Sunday, December 14, 2008

Even better, view it here!

A video tour of the project!

For those of you who do not yet have a Second Life account, we have a video preview of the prototype home. It is may be viewed on YouTube at

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SL in Kansas

We always like to follow what's being done in SL around the world, but especially with our neighbors. Read this article about how KU is utilizing SL in Lawrence, KS!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Moving Forward

Our meeting last Friday was quite productive. We have "tweaked" our original ideas, and we feel now that we have a much more solid project. I'll do my best to explain it briefly.

Our goal is to create a "template" house that includes 25 or so foundational Universal Design principles. In order to do this, Sarah, our housing expert, will first work on developing a list and creating a set of note cards that outline the W questions. For example, each principle would have information regarding What it is, Who might benefit from it, Where it might be useful, etc.

Second, we will sponsor a contest in Second Life to build the template house. All builders who want to participate would have full creative freedom to create any type of single-residence home as long as it included the 25 principles, which we will provide to them. All entries would be reviewed to ensure that they meet the criteria, and placed on the sim. Then, residents of Second Life would be invited to visit all of the homes and vote for their favorite. This would be a "People's Choice" Award. The winner and runner-up would receive a monetary award for their efforts.

Third, because we now have a "template" house, we will overlay assistive technology into the house, depending upon the needs of particular populations. We plan to begin with outfitting the house with assistive technology that would benefit the caregivers of--and people with--traumatic brain injury.

After this pilot, we could then begin creating a neighborhood of houses that would represent some possible choices for people with other diagnoses or disabilities. For example, there might be a home for caregivers of, and people with, Alzheimer's disease, or for those who have had a stroke.

We would also like to be able to create a livable neighborhood, that would take into consideration needs of the built environment, such as curb cuts, wide sidewalks, large signs, etc.

All of this would be turned into an online course, so that people outside of Second Life could also benefit. After all, we would never be able to build anything like this in RL, as I am sure you can imagine. It is one of the reasons why SL is so well-suited to this project. However, even working in SL will take some funding, so as Sarah is working on this part of the project, I am beginning to look at funding opportunities. I have a 10-page pre-application for an opportunity due January 15. I will do my best to accomplish that in this short time frame.

Your thoughts and ideas are welcome!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Yes, It's Been A While...

Hopefully you have noticed that we haven't been blogging in a while. We have put the project on a delay. We are hoping to have the contest up in running in conjunction with Older Americans Month, which is in May. Two of us are currently working on some notecards to incorporate into the Demo House to increase its educational value. We are also discussing the possibility of an online course... Please do check back for updates!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Benefits of virtual worlds for people with disabilities has a good article highlighting the benefits of virtual worlds for people with disabilities: Second Life Frees Disabled from Restrictions of Everyday Life. The article describe several educational applications made possible by the Second Life environment:

There are a variety of skills that people learn, and that Krueger teaches, through Virtual Ability. The organization, based in Colorado - as well as in Second Life - highlights the benefits of virtual worlds for people with disabilities. Virtual Ability helps them learn how to get around in Second Life, which often makes a positive difference in their real life.

Let's discuss: Did reading the article give you any ideas for things that Extension educators might want to enable through Second Life?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

at the Extension Convention

Here are some pictures of an avatar using a wheelchair testing some accessibility features of the house.

I am at the Joint Council of Extension Professionals Convention in Indianapolis this week, doing a demonstration of Second Life. Many colleagues are learning about Second Life and the work we are doing here. It is really fun to have this Family Caregiving project as a highlight. It is inspiring a great deal of discussion about other projects that might be started in the near future, such as a demo kitchen for safe food handling. 

Last week I attended the annual Second Life convention, met many of the Linden Lab staff, and learned quite a bit about other organizations doing projects in SL. As a result of all this travel time, not much new has happened in the Live-ability House. Soon, however, we will be adding information notecards around the house, and making a video of the house to show to people who do not yet use SL.

If you have visited the house, please let us know. We would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Progress Update

The team met this morning, and we updated each other on our progress, and also came to some decisions. We thought that we would share some of this with you!

In regard to the Demonstration House, we have concluded that the model home and garden structure is about 90% completed, with shower modifications still to come. We would like to begin thinking more concretely about the additional educational content to be added. For example, we need a leader's guide for educators wanting to visit and use the project for teaching. We would really like to see some additional animated content, but we must identify what items need to be interactive, and how we will use that to our best advantage.

In regard to the Showcase of Accessible Homes Competition, we revised the timeline, and plan to have the judging and exhibition in May, which is Older Americans Month.

We are always interested in your ideas as well!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Progress Galore on the Accessible Garden

Much progress has been made on the accessible garden, and it is functional and beautiful. Note the raised gardening beds, the paved pathways, and covered patio complete with the chalkboard for gatherings or classes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Addition of Jeb, the Service Dog

If you visit the house today, you will see that we have added something (or someone) special: please meet Jeb, a service dog.

Jeb is modeled after a real life dog of the same name, who has been assigned to one of our bloggers since 2000. The real life Jeb comes from an organization called Canine Companions for Independence (

CCI provides dogs to people with a variety of physical disabilities (service dogs), children or adults with a variety of disabilities who also have a facilitator as part of the team (companion dogs), people with hearing impairments (hearing dogs), and human service professionals who provide services to people with disabilities (facility dogs).

Although many people are familiar with guide dogs for people who are blind, Jeb's mission, and that of other dogs like him, are to help people with disabilities other than blindness. And, there are many organizations that work to provide these specially trained dogs to the people who can benefit from them.

Jeb is wearing a cape, which is a sign of a "working" dog (a term that is used to indicate any type of specially trained canine, from service dogs to rescue dogs). Although the real life Jeb does not typically wear his cape when inside of his residence, for our educational purposes, we are putting him within the context that he and his handler are getting ready to go out the door--in which case, it would be appropriate for Jeb to get "dressed" (with the cape) to go out in public. And, we have put the "eXtension" logo on his cape!

Right now Jeb is walking through the house, sitting and laying down, and not actually obeying commands as we might expect...but the real life Jeb can turn lightswitches on and off, take clothes out of the dryer, carry packages, pay for items at the grocery store, and perform an endless array of needed tasks. He knows about 50 different commands, including the basics (heel, sit, down) and more advanced (back, push, tug, visit).

We think Jeb is a great addition to the house, and hope that you think so too.

Friday, August 15, 2008

SL Health Research

We are always interested to see what others are doing in Second Life, and we hope you are too. See what's new: Researchers Study Whether Virtual Reality Game Can Inspire Healthy Habits

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Weekend Warriors

Work continues over the weekend at the Live-Ability House on Morrill Island in Second Life. In these pictures, an avatar who uses a wheelchair tests some features. An older adult avatar has joined the scene, to represent this age group. A decision has been made to include a home office in the spare bedroom, to provide a space where electronic devices and communication technology may be featured.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Addition of An Accessible Garden

One of our team members had the idea of adding an accessible garden to the house. Not only will this allow us to expand the educational reach of the project, but it will also provide a place for people to meet after they tour the house. We envision, perhaps, instructors sitting with their class to discuss what they've seen. Maybe like-minded individuals will find themselves congregating there and engaging in conversation. We are excited about the possibilities.

We've posted a picture of project in process, to give those of you who are new to the SL concept a better idea of how this is accomplished. If you would like more information about accessible gardens, visit:

On another note, we are still struggling with finding a really good name for the project. Our working title is The Live-Ability Home, which is certainly a better choice than The eXtension Family Caregiving Second Life Project...

However, if you have some ideas for us, we would love to hear from you.

Here is a picture of the outside of the house, just to give it some context. We have a slideshow of some of the assistive technology devices that can be found inside. You'll note that we have also added a ramp and some other cool features. Again, your ideas are welcome!

Monday, August 4, 2008

And So It Begins

The members of the eXtension family caregiving SL project are so glad that you have joined us. Let's answer a few fundamental questions first.

What is eXtension?

(Visit us at
From our website: "eXtension is an interactive learning environment delivering the best, most researched knowledge from the smartest land-grant university minds across America. eXtension connects knowledge consumers with knowledge providers - experts who know their subject matter inside out.

eXtension offers:

  • Credible expertise

  • Reliable answers based upon sound research

  • Connections to the best minds in American universities

  • Creative solutions to today's complex challenges

  • Customized answers to your specific needs

  • Trustworthy, field-tested data

  • Dynamic, relevant and timely answers

eXtension is unlike any other search engine or information-based website. It's a space where university content providers can gather and produce new educational and information resources on wide-ranging topics. Because it's available to students, researchers, clinicians, professors, as well as the general public, at any time from any Internet connection, eXtension helps solve real-life problems in real time."

One of the areas addressed through the eXtension initiative is Family Caregiving.

What is Second Life®?
On the
Second Life® web site, the following description is used to explain the Second Life
® concept:

"A 3-D virtual world created by its Residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by millions of Residents from around the globe.

* From the moment you enter the World you'll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. Once you've explored a bit, perhaps you'll find a perfect parcel of land to build your house or business.

* You'll also be surrounded by the Creations of your fellow Residents. Because Residents retain intellectual property rights in their digital creations, they can buy, sell and trade with other Residents.

* The Marketplace currently supports millions of US dollars in monthly transactions. This commerce is handled with the inworld unit of trade, the Linden™ dollar, which can be converted to US dollars at several thriving online Linden dollar exchanges."

Who are the
eXtension Family Caregiving Second Life® Project Members?
The active members include staff and faculty members from eXtension, Kansas State University and North Carolina State University.

What is the Goal?

The goal of this initial project is:

To raise public awareness of design features and assistive technology that can make it possible to
remain in the home with physical or cognitive challenges due to aging, illness, or disability.

How Are We Getting There?

We are building a simple prototype home featuring universal design features and assistive technology devices to help provide guidance to builders
within the Second Life® environment. Our next step will be to sponsor a design competition in the virtual world. This design competition is for an accessible housing design to include assistive technology.

We are just beginning this process. We hope that the pictures included here, which show our prototype design build under construction, will give you an idea of what this is all about. Please check back!