Yes, just to keep you on your toes, here’s a link to the thumbsucker I just put up at The Last Weblog:
Mass Queens and the Clarity of Game Mechanics
Yes, just to keep you on your toes, here’s a link to the thumbsucker I just put up at The Last Weblog:
Mass Queens and the Clarity of Game Mechanics
This is one of the most bitchin’ add-ons for the virtual world of Second Life that I’ve seen in a while. Our fellow Brooklynites at Cruxy, who run a site that lets musicians, filmmakers and other artists promote (and earn from the sale of) their work, have released a music map for Second Life that lets you see which Cruxy artists are being played at which locations in the virtual world. Cruxy offer a Second Life player that lets you listen to Cruxy artists while you’re in-world. Their new music map of SL shows you what’s being played where, lets you filter by a particular artist, and just generally looks cool. Rock on. (And yes, that’s me interviewing Suxanne Vega if you scroll down the Cruxy home page. That was fun. And you can listen to the entire interview if you like. Well worth suffering through my questions to hear what such an interesting artist — and long-time New Yorker — has on her mind these days. Her new album is awesome.)
Anshe Chung Studios, which produces digital content and services for virtual worlds like Second Life, IMVU and others, has drawn a round of funding from New York venture capital firm Gladwyne Partners, who were early investors in the Electric Sheep Company. Sources at Gladwyne tell 3pointD the investment closed today, but wouldn’t reveal the amount. Gladwyne should be quite happy to have found another play in the virtual world sector; they’ve been looking very closely at the space since hopping into the Sheep pen. From the sound of things, they’re continuing the due diligence they’ve been doing throughout the space for the last year or two, so look for more, although it remains to be seen how soon. And congratulations to Anshe (or rather, to the husband-and-wife team behind the avatar), who has built an unparalleled “native” virtual-world brand over the last four years or so. Such companies should be under pressure from bigger, more established production houses, but none seem to have made significant in-roads. Anshe also has the advantage of having outsourced much of her studio’s work to employees in her native China, which may have made a difference to Gladwyne. In any case, it’s interesting to see just how far you can go with amateur content-creation, which is where Anshe started. Nice to see Gladwyne concentrating so heavily on the space, as well. We look forward to more.
Japanese writer, blogger and game designer Shigesato Itoi‘s site, Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun, is running a series of articles taken from a conversation with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. The first three (of eleven) are already up on the site, and there’s some good stuff there, not just for game designers, but for designers of software in general, especially at a moment when more and more people are coming to recognize the importance of game mechanics to user engagement. Parts four through eleven unfold over the next ten days. Whether you’re interested in Nintendo’s perspective on game and software design, or you just want to hear from “the world’s number one researcher of Miyamoto studies,” this is pretty much required reading.
With the success of Nicktropolis and even more so WebKinz, Club Penguin, and things like GoPets and more (Animal Crossing, anyone?), virtual worlds for kids have become the hot ticket this summer. Two new ones are on their way: one an educational 3D theme park, the other a cool 2D “world” designed in part by Aardman Animations, the outfit behind the excellent Wallace & Gromit cartoons.
The Aardman offering is known as WebbliWorld, and is populated by all kinds of avatars and features beginning for the most part with W- or Webbli-. That’s WebbliWallace above, the avatar I created by sticking together the bits and pieces on offer. Not really an immersive multiuser world, as far as I can tell, WebbliWorld instead offers a range of Flash games and activities designed to educate young ‘uns and inspire them to take on real-world activities like sports or mucking about in the garden. You can view other Webblis profiles, but communication seems limited. Continue reading
I couldn’t get this to work yesterday and I still can’t today, but one of the Electric Sheep got it working and it sounds fascinating. Someone (said to be a teen) has created an Ajax-based client for the virtual world of Second Life. Is this the start of browser-based SL use? That’s a potentially revolutionary idea. From the original post describing AjaxLife:
Due to some combination of boredom, wanting to talk to people in SL, and inspiration from a vague memory of something Interfect Sonic did, I decided to start work on an AJAX based SL client.
Itâ€™s still under heavy development, but the result so far is an application/page/site called AjaxLife.
It now works on the MG (I think!)
* Basic map
* Accepting/declining teleport offers
* Local chat, instant messages (partially — you canâ€™t start them except with online friends)
* Inventory received notifications
* Friend on/offline notifications
* Balance change notifications, etc.
It also correctly logs you in and out, and notifies you if you were disconnected for any reason.
Let us know if you get it going. [Via Vint Falken.]
Huge global marketing and communications company Publicis and big 3D design company Dassault have teamed up on a new plugin-based 3D browser tool called 3dswym, which will “offer a collaborative Web-based platform allowing marketers to connect directly to consumers in order to jointly create and adapt new consumer goods and new retail environments using advanced Web and 3D tools.” You can plug in and mess around with an early version of 3dswym, but it doesn’t seem to offer anything special at the moment. That said, it sounds like it could be cool once it’s spun up. The tool is based on an interesting premise, though: “Successful marketing must permit consumers to enter the product creation process at a much earlier stage, so that products and services are in fact co-generated with them” according to a press release. Thing is that the global reach and sway of these companies could well help drive things in a more co-creative direction. Keep an eye out for 3dswym coming to a consumer products company near you — although not necessarily soon.
Denise Caruso and Clay Shirky opened Supernova 2007 this morning by approaching the socially networked environment of the World Wide Web from two different directions. Caruso’s basic thesis was that people needed to break out of their insular social networks and take additional risks in order to bring in a greater variety of viewpoints and push innovation forward. Shirky called for the industry to rely more heavily on love, and posited that love would be a better indicator of where the IT industry is headed than business models are. Continue reading
ComputerworldUK has a nice article up about the possibility that different virtual worlds will one day support a standard that would let users travel freely among them. This is an idea I’ve been hot on since even before starting this blog, so it’s nice to see other people supporting it — especially when they’re people like IBM vice president of standards and open source Bob Sutor, who’s quoted in the piece. Sutor has been putting up a nice series of posts on his blog since the beginning of June, detailing his basic requirements for virtual worlds, his desire for more VW artificial intelligence, some scenarios for moving assets, information and identity among virtual worlds, and the need for worlds to run on multiple platforms. (Sutor will be at a virtual worlds event at MIT’s Media Lab this Friday, apparently, though I can’t find a link.) A lot of what he’s talking about in those posts, if you ask me, points toward the broader future of virtual worlds. But feel free to poke holes in my arguments below. Even if it’s only to complain about the great length of this post. Continue reading
A couple of events to briefly note today, including a new presence in the virtual world of Second Life, the U.S. State Department. Also, 3D printers are getting cheaper, but even the “home” versions remain prohibitive. Plus some microelectronics that could prove awfully cool someday. Continue reading
I’ve been interested in what little information is available about Outback Online and the “user-generated spaces” that Yoick CEO Rand Leeb-du Toit is building there, so when I read (in an article I’ve since lost the link to) that Australian research institute NICTA had developed the peer-to-peer technology that is supposed to make Outback more scalable than any 3D online world we’ve seen before, I got in touch. NICTA’s Dr. Santosh Kulkarni was kind enough to give me some time on the phone. Between what Dr. Kulkarni was able to reveal and what I was able to understand I seem to have got a rough outline of NICTA’s technology that hopefully sheds some light on the new techniques being developed there. Continue reading
I had a brief visit with Second Life resident epredator Potato today (that’s him in the audience with me above) at what is currently »the main court« of the French Open tennis tournament in Second Life. epred, of course, is the SL avatar of IBM metaverse evangelist Ian Hughes, whose virtual Wimbledon of about a year ago was more or less responsible for galvanizing IBM’s attention to virtual worlds and 3D technologies. The Roland Garros version of the build does the same shot-for-shot replication of live matches as epredator’s original Wimbledon, but uses SL’s physics engine to pitch the ball back and forth across the net. You can also “play” the points, or at least view them from the player’s-eye-view, which is a nice touch. Walker took to the court with his golf club, which you can see after the jump. Continue reading
Icarus Studios, which makes tools for building 3D massively multiplayer online games, virtual worlds and other similiar environments, has a new next-gen platform and suite of middleware tools out, according to a press release from the company, which you can find below. (The Icarus platform is currently in use by “two unnamed clients covered by NDAs,” as well as the forthcoming MMO Fallen Earth.) It’s interesting to note what the release says about how well Icarus-built worlds can be integrated with the Web and other external functions. Icarus will feature “integrated working browsers, dial-out to real world phones, and real-time video streaming,” apparently, and will support functionality such as “user-generated content, in-world social and entertainment activities, diverse revenue models, and in-world profiled marketing on a secure and scaleable platform.” I don’t imagine middleware solutions are generally the best way to build open, Web-integrated, general-purpose 3D spaces, but this kind of thing could move standard MMOs further toward something of the sort, and generally get more people used to the idea of a 3D world that interfaces smoothly with the 2D Web, or that’s useful as a social-networking app, thus opening the door for 3D spaces to assume more and more of the functionality we now associate with the Web. Continue reading
A team of five undergraduate students from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute has designed a prototype of what looks to be a cool 3D mouse that you wear on your finger like a ring. The MagicMouse works using ultrasound receivers that picks up sound waves emitted by the ring. You can move around in three axes at the moment, and the students are working on adding gestural functionality like mouse clicks as well. You can watch a video of the thing, if you can get the page to load. If you can’t, and you want to see some similar technology, watch this YouTube video, which demonstrates cursor control based on a user’s hand gestures in space — both hands — with no transmitting technology involved. Interesting.
I am not sure if there has been much ballyhoo about this, but Autodesk have at last opened »their island« in the virtual world of Second Life, a project that’s been in the works for some time. Autodesk is the company behind what is arguably the world’s leading 2D and 3D modeling software, and so it seems a natural fit for them to be in Second Life. Indeed, Autodesk’s Maya product has recently been highlighted by Linden Lab as an appropriate tool for the development of the soon-to-be-launched sculpted prims. The island would appear to be the work of design firm Clear Ink, though they have made extensive use of the Canadian designer and builder, Second Life resident Scope Cleaver. Continue reading
SecondCast #60 is now on the air, featuring an interview with podcaster C.C. Chapman and Steve Coulson (aka Second Life‘s Cleon Goff and Gideon Television) of Crayon, the new media marketing firm that launched last year. The pair relate their experience designing Coca-Cola’s Virtual Thirst contest, in which Coke drinkers (or anyone, for that matter, whether you’re a member of Second Life or not) can submit their ideas for the coolest, most fantastical virtual thirstquencher. There might be some news thrown in there as well.
Rand Leeb-du Toit is the man behind Outback Online and its hotly awaited “user-generated spaces.” A few days back, in the wake of Cristiano’s open letter to Linden Lab, makers of the virtual world of Second Life, Rand posted his three virtual-world rules:
1. build right from the start — by which he means not “build immediately” but “build correctly from the ground up”
2. community first — “Being useful to a community beats exciting them with new whizzbangery.”
3. integrate — “Virtual world developers need to . . . integrate with what their users are already doing.”
All seem sensible, though they’re not that much of a stretch. We’ll see whether Outback can deliver on the same points. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring you some more news on that in the near future. Outback is still running very quietly, but that hasn’t stopped them from being one of the most interesting metaversal experiments in development. I’m looking forward to seeing more. Also, go wish Rand a happy birthday.
A screenshot from HiPiHi
The stiffest potential competition for Second Life seems to be coming from Asia these days. First it was HiPiHi, the Chinese virtual world “created, inhabited and owned by its residents” (I’m glad it’s inhabited by its own residents; things could get tricky otherwise). There was a nice interview with HiPiHi’s founders in April, as well as an account of the author’s first days there. The creators say it isn’t a clone of SL, but check out the screenshot above; that’s very Second Lifelike.
The latest entrant, though, is a world named Splume that hails from Japan. Splume sounds somewhat less sophisticated than either SL or HiPiHi, according to this Japan Times article, but is more narrowly targeted at the Japanese market, and so could have an edge over SL there (where the Japanese localization recently went into beta), or perhaps be competing for different users altogether. It’s not necessarily a zero-sum game in any case; it’s still very early in the adoption curve of virtual worlds, and there should be room for new entrants to experiment and help push the space forward by fostering competition for some time now.
I checked into the virtual world of Second Life tonight for a sneak peek at two islands that were just opened by Amazon Web Services as a community-building effort for AWS developers. According to SL resident Jeffronius Batra (aka Jeff Barr, Amazon’s senior Web services evangelist), »the islands« — which are an official Amazon project — will not only provide resources for developers but also link to and show off what the AWS development community has created inside Second Life. (Jeff mentioned Jnana as an example. You can read more about what they’re doing in SL on the AWS blog, or just visit »Jnana in Second Life«.)
The virtual architecture, by Joshua Culdesac (who lives in France), is very handsome, though some of it was too tight for my camera. Jeff did the terraforming. Amazon took delivery of the islands in December, Jeff said, though planning had been going on before then. Amazon’s virtual estate is near an IBM island (and not by accident; Jeff invited them to buddy up), but there’s a mysterious island named Innovation that intervenes. Jeff hasn’t been able to get into it yet to find out what’s going on there. The Amazon islands aren’t quite done yet, Jeff says, but from what I could glean in my visit, they seem to have succeeded in being “very SL-friendly, not overly corporate,” as Jeff says they were intended. Amazon has been poking around in Second Life for something like a year now. Nice to see them finally get something going on an official level. Continue reading
It was just over a year ago that I first blogged about Etsy, the online community for makers and sellers (and buyers, of course) of crafts of all flavors and kinds. Because they’re here in Brooklyn and because they have their metaversal aspects about them, I thought I’d go and pay them a visit recently. The metaversal aspects of Etsy are mostly the doing of the company’s highly talented Flash programmer, Jared Tarbell, and prove that you don’t necessarily need a Z axis to have a good time. If you’ve poked around the site at all, you’ll have seen hints of them, in the form of the various “ways to shop” found on the front page. (Try time machine, and definitely check out the color page, which is slightly too awesome for its own good.) Where Etsy really comes alive, though, is when you become part of the community and start doing things like attending classes and town halls online. Jared’s cool interfaces give presence to your “avatar” (who’s nothing more than a square uploaded image) in a way few Web page have managed to. And now, Rob Kalin, Etsy’s founder, is thinking about putting Jared’s mad Flash skillz to work in a Flash virtual world that would be an online bazaar for Etsy crafters. More on that (and a couple of other interesting developments) after the jump. Continue reading
You might remember Babbage Linden’s SLateIt heads-up display that can be used to flag and tag objects in the virtual world of Second Life, much like the functionality of Digg. Well, Babbage has been hard at work since we first blogged the SLateIt HUD back in February, and now he’s come out with a YouTube video demonstrating the latest version’s feature set. It’s nice stuff, too, usable via either dialogue boxes or the chat line. It even interfaces with the SLateIt Web site, pulling in the last-flagged item on a search and offering you a teleport to its location.
What’s nice about this is that it lets you see how many times an object has been “SLated” without having to leave Second Life. I realize Babbage uses the word “rate” to describe what SLateIt does, but I don’t think that’s accurate, since the only actions possible are a “SLate” (a thumbs-up) or a “hate.” (Objects that are too hated get removed from the list.) Rating seems to me to imply a scale of more than just zero or one. So as usual I’m going off on my own tangent and refer to it as “SLating” — which is more in keeping with the “Digging” model anyway.
The only other things I’d like to see? An open API to both the HUD and the Web site so that people can build their own cool services atop this cool service. (I think the HUD may already be open-source, I’m not sure.) In any case, it’s nice work. With enough people using it, it could become a useful tool.
Saul Hansell has a pretty nice piece in The New York Times today all about 3D printers and the possibility of their becoming cheap enough for home use. It’s a great vision, although it kind of misses two things: first, even though printers can be had increasingly cheaply, the materials needed to make solid, sturdy objects are very expensive. Second, printing out a 3D object is not as simple as just sketching on paper or sticking some primitives together in Second Life. A lot of work has to be done to insure that the object you’re trying to print is in fact internally consistent in a way the printer can handle, so that it won’t fall apart in the end. Neither of those points are mentioned, but they’re not insurmountable obstacles. Material prices will of course come down over time. And one of the potentially most promising uses Hansell mentions for the devices are to do things like “print out replacements for a dishwasher rack at home” (which doesn’t require any design knowledge on the user’s part). I imagine this will be how they’re used most often, to print out simple items the designs for which can be downloaded over the Internet. I really dig that vision of the future, in which I don’t have to go to the hardware store to buy some new jewel cases for the CDs I’m burning for friends, or a new part for the coffeemaker I broke last week. It isn’t quite here yet, but it’s probably coming.
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
A group of students from Brown University have launched an open-source museum in the virtual world of Second Life. Known as OSMOSA, the Open-Source Museum of Open-Source Art, the museum is located »in Second Life’s Eson region« and features a mess of artworks that anyone can copy, modify, alter or otherwise contribute to. The museum itself is open to alteration as well, which is a fantastic idea. The modding got under way at the opening party Tuesday night: an already-altered image of Manet’s Olympia (with space helmets added to make it more excellent) came out the other end of the night with some interesting additions and adjustments, as seen below:
Kaneva, the social media virtual world, will be “launching” its economy in May, according to a press release. Members can already use Credits to purchase things like furniture, but a slightly more complex system seems to be going into place, one that attempts to guard against “real-money trade” — the out-of-game cash economy that parallels most virtual economies. Unfortunately, Kaneva seems to be missing an opportunity to make their world a more engaging place.
Kaneva members can already user “credits” to purchase things like furniture within the world, but an upcoming feature will let them purchase credits with real-world cash. No word yet on what the exchange rate will be, or whether it will be fixed or floating.
Members will also receive something called “reward credits.” It’s not entirely clear from the press release whether there are normal credits that are awarded for things like participating in “Stress Tests, special events, and contests,” or whether they’re a separate currency altogether. Their features are interesting: Continue reading
The International Herald Tribune breaks the news that IBM is launching a new mainframe platform specifically designed for next-generation virtual worlds and 3D virtual environments. In concert with Brazilian game developer Hoplon, IBM will use the PlayStation3‘s ultra-high-powered Cell processor to create a mainframe architecture that will provide the security, scalability and speed that are currently lacking in 3D environments — a lack that is one of the factors keeping them from becoming widely adopted. If it works, it sounds like worldmakers working on IBM’s platform should be able to support concurrencies far above todays’ capabilities, and implement commerce systems far more secure than is currently possible.
The IHT story talks about a server system that will permit higher levels of concurrency at greater levels of rendering and realism. The machines will be priced beginning at hundreds of thousands dollars, according to the story.
While it probably won’t have much impact on the state of virtual worlds right off, IBM’s new infrastructure could make a big difference in the long run, by enabling much greater numbers of concurrent users in next-gen virtual worlds, and by creating more secure possibilities for commerce. Big media and entertainment companies continue to be interested in virtual worlds, but they are also skeptical in many cases because there is no way to support many thousands of audience members at a single event. Continue reading
Coca-Cola set up in Second Life
Coca-Cola is taking its first steps in the virtual world of Second Life with a contest in which SL members will be invited to “imagine a virtual vending machine with limitless possibilities.” In concert with new-media marketing firm crayon and virtual-world services outfit Millions of Us, Coke is running “an open contest for Second Life residents and the general population to design a virtual experience machine through its Virtual Thirst competition. . . . This contest is not a search for the virtual version of a real-life vending machine that distributes bottles and cans, but the mission to create a portable device for Second Lifeâ€™s ‘in-world’ digital society that unleashes a refreshing and attention-grabbing experience, on demand.” The contest is to be announced today in an in-world press conference with Coca-Cola execs. Continue reading
The BBC News website today reported on a scheme to use Second Life for designing a new Jardin Des Halles, in Paris. Plans have been in the pipeline since 2004 for the development of a garden area sitting atop the Les Halles shopping mall, but the local residents’ association, Accomplir, is not happy with the lack of consultation. They have therefore taken matters into their own hands, and have launched a competition, inviting all would-be garden designers to weave some magic in Second Life. Accomplir will draw up a short-list of the top 5, which will be displayed on an island in Second Life (as yet unidentifed). The winner, to be announced at the end of June, will receive a prize of 275,000 L$. Accomplir will then take the winning entry to Paris Town Hall, in a bid to persuade officials to speed up the laggardly redevelopment process. A full schedule of the competition timescales can be found in the Accomplir press release.
The Electric Sheep Company (sponsors of this blog) launched a new beta search service for the virtual world of Second Life today, at search.sheeplabs.com, according to Electric Sheep Christian Westbrook. What’s unique (as far as I know) about this service is that it doesn’t rely on users to manually list their products but instead spiders the SL Grid to automatically collect information about items marked “for sale.” (Read more about how it works on the service’s About page.) The service allows avatars to opt out of the system, or to list all items they own, and doesn’t crawl private islands. Results are returned with a teleport link, price, object creator and owner, and description. According to the Sheep, it also puts less load on the system than a single avatar, so it shouldn’t create much lag.
Having someone spider the SL Grid is something I’ve been looking for for a long time, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this works in practice. Having users manually list objects, as the many other SL search services do, is a far from comprehensive solution, but it’s been the best we’ve had until now. If all goes as planned, this should push SL search forward by leaps and bounds. 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.
Microsoft will push the development of geospatial and mapping applications with “unrestricted funding” totaling $1.1 million that has been offered to 21 winners chosen from among more than 140 university teams that responded to a recent Microsoft Research request for proposals. The awards are made for one year.
What I like about this program is that it’s focused squarely on how mapping and geospatial functions can be used to improve our physical lives. According to a press release, “The university research teams aim to study and map the physical world in real time, to push the technological boundaries of local search, and to understand the potential societal impact of these kinds of geographic technologies. New solutions ultimately resulting from the research are expected to yield rich and diverse benefits, such as helping tourists find affordable restaurants with the shortest lines, or helping scientists understand changes in the ecology of biological systems under the threat of climate change.” [Emphasis added.]
Projects already in the works include layering current environmental conditions into a mirror world like Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, or allowing climatologists and other scientists to examine data over the long term to track pollution and climate changes. Other projects take in what we at 3pointD would call augmented reality, combining data from tiny real-world sensors, the Internet and “a variety of other sources” with map information and geographic imagery. There’s also a researcher who’s contemplating recreating his movements in a mirror world so that friends and family can keep up with him remotely. Now that’s my kind of mapping. Continue reading