Our Selfies May Soon Become 3D Avatars of Ourselves

This is pretty impressive technology for creating a 3D avatar modeled after someone based on their smartphone selfies:

Usually, photorealistic 3D avatars are created in a motion capture studio, which is hardly the best way to make that tech mass market. But most everyone has a smartphone, and these developers at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (a Swiss university) have figured out how to make the smartphone act like a mocap studio:

Using a smartphone to replace studio conditions – which include proper lighting and numerous cameras – was a real challenge. “We begin by assuming that people will take pictures of themselves in conditions that are impossible to control,” said Alexandru. The main difficulties: changes in the light, blurry shots without a tripod, and limited picture quality depending on the smartphone's camera.

No word on when this will be available to consumers, and I'd love to see how well this actually works outside the school's demos. But it's definitely tech worth following.

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Watch This To See How Second Life Penguins Are Made

Via Medhue Animations, here's a pretty mesmerizing timelapse video of a fully articulated 3D penguin avatar, created from a screengrab of a real penguin, lovingly modeled in Blender, and then brought to life in the virtual world.

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RIP Lumiere Noir, Dedicated Educator in Real & Second Life UPDATED: Added New World Notes' Original 2004 Profile

Ivory Tower of Prims Second 

Life Lumiere Noir

Update, 2:22pm: Thanks to reader Graham Mills, who found my 2004 profile of Mr. Noir on my defunct Linden Lab-sponsored blog, I added the full text and some pics below -- a tribute to Lumiere and a fascinating glimpse of sL's earliest days. Click here to read.

Sad news for the SL community: The man behind Lumiere Noir, one of Second Life's very first members, unexpectedly died in recent days. There's a memorial page for him on Facebook here, and he's survived by his SL partner Tosha Tyran, whose deep condolences I extend. I also recommend paying your respects with a visit to his Ivory Tower of Prims, which he built back in 2003, and which still exists in SL, looking even more impressive in SL's latest generation of graphics: Here it is on the SL web map, in the ancient sim of Natoma.

Lumiere built his tower to teach new SLers all the complexities of building with prims, and I vividly recall getting a tour from him shortly after he built it, being duly amazed at how creative he himself was with prim-based construction. (I'm unable to find my original post, but I recall he also had a seriously cool avatar - maybe a LEGO-man? Help me out, friends of Noir. [UPDATE: Actually, a cartoon devil in tightie whities -- see below.])

Lumiere was dedicated to educating people in every aspect of his life, as his RL obituary attests:

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Take a Short Survey on Second Life vs. Real Life Identity

Please consider taking this very short survey (embedded above or at that link) on how you separate (or don't) your real life identity from your Second Life avatar. NWN contributor Canary Beck will collect and summarize the results next week. And feel free to discuss the questions (or your answers) in Comments below!

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How Has Male Privilege Hurt Second Life's Development?

Second Life male privilege sexism

Cajsa Lilliehook, from her blog

When Linden Lab first started developing Second Life, only about 20-25% of its staff were women -- and as I recall, only one of those women was on the development team. When I left Linden Lab in 2006, the gender split was a bit better (but not by much), say 30%. But again (with some notable exceptions), few women were (or are) directly involved in SL's design or development. I was thinking about all this last week, after writing about the woman who was harassed in Second Life and then into the real world, and how it made me re-think encouraging more linkage between Second Life avatars with real life identify. And as SL blogger Cajsa Lilliehook bluntly me put it to me:

"I have often thought you were too glib about it because you are a man. You have the privilege of not having to think about personal safety in the same way that women must in our society. I am sad this woman has been harassed and it is a horrible thing, but I appreciate that you have at least begun rethinking your opinion."

She has very valid points. In the wake of Gamergate especially, I've belatedly become much more aware how rampant and frankly terrifying this reality is for women. But back in 2010-2011 when I first wrote about the value of Facebook integration with SL -- which Linden Lab also did, calling Facebook "The Best Place" to find Second Life content -- I was much less aware. Back then, I even talked about Facebook integration with some Linden Lab staff -- all male -- and we were all perplexed why a feature that had so much value was being resisted so vehemently by so many SLers. We men were wrong to look beyond the safety of our own perspective.

Which is why I wanted to expand this point to a larger, open forum question:

How has male privilege and bias hurt Second Life's development?

Because it's not a question of If, but How. It does make a difference that the vast majority of Second Life developers were (and are) male. Here's an example from 2004, how a male perspective influenced even how female avatars sit:

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Woman Stalked & Harrassed in Real Life By Men Who Did Reverse Image Search on Her Second Life Avatar

Second Life Stalking

I recently received a fairly urgent e-mail from a young woman I profiled nearly a decade ago, who told me the post I had wrote about her had inadvertently caused considerable stress -- for herself, and potentially, for people close to her. The post was a mixed reality profile, containing a screenshot of her Second Life avatar alongside a photo of her in real life, and therein was the problem:

"I've come across certain people on SL who used a reverse image search on the pictures in your blog to find out my RL information," she told me, "so when possible, I'd like to make that a bit harder for them." (Not the images above, by the way.)

Years after the fact, the woman I'd profiled has stalkers who started harassing her in Second Life, and have taken their obsession to the wider Internet. "I actually have been threatened by a guy halfway across the world via Second Life," she tells me, "who said that he would 'destroy my life' by sending pictures of my avatar to my (RL) partner."

They found out who she was in real life through a devious search of her Second Life avatar's name:

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In the Future, Our Avatars Will Take Our Selfies for Us

A fun and breezy (and NSFW for literally a split second) machinima by Mr. Blaq Magik, an NWN favorite. Cuz like, look:

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Tuesday Machinima: Surreal Avatars Visit Virtual Art Gallery

I've never really got the point of displaying 2D art in a 3D virtual art gallery that's actually displayed on a 2D screen, but when it leads to machinima as strange and surreal as this, I do:

(Possibly NSFW for some, as it contains a bit of arty nudity. Then again, if there are people at work looking over your shoulder might just be wondering WTF's the deal with the monkey.) The gallery itself is Berg by Nordan Art:

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Watch This Impressive Demo of Motion-Captured Avatar Animations for an Upcoming Cross-Platform Virtual World

This is a seriously impressive tech demo for an upcoming cross-platform virtual world (web, download, mobile) which handles avatar animations in a very impressive way -- watch:

"[This] is from our gesture system," lead developer Adam Frisby tells me. Adam was known as Adam Zaius in Second Life, and a longtime innovator in avatar animations. "That's 100% un-edited in-world footage," he goes on. "Our gestures allow multiple players to get involved; they cover camera angles, props, etc. All on a timeline. Our company chairman is an ex-film industry guy, we built it to his demands; which means it's built for making cool narratives. So you can drop a anvil on someones head. And have it played out cinematically."

Adam had a lot of success selling animations in Second Life, which is what led directly to this new project:

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Black Second Life User Shares Real & Virtual Experiences With the Confederate Battle Flag

Confederate Rebel Battle Flag Second Life

"It is good to see someone speak about what the Confederate flag is about, and what I, my family, and other African people have had to live with for many years," wrote SL user "bellahyae", commenting in Tuesday's post on that flag's sale in Second Life's official store, reflecting an opinion similar to that shared by many African-Americans for many years, but largely ignored until last month's atrocity

"I wish people knew how much it hurt to see the flag on TV and in places which are supposed to represent everyone in a fair manner, like court houses. I have been to places in Second Life which had the flag up." She continues: 

"We always knew what it meant. That we and others with our color are not wanted around that area. It is like putting up a 'Caucasian only' sign. I have a lot of bad memories with that flag. Like walking past homes of people who have them proudly displayed in front of their homes... while at the same time, the mean stares we got just for walking by their home. People looking at us and then spitting. Being called the N word for no reason and often out of the blue."

"Bellahyae" goes on: "I do not know its full history, but for people of my color, that flag always means one thing: You're not welcome here. With a feeling that your existence is looked down on, and the threat that they would love to have us swinging from trees by our necks again."

A number of New World Notes readers have defended the continued sale of the flag in the SL Marketplace, and she had a comment on that as well:

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