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FEDERAL CONSORTIUM FOR VIRTUAL WORLDS
JUNE 9, 2010
ANNOUNCER: Metanomics is owned and operated by Remedy and Dusan Writer's
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Hi. I'm Robert Bloomfield, professor at Cornell University's
Johnson Graduate School of Management. Today we continue exploring Virtual Worlds
in the larger sphere of social media, culture, enterprise and policy. Naturally, our
discussion about Virtual Worlds takes place in a Virtual World. So join us. This is
ANNOUNCER: Metanomics is filmed today in front of a live audience at our studios in
Second Life. We are pleased to broadcast weekly to our event partners and to welcome
discussion. We use ChatBridge technology to allow viewers to comment during the
show. Metanomics is sponsored by the Johnson Graduate School of Management at
Cornell University. Welcome. This is Metanomics.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Metanomics. Today our
guest is Paulette Robinson, assistant dean for teaching, learning and technology at
National Defense University's iCollege. And, really, the reason we have Paulette here is
that she is the founder and director of the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds, which
is really one of the most clearly forward-moving organizations in the Virtual World
industry. So, Paulette, welcome to Metanomics.
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Thank you very much, Rob. It's a pleasure to be here.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, and I guess we should say welcome back to
Metanomics since this is actually your third visit. So one of the things I want to do is
explore what has changed and what has developed on the governmental side over the
last, let's see, I think you here first, in January of 2008, on Metanomics. I remember it
because it was the last show that I did with Metaverse and Nick Wilson producing.
Anyway, I thought maybe we'd start with a little context for listeners who are unfamiliar
with National Defense University and the iCollege. Can you just talk a little bit about
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Sure, be delighted. The National Defense University is the
premier joint professional military graduate program in the world. We have students
from all over the world. It's a stepping stone to being a Flag Officer, like a General. The
students have to be a Lieutenant Colonel or above. For all the other, we have the
National War College, the Industrial College for the Armed Forces. And the iCollege is
just one of five colleges. The iCollege is focused on the information portion of national
power so ours is strategic communications or strategic application of IT in the Military
and in government.
So we do have people from across government. We have about 30 percent of our
students come from all over the government, and those are from GS13s and above. So
it's more like senior managers and more senior officers that come to the college for
graduate-level courses. We have programs for CISOs, which is Chief Information
Security Officer; CFOs, Chief Financial Officer Academy that just started within the last
year. We have certificates in IT project management. And we're in the process of getting
a Masters degree for a Government Strategic Leader. So we've got quite a broad scope
in the iCollege.
The National War College really is on strategic studies. The students come for ten
months, and, at the conclusion, they have a Masters degree at the Industrial College of
the Armed Forces. It's really more of a strategic degree in logistics types of things. And
then we have CISA, which is the College for Information Security Agency. So they do
security studies, and many of those students are from other countries so kind of
broad-brush approach at the university.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And last time you were on Metanomics, it was not the
iCollege, but it was the Information Resources Management College. What's behind the
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Well, Information Resources Management College, we still
have that in our title because it takes almost an act of Congress to change the title. But
the iCollege is more reflective of what we do. We really are about information,
information technology, and Information Resources Management is really more of an
older term before technology has taken the bent that is has, so it's more reflective of
what we do in the iCollege, captures it better.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And what got you personally inspired to start the Federal
Consortium for Virtual Worlds?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: At first I saw that Virtual Worlds were an incredible
environment for education and training. Anybody that does anything to do with
education gets it right away, how powerful and immersive the environment is. I began to
explore this environment for our particular college and discovered that there was no way
that we could ever get into this--use Second Life for example because of security and
couldn't get it on our desktops.
So when I got involved in the environment, I found out about Eric Hackathorn at NOAA,
and so I went out to Boulder to visit him and see what the possibilities are about working
in Virtual Worlds because he was a forerunner at the time; he still is in a lot of ways. I
said, "So how do you know who's in these Worlds?" "Well, really don't know, except I
kind of run across them." And I said--because Second Life wouldn't give us a list. And
then I said to him, "Well, do you guys get together for anything?" And he said, "No." I
said, "We really kind of need some kind of consortium or way to meet."
And so I went back to the university and brought together some friends, with not only
Eric, but Bill May from the State Department and Erika Brooke from NASA. We all got
together, and I said, "We've just really got to start something." So when Eric came to
town in July, we had 40 people--at the drop of a hat, we had less than a week to
prepare, and 40 people and ten organizations. And then we had a couple of meetings,
and now we gave an annual conference, and we have over 1,600 members of the
Consortium, and this year's conference, including the virtual participants, was 3,500;
330 here at the campus, but we broadcast out to the world so we had six different
Virtual Worlds we were broadcasting out to and also to live video streams. So all
together there was 3,500 that participated.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, that's quite a success really for any venue. So
congratulations on that.
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Thanks.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: At some point in the hour I'm probably going to want to go
back to a little more of the early history, but let's talk about the most recent conference
that you had, what was under a month ago. What do you see as being the biggest news
of the last year since the last time you were on Metanomics, shortly after the '09
conference? What do you see as being the biggest achievements?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Well, first of all, it's the collaborations that have formed. I think
they've been forming over the last two years. Certainly SciLands has been around for a
little while. In this last year or so, MilLands, which is the Military group of islands. I think
there's about 44 Sims involved. But the most important one, and I think one of the most
exciting ones that I'm involved in is the vGov project, and that project is designed to set
up a Virtual World environment so not just one Virtual World, but an environment that's
behind the firewall, that will be a secure environment for all of government to do training,
meetings, rapid prototyping, continuity of operations, all those types of things.
The CIO from UDSA is a co-leader on the vGov project with me, and we put out an RFP
in February, and it was awarded the 16th of April.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: For proposals, right?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Yeah. Sorry.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: For those of us in the private sector.
PAULETTE ROBINSON: So we did a Request for Proposals, and it was a multiple-year
contract with multiple awards so four different Virtual Worlds were selected as part of
that process. We're real excited because we have Teleplace, WebAlive, VastPark and
OLIVE, which, for those of you who remember Forterra, SAIC has bought Forterra, and
so it's called OLIVE.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so let me just make sure I understand the nature of
these proposals. It's not the World, like for example in the case of WebAlive. And I think
that's now owned by Nortel, so it's not that Nortel themselves came to you and said,
"We have this great product," it's another company that came and said, "We're going to
use this product to do something that the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds would
like to see done." Is that--
PAULETTE ROBINSON: That's right. So there has to be distinction made between the
Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds and the vGov project. So the Federal Consortium
for Virtual Worlds is really a group of people, almost like a community of practice for the
government, that has government industry academics all together trying to solve the
problems of Virtual Worlds for the use in the government.
The vGov project is a very specific project that was sort of born out of the Consortium,
but is specific to USDA and the partners that have started it, and our hopes are that it'll
be across government so it's kind of a distinction to make between them. The people
that applied for the Request for Proposal, who submitted proposals, really are larger
umbrella companies than just the Virtual Worlds because the Request for Proposals
really required some training, some other kinds of skills in backup that a company that
was larger really could provide bigger services since many of these Virtual Worlds are
pretty much small companies. So for example, OLIVE came. SAIC bought them, and
they're a larger company so they proposed. Assyst, A S S Y S T, is the company that
proposed to use VastPark and several other pieces of software, like Green Phosphor,
for example. web.alive, Avaya owns web.alive, and so they are the ones that submitted
for that particular one. And Teleplace, the submitter was ThreeWire, so it was a larger
umbrella company that could pull together other support features that were asked for in
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And can you talk a little bit about the intended uses of these
proposals? Is each one designed to address a specific problem or provide a specific
PAULETTE ROBINSON: The RFP was fairly broad, and they gave four case studies or
use cases as examples of ways that we were looking for the functional requirements for
the government. We came up with a list of functional requirements that a number of us
helped to participate in building. So that went out in the Request for Proposals. The four
use cases are those four initial partners, and we're now accepting other partners. USDA
is accepting other partners to be part of this, but each of the partners in the project, to
start with, have a use case. And there's a World, in their opinion, that meets those
function requirements the best. All of them can meet them at some level, except maybe
web.alive, which is more of a jump-in and jump-out meeting space, I would say,
because it's got a browser-based kind of interface, and it's not as robust.
So for our college, we are doing a community of practice, doing knowledge
management and analytical workspaces, though, of the ones that were selected, the
one that fits us the best and the one I'm interested in exploring is VastPark because it's
built on a dot-net frame. It calls from libraries. There are some interesting things that
we're going to be able to do with that particular software, so I got really excited about
seeing what VastPark could do. The USDA is going to be a continuity of operations for
their IT data center, and they are going to be using Teleplace. Teleplace handles really
well live data feeds, and the Navy has done some interesting work with Teleplace, so
USDA is going to try using that particular platform for that use case.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: What do you mean by continuity?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Continuity of operations is sort of--if their data center went
down, how would they manage the center? If for some reason it's the flu or whatever
could be the problem, that they could enter remotely from another place. So normally
what they do is, they go to an offsite. IBM has an offsite somewhere in Colorado that
they go to, and they ship their whole staff there to do this exercise, to work with their
data center in an exercise that simulates that it's down. Which costs more money than
doing it in a Virtual World so they're going to give that a--that that's their use case.
DHS is doing two cyber-security vignettes. All the employees in the federal government
have to take cyber-security training, and I haven't seen one that's interesting yet.
They're all pretty boring. And so what this will do is find an interesting and immersive
way to do cyber-security training, and that's what they're experimenting with. The
possibility for that one is, once they create cyber-security training, the whole entire
federal government would be able to take a training in one place, and we can do
something really quality and immersive. And they're going to be using Teleplace.
The last one is the Air Force. They wanted a very, very realistic environment with
specific kinds of physics, and so they're going to be using the OLIVE platform, and
they're going to be recreating Fort Sam Houston, and they're building a facility to be the
educational facility for all medical education for all of DOD. So there's no longer medical
education in each of the branches of the Service. It's going to be in one place.
Initially they're going to use it for onboarding and orientation. They're building the base
where people can walk up and down the streets, kind of get a sense of where things are
on the Base. And then, in the building itself, you go out a particular door, enter a door,
there'll be a simulation that'll go off from the door. So it's going to be building out that
space so it's truly an immersive learning environment. So those are the four use cases.
We're hoping to bring others into the project this year, before the next fiscal year starts
or even after, to create new use cases and then, the ones that are already there, to
expand on what they're already do. So that's the process at the moment.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We have a question from a viewer, Joey Aboma: "What
resources are there for companies that need to show return on investment to get heavily
involved in these projects?" Do you provide support for companies and governmental
organizations that are trying to make the case?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Well, I think some of it--you can use some of the models that,
for example, IBM has used or some of the others that are using Virtual Worlds as
integrated as part of their business processes. Certainly return on investment would
take into consideration travel expenses, time away through travel, greened foot--carbon
footprint is another one I've seen. So there's been some metrics that have been
developed, in terms of return on investment. I know last year we took our Virtual World
Conference and were able to extrapolate that we saved the government almost
$3 million by streaming it out to six different Virtual Worlds because, in the Virtual
Worlds, they not only did not have to travel to Washington and incur those kinds of
costs, but they also didn’t have to pay registration fees. So we didn't go into carbon
footprint and hours saved in travel, which would add another layer of dimension.
I think some of these return on investments--some of it's obvious, and I think we're
going to get more and more refined. For example, in training, you can immerse people
in training in ways that, in the classroom, you can't do it. So I think there's going to be a
variety of metrics that are going to evolve. I think Tony O'Driscoll's book on 3D learning
is going to be really helpful in helping to do that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: One Virtual World platform is notably missing from the list of
those funded through the vGov proposals, and that's Second Life. Can you talk about
why that is?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Well, I have to be careful what I say because of the process
of selection. The RFP was very specific on what it was looking for and what vendors
needed to propose. And Second Life was present in the proposal process. They came
in with a much larger company, and, unfortunately, the proposal didn't meet the needs
or wasn't--clearly meet the needs of the RFP. So that's the only reason. I mean there
were several people really discouraged that Second Life was not there, especially the
Enterprise, and it may be in the future, but, in this initial round, it was not.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Wait. I am being told that we have some technical
issues, and we are going to take a very short break, just two or three minutes. While we
do that, let me just encourage people to take a look at the PR newswire press release
that I pasted into chat a minute ago, and I will now paste it again as well:
We'll take a quick break.
Welcome back to Metanomics, and we're here with Paulette Robinson of National
Defense University's iCollege and the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds. When we
took that quick break, Paulette, we were talking a little bit that there wasn't a proposal
that the vGov group accepted using Second Life as a platform. I just wanted to clarify so
my understanding is it's the use case that's being proposed, as well as the platform that
matters, and so it's not necessarily a concern about Second Life as a platform, but just
that there wasn't a proposal that did something vGov wanted to fund. Is that about right?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Or that met all the requirements of the proposal. That's more
to the case so the Request for Proposal came out with some very specific things that
whoever wrote the proposal had to meet, and there were some issues with that. They
got the feedback on it and understood why.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I would like to talk a little more broadly about these platforms
because, from where you sit, it's true that the federal government is going to have some
fairly idiosyncratic needs, but you're also one of the biggest possible purchasers of
Virtual World technology and applications. I'm curious first, I guess: What do you see
has happened in the technology, that you guys are looking at, that seems most
promising over the last year or so? What changes?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Well, I think one of the critical changes is the input devices.
I'm really not a gamer so the gaming joy sticks and that type of thing doesn't work very
well for me, and I find that the arrow keys are not very granular, in terms of their
approach. So I truly believe, when the input devices become more intuitive, and they're
right there actually, they're right on the cusp, that this whole technology is going to take
off in a way that the web will be 3D. We'll actually walk around on the web and interact,
just like when the GUI in the web was possible, the websites took off.
So at the conference, the fact I was able to try Emotiv. I don't know if you've ever tried
it. But the headset you put on your head, and green lights go on, on the screen to let
you know you've got it positioned correctly. You train it, in terms of movement. You think
where you want to go, and then you train this ball in the center to go there. And then the
Army has set up Emotiv to work with Second Life, which is really interesting.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And it's reacting to what, your head movements?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: No. Your thinking.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: No kidding!
PAULETTE ROBINSON: So you think forward, and you go forward. That's pretty
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Brain waves.
PAULETTE ROBINSON: That's right. And so the Army brought it up to the Federal
Consortium for Virtual World Conference, and they had fixed it to work with Second Life
so it was real interesting. Last year they brought up the Wii Fit, and you're able to
navigate through Second Life with the Wii Fit. So those types of input devices are going
to be critical--or even using cameras like Project Natal is using, once that can work with
these Virtual Worlds. It's intuitive with how I move my body as it represents myself in a
Virtual World. I think those are going to be the key, and we're seeing better and better
possibilities each year. That's moving pretty fast. The gaming industry is our best friend
in terms of that.
The other thing that I'm finding interesting is 3D analytics. I'm particularly interested in
having analytical workspaces where I can take live databases, be able to put them in
different 3D immersive ways of processing the information and then being able to
collaborate on those documents and information, and that's getting much, much better.
Green Phosphor is real interesting to me, in terms of what they are able to represent in
3D, that I can walk through the data. They've done some mashups for us, which I find
interesting. I've told the CEO that I would be very interested in seeing where they've
been taking live numeric data; I'd like to see relationship data almost like social media
stuff. So they're working on some of those representations and incorporating artificial
intelligence as far as representing the data. I think that immersive technology piece is
becoming even more interesting.
Ann Cudworth, who does a lot of her work in Second Life, gave a presentation on using
art as a representation of data, that was absolutely incredible. I'm just amazed at what
she's been able to do. So I think that particular area of Virtual Worlds is going to be
interesting. So I'm finding that collaboration and the ability to immerse yourself in
various ways and very creative ways is what I'm finding the most interesting, in terms of
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now both times you've been on Metanomics, one of the big
discussions and the big sticking points that came up was security and just the ability to
access a Virtual World and have cross-governmental agency interactions where two
people from different agencies can log into the same World, using the same technology.
Are you guys making progress on that?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Well, that's what the vGov project's for. So it's in a secure
place. It's in the USDA Data Center. They're using [EF aNocation?] level 2, which is a
NIS standard. So who you are is going to be verified both with a picture ID and you in
person or else a series of secured digital signatures to verify who you are so that we
can do the business of government. We're also really working on--one of the security
issues is not only who is in there so that that can be trusted, but also the number of
ports that had to be opened in the network. Unfortunately, Second Life has a little bit too
many ports, in terms of its public space, for CIOs to be will to open up access from the
desktop. The Enterprise version is better. And so what USDA is doing will be a trusted
source hosting. That's the critical piece, the security piece, so trusted source hosting in
a Virtual World environment, so we'll have more than one Virtual World in this
environment for the federal government to use.
I'm seeing this, should it be successful and I don't see any reason why it won't be, this
will be a federal government communication space or infrastructure space that we just
don't have at the moment. There is no space where all the government can go to do
work together and particularly this kind of robust space. So the "snowathon" that
happened in February was a dramatic example of how the federal government needs
this kind of space to do our work should something happen where we can't come to
work here in Washington.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: How much of your efforts with the Consortium are making
pitches to people who don't really know anything about Virtual Worlds? And what type of
pitch do you make?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: I'm making pitches all the time. I probably do two or three a
week at least. It's interesting this is accelerating. I would have to say, about a year ago,
I would probably do one a month or so; now I'm doing at least a couple a week in
various ways. There seems to be momentum and an understanding. I don't know if it
was the movie Avatar or what it was, but, really, I got lots of requests after Avatar. I'm
finding the most appropriate way to do this that--I used to just do PowerPoint slides and
talk about it and have a few pictures. What now I'm doing is, we have a series of videos
from a variety of different applications of Virtual Worlds within government and in places
where it makes sense, and so I show the videos. I show about four or five videos, and
then they catch it, and then their imagination starts. And that's where I can then answer
those types of questions and discuss what the possibilities are for their organization.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: What are the big sticking points? My guess is they're
probably familiar, but do they seem to have changed over the last couple years?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Well, security never changes. That's the big one. I think
what's going to shift, and I have a Steering Committee for the vGov project, from across
government. I think our next issues are going to be interesting ones about
intergovernment processes, procedures and ways of sort of ground rules and how we're
going to work together, how we can share content and access. It's going to be a real
interesting experience to work through those pieces, once the World's up and running.
So there's some initial pieces. The first piece is getting CIOs at the agency and
organizational level, to put clients on their desktops. So it's just like Second Life needs a
client. All of these, except web.alive, need a client. And since the CIOs control
desktops, that's one thing.
The second thing is, if there's ports to be opened, even though it's a trusted government
source, you have to convince the CIOs on the security, so that's one of the other issues.
So once that's accomplished, it's then really finding the expertise to build the Worlds.
Remember when the original websites went up or the internet went up for the GUI
interface, those people that created websites were golden. They really could make good
money, and they were golden. Well, creating in 3D spaces are going to become really
golden, in terms of animating, artificial intelligence, scripting, all that stuff is just going to
be really golden.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: There were some federal agencies that were involved in
creating a Virtual World. I seem to remember it was the National Guard and Defense
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Uh-huh.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: What's been happening with that process?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Well, I'm not sure if they've launched at DAU. That was their
intention to launch. The World that the National Guard created has not really ever
launched publicly. They've shown what were possibilities, and they were building in
functionality. Where that's going to make its big debut, I think, is in DAU. There was also
a second Virtual World--I don't know if you know--that was built by DARPA, RealWorld,
which was built more for small teams and sort of mission kind of ideas. It's no longer in
DARPA because DARPA only sponsors things for five years. So Dan Kaufman was
involved in making sure that piece got developed. So there were those two pieces, in
terms of possibilities, that were established by the government. We found, for the vGov
project, the four Worlds that were selected from the proposals that were submitted were
the best ones for this particular point, given the proposals we received.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. I see there are a couple questions coming in on
cyber-security supporting interagency processes. I gather there is a presentation. I don't
know vmalloy CSC and Joey Aboma, but they're wondering about your interest in
presentations and discussions on cyber-security for interagency processes.
PAULETTE ROBINSON: I think that's critical actually. The cyber-security is a real
vulnerability in the United States, and one of the reasons we're setting up a Virtual
World for a virtual environment for the government so we have a place to work that we
know is secure, and we're doing our very best to make sure everything is certified,
accredited. All that stuff's going to be happening in this particular space. I mean it's
going to also have to go in a couple of directions. There will be a classified version of
this at some point, and then I personally would like to see down the road that this would
be a doorstep to the citizens to interact with government, that the services could be
provided securely for citizens to talk to IRS agents, for example, or that type of thing. So
I see it expanding in two different directions.
There's an interesting identity framework that was just approved by the federal CIO
Council this summer. It's called the ICAM Identity Framework. It's ICAM, and, if
anybody's interested, they can go on Google: ICAM, and put GSA, and they'll find a
whole page on it. And that's going to establish security protocols for identity and
management of it anywhere from the citizen and anyone anonymously looking at
websites that are government, all the way to classified. So that particular system will be
put into the vGov project, I imagine, within the next year.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. We have a couple more questions. Jennette Forager
says, "I understand that the Air Force now issues you an avatar when you enlist, and it
stays with you throughout your service. Can you comment on their plans for this?"
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Yeah. Well, that paper came out in 2008. It was the brainchild
of General Lessel, who is now retired. And it's still a vision for--it's called MyBase. And
it's still a vision for that. It still has not come to be, but that's the direction. I have to say it
was one of the most forward-thinking white papers that I've read in a long time, in terms
of visioning how this could be worked.
The other one that I've been reading recently is the Singularity, by Ray Kurzweil, and
how he sees Virtual Worlds and the Real World blending in such a way that we'll move
between them and won't necessarily distinguish them, which will be an interesting
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We also have a question on HEI, which is something that has
interested me. We actually talked a little bit about this on a special Metanomics episode
yesterday as well. And the question is, and let's see, I'm just tracking through the chat
here. I think I've lost the name of who it is, but the question is: Will the federal
government be holding to minimum-wage standards and other types of standards for
Virtual World work? It's an interesting question because there are so many people who
are in Worlds, like Second Life, who are willing to do work very inexpensively, below
what you might think of as traditional wages and surely below minimum wages in the
United States. So are there strict policies on hiring for government work?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Well, for the Virtual Worlds, obviously this is a whole new
endeavor for Virtual Worlds, but there's procedures and processes that are used for any
other kind of government work and that type of thing, and so our contractors, as part of
their award contract, they also can do development work. Some of the development
work is going to be done by USDA, which are U.S. citizens. They're not farming that out.
And each of the proposals have development services that they're offering, and, from
what I could see, they were internal. But the federal government will go out with a
Request for Proposals if there's unique type of development that they want to take.
The people that have been awarded the contract, if they cannot provide the services,
another proposal will go out and for a particular form of money. At the moment, there is
no minimum requirements, although I don't see any reason why the government would
try to undercut professional people from doing the environment. It would be the regular
government contracting process.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I also have a question on alternative technologies. How often
are you debating or being forced to debate alternatives to Virtual Worlds: teleconference
technology, simple websites and so on? Is that something that's always at the front of
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Well, it's sort of like using the right tool for the right job so no
one thing answers all the needs of the government. I think there's a place, for example,
webinars. I think there's a place for teleconferencing. Teleconferencing itself now can be
projected into a Virtual World so I'm finding Virtual World portals an interesting way to
organize information, but I do have vendors asking me, "Well, how about this? Isn't this
better?" And I really don't want to make that kind of choice. I think it depends on what
your function requirements are and what you want to do. What I find exciting about
Virtual Worlds, however, is that it allows us, as a government or as a group of
people--and I'm talking to the choir here--where you can immerse yourself into an
environment and don't have to be physically next to each other, where I can meet with
anybody across the world and across government.
I don't have to try to find a parking place. I don't have to fly to a meeting. I can actually
do meaningful work from my desktop or from home. And more and more I think that's
what we're going to have to have the facility for, given how travel and cars adds to the
pollution and the cost of operating. I think we're going to just find ourselves with more
and more options. Virtual Worlds allows immersive environment that I just find
appealing and interesting, where it's developing. So I did have some of those
discussions, but, on the whole, all I have to do is say, "How many of you have attended
a webinar?" And the audience, almost two-thirds will put up their hands. And I'll say,
"How many of you were doing five different things while you were on the webinar?" And
they all giggle and laugh and raise their hands. This is engaging, where I think some of
the others isn't as engaging.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We have a question on another regulatory issue, which is
Section 508 compliance. How are you dealing with trying to make all of these spaces
comply with the rules for accessibility?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Well, I think that's going to be a struggle for all of us. I think
one of the nice things about a vGov project is that the government will be investing in
ways to make Virtual Worlds a compliant environment, where everyone will be able to
participate. Are they there now? No. I think this emerging technology's just beginning to
start to address it. I know there's a couple of real creative people in Second Life, trying
to find different ways that can meet 508 compliance. But I think it's going to be an
interesting tool development opportunity I would say, in terms of transcriptions, when
people are talking, not just with chat, with voiceover IP, that kind of automatic
transcriptions, ways of descriptions on objects. It's going to be an interesting challenge.
I don't think it's impossible, but I would like to see some tools created that facilitate that
type of access in a much better and more efficient way.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. And I guess I'd like to just take a minute to give a shout
out to Virtual Ability, which is a group that has done great work in making Second Life
accessible and thinking about accessibility and also is a close partner with Metanomics
and does a lot of really useful things to make Metanomics more accessible, including
transcriptions and the like. So thanks to those of you out there working with Virtual
PAULETTE ROBINSON: I think it's really admirable and wonderful.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I see there are just a little under 15 minutes left, and please
do put in your questions for Paulette Robinson of National Defense University's iCollege
and Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds, since I know there are many of you out
there, who know a lot more about this than I do. So please do get those questions in. I
would like to come back--just seeing all the chat that's going on in my various windows
in Second Life right now about this press release that just came out, which indicates
that Linden Lab is restructuring. I passed along a link on the press release itself, and
then someone else passed along an article in Tech Crunch, which summarizes the
same basic information that there's going to be layoffs of 30 percent of Linden Lab staff
and a number of changes and also emphasizing the move toward more of a
browser-based World. So I'm curious, do you see that, from your perspective, a more
browser-based World as being a step in the right direction?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: I think it would be great, as long as the browser-based World
really has some of the fidelity and the capabilities that we see with a client. So I think it
depends, again going back to--I hate to do function requirements because I get that
sung in my ear all the time. If you want to do robust gaming and training with
simulations, it's a little harder to do browser-based kind of capabilities than with just
having meetings. The advantage of having a browser base for the government is that I
don't have to have a client put on the desktop, that we're using basically the browsers
that we use for our everyday work, which makes my life, much, much simpler.
But if, in the tradeoff, you don't have the functionality and the robust kind of capabilities,
then for many things I'd like to see with Virtual Worlds it makes it a little harder. So I'll be
interested to see it progress. The ones that are browser-based at the moment, usually
they have something like a Java client, that type of thing, are not quite robust enough,
except for some simple meetings. So, in terms of me wanting to do something
persistent, I haven't found the browser-based World to be as interesting as the ones that
have clients, especially in terms of capabilities.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thank you. We have a question by Trey Reanimator. I'm
going to read it, and then, hopefully, you can translate it before you answer it, "How will
vGov dovetail with the recent RFP by OUSD P&R and Army RDECOM STCC? Does
that mean anything to you?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Yes, it does.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Sounds very, very official.
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Okay. So let me just kind of translate what all that means.
And I've just seen the Army one today. I haven't had a chance to read it, and I just saw
the one by OSD that was put out two days ago. Because I've been on leave, I haven't
had a chance to read both of them. So let me just give a little bit of background.
The one from OSD is coming out of readiness and training performance. There's a
group of us, through the Military, from all branches of the Military, that are using Virtual
Worlds, that have come together to try to start thinking about our
virtualworld.milenvironment for the particular needs of the DOD. Obviously they'll still be
part of the vGov project, but there are some things they want to do uniquely. I'm trying
to encourage one environment, but it may end up having a DOD environment. We'll see.
I don't have control over that piece.
The second piece was piece was put out, the RDECOM STCC, which is really a
research and development group down in Orlando. Doug Maxwell, who used to be with
the Navy, is now with the Army, and Tammy Griffith, it's coming from them. And it was a
surprise to me so I have no idea--there's a couple articles that they are quoted in about
what they want to do with this. It's going to be a simulation and training environment. I'm
hoping that, at a minimum, DOD comes together and has one environment, even if they
don't play only in vGov, because they still will have to, because we do so many
interagency things within the Department of Defense.
But, if they do have an environment for training in some specific classified needs, that
they come together and don't go through the silos of different Services. That's my big
fear with this happening with the Army, and I sent Doug a note asking him how he sees
this all fitting together. I haven't gotten an email back from him, but that would be my
concern. The Services tend automatically to build their own thing, and then they don't
play with each other, and then we have silos all over again. My vision with vGov is really
to kind of eliminate or try to avoid the silos with the new technology and provide
communication across government, without people staking out their own silos. So I'm
hoping it's not going in that direction.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I guess that leads to a question. The Consortium really has
no official power. Is that right? It's really just a venue for conversation. It's not that you
actually oversee governmental or military development efforts. Is that right?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: That's correct. So basically think of it like a community, an
unofficial community of practice. We have a Wiki that we post information in and work
together. We communicate together. We have no budget so the iCollege really supports
the Consortium with my time and a woman that works with me, an assistant. We are the
ones that back the Conference so that it's possible because our Senior Director,
Bob Childs, really believes that it's important technology and supports these
information-sharing types of technologies. So he's been incredible in making this
possible, but there really is no funding and no power behind it, although there is power
And so as the interest grows, it's sort of like a virus. I've told some people that I'm a
virus. I go around and infect everybody with Virtual Worlds, and the more people I
infect, the more people can see it, and the more it is a possibility, and so that's what's
occurring. There's a really good book by Andrea Shapiro, on organizational
commitment, that takes a tipping point and a public health model for how viruses spread
and marries the two. And so I see myself as my mission is a Virtual World virus.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I guess I can see that the analogy is a good one, but
you might want to talk with an expert in marketing and public relations.
PAULETTE ROBINSON: I'm a good virus.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We have a question from Joey Aboma on standards, "Do you
see NDU or the Federal Consortium playing a part in developing standards for Virtual
PAULETTE ROBINSON: I think that's really a very good possibility. I've been asked to
be part--I know the IEEE is calling together a standards group for Virtual Worlds, and
I've been asked if I'd be a part of it, and that's one thing I'd be delighted to do. I think
standards will be something that'll be important just because of interoperability; at the
moment that just isn't possible. So I'm really looking forward to being a part of that,
wherever it makes sense for me to be part of it. But I certainly think standards are going
to improve our ability to share content, to share artificial intelligence, to actually make
the reality of a Virtual World being the interface to the web. So I think all of that will
come to pass, and it's not going to take as long as some of the other stuff has.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. I see we are just about at the end of our time. I'm going
to make a quick look here to see if there are any outstanding questions, but I think we
have gotten to most of them. Let me give you the opportunity to make any closing
remarks. Are there any topics that we haven't hit on or a point you'd like to leave us
PAULETTE ROBINSON: It's really important, and those of you that are involved in
Virtual Worlds, you'll understand what it is, I watched all the discourse that's happening
about the federal government, what they do and what they don't do, and sort of this
illusion that government's really not interested in the citizens or the welfare of the
country in some ways. I've discovered that it is when you have a vision and you really
believe and hope for some of the best things that can happen for the benefit of the
citizens, because that's why I'm in government, I could be other places, that you can
inspire people to think the best and to think of new and different ways of doing things.
And while it's not always a smooth road, and the government's sort of a big place to try
to change, it starts with one, two, three and spreads out. And that, to make a difference,
I encourage all of you to make a difference where you are and encourage you to take
that and just to make the government or where you are a better place.
And I found Virtual Worlds as one of those things that I can do to make the government
work better and to communicate better. I've found several people that are willing to
come along for the ride so I give so many people in this Virtual World movement and
the federal government credit. There are just a whole host of people that work really
hard to make a difference because they believe that this technology and other
technologies can help our government operate better and communicate with each other
and with the citizens, make the government more transparent. So I encourage you to do
that wherever you are.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, thanks. That's a wonderful point to end on. And so
thank you so much, Paulette Robinson, Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds and
National Defense University's iCollege. Thanks for joining us. I expect you'll have
another conference in spring of 2011. Have you started planning that yet?
PAULETTE ROBINSON: Yes, we have. It's going to be next May. So around the same
timeframe as this year so watch the website.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I look forward to having you on Metanomics again, to
hear about the coming year.
PAULETTE ROBINSON: It will be my pleasure.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me also tell our audience we've got some interesting
things coming up on Metanomics over the summer. The first one is something pretty
new for us. There is a very interesting live event in Toronto taking place from June 15th
to June 18th. Toronto has an event called Idea City. They have some fascinating
speakers throughout. This is a live event in Toronto, fascinating speakers, authors,
political writers, movie directors, performance artists, psychologists, thinkers. So I guess
here the Idealist News says, "Stop the world, and kick the men off. Idea City, the best
and brightest conference, turns the stage over to women who may save us all." And so
it's a very interesting list of influential and thought-provoking women.
We will be hosting. Metanomics will be providing a live stream into Second Life on the
Metanomics Sim so we invite you to join us. I believe that this is going to be a pay event
actually, but I will let people who know more about the details of this event provide the
information over the coming week, and we will see you all here next week then on the
Metanomics Sim, I hope.
So this is Rob Bloomfield saying thanks and bye bye.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com