Mixed Reality Event
Back in October, I helped organize the first Second Life Community Convention with a few friends. Jerry Paffendorf (SNOOPYbrown Zamboni) and myself championed the addition of a mixed reality aspect to the event, and I wound up with the pleasure of organizing that part of the convention. A mixed reality event is when two worlds, usually one real and one virtual, hold the same event and have 2-way interaction. Usually the virtual space is the same as the real space.
At SLCC '05, me and over a dozen volunteers recreated the very same room we held the RL SLCC, and surrounded it with a virtual landscape of different sponsors' builds, video screens of RL streaming, and interesting attractions. This past weekend, Electric Sheep Company held a mixed reality event in R & B Coffee House both in Washington, D.C., and in the virtual recreation that I built.
You may find my photos on flickR here, or search for the tag "thehappening".
Electric Sheep Company's mixed reality aspect was just one part of The Happening, which included other arts: music, slam poetry, painting, photography, and fashion. I've been doing contracting for E Sheep since the new year, and this was an absolute fun project to work on. We had at the event two SL setups with output to projector screens, and one video camera streaming video into SL. (I may add, QuickTime 7 appears to be very glitchy.)
At the high point of the night, we had 64+ people in-world at the virtual R&B Coffee House, and the event probably saw 200 to 250 or so in the real world. The highlight was, of course, Phillip Torrone (Torrone Trumbo) who brought two setups of his inexpensive DIY virtual reality gear with him, that he pioneered back in December.
Yay for inexpensive consumer-friendly technology!
Phillip Torrone: Cool Dude.
Meeting Torrone was a really good experience. He's doing front-line guerilla-style innovation with O'Reilly's MAKE:zine, but he's really comfortable letting people play around with his new toys. Phillip was at ease with the crowd of mostly non-technorati types that were at the party, which is much more than can be said for other tech innovators. Torrone was very generous with his time and attention with Electric Sheep, and he's a down-to-earth, engaging, and smart guy.
For many tech-types, being a friendly, real person can be a challenge, whether it's lack of social skills or sheer elitism. Neither is true of Torrone, and I feel privileged to have been able to talk with him and be treated just as another guy. I didn't feel like I was treated like the relative newbie that I really am to this whole futurist-techie industry that I've dove head-first into.
And so, thanks to ...
... all who attended in SL and who made this a great event,
Electric Sheep for having me onboard on this fun project,
Alphonso and The Happening organizers for having us,
Phillip Torrone for his time and blog entries and positive attitude,
Linden Lab for their help in promotion!
Also, thanks to the Second Life Herald for their coverage:
It All Happened At The Happening
In Which I Happen To Invent Web 3-point-D
Mixed Reality Event
Mixed-Reality Party In DC and Second Life
from the strange-ideas-and-stranger-places dept.
As I finished the last entry, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine who reads MAKE:blog.
Phillip Torrone posted about The Happening in Washington, D.C. that he will be attending this weekend that Electric Sheep Company are participating in with a mixed-reality event.
I've been making the in-world recreation. *grin*
I organized a meeting of developers yesterday. The Second Life Herald has a decent write-up about it, and I will be blogging about it with my own thoughts soon.
So I posted to the forums after I saw this demo of Multiverse. Multiverse is an online MMO(G) engine with what seems to be nice development tools.
Multiverse offers features that Second Life is dying for:
1. Importable meshes from Maya / other standard programs
2. Tools to zoom in and out of world easily without flying somewhere
3. Unlimited landscape for a server for alternate worlds
4. Much cleaner build interface
5. Nice land customizer interface that uses sliders and/or swatch painting for editing terrain
A quick analysis of why SL needs each:
1. Importable meshes / compatibility with other programs
The original idea of Linden Lab is not have a compatibility with 3-D Studio Max or Maya or the other standard development platforms, I presume, is that Linden Lab wanted to encourage more people to remain in world.
Well, okay, we are nearing 150,000 users. I think it's safe to say there are people in world. We need compatibility with other tools so that developers have higher-end professional tools available to make even cooler things in SL.
2. Better camera navigation
Right now if I am working on a very large build, one of the really frustrating things is that there is a maximum distance you can have your camera from your AV. As every single map navigation site has proven, especially Google Earth, this is not a good interface for navigating quickly. The rationale is privacy, well, kinda sorta ... you see, you can't really have privacy anyway, so it's a compromise - at least you'll be able to detect a person spying on you via the map or a sensor.
Open up the distance limit by letting people undock the camera from the AV, and add a tool to parcels that lets people be invisible to undocked cameras.
Let people zoom all the way in and out of the SL world. Let people explore SL using their camera. You kill two birds with one stone here - protecting privacy better than we currently do and allowing the really-awesome zoom-in/out effect that I love in Google Earth.
3. Unlimited landscape on private servers
Linden Lab is releasing preambles to this in the 1.9 patch:
We need a GUI API very, very badly. World of Warcraft opened up their GUI, and it allows users to decide for themselves what the cleanest, most useful interface for their use is.
When we look at corporate clients coming in, we don't need all the development tools. We don't need inventory, even. How about the ability to ignore all inventory gifts and IMs not from someone on your friend list?How about letting users start with a basic UI, and once they feel comfortable with that, they can turn on more advanced options?
How about people making customizable GUIs suitable for games in SL? A RPG GUI? A racing car GUI? Or more obviously, a corporate branded GUI.
While Multiverse doesn't have this (yet), I think showing off an easier GUI just emphasizes our need for simpler, customizable interface.
5. Better Land Editor
Here's the essential problem with the SL land edit tool: It updates in real time.
What it could be is allowing the pop-up of a new screen that shows a preview, able to be edited and update much faster than having to deal with the lag of updating the sim's hard drive every time you move terrain just a little bit. This way, with a preview screen, people can play around with different looks, and combined with suggestion (2) from above, would be a pretty kick-ass way to edit land.
So, while Multiverse is currently focusing on the gaming aspect of VW design, it's clear that the toolkits used to create both that and SL are very, very similar. It is naive to write off Multiverse and claim "Oh, they're doing games, not to worry."
Yes to worry!
Here in SL, Linden Lab has been trying to promote game design for four years, is desperately lacking in the proper tools, and will easily lose the race to Multiverse for game development unless it catches up.
Worse for SL is that all it will take is a corporate client going to Multiverse and asking for a more social "game", and voila, you now have a social MMO. Geez, isn't that a big part of what SL is about?
What's exciting for us users is that competition breeds innovation. If Linden Lab is able to deliver the features we've been asking for, and do it in time before it has to make the software more of an open format, and we're looking at a win for us users, both developers and consumer types.
The outages have to stop.
I mean, that sounds like a no-brainer, right? Second Life is polymorphing into the Metaverse, and we've got downtimes?
Today Second Life was down for about seven hours. Linden Lab announced that it was due to a power outage at their co-location facility. Imagine the whole Internet being down for seven hours. It would be an immeasurable economic loss. While losing seven hours of Second Life may not seem like much now, consider the work that was missed being done. How is SL going to be viable for big businesses if it has these downtimes?
I'm not just speaking about unscheduled downtimes, either. The whole patching system needs depends on centralized servers. And while Linden Lab is very much aware of the need to decentralize, time is rapidly running out. As a full-time SL developer, I can tell you that businesses are interested in Second Life as a platform, but the lack of data backup and control over when outages will occur has to end. It's the same sort of vulnerability that allowed griefers to physics-ball the grid to death last Fall.
Dear Linden Lab:
Please hire some more programmers and QA people. Please stop using the "we don't want any dead weight" excuse. Please realize that you have probably a dozen major upgrades to SL that need to happen this year before SL becomes a Spruce Goose. (Havok 2, HTML, decentralization, permissions overhaul, UI API, better group tools, better land tools, ratings overhaul, data backup, mono, XML-RPC completion, IM compatibility, persistant data storage, etc etc etc)