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Section 4: Collaborative Virtual Environments#

4.5 Active Worlds #

4.5.1 What is Active Worlds?

Active Worlds is a company which offers software products and on-line services. The company hosts collaborative virtual environments that have been developed using its software. For example, AlphaWorld is a virtual 'real estate' in which users can create and visit virtual structures. Free software is available from Active Worlds that is straightforward to install and clear instructions are available. 'Active Worlds' is a browser in its own right and does not rely on either Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer. AlphaWorld provides users with access to more than 1000 inhabited worlds, many of which are commercial and incorporate shopping facilities.

4.5.2 Using Active Worlds

Users can participate in 'Active Worlds' on two levels: tourist and citizen. Tourists can visit and chat without charge at anytime. Citizens pay an annual fee in order to be able to send and receive ‘telegrams’ and to be able to ‘build’ on a plot of land. Tourists have a choice of a male or female avatar; citizens have a greater choice of avatars offering a wider range of expressions.

A chat window is located below the 3-D browser window and in addition messages are displayed above the heads of each avatar. This feature means that users don't have to check the chat window all the time. The physical means of expression depend on the avatar, but can include ANGRY, HAPPY, POINT, SHOVE, DANCE, WAVE, or FIGHT. Active Worlds offers quite sophisticated animations but, unlike Blaxxun (see Section 4.6) where users can design their personal avatar, in Active Worlds the avatars and their abilities are pre-defined.

An interesting feature of Active Worlds is the web page window that appears at the side, giving information about the world and its community. Citizens can create links from a plot of land to pages, images, and other multimedia files that appear either in the 3-D space or in the browser window at the side.

4.5.3 Creating a world

Citizens can claim their own piece of cyberspace and build a 'home' on it which can be visited by other users. Active Worlds incorporates a library of pre-defined elements which provide the building blocks with which citizens can create a house, castle, spaceship etc. The company also works with commercial clients to develop worlds for them. Active Worlds has launched an 'Education Universe' to make their technology available to educators at lower costs.

For more detailed information, take the ActiveWorlds Guided Tour or visit the ActiveWorlds University which offers citizens free classes in building worlds.

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