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madden
12-21-2006, 05:08 PM
The folowing is from http://www.etc.cmu.edu/Global/news/news.php?newsID=589965

Mar 10,2006
Carnegie Mellon University has entered into a groundbreaking collaboration with Electronic Arts Inc., that has the potential to revolutionize and reinvigorate computer science education in the US from middle school through senior high and beyond.

EA has agreed to help underwrite the development of ALICE 3.0 - a popular, object-oriented, Java-based computer-programming environment created by Carnegie Mellon researchers - and provide essential arts assets from "The Sims(tm)" - the best selling PC video game of all time.

The Sims content will transform the Alice software from a crude, 3D programming tool into a compelling and user-friendly programming environment. Development for Alice 3.0 will begin immediately and will span the next 18 to 24 months. Experts say that when the transformation is complete, the new programming environment will be in position to become the national standard for teaching software programming.

"EA comes to this with the goal of doing well by doing good. Inspiring next-generation game makers is a primary objective, said Bing Gordon, Chief Creative Officer at EA. "Alice has already proven to be a powerful tool to engage all kids - most particularly girls. Our hope is to contribute in a way that further accelerates its success. There is no better partner than Dr. Pausch and Carnegie Mellon."

"Getting the chance to use the characters and animations from The Sims is like teaching at an art school and having Disney give you Mickey Mouse," said Computer Science, Professor Randy Pausch, director of the Alice Project at Carnegie Mellon. "The Sims is EA's 'crown jewel,' and the fact that they are willing to use it for education shows a kind of long-term vision one rarely sees from large corporations."

"We are thrilled to have been chosen by Carnegie Mellon and we are honored to provide the school with the art and engineering assets that will help transform Alice into an entertaining and enjoyable programming tool" said Steve Seabolt, vice president, university and marketing education at EA. "By marrying the characters, animations and playful style of The Sims to Alice, we are helping make computer science fun for a new generation of creative leaders."

"This unique alliance between academia and industry is further evidence that sharing technology is an essential step towards arming students with the tools needed to excel in computer science education and interactive entertainment," added President Jared L. Cohon of Carnegie Mellon.

Alice is an open source system developed over the last 10 years and provided as a free public service by Carnegie Mellon. In combination with novel educational materials developed by Computer Science Professors Wanda Dann of Ithaca College and Stephen Cooper of St. Joseph's University, Alice is already in use at more than 60 colleges to teach various introductory computer science/computer programming courses. Individual hobbyists and enterprising game programmers may also download the software free of charge at http://www.alice.org, and the teaching materials free of charge at www.aliceprogramming.net. Introductory computer programming has historically been a frustrating experience for many students. Recent attempts to include object-oriented programming in first semester university curricula have only compounded the problem. There has also been a 50 percent drop in the number of computer science majors in the last five years*.

The Alice programming language represents a breakthrough in object-oriented computer programming. One of its greatest strengths is making abstract concepts concrete in the eyes of first-time programmers. In Alice, objects appear as 3D characters, animals, furniture, etc. They're controlled by using a drag-and-drop editor that prevents syntax errors and allows students to write code like "move forward one meter" or "rotate left one-quarter turn". These commands are easily understood by students and the computations are displayed on screen in real-time animations.

Yet, while Alice has proved to be a revolutionary programming environment, the characters and animations within the program have been quite rudimentary. The spectacular art assets and animations from The Sims will change all that, and Alice will be transformed.

Students using Alice 3.0 will essentially be working in an environment that looks and feels like The Sims. Characters will look and move like Sims characters and the library of The Sims emotional reaction animations will be integrated into the program. Now featuring literally thousands of animations, students will be able to visually realize their designs. With The Sims, programming with Alice will be propelled to a new level of effectiveness... and may even be considered fun!

* According to a UCLA study: http://www.cra.org/CRN/articles/may05/vegso
About Alice
The Alice project has been supported in the past by the National Science Foundation, DARPA, Intel, Microsoft, and SAIC. For more information about the Alice project, please visit www.alice.org About Carnegie Mellon
Carnegie Mellon is a private research university with a distinctive mix of programs in computer science, robotics, engineering, the sciences, business, public policy, fine arts and the humanities. More than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students receive an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions to solve real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A small faculty-to-student ratio provides an opportunity for close interaction between students and professors. While technology is pervasive on its 110-acre campus, Carnegie Mellon is also distinctive among leading research universities because of conservatory-like programs in its College of Fine Arts. For more information, visit www.cmu.edu. About Electronic Arts
Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), headquartered in Redwood City, California, is the world's leading interactive entertainment software company. Founded in 1982, the company develops, publishes, and distributes interactive software worldwide for videogame systems, personal computers and the Internet. Electronic Arts markets its products under four brand names: EA SPORTS(tm), EA(tm), EA SPORTS BIG(tm) and POGO(tm). In fiscal 2005, EA posted revenues of $3.1 billion and had 31 titles that sold more than one million copies. EA's homepage and online game site is www.ea.com. More information about can be found on line at http://info.ea.com.

Electronic Arts, EA, EA SPORTS, EA SPORTS BIG, POGO and The Sims are trademarks or registered trademarks of Electronic Arts Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Ask me any questions and I'll give you the answer as soon as I can.

SheilaRuth
02-05-2007, 11:54 AM
This sounds really exciting, but will the programming environment be the same or similar? I know of several pre-teens, including my son, who are using Alice to learn programming, and while the improved graphics are welcome, I hope that they will still be able to use this to learn programming concepts, and that they won't have to learn a completely new interface. Alice is wonderful for allowing kids as young as 10 or so learn how to program, and I hope that it will continue to be a useful tool. If it just becomes another version of The Sims, then what's the point? Also, I'm concerned because The Sims includes some sexual content that is inappropriate for this age group, and I hope that the sexual content either won't be included or can be disabled.

I hope that the emphasis on improved graphics won't obscure the need for good and elegant programming tools as well. I personally would like to see some improvements in the programming tools, such as the addition of a case or switch statement to eliminate the need for inelegant multiple levels of nested if statements.

pausch
02-06-2007, 09:40 AM
Dear SheilaRuth,

The Alice team read your recent post with great interest, because it reflected some discussions we had early on when the Sims opportunity presented itself. I think you'll find this pleasing - here is what I can tell you right now:

1) Alice v3.0 will not be identical to (nor backward compatible with) Alice v2.0, but we are committed to there still being a way to construct programs as easily as the current system allows, using the same basic drag-and-drop approach.

2) Alice v3.0 will not become "another version of the Sims," because that just wouldn't make sense. We welcome the increased production values, and we anticipate some increase in younger users due to familiarity with the Sims characters and environments, but Alice will always be about creating, learning to problem solve, and (whether or not we explicitly say these words) learning to program/learning some important concepts about computing. The Sims is a game; Alice v3.0 is a programming system. Very different things.

3) As for risque content, we joked early on with our friends at EA about which side was *more* adamant about not having sexual/risque content in Alice v3.0 - it's in nobody's best interest. It's very easy for us to simply not include certain texture maps and animations for characters. Having said that, in any programming system where users can control the character's position in 3D space (including the current Alice v2.0 system), our users can doubtless find ways to make things that can be interpreted as naughty, but we certainly have no intention of making that easy.

4) As for a case statement, that's an interesting suggestion that I think is "in play," (the ultimate call on that lies with our head designer), and there are certainly arguments for such a construct in terms of clarity of code (to show my age, when I learned about case statements as a student, we were taught about their benefits in terms of speed-of-execution... imagine my horror when I realized that many high level languages actually implemented them as chained if/then/elses under the covers!)

thanks for this feedback!

MiR
02-06-2007, 12:12 PM
This sounds really exiting... I just can't wait any more.
In fact I am looking for a freeware tool, not to learn programming (I learned it the hard way 20 Years ago by coding assembler on my Philips Videopac and its 8048 chip)
I am looking for a tool, that would enable the easy conduction of machinima like content, and Alice seems to be very suited for this purpose. The version 2.0 would be able to do everything a movie needs except for the rendering engine and the low-poly models.
So when I heard that you implemented Sims2 models (with Sims2 as the major platform for machinima content) I was really amazed, for this would be the first real free and useable tool in this genre.
So, to come to the point, literally every day I check the forums to see if there will be an early beta of Alice3. Please, if there is any possibility to testdrive Alice, let us know.
Thank you a lot for the work you are doing! Alice is realy a great tool and I am also faszinated by the people that teach programming with Alice. I myself live in Germany, where education in programming is very lazy, especially in early ages. Keep it going!

DrJim
02-06-2007, 02:40 PM
I have to agree everything about Alice 3.0 sounds great. I do have one question, however. Given that Alice 3.0 will not be backwards compatible with Alice 2.0 - and from earlier postings, the differences seem to be at a fairly fundamental level - what plans are being made to allow the continued use of the substantial support infrastructure (3+ texts with supporting instructional materials and the large model library) that currently exists for Alice 2.0?