Second Life Seeks to Capture Business from Nonprofits and Educational Institutions During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Many social VR platforms and virtual worlds are currently trying to woo business users who are unexpectedly forced to shift to support remote workers in the face of an unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.

Screen capture from Second Life’s new micro-website

Today, Linden Lab’s virtual world, Second Life, announced:

We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about how Second Life can help organizations, events, and conferences continue to safely and efficiently operate during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Many individuals and organizations are being affected by this unprecedented public health crisis, and we recognize that Second Life can provide an important and valuable way for people to stay in touch with their friends and co-workers amidst new social distancing protocols, mandated remote work requirements, and other precautionary measures.

One of the first things we’ve implemented to help is a reduction in pricing to a flat $99/month per region to qualified accredited nonprofit or educational institutions. Effective immediately, this limited-time price reduction is applicable to any new or added regions including renewals of existing regions.

Linden Lab has also announced that they are expanding their Second Life support, although no exact details were given in the blogpost.

As part of this new initiative, there is a new micro website and a detailed Second Life Work FAQ.

I think that this is quite a savvy move for Linden Lab to make, and the lowered sim costs might just entice a few non-profit and educational institutions to take a second look at Second Life. (I hope that they keep Sansar alive, for many of the same reasons. I now wonder what would have happened if Linden Lab had decided to keep Sansar going for just another six months or a year. A coronavirus-based boost might have kept the project going. Of course, we’ll never know for sure…)

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Wuhan Coronavirus Update, February 20th, 2020: Coursera and Imperial College London Are Offering a Free, Eight-Week Course on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 to the General Public

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (orange)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (green) cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML

I decided it was time for a quick update on the SARS-CoV-2 virus outbreak. (The Wuhan coronavirus had an interim name of 2019-nCoV, but it is now known officially by scientific researchers as SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes is now referred to as COVID-19.)

In the past few days, there have been various worrying reports of human-to-human transmission of the virus in countries outside of China: Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and, for the first time, Iran. It would appear that despite our best containment efforts, the virus, which seems to be as easily transmissible as regular seasonal influenza, is slowly spreading worldwide. Scientists are studying these outbreaks outside China in an effort to better understand the virus.

Coursera is offering a free eight-week online course with Imperial College London, called Science Matters: Let’s Talk About COVID-19:

Welcome to this Science Matters on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) – a free course to learn about the science underpinning the outbreak response.

On January 30th, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus, now officially referred to as COVID19.

As the epidemic seems to spread to more and more countries, people around the world are wondering about the trajectory of the epidemic and whether they should be concerned. Media reports of the epidemic often focus on the more eye-catching events: governments evacuating their citizens from Hubei province, passengers on cruise ships being stopped from disembarking following a detection of a case, or images of supermarket supplies running out in areas perceived to be at high risk. On social media, other reports about the epidemic range from unsupported rumours to deliberate disinformation are increasing a sense of panic many individuals are experiencing. Robust, reliable analysis is vital at this stage not only as a way to give concerned members of the public a sense of perspective, but also to support governments and other stakeholders in planning their responses.

Researchers at the MRC Centre of Global Infectious Diseases Analysis (GIDA) and the Jameel Institute for Disease Emergency Analytics (J-IDEA) have been working hard on coming up with reliable estimates of the spread of the epidemic and its prospects, and are doing this in close collaboration with a number of global stakeholders, including the World Health Organisation (WHO).

You will hear directly from the experts conducting the analyses. You will be able learn about the current state of the epidemic, while also learn about the epidemiological and public-health principles and challenges that underpin these analyses. This will include understanding how the spread of the epidemic is modelled, how transmissibility of infections is estimated, what the challenges are in estimating the case fatality ratio, and also learning about the importance of community involvement in responding to the epidemic.

Today I finished the first two weeks of the online course, and I can recommend it very highly! You do not need to have a science background in order to understand the concepts, which are clearly explained.


Good Sources of Information on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19

Here is my updated list of good, credible, authoritative resources to learn more about the Wuhan coronoavirus (formerly called 2019-nCoV and now officially called SARS-CoV-2; the disease the virus causes is now called COVID-19):

If you want a quick, up-to-date overview of the current situation, here are three good places to check:

Stay informed, get prepared, and stay healthy!

Acadicus: A Brief Introduction to a Social VR Platform for Education

Acadicus is a social VR platform for educational purposes, created by a Wisconsin-based company called Arch Virtual. The platform is similar in scope and aim to other educational social VR products such as ENGAGE.

Acadicus offers a massive library of environments and assets for educators to create and share customized VR training content and recordings. They explain the purpose of the platform as follows:

As new research continues to demonstrate the effectiveness of VR training and more people have an opportunity to experience it, there’s steadily increasing demand for quality VR training and education content.

However, the complexity, expense and time required to develop quality VR training has become a massive bottleneck to adoption.  One-size-fits all applications are inflexible, expensive to keep updated, and only cover a fraction of topics.  Every region, institution, and individual does things a little differently, and these differences are important to them. 

We created Acadicus to revolutionize the process of accessing and creating VR training experiences at a fraction of the cost, enabling broadband knowledge transfer from the mind of an expert into the immersive experience of a learner in VR.  

You can download a copy of the Acadicus client software for Oculus Rift VR headsets from their website for free, and use it to explore their featured content, offering everything from pediatric surgery roleplay to Blackhawk helicopter training!

Acadicus offers a Pro Space service, which they describe as follows:

Acadicus Pro Spaces include everything needed to create, customize, and host simulations and multi-user demonstrations.  Gain access to our large and growing library of assets and environments you can use to create and save your scene.  Acadicus is currently compatible with Oculus Rift and Oculus Rift S.

Acadicus Pro Spaces are a US$10,000 per year subscription, with multi-space discounts available.

There’s a detailed user guide available to download from their website. You can also follow Acadicus vis social media on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. And I’ve added it to my list of social VR/virtual worlds.

LearnBrite: A Brief Introduction

LearnBrite is similar to many other products which I have already covered in this blog, such as Apertus VR, Engage, Edorble, Rumii, and NeosVR, in that it offers tools for people wanting to build virtual worlds for educational purposes. LearnBrite bills itself “The only VR-Ready authoring tool designed with Trainers in Mind”:

With LearnBrite, you simply author once in the VR-Ready Workflow and it automatically brings your micro-learning and instructor led training to life on mobile, tablet, desktop and VR/AR without writing a single line of code.

That means you can create immersive 3D (for flat screens like mobile & desktop) or AR/VR experiences that put your learner right in the middle of the action to fully engage their senses as they PLAY through your scenarios.

This is your opportunity to design active learning modules that will help solve performance issues & behavioral challenges in a fun & engaging way vs the “point, click, quiz” method that has most learners “checked out” after the 1st slide.

Here’s an example of LearnBrite in use at Curtin University, where it was used to help train students on how to do a home visit on an elderly woman that aims to provide support to allow her to continue to live at home:

What’s surprising to me about LearnBrite is how expensive it is:

LearnBrite 14 Aug 2018

Obviously, they are targeting customers with large budgets! And they do seem to have a rather impressive list of customers:

LearnBrite 4 14 Aug 2018

They also outline what they call “premium complimentary” services available at each price point:

LearnBrite 2 14 Aug 2018.png

That line of fine print along the bottom reads, “Because of the high demand for these services, we can only guarantee availability for the next 20 subscribers.” Which, of course, is a standard sales technique: “Act now, supplies are limited!”

What I find odd is that most other platforms provide “built-in conferencing” for free, as a part of the platform (hence the term “built-in”), so why is LearnBrite charging for it, and why are they limiting it to only a certain number of hours per month?

Here’s a quick list of features and a look at their avatars:

LearnBrite 3 14 Aug 2018.png

Hmmm…sure sounds (and looks) an awful lot like Second Life to me, which has had educators using it for teaching purposes for well over a decade now (here’s a list of resources from their wiki and they even have an Educator’s Portal set up).

If you’re interested in building educational virtual worlds and social VR experiences, you might want to take a look at LearnBrite, but you might also wish to consider other, potentially cheaper alternatives like Engage and (of course) Second Life.