Student Projects – Community Meeting

July 22, 2014

Johanna Pirker from Graz University has volunteered to organize and run an Open Wonderland community meeting this coming Wednesday. We will meet on the community server.

Open Wonderland Community Meeting
Two Student Projects
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
1pm US Eastern time
(see event in your time zone:
Community server –

Session Overview

The first student, Lisa, is about to finish her Master’s Thesis. She is developing tools to support exploratory collaborative learning settings in the form of scavenger hunts in OWL. This includes (a) an itemize functionality, which provides objects with info text, (b) an info inventory, (c) a student manager, where the teacher can assign 1-4 roles to students, (d) an item board, which provides students with the gathered information, and (e) a quiz. As a first application scenario, Lisa displays the approach and her tools in a setup to learn about the Egyptian culture.

Patrick is also about to finish his Master’s Thesis. He is developing a graphical OWL editor, which can be used to move, rotate, and duplicate objects in the world in a 2D window. He will focus on the architecture and implementation of the tool.

OWL Showcase: STCC ESL Virtual Campus

December 3, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

Please join us for an informative OWL Showcase on Wednesday. We will be visiting Springfield Technical Community College’s (STCC) virtual campus currently being used to teach English as a Second Language (ESL).

OWL Showcase: STCC ESL Virtual Campus
Wednesday, December 5th
1-2pm US Eastern time
(see event time in your time zone)
Registration on Eventbrite required

WonderBuilders has worked with the STCC faculty to create an extensive learning environment for ESL students.

Collage of STCC virtual campus

Selection of STCC virtual campus spaces

In this US National Science Foundation sponsored project, two ESL classrooms are completing their first semester-long deployment of Open Wonderland. During the tour, attendees will have the opportunity to try out some of the in-world activities designed for students including recording audio conversations, going on an activity scavenger hunt, participating in a photo hunt, and creating a custom fair booth.

Registration is required for this event. Since this not a public world, the URL for the server will not be made public. The login information will only be sent to people who register using the Eventbrite link above.

If you plan on attending and have a smart phone, please consider taking some photos using Instagram so you can more fully participate in the “photo hunt” activity. You can see a preview of this activity in the ESL Department’s recently published Photo Hunt album on Facebook as well as a preview of the Multi-Cultural Fair Booth Activity.

If you are not able to make the tour on Wednesday, there is a possibility of another tour on Sunday, December 16th at 2pm US Eastern time. If enough people express interest, we will set up a second tour on that date. To express interest, please leave a comment on this blog article or post a message on the Open Wonderland forum.

Postcards Part II – New Participants Wanted!

November 7, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

Last month, we held our first ever Open Wonderland code-a-thon, working on a project we called Postcards From Wonderland. The non-technical code-a-thon participants created a screenshot journal of the project in an album on the Open Wonderland Facebook page. Be sure to click on the images to read the narrative. This Sunday, we will be continuing this project, brainstorming and implementing ways to publish the postcards to social media sites. This event is being managed via Eventbrite. If you would like to attend, please sign up here:

Sign up for the
Second Open Wonderland Code-A-Thon

Sunday, November 11th
1-9pm US Eastern time
See time in your timezone

It is not necessary to have participated last time to join this Sunday. This event is an excellent, free learning opportunity for both developers and non-developers. Developers can learn about Open Wonderland programming from more experienced developers, and non-technical attendees will have an opportunity to experience a variety of Open Wonderland’s collaboration tools in action.

First Postcards From Wonderland Code-a-thon

Participants in the first Postcards From Wonderland code-a-thon used multiple collaboration tools including a shared copy of NetBeans, a card wall, sticky notes, and a VNC session to watch code testing on another Wonderland server.

First Open Wonderland Code-A-Thon

October 9, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

This is a call for participation for our first ever Open Wonderland code-a-thon. This event is being managed via Eventbrite:

Sign up for the
First Open Wonderland Code-A-Thon

Sunday, October 14th
1-9pm US Eastern time
See time in your timezone

During the code-a-thon, participants will divide up into a set of cooperating teams to design and build a new Open Wonderland feature. The theme for this first code-a-thon is Postcards From Wonderland.

Physical "postcards from Wonderland"
Design of original physical postcards from Wonderland

Postcards From Wonderland

If you review the notes from the October 3rd code-a-thon planning meeting, you will see that we established a set of goals for the code-a-thons and discussed desirable attributes of code-a-thon projects. In that meeting, after brainstorming a list of possible project ideas, we selected the Postcards From Wonderland theme because it met the criteria of being a small, but fun project that we felt was doable in the code-a-thon timeframe. When complete, it will also demonstrate a number of important aspects of the Wonderland environment, including the ease of building a small new feature and the flexibility that the development environment offers in terms of integrating with external web services. In this case, the integration is all “outbound” integration. That is, taking data from within a Wonderland world and pushing it out to other services.

The idea for the project dates back almost to the time the Wonderland project was launched at Sun Microsystems in 2007. For one of our early public demos, we created the set of physical postcards shown above to hand out to visitors. We gave these to people along with postcard stamps so they could write the cards and send them to friends via postal mail telling them about the cool new virtual environment.

Inspired by this concept, the project theme for the first code-a-thon is to design and implement a feature that allows people visiting any in-world location to automatically generate a postcard from the scene they are looking at, add some text, and send the card. Depending on how many teams we have, we will tackle ways to send cards via email or to post them on web sites that have programmatic access (eg, Facebook, Google+, Flickr, Instagram, etc.).

Call for Participation

Given the nature of the 3D environment, Open Wonderland code-a-thons are not just for hackers. Of course, software developers are crucial to the endeavor, but for the event to be a success, we will also need people with a range of other skills. We need people to help design the user interface for the new project. We need 3D artists and world builders to create an interesting 3D world to show off the new project. We need writers to create documentation, write blog posts, and update social media feeds. And we need people to help with logistics, system administration tasks, and web research.

We understand that people are in different timezones and probably have family commitments on the weekend, so it is not necessary to attend the entire event. We do request, however, that if you sign up, you will commit to a minimum of two hours of time helping out during the course of the event. Also, to the extent possible, we would like everyone to attend for the first half an hour. That will be the time when we do an overview of the project and divide up into teams.

No prior Open Wonderland experience is necessary to participate. These code-a-thons are an excellent way to get started with Open Wonderland development and world building. They are also an opportunity to see how we use the environment ourselves to organize group work and to collaborate.

Follow the link above to register for the event. It’s free!

Fall Meeting Schedule, etc.

September 18, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

As many of you know, we held a series of Open Wonderland meetings recently to discuss the future of community meetings along with a number of other topics.

September 5, 2012 Community Meeting
September 5, 2012 Community Meeting

Fall Meeting and “Code-a-thon” Schedule

The major new idea we discussed was holding longer weekend “code-a-thons” approximately once a month rather than weekly one-hour coding sessions. A code-a-thon is where developers come together and work on a project from start to finish in one day.

Instead of coding during the weekly meetings, we talked about cycling through a number of other types of meetings. First, we’ll move the monthly release meetings into a regular meeting time slot. The other weekly meeting slots will include planning for the code-a-thon sessions, hosting community showcase events, and having discussions on topics of interest to the community. The showcase events will involve a person or team providing a presentation and / or a tour of their Open Wonderland virtual world. The discussion topics will primarily be non-technical, but we may occasionally include developer-oriented content.

Open Wonderland Fall Schedule

All Wednesday meetings start at 1pm US Eastern time and run for 1 hour and all Sunday code-a-thons start at 1pm US Eastern and run for 5-7 hours.

Wed Sep 19 Monthly Release Meeting
Wed Sep 26 Discussion: Business Case for OWL
Wed Oct 03 Code-a-thon Planning Meeting
Wed Oct 10 Showcase: Ryan’s Builder Project
Sun Oct 14 Code-a-thon

Wed Oct 24 Monthly Release meeting
Wed Oct 31 Discussion: Wishlist for Data Collection
Wed Nov 07 Code-a-thon Planning Meeting
Sun Nov 11 Code-a-thon

Wed Nov 28 Monthly Release Meeting
Wed Dec 05 Showcase: STCC ESL World
Wed Dec 12 Code-a-thon Planning Meeting
Sun Dec 16 Code-a-thon

Holiday Break

Everyone in the community is encouraged to submit discussion topic ideas and volunteer to showcase their project.

The Open Wonderland Meeting Calendar is now available as a public Google Calendar with the calendar ID:

You can add it to an iCal application using this URL:

Webcasting and Recording Meetings

Over the past year we have gotten quite a few requests to webcast and record meetings. After brainstorming about this topic, someone suggested we try Livestream. Since this costs $45 a month, I decided to experiment with the free version of UStream first. We now have a UStream Open Wonderland Community Meeting channel. It has a few drawbacks, but I would like to try it for a few meetings and see how we like it. The drawbacks include advertisements and what may be an inability to capture both microphone and computer audio. I don’t think either of these are show stoppers. We can capture in-world audio, so someone will have to set up the capture computer as a “camera,” but do any talking on another computer.


An additional topic we covered was listing priorities. Different people had different opinions about importance, but most people agreed that these items were significant areas to focus on:

  • Avatar improvements or a whole new avatar system
  • Audio improvements
  • Updating OWL graphics
  • Addressing firewall issues and tunneling
  • Creating additional developer APIs to make development easier
  • Improving stability

Recruiting New Developers and Other Community Members

Another topic we discussed was how to grow the community in terms of both developers and non-technical community members. For the more technical people, we discussed coming up with a preliminary code-a-thon project that was glitzy enough to make a demo video and post it on developer sites to inspire interest in Open Wonderland. We also talked about putting time estimates in the issue tracker so that new developers could find small projects to volunteer to tackle.

For both technical and non-technical people, we should do a better job of publicizing our meetings in places like Hacker News, the agile software development community, and LinkedIn groups related to virtual worlds, distance education, serious gaming, collaboration, or software development. In addition, we should get people already in the OWL community to publicize the event to their local colleagues as well as to their social networks. For that purpose, it would be great to have a PDF flyer that people could either email to friends or print out and post on a physical bulletin board.

To attract more students, it would be helpful to update our student project list and then send the list to as many Computer Science departments as possible.

For a general audience, we talked about launching a “Do it in Wonderland” campaign.

All of these publicity ideas require some additional volunteer help. We’re hoping to get a work/study student volunteer from St. Paul College to help out during the semester, but it would be great if community members would volunteer to take the lead on some of these publicity items.

Wonderland Showcase – iED Boston 2012

July 13, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

At that Immersive Education conference in Boston last month, eight Open Wonderland community members from 6 different countries joined me remotely to show off their work. Here’s a brief summary of the worlds and features presented during the showcase. In all cases, the presenters have agreed to leave their spaces running on the community server. If you missed the conference, you can explore the spaces on your own. Simply log on to the community server and use the Placemarks menu to navigate to the different spaces.

WonderBuilders Outpatient Clinic

I began the session by showing one of the simulated medical spaces created by my company WonderBuilders.

WonderBuilders Outpatient Clinic

WonderBuilders Outpatient Clinic

This virtual outpatient clinic is designed for communications skills training. Each of our virtual clinical spaces comes with a soundproof observation room with one-way windows so that instructors and others can observe students during role-playing scenarios. This space also features a non-player character that speaks, a poster with links to different portions of the space, an App Frame for organizing documents, and pop-up questions using a modified version of the Sheet Suite developed jointly by WonderBuilders and the University of Missouri.


Michael Gardner from the University of Essex talked about the +Spaces (pronounced “positive spaces”) EU-funded project aimed at engaging citizens in policy-making. Michael showed excerpts from this role-play video:

To learn more about the use of role playing in the +Spaces project, as well as the Wonderland modules developed as part of this project, see these previous WonderBlog articles or search the blog for articles by “Bernard Horan.”

Entrepreneur Space

Johanna Pirker from Graz University in Austria took us on a tour of the space she created for teaching entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneur Space

Entrepreneur Space from Graz University

This space includes an informal area for students to get to know one another, an area for presentations, and a work area where students, mentors, and instructors can collaborate.


Roland Sassen demonstrated WonderSchool, an on-line school that takes advantage of Wonderland’s ability to run shared applications within the virtual world.


WonderSchool with the Alice programming environment.

Roland demonstrated how he can teach students to use complex software such as the Alice programming environment from within the virtual world. He also demonstrated other dynamic applications running remotely inside a VNC Viewer window.

Seekers School Maze

Chris Derr, head of the Seekers School, talked about using Wonderland in his innovative curriculum to motivate kids who have had difficulty in other school situations.

Seeker School student activities

Seeker School student activities

The students spent the past semester learning how to build Open Wonderland worlds, including making their own 3D models in SketchUp and creating simple animations using Wonderland’s EZScript capability. Among other things, the students created a fun maze, mountain climbing challenges, and a colorful spinning roof.


Ryan Babiuch from the University of Missouri iSocial project showed one of the many learning spaces used as part of their curriculum for remotely teaching social competency skills to students with autism spectrum disorders.


iSocial space used in teaching students with autism.

This curriculum was pilot tested this past semester in two schools. While the data has not yet been fully analyzed, the initial results were extremely positive.


Michel Denis and Gery Winkler from ImmerHire showed the Survival on the Moon space they use to help assess logical thinking skills.

ImmerHire - Assessing Logical Thinking

ImmerHire – Assessing logical thinking in the Survival on the Moon scenario.

The ImmerHire environment is intended to help employers evaluate communication, personal, and social skills of job applicants using a range of virtual role-play activities.

STCC Virtual Campus

Kristy Perry, an English-as-a-second-language (ESL) professor at Springfield Technical Community College, showed one of the spaces she designed on the STCC Virtual Campus.

STCC Virtual Campus - patio

STCC Virtual Campus – patio

This patio space is intended as a venue for small group projects and conversation practice. The STCC Virtual Campus will be deployed for Level 2 ESL students starting in September.

Wonderland Wednesday Projects

Jonathan Kaplan, our Wonderland architect, demonstrated the three Wonderland Wednesday community projects that he has lead. These projects – Telepointers, EZMove, and Subsnapshot Import/Export – were all developed collaboratively on the Open Wonderland community server. In the weekly Wonderland Wednesday meetings, developers worked together using NetBeans and other shared applications.

Telepointer demonstration

Telepointer demonstration

The new Telepointers are considerably more aesthetically appealing than the old telepointers. More importantly, they now work when you have control of a 2D application. For multi-user applications such as the Whiteboard, this is particularly helpful as it allows users to see where everyone else is working.

Be sure to visit the community server to see these spaces and try out the set of Wonderland Wednesday features.

6 Sites for Free 3D Models

May 29, 2012

By Melanie Slaugh

Melanie is enthusiastic about the growing prospects and opportunities of various industries and writing articles on consumer goods and services as a freelance writer. She writes extensively for internet service providers and also topics related to internet service providers in her area for presenting the consumers, the information they need to choose the right Internet package for them.

If you are a fan of Open Wonderland, then you know how helpful it is to start your world building project with existing 3D models. Since Open Wonderland uses 3D models in .kmz (Google Earth) or .dae (COLLADA) formats, compatible file downloads can be difficult to find, especially ones you don’t have to shell out big bucks for.

Most Open Wonderland users are familiar with the Google 3D Warehouse, but there are other sites that also offer 3D models for free.

Open Wonderland scene with objects from 4 sites.

Open Wonderland scene with objects from 4 sites.

For example, in the image above, the Japanese Vase comes from the Google 3D Warehouse, the Miss Lacy Chairs from 3DVia, the Couch from OurBricks and the Tennis Racket from TurboSquid.

Some of the sites have more variety than others, and some of the sites have some great models, but not in compatible formats. For those, you can often use the models if you can convert them. For educators, Autodesk makes all of their 3D modeling tools available for free from their Autodesk Education Community site, so even if you don’t know how to use those tools, it’s not too difficult to learn enough to convert from one file format to another. When browsing these sites, keep in mind that for a real-time environment like Open Wonderland, you will get the best performance with models under 2MB.

  1. Google 3D Warehouse – The accompanying website for Google SketchUp where modelers can upload, download and share three dimensional models. When you have access to this, you have access to tons of free 3D models.
  2. OurBricks – This is a small but growing site with almost all models in COLLADA format. One unique feature of this site is that it supports animated COLLADA models, some of which work well in Wonderland.
  3. TheFree3DModels–This site offers a variety of free 3D models in various formats. You can’t use the search box to find ones that are compatible with Wonderland. They are out there, however. You’ll have to scroll through the listing to find them, though all models are clearly labeled with file types, which helps.
  4. 3DVia–This site requires you to sign up, but it is still free. You can download various 3D models, made by people like you. You can also upload your models, so that you can access them anywhere and share them with others. It is super easy to search by file type, which is a huge plus! They also have a very large selection to choose from.
  5. TurboSquid–This site has 3D models you have to pay for plus free ones. The search for free brings up over 7800 results, so the selection is good. Finding compatible formats is a little harder. There is no good search for them, so you will just have to look manually. The format types are listed in the thumbnails, however. If you do opt to pay for a model, TurboSquid will convert the model to .dae for no extra charge.
  6. Exchange3D–This site is also a mix of free and pay 3D models. The bad thing is that you can’t search for just the free ones. You have to hunt them down. The good thing is that you can search for the format types. At least it is some help.

No matter what type of 3D model you are looking for, someone out there has probably made it. Save time and energy by taking a few minutes to search these six websites. Maybe you can find a free model to use. If not, remember to share your creations with the world, and help out other fans of Open Wonderland.

You can contact Melanie at slaugh.slaugh907 @

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