Listen to this interview I just did on the BBC's podcast Outriders, with Jamillah Knowles. (August 2 episode, about 17 minutes in.) I tell Jamillah about Google's incoherent policies on pseudonyms, Linden Lab's recent addition of a social network in a social network in a social network, and the importance of pseudonyms to protect identity: For example, an SLer in Cairo who told me about this year's uprising in Egypt from the safety of his Nubian steampunk avatar. Thanks to my friend the lovely and dulcet-voiced Ms. Knowles (pictured above) for the great interview, and for editing me into relative coherence. (Who as you can see, also has a secret alternative life as a champion hula hoop princess.)
Linden Beta-Launches Social Network Features (Timeline, Comments, Friending) to SL Users' Web-Based Dashboard
Linden Lab recently Beta-launched web-based Social Profiles for Second Life users, as the eagle-eyed OpenSource Obscure noticed early on, and so far, it's pretty impressive: It comes with a Facebook-ish style timeline and comment thread, so you can have web-based conversations with your SL friends -- click the screencap at left, to see what it looks like. Instead of just putting a "Like" on a Comment, as you would with Facebook, however, you can actually Love a Comment. (Carry-over from Linden's Love Machine?) You can also get in-world and e-mail updates any time other Residents comment or post on your Profile. Another feature I appreciate -- with this new social profile, you can send a friend request to an avatar from the web. Overall, this looks like a sleeker, more integrated version of Avatars United, the avatar-based social network Linden Lab acquired in 2009, but discontinued. (Though as I understand it, many of the AU staff moved over to Linden.)
Will be interesting to see how this improves and becomes more integrated with the full 3D Second Life experience. Be sure to read more astute commentary from Marianne McCann and Osprey Therian in the screencap of my profile at left.
To try it out for yourself, go here and log in with your SL account info.
The Netherlands-based MaMachinima International Festival is taking entries for this year's fest, which hits June 17. (No idea what the extra "Ma" is for, but there you go.) The brainchild of Second Life machinimist Chantal Harvey, the festival will also screen in-world, but you can submit videos made on other 3D platforms (say, World of Warcraft or , Portal 2). Submission deadline is May 1st, and therefore hurry: Click here to do so for God's sake.
Virtual Reality Academics Predictably Predict We'll Have Meetings in Virtual Reality (I'm Virtually Skeptical)
The New York Times' John Tierney has an interesting article on virtual reality as a future technology for holding 3D meetings, predicting that in five years, "Without leaving your living room or office, you’ll sit at three-dimensional virtual meetings and classes, looking around the table or the lecture hall at your colleagues’ avatars." Of course, the people making those predictions are, well, two virtual reality academics, Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson, so that forecast may be a bit biased. (Not to discount their fine groundbreaking work, especially by Bailenson, founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.) I actually agree there's a good chance we'll see some version of that future, though it'll almost certainly take longer than 5 years. Consider the technologies they cite for making such a bold forecast:
The Kinect tracking device, sold for $150, shows that it’s now practical for you to control your avatar simply by moving around the living room — no more need for special suits or elaborate sensors in a lab. Nor do you have to wear special glasses to see in 3-D, thanks to the “autostereo” display on the new $250 Nintendo 3DS, which beams a three-dimensional image to the naked eye.
These are great innovations, no doubt, but sales for Nintendo 3DS are already slowing down. I myself cited Avatar Kinect as a future game changer, certainly for virtual worlds/MMOs, but I think it will be a long time before that technology becomes mass market enough to justify real world business use. There are only 10 million Kinect units on the market, which is a lot, but we still need many more that number to not only own a Kinect, but thoroughly embrace Avatar Kinect usage with enough enthusiasm to sustain real world applications. Jury's still way out on that one. And in 5 years, better or more pervasive technology may very well exist to make VR seem superfluous. (My money's on augmented reality.)
So a good read, but color me skeptical. But I'll admit a bias here: It's difficult for me to see this virtual reality future, when the prototype graphics used to demonstrate it look like they were made in the 90's.
Hat tip: Bettina Tizzy.
Second Life Co-Creator Cory Ondrejka Co-Creates Game Dev Platform for HTML5 -- Can It Help Save Second Life?
Yesterday when Linden Lab was reporting downcast performance numbers for Second Life, there was a presentation that's probably far more important to the future of SL. Second Life co-creator Cory Ondrejka, who is now a developer with Facebook, showed off the project he and his development partner Bruce Rogers created after joining the social networking giant: JSGameBench, a very very early stage, free Apache-licensed platform for creating games in HTML5, which will soon be the standard code for web browsers. Watch his high level geek talk here, with an impressive graphic demo happening about 10 minutes in:
Read more about JSGameBench here. As Cory mentions in his presentation, we're in extremely early days of game development in HTML5, but the demo suggests impressive results even now. Of course Facebook's incentive in this are games that will run within the social network. But for those with any investment in the power and potential of Second Life, it's also a development worth watching:
This thing below is pretty epic, but you'll probably need Chrome or Firefox to see it. It's an interactive, navigable 3D space with a 3D object inside it -- in this case, an animated female avatar. Load and play:
This is the embeddable version of OurBricks, the new project from Linden Lab alum Henrik Bennetsen, which imports COLLADA files into a shareable space on the web. COLLADA means you can share mesh objects made for Second Life, those made in 3D StudioMax, and most other industry-standard 3D software programs. This is so epic, in fact, we must analyze the ways that it is:
As denoted above, OurBricks uses WebGL, which means it'll be standard and pre-installed in current and upcoming versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and eventually even Internet Explorer. This very early Beta version already comes with features that suggest how big this could eventually be: A link to 3D works by the same creator, which suggests a way to foster a user community and a commerce system like Etsy or Deviant Art, but for 3D files. (More on that below.) A Creative Commons-licensing option, which addresses the issue of intellectual property rights in a Net-friendly way. And the final ninja move: An "embed code" option, which makes sharing OurBricks spaces as easy as sharing a YouTube video.
Look closely, and you'll also see a "Save" function, which again, as Henrik explains to me, brings up the e-commerce question:
OurBricks Imports COLLADA Files into a Shareable Space on the Web -- Even Second Life & Blue Mars-Compatible Files!
OurBricks is the latest project from Linden Lab alum Henrik Bennetsen, founder of the Web GL-powered KataSpace, and it's his latest effort to bring 3D immersive experiences to the web. It has epic potential as an application, because it imports COLLADA-compatible files to the web, where they can be shared. Watch:
You can try this out yourself now, but you'll probably want to do so using Chrome Beta. "The thought is that now that 3D in a browser becomes possible," Henrik tells me, "the next problem is that the content type is a real pain. We are trying to take the thorns out of that for people." To see how it works, go to this sandbox site in KataSpace.
"We have this connected to KataSpace so that when you upload a piece then you can plop it into a multiuser enviroment," Henrik explains, as I log in. Here's what it looks like:
Rezzable's Unity & OpenSim-Powered Web Viewer Puts Second Life Content on Browser, Now in Open Alpha
The web browser-based 3D world viewer using OpenSim technology and the Unity 3D plug-in I wrote about last month has been in early public Alpha for the last few days: Go here to check it out (free account required). Created by UK development studio Rezzable (a former sponsoring partner to this blog), this demo is very much early Alpha, so don't expect a smooth virtual world experience. (As I write this, I'm running it in another tab of my Chrome browser, and my Tilda Swinton-esque default avatar seems to be stuck walking in an infinite loop.) Rezzable is using this tech for 3D simulations of historical monuments and treasures (such as King Tut's tomb) for their Heritage Key archaeological community website, which was once developed for Second Life. Assets from the SL project have been exported into this new project, which signifies, as Rezzable's Jon Himoff puts it, a crucial milestone in the future of virtual worlds:
Some of the many prims that you will see were originally created in Second Life, so it is also proof that Second Life assets can be 1) pulled over to OpenSim and 2) displayed in a browser.
There's more about this project on Unity's blog, too.
Here's some Monday coolness with 3D display data: Using satellite data gathered by a company called Blom running 3D modeling technology from Newscape, this iPad app called Mobile 3D City puts a Google Earth-style city in the palms of your hands:
Hat tip: Digital Urban. Wonder if similar tech could model Second Life or OpenSim landscapes on the iPad.