18 Oct UW-Madison releases open 3D collaboration environment
Madison, Wis. — The Croquet Project, a joint software development effort among the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), the University of Minnesota and Viewpoints Research Institute, Inc. of Glendale California, has announced the release of the Croquet developers’ release code named “Jasmine.” Jasmine is a new open-source software technology and peer-to-peer network architecture that supports online learning and resource sharing among large numbers of users.
“Through the public release of this software technology, we are seeking to harness the creative power of thousands of software developers and seed the development of transformative technologies for learning and teaching,” says Annie Stunden, UW-Madison’s chief information officer and director of DoIT.
The Croquet Project has generated much interest among the software development community. Its Web site received more than 1 million page requests in the first two days following the software release on October 12.
Croquet enables development of entirely new 2D and 3D graphical user interfaces in which representations of different types of information (including Web sites) can be organized, customized, accessed and shared among large numbers of people. Much more than a 3D interface, Croquet is a complete 3D workspace that allows for co-creativity, knowledge sharing and deep social presence among large numbers of people.
Eventual end users of the system’s technology at UW-Madison and beyond will be able to communicate with one another by video, voice and text. They also will be able to design complex shareable spaces either individually or while working with others online. Any number of spaces can be connected with each other through 3D “portals” that function much as hyperlinks do within the World Wide Web. Users will be able to access the Web and other resources through Croquet, as well as be able to find and connect with each other through the larger context of Croquet’s shared and persistent 3D spaces.
“Croquet is intended as a next step in the evolution of computer user interfaces. It defines a fundamentally new approach to interactions with computers and network resources in a way that has broad application to learning and instruction,” says Julian Lombardi, assistant director at DoIT, who, along with DoIT’s senior scientist Alan Kay, are two of the six principal architects of the system. This year, Kay won the 2004 Kyoto Prize, and the 2004 Turing and Draper Awards for his role in developing the technologies that underlie Croquet.
“We are moving beyond the Web page and exploring how best to use the power of the graphics capability and high-speed connectivity of today’s consumer computers for educational purposes,” says Lombardi.
This initial release is written in Squeak, a branch of the Smalltalk software language developed by Kay. “Jasmine” is being made available for the Macintosh, Windows and Linux platforms, and is aimed at experienced software developers who can use it to build educational applications that take advantage of the power of its underlying technology. A subsequent end-user version (version 1.0) is slated for release during 2005.
“Students, faculty and instructional staff at UW-Madison and beyond will greatly benefit from the proliferation of this software development effort,” Lombardi said.
Brian Rust with the UW-Madison Division of Information Technology can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.