Virtual Wall Street Protest in Blue Mars Light This Sunday

Virtual World Wall Street Protest

Angry at Wall Street but not physically near any of the real world protest sites that have sprung up in recent weeks? This Sunday at 1:00pm Pacific, there's going to be a virtual protest against Wall Street that will take place in Google Street Views' Wall Street. This is happening in Blue Mars Lite, the Mac/PC client which cleverly integrates avatars with photos from Google's map API. (As shown above.) The event is the brainchild of Jeremy Owen Turner (logging in from Canada) and Jacquelene Drinkall (logging in from Australia), and while it's not directly related to the actual protests happening now in downtown Manhattan, it does look like a pretty cool way to bring people around the world together into the same real time 3D space to share their outrage against Wall Street (and hopefully exchange productive practical, implementable plans to address it.) So far, folks from the UK, Netherlands, California, Hawaii, Italy, the Hague, and parts unknown plan to attend, so it's already going to be a globally diverse gathering. Go here to the event's Facebook page for more details.

Disclosure: I'm a former consultant for Avatar Reality, Blue Mars' developer.

Blue Mars Launches Light Client for Mac/PC With Google Street View Feature to Put Avatars in RL Locations

My former colleagues at Avatar Reality just put out a new light client for Blue Mars for Mac and PC (as I mentioned was coming a couple months ago) and it's now available in Beta -- click here to download it. Botgirl Questi recently did, and below, shows off what looks like its coolest feature: Integration with Google Street View, so you can chat with several other avatars in real world settings. Ms. Questi chose the oddest, most oddly appropriate location:

Demo of New Blue Mars Lite: How to Visit Virtual Linden Lab from Botgirl Questi on Vimeo

The client is under 50 megs (much smaller than the original client, which was over a couple hundred), and is designed to run on pretty much any laptop (though your mileage may vary.) It's integrated with the larger full client Blue Mars experience, so you can access your pre-existing friends list and inventory from it too. As a former consultant and ongoing pal of the Avatar team (past and present), I'm quite biased of course, but overall I think it's a good direction for client-dependent 3D worlds to take. Will be interesting to see how it compares to the light web/tablet client Linden Lab announced was in development last weekend.

Blue Mars Light Client for PC & Mac Coming Soon

Blue Mars Light Client

What you're looking at here is a sneak peek of the light PC client for the 3D virtual world Blue Mars from Avatar Reality, a variation of the iOS app the company launched last February, which already comes with a "Hot or Not for avatars" leaderboard, and an augemented reality feature.

Set to come out this month, I got an early glimpse of the light client last week during a visit with my old colleagues at Avatar Reality in Honolulu. (I did some consulting for the company last year.)

Hamlet in Blue Mars Light Client

This is my avatar in Blue Mars' light client, at right.

If it launches as planned, this will be Avatar Reality's bid to nurture an audience with light virtual world experiences, preparing them for the full "worldly world" version (which Blue Mars still supports.)

More details on the client from AR President Kazuyuki Hashimoto:

Continue reading "Blue Mars Light Client for PC & Mac Coming Soon" »

Augmented Reality Feature Added to Blue Mars' iOS App

Blue Mars iOS augmented reality

This looks pretty cool: The latest update to the Blue Mars mobile app for iPhone and iPad (iTunes store link here) includes a light augmented reality feature. You put an AR marker down in a location you're about to photograph, and your Blue Mars avatar will show up there. So if your avatar looks like Charlie Sheen, like whoever took this pic, well, AR WINNING. Also comes with Facebook integration, so you can send screenshots from the app directly to your account. (I got this pic from Blue Mars Facebook page.) DISCLOSURE: As regular NWN readers know, last year I did some consulting for Blue Mars' developer, Avatar Reality. That profound bias in mind, I do think my former colleagues are doing some fairly sweet stuff expanding the virtual world experience to iOS mobile and tablet platform. Anyway, read more about it here.

Blue Mars Adds In-App Payment of User-Created Content to Its iPhone/iPad App

Blue Mars iPad app in-app purchases

Avatar Reality has a new update to its free iPhone/iPad app for Blue Mars, adding the ability to buy and use user-generated content made for the virtual world with in-app payments on the iOS system. (You can buy blocks of BLU$, the official Blue Mars currency, with purchases ranging from $0.99 to $9.99.) Items are searchable by popularity and keyword in the app (see pic above right), and I think this is probably the first app where you can buy user-generated 3D content that's usable on the app itself, or the PC version of the world. For 3D content creators, this means a new market for their products.

For Blue Mars, this is the latest addition to the app, but many more are to come. While it's currently a kind of "Hot or Not for Avatars" app, the developers have plans to integrate it more directly with the virtual world. Last month during a visit to the offices of Avatar Reality in Honolulu (where I was briefly a consultant, last year), the developers showed me their roadmap for the app, which includes app-to-world avatar chat, and integration with Twitter and Facebook. While it's still early days, this could be a very smart strategic move (in my biased opinion, but also Grace McDunnough's): With the recent launch of iPad 2 and the huge success of the first iPad, we need to consider whether the future of virtual worlds and other 3D content belongs to the PC, or to the tablet.

Blue Mars Becomes First 3D Virtual iPhone With User-Generated Content on iPad & iPhone

Blue Mars iPhone iOS app

Blue Mars now has a free iPhone and iPad app available in Apple's store, which I believe makes it the first 3D virtual world to launch on the iOS. (There are numerous 2D worlds and MMO apps already.) The first iteration is essentially a "Hot or Not" for avatars, where you rate avatars based on fashion style and expressiveness, showing off clothing created and uploaded to Blue Mars by third party developers. Which also means this is the first iPhone virtual world app to incorporate user-generated content. As Avatar's Kazuyuki Hashimoto explained in the announcement, "[S]ince all of the in-world content is developer created, there will be a big opportunity for developers to grow their businesses and brand exposure.” In future updates of the app, you'll be able to buy user-generated content with Apple's in-app payment system. I'm very biased, of course, but I think this is a smart move to expose virtual worlds and user-generated content to a new market, while also creating a new revenue source for 3D content creators. This also represents the first step in a strategic shift for Blue Mars creator Avatar Reality (which I consulted for last year), but it may be a necessary step for virtual worlds in general: As Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley predicted, within the next five years “more users will connect to the Internet over mobile devices than desktop PCs.”

In any case, if you have an iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), or iPad, check it out and report back here. (I'm still stuck with a hoary old iPhone 3G.)

Blue Mars Renewal: Community Collaborate to Revitalize Beach City, Where Blocks Will Be Given Away Free

Blue Mars Beach City

There's an interesting and inspiring (in my biased opinion) update to Blue Mars, which recently made a major shift in direction that led to layoffs at Avatar Reality, the company behind the CryEngine-based world: Top developers in Blue Mars' user community have come together to revitalize Beach City, a main shopping hub. They want to turn Beach City into a new welcome area that best showcases the world, and while Blue Mars developers usually work on their separate city projects, collaborate together on this one spot. You can read about the project in this Blue Mars forum thread, and this topic on SL Universe. In response to this grass roots effort, Avatar Reality staff says they'll soon offer free blocks in Beach City.

As regular readers know, I was a consultant at Avatar Reality for a few months last year (hence the bias), but I can say from that experience that there's a relatively small but passionate and talented user community in Blue Mars, so I'm not totally surprised by this effort. I recently talked with one of them, who does enterprise-level building in Mars, and he's optimistic that Avatar Reality's move to make Blue Mars an iPad app has great potential. I agree. More updates hopefully soon. Meantime, the company just announced that the app will be submitted to Apple this week, which suggests it should be available in the App Store in a couple months or so.

Image credit: Eddi Haskell.

Grace McDunnough on Blue Mars and the iPad Pivot

Hamlet Au enters Blue Mars

Metaverse analyst and musician Grace McDunnough has an interesting take on the recent news that Blue Mars is ending development of its PC program, and after laying off some of its staff, aiming to develop a version of Blue Mars for the iPad and iPhone. As regular readers know, I did some consulting work for Blue Mars last year and am constrained by an NDA from talking about the steps which led up to that decision; I will say they're probably more complex than is generally understood. All that to one side, however, Ms. McDunnough brings up the important concept of a pivot:

Eric Reis introduced the concept of the pivot - "the idea that successful startups change directions but stay grounded in what they've learned. They keep one foot in the past and place one foot in a new possible future. Over time, this pivoting may lead them far afield from their original vision, but if you look carefully, you'll be able to detect common threads that link each iteration."

Grace cites the case of Flickr, which began in its original form as an MMO that totally failed to gain traction, but then became the mammoth photosharing success we know today. I'd add another pivot example: Second Life itself, which was originally launched as a monthly subscription online game, but pivoted in early 2004 to totally change its revenue model to sell virtual land, and offer SL to users as a monetizable content creation platform. And this happened after, as I write in my book, Linden Lab laid off 2/3rds of its staff.  To be sure, some pivots are more successful than others, but for the sake of this space, and the very smart folks who are still working on it, I hope Blue Mars' particular turn is a worthwhile one.

Blue Mars Becomes iPad & iPhone-Focused Virtual World

Blue Mars, the CryEngine-based virtual world, is shifting its focus to become an app for the iPhone and iPad -- check out the demo video of Alpha version below:

"[W]e aim to release the first builds of Blue Mars on iOS next month," the announcement on the Blue Mars blog states. "The focus for the first version of Blue Mars Mobile is avatar style and rankings." The PC version will continue to exist, but likely won't be updated besides bug fixes; however, current Blue Mars City developers no longer have to pay monthly hosting services. Read more here from Avatar Reality CEO Jim Sink, who as part of the restructuring, is leaving the company. However, he will still be appearing in Blue Mars to talk about the world's future today at 5pm. As regular NWN readers know, Iris Ophelia and myself were consultants with Avatar for a few months last year, but not at the moment. We'll let you know if that changes. In any case, I'm very interested to see how Blue Mars Mobile develops -- unless I missed an earlier launch, it looks like it'll be the first 3D virtual world for the iPad.

Anyway, for more info, join Jim in Blue Mars' Welcome Area in about half an hour.

Meet Avatar Reality's Jim Sink in Blue Mars Today @ 5pm

Jim Sink CEO Avatar Reality Blue Mars

Today at 5pm Pacific, Avatar Reality CEO Jim Sink is going to be in the Blue Mars Welcome Area (Blink teleport page here) to talk about future developments in the CryEngine-powered 3D world. If you haven't downloaded or updated the Blue Mars client lately (or at all), you should probably start right now, to allow time for installation. Disclosure: I'm occasionally a consultant for Avatar Reality, so I'm biased, but as a veteran of Microsoft's Xbox division, I think Jim has a great vision for where 3D worlds need to go in the next few years. But join in the Q&A and decide for yourself! Image from the Blue Mars Online Flickr stream.