Feeds

Cambridge incubator spawns spinoffs aplenty

Are you allergic to VoIP?

Boost IT visibility and business value

Smirk

What's the academic equivalent of a "shoot-em-up" video game? How about a "teach-em-up University" online?

The Virtual University really exists. Instead of going to class, you send an avatar into a virtual world, where the lectures and blackboards are software-generated.

It's called Smirkworld, said David Kraithman, who is not in fact a Cambridge University lecturer - he comes from the University of Hertfordshire, also represented at St John's. "It's like a computer game, but instead of warriors and monsters you have students and tutor."

There are three pieces to the virtual university.

Smirk is the basic authoring tool. It creates multimedia slide shows - a sort of super-Powerpoint that runs on a web server. Smirkboard is the hosting software, and SmirkVR takes the other two components and generates a virtual world in which several "players" or students can meet.

"The ensuring fight - or discussion, as we prefer to call it - can be recorded as captions, like subtitles on a movie," said Kraithman. He believes that the accessibility features will enable people who simply can't get to a class to join in, and interact with other students.

The breakthrough is in dropping the idea of using video conferencing, which has been the assumed basis of many shared-classroom systems in the past. Video conferencing is notoriously hard to manage, and either prohibitively costly in bandwidth, or simply crap.

But sending an avatar in, exactly as you send a player with your choice of "skin" into Doom or Quake or Half Life, uses trivial amounts of bandwidth, but works far more convincingly.

"Smirk enables anybody to produce accessible presentations that can be streamed over the web," says the publicity blurb. "The presentations are produced at the desk without any technician support. Audio, graphics and captioning are the basic building blocks but other elements such as Flash movies, video and links (internal and external) are easy to include."

You can download Smirk from the Hertfordshire University website.

Ferret out copying of your writing...

Plagiarism is, of course, rife on the web - and there's a difficult line to draw between legitimate quoting and ripping off. An easy line to draw, these days, with the release of Ferret, which can spot "cheating" in exams in an instant.

It may also be able to spot musical theft in its next version but, sadly, there are currently no plans to develop an artistic ferret.

The software was originally developed by a University of Hertfordshire lecturer to spot cheats. He set up the Plagiarism Detection Research Group at the university with a brief to simply spot degrees of similarity between text works - or if you prefer, essays.

Ferret can alert you to a possible copyright infringement on just three words. You may well say that "OK, but so can Google!" but Google can't tell you which of the documents with those three words is "sufficiently original" to pass a test of plagiarism.

"It can compare several reports, a number of news items, entries in an electronic encyclopaedia, or different versions of a legal draft," says the blurb. "Even on an ordinary PC, it takes longer to convert a batch of Microsoft Word file to plain text, than it does for Ferret to read those same files and identify the ones that match."

It also works on software. "Natural languages like Chinese and Dutch have already been tested. Only minor changes to the software were required for Chinese, and equally minor changes made it possible to check through C++ and Java code."

Full details at the university web centre.

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.