Daden to build genetic screening lab in Second Life

Press Release: Daden selected for new genetic screening virtual application

Virtual world solution specialists Daden have been awarded a contract to create the laboratory functionality to enable scenario-based training as part of the University of Leicester’s SWIFT project in Second Life. Based on Daden’s open-source award winning software PIVOTE, the project will enable 30 students to learn how to screen for inherited genetic disease.

The SWIFT project has created a laboratory in the 3 D web-based virtual world of Second Life, on ‘land’ owned by the Beyond Distance Research Alliance at the University of Leicester. Leicester students, in their virtual role as avatars take part in laboratory activities. Some small scale preparations on lab health and safety have taken place, but now SWIFT is planning to be much more ambitious.

The SWIFT project is now addressing some of the limitations of teaching in real laboratories. These include the pressures of time and the costs of handling real equipment and working together with peers, lecturers and demonstrations.

This is where Daden comes in. They have been chosen to undertake the development of virtual equipment and processes using open-source PIVOTE software which is freely available for use by the educational community. Daden will create new on-screen ‘window’ in the lab which will give instructions, provide feedback and allow each student to make choices about how to proceed with their experiments. They will make sure that equipment mimics real-world use including micropipettes for moving liquids and gel tanks for separating DNA.

Daden's PIVOTE Open-Source vLearning Authoring System (Image courtesy Daden)

The virtual experience will be offered to first year medical undergraduates at Leicester this semester in addition to their usual practical teaching. Up to 80 students will use the virtual laboratory to learn the techniques involved in screening for the inherited genetic diseases Huntington’s disease, sickle cell anaemia and cystic fibrosis. Students will have the experience of testing samples using laboratory equipment and interpreting test results. The SWIFT project will assess the effectiveness and success of the virtual world exercises.

PIVOTE was developed through Daden’s work on the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) project called PREVIEW with St George’s Hospital, University of London. The PREVIEW project, created a training system for paramedics at the Hospital won the Times Higher Education Award for Outstanding ICT (Information & Communications Technology) Initiative in 2009.

PIVOTE has been released as an open-source application and there are now users from Argentina to Canada, and across many European countries. Whilst initially developed for medical training PIVOTE has since been used for topics as varied as retail customer service and youth citizenship.

Andrew Jinman, Daden’s PIVOTE Product Manager said “This project will be the first time PIVOTE has been used for multi-student group exercises. 30 students at a time will be work their way through the scenarios simultaneously to run simulated genetic tests and learning about the processes involved in testing samples. SWIFT demonstrates PIVOTE’s functionality and versatility.”

Daden will be demonstrating PIVOTE as part of their Daden Emerging Technology Seminars in October 2010. For more information

Demonstration of Daden’s automated avatar system.

About Daden

Daden Limited is a virtual worlds solutions provider working in Second Life® and other virtual worlds. Our aim is to help you engage with your audience using some of the most interesting technologies around today. We help organisations understand and use virtual world technologies for serious business, collaboration, education and building. Clients range from SMEs to global brands including central and local government, universities/colleges and healthcare organisations. Daden are working with almost a dozen education and training organisations from the public (HE, FE, Secondary) and private sector (in-house and external) to help them use virtual worlds and characters to deliver a better education and training experience to their students and staff. Founded in 2004 by David Burden, Daden are based at Birmingham Science Park Aston in Birmingham UK. They are members of the Serious Games Institute in Coventry and Intellect in London. Daden are a Linden Lab Gold Solution Provider for Second Life.

PIVOTE is an open-source authoring system for learning in virtual worlds. Created by Daden originally for the JISC funded PREVIEW project. PIVOTE lets you create learning exercises on the internet using simple forms-based interface. These exercises can be played in Second Life, OpenSim, on the web or even on a mobile phone. They can also be ported between virtual worlds and student performance data can be exported for use in VLE’s. PIVOTE is now an open-source project and available for free download and use by anyone. You can read more about PIVOTE at

About the University of Leicester

The University of Leicester is a leading UK University committed to international excellence through the creation of world changing research and high quality, inspirational teaching. It was here that DNA Genetic Fingerprinting was invented by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys. The University of Leicester was the Times Higher Education ‘University of the Year’ 2008-9. In awarding the title the judges cited Leicester’s ability to “evidence commitment to high quality, a belief in the synergy of teaching and research and a conviction that higher education is a power for good”. Leicester was, said the judges, “elite without being elitist”.

SWIFT is funded by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) under their National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) and is a collaboration between the Beyond Distance Research Alliance and GENIE, Genetics Education Networking for Innovation and Excellence, which is a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL).