I’m sure many of you out there wouldn’t mind the opportunity of being someone else for the day –to be able to do things you wouldn’t normally dare to do as yourself. Cue the virtual reality game Second Life. For those of you who don’t know, Second Life was developed by Linden Labs and released for the public in 2003. Users can create a completely different persona in this fantasy world and have absolute control over their environment, basically having the freedom to become whoever they want, hence its popularity. Unfortunately, it is also exactly for this reason that Second Life has had a lot of bad press over the years ; when us humans get together without any restrictions, of course things are going to get a little naughty! Famously, Second Life even led to a real-world divorce due to an affair within its virtual walls.
Recently however, there seems to be quite a large number of medical projects springing up across Second Life, finally giving the game a chance to shake off its flawed past and become a valuable research tool. One of the most prominent of these projects was developed by the University of California campus on Second Life (yes – universities exist this virtual world, including our very own Trent Building complete with Impact advertising!). The University of California developed ‘hallucination island’ – an area in the game where you can go to experience symptoms of schizophrenia. The pictures on the walls move and you start to hear voices in your head. Other areas in the game act as hospitals where avatars become patients to virtually experience a particular procedure, and medical students from the real world can come to practise techniques and communication skills.
This new method of 3D, virtual, interactive research is exciting stuff, possibly beginning to pave the way for the technology we know so well to finally become integrated into the medical world.
Any Second Life users out there interested in taking part in University of Nottingham scientific research within the game, please e-mail [email protected] for the full details.