People: From Bionic Humans to Androids by Sidney Perkowitz

Are you interested cognitive science? Physics? Artificial intelligence? How about biology or the philosophy of being human? Maybe literature or film? If any of these topics interest you, you’ll enjoy Digital People: From Bionic Humans to Androids
by Sidney Perkowitz

This quick (about 200 pages), well written book explores our fascination with immortality through the creation of machine versions of ourselves.

The book starts out with a look at artificial beings in literature and film, beginning with the story of Pygmalion, the sculptor, falling in love with his beautiful ivory statue and Aphrodite bringing it to life for him, and following with numerous examples including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the Asimov robot stories. Perkowitz discusses early films such as Metropolis and R.U.R as well as modern films such as Blade Runner and Robocop. And all the while he is not writing reviews or plot summaries, but instead is exploring the underlying philosophy of man’s desire (or obsession) to create a new humanity.

I was surprised to learn how long scientists and engineers have been working on creating artificial life. Perkowitz describes The Automaton Theater way back in the first century (yes, the FIRST century), as well as the Swiss man-machines of the 1700’s.

The second half of the book reports on the breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and robotics in the late 20th century through today. The research in mechanics, behavioral science, programming and cognition are just part of the picture. The book offers a look at what’s going on at MIT and also the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry.

What is an adroid? What is a cyborg? How do they differ and in what direction is this all heading? How close are we to actually creating artificial life?

This book is fascinating. It’s thorough without being cumbersome. It’s a great resource for finding titles for further reading and/or viewing. And it stimulates thought on what it means to be human. This is a book I will read more than once.

Library 2020

The New York State Library’s Regional Development Council is currently conducting a survey on the future of libraries. I’ve been blogging, on and off, about the future of libraries here at LibraryTechie for years — my first blog post was August 30, 2006, so I’m coming up on five years here.

I’ve posted my thoughts at Mouth2Ear specifically on the library of 2020 and on the topic of ereaders vs smartphones, and their implications for future library service. I truly believe that libraries will remain relevant. I don’t think we’ll see books completely disappear from the shelves, to be replaced by electronic-only access (at least not by 2020.) Especially not in public libraries where much reading for pleasure occurs.

However, the way we interact with information, as well as reading, is changing. This will affect the services people will expect from their local library. The current public library model is about books and information, first and foremost. The public library of the near future will be less about books, more about information, and also about user generated content, social space, and technology training. Ereaders will come and go, and people will be more likely to use their smartphone as their primary device for content of all kinds. The web as we know it will still exist, but it will be enhanced by an immersive model. Augmented reality will be ubiquitous; virtual reality will be gaining a foothold among mainstream users.

It’s good that the State Library folks are asking questions now. The dismal state of funding, combined with the shift in technology, is causing all libraries to evaluate who they are and who they will be. Libraries are important. Taking a “wait and see” attitude toward change is what will make libraries irrelevant, not ebooks. This is a case where those who are ahead of the curve will ensure their survival.

Please spend a few minutes on this survey while truly thinking about the near future:

Easy Publication

Just a quick note about a twitter aggregator I’ve just started using: paper.li

Create your own daily newspaper quickly and easily. It simply aggregates posts from the people you follow on twitter, and yourself, and slaps them together into a nice news format, complete with photos, videos, and tabbed categories. It might be nice to have more control over which feeds it picks up, but for something that requires zero effort, I can’t complain.

Take a look at my Daily Tech News for stories that are current, fresh and geekishly tech-oriented.

Journal of Virtual Worlds and Education

After close to a year of planning and another year of reviewing, editing, proofreading, and more editing, the Journal of Virtual Worlds and Education is now published! Volume 1, Issue 1 is available as a free download at the JVWE website, or click the image below to download the pdf:

Journal of Virtual Worlds and Education

Journal of Virtual Worlds and Education

This groundbreaking journal is the first to be devoted exclusively to the use of virtual worlds as education platforms, and is rich with research in this emerging field. The inaugural issue contains more than 200 pages of research on the pedagogical uses of virtual realities, featuring works by educators and scholars from around the world.

As we begin work on the second issue, I am excited and intrigued by the growth of virtual worlds and look forward to research into the educational use of Second Life, Open Sim, Blue Mars, Open Wonderland, Cobalt, Active Worlds, and others. Please check the submission guidelines for more information.

Gaming for Libraries

Libraries and librarians have been talking about “gaming in libraries” for years. Patrons are invited to come play Wii, Playstation, DDR.  That’s not what I’m talking about here.

I’ve been watching AR (Augmented Reality) work its way into the mainstream over the past several years. When I first read about it in a 2002 article in Scientific American, I already knew there were people working in this field, but this article really caught my attention and gave a glimpse into what we might expect to see in the very near future.

Now that AR is creeping into our world,  there are some great things libraries can start doing to engage their communities through technology and games.

By now, most people who follow technology and/or libraries have seen the Museum of London’s You Are Here App.  You load the app onto your iPhone and wander through London, seeing an overlay of historic photos on the real-world buildings and places you are viewing.  This app would be a great way for libraries to share their archived images, working with local municipalities to provide an educational experience as well as a nifty tourism treat.

Here’s another thing for the iPhone that would enhance the profile of libraries:


It’s a location-based game that maps Manhattan’s “historical ecosystem” to a learning game. Using a GPS-enabled phone and QR codes throughout the city, the player goes off on something akin to a scavenger hunt, finding information and learning along the way. What is unique about your community? It’s architecture? It’s historic characters? It’s inventions? Every community has something to show off. Making it fun will also make it memorable.

The TED talk posted today is about building a game layer on top of our world. Seth Priebatsch points out that we have already built the social framework for interaction over the past decade. The next decade will bring us the gaming framework we need to guide this social construct. One can safely assume that libraries can and should be at the forefront of all of this. The tools above are just a beginning.

I’m interested in hearing about what libraries and museums are doing to harness this new technology and provide information in new and exciting ways. Leave a comment and share what you’ve done or what you’ve found others doing!