Building a presentation system (part one)

On and off I’ve been working on a solid presentation system for inside SL/OpenSim. Yes I know a traditional screen and presentation isn’t the most immersive thing you can think of but for teacher led instruction classes or people unfamiliar yet with VW’s it’s a good start.

First of all we need to examine what tools we can use. There’s of course audio, video and inworld media.

The use of audio.
Of course we can use voice chat in Second Life. It’s an easy way for a roundtable meeting or informal discussion. For a bit larger group it’s not really suited because there’s delay, people talking while the speakers holding its speech and so on.

Secondly we can use an audio stream, a dedicated channel which streams audio from a source input. In the follow up posting we’ll examine more closely how to use an audio stream with a microphone and programs like Skype and a number of music programs.

The use of video.
Currently in Second Life we’re able to stream a certain number of types videos. Aside from actual video, the system also is able to show basic (non-interactive) web pages and Flash videos. The most common types of video used in Second Life today are .mpg (MPEG), .mov(QuickTime) and .mp4 (most known from YouTube). Familiar ‘Microsoft’ video types like .wmv and .avi are unfortunately not supported.

The use of inworld media.
What we basically mean by this is using images (or bits of audio) you uploaded to your inventory to create a slide show.

Most presentations will likely have a mixture of the above types of media so how do you build an easy to use but yet flexible system? Well I’ve tried to come up with an approach specifically with guest speakers in mind who are usually tech skilled but lack a bit SL experience.
The basic requirements that I’ve come up with are:

  • A desktop program to use to prepare and control the presentation.
    Easy upload images, control local media stream (webcam/screencast).
  • Easy to use inworld HUD to control the live presentation inworld.
    GUI for all functionality so speakers can focus on the topic.
  • Ability to switch between different media types and show multiple simultaneously.
    Allowing for easy mixture of video, screencast and slides.
  • Workable in Second Life and OpenSim and on group land or self owned.

To achieve this, our presentation system will consist of 5 items:
First a land adaptor is needed. The land adaptor is nothing but a command relay device to switch the video and audio streams on group land without the need of the person controlling the presentation system to be part of the land owner group. The land adaptor can be hidden anywhere and just has to be ‘there’.

Secondly we’ll build a ‘speaker pod’. This can be a podium, a chair, a console, whatever is suitable for the environment. This device will contain some basic notecards as to who is authorized to use the system, and it will contain some notecard data regarding streams and slides.

The third device is the HUD. The HUD is an GUI for the speaker to wear so he can easily control what happens next. For instance he can switch from video stream 1 to video stream 2 or forward to the next slide or invoke a laser pointer.

Of course we’re going to need something to present on, call it a black board, TV screen or whatever you like. On this screen the presentation will be conducted. This screen will be fully controllable through the HUD so a speaker can opt for a 16*9 regular size screen, a 48*27 big screen or two separate screens so (s)he can simultaneously show live video on one and for instance a slide on the other.

Last but definitely not least, we’ll be using a desktop application. Why a desktop application? Well frankly uploading textures, organizing them in inventory and writing notecards can be troublesome to novice SL users. So we are going to code a program that will do this automatically for us. Along the way we might add some little extra features to it, but for starters we’ll just focus on getting a presentation ready.

On the next post we’ll start with the simple stuff and get our land adaptor, speaker pod, screens and HUD ready before diving into the coding. In the meantime feel free to come up with suggestions or idea’s…

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