Learn to program interactive 3D graphics


Funny how some things simply pass you by – I was introduced to Alice earlier this week after attending a PTA meeting at the Christchurch South Learning Centre where they use it with groups of students to introduce them to programming 3D graphics.

Alice is a 3D Authoring system, from the Stage3 Research Group at Carnegie Mellon University. It has been completely rewritten from scratch over the past few years – resulting in the most recent release of Alice 2.0

I downloaded the programme (available for Mac, PC or Linux users) last night when I got home from work. You need to allow a bit of time for the download as the file is around 1.4Mb (on my Mac version anyway).

I spent about 15 mins showing my 9 year old son some of the basics – then left him to it while I took part in an audio conference. 90 mins later I returned to find that he’d created a full animation, comprising of some seven individual characters or objects, each of which performed an animation according to the sequence he’d programmed in using the very intuitive programming instructions using a drag and drop menu.

Here’s a simple screen shot of the programme showing the various components.


The list of programming instructions at the lower left of the screen can be dragged to the panel at the lower right, and the parameters set for the desired animation in the panel in the top centre – all using simple English and drop down menus.

I’ve only been playing with this for a day or so – but already the possibilies are exciting me. There’s a great page of links to movie clips of animations in the Building Virtual Worlds area of the Alice Website that allow you to see just what can be achieved with this program.

Just a caution – once installed, the program takes a bit of time to load, so don’t be impatient to start creating!

5 thoughts on “Learn to program interactive 3D graphics

  1. Hi Derek,
    Have you come across Squeak EToys? http://www.squeakland.org/
    I have some students looking into at the moment.
    From what I see it’s nowhere near as sophisticated as Alice2.0 but worth a look perhaps.
    These types of programmes are such a great way to introduce programming and it???s great to see kids really ???in the flow??? with their learning.

  2. Hi Derek. Still one of my fav blogs:-)
    Yes, Alice = very useful. We are currently using this at NorthTec to introduce our digital multimedia students to the concepts of programming, without having to get involved in all that nasty syntax. It’s a great early hook and gives them a sense of acheivement really quickly.

  3. Derek – you may want to also have a look at MissionMaker – developed out of a partnership between Immersive Education Ltd and the University of London (Knowledgelab) ‘MissionMaker’ is a prototype exploring how student game making can create learning opportunities. Currently 45 BETA trial sites are using Missionmaker in the UK and providing feedback – a release date is forecast for 2007.

  4. Derek – belated I know but I just came across your blog.
    I too discovered Alice 2.0 last year and I’m looking forward to using it in classrooms with 11-14 learners this year. One of my first forays is described here. We look at Gamemaker and MissionMaker too at our school, both of which are proving highly popular. Have you any further instalments after using Alice?

Leave a Reply to Paul WilkinsonCancel reply