Active Worlds

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Active Worlds is a commercial 3D interactive environment.

  • Active Worlds is probably the oldest surviving commercial 3D environment technology. Founded in 1995 and built on top of "Alpha Worlds", it features a flat geometry on top of which users can build with bricks, a bit like the Lego philosophy. Size of a world is determined by server parameters. Building requires payment; however, it is possible to stake a claim to virtual construction space and construct one's own durable real-world modelled or fantasy building in AW by becoming a "citizen." As of April 2007 the annual citizenship fee is around $70. Owing to its intuitive graphical interface it is quite easy to create most any sort of real or fantasy object/building one wishes to create. An extensive library of free-use objects (brick, stone and other wall panels, walkways, windows, building entrances, an extensive library of furniture, etc.) have already been produced and are available in an "Object Yard"--a sort of virtual do-it-yourself lumber yard--for use by all AW citizens. This means that it is not necessary in most cases to rediscover the wheel: someone has probably already thought of the need for an object or building-block you would like to use and has created and stored it in the Object Yard for future use. A new user needs only to copy the name of the object, its description and any action it is supposed to carry out (blinking, flashing, changing color, etc.) into an empty object creation pane and it is instantly created. Once a building or area has been created in AW, one can send the coordinates of its location to other citizens, select an appropriate avatar and meet in real time for text-based or VoIP chatting. It is also possible to send what are known as "telegrams" to other AW citizens. These resemble SMSs which appear in a special area of the screen every time one logs on to AW.

See also: Second Life


  • You need a special free client
  • There are servers operated by Active Worlds, but you also can acquire the server technology and run your own.

In education

  • Active Worlds Educational Universe (broken) link was an entire Active Worlds Universe dedicated to exploring the educational applications of the Active Worlds Technology. Unfortunately, the Active Worlds Educational Universe seems at present to be in a state of suspended animation. One company advertised in the AWEDU, Virtually Learning, Inc. is particularly interesting; however, after several attempts at contacting them at the email address they give at their pavillion, it has become evident that they are no longer in business. Following a recent surge in development activity in ActiveWorlds in general, it is quite possible that Active Worlds Educational Universe could awake from its current state of lethargy in the not-too-distant future, becoming an effective tool for learning.
    • Features a basic classroom for 20 students at $650/year.

As of 2019, institutions can choose between hosting their own server or adopt a cloud-based solution. Pricing depends mainly on the size but also whether a "world" or a whole universe is purchased.


Official websites

Bibliograhpy and references

  • Dickey, Michele D. (2005). Three-dimensional virtual worlds and distance learning: two case studies of Active Worlds as a medium for distance education, British Journal of Educational Technology 36 (3), 439–451. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2005.00477.x