… or trial by simulation.
A bright idea has flourished, there is enthusiatic support from colleagues, a funding proposal developed, funds secured; but then someone has to build it. Too often the “builders”, the ones who have to realise the vision, model and texture the builds and program the interactions and activities, are the last to be considered. Read on… and maybe spare more than a passing thought for those who bring the dreams to life.
June 2012 and I am looking back over my old emails and noting that confirmation of the grant coming through to create the simulation for this scenario arrived in my Inbox in December 2010. Secured by the department of Occupational and Aviation Medicine, University of Otago, for research into the effectiveness and acceptability of Second Life simulations in developing clinical competencies in special environments, the project is to be spread over one year with 100 hours of paid time for the development of three simulations. The expectations are unrealistic and though I have the required conversation, in the end, as the project leader quoted in his funding report, “I failed to appreciate from our early discussions with the Second Life Architect just how complex the task of building a virtual reality environment is.” Unfortunately this is an all too common occurrence and even with the scenarios reduced to one, an aeromedical transfer of a traumatic brain injury patient, I know I will more than likely require twice as many hours as are funded once the scenario is fully fleshed out. But this sort of work is just as much passion as profession and I am excited by the possibilities; so I am on board.
February 2011 I get down to Wellington to view both aircraft (helicopter and metroliner) and walk through with the University’s photographer, directing the taking of pictures for use as modelling templates, measuring structural items and listing the textures I will require. Leaving directions for texture shots with the photographer I return home. The images arrive about a week later on DVD. Though really for another post specifically on taking photographs for textures I’ll mention it briefly here; a well photographed image and you have a tiling texture uploaded and ready to use in very little time; an out of perspective, poorly lit, badly positioned photograph and you can struggle to get a good texture in under an hour. Though directions were given a lot of the texture specific photographs were in the latter category. This is another common occurrence; when instructing others to take photographs for use as textures the lack of understanding of the process of texture creation seems to result too often in a “this will do” attitude. Most photographs can be manipulated to serve their purpose but poor photography makes what should be a relatively straightforward process very time consuming.
Next up is to skype with the intensive care specialist, the content expert in this project, as he was unable to make the February meeting in Wellington. Emails go back and forth over a number of months between myself, the project manager and occassionally the specialist, attempting to get together and discuss the scenario specifics; then he pulls out of the project. Another one to add to the list of common occurrences; a content expert who is not really on board and committed to the process. Over the next few months more emails go back and forth. Not only do we not have the content expert but there is also no sighting of a signed contract. One more for the list; contracts for this form of work seem to throw administration departments into a tail spin. I do wonder at this stage if the project will ever really get under way.
Mid December 2011 rolls around and finally I have a contract, an intensive care expert who is on board and has delivered a detailed scenario, an already full work load for the next three months, and possibly a couple of hundred hours work to squeeze in before the end of March. One really does have to love doing this sort of work. By mid-April though and with a small time extension we have a working scenario, not fully fleshed out yet but enough for the possibility to be realised.
But oh I do wish sometimes that it wasn’t such a hard road getting there.