Austin Tate has acted as the Coordinator for the Virtual University of Edinburgh (Vue) since 2007 and acts as the administrator for the various collaboration facilities. These notes are intended as resources to assist in the transition of the assets and resources to a new Coordinator for Vue.
Vue is a virtual educational and research institute bringing together all those interested in the use of virtual worlds for teaching, research and outreach related to the University of Edinburgh.
Even before Second Life began to be used across the University in 2007, groups in Business Studies, Education and Artificial Intelligence/Informatics had been exploring virtual worlds platforms for a range of collaboration, educational and research project uses. Platforms (now long gone) such as “There” and commercial virtual world simulators such as “Forterra” had been in use, and Second Life itself had been used even in its very earliest incarnation.
The following blog post indicates what Vue usage there has been of Virtual Worlds…
Green Technology, Virtual Reality (VR) and Intelligent Teaching Spaces
Virtual worlds can play into a range of learning technologies that the University could be interested in longer term. Hybrid or mixed-reality meetings to reduce the carbon/travel impact of academic conferences, workshops, project meetings and interviews, project expo spaces, use of VR, intelligent instrumented supportive teaching spaces with AI virtual assistants, etc.
Virtual Worlds Platforms for Vue
The original Second Life Vue regions used from 2007 to 2019 are no longer maintained, but resources are available to use any available space in Second Life and a similar set of facilities are available on the OpenSimulator Platform and in some other experimental virtual worlds platforms…
- OpenSim – Openvue
- OpenSim – OSGrid Addon Regions
- Sinespace – Vue Region
- Second Life Marketplace – Ai Austin Store – resources to create temporary facilities on Second Life sandboxes or other areas where they are allowed to build.
The lower right hand corner contains the “OpenVCE” (Open Virtual Collaboration Environment) region created by us and made available an an open educational resource that anyone can obtain and use in Second Life or OpenSim (see this blog post). It is also available as a selectable starter region on a range of OpenSim hosting platforms.
Vue Collaboration Facilities
- Web Site: http://vue.ed.ac.uk and http://vue.ed.ac.uk/openvue/
- Open Educational Resources: Vue and OpenVCE (open.ed.ac.uk)
- Mailing Lists: A moderated e-mail list for members of the University of Edinburgh. Contact Austin Tate <email@example.com> to be added to the list. [firstname.lastname@example.org (alias email@example.com)] [Admin: https://mlist.is.ed.ac.uk/lists/admin/vue]
- Wiki: https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/display/VueWiki/
Vue Regional Planning Authority (VRPA)
The rather grandly named “Vue Regional Planning Authority” (VRPA)* is a small group of people from across the University of Edinburgh who raised funds for the Second Life and OpenSim Vue regions and servers and were involved in the design and creation of the facilities. The group continues to be involved in explorations of other virtual world platforms in their own Schools, groups and across the University for the potential benefit of others. [firstname.lastname@example.org] [Admin: https://mlist.is.ed.ac.uk/lists/admin/vrpa]
*name suggested by Hamish Macleod.
Making Fresh OSGrid Addon Regions
A new set of regions could be created with new region owner avatar(s) and content restored via save and load OAR (OpenSim Archive files) which are now archive on open.ed.
Temporary region names would be used, but once the new regions are established and running well, the original Vue addon regions on OSGrid can be closed down, and then the new regions can be renamed to their original counterparts.
Continuation of Second Life Capabilities
The University and Schools no longer own specific regions in Second Life, but a foothold could be achieved by having a small home/office setup. This could perhaps be most effectively done by having a user (normally free) become a Premium Member (approx. US$99 per annum) which gives a weekly stipend of around US$1.25 per week and allows a 1024sq.m. personal space with options for a range of prebuilt home styles (Linden Homes), e.g. such as this “Houseboat” style used by Ai Austin.
Making a Fresh Openvue Grid
Over time the databases and content for the OpenSim-based Openvue and the Vue regions added onto the openly accessible OSGrid have grown and an occasional tidy up can be be beneficial to ensure only truly accessible content and active avatar users are included and the data base size is reduced. As at July 2021 the Openvue MySQL data base when dumped to an SQL file as a backup is 18GB. There are 36 avatars included, quite a few of which are inactive.
A new OpenSim “ROBUST” grid can be set up with a new administrator and a single new region owned by the new administrator. This can become the welcome or landing region for the new grid. The grid and any regions can be renamed later. Further regions and active content can then be added via recreating the key content owning users (create user with previous UUID) and loading their inventories (via save and load IAR – Inventory Archive files) and then setting up the regions afresh and restoring their content (via save and load OAR). Once the new grid is established and running well, the original Openvue grid can be closed down.
Issues for the Future
To improve security, the University of Edinburgh may not permit non-central services staff to run or manage services and applications accessible outside of the University and may require use only by internal users or those with login access via VPN to ed.ac.uk. This could mean that OpenSim Hypergrid access to external users and potential external visitors to meetings or viewing content held on OpenSim (Openvue) would not be able to gain access.
OpenSim Openvue grid and OSGrid Vue regions make use of a free vivix voice license that was offered to educators, non-profits and small grids on a free basis. Vivox is now owned by Unity and they have announced that new free licenses will not be offered. Voice is an important facility cor Vue uses of virtual worlds. An alternative may have to be found in future. Dome people have experimented with self hosted open source “Freeswitch” servers for voice.
To enable discussions about the risk of running OSGrid addon regions in inf.ed.ac,uk or ed.ac.uk the following notes might be helpful.
OSGrid is the main development, testing and community hub for and provides free avatar registration for users. It is a non-commercial grid that runs on community support and donations. It allows self hosted regions to be added in a simple way. OSGrid central servers and the core databases are hosted in the USA. OSGrid allows a simple way for anyone to host their own add on regions and manage that virtual world space. Users agree to the terms and conditions of usage centrally and their details are not managed at all locally by regions. For each region one port (typically port 9000 and upwards for more than one region) has to be accessible for TCP and UDP. Local regions can set a very wide range of policies for users to their own regions, e.g., to allow access to members of specific users or groups, prevent local building. etc, and even close the region completely when needed. The default policies have safe limits on what scripts can run and are set to prevent external interaction with the underlying operating system.