Click here to buy this Second Life-based work of art as a real life print, created (and now sold) by the acclaimed artist known in SL as Ms. Whiskey Monday. On her blog, she discusses the process of readying this image (a variation on another artwork) for print, and last year she explained the reasoning for putting her SL art up for sale, and the pricing:
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
Famed pinup personality Dita Von teese recently donned the first articulated 3D printed dress to an event on Monday, and fashion and science nerds alike have been gushing over the pictures since. The dress has generated a fair amount of geek buzz for two reasons: First, 3D printing in it's current form is often used to create accessories (even by SL designers like Maxi Gossamer) but it's generally too rigid to be considered workable for clothing. Second... Well, just look at her! Granted she could probably make a paper bag look glam as hell, but these are some of the most breathtaking pictures I've ever seen.
There's a lot of engineering behind that bodice, so let's break it down:
Second Life-Based Autism Therapy Yields Meaningful Real Life Improvements in Social Abilities, Study Suggests
Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas Center for Brain Health have been using SL as a therapy tool for people with autism since 2008, and now an academic paper just published online has the results. (Direct link to the paper here.) At Brain Health, SL was used to simulate a number of real world scenarios such as a therapists' office (see screenshot above, and video below), so someone with Asperger's (for example) could roleplay common day-to-day interactions from the security of their computer, through an avatar that he or she controlled, and then get guidance on improving their social interaction, to better prepare for doing the real thing. According to Dr. Michelle R. Kandalaft, lead author of "Virtual Reality Social Cognition Training for Young Adults with High-Functioning Autism", published in the Journal of Austim and Development Disorders, the results were highly promising:
"The progress of increasing social cognition as measured in our study was comparable to what other researchers are finding," Dr. Kandalaft tells me in e-mail. "[A]lthough it is not a great leap in skills, we feel that these changes are meaningful when it comes to improving social abilities."
However, she adds, it's one thing for someone to improve their social abilities in a virtual world, and applying the lessons they learned in real life:
Former Linden John "Pathfinder" Lester points out an interesting science report, entitled "The Feasibility and Impact of Delivering a Mind-Body Intervention in a Virtual World", which suggests that using a 3D virtual environment like Second Life can help relieve stress. This isn't surprising, because there are many SL groups like Play as Being which have used SL as a stress relief/meditation tool for years. However, Pathfinder points out a potential problem with this potential, as noted by the report:
Recruitment was limited to individuals with prior experience in Second Life since the interface was known to be a barrier to entry. Even with such inclusion criteria, some of the less experienced users had problems that likely affected their participation.
In other words, trying to learn how to use SL to relieve stress can itself cause stress. This remains my frustration with 3D virtual worlds:
Here's a simple but effective-looking application of OpenSim for real world business use: For retail store layout design and sales representative training.
In his real life, SLer Zarkinfrood Miami helps his company manage mattress retail stores. He designs the layout in OpenSim, and puts it on a USB stick, so he can transport the layout from store to store. Above is what the layout looks like -- "This is the layout of the retail store I am currently working in," he e-mailed me recently. "I have done this for quite a few stores in our company." This version is on his SL sim, so you can visit it directly: Click here to teleport.
Mr. Miami, who's also known as Cardboard_Cricket on Reddit, explains what he does next:
Newt Gingrich's Second Life Cited by Washington Post Columnist As Example of Candidate's Intellectual Failings
Newt Gingrich's Second Life has gone from New World Notes to The New Yorker's blog and now, to the editorial pages of the country's most important newspaper for the American political scene, The Washington Post. Specifically, in a column by Eugene Robinson, excoriating the GOP frontrunner's habit of glomming onto random trendy ideas, no matter how bizarre. Among them, Gingrich's acclaiming Second Life as "one of the great breakthroughs" of the coming decade. In other words, now Gingrich's SL past is being touted as a negative against his Presidential candidacy.
Personally, I don't blame Gingrich for proclaiming SL as a great breakthrough -- I still maintain it is that, because whatever happens to Second Life itself, it was a major influence on the mainstream acceptance of virtual world concepts like avatars, online community, and virtual goods. (And also, the power of user-generated content.) However, I do blame Gingrich for making statements like that so boldly and blithely and without any caveats, or much awareness of how SL actually worked. (All of which led to him suggesting that Congress should meet in Second Life. to work out the nation's problems.) Not necessarily the kind of in-depth analysis and judgement I expect from a Commander-in-Chief. (But then, maybe that's just me.)
Looking for a mixed reality art object as a holiday gift this Cyber Monday? (I know, who isn't?) How about a Hilbert Curve cube, originally created in Second Life by mathematician Henry "Seifert Surface" Segerman, which Henry is now selling on Shapeways, the 3D printing company.
A Hilbert curve is a continuous fractal space-filling curve (hope you know that means, because I actually don't), which Seifert made in SL from 16 sculpty prims, creating the textures with various Python programs, then sent it floating in metaverse space. Now you can buy the physical version for under $25. Added feature: It's made of twisty material, so you can also use it as a hair tie. (I'm sure David Hilbert, who looks quite the 19th century hipster, would approve.)
In his SL heyday, by the way, Henry Segerman created the legendary crooked tesseract house in SL, which I first wrote about in 2006 here, and thanks to a generous donor, still exists in-world: Click here to visit.
Second Life Used to Design Wisconsin Retirement Home With Input from Senior Citizens - Excellent RL Application of SL
This is one of the best real life applications of Second Life that I've ever seen: in Madison, Wisconsin, a team of architects used SL to give a focus group of senior citizens a 3D preview of a retirement home design, then incorporated their feedback into the final plans. Watch:
The SL portion of the project was led by Jon Brouchoud, a Wisconsin architect who has used SL as a design tool for years. He imported the basic design into Second Life and added other elements dynamically, based on the reaction of the senior citizens watching the SL simulation. This feedback also led the architects to change the overall plans.
"We had an idea that the outdoor spaces, garden and screened porch could be part of the entry experience, but they didn't like that idea at all," Jon tells me. "We also assumed the new building would have a more formal entry desk, but they definitely preferred something more subtle, that blended into the environment instead."
It's easy to see how other architects could use Second Life for similar focus group sessions, and in many ways, it's a superior platform than other alternatives. (Better, for example, than a scale model, or static 3D modeling without avatars or dynamic alterations.) So here's Jon's advice on using SL as a focus group prototyping tool:
Einstein's Official Avatar Used in Awesome Second Life Machinima to Promote Medical Research Fundraiser
This is a remarkable Second Life machinima for many reasons: Created by the acclaimed SL machinimist known as BoBE Schism, it's easily among the very best SL machinimas I've ever seen. But that's just the start: It's using Einstein's official Second Life avatar, approved by the executors of the great physicist's estate, and the machinima itself is a promotional ad for a virtual fundraiser for real medical research, with avatars running in SL to raise funds to support research to battle HIV/AIDS, Prostate Cancer, Breast Cancer, Diabetes, Alzheimer's Disease, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Parkinson's Disease, Visual Impairment, Autism and Spinal Cord Injury. Read more about the Virtual Marathon for Medical Research here.
So it's great SL content created on behalf of a real world cause. To make it, Mr. Schism employed some pretty impressive visual and audio tricks. For Einstein's voice, for example, "I coerced the only local real life German friend I have into voicing Albert," he tells me. "But his voice is quite high, so I pitch shifted him down a touch to give him suitable gravitas. Now, every time I speak to him on the phone it sounds like I'm speaking to Albert Einstein on helium. I'm not a big fan of SL lip syncing, but think I just about pulled it off without it looking looking too much like a 70s kung fu movie." I agree on both counts, especially as Einstein's bushy mustache helps quite a lot.
More production notes from BoBE Schism after the break -- machinima makers, be sure to take notes:
US Army's 2012 Virtual Worlds Challenge Now Accepting Entries -- $25K Prize for 2 Real World Applications
The 2012 Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge is now accepting entries for its yearly contest taking civilian proposals for applications of virtual world technology with real world benefits. Grand Prize in each track is $25,000. Just as cool, "Submitters maintain all intellectual property," say the guidelines, which means you can spin your entry off into projects of your own. Sponsored by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory - Simulation & Training Technology Center, for last year's contest, four Second Life-based entries won awards -- go here to read about them for inspiration. Application deadline is December 7 -- a date that will live in infamy, if you're late. Click here for more details, or e-mail fvwc dot sttc at us dot army dot mil.