New OpenSim Viewer With Customizable UI for Non-SLers

Onlook open sim viewer

The OnLook viewer is a new OpenSimulator viewer lead developed by Cristina Videira Lopes, an OpenSim pioneer and Xerox PARC alum who's now an ICS professor at UC Irvine -- known as Diva Canto in the metaverse. As she announced a few weeks ago, the special thing about OnLook is it allows UI customization, so users don't have to deal with the confusing Second Life interface that OpenSim viewers are based around:

The idea here is to allow OpenSim operators to have more control over the experience that their users will have; specifically, I want to be able to design much simpler user interfaces that are more appropriate for people who have no experience with Second Life and/or may be even uncomfortable with seeing themselves as avatars. But more importantly that any specific UI, I want to be able to provide those UI specifications dynamically as the user enters the simulator, rather than being hard-coded during the viewer’s build process. This way, we can change the UI without forcing users to install new versions of the viewer. And no one needs to agree on any specific UI.

This is super important for a number of reasons:

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Developer Uses OpenSim to Create 3D Art for RL Card Game

OpenSim make RL game content

OK this is seriously cool, and a great real world application of OpenSim, the open source spinoff of Second Life: Subquark, an Australian development studio, used Sim-on-a-Stick to create 3D art for a real life card game, Mint Tin Aliens, which they developed. (As depicted above, and blogged about here.) Sim-on-a-Stick, as the name suggests, is a portable version of OpenSim, making it easy to create and transport 3D art files at an extremely low cost. (You could use Second Life for doing this, but thanks to SL's thorny IP rights, you'd have to create the 3D content on a simulator you were paying for, and make sure you had the underlying rights to the all the 3D content used in your 3D art.) For that matter, standard 3D modeling software tools come with their own high costs and licensing challenges.

This isn't a conjectural application, by the way, because this game actually already exists: "It was used for the final deck of Mint Tin Aliens and six copies of that game have already been sold," exlains Ener Hax, who did the OpenSim development.

See for yourself:

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Japanese-Themed Hosoi Ichiba Sims Leave SL for Kitely

Clarrice_cinquetti_in_virgin_island

Hosoi Ichiba, a Japanese-themed SL market which supported six very beautiful sims, has entirely left Second Life, moving to the OpenSim-based Kitely. The sims had attracted a community of some 150-200 SLers, owner Amiryu Hosoi tells me, "All very active in samurai, geisha and villagers roles", but the collapsing real world economy made it difficult for Hosoi to maintain those islands.

During its heyday, he says, "There were months Hosoi Ichiba earned about $4000 USD/month and every dime flooded back in the project... I had 5 people working for me assisting customers and helping them find what they needed." Then the bottom started to fall out:

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New Singularity Viewer Lets SL Creators Convert & Export Their Prim-Based Works to Unity 3D & Other Top Platforms

Everyone who's ever created prim-based objects in Second Life or OpenSim which are important to them (especially educators, developers, and other professionals), needs to read this blog post by ex-Linden Lab evangelist John "Pathfinder" Lester and watch the video below, both of which explain how to convert a prim-based object in Second Life or Opensim into a mesh object, and export it to your hard drive. This is seriously important for reasons he and I will explain below, but click Play below now to get the party started:

The latest update of the third party Singularity viewer (which you can download for free here) includes a killer feature which lets users export their prim-based creations from SL or OpenSim into Blender, Unity3D and other industry standard modeling applications and game engines. If it works as well as Pathfinder explains (and I have no reason to doubt that), this is a great solution for content creators who want to truly own the prim-based works they make in SL. (Instead of leaving them as data that only exists on Linden Lab's servers, which users don't own or control.)

Control isn't the only factor here, because commercial and audience viability is too -- the Unity 3D engine, for instance, has a much much larger userbase than Second Life. And for John Lester, who was Linden Lab's education evangelist, this Singularity viewer technology is a (relatively) easy way for folks like him to jump into this larger market:

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InWorldz Pays Ex-Linden Programmer Karl Stiefvater to Add Mesh Deformer (While His Crowdfunded-Code for SL Lies Dormant)

SL Mesh Deformer Qarl Linden

Once upon a time, thousands of SL users held a crowdfunder so that ex-Linden programmer Karl "Qarl Fizz" Stiefvater could create mesh deformer code for the Second Life viewer, so that mesh-based clothes would fit avatars better. He created that code last year, but last I heard, it has not been implemented into the viewer. (And as I recall, probably never will. Someone correct me if that's wrong.) Now comes this news:

The creators of Inworldz, a commercial OpenSim virtual world based in large part on open sourced Second Life code, have paid Karl themselves to add his mesh deformer to their own viewer. Here's Karl with the word on his own blog, along with the code itself.

This is ironic on many fronts:

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OpenSim Still Shows Little Meaningful User Growth

OpenSim Users

In January 2012, HyperGrid Business' Maria Korolov estimated there were 15,700 active OpenSim users. In a new post, Mr. Korolov published active user stats for the 10 most popular OpenSim grids (as at left), and they show very little growth from over the last year and a half: About 18,200 (plus maybe a few hundred more from even smaller grids). So growth of about 3,000 users in 16 months, which is so tiny as to be (as Clay Shirky once put it, describing Second Life growth) a rounding error. Speaking of Second Life, SL still gains about 400,000 new users... a month. This continues a trend of flat growth from Open Sim, for in 2009, an expert insider with the development community confirmed my estimate back then that the userbase was 15,000.

None of this is to be critical of OpenSim developer community, which have come up with some very cool and interesting applications, like sim-on-a-stick. However, this cold water needs to be thrown, and here's why:

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Share the InWorldz Objects You Create on the Web

Dreamshare is a cool new feature by Tranquility Dexler, one of the owners of the OpenSim-based virtual world called Inworldz, and it lets you share objects that you created in-world on a web browser, like so:

Dreamshare Inwoldz OpenSim

Ms. Wizzy Gynoid, who told me about this bit of metaverse niftiness, explains further how it works:

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How to Use Sim-on-a-Stick for Creative Landscaping

Sim on a Stick Tutorial OpenSim

Aemeth Lysette has a good tutorial for using Sim-on-a-Stick, an offline version of OpenSim that you can run from a USB stick, as a creative landscaping platform. "SL tier costs a ton," she explains. "... sometimes I want an island I can decorate freely, and not pay anything for upkeep." Hence her tutorial. I've seen Sim-on-a-Stick used for impressive real world applications like this one, but it has as a lot of potential as a creative platform. Aemyth mentions the technical difficulty involved in allowing friends to visit your Sim-on-a-Stick island, Minecraft-server style, but I bet if someone made that more consumer friendly, that would become a popular use of SoaS too.

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PixieViewer Makes OpenSim Grids Accessible Via Browsers

Pixie Viewer OpenSim

PixieViewer is a new open source OpenSim viewer that runs on most modern web browsers, and it aims to make it feasible to access OpenSim grids this way. I say "feasible", because as HyperGrid Business explains, "[t]he viewer requires that the OpenSim accessed is running a special module." But the developer will soon offer that module for free. I gave the Beta version a quick spin recently (that's my no-frills avatar above), and it's pretty rough and very Beta, but impressive nonetheless. At least for me, performance falls far short of, say, Cloud Party. But then, that's why they call it Beta. With enough improvements, this could become a way for OpenSim-based worlds to create a web-based audience.

Create a free account to give it a try, and consider the possibilities.

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The Future of OpenSim: Conversion to Unity for Mobile Use

OpenSim running on tablets

This is a photo of the future of OpenSim, because it depicts an OpenSim experience running in mobile. This is possible because the OpenSim space was converted via COLLADA to Unity, a graphics platform that's optimized to run in smartphones and tablets (both iOS and Android). Originally posted by James "Sitearm" Neville, the technology's drawn the interest as a simulation and training tool by the US Army. (Douglas Maxwell, Science and Technology Manager at the Army Research Lab, notes in a group e-mail that "In the past 6 months, I have seen other US Army facilities testing iPad and similar superior devices on the enterprise networks. This technology is coming, we need to plan for it.")

This is made possible by Tipodean Technologies, a startup led by Linden Lab alum Chris Collins, and it's meant for anyone "wanting to increase the deployment capabilities available to them to get to there users no matter what device they are running," he tells me. "Tipodean does the conversion process."

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