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NMU Speech-Language & Hearing Virtual Clinic


Project Overview:

Northern Michigan University's Speech-Language & Hearing Virtual Clinic is an ambitious, comprehensive project seeking to utilize virtual reality to:

  • raise public awareness in regards to communication disorders;
  • provide a cost-effective means of providing students with high-end anatomical models in a shared environment;
  • overcome the limitations of two-dimensional material by creating three-dimensional, barrier-free exhibits;
  • transform learning metaphors, such as Joseph Sheehan's "Iceberg of Stuttering" or Dr. Lon Emerick's "Isle of Disfluency," into literal places of study;
  • create a photorealistic replica of the NMU Speech Department, located in Marquette, Michigan, USA;
  • establish a central meeting and experimentation area for international, interdisciplinary collaboration.

The clinic is located on the Second Earth 7 island (also known as "sim," or simulation) thanks to the generosity of the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

For More Information:

If you have Second Life installed, you can teleport directly to the clinic by clicking this SLURL: Click Here.

Otherwise, the "Demonstration Videos" tab provides the following:

  • In-game footage demonstrating the exhibits/models in action, streamed via YouTube in 720p high definition.
  • A text-based script of each video for users not on broadband, or who may not have time to watch an hour or more of material.

My Role

The NMU S-L&H Virtual Clinic has become the hardest, most complicated and ambitious project I have ever undertaken as either a professional or academic. While I've worked on architectural builds in the past, the addition of photorealism provided a new set of challenges. I was also responsible for creating all interactive content on the island--something I've never had to do before. Taking into account learning high-end 3D software on the go, as well as projects that push the functionality of the Second Life platform to the extreme, the project has been both a source of frustration and exhileration. As the general contractor and sole builder, my duties include:

  • All aspects of construction.
  • Create photoreal textures from reference images.
  • Model, convert, and import anatomically correct models.
  • Create pysiological animations and implement them within Second Life.
  • Write detailed design specifications for all necessary scripts.
  • Plan and execute the coordination of information, directions, and avatar movement via hybridized 2D/3D methods.
  • Contract third parties to do miscellaneous work (such as computer programming).
  • Monitor the progress of third party work, terminating the contract if necessary.
  • Create presentation videos that demonstrate the functionality of the virtual clinic for multiple audiences (IRB, General Public, MSHA, etc.).
  • Write the scripts for the demonstration videos.
  • Provide technical writing support by writing or editing billboards and any accompanying graphics.
  • Help draft and submit the project for the Linden Prize Grant.
  • And lastly, maintain this webpage.

The computer programming for this project is done by Bilo Bellic of Germany. Simon Sugita, from the Netherlands, provided us with his artificial intelligence chat-bot technology. James Zeigler, the Project Director, helped with the ideation of the virtual clinic, oversaw the accuracy of the anatomical models, and provided the questions and answers for the chat-bots. Students from the SL220 Speech and Voice Science class provided the PowerPoint slides located beneath Larynx A.