Somewhat along the same vein as Kodu, which we wrote about earlier this month, Alice is a free teaching tool to explore object-oriented programming in a 3D environment. You can use Alice, developed by Carnegie Mellon, to create short videos or 3D games.
It is an enticing tool that softens the blow of diving into the world of programming by allowing you to learn through examples and seeing how it all works together. An interesting bit of trivia, you might have heard about The Alice Project before if you read the book The Last Lecture.
Alice is composed of two main areas: setting the scene and scripting the action.
Setting the scene allows you to introduce a wide variety of objects to the scene template you choose to start with (a background of dirt, grass, sand, snow, water, or the moon). You can adjust where each object is, including the camera, with its simple drag and drop interface. You can also set various properties of each object through the sidebar.
While there are already a number of objects included in Alice 3, you can import even more 3D objects from the Gallery at Alice.org.
Next up is scripting the action. You can control each object and see the code that is controlling them. With a simple drag-and-drop interface to implement and order specific actions, it’s easy to get what you want while coming to an understanding of procedures, classes, etc.
The final product can be saved as a file with a .mov video or can be uploaded to YouTube.
For a little demo, I created a quick example of a robber that comes up with a clever plan to kick a soccer ball. Unfortunately, it was a trap all along.
Version tested: Alice 126.96.36.199.0
Alice works on Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7, Mac OS X (10.4 or more recent), and Linux. You can learn more and download it from Alice.org.