Guided Exploration of Virtual Worlds

Reference: Doyle, P. & Hayes-Roth, B. Guided Exploration of Virtual Worlds. Knowledge Systems Laboratory, May, 1997.

Abstract: As computers and computer networks become commonplace in the home and in our educational institutions, educators are searching for ways to make them effective tools for instruction. Virtual environments that support learning through exploration and experimentation hold the promise of being such a tool. In this paper, we introduce an intelligent computer agent whose purpose is to guide children in their discovery of such worlds, and by so doing, to increase both their enjoyment and the effectiveness of that discovery. Our guide is modeled on Merlyn, the befuddled seer and tutor to young King Arthur in T. H. White's "The Once and Future King." Merlyn is an autonomous agent that also has an integrated personality and emotional model, since he is intended to be a companion rather than a reference. We describe a particular kind of virtual world, the MUD (or Multi-User Dimension), that Merlyn is designed to interact with. We explain how he makes decisions in such a world, and how these places can be annotated with information to help him understand why they are there and how to use them. Merlyn can use these annotations to learn more about the world as the child travels, and this allows him to explain the world to the child, to suggest activities that may interest the child, and to participate with the child in playing games, for example. We describe two prototype implementations of Merlyn, and describe future additions for a full-featured version. With Merlyn as a companion, a child can be guided into strategically-chosen learning activities while having a friendly, entertaining experience in the virtual environment.

Full paper available as ps.

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