The virtual worlds operated by federal agencies are evolving in several directions and many of them — including more than 20 government virtual world projects — will be on display this week, May 16-18, at the 6th Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds (FCVW) Conference.

Established by the Information Resources Management College (iCollege) of the National Defense University in July 2007, the consortium was created to explore multi-agency and intra-agency collaboration using the robust capabilities of virtual worlds.

But for Paulette Robinson, assistant dean for teaching, learning and technology at NDU, who has been one the consortium’s lead visionaries, the real objective of the consortium is to help government agencies get first hand experience in sharing resources, training concepts and experiences of interacting with current and prospective employees, partners and others across the world through virtual worlds.

We caught up with Robinson to get her perspective on some of the innovative people, practices and principles that will be on display at the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds, being held on NDU’s real world campus at Ft. McNair in Washington, D.C. — and via the Internet at the conference’s virtual T2 Conference Center, located on the T2 PTSD Education island in Second Life.

“The initial virtual world projects in Second Life were created to interact with public around agency projects; NASA (for its Mars project), NOAA (for tsunami, oil spills, and other emergencies), the State Department (from Kansas to Cairo), NDU iCollege (offering meeting and educational tools) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) are examples of ongoing projects,” she said.

“In the conference, this type of project is exemplified by Dr. Kevin Holloway’s PTSD Island which serves as an educational outreach for soldiers, veterans and their families. Telemedicine is of growing interest in government funding. The Air Force, as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture vGov Project, the Army with Telemedicine and Technology (T2) Projects, and NIH sponsored projects are all using virtual worlds as part of their solutions,” she said.

“Collaborative efforts have been evolving around the military use of virtual worlds largely spear-headed by Douglas Maxwell, Army Research Labs. He has created a closed OpenSim environment to serve military communities who are developing education, experimentation, analytical displays, and various tools,” she added.

“In a larger effort, the Director of Training Readiness and Strategy, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Readiness), funded a study on the future of virtual worlds for DoD. The results of the study recommended the creation of an open-source, open standards platform that could be used not only by the Defense Department, but given away to anyone who wanted the platform. A beta version of the framework will be discussed at a workshop,” Robinson said.

“A larger collaborative effort, the National Training Education Resource (NTER) project (also open source, open standards) has been evolving at the Department of Energy. The platform has multiple capabilities for education including the ability to use virtual worlds using the VW Framework developed by DoD. The platform is not only available to government, but it is also open to educational institutions and providers of educational content,” she said.

Robinson also noted that there is “growing interest within agencies” for the use of games, not only to engage and inform the public, “but to use them as a mechanism for internal training,” citing work done by NOAA and NASA which have evolved a variety of games that create a virtual world for the player.

The Department of Transportation has similarly experimented with virtual worlds for a number of years.

“This year they exemplified saving money on travel expenses with a project using a browser-based virtual world, 3D Events, to bring a vendor fair in Las Vegas addressing bridge technologies to their employees out in the field,” she said. “Creating workspaces, conference spaces and group meeting rooms in virtual worlds to enrich telework” has generated significant cost savings in industry which Robinson believes can be applied with similar success in government.

“While a number of government employees have their own offices in virtual worlds,” such as the popular virtual world, Second Life, “these productivity spaces will become more appealing to government as budgets decrease and problems become more complex,” she said. But these worlds are also seen as way to support big data and analytics which “will require more sophisticated visualization and data interaction,” she said.

The Naval Undersea and Warfare Center (NUWC) and NOAA are using virtual worlds for such experimentation and analytics, she said.

Other speakers lined up to to address virtual world leaders include Randy Hinrichs, CEO of 2b3d, an award-winning pioneer in virtual learning; James Blascovich, co-found of the Research Center for Virtual Environments at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Michelle Fox, chief strategist for education and workforce development within the Department of Energy; and Jesse Schell, who taught game design at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center and now heds his own firm.

For those interested in attending the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds, attendance is free of charge and will also be available through live video feeds, according to the events organizers.

Government projects sessions will also be presented from the following organizations:

Poster Project Title


Naval SYSCOM collaboration through interactive 3D virtual scenes

Naval Facilities Engineering Command

NTER Project

Department of Energy

vGov Project

USDA OCIO Enterprise Applications Services

Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond


Current and Future Research on Persistent Virtual Worlds using OpenSimulator

Raytheon Missile Systems

Virtual World for Training CWMD Inspectors

Defense Threat Reduction Agency


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

DoD VW Framework

Office of the Secretary of Defense Readiness & Training

NHI 3D, Virtual Bridge Inspection CBT

National Highway Institute

NHI Virtual Foundation Expo

National Highway Institute

Tax Ecosystem Modeling using Virtual Reality Environments – A Method for Testing IRS Outreach Approaches by Modeling Taxpayer Behavior


Welcome Center Regions of the Army’s Military Open Simulator Enterprise Strategy (MOSES)

1 Virtual World Development

Power Dreaming – Technologically Enhanced Training Addressing Traumatic Nightmares/PTSD


VWs and PTSD Convergence


FVWC Winners


Naval Air Warfare Center

UK Government

Daden Limited

State and Local Government

Public Works Group

USAID African Disease Information

Davison Associates

Advanced Telemedicine

Innovaision, LLC



First Responders

Catastrophic Planning and Management Institute

MEDATAR game demo Sonalysts
NDU iCollege