Virtual Audience 2.0

Photo by Nighthawk7

I’m creating a new version…

I’ve been receiving a LOT of emails recently, from teachers, students, musicians, Toastmaster members and even a few psychologists asking for the link to be able to download the Virtual Audience.

Unfortunately, the existing version of the Virtual Audience has been removed from he server and is no longer available for download. BUT, I’m creating a new, better version, using HD Video with more features. The new product will meet different kinds of user’s needs rather than just being a generic audience. During the creation process I’ll be inviting users in to help me test, and to provide feedback. If you are interested please email me:
britt_carr (at) advancedauthoring (dot) com

Teaching Naked: NPR Interview

Students build a band by dragging and dropping artists to the stage.

Last night I was answering a request for best practices in interactive teaching and learning from Adobe, I stumbled on an NPR interview where one of my games became the focus! Hear the interview.

Teaching Naked focuses on moving teaching technology out of the classroom to spend quality face-face time where it counts, essentially inverting the traditional approach to teaching. Dr. Jose Bowen, argues that you can use technology in effective ways to first introduce students to material before they reach the classroom. So when students do get into class they can spend the time debating, discussing and exploring. Dr. Bowen discusses why he provides his lectures as podcasts and uses Flash based games to engage his students.

In the interview,  the host of the program plays Jazz Bandstand, one of the games I designed for his Jazz History students when he taught the large attendance class at Miami University. In the game, the students build a jazz band to match the requested jazz style. It’s a whimsical but effective way of moving students from simply memorizing who played what, to analyzing differences in individual playing styles.

The activity kicked off a large series of successful activities and learning games I designed for the Fine Arts faculty and teaching staff at Miami. See more in the Game Category.

Describe That Tune!


The game's level 1 screen.

“Describe That Tune” combines the fun of a timed “Name that Tune” style game with the cognitive twist of musical style analysis.

Students must guide the “notes” of a song to the appropriate staff that describes the the texture or tone of a given song. The quicker the answer, the higher the students score.

The game features six levels, timed sessions which challenge the students to stretch their music comprehension and expand their analysis skills every time they play.

This Flash-based game was easily re-purposed from the previous games “Jazz By Ear” and “Phun with Phonetics” by swapping out the interaction’s mp3s, and making a few minor tweaks to the Actionscript.

Test your music analysis skills here!

Virtual Audience Using Adobe AIR

A pre-recorded audience listens AND responds to your performance

A pre-recorded audience listens AND responds to your performance


The Virtual Audience allows the user to practice in a virtual reality performing in front of a living, breathing  virtual audience.

11/12/12 update- If you are interested in the V.A. download, please see this post.

The initial faculty request was to create a DVD with loopable video that would allow a music student to practice in front of an audience that did the distracting things that audiences do, cough, sneeze, whisper, etc.  In theory this would allow the student to be desensitized to audience distractions. We satisfied the faculty’s initial request by making a DVD. But, I asked to go a step further,  and make a more interactive version by using Flash’s ability to sense user’s movement and sound using a web camera’s lens (as the audience’s eyes) and mic (as their ears).

When Flash senses movement from the camera, it tells the audience when the student has “taken the stage” and Flash prompts the audience to act accordingly: welcome clap.  We shot fourteen segments of distractions. Audience members coughing, sleeping, answering cell calls, etc. During the performance, random clips of video load that represent audience behavior. Or, distractions. When Flash hears that the music has stopped for a few seconds, it tells the audience to clap in response to a performance ending. And, like a real audience, you don’t know how they will react. Sometimes the performer receives a polite clap, sometimes a more enthusiastic applause, sometimes a full standing ovation.

We are using Adobe AIR as the deployment method for a few of reasons:

  • Though streaming the video from Flash Media Server is an option, for quality and processing consistency, this needs to be a desktop application
  • we wanted to avoid creating two different versions
  • Air has a seamless update framework. This allows us to easily push updates to the user without them have to do much more than allow the update to occur

We actually tested the VA in various settings (from HUGE screens, to life size projectors to video goggles). It had a chilling (but good) effect when I “took the stage”.

During the development, we realized that the VA could be used by other areas of the university that “perform” in front of an audience. Namely speech communication and theater. Both programs require students to think on their toes and concentrate on performing a piece that they may be very familiar with performing in a quiet setting, with no distractions.

Future versions will be available using Flash Media Server and will feature video shot in HD format. The HD format will provide finer quality video when the audiences is projected on to large format screens or viewed on larger monitors.

See a 5 minute demo of the Virtual Audience

Audio Mixer Simulator


Soundboard Simulator

Jay Rozema, the faculty member from the Theatre department (see the Stage Lighting activity) approached me about creating a soundboard simulator that would help his students visualize the tracking of audio inside the workings of a soundboard. Like the Stage Lighting activity, he required that it be a simulator, rather than an activity. And, he also asked if I could deliver scenarios to help the student further their mastery. It works like this.

As the students enter the activity, they select a scenario, which delivers a story: “You’re running sound for X band this evening; they have drums, guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals. It’s a small bar so you won’t need to mic the drums or bass. In addition, the vocalist has asked for a set of on-stage monitors so he can hear his performance.”  Students are to set up the soundboard the way the scenario asks. When finished, they save the scenario and load another. When all scenarios are complete the student submits his/her work to the faculty who can review each scenario’s settings and leave feedback for the students to revise and resubmit.

This activity was created using Adobe Flash (with heavy AS3 classes). An XML back end defines the scenarios, so they can easily be changed or added to without needing to recompile the original flash FLA file. All of the components of the soundboard are coded as individual AS3 Class files so they may be used in conjunction with other soundboard related activities that may come in the future.

See the public version of the Interactive Soundboard activity.

Virtual Audience

The idea of the virtual audience was brought to me by Michele Gingras, Clarinet faculty at Miami University. Michele has published a few articles in trade journals and magazines about stage fright from the point of view of the musician.

The original idea was to help musicians get used to the distracting things audiences can do (coughing, cell phones, rattling candy wrappers, etc.) during a performance that might keep a musician from focusing on their playing. Through Michele’s observations, students can easily focus on breathing, posture, fingering and the notes when they are in the security of their own comfort bubble (their room or a practice area). The problem begins during a performance. As the musician plays, inevitably an audience member will cause a distraction. That distraction has potential to throw the students focus off of the music and brings awareness back to things that may be insignificant to the actual playing (hair, clothing were examples) which could lead to mistakes.

The original medium was to be DVD. The students could play a loopable DVD with audience footage while they practiced. The audience would do distracting things, and the video would loop until turned off.

Stay tuned for an update as production begins.

11/12/12 update- If you are interested in the V.A. download, please see this post.

Phun With Phonetics

Phun With Phonetics

Borrowing its game engine from an earlier challenge game ‘Jazz By Ear’, Phun With Phonetics helps students practice visual recognition of the symbols that make up the International Phonetic Alphabet. The students hear a sound clip representing an IPA symbol and must steer the chattering teeth to the correct symbol before the clock runs out.

The game loads sounds randomly, and offers increasing levels of cognitive difficulty to help students throughout the entire semester.

Play ‘Phun With Phonetics

Circular Breathing

Circular Breathing

This learning object steps students through a very difficult breathing technique which helps perfect students’ playing. Circular breathing allows a wind or brass musician to hold a note indefinitely while still being able to breathe.

The complex procedure has eight steps. Students can step through video explanations of each step while seeing patterns of airflow muscle movement.

See The Circular Breathing Technique

Jazz By Ear

Jazz By Ear

Jazz By Ear combines the simplicity of “Name That Tune” with the randomness of “Simon”. Students listen to a clip, then move the spinning CD into the appropriate Jewel case.

Game-play begins simple as students identify instruments, and increases in difficulty when they are asked to identify artist, song, artists’ solos and style.  The faster they answer, the more points they get. A random logic is applied to the activity to ensure that each game never repeats the order of the music clips. If students answer incorrectly, the sound clips are recycled in random order to ensure a mastery of content at each level.

Due to the complexity of this activity, the files are downloaded to the user’s hard-drive, then installed. This prevents repeated lengthy download times and allows students using their own computers to track their progress using levels of game-play.

This activity was built using Flash and XML. Its architecture is structured so that developers can modify the XML and replace the mp3 files, and background image to make a completely new activity. See future posts on “Phun with Phonetics” and “Art By Eye”.

To play this demo, you need to download the file below, then unzip to a folder your Desktop. The current version of this game is only available for Miami faculty and students.

Download for Mac (16 Mb)

Download for PC (15.5 Mb)