UK’s Daden showcases use of Second Life

On 25 February, Martin Brown and I talked to the Black Country Constructing Excellence Club about use of social media in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. We both mentioned the virtual world of Second Life and, being in the West Midlands, it seemed natural to highlight the expertise of Birmingham-based Daden (whose efforts were also praised, unprompted, by a contributor from the audience).

I have just received a news release from Daden announcing that the company is the only UK company to reach the finals in two categories of the US Federal Government’s Virtual World Challenge, with its Datascape and PIVOTE systems – both based on the Second Life platform.

The competition is intended to encourage innovative and interactive training and analysis solutions in virtual worlds, with four categories: collaboration, skill building, instruction and visualisation.

Within the Collaboration category Daden entered its Datascape data visualisation environment. … the centre-piece of Datascape is a 20m diameter virtual map showing Google™ Maps (or its OpenStreetMap open-source equivalent). Just as on the web this map can be zoomed down to building level detail almost anywhere on the planet. But unlike the web version up to 50 users from across the globe can gather round or stand on the map and discuss what it is showing. Daden’s web integration technology then allows data from a variety of web and real-world sources to be plotted on the map – ranging from BBC news feeds and US Geological Survey (USGS) earth-tremor data to GPS data and the real-time location of aircraft flying over Los Angeles Airport. Additional screens around the floor-map allow for video feeds, RSS and Twitter feeds, infographics, slideshows and even collaboratively edited documents and spreadsheets.

Daden’s second entry … is PIVOTE. This is a training system for virtual worlds – which allows training exercises to be developed independent of the virtual world – and be playable not only in a variety of virtual worlds but also on the web and even on mobile phones. PIVOTE was developed as a result of Daden’s work on the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) project called PREVIEW with St George’s Hospital, University of London. This project, which created a training system for paramedics at the Hospital won the Times Higher Education Award for Outstanding ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Initiative in 2009. PIVOTE has been released as an open-source application and there are now users from Argentina to Canada, and across many European countries. Whilst initially developed for medical training PIVOTE has since been used for topics as varied as retail customer service and youth citizenship.

Daden’s FVWC entries both have their own web pages (Datascape, PIVOTE), and are powerful examples of how Second Life can be used to create immersive, interactive user experiences related to the built environment.

I have seen Datascape used, for example, to visualise the city centre in Birmingham, while PIVOTE has been applied to construction health and safety training. Be2camp unconferences have also seen demonstrations of how Second Life can be used create virtual renditions of buildings that people can walk through or fly around, adding comments as they go, providing in-context feedback to architects and other designers. It may not to be every user’s tastes, but as a demonstration of the potential of virtual worlds for professional application, Second Life is very compelling (PS: Well done, David, Soulla and the rest of the Daden team).

Update (1 April 2010): Daden “just won 1st place in US FVWC with PIVOTE for training, and 2nd place for Datascape for DataViz.” (via Twitter)

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