Teaching a Psychology Course at Mount Royal University using AltspaceVR

Dr. Tony Chaston in the virtual world he created for his psychology course in AltspaceVR

Psychology Professor Tony Chaston of Mount Royal University (in Calgary, Alberta, Canada) has developed a new psychology course that will teach students using the social VR platform AltspaceVR. The undergraduate-level course, which is called The Digital Frontier: Perception, AI and Virtual Reality in Psychology, is described as follows in the course calendar:

This course focuses on psychological theory and application relevant to interacting with current and emerging digital technologies. Topics will typically include interfacing and communicating with artificial intelligence, perception and cognition in digital spaces such as virtual and augmented reality and how we can feel “present” in our digital experiences. This course will be taught in a Virtual Reality Classroom. 

Note: This course requires students to have a Virtual Reality Head Mounted Display (HMD). 

According to a news article from Mount Royal:

The first of its kind in Canada, the class, which started Sept. 14, filled its 20 spots (standard for a fourth-year psych course) in a matter of days…

“Immersion in media is a topic that’s been around for a long time, but it takes on a whole different level when you talk about it in VR,” Chaston says, noting it will play a role in everything from work and play to shopping as retailers set up VR stores.

After diving deep into what VR is and how it works, the course will focus on Chaston’s research into using VR nature scenes to lower stress levels. The class is set up as a three-hour block and already students have been invited to a couple of VR “events” to ensure they are comfortable in the space.The first day was an introduction, including basic etiquette for behaviour in VR. While most class time will be in VR, there will be time for group work that uses other more traditional online formats like Google Meet so that students aren’t wearing headsets for three hours straight. As note-taking is tough in VR, those will be provided separately.

Chaston credits Anna Nuhn (who has since left MRU) and Erik Christiansen at the Riddell Library and Learning Centre and MRU psychology professor Dr. Evelyn Field, PhD, for their help over the past year in developing the course.

“This course is possible thanks to Tony’s willingness to immerse himself in the pedagogy of VR and best practices for designing virtual learning environments,” said Christiansen, an assistant professor and subject librarian at the MRU Library who has a background in information technology.

It’s wonderful to see more use cases of social VR in university teaching! For 15 more examples of the use of social VR in higher education, I can refer you to my recent half-hour presentation on the topic to the University of Manitoba Senate Committee on Academic Computing, as well as all my blogposts tagged Higher Education.


Thank you to Kari Kumar of the University of Manitoba for the heads up!

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: A Beautiful Free Ballgown from SOFIA

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Steals, Deals & Freebies group yet? I will be posting EVEN MORE news and tips on finding fabulous freebies and bargains in Second Life than I post here on the blog! More information on this brand new SL group here.


One of the things I love about Second Life is that, even after 14 years of criss-crossing the grid, I still encounter stores that I have never visited before! And today, I visited a store, new to me, which is actually celebrating its 15th anniversary in SL, called SOFIA.

If you join the SOFIA store group for free, you can pick up this fabulous red ballgown for free:

So, of course, I had to style a look around this glorious gown!

Here’s your limo to take you to SOFIA…happy freebie shopping!

Vanity Fair is wearing:

  • Hair: Lady updo by Truth Hair
  • Jewelry: the Blossom ruby and black diamond jewelry set from J&W Jewelers, a store which unfortunately seems to have ceased operation, as I cannot find them in-world or on the SL Marketplace at all!
  • Gown: Mira Star gown in cherry (free gift from SOFIA; the group is free to join; the gown comes in sizes to fit Maitreya, Freya, Hourglass, Legacy and Kupra mesh bodies)
  • Shoes (not shown): Gigi crimson pumps by Garbaggio, my favourite shoe store! 
  • Gold Wedding Band: by Su Xue (as a warning signal to keep the male pestering to a minimum 😉 ).

Vanity Fair is also wearing:

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Free Home Decor from Trompe L’Oeil

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Steals, Deals & Freebies group yet? I will be posting EVEN MORE news and tips on finding fabulous freebies and bargains in Second Life than I post here on the blog! More information on this brand new SL group here.


I don’t usually write about Second Life home and garden decoration on this blog, but today I am making an exception for a treasure trove of free gifts available from a store called Trompe L’Oeil (pronounced trohmp luh-yuh, which is French for “optical illusion”, or literally “trick the eye”—a great name for a virtual furniture and home store!).

Trompe L’Oeil was one of those stores who were very generous during the Stay at Home Club, rotating their gifts of homes and chairs regularly, and continuing to give out gifts even after the Stay at Home Club ended! Today, I wanted to bring your attention to a selection of free gifts (no group is needed to pick these up). Right next to the main entrance to the store are three free gifts as shown below:

The gifts include a vintage end table in ten different colours, a dresser with a fun billiard-ball design (13 different versions), and what must be the biggest collection of free floor and table lamps anywhere on the grid—18 lamps in total!

Also, on the other side of the courtyard, with the Christmas decorations (look for a teepee made of blankets), Trompe L’Oeil is giving away two sets of Christmas decorations, which were Advent calendar gifts from 2012 and 2013 (you can purchase similar sets from more recent years on the large board to the right of this display, for L$750 each set).

Here’s a selection of the group gifts unpacked. There’s something for everyone!

Here’s your taxi to Trompe L’Oeil…happy freebie shopping!

Alter Ego, A New Fox/CTV Singing Competition Television Show Where the Contestants are Avatars: Further Proof that the Era of Avatarism is Upon Us

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 550 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse, its avatars, and all the companies building it. Come join us! More details here.


I don’t usually watch singing competition TV shows, but a new one has definitely got my attention! It’s called Alter Ego, and the Fox show (which will appear on CTV here in Canada) has a twist: instead of appearing on stage as themselves, they will be represented by their avatar, which they will drive while wearing a full motion-capture suit from backstage during their performances!

Yes, these are the same motion-capture suits which were used by the members of ABBA to create “ABBAtars”, presenting themselves as they were in 1979 in a future series of concerts to be held in London, England. In that blogpost, I argued that the era of avatarism (i.e. the freedom to choose the form in which you are seen by others) had truly arrived. And the Alter Ego TV show is further proof that the age of avatarism is indeed upon us!

The Fox 5 TV station in Altanta interviewed one of the contestants appearing in the first episode of Alter Ego:

Rolling Stone reporter Samantha Hissong wrote:

I was skeptical, a few weeks ago, as I approached the doors to a taping of Alter Ego, Fox’s new singing competition with a high-tech twist, but it felt the same as entering any old sound stage — at least for the first minute or so. On Alter Ego, which premieres this Wednesday night (September 22nd), the contestants don’t perform on stage, but rather behind a curtain whilst donning motion-capturing suits that control their own highly fantastical, augmented-reality avatars.

In typical music-TV fashion, the winner will get a cash prize ($100,000), as well as mentorship opportunities from celebrity judges: willi.i.am, Grimes, Alanis Morissette, and Nick Lachey. But the judges, along with host Rocsi Diaz and in-person audiences, watch the performances on eye-level monitors placed strategically around the room — so as to appear as if they’re looking centerstage. Moreover, the judges won’t learn the true identity of the winner until they’ve already won.

To film, Alter Ego relies on 14 cameras, eight of which use advanced camera-tracking technologies. “It’s not something that’s done in post,” creative producer Michael Zinman — who previously partnered with Fox on The Masked Singer — tells Rolling Stone on the still-empty studio floor. Above our heads, thousands of Infrared Reflective (IR) markers — one-inch-by-one-inch silver squares that, essentially, create a map for these cameras — twinkle like a mini galaxy.

The smart cameras then communicate with Unreal Engine, a video-game design software, to render the avatars in real time. (A company called Silver Spoon, which was responsible for creating virtual crowds for Major League Baseball in 2020, designed the 3D models in advance with creative input from the contestants. An augmented reality company called Lulu helped with the stage-plotting.)

Avatar data — things like eye color, height, and special effects — motion-capture data, lighting data, and camera data all meet in a hub of servers next to the mini stage behind the actual stage. “Then, if it all goes right, it spits it out and you see the composite,” Zinman explains. As the host, Diaz is the only one who really has to act, as she’s tasked with standing “next to” the avatars when they’re critiqued at the end of their performances: “You have to go back to your five-year-old self, play pretend, and talk with your imaginary friend,” she says. “It’s actually a lot of fun.”

Alter Ego contestant Dasharra Bridges and her avatar, Queen Dynamite (source: Rolling Stone)

The first episode of the show dropped yesterday, so you might want to check it out on your streaming service or cable TV! I know I’ll be watching every episode 🙂