AstroVR is an online collaboratory for astronomy/astrophysics researchers, and was a test site for the Jupiter client, where various applications for it were developed. Although the Jupiter project is now over, AstroVR still provides several useful online astronomy services. Here we focus on its accomplishments as a testbed for Jupiter.
Pavel Curtis, David Nichols, and Dave Van Buren designed graphical interfaces to common MOO tools such as editing and communication systems, thereby enabling them to bootstrap further development of AstroVR and Jupiter. For example, editing code line-by-line through a telnet connection is a tedious, error-prone process made easier by a graphical interface, demonstrated below.
This graphical editor greatly improved both the speed and accuracy with which code could be developed, and was an important and often-used tool. Other development tools also helped facilitate RAD (Rapid Application Development). New users were able to construct complex tools with intricate interfaces in a matter of weeks. For example, my first project (which included learning MOO programming and how to use Jupiter) was developing an interface to an image analysis tool (Skyview) with support for collaborative analysis sessions (i.e., application sharing). Total time: five weeks.
Another class of tools were those for in-MOO communications, including whiteboards, post-it notes, and registration forms. More information about these can be found starting in the section after next (teleconferencing).
Weekly (more or less) meetings between Dave Van Buren and Michael Brundage in Pasadena and the Jupiter project team in Palo Alto were held online in AstroVR. These meetings, and the tools developed during the course of the Jupiter project, aptly demonstrated the effectiveness of this system for collaboration and research. The participants learned many important lessons in the design and implementation of these virtual worlds.