How Old Can't Guess How Old Wrinkle-Free Avatars Are

Cajsa Lilliehook SL age

Microsoft's How Old app could fairly accurately guess the age of my avatar, but look how wackily off it is for the various avatar variations of Ms. Cajsa Lilliehook, anywhere from 6 to 28.

"In most of the pics," Cajsa tells me, laughing wrly, "it's a PXL skin which is one I prefer because it looks older." (Click to embiggen.) Looks like the lack of any wrinkles or age contours confuses the crap of the program. Which helps to illustrate a larger truism about avatars: Perfection and ageless beauty is easy to stimulate - the opposite, not so much.

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So How Old is Your Avatar? Please Don't Say 24

Age Detection Site

How Old, as the URL name suggests, is a site (from Microsoft) that analyzes and estimates the age of the person in any photo you upload. It's been viral for the last few days, and of course I wondered if it would analyze the age of avatars in screenshots I uploaded, and of course it does. 34 sounds about right for my Second Life avatar, though it's notable that my MyIdol avatar is slightly younger. My guess is most Second Life avatars will land in their late 20s/early 30s, and if anyone happened to upload their IMVU (bleh) avatar, he or she would be in their early 20s. But maybe I'm wrong!

Give it a shot and report your stats in Comments!

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Kickstarter to Avatarize Yourself for 3D Worlds, Printing

Via Robert Thomas, here's an ambitious Kickstarter which brings high-end 3D motion capture to the masses, enabling anyone with $159 or more to avatarize themselves for 3D worlds or 3D printing, watch:

Slight catch: You need to be available and on-hand in various US cities during the project's tour to do the 3D capture process, but if you can do that, you're working with technology currently being used in VR:

We've already used the xxArray to develop a number of groundbreaking commercial projects, including the first-ever interactive 3D campaign for Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX to promote Relativity Media's "Earth to Echo," and Nurulize’s "RISE" demo, a 4K VR experience created for the Oculus Rift's DK2.

Pretty cool, if you really want to see yourself in full digitized 3D, though I sort of suspect the market self-avatarization is pretty limited. Also, to judge by the above video, this technology can capture the physical body, but not the soul -- i.e. facial expressions, emotions, etc. (At least at the asking price point.)

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Yes, You Can Convert Your SL Avatar Into Huanshi's MyIdol

MyIdol Huanshi Second Life avatar

How Hamlet looks in Huanshi's MyIdol

MyIdol (listed by its Chinese name in Apple's App Store: 小偶 - 我的3D萌偶), a free app from a developer called Huanshi, has gone incredibly viral. (As Iris reported last week, in a post that's been read by thousands of new readers, presumably people trying to Google information about MyIdol.) The app's designed to convert real world photos onto a 3D cartoon avatar, but as you can see above, MyIdol can also convert a straight-on image of your Second Life avatar. (Probably works with other MMO/RPGs, I suspect.) I think the conversion actually work even better than using RL photos (for obvious reasons). Give it a try, NWNers, and the post results in Comments!

So far, the app itself is pretty simple, with some cute/stupid animations and a large wardrobe of costumes you can play with. However, I actually suspect Huanshi has something even more ambitious in mind:

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Comedian Who Got His Start Performing Live in Second Life from Pakistan Gets His Own Show on the BBC

Seven years ago, a comedian named Sami Shah who lived in Pakistan used to perform live stand-up in various Second Life venues -- including (see above) the post-apocalyptic Wasteland, where he told jokes about the Taliban, terrorism, and other current events topics in the avatar of a chimpanzee, to an audience of robots, cyber-warriors, and other strange denizens. Since then, Sami left Pakistan (in part to escape death threats provoked by his pointed humor about religion), becoming a rising star in his new home of Australia. And last night, he made this awesome announcement on Twitter:

That's right: A man who got his start performing comedy as an avatar chimp in a futuristic hellscape in the metaverse now has his own radio show on the world's largest and most prestigious radio network. And yes, Sami credits his performances in Second Life as helping kickstart his comedy career. As he told me a couple years ago:

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Seeking to Uncover Grand Theft Auto V's Mysteries, Players Discover Virtual Memorial to a Second Life Pioneer

Eddie Escher Second Life Christ Edwards GTA V

A few months ago I told you about Chris Edwards, the 3D artist who pioneered Second Life prim-based creativity, but tragically just died before turning 45. (But not before meeting the woman of his dreams, another 3D artist he met in SL.) There's now a touching coda to that, and it's the story of multiple virtual worlds and how they remember the people who mattered to them after they're gone. And it goes something like this:

In Grand Theft Auto V, there's a mountain called Chiliad which has a strange mystery that's confounded the player community, as Kotaku reported:

The Chiliad Mystery is the name given to the bizarre, unexplained discoverables seeded throughout GTA V. Ever since the first iteration of the game came out last year, a dedicated core of players on Reddit and fan sites has been scouring GTA V for clues and secrets that might tie the weirdness into some kind of logical sense. What's the weirdness exactly? Scattered all over Los Santos are drawings and writing focused on unidentified flying objects.

So the subreddit /ChiliadMystery was born, which is where players share their findings to uncover that mystery (something to do with UFOs, is the working theory). A series of clues led "viendetta" to stumble onto a clearing with a telescope and some park benches, near a graveyard. And there he noticed that on one bench, was a placard to the memory of Chris Edwards. And in this way, Chris became part of this mystery story these GTA V players were trying to solve.

I know this, because I noticed traffic coming to this blog from that subreddit, where "IAA33" cross-referenced the GTA V credits, did some Googling, and came to this conclusion:

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Joining Second Life to Play Remnants of Earth? Here's Some Advice To Save You Time (& Money)

Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

So MMO within an MMO, Remnants of Earth, looks pretty cool -- and considering the attention it's garnered lately from the gaming press (even though it's far from the first or only MMORPG experience to be had inside of Second Life) there are likely more than a few people possessing shiny new SL accounts, ready and raring to go.

But when they log in, they'll probably find that they're not in much of a state to participate in serious post-apocalyptic action. They'll have access to more starter gear than any other MMO will provide, but wearing any of it outside of Welcome Areas and other frequent newbie destinations is a quick and easy way to get ostracized. Roleplay and game communities in particular tend to expect above-average (and setting appropriate) avatar customization, so the items provided when someone start playing just won't cut it.

Thankfully it's not as hard to catch up as it used to be. Here are a few quick start tips to get new players Remnants-ready in no time:

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Facebook Restores User Account Named After His Second Life Avatar - Here's How He Did It

Second Life Facebook Account

Facebook seems to be bending its just-announced policies prohibiting the use of game character names for Facebook profiles -- at least in the case of Toysoldier Thor, which is the Second Life avatar name of a guy actually named Scott in real life. However, after getting his account suspended, Scott sought the intercession of Sister Roma, a famed San Francisco drag queen who has been helping Facebook improve its real name policy. After I blogged about this last month, Scott contacted Sister Roma with lots of supporting evidence:

"It seems Facebook NOW just wants ample proof that your name in Facebook is clearly used widely and consistently as a well known/used identity for the person," Scott tells me. "And I provided that with my screen shots of over 10 sites where I used Toysoldier Thor."

Scott did this through Sister Roma about 6 weeks ago, and frankly, I was skeptical he would succeed, primarily because Sister Roma herself told me "Your [Facebook] user name should reflect the name you are known by as use in your everyday life, on- and offline.” So it seemed that showing that your Twitter/Instagram/etc. accounts also bore the same name wouldn't cut it for Zuckerberg's crew.

However, Sister Roma is known for doing wonderful things, and in this case, at least, she did for Scott:

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Want a Facebook Account With Your Avatar Name? Just Prove to Facebook You Use That Name Offline, Too

Facebook Second Life real name policy

Good news (maybe) for the many Second Life users who have a Facebook account named after their avatar, but are under threat of Facebook blocking their account for not being a real name: You can petition the company through Sister Roma, a well-known and widely-admired San Francisco drag queen who has been helping Facebook improve its real name policy, especially as it applies to people like her, members of the LGBT community who are better known for their stage/persona name, than their legal name. I asked her if she could also help SL users use their avatar name for their Facebook profile without it being deleted by the company.

“To some extent, yes,” Sister Roma tells me. “Facebook has acknowledged that users may have authentic identities that are not reflected in legal government issued ID or displayed on a piece of mail like a utility bill. Your user name should reflect the name you are known by as and use in your everyday life, on- and offline.” (Emphasis mine.)

So for Second Life users, there’s a fairly big catch: Facebook defines your “real name” as “the one you've chosen and live every day.” (In other words, not just when you're logged into the servers of a for-profit Internet company.)

“Are you saying a Second Life user who goes by their avatar name on Facebook needs to prove that they also use that SL name in real life?” I ask Sister Roma.

“That's the way to get Facebook to recognize an authentic identity,” Sister Roma simply answers.

As it happens, Sister Roma has helped a Second Life user restore her Facebook account with her avatar name -- however, this person (who I won’t name for privacy reasons), also uses her Second Life avatar name when performing offline in the real world:

“I took her name as a performer in clubs and venues doing comedy and performance,” she explained to me recently. “I worked with actors, Broadway stars, musicians, celebrity stylists, cultural icons, and during this time people knew me as [my SL name]... it was an adaptation and a brand that became recognizable in New York City and beyond..”

So if you’re a Second Life user who wants to keep using your name on Facebook, my guess is you should take some steps before contacting Sister Roma: Perform on a real stage (with published billing) under your Second Life name, for instance. Or maybe publish a book or magazine article with your avatar name. Or hell, maybe legally change your real name so your middle name becomes your avatar account? Frankly, outside public figures or performers, SL avatars (or any other MMO avatar name, for that matter) still seem to be in a nebulous state, in Facebook’s eye.

That said, here’s Sister Roma’s guide to requesting her help with Facebook:

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How to Slim Down Your Second Life Avatar's Draw Weight

Second Life avatar draw weight

This is a great tutorial by SL content creator Penny Patton on how to trim a Second Life avatar's Draw Weight. That Linden Lab feature shows you how much effort it takes to render your SL avatar onscreen (green being fast, red being slow), but as Penny notes, it's caused SLers to complain that the range "was unrealistic, that we'd all have to wander around naked to get ourselves down into the green, or even the orange." However, she goes on, "the truth is, the rendering levels displayed by Draw Weight are not unreasonable at all, it's just that content creators are making no effort to produce reasonably optimized content for avatars." (And so, thanks to the Tragedy of the Commons, we have a whole world of slow-ass rendering avatars.)

However, there's some solutions to this, which Penny lists in much detail -- and as you can at right, it's possible to greatly trim down avatar Draw Weight without hardly changing an avatar's appearance. Solutions such as:

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