Is Google building a Second Life-like virtual world? Google-watching blog Google Operating System thinks they might be, given that Arizona State University students will have the opportunity to test a new product that sounds very virtual worldy and that also sounds like it will require a Gmail account. Apparently to be “publicly launched later this year,” the product is developed by “a major Internet company” and, says Google Op, “there are hints that the application is related to social networking, 3D modeling and video games.” Want to know for sure? Enroll at ASU. That’s the only way to get in. You know Michael Arrington (from whom I first read this) has his spies crawling the campus already.
I hadn’t heard of Mappa Novus until someone dropped it in the comments here. The Mappa crew is doing interesting work creating maps of the virtual world of Second Life that seem to be mashed up with the Google Maps interface, and overlaid with data layers about population, land sales, etc. On top of that, they’ve layered some advanced edition maps that you can subscribe to for $7.95 a month or $19.95 for three months, which give extra data about land sales. The whole deal seems to be able the real estate business, as there’s also a land search tool available. They also have printed maps available for sale. Continue reading
MapJack.com is a new Web site offering the kind of street-level views that Google Maps‘ Street View feature does, only in better focus and with a more interesting interface. MapJack only has San Francisco, for now — and only part of that city, to tell you the truth — but if they can add more streets and cities and find a way to capture users’ attention, it could become a useful or at least entertaining tool — more entertaining than Google’s feature. MapJack splits your browser window in two, as seen above, with a satellite street map in the bottom and a street-level photograph above (of better quality than Google’s; see comparative screenshot after the jump). You can place “Jack” on any of the blue dots on the map, and you can also click on the dots in the photo to move him around. Since he’s a tiny little articulated avatar, you can also see which way he’s facing. Continue reading
Google‘s search czar, Udi Manber, gave a short pre-lunch presentation on what he has to deal with at the company:
“Search is hard, very hard, because of scale of what we have to deal with. The scale we operate at is almost beyond comprehension. The main thing is the diversity. The log boggles the mind. Also the expectations. If there’s one piece of information I can give you: 20-25 percent of the queries we will see today, we’ve never seen before.” Manber quoted Oliver Wendell Homes: “The law embodies the story of a nation’s development through many centuries,” but it cannot be dealt with like mathematics. Udi: We can say the same thing about search. Continue reading
Artur Bergman, writing on O’Reilly Radar, has a good wrap of the location-based services that were trotted out last night at Where 2.0. We posted yesterday about UpNext, about which there’s now more detail, and Artur has good insights into other services as well.
UpNext sounds pretty cool, featuring “a 3D cityscape of New York” where you can zoom around, select different data sets and mash up things like your Upcoming.org events. Plus, “You can click on any building to find out what is in it, as well as tag buildings.” It’s not avatarized nor multi-user, but otherwise sounds quite nice. Of course, it sounds like you could build similar functions for Google Earth with a little bit of effort, and the new Google Maps Street View gives you a crude approximation of the scene at street level (it actually took me a minute to recognize the facade of the building I live in when I looked it up). But UpNext sounds like — sorry about all the “sounds like,” there’s still very littile information on just how it works and what it does — it sounds like it comes ready to load up with events and people and all the rest, which means it could catch on if people dig the interface. Continue reading
View22 Technology has announced what it calls a “3D Web commerce and media platform” that “simplifies the process of adding 3D Web applications and customer experiences into the marketing mix.” Known as Immersiv (and viewable in video clips on the View22 site), the tech resembles a fancy Flash app with a few extra features, including camera controls, integration with Google’s 3D Warehouse of Sketchup objects, support for a number of files formats, and a few other things mentioned at the end of this post. What’s interesting to me, though, is how View22 is positioning the product. If View22’s press release is to be believed, this is one of the first nearly plug-n-play 3D ecommerce packages to come along. (CyWorld USA is using it as an ecommerce solution for one of their media partners.) According to the release, “The new platform enables manufacturers, retailers, media networks, content developers and third-party integrators to quickly customize and deploy a range of in-demand applications such as 3D virtual stores and showrooms; 3D product configurators and visualizers; 3D social networking experiences; 3D Web sales automation systems; interactive 3D room planners; and interactive brand promotion and online advertising.” There may well be one out there, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a Web-based 3D ecommerce system that makes so many end-to-end claims for itself, from the aforementioned file format support to “integrated Web 2.0 services, customizable catalog and user interface, and an ad serving module” (see below). It remains to be seen, of course, how well it works and how easy it is to use, but it’s an interesting foray into the market nonetheless. Continue reading
GeoCommons is a cool-looking service designed to let you “explore, create and share geographic data and intelligent maps.” That is, it’s a map-mashup-maker. But this one comes with the built-in ability to publish your maps through a variety of channels, and provides access to “geographic information beyond anything Google Earth is producing right now,” according to an email I just got from a PR dude working on behalf of FortiusOne, the company behind GeoCommons. The service goes into public beta on 28 May, to be introduced at the Where 2.0 conference. The Web site description is promising, with talk of a large number of data sets to choose from, plus the ability to add your own, support for various kinds of tagging and metadata, and map sharing, syndication and social networking tools. Continue reading
Dutch IT consultant and photographer Erwyn Van Der Meer is working on something called a Flickr Metadata Synchr, “a tool to synchronize relevant metadata added to images stored on Flickr with the original versions of those images stored locally on your hard drive.” Though the project is only at version 0.6.0.0 at the moment, this is a great idea. Erwyn shares some of the thinking behind it in this blog post. I think it’s a great idea. (The one drawback, for now, is that it works only under Vista.) It would be great to have access to the metadata associated with my Flickr photos even while offline, and to be able to work with that and then synch the same data on Flickr without having the enter it all again. Storing that kind of data locally makes it accessible to all kind of other applications, which broadens the range of things I can possibly do with it. Continue reading
John Swords and I recorded a couple of new Metaverse Sessions while we were down at South by Southwest, one with Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online and one with Jamais Cascio of World Changing. Johnny has just posted Ethan’s session (incorrectly labeled #9, even though it’s #10), and there’s some really interesting stuff there. Ethan talks about how Google Maps was used to heighten political awareness in Bahrain, how LiveJournal has become the blogging tool of choice for politically active adults (not kids) in Russia, and the “cyber-utopian dominant narrative” in which everyone gets along in the same online place. We also explore some interesting question of how cultural backgrounds inform the use of technologies, questions that don’t get much discussed (or thought about) in most our metaversal questions. A really cool guest to have for the Sessions, and highly recommended listening.
The non-profit EnviroLink Network has just launched a cool build that puts geolocated Google Earth-type feeds onto a replica globe in the virtual world of Second Life. Josh Knauer of the EnviroLink blog just sent over the news, and I couldn’t resist blogging it on the spot. The »GeoGlobe in SL« captures KML, GeoRSS and RSS feeds and displays them as miniature SL primitives at the correct location. Zoom in on a prim and you can read the headline and click through to the Web page it’s associated with. Continue reading
Eduardo Manchon of Panoramio, the very cool geophotography site (another coinage?), sends news that Panoramio recently saw the one-millionth geolocated photo uploaded to the service. [Also reported in Ogle Earth.] What’s so cool about that, besides the fact that it’s a damn big number even for a service that started in October 2005? Well, if you were reading 3pointD last December, you already know that Panoramio, then “still a small site,” according to Eduardo, has been a default layer in Google Earth for the last three months. That means that if you upload a geolocated photo to Panoramio, it will appear on everyone’s Google Earth if they have the Panoramio layer turned on (which it is by default). The question then is, why geotag your photos on Flickr when you can just have them stuck right into Google Earth? Continue reading
It’s Sunday at 5:00pm in Austin and I’m at the panel: On the Edge of Independent User-Creation in Gamespace
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
Dan Catt’s mapping panel was a very cool session that was difficult to synthesize at the speed it went by, but I think I got most of what the panelists said. All very 3pointD.
Moderator: Rev. Dan Catt, from Geobloggers.com and Flickr
Tom Carden from Random Etc.
Aaron Straup Cope from Flickr
Jerry Paffendorf from the Electric Sheep Company
Ian White from Urban Mapping Inc.
Catt first asked everyone without laptops to stand up and shake their hands in front of them in order to wake up, then groan quietly like a zombie, then louder than the person next to you. Two questions before you sit down: Who objects to swearing, say boo. Those who don’t object to swearing, say Fuck Yeah. (You can imagine which was louder.)
Cope talked about how we tell where things are. Shows a quote from Douglas Coupland’s Shampoo Planet. “History and geography are being thrown away.” Cope: This is wrong.
Cope: Geography helps set the stage for an experience, history gives an experience context and nuance. We have theselocation devices that tell you where things are. I could care less where the nearest Starbucks is. I don’r eally care about driving directions either. But if I’m at a place, I would love to be able to see what came before and have a sense of its history. Continue reading
Murat Aktihanoglu, who I met at the recent metaverse meetup, sends words of a mashup he’s developing that will make Google Earth into a multi-user application with the help of Skype. Needless to say, this is the kind of thing that excites 3pointD, and is in fact something we’ve been looking for for some time. You can download an early version at the somewhat oddly named Unype site. Unype lives between my Skype and yours, and between Google Earth and Skype on both machines. Fire up Skype and GE, click to connect your instance of Unype to them, click to connect to a friend within Unype, and then have your friend click Unype’s “follow” button. Then, when you navigate in your Google Earth, Unype automatically navigates your friend’s Google Earth to the same place. That’s cool as far as it goes, but there’s more coming, Murat says. Continue reading
Media Machines, which makes the browser-based 3D Flux Player (Windows only) and Flux Studio (both free), has an interesting mashup on its site that combines a Flux window with Google Maps. Click on the map marker and a 3D model of the buildings there pops up in a Flux Player window. The new Flux Studio 2.0 can now natively import the KML files that are used in Google Earth (but not yet export), allowing Flux users to get models created in SketchUp or listed on SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse into their browser-based 3D scenes. Continue reading
Quick follow-up to my post about using Google Earth to help survive in Iraq: podcaster Johnny Ming sends along a link to this story from last month about Iraqi insurgents using Google Earth to pinpoint coalition targets. “Documents seized during raids on the homes of insurgents last week uncovered print-outs from photographs taken from Google,” the story says. “The satellite photographs show in detail the buildings inside the bases and vulnerable areas such as tented accommodation, lavatory blocks and where lightly armoured Land Rovers are parked.” Just a reminder that technology makes no value judgments; it can as easily be used for destructive purposes as for benevolent ones.
From the Metaverse in Real-World Governance department: the BBC ran an interesting story recently about the possibility that Iraqis might be able to use Google Earth to plan escape routes and make themselves safer from terrorist and milita attacks. [Spotted via Clipmarks.] “As the communal bloodshed has worsened, some Iraqis have set up advice websites to help others avoid the death squads. One tip — on the Iraq League site, one of the best known — is for people to draw up maps of their local area using Google Earth’s detailed imagery of Baghdad so they can work out escape routes and routes to block,” writes the Beeb. Continue reading
I am occasionally asked by reporters interested in the Second Life Herald (where I’ve been an editor for two years now) what the appeal of doing journalism in virtual worlds is. In an attempt to locate a pithy soundbite for them, I sometimes say it’s like being a foreign correspondent without having to leave your desk (though this is not, in fact, the whole story; read on). So I was interested to spot this post by Ethan Zuckerman (via the Business Communicators of SL blog), which contains some thoughts on similar topics, inspired by a conversation with Pitchfork’s Chris Dahlen for Dahlen’s latest column. Dahlen wonders whether the Internet is up to the challenge of providing information about places like Africa, since it looks like you can find a lot more detail on the Web about Buffy than about the Somalian Union of Islamic Courts, for instance. Which touches off a thought on Zuckerman’s part: “I find it deeply odd that journalism is expanding into these illusory spaces while itâ€™s shrinking in the real world. I think the answer may be that these new spaces — whether SecondLife, World of Warcraft, the culture of fanfiction or machinima — are far more coverable than many events in the real world.” While both those statements are true, to an extent, I’d argue that there isn’t the causal link between them that Zuckerman sees, or at least that that link is not as strong, and that there are more important factors at work. Continue reading
Two new applications out recently — Yahoo! Pipes and IBM’s QEDWiki — contain much promise for the 3pointD world. They’re basically mashupmakers (mashuppers? mashers?), GUI-based systems that let you create your own mashups without having to get too deep into code. They’re still a bit beyond my ability to really check out without spending a whole day on them, but they definitely make mashupping (I’m going with “mashupping” for the moment) available to a broader set of users. What does this mean for the 3pointD generation? More mashups, of course. But more importantly, it means greater, more widespread power to make the virtual world a more useful place. Continue reading
Spotted on the MAKE Magazine blog (run by goggle-headed nutjob Phil Torrone): the new Hackszine site, developed to “promote the philosophy of Hacks as a way to gain control of the devices and systems in our lives.” I like it. Already there’s a cool 3pointD-worthy hack up on the site, a mashup that lets you map places mentioned in books via Google Maps. We look forward to more.
Google announced 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
Justin Bovington of Rivers Run Red passes on a link to the renewed rumor that Google is working on turning Google Earth into a virtual world that would work similarly to Second Life. We’ve heard mutterings of this kind of thing before. This one comes from “an academic who heard through the Ph.D. grapevine,” which doesn’t lend it any more credence, in my book. That said, it would make an awful lot of sense. Whether it’s going on or not probably depends on whether Google’s muckety-mucks believe there’s much of a future in virtual worlds. I know that a few significant people there are at least partial believers, but I’m not sure if there’s a great deal of buy-in at high levels or not. Would be ace, if so.
Just a quick post to revisit an older entry about getting SketchUp models into Second Life. There are some recent comments there asking for help with similar projects, so I thought I’d just give it a bump. IBM’s Roo Reynolds had a SketchUp to SL importer going last summer, but it would be great to know if anyone has been using this kind of thing very much, or has done any more development work. And if you can help out Richard in the comments thread, so much the better.
Gamasutra is running a nice feature in which a team from Intel that’s “focused on pushing the limits of PC gaming” describes the experience of creating a game for Google Earth. Called Mars Sucks, the game really just involves navigating to specific locations based on a series of clues, whereupon your spaceship starts blowing up the invading Martian craft you’ve found. Intel’s account of making the game is interesting, though. They used the Google Earth client and server, the Keyhole Markup Language (KML), a Web server and PHP5. They’ve made the source code freely available (via this zip file), and have described what went into the game in some detail. Their conclusion? “We learned that very simple games and casual games are possible now on Google Earth. We also learned that Google Earth is not yet ready to be the foundation of a serious action game. While we think the prototype [of Mars Sucks] is fun to play, it is just an early prototype. Further enhancementsâ€”some by Google and some by game developersâ€”would go a long way to improving the game and making bigger and better games available.” Continue reading
Three nice Google Earth items to bring you (one of which includes Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, actually). First up is a nice piece in Spiegel Online about the race between Google and Microsoft to virtualize the planet. It’s linked from the All Points Blog, which notes, “I didn’t learn anything new, but it’s a nice article. And, there’s no mention of how the two will monetize these investments.” That’s a good assessment, of the piece, which still makes for worthwhile reading.
Stefan Geens at Ogle Earth also points out some nice functionality for those using Google Calendar to schedule their days: “you can put a link to a KML file in the “Where” field of an event, and Google will map it for you in Google Maps.” Nice. Here’s more info.
Lastly, Stefan also turns up Google Earth Chess! I haven’t tried it so I can’t tell you exactly how it works, but according to Stefan, “You play against others online, make your moves in the browser, and then see the resulting game develop on a big 3D chessboard in Google Earth.” This is really interesting, as it (like a few of the other Google Earth games that have come along) begins to push the app toward a more multi-user situation. Although, as Stefan points out, “I also wish it would be possible to get network links for games in progress, so we can watch along.”
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.
Stefan Geens at Ogle Earth reports that Google Earth has added two new layers to its default set, and created a new directory for “Geographic Web.” Now included in Google Earth’s default placemark sets are georeferenced articles from Wikipedia and georeferenced photos from photo-sharing site Panoramio. Adding these as default layers is a nice way to promote what Google’s calling the geographic Web. It moves flat Web pages closer to 3D functionality. All that’s needed to complete the circle is for people to add links in Wikipedia’s georeferenced pages that launch Google Earth at the appropriate placemarks.
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.
Reader Geoff Livingston sends word of an unusually elaborate Google Maps mashup in the works from geospatial developer FortiusOne that allows you to compare two locations as to the density of an arbitrary data set, if I’m understanding things correctly. The mashup uses Fortius’s GeoIQ API, which allows the visualization of a user’s data set in Google Maps, and displays two locations side by side. Clicking spots on the maps gives you a numerical rating of the data at the chosen points. In the image above, a data set representing traffic delays in San Francisco and Los Angeles are compared side by side. Very nice stuff. “In the app you can do this with any data set or mash up multiple data sets to solve a variety of problems surround location decisions,” reads the blog entry describing the mashup. Nice to see someone squeeze another level of usefulness out of Google’s mapping app.
Avi Bar-Zeev is one of those guys who quietly works on making stuff happen. As co-founder of Keyhole Inc., he led the development of the software that later became Google Earth. Avi also did work for Linden Lab, developing the 3D rendering engine that runs the virtual world of Second Life. Avi’s latest effort is a thought experiment that seeks to flesh out the concept of Web 3D and how it might be brought about. In a 7-part series, he interviews a couple of Web 3D thinkers and ponders what Web 3D really is and whether we really need it at all. I’ve given it only a light read so far, so I’ll save any specific responses for a future “What is 3pointD?” post, but it’s good stuff, recommended reading for anyone interested in where 3pointD-related technologies may be headed. Nice work, Avi.
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
Taunt brings news that IMVU users can now develop for their world-like 3D chatspace using SketchUp, the free 3D design program bought by Google some months back. [Via Chris Carella.] SketchUp is definitely gaining in leaps and bounds. As Chris says: “Between IMVU and Multiverse there is going to be a lot of SketchUp content out there, which will make it easier for people to assemble their own worlds.” It would be nice to see Second Life implement a SketchUp importer, but even though CTO Cory Ondrejka has gazed ahead approvingly to such an app, I imagine it will be a very long time coming. Should be interesting to see what people get up to in IMVU, though. (IMVU even has a tutorial up.) Will it suddenly become a much more complex and sophisticated “world”?