Building Australia's Online Communities
September 8, 2001 AEST  

The VRA Virtual World

A view of the preliminary version of AWABA

What is AWABA?

AWABA is a virtual reality project being developed by the Virtual Reality Association Inc, to further the technological and creative skills of Australian secondary school students.

This innovative project aims to encourage school students to become actively involved in the latest online technology. AWABA also aims to promote imaginative Australian online culture to students all over Australia.

The word 'AWABA' is an aboriginal word meaning flat or plain surface. AWABA will be a space where students can experiment, create and interact.

Never Tried Virtual Reality Before?

Virtual Reality is not about unweildy head gear and plugging yourself in through gloves and suits.

Being involved in a virtual world is as easy as getting online. You don't need to know how to build virtual worlds and you don't have to have done it before. We'll provide simple instructions.

In AWABA you will be able to create your own dwellings, make furniture and art, and change the environment itself. Students might enjoy meeting and chatting to people their own age.

AWABA is free and it's safe.

Educational Aspects of AWABA

AWABA can be used to stimulate learning in a number of ways.

  • Visualising 3D objects - while students can use premade objects from the object library some students will want to build their own. Building objects in 3D relies on a knowledge of the Cartesian coordinate system. Some information on the skills required to build objects in 3D is available at

    Those students who don't want to build objects from scratch can improve their 3D visualisation skills by manipulating and fitting together objects inside the virtual world.

    For an excellent, simple introduction to conceptualising 3D space, refer to the tutorial at

  • Programming skills can be developed by creating objects which have extra capabilities (a trampoline, for example). More advanced programming may be encouraged by showing students how to build bots. Bots are automated programs which can have all sorts of functions. For example, some worlds features bots which will play soccer with you. Other worlds feature bots which will answer questions about the world or even give you a tour.

  • Cooperative skills. Many projects will require the co-operation of a number of people.

  • Literacy is promoted by the fact that the chat interface is text.

  • 2D and 3D creative skills will be encouraged in this new medium where they will be finding out what the creative rules are, by exploration as opposed to learning by instruction.

  • AWABA can have music playing inside it, so students' music composing talents can be showcased and encouraged.

  • Objects which would be difficult or impossible to create may be shown easily in VR and allow immediate learning of some difficult concepts. Some of these are:
    • chemistry as molecular models;
    • quantum physical models;
    • ancient buildings and artifacts;
    • microscopic animals and plants (for example, there is a great collection of 3D insects here);
    • topological objects such as the Klein Bottle and the Moebius Strip;
    • some curious tiling patterns and the mathematical theories behind them;
    • the platonic solids and irregular polyhedra;
    • simple geometry and complex mathematical topology.
    These can all be exposed to students for them to absorb and explore.

  • Architecture already benefits from VR. Students could exploit it still further to create structures which they can see immediately instead of having to first draw up a symbolic layout.

Launch Update

AWABA was launched in Melbourne Australia on 6th September 1999 as part of the Aussiecon Three International Science Fiction Convention.

The launch was webcast live from within the world. So users were able to go into AWABA and watch it being launched in real time.

How to Get to AWABA

While VR technologies do not always require a full body suit rigged to super computers via fiber optic connections, you will generally need to download some easy to use software.

This software will be available here to download again soon.

What To Do When You Get There

You enter at "ground zero" wearing a virtual body called an avatar. An avatar is important so that other people are able to see you.


Moving around as an avatar is simple: just use the arrow keys. You can do much more than simply walk around:

  • run by holding down the CTRL key down while pressing an arrow key;
  • move through objects by holding down the SHIFT key while pressing an arrow key;
  • move sideways by holding down the SHIFT key while pressing the left or right arrow key, but be careful - while you are holding down the shift key you will move through objects;
  • fly straight up by hitting the "+" key (on the number keypad);
  • return to the ground by hitting the "-" key;
  • to get a view from outside your avatar press the END key;
  • bring your view back inside your avatar by pressing HOME;
  • look upwards - the PAGEUP key lets you do this;
  • look down - the PAGEDN key lets you do this(looking down is particularly useful when flying).

You will see a number of buttons along the top of the window that let your avatar do certain actions. "WAVE" and "ANGRY" are obvious, "ALRIGHT" is pretty clear too, "JOY" takes your avatar to la-la land. "MACA" is short for "macarena".


When you want to speak just start typing. The text is sent straight to the text entry box. To send the text you will need to hit "Enter".

If you want to talk to just one person rather than everyone in AWABA, you can select the name of the person you wish to whisper to from the drop-down list titled "Whisper", and type into the text entry box next to it.

When you want to stop whispering and begin to talk out loud you will need to click the normal text entry box again.

For more information email

Join the email list today to receive notification of Awaba Events and Launch Dates


Thank you to Online Australia who provided generous support in the first phase of Awaba.
National Office for the Information Economy
© 1999-2001 Virtual Reality Association Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Please read the site copyright/disclaimer notice and our privacy statement.
Feedback to

This Website was last updated: September 08, 2001