Carnegie Mellon, Sun collaborate on continued development of Alice programming environment

November 19, 2008

PITTSBURGH-- Sun Microsystems, Inc., is teaming up with Carnegie Mellon University to support the continuing development of Alice, the university's innovative, Java technology-based computer programming environment that teaches students to program Java software while having fun creating 3D animations, stories and video games.

Alice is an object-oriented, open source system developed over the last 10 years that is provided free to educators and students by the university. It features a drag and drop interface that allows students to create 3D environments and populate them with a wide variety of easy to program objects and characters. Because it's based on open development principles, it encourages users and teachers to share knowledge to improve teaching methods and identify improvements to the software on which the system is based.

Alice was the key research project of Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon's beloved professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design who died of pancreatic cancer last summer at the age of 47. Pausch spent more than a decade of his career developing the program. He was able to see a rough version of a new, enhanced Alice 3 just before he died.

Over the next three years, Sun Microsystems will work with Carnegie Mellon to globalize Alice, providing the tools to translate it into different languages and develop drag and drop artifacts unique to a variety of cultures. Sun will work with the Alice development team to bring the system to a worldwide audience of educators and students.

"The Alice team has done wonderful work over the last decade, making great contributions to computer science education," said Carnegie Mellon alumnus James Gosling, vice president and Sun Fellow who created the Java language. "There's no better investment we can make than in the education of the next generation. I'm thrilled that we're making this commitment."

Today, it's estimated that the current version -- Alice- 2.0 -- is being used in 10 to 15 percent of U.S. colleges and universities, as well as a number of high schools and middle schools. There is a version called "Storytelling Alice" that is especially attractive to middle school girls, helping them to become aware of the importance of computer science early in their educational careers.

A team of researchers headed by Associate Teaching Professor Wanda P. Dann and lead developer and Project Scientist Dennis Cosgrove is working around the clock to bring out Alice 3. Dann said that the support of Sun will enable her group to debug and extend their rough version of the system, increase the size of their team, speed up the development process and produce a higher quality product.

"Sun's participation will provide our team with the technical resources we need to bring the development of Alice 3 to completion over the next three years," Dann said. "We will bring out a full release of Alice 3 and follow that with the development of application programming interfaces that will make it useful in all STEM disciplines, including computer science." Dann said that Alice 3 also will make it easier for teachers using Alice to move their students into Java software.

Alice 3 also will feature essential arts assets from a version of "The Sims™" -- one of the best selling PC video games of all time -- which were given as a gift to the research team in 2006. The Sims content helps to transform the Alice software from a crude, 3-D programming tool into a compelling and user-friendly programming environment.

"Alice 3 is a major advance over the 2.0 version" said Peter Lee, professor and head of the Computer Science Department in Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science. "It retains the attractive, intuitive interface that motivates students to write computer programs almost without knowing it. At the same time, it provides a pathway to learning industrial-strength Java software programming. For many, this will be a great ticket to upward mobility."
The Alice Project has been supported in the past by the National Science Foundation, DARPA, Intel, Microsoft and SAIC, as well as Electronic Arts, Google, General Dynamics, the Heinz Foundation and the Hearst Foundation. For more information about the Alice project, see Carnegie Mellon makes downloads of the Alice software available at no cost at

About Carnegie Mellon: Carnegie Mellon is a private research university with a distinctive mix of programs in engineering, computer science, robotics, business, public policy, science and social science, fine arts and the humanities. More than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students receive an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration, and innovation. A small student-to-faculty ratio provides an opportunity for close interaction between students and professors. While technology is pervasive on its 144-acre Pittsburgh campus, Carnegie Mellon is also distinctive among leading research universities for the world-renowned programs in its College of Fine Arts. A global university, Carnegie Mellon has campuses in Silicon Valley, Calif., and Qatar, and programs in Asia, Australia and Europe. For more, see

Carnegie Mellon University

Related Video Games Articles from Brightsurf:

Video games improve the visual attention of expert players
Long-term experiences of action real-time strategy games leads to improvements in temporal visual selective attention.

Study questions video games' effects on violent behavior
A new Contemporary Economic Policy study finds that there is not enough information to support the claim that violent video games lead to acts of violence.

Do video games drive obesity?
Are children, teenagers and adults who spend a lot of time playing video games really more obese?

DeepMind's new gamer AI goes 'for the win' in multiplayer first-person video games
DeepMind researchers have taught artificially intelligent gamers to play a popular 3D multiplayer first-person video game with human-like skills -- a previously insurmountable task.

How does dark play impact the effectiveness of serious video games?
A new study has shown that allowing ''dark play'' in a serious video game intended to practice skills transferable to a real-life setting does not impact the game's effectiveness.

Study: Collaborative video games could increase office productivity
Move over trust falls and ropes courses, turns out playing video games with coworkers is the real path to better performance at the office.

Pitt researcher uses video games to unlock new levels of A.I.
Dr. Jiang designs algorithms that learn decision strategies in complex and uncertain environments like video games.

For blind gamers, equal access to racing video games
Computer Scientist Brian A. Smith has developed the RAD -- a racing auditory display -- to enable visually impaired gamers play the same types of racing games that sighted players play with the same speed, control, and excitement as sighted players.

Video games to improve mobility after a stroke
A joint research by the Basque research center BCBL and the London Imperial College reveals that, after a cerebral infarction, injuries in areas that control attention also cause motility problems.

No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

Read More: Video Games News and Video Games Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to