That’s Ludlow as in Peter Ludlow, who founded the Second Life Herald, and Wallace as in myself, who occasionally does some work over there. We’re interviewed on Episode #2 of the MIT Press podcast, which you can listen to via this link. (You have to listen through some advertisements for the podcast itself at the beginning, for some reason.) MIT, of course, is who’s publishing our book, The Second Life Herald: The Virtual Tabloid That Witnessed the Dawn of the Metaverse, which is due out any minute now — or anyway, at the end of the month. We talk about Second Life, of course, issues of governance in the metaverse, the future of metaversal technologies, and a few other things. I think we were spared any annoying furry sex questions in this one, which was nice. Check it out.
I’m off Monday for the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference in San Jose next week (online registration ends tomorrow! see below), where I’ll be moderating what should be a very cool roundtable on the future of virtual world platforms. We go on Thursday at 11am, on the strategy track, with a very flattering title: Visionary Panel: Where the Platforms Are Going Next. The panel features Christopher Klaus, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Kaneva; Raph Koster, President, Areae, Inc.; Michael Wilson, CEO, Makena Technologies; Hui Xu, Founder & CEO, HiPiHi Co., Ltd; Stephen Lawler, General Manager of Virtual Earth, Microsoft; and Corey Bridges, Co-founder, Executive Producer, & Marketing Director, The Multiverse Network. Should be some pretty fascinating talk flying around about what’s going to happen in the near and far terms, and where all of the things these people and others are working on are headed.
As noted, online registration for the conference (of which 3pointD is a media sponsor) ends tomorrow, Friday, October 5. The online reg price is only $795. After Friday, you’ll be able to register onsite at the show beginning 7:30am, Wednesday, October 10, for $995. Reg now and save your cash for drinks with Corey!
Check out the mobile wizardry of Second Life resident Wrestling Hulka, who has a limited version of the virtual world running on the Nokia n800. [Via Metaversed, from whom I’ve stolen the pic above.] Cool stuff. Recall there was another mobile client for Second Life that was developed earlier in the year. 3pointD hears that others may be working on similar apps — although I’m not sure I need an “immersive” experience on my mobile device. What I definitely would like, however, is the ability to interact with people who are in the virtual world via my phone and functions like instant messaging, my virtual currency account, etc. That’s far more useful, but is apparently less sexy and more difficult, since I don’t hear as much about people developing these kinds of functions. We can only hope.
The latest entrant to the raft of virtual worlds conferences planned for this year is the Virtual Worlds Forum that will take place in London on October 24-25. I’m going to try to make this, even though I’ll have been in California two weeks earlier for the autumn edition of Virtual Worlds 2007 (which we reported earlier), which takes place October 10-11. The London forum is already featuring an impressive list of confirmed speakers, including Corey Bridges of Multiverse, Mike Wilson of There.com, Raph Koster of Areae, Richard Bartle of MUD1 (the first virtual world), and many more. Registration should open later this week; we’ll try to give you a heads up. Text of a recent press release after the jump. (Pay no attention to the first word of the headline.) Continue reading
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
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
June 13 will see cable new network CNN kick off something it’s calling a Future Summit with a “landmark television event.” Why does 3pointD care? Because the series, which looks like it will unfold more on the Web than on the air, starts with Future Summit: Virtual Worlds, featuring everyone from Linden Lab CEO Phhilip Rosedale to Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield, Funcom CEO Trond Aas, and people like EA co-founder Trip Hawkins, Jimmy Wales and Nick Yee, among others. There’s precious little information on the site about just what’s happening and when, but it sounds like it should contain a lot of information of interest to metaversal types. 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.
Holographic television displays are apparently closer than we thought, according to a company called SeeReal Technologies. They’re developing 3D holographic display techniques that would work on flat LCD screens and would not require special glasses. The system tracks viewers’ eyes and directs output accordingly. For more detail, you can read a good FAQ page on their site. Or show up tomorrow (23 May), at the Society for Information Display’s International Symposium in Long Beach CA, where SeeReal will unveil some of their new tech, according to a press release. Sounds promising. But how does it look?
UgoTrade has a lengthy write-up of some of the work IBM has been doing in the virtual world of Second Life lately. [Via IBM’s Rob Smart.] The blog entry is all about creating links between the real world and the virtual world, so that sensor data and other information can be visualized in Second Life on a real-time basis. In the screenshot above, “The blue balls with white designs represent active Bluetooth devices. The pyramids scattered about the floor represent other people working, with the color designating things like physical presence or telepresence,” according to UgoTrade. This is just one kind of application that could start to make Second Life a much more useful place. I’d love to see entities and conditions being tracked around SL in real time. Why? Because there’s a ton of information to be extracted from a digital environment, which can then be applied to real-world problems from logistics to marketing to sociology, you name it. That said, this won’t start to get really interesting until we have a nearly plug-n-play solution. Which is probably one of the things IBM is working on. Keep your sensors tuned.
Linden Lab has bought Windward Mark, a company that creates realistic lighting and cloud systems for 3D online environments, according to a story in the Boston Globe. (The purchase was made for an undisclosed sum.) The company is apparently already at work adding their code to LL’s software. “Users should see a major improvement in visual quality within several weeks,” according to the article. I imagine this will be a contentious move in some quarters. There are many people who don’t very much love Second Life’s current lighting systems — but there are many as well who will question why money and effort are being used to improve lighting instead of hiring more talent to stabilize the underlying platform. Let the debate continue.
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.
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.
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.
If you missed the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference, don’t worry: now you can close your eyes and it’s almost like you’re there. John Swords has now posted most if not all of the audio files of the conference sessions over at RezNation.com, home of SecondCast. You can find all the files under the Metaverse Sessions tag, even though they’re not, really. What they are is good, informative listening. You can catch a case study of Pontiac in Second Life, the Electric Sheep Company‘s Sibley Verbeck giving a keynote speech, IBM‘s Colin Parris talking about his company’s plans for virtual environments, my own blatherings on a fun panel about the future of these things, and more. Happy listening.
Alex Harbinger holds a teen grid debate on intergrid commerce in the virtual world of Second Life. Photo courtesy of Lucky Figtree.
We recorded a great SecondCast this past Wednesday with two residents of Second Life‘s teen grid, Lucky Figtree and Alex Harbinger (both 15 years old). They’re leading the charge (or at least, Alex is) to unite the teen and adult grids, or at least to let them overlap to a certain extent. Along the way, we discuss Cristiano’s open letter to Linden Lab, and give away a couple of books. (There’s still time to enter the giveaway, actually.) Plus, listen for the dulcet tones of Starr Sonic, who joined us from the Second Life Cable Network as a special guest host. Definitely check out SLCN.tv’s news archive and live broadcasts. Starr’s doing it right.
Linden Lab, maker of the virtual world of Second Life, announced on Monday that it would hold an impromptu town hall meeting with chief technology officer Cory Ondrejka to address the concerns of the almost 3,500 SL residents who have thus far signed on to Project Open Letter, a list of five complaints about the Second Life platform that have long gone unanswered. The open letter is an initiative of Second Life snapshot baron Cristiano Midnight, who’s also one of our co-hosts on SecondCast, and has been a member of Second Life for several years now. The project was started “after I read yet another open letter in a third party forum begging Linden Lab to fix myriad problems that have been going on daily for more than a year, in some cases extending years,” Cristiano writes on the project site. He goes on to point out that LL has closed down all the centralized venues of feedback, such as the company-sponsored forums, that had formerly been available to residents. A bug-reporting system is in place, but LL has not been as responsive to that as many residents would like. In the wake of the letter, LL appears to be listening harder, but it may not yet be hard enough. The platform remains vulnerable; read on for more details. Continue reading
On the heels of IBM‘s recent announcement about their new mainframe-class machines geared for 3D virtual worlds comes the news that Sun Microsystems has constructed its own 3D virtual environment for business. Currently an in-house demo project, the software could be ready for release within six months, according to a Sun engineer quoted in this InformationWeek story.
The system is currently known as MPK20, which identifies it as the 20th building at Sun’s corporate campus in Menlo Park, California — which is known as MPK and in fact houses only 19 buildings. The MPK20 environment is built atop the open-source Wonderland software and the Project Darkstar infrastructure designed to run online games.
According to Sun, the key difference between MPK20 and other 3D environments is that it is explicitly designed for business use. The Wonderland software permits the creation of live, shared applications that are ideal for a workplace environment, Sun says. And of course the virtual world lets Sun employees work together no matter their location in the real world.
One interesting thing about Sun’s vision for MPK20 is that the company seems to be looking toward a mirror world environment for business. “The next stage in the MPK20 project is to design complementary physical and virtual work spaces. If personal and team workspaces primarily exist in the virtual world, then people in physical spaces should be able to project their workspace around them no matter where in the world they are and interact seamlessly with people who are remote.” [Emphasis added.] It will definitely be interesting to see exactly what that means. Continue reading
Following the news of the new mainframe platform for virtual worlds that IBM is working on, I had the chance to talk to David Gelardi, IBM’s vice president of industry solutions, who is heading up the effort. “This is a brand new way to support the needs of virtual worlds in an environment that begins to look like 3D commerce,” Gelardi said. “Think more in terms of a future state where there is a transaction taking place that is a buying experience of some kind.” The “hybrid environment of immense power and flexibility” that IBM is creating will rely on the Cell’s processing power for rendering, the mainframe for cryptography and its ability to handle the processing needs of a massively multiuser enviroment, and Hoplon’s software for physics and messaging.
“I would argue that the world doesn’t yet understand the promise of [virtual world] technology,” Gelardi said. “We see this technology moving into banking and retail and anything where the consumer is involved in a transaction of commerce that they would today do over the Web, online shopping, online banking. The problem is that rendering is kind of weak. We haven’t figured out how to accelerate that yet, and how to marry that to transactions.” 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
Second Life resident and Fo3 qDot Bunnyhug, one of the top teledildonics engineers in the world, has a new project: The Naughtyizing of Croquet. Yes, the humble roboticist from
Arkansas Oklahoma is going to spend the month of April hooking a variety of motorized sex toys to the open-source virtual world-building platform Croquet. qDot pioneered teledildonics in Second Life about a year and a half ago, and gave a great demo at SXSW06 of a vibrator that could be remotely controlled by an Xbox controller. Now he’s got his sights set on Croquet, which should provide fertile ground for the kind of remote sexuality of which qDot is a master. Plus which, if there’s anything that’s going to focus attention on a platform that’s not getting enough, it’s sex. What I loved about qDot’s rap at SXSW was that he sees teledildonics not so much as a tool for cheap Internet hookups as a way to bring couples who are separated for whatever reason closer together. For qDot, it’s more about the love than about the sex. Stay tuned at Slashdong, his blog, for continuing reports.
Shattered after SXSW? Wiped out after Virtual Worlds’07? Can’t wait for SLCC’07, but still in need of a Virtual Worlds fix? Fear not! Help is at hand in the form of the International Technology Expo, ITE’07. This time you won’t need to leave home, as the event will be held inworld from April 20th-22nd, with a grand opening on Friday, April 20th at Noon SLT/20:00 GMT. Continue reading
No April Fool’s joke this: 3pointD turned one year old today! It was in the early hours (early minutes, actually) of April 1, 2006, that I posted my first Hello, World! here. Something like 1,400 posts later (can that be? WordPress must be over-counting) and our mission remains the same: “At its most fundamental level, itâ€™s about connecting people in new ways, and about giving them the tools to get more out of not just the Web but out of the real world around them.”
That’s still true, but in the year since then, the 3pointD space (aka the metaverse) has begun to resolve itself a bit — which is perhaps not surprising, since the word didn’t actually mean anything a year ago. What I’ve been trying to describe over the last year is the general direction of the future of connectivity. I still feel, as I wrote last March on my old blog, Walkerings, that “Web 2.0 is over like a hipster neighborhood when The Gap moves in,” and that there’s a new neighborhood to be colonized. That’s of course an overstatement for effect, but I don’t think it’s off the mark. Over the next several (many?) years, the most exciting developments in technology are going to be those that leverage our ever-increasing digital access to places both real and virtual to develop better connections between people in various ways.
The question is, What’s that going to look like? I hate making predictions, but as my birthday present to the blog and its readers, I’ve just spent the evening going out on a limb. You can read the details below or you can jump directly to a brief, fun scenario at the end of the post. Enjoy. Continue reading
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
The pre-lunch panel at VW07 was on “platforms and technologies,” moderated by Jerry Paffendorf of the Electric Sheep Company. Unfortunately, I chose to sit upstairs by the coffee, which apparently inspired most of the audience to chat to each other throughout the panel.
â€¢ We’ll be open-sourcing the back end so sims can run anywhere on any machine whether trusted by us or not.
â€¢ We’ll be delivering assets in a totally different method that won’t be such a burden on the simulators.
â€¢ Very soon we’ll be updating simulators to support multiple versions so that we don’t have to update the entire Grid at once.
â€¢ We’ll be using open protocols.
â€¢ SL cannot truly succeed as long as one company controls the Grid.
Joe also had a slide showing that SL is going to migrate straight to Havok 4. Eventually.
And now, back to our panel. 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.
Qwaq, a company I blogged about last June, has been planning to “enable a rich ecosystem of interlinked Croquet spaces, that is as easy to navigate and extend as todayâ€™s Web.” News from the company yesterday flags its first product, Qwaq Forums, which offer customizable “virtual spaces for real work.” The spaces are built on the peer-to-peer open-source Croquet platform, which was demo’d to great effect last fall to a bunch of metaversal types, but which we haven’t heard much from since. It sounds like Qwaq is a custom build-out of a Croquet implementation, tweaked for the needs of a specific business. It would offer multi-user interactivity, and a persistent 3D work environment. And because of how Croquet handles external applications, it should be relatively easy to drag something like an Excel spreadsheet into a window in Qwaq, and then let anyone in the space edit it. Continue reading
Regular readers know I’ve been making noise lately about an idea factory that would seek to leverage (sorry, Ordinal) the skills of anyone who cared to participate in an effort to create any or all of a list of wish apps that had also been created by the community. As previously noted, I had to miss last Saturday’s jawboning session on the topic, but Bill Ward and a couple of other people who were there have been kind enough to send me some notes about what was discussed (including a fantastic handwritten page, from which I’ve clipped the chart above, which you can view in its entirety on Flickr). I’m going to try to tie all those notes together here into a vision of a metaversal idea factory (which I’m still not convinced shouldn’t be called an idea farm — or insert your good idea for a name here), and will try to keep you posted as things develop. Keep in mind that this is my interpretation of the state of things; it seems a fairly complex undertaking, so I may have gotten a few details out of place. In any case, though, it’s a very cool project which I’d love to see take off. 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
The above YouTube clip, from Minneapolis artist Phil Hansen, doesn’t appear to be all that 3pointD, at first, but appearances can be deceiving. It’s a full five minutes of some really nice action painting with a unique twist (which I won’t give away; hit the Play button already!). In an unbelievably fortuitous moment of technological serendipity, I happened to be listening to Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues on iTunes when I was watching this, and had the YouTube soundtrack turned down. All of which engendered a small epiphany about the history of lifelogging and the origins of the mixed(-up) media we enjoy today. Read on, if you dare. Continue reading
This is not exactly 3pointD, but it’s definitely worthy of note: Amil Husain at the United Nations’ Millennium Campaign against poverty is looking for help in developing educational games to run on the $100 laptop in development by One Laptop Per Child, a group founded by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte that wants to put a laptop in the hands of children in poorer nations around the world. Husain wants to produce “entertaining game modules” that cover the eight Millennium Development Goals, and is looking for assistance finding “game developers who have experience translating difficult development issues into entertaining games.” If you think you can help, or you know someone who can, get in touch with Amil at amilhusain [AT] gmail.com.