Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Challenges of Creating Great User Interfaces for VR

Via Waxy, here's a very in-depth introduction from designer Mike Alger on all the challenges virtual reality developers face, when creating user interfaces that will best function within VR:

VR Interface Design Pre-Visualisation Methods from Mike Alger on Vimeo.

I've yet to see a single VR user interface I could see becoming an industry standard, so much work is left to be done.

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SL Flickr: Second Life Fashion Underwater With a Carp

You know what kind of virtual fashion photos we need more of? That's right: Underwater shots with fish. Yes:


Lyndzay Meili made this bravura fashion photo, and there's much more witty wackiness where that came from. For instance, to wit, SL fashion with a kung fu kick to the face:

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US Government Selling Virtual Currency Seized in RL Sting

Bitcoin virtual currency

Yes, seriously:

The US Marshals Service is selling another chunk of Silk Road bitcoins. The 44,341 BTC, to be sold in blocks of 2,000 bitcoin, will go on sale from 12:00 UTC to 18:00 UTC on November 5, 2016. These are the final bitcoins taken from Ross Ulbricht, alleged mastermind of the Silk Road.

Yet more news I didn't think I'd ever read less than 10 years ago, which we now consider commonplace. And remember, kids: Bitcoin Can't Be Free from the Powers That Be, Because It Rides on Rails That They Control.

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Monday, October 05, 2015

Are Second Life Content Creators Missing the Unity Boat?

Unity 3D versus Second Life

Virtual world/VR content creator Cindy Bolero made in interesting comment in the Second Life versus Project Sansar post last week:

"I've been talking to SL content creators for three years now about the game and apps asset market that is thriving and lucrative. Game developers are STARVING for content. But not one SL content creator I've introduced Unity3D to has bothered to look into the FBX and OBJ format and prospects there."

Unity3D is probably the most-used engine for 3D games, including virtual worlds and MMOs, and Cindy argues that countless talented Second Life content creators are missing an opportunity to transition beyond SL:

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Streaming About a Virtual World While His Real House Burns

"Japanese streamer Daasuke took a break from playing Minecraft to show off his new oil-match lighter," reports Kotaku. "That’s when things got bad. Real bad." Specifically, at about 4:45 min -- after which, it rapidly goes from bad to worse:

The child-like digital voice you hear, by the way, is connected to the IM text stream on this guy's video feed, which someone on Reddit helpfully translated:

  • "Behind you. Behind you. Look Behind you."
  • "The fire extinguisher. Use the fire extinguisher."
  • "Call 119" (Japanese 911)
  • "Don't you have a futon (thin Japanese mattress) you can put on it?"

According to translations of early Japan news reports, the Minecraft streamer and his family (he lived with his parents) are injured but fortunately alive, though their house is now largely gone. Two thoughts jump out at me, watching this:

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Monday SL Machinima Features a Small Town With Secrets

To start Monday right, here's a beautifully shot and edited machinima depicting a small town community with lazy, sun-lit streets and secrets behind closed doors:

From Erythro Asimov and Pepa Cometa, it was shot in an impressively textured sim called Crestwick and features a cast of dozens, along with the great music of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

John Carmack Oculus Metaverse Minecraft Second Life

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Friday, October 02, 2015

Melusina Parkin Turns SL Screenshots Into Wyeth-Like Art

"Those are all SL pictures," Second Life style maven Cajsa Lilliehook tells me." directing me to the jaw-dropping Flickr stream of Ms. Melusina Parkin. "Not real life. SL." This is why she had to tell me that, just look:

Railways 4

Melusina Parkin has managed to make Second Life scenes seem like beautifully spare, stark, Wyeth-like paintings, and so you should probably just go here and look at them all.

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That Time Stephen Colbert Visted Second Life (Kinda Sorta)


As I mentioned yesterday, Stephen Colbert was featured in a very early Second Life machinima that went viral in 2006, exactly 9 years ago today. Some zealous Viacom lawyers pulled it from YouTube after it has amassed hundreds of thousands of views, but fortunately reader "UCMO" found another copy online -- view below. (Possibly not safe for work viewing, not due to graphic sex or violence, but because video of Colbert and Karl Rove fighting Nancy Pelosi on Jabba the Hutt's sail barge while Soledad O'Brien watches will almost certainly elicit "WTF?" from your offie mates.)

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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Avatars & Virtual Reality Take Away Our Appreciation of Face-to-Face Interaction, Pioneer Academic of Virtual Worlds Sherry Turkle Argues

Sherry Turkle Virtual Worlds Reclaiming Conversation

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age is the new book from acclaimed academic of technology Sherry Turkle, a follow-up to Alone Together (which I discussed with her here), and given her background, I wanted to know if she thought, as Philip Rosedale and other virtual reality advocates do, that VR will help us revive civil conversation in the digital age. She thinks not so, and argues otherwise in her latest book:

"Avatars, virtual reality, all of these have their place," Turkle tells me. "But my thesis is that our fascination with all of that takes us away from appreciating the power of what we accomplish face-to-face."

"What's your take on the idea that real time VR-based communication is as good as IRL face-to-communication?" I asked her via e-mail. "After all, the avatars are communicating face to face. Some research suggests avatar interaction is powerful enough to cause us to imitate our unwritten rules of eye contact and personal space."

"Presence is definitionally not virtual," says Turkle. "The avatars are not communicating face to face. We are protected from each other's bodies in VR."

This is a notable point, because it runs counter to the theory that VR can effectively simulate presence. It's even more notable when you realize that it's coming from an MIT professor who's one of the first and best academics to champion the power of virtual worlds:

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Stephen Colbert Hilariously Punctures VR Hype Of Course

"Wow! It really feels like I'm sitting and watching something I can see on TV!" You know, I just spent about 16 hours writing a magazine article expressing all my skepticism over excessive virtual reality hype, but Colbert pretty much nailed it in under 6 minutes. (As he's wont to do.) I guess you could say it's not fair to mock the VR experience of an event that's already organized around a television format, but why ruin the fun just yet?

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Mont Saint Michel Still in Second Life (For Now)


The beloved Mont Saint Michel was scheduled to depart Second Life last month, but for one reason or another, it's still there -- I just briefly visited. Maybe the Japanese owner Moeka kohime hasn't transferred the sim yet, or the new owner hasn't wiped the actual build, or (as sometimes is the case), Linden Lab hasn't gotten around to taking it off the grid yet. Am looking into this, but in any case, click here to visit while you can.

That aside, there's some decent machinima memorializing Mont Saint Michel, which will lost forever (unless the heat death of the universe wipes out YouTube's servers, at least). Here's a new one from Kawanishi Yana:

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

John Carmack: "Crass Commercialization", Not High-Mindedness, Will Lead to the Metaverse

Joyce Bettencourt is a longtime metaverse developer (and Rhiannon Chatnoir in Second Life), and she got a chance to grab OculusVR CTO John Carmack at the company's recent developer conference to talk Second Life, Minecraft, and the Metaverse in general-- so let's watch:

"[H]e leans more towards platforms like Minecraft, which is coming to Oculus and GearVR as having potential to lead towards a metaverse than say Second Life." Joyce summarizes. "He mentions that the lack of implicit 'what do I do and gameplay' as downsides to SL."

That's a very valid point, something I've discussed at length here and with Second Life's co-founders -- both Philip Rosedale and Cory Ondrejka, who expressed a desire to see Second Life add a gaming system after leaving Linden Lab, and then went on to lead Facebook's acquisition of Oculus VR.

Anyway, more from Rhiannon, who provokes a good point from Carmack on how the metaverse will come about:

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Project Sansar Causing Significant Minority of SLers to Spend Less Money in Second Life

Sansar SL spending survey

Project Sansar is causing a significant minority of Second Life users to decrease their spending in SL, according to my survey of over 225 NWN readers.  Over 1 in 4 say they're spending less in SL since Sansar was announced, many perhaps sharing this opinion left in the survey comment thread:

I use about 40% of my current inventory because I'm an interior decorator and landscaper on sl. Will I move to Sansar? No. After having invested literally thousands of dollars US on the current platform, I will not be making the same mistake twice. AND I will say one more thing, I personally am sick and tired of LL's income on SL being spent on projects that won't benifit SL in any way.

Lemon Panda 

All is not bad news for Linden Lab, however, because my survey also asked if people had changed their usage of Second Life because of Sansar, and a much smaller percent said they were now using SL less:

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Veteran Linden Exec Cyn Skyberg Co-Launches User Identity & Access Management Technology

Cyn Skyberg anvil research API identity

Anvil Research is a startup now crowd-funding Anvil Connect, an open source authorization server built to authenticate your users and protect your APIs, and one of the team leads is Cyn Skyberg, Linden Lab's former VP of Community, who also had a similar position with Cloud Party. Developers can use Anvil Connect for any number of use cases, including identity and shared data management within an MMO. Cyn tells me the project is definitely influenced by her work with community-oriented companies up to now:

"Working with the SL community, and others like Wikipedia, eBay and Cloud Party, has been fundamental to the shaping of how I think about and work with communities in general, whether they are internal or external to the organization I am working with," Cyn tells me. "I have come to believe, and put into practice, that when you are engaging with a community to build a product or service, that influence and input has to be at the foundation of what you are doing. In other words:

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Flickr Stream of the Day: Jun sagittaire's Artful Wanderings Through Second Life

like a dream

Literally every Second Life image on the Flickr stream of Jun sagittaire looks like a lush and luminous painting - generally featuring a thoughtful young dude and his wandering dog (or sometimes a cat). I'm not exactly sure what WindLight/Photoshop witchcraft is at work, but I'm utterly impressed. Go here and see for yourself.

Hat tip: Ms. Alicia Chenaux, who's got some SL photo skills of her own.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Does Second Life Really Have a "Community"?


In the very chatty conversation over Friday's post, "The Second Life Community Should Lead the New Virtual Reality Wave, Not Follow It" sirhc deSantis makes an interesting and provocative point:

These continual references to the 'Second Life Community' rankle me. With my 9th rez day at the end of this year I have yet to stumble over this mythical beast. Been involved in communities (plural) over the years made up of people with shared interests (of many kinds) but never met this all encompassing one.

As the word is mostly used as marketing speak to mean 'people who buy/use our stuff we want to make feel involved in a more or less touchy feely way so they buy/use more stuff and act as an unpaid evangelical force' I may be a trifle jaded.

The only thing users of SL have in common is that they use SL. Does that make it a 'community'? In the same way as a FaceBook 'community'?

Fair couple of closing questions. As I've noted before, less than 30,000 people typically attend Second Life's annual birthday celebration, which leads me to conclude that there are few SLers who have a deep affinity with SL as a unified virtual community, and more who are just interested in going to their favorite nightclub or roleplaying sim or whatever sub-community they're affiliated with.

In a follow-up comment to his post that started my Friday post, Maxwell Graf makes a good defense of the community concept:

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Explore Second Life With New Website & YouTube Channel

Explore SL is a new-ish website which as the title suggests, features great Second Life sites, illustrated both by a blog post and a YouTube video, the latest being the utterly beautiful and dreamy Chouchou sim:

With so many great SL sites disappearing seemingly every week, it's a relief to realize Chouchou is still around after all these years:

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Last Day to Take NWN's Second Life/Sansar Survey

Ebbe Altberg Second Life Sansar UGC

I'm still collecting answers around the question, "Has Project Sansar changed your Second Life usage or spending patterns?", but by the end of today, I'm locking the survey down. We already have over 200+ responses, but the larger the data sample, the better. So if you'd like to see your own opinions factored into the summary (published tomorrow, hopefully), take a few seconds to answer two questions.

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Microsoft Quietly Developing Low-Cost VR Headset

Microsoft VR Kit

We know about Microsoft's upcoming augmented reality HoloLens glasses, but now we also know about Microsoft's upcoming VR kit, with a decidedly low cost Google Cardboard-ish vibe:

Spotted on a website to promote a hackathon in Russia, Microsoft is trying to attract developers to an upcoming hackathon that will use the company’s VR-Kits. As you can see in the image at the top of this post, the kit works by inserting your Lumia into a cardboard box and then holding it to your face. The event is being held on October 17th and Microsoft is promoting the event by saying that ideas that are “successful”, according to the translation, the team will be given a VR-Kit so they can keep building their application.

So that also means 3 of the 5 top tech supergiants are confirmed to have a VR product: Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. I'm not surprised Apple has avoided the VR game altogether, but somewhat curious Amazon hasn't jumped in with a VR-powered shopping tool.

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!


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Friday, September 25, 2015

This Weekend in Second Life: Attend a Virtual Fundraiser to Build Real Schools in Kenya

This is a man from Kenya with the Live and Learn in Kenya NGO, thanking the Second Life virtual community for helping raise funds to build real schools in his country:

This is the fundraiser he's talking about, a seriously awesome, 3 day event in SL with live music, DJs, and auctions, all virtual Linden Dollar proceeds converted into cash, then sent across the world to become actual schools for actual children. The extravaganza is here in Stargazer Bay.

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The Second Life Community Should Lead the New Virtual Reality Wave, Not Follow It

Second Life VR

Veteran virtual world content creator Maxwell Graf has an interesting and fairly inspiring (if a bit too wide-rangey) post which basically argues that the Second Life community should lead the new wave of VR, not follow it:

Ideally, the concept of a metaverse is the total of combined applications across various virtual worlds through the perspective of an identity which remains constant across all of them. The coming storm of digital reality will eventually produce a true metaverse, a new blank canvas which will be covered by the paint of humanity and its many colors. When they arrive, it is my hope that the community of Second Life will be there, waiting, to help them understand what to do with it all. Going forward it is imperative that we be there in order to share our experience and what we have learned, to preserve the foundation of community which we have so carefully crafted so that it can be incorporated into the future and kept from being lost. Therein lies a legacy and a destiny. As we begin the next chapter of our digital lives with Project Sansar starting this week, let us attempt to show the rest of the world our example. Let us lead them, not just be ahead of them. Let us light the path.

Also, love the steampunky VR image (excerpted above) Max created for the post. It's well-worth a read, even I don't entirely agree with it here and there. Such as:

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Interesting Potatoes is an Artfully Ironic SL Fashion Blog

SL fashion blog Interesting Potatos

Interesting Potatoes by "littabit" is among the most artful Second Life fashion blogs I've ever seen, full of wry imagery and ironic juxtapositions and commentary. It's still an SL fashion blog, with links to all the items featured in each pic, but just about each pic could also be bought, framed, and sold in a Highland Park hipster art boutique. Go here to peruse.

(Much thanks to Jessica Pixel for the tip.)

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Twitch Also Bans Art Games With Subversive Sexual Focus

Twitch bans game with sexual focus

Leigh Alexander has a really good Boing Boing post on Twitch TV's latest banhammer move against a series of games by Robert Yang which simulate interactive male nudity and sexuality for provocative, artistic ends:

These games are playful, funny, and sexy, and they provoke reflection and dialogue. Yang often reveals a thought process behind the technical decisions in his work that can be fascinatingly-congruent with the spiritual ones. But just four days after its release, Rinse and Repeat was banned from all broadcast on the online streaming community Twitch, just as Cobra Club previously was. Yang is among the most-banned developers on Twitch—perhaps an exciting status for an artist, but evidence of troubled standards for content. Twitch rules say that while occurrences of nudity or sex acts in games are "okay, so long as you do not make them a primary focus of your stream," games with nudity as a "core focus or feature" are disallowed. Under this rule, video games that feature sexualized bodies (usually women) for titillation are okay to stream, but that Yang's work centers on the vulnerability of nudity in a consensual space and other meaningful issues apparently makes it obscene.

As NWN readers know, Twitch banned Second Life from their service on similar grounds, even though SL is abundant with art installations (along with content where nudity and sex is a core feature). Fortunately, Twitch competitor YouTube Gaming has raised no such objections -- even against impromptu penis.

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Buy This Second Life Shirt to Help Raise Syrian Relief Funds

Syrian Refugee Crisis Fundraiser in Second Life

Strawberry Singh has the details on a cool SL-based campaign to help with the horrible Syrian refugee crisis: Buy this virtual tank top (above) featuring some really beautiful original art evoking the crisis, and all Linden Dollar proceeds are turned into RL cash that's donated to the World Food Programme. (Other fashions are available.) Looks like the fashions are only available in-world, not on the SL Marketplace: Click here to teleport to the SL kiosk.

If you use a third part SL viewer, here's the map link to copy/paste:

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Will Oculus Medium Become VR's Default 3D Building Tool?

Among all the announcements at Oculus Connect 2, so far Oculus Medium is the most interesting to me by far -- watch:

In his keynote talk, Mark Zuckerberg described Medium this way:

[A] 3D sculpting tool for creating art with other people inside VR. Every platform has its Paint app, and this is ours for the virtual world.

That may imply collaborative creation among multiple users, but so far details on that point seem scant. In any case, one of my immediate thoughts watching this was, "Bye bye, Maya."

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Watch & Discuss Oculus Connect 2's Live Stream Here

Oculus' 2nd annual developer conference is happening in Hollywood now, and you can watch the live video stream below:

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Retail Stores Suffer as People Prefer Experiences -- Real & Virtual -- Over Things

Exodus to the Virtual World Castronova

Retail shopping chains are suffering setbacks, and here's why, from the New York Times last month:

Analysts say a wider shift is afoot in the mind of the American consumer, spurred by the popularity of a growing body of scientific studies that appear to show that experiences, not objects, bring the most happiness. The Internet is bursting with the “Buy Experiences, Not Things” type of stories that could give retailing executives nightmares. Millennials — the 20- and 30-something consumers whom marketers covet — would rather spend their hard-won cash on out-of-town vacations, meals with friends, gym memberships and, of course, their smartphones, many surveys suggest.

That instantly reminded me of a post I wrote back in 2010 citing Edward Castronova, the academic who pioneered the study of virtual world economies, "Is the Virtual Economy Contributing to Our Real World Recession?" Because look:

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Let's Play-Style Visit to SL's Silent Hill-esque Ironwood Hills

Hosted by the fairly popular "Let's Play" personality veemonthedemonking (who also features many other games/platforms), here's a spooky visit to the beautifully-wrought, post-apocalyptic sim of Ironwood Hills. (Destination link to visit yourself below.)

Like I've often said, I'd love to blog many more "Let's Play" videos featuring SL, especially from longtime users, so if you're shooting some, please share links in Comments!

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Want to Be a Media Partner With New World Notes?

New World Notes VR Blog

New World Notes is open to exclusive Media Partnerships with select companies, organizations, and individuals doing compelling work in virtual worlds, virtual/augmented reality, gaming, and other immersive technology with projects and offerings that would interest NWN readers. The longest running blog focused on Second Life (launched in 2003), NWN is often featured on Boing Boing, Kotaku, and other major blogs, and has been cited by media outlets including the New York Times, the BBC, and the Washington Post. If you'd like to discuss this opportunity, contact me: wjamesau at well dot com. A typical partnership might look like this:

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Watch Live OpenSim Stream Celebrating OpenSim Pioneer

Live right now, here's Jessica Pixel's stream from an OpenSim grid, a good-bye party for OpenSimulator pioneer Justin Clark-Casey. "Justin CC is a big deal in the OpenSim world," as Jessica puts it, "he was one of the major contributors, but he has to move on to other things so we're having a 'good luck have fun' party for him." And as you might have noticed, this stream is happening through YouTube's live streaming feature, so you can also participate with the OpenSim party from Jessica's YouTube page right here.

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Educators Discuss Minecraft for Education in Second Life

Somehow this feels like an endpoint of a years-old evolution, but here's a group of educators who once advocated Second Life as a great education tool now gathering in Second Life to discuss best practices of Minecraft as a great education tool. SL is pretty excellent for group voice chats in 3D where Minecraft isn't, so maybe this is the best marriage of the two virtual worlds as education tools. (And there's lots useful advice and case studies discussed throughout).

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Would You Like to Experience Virtual Reality While Suspended from a Cable System in Real Life?

Of course you would. I mean, just look:

This is the CableRobot simulator from the Max Planck Institute, "a carbon fiber cage that can move in real time around a large open space" -- in other words, giving the user real life sensations of motion in any direction while experiencing related visuals through a VR headset. I remain hugely skeptical that virtual reality will ever become an everyday consumer experience, but I can definitely see something like this becoming popular:

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Sim Deathwatch: Second Life's Beloved Recreation of Mont Saint Michel Soon Leaving SL for "Economical" Reasons


This truly sucks: The painstaking Second Life recreation of France's Mont Saint Michel is disappearing at the end of September due to "economical" reasons, creator and owner Moeka kohime recently announced. Ms. kohime is also the owner of SL's popular *Edelweiss" Japanese fashion brand, which she reports is still going strong -- but apparently, not strong enough to continue supporting the much-visited, much-photographed virtual landmark. Destination guide below - visit in the next nine days!

Continue reading "Sim Deathwatch: Second Life's Beloved Recreation of Mont Saint Michel Soon Leaving SL for "Economical" Reasons"

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Survey: Has Project Sansar Changed Your Second Life Usage or Spending Patterns?

This week's survey is two questions on two worlds. Results shared next week!

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Monday Machinima: A Visit to The Egg in Second Life

Thanks to the Yhoali Resident (who brought some badass music to the proceedings), here's a visit to the Linden Endowment for the Arts new installation by Livio Korobase -- "The Egg":

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Bitcoin Virtual Currency Is Over-Hyped But Bitcoin-Inspired Technology Is Not

Bitcoin virtual currency

The Wall Street Journal has the latest Bitcoin-related news, but unlike all the hype around Bitcoin as a virtual currency we've been reading for the last few years, this one is about Bitcoin-related technology:

International Business Machines Inc. thinks the technology that underpins the bitcoin digital currency can do a lot more than support cash 2.0. Within the next few months, the venerable tech giant plans to release open source software that could be used to create digital contracts that—like Bitcoin transactions—would be recorded publicly and securely on a world-wide computer network. IBM is zeroing in on a technology called blockchain, which serves as bitcoin’s online ledger. Blockchain allows the bitcoin network to track the currency’s movement from one online wallet to another. But it could be used to log other types of transactions. “Blockchain, as a technology, is extremely interesting and intriguing,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of IBM Research.

This fits the buzz I've been hearing about Bitcoin in the US startup scene in recent weeks:

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Jonathan Blow's Long-Awaited Open-World Puzzle Game "Witness" Coming Next January

Follow-up to his acclaimed game Braid, Jonathan Blow just announced the launch date for The Witness, his open-world puzzle game for PCs and PS4, in an intriguing and beautiful new trailer:

If you're catching a distinctly Myst vibe, there's a very good reason for that:

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Top Three Posts from New World Notes Last Week!

9:11 VR simulation

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Supposedly This is Project Sansar's Log-In Screen

Project Sansar Login Screen

At least according to "GamieXpert". Or is it actually a log-in screen for... Created Reality? (Click to embiggen. Type below to wildly speculate.)

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Long-Running MMO/Combat NoR Regions Shutting Down, Possibly Over Payment Confusion?

Well this also sucks: The regions associated with Land of NoR (for Nation of Remembrance), a popular and long-running MMO/Combat-themed area, are shutting down today, reports Nalates. Worst, it looks like it's happening due to preventable drama and miscommunication. As Nalates infers:

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Great New Business Advice for Second Life & Beyond

Branding Logo Advice

April Looming of Wildstyle Fashion has a long blog post of excellent advice for people launching businesses, and while it's written for new SL entrepreneurs, it's about as applicable to other realms, including IRL.

Take, for example, this collection of logos on the right:

Think about these logos. Without even seeing the merchandise... which brand do you think will have the highest quality merchandise? Which brand would you choose to shop at first?

Make your guess and read on:

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Are People Really More Civil in Virtual Worlds?

Philip Rosedale is featured on the latest episode of NPR's "Ted Radio Hour" (September 18, "Screen Time - Part II"):

He covers most of the territory from his original TED talk (embedded below), with new emphasis on an idea I've heard him discuss in person, but not sure he's spelled out in public before -- that access to virtual worlds will soon become a civil right:

Our very access to virtual worlds will become a kind of civil right... maybe even 10 years from now, we’ll regard taking away your access to virtual worlds as completely inappropriate.

That's an appealing idea, I guess, though the consumer Internet is about 20 years old, and so far only a few countries have even made basic access to the Internet a civil right. (Not the US or most of the EU.) One reason Philip proposes this is because Philip believes that people in Second Life (or virtual worlds in general) are much more civil to each other.

On this point, there's considerable evidence that this is not the case. Indeed, Philip literally paid me for awhile to explore Second Life as an embedded journalist, and even back in the earliest years, incivility was a fairly regular occurrence -- and became even moreso, as the world grew. But hearing Philip's interview on NPR, it suddenly occurred to me why he maintains this conviction:

Continue reading "Are People Really More Civil in Virtual Worlds?"

Posted at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

HTC Vive Community Hit By Anti-Corporate Drama

HTC Vive Drama Reddit

There's a huge community blow-up going on in Reddit's /Vive, the hangout for enthusiasts and early developers of Valve's highly anticipated VR platform produced with Taiwanese handset giant HTC. Very briefly summarized, someone from HTC was made part of the /Vive moderator team, and accusations of influence-peddling and corporate control soon followed. This again reflects yet more growing pains as virtual reality tries to go from a hobbyist technology to a mainstream consumer product, with early adopters likely to resist the transition, or outright jump ship to the competing platform seen as most pro-developer and non-corporate.

Oculus VR, as you may remember, got the same kind of hate from that community when it sold to (or sold out to) Facebook. But in that case, Palmer Luckey, a heavy Redditor, was able to directly address the outrage and entirely tamp it down. With Vive, a product of Valve, I'm not sure that's as possible:

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Posted at 12:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Will "Created Reality" Be Project Sansar's Official Name - Or Is It Just Another Discarded Linden Lab Product?

Created Reality Project Sansar Linden LabAn anonymous tipster dropped enough hints to send me to this US trademark filing by Linden Lab for something called Created Reality, described as being "virtual reality game software; computer graphics software; software that is used for providing multi-user access to an online 3D virtual environment", and such like. My tipster seems to think this suggests the final, official name for Project Sansar will be Created Reality. Linden Lab fan blog Modem World, which also just came across the registration, avidly speculates Created Reality could very well be the name for Sansar... but may have missed the fact that a Linden contractor registered the CreatedReality.com domain in June 2013 -- during the tenure of Rod Humble, who drove a number of projects besides Second Life, but to my knowledge (and that of an insider I talked to), not anything like Sansar. (What we now know as Project Sansar was confirmed to me a full year later, months after Rod had been replaced by Ebbe Altberg.*)

So if Creative Reality isn't Project Sansar's official name, WTF is it?

Continue reading "Will "Created Reality" Be Project Sansar's Official Name - Or Is It Just Another Discarded Linden Lab Product?"

Posted at 12:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

Neural Network Taught to Paint Presidents Like Picasso

Picasso Neural Network President Paintings

Hey, what's widely admired ex-Linden inventor Karl Stiefvater doing lately? Glad you asked: Teaching a neural network how to paint US Presidents like Picasso, and that from all Picasso's periods (blue, cubistic, and so on). Specifically, via Google's neural network, an algorithm, and code from Kai Sheng Tai, which Karl's all powering with the Amazon cloud.

See the full roster of POTUS by Picasso here, with Cubistic Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson my personal favorites. (President Obama is painted alarmingly white, which I guess means the neural network is totally racist.)

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Posted at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Linden Lab Giving Free Hands-on Preview of Project Sansar This Friday at Linden Lab's San Francisco Headquarters - UPDATE: Event Already Sold-Out, Says Linden PR Rep

Linden Lab Project Sansar Demo

Linden Lab is giving a free hands-on preview of Project Sansar this coming Friday at Linden Lab's San Francisco headquarters, according to an SF events calendar site:

This interactive virtual reality workshop will provide a hands-on preview of the new 3D virtual experience platform, code-named Project Sansar, being developed by Linden Lab, the makers of the popular virtual world Second Life. This new platform will enable people to virtually walk through 3D …

Pretty strange to see this apparently open-to-the-public event promoted on a popular general interest SF event site when Project Sansar is supposed to be in closed Alpha with early users under heavy NDA. But there it is. So if you happen to be in San Francisco this Friday and can attend, please report your reactions back here!

UPDATE, 4:05pm: Bad news if you haven't RSVPed already from Linden Lab's Peter Gray:

Continue reading "Linden Lab Giving Free Hands-on Preview of Project Sansar This Friday at Linden Lab's San Francisco Headquarters - UPDATE: Event Already Sold-Out, Says Linden PR Rep"

Posted at 03:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Yes, This Luxe Scene is Actually a Second Life Skybox

Second Life Skybox

Via the irreplaceable metaverse tastemaster Indigo Mertel comes this breathtaking view of a Second Life interior by Wendz Tempest, one of the most beautiful examples of virtual interior design in quite awhile. Seriously, go here to get all the details and a much larger image.

To be more impressed, consider the fact that Ms. Tempest started this scene with a bare skybox, which comes out of the box looking like this:

Continue reading "Yes, This Luxe Scene is Actually a Second Life Skybox"

Posted at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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