Category Archives: Update

National Day in SL: Report

By all accounts, the National Day weekend on Second House of Sweden was a success (and we think so too :-). On Friday night, the sim on which the festivities took place was oversubscribed for over two hours, resulting in people being turned away in order to ensure that the event went smoothly for those who made it (our apologies). Here are some snapshots from the evening:

Many thanks for making this happen to Tina Dahl, and to Ika Cioc and Belze Fraker for the preparations and running of the show, and to the many artists and participants who made a contribution, ensuring that this was by far the best National Day celebration in Second Life, ever:-)

Virtu-Real on TV:-)

House of Sweden goes Virtu-Real made it to the morning news on Fox News in Washington DC. Click on the image below to get to the site where the video plays. It gives you a very good idea of what we’re doing here.

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Scenes from a Virtu-Real party

The inauguration of the “Innovation & Technology” exhibition at the House of Sweden in Washington DC went off without a hitch… And so did the installation “House of Sweden goes Virtu-Real”. I’ve added some more pictures to the Flickr set:

If you missed the inauguration, you can visit the installation yourself until March 16, either i Second Life or in Washington DC.

Below, the press release that was sent out earlier today:

House of Sweden goes Virtu-Real
By Studio Unreal + Team and the Swedish Institute
January 8 – March 16, 2008
House of Sweden, Washington DC — Second House of Sweden, Second Life.

Join us either in the real world or in the virtual world of Second Life to visit a brand-new installation that spans both places: A room that is partly at Second House of Sweden in Second Life, and partly in the real world, at the House of Sweden in Washington, DC.

The installation is part of an exhibition at the House of Sweden running from January 8 to March 16 that highlights Swedish technology and innovation. But if you are not in Washington DC, you too can visit — in fact, your presence in Second Life is crucial to making the installation “House of Sweden goes Virtu-Real” work.

What does the installation do?

  • In the real world: As you approach the installation, a projection on a glass wall allows the room to continue into Second Life, where you can see avatars in real time visiting the room in Second Life. Beside the screen there is a “pixel cave”, a booth with an old Ericsson phone and smaller screen that lets you see the virtual room from the side. Pick up the phone, and a virtual phone will ring in Second Life. Anyone visiting the room in Second Life can answer the phone (by clicking on it) and talking to you.
  • In Second Life: Visit the installation at Second House of Sweden, just behind the reception desk as you enter. Once there, turn on video to see a live view of the real-world exhibit along one wall. Remember, they can see you too! There is a big pink phone in the room. Touch it, and a real phone will ring at the exhibition. If somebody there picks up, you can have a conversation. Remember to have voice chat enabled.

The installation is conceived and created by Studio Unreal + Team, an architectural collective with roots in KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The installation is commissioned and funded by the Swedish Institute, a government agency involved in public Diplomacy.

Some photos of the installation and its construction in Washington DC:

More information about the installation at:
http://secondhouseofsweden.com/

More information about the real-world exhibition.
http://www.swedenabroad.com/Page____69190.aspx

Location of the Second House of Sweden:
You can visit Second House of Sweden from here:

To register for Second Life (free):
http://www.sweden.se/templates/cs/Secondlife____16359.aspx

Opening hours:
In the real world, 12-6pm Wednesday to Friday, 12-4pm Saturday and Sunday (Washington DC time)
In Second Life: 24/7! (Tough when the exhibition is closed, there will be nobody to talk to in the real world.)

Second House of Sweden invades House of Sweden

…and the Second House of Sweden project comes full circle as it takes over a room in the (real-world) House of Sweden in Washington DC. Today, everything is ready — studio unreal has been putting the final touches on the installation, press photos have been taken, and at 7pm tonight (1am Swedish time) the inauguration takes place.

I took some photos of the real-world half of the installation. You can see the whole set on Flickr.

You too can visit the installation just by showing up at Second House of Sweden in Second Life.

Report from the Sweden.se Film Festival

So what did we learn by holding a film festival in Second Life? We got the answers to several questions we had. We even got the answer to a question we hadn’t asked ourselves.

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Here’s what we wanted to learn by holding a two-day festival of Swedish short films: Can you sustain a multi-day event in Second Life? (Will people show up to the second day?) Can you show a half-hour long film in Second Life? (Is the technology mature enough for half-hour films, and is Second Life conducive to this kind of sustained attention on the part of avatars?) Can you generate a meaningful debate on film in this context? And the question we hadn’t asked — What happens when a griefer shows up, intent on disrupting the events?

I’m glad to say that yes, multi-day events are sustainable. The festival was attended on both days, but there was an even bigger audience on the second day, likely due to word of mouth.

Technically, too, a half-hour film is sustainable. Everything held up, and we received no complaints about the quality of the video image. Subtitles were legible (though we wrote a memo to self that they could be a bit larger in the future).

As for film debate — here the audience proved a bit shy:-) But this may be because Second Life residents are not necessarily film buffs, and were instead just there for a good time watching an interesting movie. In any case, as the commentary in the screenshot below shows, members of he audience had no qualms in making their approval known, even if they didn’t have so many questions for the directors and producers.

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Click on image to enlarge

On the first day, just as the film got going, a griefer interrupted the proceedings by having his avatar wear a processor-sapping item of clothing and later by having photos flying around. This is the first time since the opening of Second House of Sweden that we’ve had to deal with a griefer, and it was a good reminder that we need to be vigilant. It took us a while to pin him down and ban him, in part because he managed crash our Second Life clients before we knew what was going on.

Before the next day’s events, it was time to beef up security measures — we simplified the banning process for the entire region, and also learned som tricks for quickly identifying a griefer and ejecting him before his antics become a nuisance. We had no further trouble, while the griefer did us a favour by reminding us to stay on our toes.

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Swedish Lesson #4: Report

On Monday we had our final Swedish lesson in a series of four that we’ve held over the past six weeks. We already had some great feedback from the first three lessons, and had learned a lot about what works, what doesn’t, and how we can make it even better. I wasn’t sure if many people would show up for the final lesson; but in fact, we had more than any other previous lesson, and from an amazing range of countries: Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Japan and Scotland are some that I remember.

I’ll be writing up our findings properly in the coming weeks, but here is a quick preview of my thoughts: There is a lot of demand for Swedish lessons out there from people who don’t have easy access to such lessons; immersive distance learning works, but the learning curve can be steep; it’s important to have structured lessons; and finally, instead of just asking people to show up, a better model may be to have people apply, and then use Second Life as the immersive aural part of a course, complemented by worksheets and video that they can watch at their leisure. But we’ll see — it certainly is promising to be able to reach people who would otherwise never have any “face time” with a live Swedish teacher.

Finally, there was also a film crew from SVT, Swedish television, in the room when the lesson took place. Look out for a report by them next week!

Many thanks again to Lars Larsson (aka “Kvint Larsson”) for his pioneering role as virtual Swedish teacher-)

Linnaeus exhibition opening report

Wow.

It’s difficult to know beforehand what kind of turnout you will have for an event in Second Life. Because one sim/server can only really host a maximum of 60 simultaneous users, there is always the small risk that your event is way oversubscribed. But you also never know until the event starts whether anyone will show up. The hardest part to get right, I’ve found, is getting the word out about an event to the right people, so that you get the ideal group of 50-or-so enthusiastic collaborators.

And that is precisely what we got for the inauguration of the Linnaeus exhibition at the Second House of Sweden last Friday, November 2. I wrote “collaborators”, because a large number of visitors we’re fully dressed in 18th century period costumes, to take part in the costume competition. It was quite a sight to see the Linnaeus garden and room filled with such finery. The pictures do it more justice.

You can see my whole set on Flickr here. There are more shots taken by Linn here.

Another bit of technological finery was on display when we broadcast a 7 minute video interview with Anders Backlund, a lecturer on pharmacognosy at Uppsala University and a Linnaeus expert. Because Anders was on a plane at the time of the inauguration, I recorded a Skype video conversation with him earlier in the day — me in Cairo, he in Uppsala, then shown to everyone in Second Life. It’s a mash-up of existing technologies (I used Ecamm’s Call Recorder) but the overall effect worked really well. All this was broadcast “live” using Wirecast to a Quicktime Streaming Server run by Qbrick.

When the film was over, it was time for the judging of the costumes. Swedish SL builder Kaja Lurra and my SI collaborator Nex Canning and I were the judges, and after a lot of agonizing, we came up with three winners. Congratulations to the first prize winner, Kissowa Kamachi (who got L$20,000) second prize winner Freyja Nemeth (L$15,000) and third prize winner Ran Garrigus (L$10,000)!

Don’t forget, there is a plant-building competition running this whole week, with more prizes.

Second House of Sweden: Some metrics

Several institutions thinking of doing something like the Second House of Sweden have been asking us for metrics. As we’re a public agency, we’re only too happy to oblige, especially if it encourages further projects like this:-)

Overall, we get between 300 and 400 visitors per day to our two sims. Around 80 people per day register via our branded online registration page www.sweden.se/secondlife; the others teleport in. These numbers are an order of magnitude smaller than the visitor numbers of the websites that the Swedish Institute manages, but such a comparison would be deceptive, for two reasons:

  1. The pool of potential visitors for the Second House of Sweden is limited to Second Life users, and conservative numbers put that figure at around 1 million regular users, vs the 1.25 billion that use the internet.
  2. The experiences of visiting the Second House of Sweden is best compared to visiting a real space, because that is what it is trying to emulate. How many visitors does a real-world cultural center get in a day? What is the cost involved in servicing these visitors? What would the cost be to bring visitors from far-flung places, where there are no such cultural centers, to a real-world cultural center? When these kinds of questions are asked, building a virtual embassy makes eminent sense.

Several metrics support our conclusion that the embassy makes for a good proxy for a real-world Swedish cultural experience:

We already know that the users of Second Life are technologically savvy, curious, and future-oriented — that’s sort of a prerequisite for being in Second Life, and it is exactly the target group we believe is most receptive to the message that Sweden is a modern, tolerant, nature-loving country. But we also know that our visitors are incredibly spread out geographically. Look:

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Furthermore, we also see our visitors spending a much longer time at the embassy than on a conventional website; around three times longer, in fact: (This charts shows average visit length)

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From these charts, we conclude that it makes good sense to experiment with Second Life. It allows us to pursue immersive and prolonged cultural contacts that have a clear social aspect — the latest example being the free Swedish lessons we are currently giving:

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Finally, some other stats that may be of use; here’s when most people visit, in Second Life (=California) time:

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Basically, European evenings are the most popular times to come by.

NationalMuseum’s Gallery Talk redux

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Nationalmuseum had their first gallery talk at the Second House of Sweden today, and quite a few people showed up — I haven’t seen the statistics yet, but it looks just from counting that we nearly had a full house as “Uggla Fredriksson”, aka Helén Hallgren Archer, Nationalmuseum’s curator for art education, gave her presentation on four different works of art hanging i the lobby.

The talk itself took around half an hour, which felt like the perfect length, and the voice technology that Helén used to speak worked well. There were a couple of issues with sound levels, but this was mainly people figuring out how to use the new controls: Remember that you can choose to hear the loudest voices from where you are standing, or else from where you are looking at. I haven’t decided myself which is more natural. Additionally, you can set the loudness of individual voices.

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The feedback we’ve gotten was very positive, so I think this means we’ll be doing more of these soon. If you want to find out about future events at the Second House of Sweden, subscribe to this blog or join the “Second House of Sweden” group in Second Life.

Feedback

We’ve had some interesting feedback on the Second House of Sweden in Second Life, much of it positive, but of course the most interesting part is the constructive criticism, especially if I agree:-)

One Finnish visitor writes:

… How about having a big panel outside in front of the house, that gives you a notecard with the info of the house? A floor plan? A sign post? For the Feedback panel, it would be better to have the same info in a notecard as panels take time to rez, and also the possibility to drop your opinion in a notecard to the stand, as many would not want to send email from their normal account.

Well, I hope I’m not being too critical, I absolutely admire the Sweden House and I think Second Sweden, too, is a fantastic idea, have been following closely its development. I hope to see interesting exhibitions in the future and wish you all the success!

Yes, we need to help people navigate the place via a teleportation panel — we ran out of time to make a good-looking one before the inauguration, and so we preferred to have none at all. But it is true that exploring Second House of Sweden can be a hit-or-miss affair, especially if you don’t know what’s available. So a teleportation panel really is necessary in the long run.

Even more necessary, of course, is a roster of events. This is probably the most important long-term component to the success of Second House of Sweden. The Swedish summer, however, is not proving the best time to build up momentum for events — everybody here is enjoying the first life on their farm or island rather than sitting in front of the computer. So a proper set of events may have to wait until the Swedish summer is winding down.