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.
The YouTube video above comes to 3pointD from Birgit Frenzel of I-D Media, whom we last met in Berlin, back when the Lifecrawler team had begun to offer client services in the virtual world of Second Life. The video features some new hacks the German team has apparently been cooking up, including the ability to jog through Second Life via a treadmill, and to steer with the D-pad on a Wiimote, which was hacked up by Gideon May back in March. The video is cool — get fit while navigating the virtual world! — but of course we have to give props to our neighbor in Second Life’s Louise sim, Moriash Moreau, who had the same thing going almost a year ago. Then again, the Lifecrawler one is a bit smoother and not so DIY, but hey, Mori’s a pioneer. The Lifecrawler team has also made good strides (sorry) on the Destroy Television-like technology for which they’re named, which is now working pretty smoothly, judging from this cool YouTube video. 3pointD hears that the Lifecrawler team may soon provide a virtual video streaming service not unlike Ustream that would let any SL resident stream their second lives to the Web. Watch for it.
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 →
A year ago or more I blogged about a company called Immersion that was developing touchscreens that touch back — i.e., touchscreens for mobile devices that give haptic feedback when the screen is touched, so that you can actually feel the “buttons” pictured on the screen and users know they’ve input something. Simple idea, but a really nice usability feature, I imagine. Now Immersion has unveiled its TouchSense system at this week’s international symposium of the Society for Information Display (SID) in Long Beach CA. No word yet on who will be using the tech in their devices, but it seems only a matter of time before this or something like it is fairly widespread.
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.
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 →
Check out this video of a game called Metazoa Ludens that you and your hamster can play together. The hamsters apparently dig it. (There’s also a PC World story with more details.) It’s a bit like Mice Arena, only perhaps not quite as much fun, since in Metazoa Ludens your avatar isn’t being chased by a giant rodent, as in Mice Arena. Still, it’s an interesting use of 3pointD-related technologies, and it comes from the cool Mixed Reality Lab in Singapore, who also brought us Human Pacman, which is possibly even cooler, and features full-on Rainbows End style “Head Mounted Displays” that show you the playing field in front of you, as below:
I missed the beginning of the remarks by Colin Parris, vice president of digital convergence at IBM Research, because the panels are stacked a bit back-to-back and I was on the one directly before he spoke, but the first half of his presentation consisted of laying out some of the potential benefits of integrating virtual worlds with current business processes. The second half of his remarks consisted of looking at what IBM is doing and planning in the space. I’ve transcribed them pretty well below. Continue reading →
Gideon May of the team behind Lifecrawler showed up at the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference today with a laptop and a Wii controller that’s he’s begun hacking to control his avatar in the virtual world of Second Life. You can already move your avatar around using the Wii controller’s D-pad with Gideon’s system, and he just needs to find a Radio Shack and buy some hardware and he’s going to try to make avatar navigation a gestural function of the Wii controller — by the metaverse meetup on Friday! Awesome. After that, it’s on to using the force feedback system to indicate collisions, and hack out some alternate controller schemes that would allow a user to navigate their avatar via the keyboard but play games within Second Life by waving the Wiimote around. Neither Glitchy nor I could think of anyone who’s done this before, though it seems so cool and obvious. Let us know if you’re in New York and you want to lend Gideon a hand.
Gideon May, Birgit Frenzel and Dirk Lusebrink (l to r) of I-D Media, the team behind Lifecrawler
Faithful readers may recall the Lifecrawler service I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, which looked like it would give users the chance to put a streaming Second Life window on their Web page. I had the opportunity to meet up with the team behind it while I was in Berlin, and learned a bit more about what’s planned for the service and the company behind it while we hung out surrounded by techie hipsters at the Sankt Oberholz on the edge of Prenzlauerberg. Lifecrawler is the project of a small R&D team within German marketing agency I-D Media who’ve been given more or less free rein to start pushing into the virtual world of Second Life. Though they’re just starting out in the virtual services space, I-D Media plans to leverage the company’s 20-year track record in marketing to bring new and existing clients into the virtual world. Besides the streaming service, the team is also designing a metrics package that will be offered to clients. Continue reading →
The presentation I gave in Berlin on Thursday was ostensibly on “virtual worlds, media and identity,” but as I’ve been going over it I’m finding it’s extending itself into a small picture of what the next generation of virtual worlds might look like and how we might get there. A lot of it was stuff that’s probably pretty basic to 3pointD readers, but it might be worth going over anyway. And since it marked my first PowerPoint presentation (and hopefully my last), I can even paste in some slides below. (If you want the full set, send me an email.)
I started out by comparing what can be conveyed via traditional communications media, or rather, what tools are at our disposal when we work in various media. In SMS text messaging, of course, we’re very limited in how we communicate (despite the fact that a lot can be communicated via SMS). In instant messaging, we have a little more leeway, and in email yet more. Voice adds a great deal of breadth to the channel, video conferencing expands it further, and of course the broadest channel through we communicate is face to face, since we have access to facial expressions, gestures, proximity and other “messages” at a higher “resolution” than in any of the other media in the chart. I actually thought this would be pretty unremarkable to most people, but more than a few audience members were quite excited to see things arranged like this — which means I’m going to stick with my habit of pointing out the presumably obvious; sorry, guys. Continue reading →
This flew by me in the run-up to SXSW, but Matt Mihaly caught it: it’s a new brainwave-based controller intended for use in developing computer games, from a company called Emotiv Systems. What’s interesting about this, and what seems to differentiate it from similar systems that have shown up on 3pointD in the past (but which I can’t find at the moment), is that it apparently tracks three discrete areas of brain activity: facial expressions, emotional states, and conscious thoughts. As Matt notes, it remains to be seen how effective this will be, but it’s an exciting prospect. Looking forward to seeing what comes of it.
SLeek is a third-party client for the virtual world of Second Lifebuilt from the open-source client code released by Linden Lab in January built around code developed in the libSecondLife project. What’s special about it is that it’s a thin client, “useful for situations where you want to be in-world, but donâ€™t want to have the huge overhead of the graphics engine.” I have no idea what this looks like, as I’m still in Austin on my Mac, but it sounds like you can do a small amount of communication and account management but not building, and possibly not more complex interactions with other avatars. I’m not clear from the project page whether rezzing objects in SLeek is possible or not. According to the site: “SLeek has the ability to send and receive chat, send and receive IMs, do people search, teleport, read inventory, write inventory (create and delete folders), follow avatars, and display LLâ€™s web-based login page.” A few of us have been talking for some time about the need for a thin client for SL, and SLeek could be a nice first step in that direction. [UPDATE: Intolerable Ginsburg has posted some screenshots.] Continue reading →
Venture capitalist and World of Warcraft addict Joi Ito and lifelogger Justin Hall sat down for a conversation together in Room 9C on Monday afternoon at South by Southwest. Ben Cerveny joined them midway. Title of the talk: Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy.
Ito: I know everyone says this, but we’re going to try to make this as interactive as possible. Justin and I are going to talk about online games and what we can learn from them and things like that. I play World of Warcraft and mess around in Second Life, I think it’s stupid to compare them, it’s like apples and oranges. If you played text MUDs you know MOOs and MUDs split at some point. People who were into furries tended to go toward one, people who went toward the other focused more on gamplay and quests and levels. But it is interesting to compare in terms of what you can learn from them.
I play my WoW videos inside of SL and plan WoW raids in SL. SL is more for simulation for me, I do lots of ritual there, talks and things like that. It’s really not where I build relationships, although different people do that.
Shows a slide of WoW UI. Think all the way back to LambdaMOO, Pavel Curtis was saying the whole Internet will eventually be MUDs or MOOs. You can think of WoW as an evolutionary point in interface design. You can think of this as an interface to everything on the Web. You can make add-ons, there’s the Lua language for scripting that you can do. Shows his own more complex HUD with lots of add-ons. Most of the screen is in 2D. There’s all kinds of sophisticated stuff. Sometimes the 3D world is really important, but when I’m engaged in a boss fight it’s like a pilot looking at instruments rather than at terrain. A Lot of the innovation happens in the user community. Continue reading →
According to a press release on the amBX site of UK consumer products company Philips (which features the virtual world of Second Life as the most prominent thing on its home page), Philips has licensed its amBX technology to metaverse services firm Rivers Run Red, which will “produce a dedicated amBX-enabled environment” for Second Life. What’s that? Read on. Continue reading →
Second Life resident Koz Farina, creator of the very popular BlogHUD tool for blogging from within SL, is developing a system to allow you to cross-post your BlogHUD posts to your account on Twitter, the hot new social site that lets you miniblog along with your friends. Koz is already feeding all BlogHUD posts to a Twitter BlogHUD page. This is just the latest entry into a growing pool of Twitter-to-SL mashups from people like Ordinal Malaprop and Kisa Naumova, among others. And in fact, there’s been a huge flowering of ancillary Twitter apps since the service launched last fall. Why? Because Twitter is incredibly compelling, for a number of reasons. One of the most important, in my opinion, is the almost complete lack of button-based features that Twitter offers to its users. (Although I’d love for someone to build the wish app described at the end of this post.) Continue reading →
In the space of two days, Linden Lab, maker of the virtual world of Second Life, has made three separate announcements that indicate trouble may be on the horizon for the company — if it hasn’t already arrived. Two of them have raised renewed alarms about the platform’s scalability. Though CEO Philip Rosedale blithely assured the world last summer that Second Life could “scale to inifinity,” he seemed to be the only one who believed such an absurd claim. The skeptics are now being proven correct. And instead of concentrating all of its firepower on solving the current problem, the Lab is also casting about for ideas on how to beef up its 2D Web interface — despite the fact that any number of developers large and small are already working on the same thing. Is trouble ahead? It sure smells like it. Read on for our conclusions as to why. Though this post may be overly alarmist, to a certain extent, we’re looking at serious issues here. Take it with a grain of salt, but not too big a grain. Continue reading →
Trevor Smith, who’s been hard at work on his open-source 3D platform, Ogoglio, has begun a SourceForge project, where he’ll eventually make the code available. While there aren’t any file packages yet, you can browse the repository if you want to get a look at the bits of code Trevor has made available so far. You can also take a look at this YouTube clip, which is Trevor’s fifth screencast in which he describes the state of Ogoglio affairs. As you’ll see, the world is working — if crudely, at the moment. But you can already import .obj files and see them in one of the browser-based worldlets that Ogoglio creates. That’s an apartment building in the pic here that was imported from 3D marketplace TurboSquid into Blender, and then on into Ogoglio (where the default red robot avatar is looking on). This is basically still early-alpha technology that’s more 3D Web than virtual worldy, but it’s one to watch. [Via Hugo Junot.]
I can’t believe the YouTube clip above has been up there for six months and I’ve only just found it now. I no longer want a touchscreen, now I want a BumpTop interface (which got Dugg a couple of weeks ago and is now all over the Internet, of course). Watch the video above. It contains some of the only truly new GUI techniques I’ve seen in a long time. Touchscreens are extra cool, but they really only give you new ways to do what you’re already doing with a mouse and keyboard. The BumpTop actually gives you useful new ways to easily organize information visually and in three dimensions. Very, very exciting.
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 →
The Google Earth Blog carries the news that Jeff Han, who developed a truly amazing multi-touch screen interface at NYU, is now commercializing the product through his new company, Perceptive Pixel. Fast Company has a great piece on Han, and there’s a bandwidth-intensive video to watch, which shows some pretty mind-blowing stuff. When I first started hearing about these things last spring I was drooling over them, and they only seem to have gotten cooler since then. Little word yet on pricing, though Fast Company notes that there are already competitors out there. These include Microsoft (at around $50,000) and perhaps even Apple. Han has already sold a screen to the military for six figures, however. Now all I need is a little extra cash.
SL resident Williem Leandros sends news that he and a friend have built an interesting real-world control panel that can both control objects in the virtual world of Second Life and in turn be controlled by them. The real and virtual controllers are “entangled together through a Python web server” so that turning a knob on the physical controller affects the same knob on the virtual one. Pushing buttons on the virtual controller can light LEDs on the physical one. The project is just a proof of concept, but of course “the same techniques can connect other real world objects to other SL objects,” which is the kind of thing that someone somewhere will eventually find a productive use for. “Weâ€™ll probably be connecting the panel to trains and fireworks,” writes one of the pair (from whom I’ve lifted the screenshot above). Very cool. See the virtual controller for yourself »in the Pi region« of SL.
Filmmaker James Cameron of Titanic fame (and, probably more importantly to readers of this blog, The Terminator), has just gotten the go-ahead on his next film. What interests 3pointD about this is the fact that it will be filmed in a moviemaking version of a virtual world, and new details of the process have emerged in a story in today’s New York Times. Cameron is using the latest “performance-capture” technology to record the movements of actors’ bodies, as well as their facial expressions. But such recordings are usually made against a blank background that’s later filled with a digitally produced environment. In the case of Avatar, Cameron’s next film, “The most important innovation thus far has been a camera, designed by Mr. Cameron and his computer experts, that allows the director to observe the performances of the actors-as-aliens, in the filmâ€™s virtual environment, as it happens,” the Times writes. The key phrase here is “as it happens.” Cameron and his team have essentially created a virtual world that they view live as the performances are recorded. What they see on their screen is the motion-capture already composited into the digital environment, rather than having to wait until later to see the combination of the two streams of content. In addition, Cameron can pan and zoom around on the fly: “If I want to fly through space, or change my perspective, I can. I can turn the whole scene into a living miniature and go through it on a 50 to 1 scale. Itâ€™s pretty exciting,” he says. That’s exciting technology indeed. Though it bears little direct impact on current multiuser virtual worlds, it’s the kind of technology that will gradually filter down to broader levels, and the kind of filmmaking that could help promote Internet-based 3D spaces. Will the movie be any good? Who knows. The filmmaking techniques, however (which almost resemble the ultimate in machinima), are fascinating. And don’t forget that Cameron sits on the Multiverse advisory board.
Fans of Showtime‘s long-running series “The L Word,” which is a kind of San Francisco lesbian version of Sex and the City (and a pretty entertaining show, actually), now have a place to hang out in the virtual world of Second Life. Built out by the Electric Sheep Company (sponsors of this blog), »The L Word« sim in Second Life is a hangout for fans akin to MTV’s Virtual Laguna Beach, a re-creation of portions of the show that fans can occupy themselves. There’s a special L Word in Second Life page on Showtime’s site, and the Sheep have even taken advantage of Linden Lab‘s registration API to create a Showtime-branded SL signup page. This is the first such page I’ve seen and is an especially cool development, as it starts to push SL more toward being a service and away from being a hermetically sealed world. The project also has its own orientation island. Continue reading →
We knew it was too good to be true. Remember the extra-cool “Falcon” 3D haptic mouse from Novint Technologies that we blogged about way back last spring at E3? Well, it’s being made available later this year, just as Novint promised, but not at the $100 price point that was predicted at E3, at least, not yet. A Novint press release from the Consumer Electronics Show now on in Vegas flags a “Limited Edition Falcon Bundle” that will be available for $239, or $189 on pre-order, and that will ship on June 18. If you haven’t heard of the Falcon before, do read the blog post, because it’s an impressive piece of work (or if you’re at CES, stop by the Sands Expo and Convention Center, booth #72924 in the Gaming TechZone). Continue reading →
The screenshot at left is lifted from a BlogHUD post by Second Life user CDB Barkley, which flags a shared markerboard created by user Cubist Scarborough, which you can see in the Cottonwood sim. It’s a pretty nice piece of work. You sit on one of a handful of chairs and click through to a Web page, where you can draw in various colors, as well as erase. Everyone’s contributions show up on the same board, which refreshes itself in SL every five seconds or so. Continue reading →
Second Life resident Max Case, inventor of the free Babbler heads-up display that allows translation between various languages in text chat within SL, has now come up with a standalone object called the De-Babbler that translates other people’s chat for you. The Babbler required the speaker to choose a native language and a language for their chat to be translated to. The De-Babbler (which is still in testing) allows the listener to choose a person in the vicinity and receive a translated version of their chat. This seems like a nice advance, since it means you no longer have to give someone a HUD and teach them how to use it — in a foreign language — before you can converse. Nice job. Available free at this »Second Life location« from the object pictured above.
It’s no Snakes on a Plane, but it’ll do. Since I can’t be bothered with pre-ordering things, I suffered through the holidays with an Xbox360, but I’m feeling more and more like I need a Nintendo Wii. Not because I’m such a hot gamer (I suck at Gears of War worse than Matt Mihaly), but because of the possibilities presented by the Wii’s Web browsing capability, which people are already starting to make use of. Besides the invaluable ability to read 3pointD (thanks to Glitchy for the pic), Slashdot reports on a tabbed browsing interface that’s been developed, “which makes browsing on the Wii more efficient until the fully realized Opera build hits later next year,” and also revives the robot Roomba trend we (at the Second Life Herald) reported on from South by Southwest last year. The WiiRoomba “is entirely controlled by the Wii remote accelerometers,” and looks totally DIY-able. That’s the best thing about the new generation of game consoles; they’re not just all about the games anymore.
I love London. I’d particularly like to be there today (or tomorrow), when the London Science Museum has a cool-sounding Future Playground showcase of gaming peripherals of the future (described in detail on the BBC’s Web site), as part of its Game On exhibition on the history of computer games. It’s worth pondering what such 3D peripherals — stuff like the Puffer Sphere, on which images can be projected, and an interactive film that’s navigated by song — could do for your virtual world experience as well. The “pneumatically driven” Active Chair, especially, sounds perfect for Second Life.
The device sounds cooler than the headline, trust me. It’s the TrackClip PRO from a company called NaturalPoint, and it turns your headset into a mouselook controller. Clip it onto your headset, and the motion of your head controls the direction of your view on screen, freeing up your mouse hand for more important matters, presumably. Check out this Flash animation to see how it works (though be sure to mute the annoing music). I can’t tell from the site whether you need to mod your games to use it, but there’s a longish list of TrackIR enhanced games that apparently already support the peripheral — including Flight Simulator X, GTR and GTR2, and even EVE Online. In any case, modding it in shouldn’t be all that hard, considering how easy it was to convert Half-Life 2 for the cool 3D haptic mouse from Novint. And the price? Only $39.95 Around $200. Of course, I can’t tell you whether it actually works or not, since I haven’t actually tried it out (and actually, there’s the potential for it to be highly annoying), but I like the idea.
Linda Zimmer over at Business Communicators of SL flags what sounds like a very cool application: a downloadable 3D browser called 3B that allows you take existing 2D Web content and make an avatarized 3D space out of it that others can visit. From the site: “3B allows you take any web sites or photos and place them in a personalized 3D space, your 3B village. You can use MySpace, Hi5 or Bebo pages or photos you’ve loaded onto Flickr, Photobucket or any other web service.” Cool. I’m really looking forward to checking this out, as a MySpace-to-Second Life importer is one of the things on my personal technology wish list. 3B sounds like not much more than a way to paste flat Web pages onto the walls of a 3D environment, but it raises some interesting possibilities. It also remains to be seen whether this kind of thing has the community-building and self-expressive power of a place like Second Life. But what interests me about it is that it could be an easier way to get Web users into 3D online spaces. And as we know, getting a critical mass of people into such environments often leads to truly fascinating things that the developers hadn’t envisioned. More reports to come.