The virtual world of Second Life will apparently get native voice support and sculpted prims in tomorrow’s software update, as promised, according to back-channel chit-chat. The features have been available in beta for some weeks now, but Linden Lab apparently feels they’re now ready to go live in full release. That’s a pretty quick development cycle for LL, you have to hand it to them in this case. But get ready for a certain amount of disruption as SL culture grapples with the presence of voice (which caused a certain amount of social stratification when it was introduced into There.com) and new building techniques that are closer to the way the rest of the world does things and may, to an extent, increase the competitive pressures on SL’s native master builders. Interesting times ahead in the virtual world. [UPDATE: Further back-channel chit-chat seems to contradict at least the voice part of earlier reports. Either the right Linden doesn’t know what the left Linden is doing, or there be rumor-mongers among us. Tune in tomorrow to find out just what LL has up its virtual sleeve.]
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.
The kit provides developers with a flexible tool to create virtual spaces with built-in networked telephony and a “late-binding object-oriented” programming language that allows multiple users to jointly create, animate or modify 3-D objects and dynamic simulations. Developers can also import and share resources, such as 2-D web applications or multimedia content, from their own systems. Working together across multiple locations, they can change simulations while they are running and work together to create new applications — all in real time.
3pointD would love to hear about any work being done in Croquet. Feel free to send updates to themetaverse [at] gmail [dot] com.
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
If you’re in the New York City area tomorrow, Tuesday, February 27, and want to participate in or just attend a discussion of male fashions in both the real world and the virtual world of Second Life, drop by the A.I.R. Gallery at 511 West 25th Street, Suite 301, in Manhattan, at 5:30pm Eastern time (2:30pm SL Time) for an event being put on by Daria Dorosh, a long-time professor at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology — and also a long-time explorer in virtual worlds. In fact, the organizers could use some help, so if you’re going to be in the area and you have some facility with Second Life, Skype and stuff like that, see below. Continue reading
From what 3pointD hears, Linden Lab is very close to integrating native voice support for the virtual world of Second Life. Of course, things they’ve claimed are “very close” in the past have taken months or years to implement (or were in fact not being worked on at all), and the Lab has been having some pretty severe problems of late. But a number of other companies are working on or already providing stand-alone voice services that are integrated with Second Life. Now comes a press release from Internet telephonists Woize International (that’s their cool little logo above) flagging a new “voice-to-voice” product as an “interactive advertising service.” Are avatars soon going to start getting cold calls from marketers? Continue reading
Vodafone‘s island in the virtual world of Second Life has now opened to the public, according to Justin Bovington, head of Rivers Run Red, the virtual-world services company that produced the mobile phone company’s in-world presence. The »Vodafone« region seem similar to AOL’s presence in terms of the density of activities provided there, if not programming. There’s ice-skating to be had, high-board diving, butterfly rides and more, and users can upload their own pics that are shown on displays around the skating rink, which is a nice feature. See the YouTube clip above for a quick tour of the island. Vodafone is also giving away “water coolers” that are updated periodically with new free toys. I don’t think the voice services they’ve talked about are in place yet, but they’ve at least bandied about the idea that they’ll provide some back-end voice support for Second Life. Linden Lab, however, is very near to providing native voice support, we hear.
I’ve been thinking for a while now about starting up my own podcast, a short solo show devoted to the metaverse in all its glorious manifestations. I’m slightly skeptical, though, as to whether anyone would actually listen to such a beast. On the other hand, SecondCast (which no, I’m not quitting, sorry Cristiano) has a huge audience, as does this blog. So I thought I’d ask you: Would you listen to a 3pointD podcast? What would make that more likely? How long should it be? Any suggestions for regular features? Anything you don’t want to hear? Should I host it over at PodShow, which is what I’m thinking of doing? Or should I just forget it and keep my mouth shut?
Oh and also, if anyone can link me to some simple guides for recording podcasts (preferably on Mac, but PC could work too), I’d be grateful. I think I have a system going, but alternatives would be nice to know about.
I’ll be talking to you.
For all the time people spend worrying about how to make their avatars look in virtual worlds, why not just get a real person to be your avatar, in the real world? That’s exactly what The Girlfriend Experience offers, though it’s hard to tell whether they’ve gotten many takers yet. The home page sums it up nicely: “The Girlfriend experience is a multiplayer game allowing you to enter into a real-life person and use this person as an avatar.” All this is done via Skype, which calls into question just how much fun you can have “playing” this person, but as a concept, it’s pretty interesting — at least, on some vague philosophical basis. Just what are the limits of avatarization? Or is this more of a performance, with the avatar/actor playing a role that’s written and transmitted in real time? The experience is being offered by Mediamatic, which bills itself as “a cultural institution in Amsterdam.” Unfortunately, the service is rarely available, and then only for short periods of time. We’d be interested to hear from anyone who’s actually had this strange out-of-body Girlfriend Experience. Log in and get your avatar to drop us a line. [Via VTOR.]
Only cricket fans will realize that I don’t mean 50 years here, I mean 50 episodes. That’s right, the 50th episode of SecondCast, Second Life’s favorite podcast, is now on the air. We’ll pass our one-year anniversary sometime in February, which means we’ve been keeping up a remarkably good schedule of almost a podcast a week. Once again, kudos to Johnny Ming for pulling it all together and keeping us in line. Tune in to Episode #50 for a long discussion with Aerdr1e Fabre of Second Life matchmaking service Tea and Sympathy (which can be found in the »Infamy region« of SL (in a skybox, natch), and hear what Cristiano’s looking for in a mate. And despite the fact that I’ve been having Skype problems lately (grrr), downloads are apparently higher than ever, currently running at something in the low five figures per episode. Wow. Nice to know that someone other than ourselves is enjoying what we’re up to. Special thanks to Matthew in Georgia for the extra cool illustration he sent along to celebrate Episode #50 — and for continuing to listen despite the fact that he hasn’t used Second Life in months! Interesting.
As readers may recall, Mia Farrow’s appearance in the virtual world of Second Life to discuss the crisis in Darfur, originally slated for last month, had to be rescheduled due to a fire in the office building that houses Lichtenstein Creative Media, which is helping produce the event. The new date is Tuesday, 9 January, at 11am SL time (2pm Eastern). The event will also feature John Heffernan, who serves as Director of the Genocide Prevention Initiative for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience, the sponsor of the program; award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv; and Ronan Farrow, who has served as a UNICEF Spokesperson for Youth in Sudan, as a representative of the Genocide Intervention Network, and has written extensively about the situation in Darfur. One interesting aspect of the event is that while it take place in The Infinite Mind sim in Second Life, streaming audio will also be available at Camp Darfur, and at Global Kids, on the Second Life Teen Grid. (Is this the first time an event has been audio simulcast into the Teen Grid?) Visit the Lichtenstein site for more information.
As noted, I did a panel last night on lifelogging with Jerry Paffendorf and Susan and Arin of the film Four Eyed Monsters, which is playing for another week at Cinema Village in New York. I don’t know if anyone had a good idea of what they were going to talk about ahead of time, but the panel turned out to be a lot of fun for us, and seemed to be an interesting experience for the audience, who were happy to share their thoughts with us in turn.
One of the things we touched on was how one expresses identity online, through means like MySpace, YouTube, blogs or your behavior in an online world. One of the things that’s most interesting to me about the film is how Susan and Arin expressed their identities to each other in an offline context. Before they even met, they decided that they’d communicate simply through written notes rather than speaking. Though they speak freely to each other now, the film chronicles some interesting moments in their relationship: not just the moments when one or the other of them found the notes too much to bear, but just the way they unfolded themselves to each other through writing, a much slower process than through speaking, as we normally would. The written word, of course, carries a lot less information than the voice. Not only are there vocal inflections and mannerisms to read, but there’s an element of spontaneity that writing can’t capture. Susan and Arin forgo that channel, though, in favor of getting to know each other through the much narrower band of text. As Jerry pointed out, it’s almost as if their relationship took place in text chat. Continue reading
Well, the There Film Festival, anyway. Check out “Wild Griefer,” the winning entry, by There.com resident Francis_7. The film is a five-minute music video based on a song by the same name, written by Thereians Banshee_Kate and Stungthumbz. And it’s all about griefing! (Of course, as There.com’s press release points out, “The lyrics and dialogue showcase There’s real-time voice chat feature, which makes it appear as if the avatars are speaking and singing without the need for editing or dubbing.” But that’s obviously secondary to the subject matter, needless to say.) Check out the rest of the winning entries on this long-loading Web page. And don’t forget to congratulate Francis_7, who actually won a hefty prize: a Sony MiniDV Handycam Camcorder, 90,000 Therebucks, and, last but not least (or maybe both) a There sweatshirt. Nice work.
Check out the latest episode of SecondCast to hear us chat to Aimee Weber about the work she’s doing to bring the United Nations’ campaign against poverty into Second Life. We also cover the news, of course, this time in the company of special guest co-host Chance Takashi, high bidder on a Second Life Herald profile to benefit the American Cancer Society. Chance’s appearance in voice settled a bet that had been going on for some time among residents of the Caledon steampunk sims. Read Chance’s profile for more details.
Mobile telecomms company Vodafone plans to open its own Vodafone Island in the virtual world of Second Life later this year or early next, according to virtual world services company Rivers Run Red, which is building out the project for them. The company is being brought in as part of a campaign designed by ad agency BBH, which Rivers brought to Second Life in September. Vodafone content should start appearing on the Grid in coming months. Besides activities like sports, music, film and events that are planned for Vodafone Island, the company will also try to give SL residents new ways to interact with each other and with the real world. Vodafone will apparently be working up applications that allow instant messaging and/or other forms of communication between SL and other online and mobile locations. While these won’t be the first such apps, they will have the weight and marketing power of a real-world telecomms company behind them. It will be interesting to see whether they gain broader adoption as a result. If they add to the functionality available in-world, so much the better.
Glitchy sends along an interesting project from the Intelligent Information Laboratory at Northwestern University known as News at Seven, which scans news and blog headlines and automatically creates a three-minute newscast which is then delivered via text-to-speech translation by everyone’s favorite female first-person shooter, the Alyx character from the Half-Life games. I’d love to see this in a virtual world, automatically generating a newscast from 3pointD stories and the like. The demo newscast seems to have been tarted up by the app’s creators (“The engine, and our extensions to it, allows us to present believable human-like newscasters as well as more imaginative scenes and sets that are only possible because the show is virtual. We also use techniques to make the generated vocal audio more interesting and believable.”), but there’s no reason why a straight show shouldn’t work. An entertaining addition to the growing number of aggregators out there.
Vivox, the voice-over-IP startup that provides voice services to virtual worlds, is giving away a million minutes of voice time free to residents of the virtual world of Second Life. The giveaway will let SL residents make calls from within Second Life to any phone, including mobiles and landlines, in North America, as well as take advantage of Vivox’s unique proximity services in Second Life, where up to five avatars standing near a Vivox virtual microphone are automatically conferenced together if they’re running the Vivox client. The giveaway [<-- details] starts October 4. Vivox is also the company that's bringing integrated voice services to the EVE Online client. Second Life phone home.
Christian Westbrook of the Electric Sheep Company (sponsors of this blog) has made what sounds like a cool text-to-speech translator that works within the virtual world of Second Life. Each participant in a converation chooses a voice and a language that they’d like their chat translated into, and the device speaks the translation in real time. Listen to a sample on Christian’s blog, linked above. I haven’t been able to rendezvous with Christian to check this out, so I’m not sure whether the voice component works behind SL or streams in-world, but it’s a nice idea. Who knows, perhaps soon you’ll be able to listen to 3pointD while you go about your virtual business.
Voice can be a contentious issue in virtual worlds. Many MMOs rely on it. It probably wouldn’t be possible to participate in the “end-game” in World of Warcraft and EVE Online without benefit of a VoIP app like TeamSpeak or Ventrilo. Using voice in Second Life is becoming more common, especially for making presentations. But many residents of virtual worlds shy away from it because they perceive it to be anonymity-breaking. A number of apps let you mask or change your voice in order to avoid this problem, the latest of which is linked from Gamasutra and is available for free from a company called Screaming Bee. Personally, I don’t need this kind of thing, since I don’t mind people hearing my voice. But do we think it will be popular among those who do?
The future of wireless and wireless broadband was the subject of a Friday midday panel at the Supernova conference in San Francisco today. The panel was moderated by Om Malik of GigaOm (and for a few more days part of Business 2.0, and featured Clint McClellan of Qualcomm; Juergen Urbanski of FON, “a wifi peer-to-peer grassroots community movement”; Pierre de Vries, a fellow at the Annenberg Center at USC who used to work on wireless technologies at Microsoft; and Selina Lo of Ruckus Wireless. Continue reading
Over at the Metaverse Sessions site, John Swords has posted a keynote speech by venture capitalist Joi Ito in which the avid World of Warcraft player talks about “monochronic” and “polychronic” time, and gives the audience a look into the crowded world of his computer’s desktop. (I liveblogged the presentation at the time.) It’s a very interesting take on how Ito interacts with the real and virtual worlds at the same time, and definitely worth a listen. (You can listen here in the sidebar if you like, or on the site.)
Glitchy sends along a press release from Skype and IT/telecomms company Comverse Technology about Skype Klonies, the new avatar personalization feature available to Skype users. (Dial it up here.) Like Saul Klein, Skype’s VP of marketing, I’m sure this will be popular. “Recent surveys we conducted show that personalization capabilities are important to the Skype community,” Klein says in the release. What the release doesn’t say is that you have to pay for your Klonie (which didn’t stop me, of course; it was only about $1.25, but for some reason I got charged in euros).
Strangely, my new Skype Klonie has got me thinking about whether VoIP has much of a future as a standalone service. Read on. Continue reading
Via a press release datelined “Framingham, Massachusetts and Uvvy Island, Second Life” comes news from VoIP company Vivox about a transhumanist seminar to be held in the virtual world of Second Life tomorrow, June 7, at 11am SL time. The seminar, sponsored by FutureTAG, will feature James Hughes, Giulio Prisco, and Philippe Van Nedervelde. Fascinating ideas about the future of humans are sure to be kicked around, but one thing that’s notable is that they’ll be kicked around in voice. Vivox has a nice application, which I’ve seen demoed, that runs behind SL (or another MMO) and does more than just connect people in chat rooms a la Skype or TeamSpeak. Continue reading
The Smart Internet Technology Cooperative Research Centre in Australia is bringing positional voice and audio to online games and 3D virtual spaces. Its Immersive Communications Environment will represent environmental audio and users’ voices positionally: the gamers and gunshots that are closer to you will sound louder, while those that are further away will sound fainter or won’t be heard at all. For gamers, this is a step forward in games like World of Warcraft and Counter-Strike, and could add a great deal to virtual worlds like Second Life and There.com, for those who care to adopt it. The system can only support around 1,000 users per server at the moment, but for most conversations and contexts, that will be more than enough. It doesn’t seem to be commercially available at the moment, but I’m betting it’s only a matter of time. I definitely want to hear my guildies’ voices echoing down the halls of WoW instances in a positional, directional way, rather than just everyone shouting at once. [Via Glitchy.]
The New Globe Theatre in Second Life
It’s just one launch, actually, but it’s happening later today: It’s called Millions of Us, a new 3D net services company, and it’s headed up by Reuben Steiger, former evangelist at Linden Lab (makers of Second Life). Millions of Us will help businesses “understand and harness the power of virtual worlds,” according to its Web site. Though Reuben’s currently working alone from a small office in San Francisco’s SoMa district, hiring developers as needed, Millions of Us has already completed two notable pilot projects, and has two more clients signed on for larger projects, including a major record label and a Hollywood effects company. Continue reading
The Electric Sheep Company (anchor sponsor of this blog) sends word of the grand opening of the New Media Consortium‘s campus in Second Life (built by the Sheep), which is slated for this Thursday, April 20, from 4:00-10:00pm Eastern time. The NMC bills itself as “a not-for-profit consortium of nearly 200 leading colleges, universities, museums, corporations, and other learning-focused organizations dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and new technologies.” Events will include building demonstrations, dance parties, an Electric Sheep Q&A panel and tours of NMC’s island. Space is limited, so to reserve a spot, send an email with your SL name to johnson [AT] nmc [DOT] org or send an in-world IM to Larry Pixel or Ninmah Ash. A TeamSpeak server is also being set up to support the event in voice. [UPDATE: Grab this PDF for more details.]
Tony Walsh has a nice article up on his site about Vivox, a VoIP company that has designed a very cool application that interfaces with Second Life. The Vivox voice app runs behind the SL viewer, but residents can initiate calls from within the world, either via a heads-up display or via Vivox’s phone booths. Calls can terminate either at a VoIP client or at a land-line or cell phone, if you belong to a service like Skype Out. You can also place a “microphone” in-world that will add Vivox-enabled users to a local voice channel; move far enough away and you drop out of the channel. Move into range of a different mic and you’re automatically added to that channel. This adds voice to the Grid in a really seamless and comfortable (and opt-outable) way. I met the Vivox guys at South by Southwest and was very impressed by what I saw. Tony’s piece gives a nice look at the company, its background and what they’re offering. And he claims it’s been edited by yours truly, though all I really did was look the thing over and tell Tony I thought it was awesome.
Mashing up World of Warcraft into Second Life
The latest news from the Electric Sheep Company (who sponsor this blog) is of a fascinating event planned for the end of this month that will bring two virtual worlds together. The Sheep have previously held “mixed reality” events in which a real-life location was recreated in Second Life and interaction between the two made possible. But this will be the first “mixed virtual reality” event for the Sheep, and involves creating video, audio and chat links between the worlds of Second Life and World of Warcraft. Continue reading
Second Life resident Johnny Ming’s SecondCast has just been hired by Linden Lab to produce a one-hour audio “Town Hall” meeting about once every two weeks, Johnny reports. LL’s Town Hall meetings put a single LL representative on a stage in Second Life to field questions from residents for an hour or two. The crowd pushes SL’s servers to the limit, and the chat window is filled with so many questions and comments from residents that the Linden’s responses are often difficult to make out. Moving to an audio format should solve many of the problems that have plagued Town Halls in the past. Continue reading