2007 has seen a trend (dare I say “meme”? No, perhaps not) for real world cities to be replicated in the virtual world of Second Life. This trend has been particularly prevalent in Northern/Central Europe – with Germany and The Netherlands vying for the most virtual cities. Today, while passing by the World Trade Center Memorial again, I espied an island called Â»CPHÂ«, and finding it open, went to have a look. It seems that the trend has moved North a tad, as this is virtual Copenhagen. But is it “wunderbar, wunderbar?” Continue reading →
The number of universities entering the virtual world of Second Life never ceases to amaze me. One that I have been keeping an eye on for some time is Princeton. It has been closed to casual strollers while construction proceeds, but following a bit of string-pulling, I was able to get an advance preview earlier this week. I have only one small problem: the amount of information I now have is so huge it is going to take all of my ingenuity — and thereâ€™s precious little of that — to prune it down to the bare essentials. The sim will not formally open to the public until the next academic year, but much of the work is now complete.
Incidentally, aware that I over-use the term “iconic” I have opted in this post to go with “signature” instead. Time will tell whether this is a sensible move.
My tour guide was the charming and ridiculously well-informed (not to mention often downright hilarious) Persis Trilling, who, apart from heading up the Princeton in-house IT education support services, is something of an expert on the History of Architecture and is overseeing the build in Second Life. Continue reading →
Metaverse services company in-world momentum has begun construction on a virtual Munich in Second Life, the company announced today. Tourist attractions like the Marienplatz, the Viktualienmarkt, and the Frauenkirche should be built out by the end of June, and offices and shopfronts will eventually be offered for rent to SL members. There are a number of blog entries in English, and you should be able to follow the project’s construction at the site. While there’s not much here to get excited about yet, one interesting aspect is the entry detailing how the team shrank Munich down to manageable size. In the end, though, this isn’t the kind of virtual reflection of real-world people, activity and events that could be one of the most interesting uses of Second Life, but only a virtual tourist attraction and demo project. There’s a lot of potential here, though, given the density of tech in Munich, so we look forward to seeing where the SL version of the city goes.
Without an announcement on its official blog, Linden Lab, makers of the virtual world of Second Life, seems to have introduced a new capability for its in-world building tools that will allow them to better support established formats, something that SL builders have long found sorely lacking. The new feature should change the landscape for the SL building community by inviting in modelers whose skills have not been applicable before.
The new addition is known as a “sculpted prim” (short for primitive, the word used to denote the basic building block of SL objects), and should make it possible for 3D artists who are used to working in more standard formats to work more easily in Second Life. The scultped prim takes its shape from information encoded into the color channels of a texture. For reasons beyond my technical expertise, this makes it possible to create a more complex, more natural shape than is possible with the current set of SL build tools.
More importantly, it means that SL objects are suddenly a lot more interoperable with objects and shapes from other worlds and modelling programs. According to the Second Life wiki, “We provide an exporter for Maya, and hopefully exporters for 3ds Max, Blender, and ZBrush will be available soon. We also have plans to provide a sculpt editor within the Second Life viewer.” The wiki doesn’t say where this Maya exporter is available, but according to Tao Takashi, it may be in the next preview build of the client, due shortly. Continue reading →
Second Life architect Lordfly Digeridoo has posted a great video of the process of designing a site plan in Second Life for a real-world site in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Because of “massive procrastination,” LF says, he had only a week to do it. His video compresses that week into less than 10 minutes of high-speed SL work, and it’s pretty compelling to watch. There’s even a great sense of suspense in wondering what the finished product will be like. An excellent look at the methods of a master builder.
The Virtual Holland being set up by Dutch bankers ING in the virtual world of Second Life is beginning to take shape. It’s just over a month since I blogged the launch, and several recent blog posts are now giving us a peek into what’s going on there. Aleister Kronos (from whom I’ve stolen the pic above) has a bunch of images and a link to a list of resident ventures that have been chosen to populate the area. ING is taking a similar approach to Pontiac’s Motorati project in SL: choosing from among submitted resident projects that aren’t necessarily related directly to ING itself. Nice. (Motorati is one of my favorite corporate projects.) There’s a bit more info at Shaping Thoughts, which is written by an employee of an ING subsidiary, and Scott Weisbord (aka SL’s Theodore Raymond) at Experience Planner has some more images. [Shaping Thoughts also lists some possible ING partners in the project, and has an interesting architectural comparison of ING’s real and virtual builds.]
If you’re reading this, you probably know that I gave a presentation on Friday to the Art Directors Club of Germany here in Berlin. I had written my comments into a long post that also included these more general thoughts on culture and the metaverse, but realized there was too much for any sane person to make it through to the end, so I’ve split them up into two. First, the cultural metaverse of Berlin. Coming soon: Some idle thoughts on next-gen virtual worlds.
The day-long conference I spoke at actually turned out to be quite interesting, featuring not only creative professionals from branding, marketing and advertising, but architects and event planners as well, including Ric Birch, who has been organizing the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games since around 1984. I’ll go over some of what was said below, but first, to explain the pic: The event was held at a very nice new arts center here known as RadialSystem V, where in the evening I had the chance to attend a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in which the chamber orchestra of about 14 pieces had also been choreographed as dancers. One non-musician dancer was also on stage, doing things like sprinkling solo violinist Midori Seiler with snowflakes and autumn foliage when he wasn’t running around in his tighty whities. The musicians mostly walked or sometimes ran around the stage, and though I’m usually not a fan of avant-garde treatments like this, the effect was actually quite captivating, and worked exceedingly well, and a lot of the choreography of the solo dancer was very Beckett-like. The whole thing was conceived by the formidable Sasha Waltz. The space at RadialSystem is very impressive to begin with, being a modern structure built into the remains of an old warehouse or factory building that sits right along the former Berlin Wall on the edge of a canal. The audience loved show, giving the performers something like six or seven curtain calls. Continue reading →
I’ll be blogging as usual for the next few days, but I’ll be doing it from Berlin, where I’m headed this evening to spread the gospel of 3pointD in the form of a talk on virtual worlds I’m to give to a room full of advertising execs, creative directors and other marketing men and women. (Justin Bovington of Rivers Run Red will be there too, it looks like.) Berlin, of course, has some cool metaversal stuff going on lately, and I’m hoping to make contact with some of the people who are hooking it up. If you’re in Berlin and you want to get a coffee or a drink, drop me a line at themetaverse [at] gmail [dot] com, or SMS me on +1-917-749-6185. (I probably won’t have Twitter going on my mobile, just to save on international charges, which are stiff.) I’ve always wanted to go to Berlin, which first capitivated me something like 20 years ago in the form of a book by the artist Jorg Immendorf (on which the sculpture above is based), accompanied by a remarkable poem by the artist and printmaker A.R. Penck. And to my surprise I’ve just found that you can read the entire book online! It doesn’t have anything to do with 3pointD, of course, but it’s one of my favorite books, so I highly recommend it. See you in Berlin.
Paffendorf: Imagine being pumped up right now. Welcome. What I work on: My profession is being a futurist in the video gaming and virtual world space. I survey and think ahead about what’s happening with various simulations. I’m actually on staff, which is a nice position, with Electric Sheep Company, about a year old start-up that builds 3D content, experiences and software for virtual worlds that allow users to create content. We work primarily in Second Life. Invites audience to take stage to fill a fourth position on the panel.
In our business, I have a lot of freedom to lead and create public conversations. I define what’s happening in that space as the metaverse, which I do borrow from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Last year I helped to start a research project with the Acceleration Studies Foundation called the Metaverse Roadmap: What is happening between video games, virtual worlds, gemapping and the web? We kind of came up with a definition: 4 components: Virtual worlds. Mirror Worlds. Augmented reality technolgoies bringing virtual activity to physical locations. Lifelogging, having a persistent identity in various sites and things you do, turning yourself into an avatar.
What happens when video games and gamespaces become more like the Web, in that anyone can create their own spaces and games, then connect to those with avatar identity, then we have the real practical immersive virtual world of communities online. Continue reading →
An anoymous reader just sent me a link to this YouTube video of a replica, built in the virtual world of Second Life, of Apple‘s glass cube store on New York’s Fifth Avenue. Keep in mind there were earlier reports of an Apple store in Second Life, but those didn’t show anything half as elaborate as the build on display in the video, which also features fairly high production values for machinima. I’m in Austin at SXSW and can’t get into Second Life very well on this laptop in this hotel, so I can’t go check out what’s at the old location, and there’s no location given for the store in the video. However, the video does end with production credits, and they don’t give any indication of whether or not Apple is actually involved. The video is credited to metaverse services firm AxisVR LLC, which advertises a number of interesting services but doesn’t provide a client list. (I’ve never heard of them before, but that doesn’t mean much.) 3pointD wagers that the new Apple store, which looks very well built out in the video, might have been built out by Apple employees, but hasn’t been approved by Apple’s legal beagles. That or it’s AxisVR spending a lot of time and effort to angle for a highly unlikely contract from Apple. We wonder whether the SL store will be manned 24 hours a day, as the New York location is.
Welcome to Second Life: The Ahern welcome region in March 2004
Electric Sheep Chris Carella reminded me recently of this page full of screenshots taken three years ago, in March 2004, in the virtual world of Second Life, by SL resident Essence Lumin. [Chris found them on virtual architect Lordfly Digeridoo’s redesigned blog.] Essence recorded every one of the 108 sixteen-acre regions that then constituted the world, snapping each from the southeast corner of the sim. A great project that would be impossible today, given the thousands of sims that now make up SL. Instead of trying to duplicate it, I’ve gone and taken screens of half a dozen regions from approximately the same spot. You can check them out below (with historical screens borrowed from Essence), and see how much the world has changed since then. The Ahern welcome area, which appears in the top left of the screenshot above, you’ll have to see for yourself in-world. [Warning: There’s about a dozen screenshots after the jump.] Continue reading →
Dutch bankers ING, in partnership with metaverse services company Rivers Run Red, are getting ready to set up a virtual Holland within the virtual world of Second Life. While the OurVirtualHolland project’s Web site doesn’t say how many sims it will cover, it sounds a substantial project, featuring Dutch architecture, landscapes, windmills, tulip fields, and even deltaworks, as well as what sounds like a virtual Formula 1 racetrack. (ING is the title sponsor of the ING Renault Formula 1 team.) Residents will be able to own land and run businesses there (i.e., it’s a place designed to attract residents, not just visitors), and the virtual Holland will come complete with its own third-party registation site and orientation experience. The project will be built and opened in stages, but ING notes, “We expect a first release to be ready in weeks not months.” Continue reading →
Rik Riel has a nice video on his blog showing off the »Roma sim« in the virtual world of Second Life. The Grid is down at the moment or I’d go check it out, but it looks like a nice build. A no-fly zone, the sim comes complete with a market, religious buildings, and what look like working chariot races and a gladiator’s arena, as well as several interactive educational displays. It’s nice work, and Rik’s video tour is nice work as well. Worth checking out.
Architecture Island, from SL resident Keystone Bouchard’s Flickr stream
Regular readers are aware that I often pine for a 3D wiki for the virtual world of Second Life, something akin to the one Hiro Pendragon made some time ago. I’d love to see an object that many people could modify in some way, which could be rolled back to earlier versions or have individual modifications ratified somehow by the group. Turns out I’m not the only one. I recently noticed an interesting discussion on The ARCH, an excellent blog on virtual architecture, about the possibilities for collaborative design mechanisms in Second Life (complete with transcript). Keystone Bouchard, who runs The ARCH, puts the problem nicely: “Is true Wikitecture and collaborative asynchronous design possible in Second Life? If so, what kinds of tools, scripts and rules might be necessary? Some exciting ideas are already beginning to surface.”
The transcript is a bit too long for me to read all the way through at the moment, but some interesting ideas appear there. A couple of my favorite come from a resident named Theory Shaw: Continue reading →
I love the idea of a virtual picture book on Second Life (such as this one). The only way I’d love it more were if it were real. (Who knows, maybe that’s on the way as well.) I actually think it’s important to keep these kind of documents updated, since SL is so mercurial, and great builds rise and fall practically overnight. I’d love to be able to look back on the best, rather than have to lament that they’ve been lost to the pixelated mists of time.
Csven over at reBang has the interesting news that French firm IMAGTP (which seems to be an architectural consultancy that relies heavily on 3D visualization tools) has “licensed the CryENGINE 2 game engine for use as an architectural and urban planning tool.” The CryEngine, of course, is the game engine made by Crytek, which powers their FarCry and Crysis games — which are known as having among the best graphics of any FPS. Oddly, though, Crytek’s games are known more for their expansive outdoor vistas than for their architectural wonder. Still, it’s nice to see more evidence that such tools of 3D connectivity are useful for more than just play. Game technology: Not just for games anymore.
Second Life resident Cory Edo of the Electric Sheep Company (sponsors of this blog) has an interesting entry on the blog chronicling the construction of Starwood Hotels‘ new aloft line of hotels (from which I’ve lifted the image above. It seems that feedback from visitors to the virtual hotel will be incorporated into the design of the real thing, due to open next year. When the project originally launched, Starwood wasn’t sure whether they’d incorporate such feedback. Nice to see them recognize the value of resident feedback, and to see that they’ve found a way to use a viritual world to improve their products in the real world. Just what revisions are being made is being kept under wraps for the moment, but they’ll be reflected in the virtual model first, so check back at the aloft blog or in-world. You can’t get into the aloft sim at the moment, but you can get a long-distance view from the neighboring »Argali region«.
Googleannounced yesterday that it would hold a 3D building competition for university students, in which students in the U.S. and Canada are asked to model their university campus in 3D using SketchUp. Entries are due by June 1, and the top 50 team members receive an all-expense-paid trip to the Googleplex to participate in a three-day workshop with Google’s modeling experts. This is pretty cool, as far as it goes — it just doesn’t go very far. It seems to me this is just about the most boring way possible to promote the use of SketchUp and Google Earth for cool 3D modeling stuff. What do you think? Continue reading →
IBM, which recently set up a business group to explore possibilities in virtual worlds — and earmarked millions of dollars for the effort — is now bringing mega-retailer Sears to the virtual world of Second Life in a project to be announced today, 8 January, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. SL resident Ultravox Freeman, aka Mike Rowe, a senior project manager on IBM’s digital convergence team, was kind enough to give me a tour of the Sears build over the weekend.
Though the build is still a work in progress, Rowe said, each of the floors will present different possibilities for taking advantage of a 3D online world like Second Life for showing off Sears products and giving consumers more functionality than they could get from a flat Web page. Furthest along seemed to be the Kitchen and Appliances floor (pictured above), which currently allows visitors to re-color and re-texture the various appliances and surfaces of the virtual kitchen on display. The plan is to allow a customer to import their own kitchen design to the virtual space, fit it out with Sears products, and be able to move around in it as they would a real kitchen in order to get a feel for how the products would work in their kitchen at home. Continue reading →
I saw some relatives for a holiday dinner last night out in Queens here in New York. We had a lovely time — as well as an interesting 3pointD moment. A new addition to the family — a Windows laptop — was at several points the focus of attention. Not only were my cousin and her husband proud of the fact that they’d been able to set up a wireless router (without technical leet skillz other than the ability to hook up game consoles for their son and daughter), but she told me the family’s favorite app these days was Google Earth. Apparently, they spend hours sitting in front of the computer, touring not only the sites involved in the kids’ homework assignments, but my cousin also sometimes stays up after everyone has gone to bed, just poking around the planet. I was really struck by the way this resembled television consumption (which until now, and perhaps still, remains the family’s media of choice — they are huge sports fans). And when I showed them how to turn on the layer of 3D models, things got even more exciting. Soon we were downloading Shea Stadium and dropping it right where it belonged — much to the wonder and delight of my cousin’s 12-year-old son. Everyone also seemed to grok the fact that the 3D models had been made not by a company, for the most part, but by other users. The death of television as we know it is closer than you think. Make way for the New “New Media” tm — entertainment in the 3pointD mode.
At Tuesday morning’s opening session of Autodesk University 2006, CEO Carl Bass saved his best demo for last to present before a crowd of over 6000 Computer Aided Drafting and 3D modeling enthusiasts at the software maker’s largest annual event. While it had already been posted this past Sunday by corporate blogger Shaan Hurley, Bass’s unveiling of Autodesk Island in the online world of Second Life marks the day in history that the 800 pound gorilla of the CAD market brings its resources and user base to bear in its latest return to cyberspace, a term that reportedly it once attempted to trademark as its own.
Here’s one I missed while I was away: It looks like Appliance maker Whirlpool has become the first big company to upload 3D models of its products to the 3D Warehouse of objects for use in SketchUp, which can in turn be imported into Google Earth. I spotted this on Ogle Earth, which notes, “Expect everybody else to follow suit. In a few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ll be able to push a “buy” button in SketchUp and have your inventory of virtual home furniture materialize on your doorstep. With a cut to Google, of course.” What Stefan means is that physical versions of the furniture from your virtual home will be delivered to your real-life doorstep. I love this idea (which, it must be noted, is already happening here and there). Here’s the press release, and Whirlpool’s 3D Warehouse page.
Following a discussion of the very public and didactic First Second Life Church of Elvis comes a quiet place of repose and solitude that by comparison lacks any apparent function or purpose. Yet it is this very ambiguity that offers up a portal to the possibilities and provocations inherent in ‘THE DUDE’s Pad’, located in the Second Life region of Stinson (slurl link).
I haven’t checked this out much yet, but Second Life resident FlipperPA Peregrine (creator of SLBoutique.com), sends words of Microsoft’s new beta release of Virtual Earth 3D, which runs in your Web browser and is available through a link in the left sidebar at the Live Search site. As you can see in the image of the Las Vegas strip above, the level of detail is mighty impressive. And wow, I just checked out the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s very nice. As James Fee points out, “It streams much slower than [Google Earth], but the detail is many times better.” If you haven’t seen this yet, install it now — in IE only, not Firefox, natch.
Like any good work of religious architecture, perhaps, the First Second Life Church of Elvis creates a paradoxical container that is at once about being woven together with others in a community yet completely naked before a higher power. In this case, that higher power wears a pompadour.
But then again, so did I. They were handing them out at the door.
The build sits on a mere 512 square meters of First Land in the sim of Nampo (slurl link). Its 117 prims, while representative of one of the humble gable-roofed churches found in rural areas across North America, also happen to be hovering in the air, fused with bling and iconography of the The King. Fittingly, a yellow porcelain toilet sits at the apse end from which the clergy (including the Right Reverend Elvis Faust and his associate SpaceProphet Jay (who kinda looked like a young Darth Vegas)) deliver their services. The pews are emblazoned with the visage of the man originally known as The Hilbilly Cat, allowing attendees to take part in a ceremonious sitting on of his face.
But as SL resident Tao Takashi points out in a BlogHUD post made from within the world, he was unable to find a link at the site to purchase a Kweli CD from Amazon or another Web-based service. Is there a missed opportunity here? It will be interesting to see what the Electric Sheep Company (sponsors of this blog) do for their project for Sony/BMG, which, according to The New York Times, “has rooms devoted to popular musicians like Justin Timberlake and DMX, allowing fans to mingle, listen to tunes or watch videos. Sony BMG is also toying with renting residences in the complex, as well as selling music downloads that people can listen to throughout the simulated world.” Continue reading →
Ever wonder what goes into the creation of an elaborate build in the virtual world of Second Life? You can find out starting Thursday morning, when noted SL builder Versu Richelieu will spend 72 hours building in Second Life while living in a store window on New York’s Fifth Avenue. The event is a marketing effort (dare we say “stunt”?) mounted by Intel to promote their Centrino Duo-based laptop line, on which Versu will be working. No matter how much of a stunt it may be, the idea — dreamed up by virtual world services company Millions of Us — is very cool. Building things is, of course, one of the core activities of Second Life, and watching an elaborate castle, neighborhood or post-modern tower come together is a fascinating thing. Now you can witness the action live in New York, in Second Life, or on the Web. Continue reading →
For those who haven’t seen it yet, you can now check out the virtual Aloft Hotel that the Electric Sheep Company (sponsors of this blog) have built out for Starwood Hotels. Just head over to aloft island, which is now open to the public, and check in to the prototype hotel. You can read about the process of creating the model as well at the Virtual Aloft blog. Part of the idea is to get feedback from visitors, so don’t forget to drop a line to frontdesk [AT] virtualaloft.com with your opinion of the build. Let us know how the room service is.
Andrew Reynolds over at eightbar (the blog of a few IBM researchers at the company’s Hursley installation) writes that he’s put together a crude version of an app that 3pointD has been looking for since earlier this summer: a tool to export shapes from Google’s cool free 3D modeling app SketchUp and import them to the virtual world of Second Life. Andrew’s plug-in for SketchUp writes basic model information to a text file, from which it can be imported to Second Life in notecard form (presumably by manually cutting and pasting). After that, an in-world object parses the notecard and re-generates the model in Second Life. It seems to only handle very simple objects, but it’s a good start. Continue reading →
Wayne Ashley, who helped curate a set of recent workshops and symposia known as Breaking the Game, sends along a link to what looks like an interesting collection of recorded conversations, interviews and guided tours from those sessions, which were devoted to things like the intersection of the real and virtual where 3D design is concerned, “virtual worlds, computer gaming, immersive technologies, and new possibilities for artistic practice and experience,” and ways to “open up the art of game modification to the contingencies of everyday life, where virtual technologies increasingly mediate physical spaces and human movements in very complex and dynamic ways.” I’ve dipped into a few of the recordings here and there and they do promise a rich trove of thought to mine. Jerry, of course, seems to have weaseled his way onto the roster, as ever, but there are also a number of less ubiquitous thinkers you may not have encountered before, whose thoughts are just as well worth watching. Enjoy.