Monday, October 15, 2012

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Student Creates Code Which Generates Second Life/OpenSim Avatars... Based on Simulated Genetics!

Game developers and artificial life creators, pay attention to this: Uruk is a historical city simulation project being developed in Second Life by the University of Western Sydney and the Federation of American Scientists. I wrote about it a couple years ago, and now thanks to Tomas Trescak, a postgrad student working with project lead Anton Bogdanovych (shaqq Korobase in SL), the simulated city has something else: Avatars created via simulated genetics. Watch this demo video to see what I mean:

"[U]sing this method," Anton tells me, "one can manually design a small number of Second Life avatars… then hit a button and automatically generate a crowd  of any size. All avatars in this crowd will look different, but will also have genetic resemblance with the initial population." You can read more about it in this academic paper Bogdanovych co-authored: "Generating Diverse Ethnic Groups with Genetic Algorithms" (.pdf link), and Anton recently e-mailed me about some other crucial details:

Second Life avatars genetics

"The actual generation is quick and happens in milliseconds, but then baking of the newly created avatar can take around 30 seconds per avatar." The software is not yet open source, but Anton tells me it will be made available in November, and run in both Second Life and OpenSim. "It currently only works on OpenSim only as it's much easier to create new avatars there and no limitations apply in this respect," he tells me. "It's not difficult to bring the tool to work with Second Life too (and we plan to do so), but there are limitations on how many accounts can be created from one IP address in Second Life."

As you may have noticed, the avatars look pretty out of date, and there's a reason for that: "Most of our Second Life work is focused on advancing the Uruk project, so we based our avatars on some older agents we designed for Uruk." However, he added, "There is absolutely no problem with making your avatar look as modern as you wish. Our approach is universal, so as long as you have a group of manually designed avatars – you can use them as the base population and the new generated avatars will have a similar appearance style."

What love to see what SL/OpenSim developers do with this when the code is available in November.


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GoSpeed Racer

I can see this being popular with the crowd that likes to role play families.

Hitomi Tiponi

Maybe the Lindens can use it as a way to make mainland look less empty :).


So, the Metaverse is dead, eh?

And this stuff is being developed using the Opensim platform because it's open source and a whole lot easier to develop this kind of innovation in Opensim. It makes a pretty compelling argument that the open Metaverse is far from dead as a previous article here attempt to suggest.

Arcadia Codesmith

I see limited application for playable avatars, but some potential for autonomous NPC agents to populate play spaces, if the algorithm is generally portable.

Ajax Manatiso

This is sort of an advanced bot camping software. I don't think LL or the SL community will be totally in love with this.

Pussycat Catnap

If we could get a way to have NPC agents not use up 'avatar slots' in a sim, and be light on sim load - this would be a great concept for roleplay areas.

As designed its more of a CS challenge program. Something you'd make for a class on game design theory I suppose.


There has been cloned avatar bots in Opensim worlds for some time and the scripting to work them is quite advanced. I think a Simulated Genetics process for spawning avatar bots as describe in this article might actually be interesting and useful in RPGs's and other Sim City type games. I agree with Pussycat that it might present problems in Second Life with NPC agents but in Opensim that problem wont arise because the over lord is not Linden Labs but the local grid owner which would be one's self if you run the server.

David Cartier

This looks like a godsend for botfarmers and griefers.

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