Digital Resources for Buddhist Studies

Using UTF-8 in Virtual eLearning

Posted by billmagee on 2009/10/26

In a previous posting here and in a video there I described a method for writing and displaying Tibetan based on numerous panels each containing the entire character set and a method for writing and displaying Tibetan that uses a server-side PHP script to communicate with the parcel media url.

These are useful insofar as they are generic methods for displaying Tibetan that require no setup on the part of the student. However, for the instructor, the multi-panel build and server-side LaTex installation are relatively difficult to construct, requiring assembly and programming knowledge. Therefore, we need an easily implemented method for writing and displaying the Buddhist canonical languages in the metaverse.

Luckily, such a method is already available in the Virtual Worlds of Second Life and OpenSim: these platforms support Unicode UTF-8 encoding both in scripts and in the chat interface.

Unicode is a computing standard allowing computers to represent most of the world’s writing systems. Unicode can be implemented by a variety of character encodings, most commonly UTF-8 (8-bit UCS/Unicode Transformation Format), a variable-length character encoding for Unicode. It is able to represent any character in the Unicode standard.

UTF-8 encoded characters can be represented in-world, but to view them one must have a unicode font for that language installed on one’s own computer.

These three images show Tibetan, Devanagari, and Chinese being displayed in the Dharma Drum Buddhist College OpenSim:

Tibetan UTF-8

Tibetan UTF-8

Devanagari UTF-8

Devanagari UTF-8

Chinese UTF-8

Chinese UTF-8

The UTF-8 strings were easily typed on my Ubuntu computer using Scim, a multi-language parsing tool that provides a wide range of input methods covering over thirty languages. Input methods are available for your operating system also. Consult your favorite search engine for details.

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