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published: March 2004
The SEE Experience: Edutainment in 3D Virtual Worlds
Shared virtual worlds are innovative applications where several users, represented by Avatars, simultaneously access via Internet a 3D space. Users co-operate through interaction with the environment and with each other, manipulating objects and chatting as they go. Apart from in the well-documented online action games industry, now often played out in real-time over the Internet, the success stories of virtual worlds and shared VRML environments have been sporadic. Interest wanes from an enthusiastic beginning: the 3D world looks both enticing and promising, but the attention curve drops sharply as the users find the space either too difficult to navigate or not satisfyingly engaging. The key to the success or failure of these environments relates directly to the content offered and the ability of the environment to hold a critical mass of users in real time. This is the desperately sought after magic social glue that determines the experience to be meaningful and actively keeps the users under its virtual spell.
The paper will present an innovative project, a shared virtual world geared to schools in an educational and highly structured,environment. SEE, Shrine Educational Experience, is a co-operative project developed jointly by Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and the Politecnico di Milano, Italy, offering a pioneering educational environment based on a shared 3D virtual world, where classes from all over the world meet in order to learn and discuss issues related to the famous Dead Sea Scrolls and the tiny community (probably of Essenes) who once lived by the Dead Sea.