Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Land of the Rising Celts: One to Watch

One of my favorite pasttime (usually late-night) hobby's is tasting whisky. If one thinks whisky, one thinks Scottish and usually ends up with Diageo. Today Diageo is the largest beer, wine and spirits company in the world with dozens of whiskies in it's portfolio, among which the well known "Classic Malt" series. As a lover of this water of life I'm no fan of Diageo though. They have a history. As you can read in Ulf Buxrud's "Lost Distilleries" they have a tradition of mergers and take-overs (under the name of UDV, United Distillers & Vintners and in preceding companies as well), and in the process are responsible for shutting down tons of old and respected distilleries in Scotland over the past 100 years.

Loyal readers of this blog and that of Ambling in Second Life may well be aware of the fact that Diageo has been developing a double sim island in Second Life for some time now. Well, this blog isn't about them. They're still lost in the waters. This blog is about the other whisky sim I've been keeping an eye on since early May (2007): Suntory.

A flashback (summarising previous blog entries):

On may 1 I spotted the Suntory sim at the center of a square of Japanese Sims, but the island wasn't accessible. There was only the logo to show, nothing else. A little later Aleister Kronos doubted it was the right Suntory. For us Europeans all Japanese have similar names and look alike, so there was the option it wasn't the Japanese brewer Suntory. I persisted though as I believed the logo to be of this megasized brewer.

In June the island took shape, but I wasn't really welcome. A few days later the design was torn down and in August I blogged on the new build appearing at the sim. In my opinion it wasn't really corporate anymore, so I started doubting myself.

(see "suntory" label for overview of these posts)

An impression

When returning to the site now, I got prove I was right. This time I took a long stroll through the sim, which in my opinion is aptly themed "Sanctuary"

Upon entering the sim I was placed on a bridge from the busy, crammy Japanese island towards a santuary in the midst of this. Although I've never been able to visit this great culture in Real Life yet, this fits in with my perception of it: Large, stressing techno-savvy cities which open up to sparkling sights of beauty and ancient culture. The feeling I get from this sim is a cross-cultural mix though. It is not what you would perceive as a traditional Japanese sanctuary, but feels like a cross of Japanese and Medieval European tradition and architecture.

On the first platform you'll encounter a sticky wall with shots of the island.

Further on you'll encounter several of the dozens of brands in beverage the company holds or imports, varying from Boss Coffee to Pepsi cola.

Finally I found the way down to the bar, which breathes the atmosphere of a classic "gentlemen's lounge," a place that cries for a good dram. In the bar you'll encounter the whiskies Suntory imports, like the well known Bowmore, Macallan and Glenfiddich, but also their own Suntory brand is present (if only RL pubs would charge these rates!)...

Maybe I'm a bit biased, but I really like this sim. I think it truly is a sanctuary between all the skyscraperish sims surrounding it, breathing ease and relaxation. A perfect atmosphere for a whisky. In itself the build is of an outstanding quality. It is an intricate design and I haven't discovered a single texture out of sync. To me, this sim is more than a brand. It is about a lifestyle.

There's a few points of criticism though. As happens with a lot of sims in Second Life, this one was empty so I couldn't find a tourguide. Most information was illegible to me as it was Japanese. Only the most basic directions were given in English, such as 'Marina', 'Square' and 'Bar' but i really would have liked to know more about the build, the sim and what is going on here.


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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Rumsey Maps

VeeJay has asked me to cross-post this from Ambling in Second Life...

The following interesting find, ironically perhaps, came about from some random searching of the Second Life map. You have to be something of a map nerd to spend as much time as I do poring over maps - including the Second Life grid map. So it was an unexpected pleasure to hit upon the 4-sim island of Rumsey Maps.

The island is the Second Life presence for the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. This is an online collection comprising some 17,400 maps (and one I plan to delve into in more depth when the opportunity arises). To quote the website: "[The] Collection was started nearly 20 years ago, and focuses primarily on cartography of the Americas from the 18th and 19th centuries, but also has maps of the World, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. The collection includes atlases, globes, school geographies, books, maritime charts, and a variety of separate maps, including pocket, wall, children's and manuscript. Digitization of the project began in 1997."

Not surprisingly, the island is full of maps. Indeed, the main ground plan of the island consists of one large map, with valleys and hills contoured in 3D. Floating above these are a couple of globes - one terrestrial, one celestial - with phantom surfaces. Inside each is a giant orrery, where you can take a seat for a leisurely view of the globes' inner surfaces.

Elsewhere there is a richly textured modernist building where you can find out more information, and pick up some nice freebies - including orreries and a variety of globes. There's also a small, comfortable seating area and a meeting room. Outside there's a large map where you can place your own map pin, with up to 140 characters of text.

The one big downside of the site - indeed, the only downside in my view - is that the size and number of map textures means that lag was a huge problem for me. OK, I was using Windlight, but even with the settings turned down it was taking an age to display anything. In fact, it only started to make much sense when I'd been there fully 15 minutes. As you will see from the pictures, there seems to be a lot of "map eggs" - but these, in fact, serve to provide some infrastructure, as the 3D terrain is overlaid on top of them.

I can't find any reference to the Second Life island on the Rumsey website, so I do not know if it is officially open yet. But if you like maps - or just want to see somewhere a bit different - I can recommend the trip. Oh... and that map of the UK? The map pin is very(!) roughly where I live.

UPDATE 8th Feb'08: I've been having a bit of a think about those "map eggs" and it has dawned on me that they're actually sculpted prims, but seen in there half-rezzed state. Give them long enough and they will finally snap into chunks of contoured map. Just thought I should clarify that one!

UPDATE 9th Feb '08 (VJ): Well, I have to replace that Flickr embedding with real piccies.

UPDATE 9th Feb '08 (AK): In the meantime here is a link to the Flickr set.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Christian's Keynote: What''s next?

Christian Renaud , Cisco – What’s Next?

This isn’t the first attempt to start virtual worlds and virtual business. This has a long history. And there are many steps to be made to get to the next level.

In 1988 there was a seminar on interoperability, TCP/IP and there were just a few attendees, five years later it was mass market.

What’s different right now is that we have all this creative energy. We’ve got mmorpgs, we’ve got unified communication tools. Taking that and combining it and slamming that together at this high speed and you can use Second Life or World of Warcraft as business tools.

It fills a need in the technology toolbox. Cisco likes to make probabilities from possibilities.

  • We have 6.5 billion people on the planet.
  • 2.3 b mobile phones (1/3)
  • 1.2 b internet connectivity (1/6)

That’s the audience for virtual worlds.

  • 465 M VW users (excluding Asia) appr. 1/12)
  • 45 M are active virtual residents, not tourists.

That’s about as big as all the early communities (compuserve, the well, aol, eworld etc) together had at their peak.

“We have to make the community grow, so I don’t have to explain what I do over and over again to the guy sitting next to me on the plane.”

We’ve failed with instant messaging. We’ve got these big walled gardens and need multiple clients to talk to all our friends. Do we need to find a standard, or do we have to have just one platform? We have to have interoperability. There has to be no switching cost. You have to be able to choose which platform gives you the best return on your investment.

There’s a 40 million people market, and as a business you have to choose one in 40 platforms, that’s a bad choice to get your ROI.

If we had this discussion about platforms 10 years ago we wouldn’t have web. Platform shouldn’t be the discussion. It’s the content put on it.

There are too many genetics and too many usecases to get one-size fits all jacket. It’s different tools for different jobs. There’s a number of different dimensions, like mobile and peer to peer needs that have to find a place in this landscape.

It’s not my intend to be a big corporation that brings in a bulldozer and levels the diversity of the landscape and put out a huge concrete mall strip. There has to be different modalities, variation between fun and work.

Attention is the only currency left. Attention needs diversity. Howver, work needs to be fun as well. Screen, desk, a very industrial setup will have to change.

We also have to rid ourselves of stereotypes like:

  • A 12 year old girl: level 70 night elf
  • A 70 year old couple: owning 8 neopets
  • An asian businessman: Puzzle Pirate.

There’s too much overlap throughout the industry to categorise. Think of the industry and it will get bigger, don’t focus on the little piece of the pie you cut out for yourself.

There are things we can do from a technology point of view to help secure the content of VW’s. We need to have a strong concept of idendity, it’s based on trust. We haven’t been able to solve open-ID for the internet, but maybe we can do so for virtual worlds.

A strong Identity can give you credit, a reputation, a trust that helps you sell, make your business, How do we manage our presence? Let people know we are busy etc.

  • Identity
  • Reputation
  • Presence

There are things we can't do as good as we can in RL, but there are things we can do better than in RL as well. Augmentation, specific content based upon who you're talking to.

The new math:

If it's just amongst us we can throw out every number we like. When talking to people outside we have to rationalise, come with metrics. Real facts and figures. The industry has to step forward and come with universal metrics. Business needs to know where the money is.

One of the good initiatives is MMI, the metaverse market index. (spin off from Metaversed's Grid Safari's and Metanomics sessions. This is a derisking and industry building initiative.

Common Platforms:

There's work going on on interoperability. Content is core, platform flexible. Convergence over divergence will benefit the industry.

MIT Collective Intelligence:

We've gotta look for pitfalls and not stick to the "we could this" suggestions, but also consider if "we should this" element. What can we do for collective intelligence. What can we do for collaboration, for culture? What can we instrument, do to overcome deficiencies in our options in Virtual Worlds?

Wrap up:

  • Common Identities
  • Common Denominators
  • Common Platforms
  • Common Understanding

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Tonights Geek Meet Wrap up

Tonight saw another brilliant episode of the Metaversed Geek Meet. With speakers from Ogoglio, Amazon and Cisco.

First to kick off was Trevor Smith of Ogoglio who had a very straightforward story on the open source community in virtual worlds.

  1. 1. Point One: The web is open
    Open source software from the apache project hosts a huge percentage of the web. Open source operating systems run most of the core application level infrastructure like the Google borg and DNS. When facing such cultural, technical, and legal momentum... seems foolish to glom closed spaces onto the side of this huge open web.

  2. Point Two: Basic 3D technologies are no longer black magic.
    When a layer of technology has matured to the point where it is commonly understood the open source community can step in and replace proprietary systems with open ones. This is not a particularly glamorous function,... but it does have the huge benefit of enabling people to try new ideas without reinventing the wheel or taking on funding. For example,...
    the Ogoglio platform is a web server for shared persistent spaces You can host spaces on your laptop, on an inexpensive web account... or scale it up on the Amazon elastic compute cloud. Creative groups can experiment with new ideas without spending a

  3. Point Three: Open source is painfully honest.
    When your checkin comments are in the public record and anyone can fact-check your press release by browsing your code..."

Our second speaker was Jeff Barr from Amazon, known for his enthusiatic commitment to Things to Do and the Amazon build, speaking on Amazon's Elastic Computing Cloud.

"With a virtual environment like Ogoglio hosted on it, you can conceivably spin up a whole bunch of them (hundreds and eventually thousands) to deal with a short-term event like a party or a concert. Or a big company meeting. Maybe it lasts an hour, or a whole weekend. Instead of begging your friends for loaner servers or buying them outright, or paying a by-the-month hosting plan, you use what you need. This seems to be an ideal solution to the very spikey demand that you will see from a virtual world. Mostly low demand, but occasionally very, very high."

Last, but certainly not least was the inspirational Christian Reinoud from Cisco who spoke on the future of Web 3D.

"Wen people invest as much time and energy as we all have into our sims, avatars, etc. we'll want to take them with us at the same time you have companies like Wells and MTV who are concerned about liability and their brand and will opt for more walled/controlled experiences"

This discussion handsomely evolved into a very sharp discussion on various cultures within the metaverse, creating their own identities, just like in Real Life.

The notorious Prokofy Neva was also present and did some seriously sharp questioning of the speakers.
"If you make a uniform protocol for avatars/goods across the frontiers of worlds, won't that introduce the same ill effects of RL globalization, and demolish some unique indigenous cultures and overutilize labour and resources in some areas and underserve others? Im' not certain that cross-world identity porting is quite in demand as you may think."

That surely did leave us time to ponder!

The Geek Meets are becoming a popular event. I got in early as I expected the meet would be maxed out and truly 15 minutes upfront it was hard to squeeze in the speakers. Our host, Nick Wilson from Metaversed is becoming a real facilitator and set up a few things like ustream tv so other people could follow the meet as well.

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