TU Delft: Putting SL to use
Yesterday I was triggered by an article in the Dutch (print) Magazine "Computable" on the activities of the Dutch TU Delft (Delft University of Technology). There's actually 2 things that triggered me. First was the presence of the TU Delft itself, which I've noticed several months ago but couldn't get in yet, and secondly an advanced importscript for importing technical drawings into Second Life.
[text and images from this TU-Delft webpage]
"The Floating City is a concept for sustainable, innovative urbanization in a densely occupied delta area. The concept was developed by Deltasync 04, a multidisciplinary team of master and doctoral students at Delft University of Technology. It was awarded first prize in the international Royal Haskoning Deltacompetition, which was held October 2006."
In the near future, visitors to the virtual world of Second Life may come across a floating city with a TU Delft logo.
Uses of Second Life are becoming more serious
Until recently, virtual worlds were associated with entertainment, but now the emphasis is shifting more and more towards serious uses. This is why Dr. Igor Mayer from the Faculty of Technique, Policy and Management thought it high time the University made an appearance in this virtual world. Dr Mayer is a research worker and also one of the leaders of the project on Second Life which, according to him, “is a wonderful arena for promoting designs and inventions that originate in Delft. You may soon be able to travel around the campus in the submarine Wasub, or go kite-flying with one of Professor Ockels’ energy-generating kites.”
Floating city becomes campus
At the moment, a team of researchers from TU Delft are developing two islands – as the units of land are called in Second Life jargon. One of the islands is going to be transformed into a revolutionary campus, surrounded by virtual water – something which has never been done before. The TU Delft’s floating campus is modelled on the floating city idea.
The other island will be called Next Generation Infrastructures. Once it is has been completed, researchers will be able to experiment there with new interactive communication techniques. This island has the same name as a national research programme in the Netherlands that is focussed on new knowledge infrastructures and in which TU Delft is taking part.
Second Life is sustainable
The Second Life version of TU Delft aims to give its students and employees the chance to see how the University’s objectives are being accomplished. The theme ‘sustainability’ is particularly suitable for this purpose.
SLURL: (not open yet)
Importing 3D structures in Second Life
The main point of the Computable article was on importing technical drawings into Second Life. The Second Life Research Group has created a Maya script (MEL) which can translate 3D models into a textfile which can be read by the Thraxis Epsilon "Offline Builder".
"In the virtual world of Second Life, objects can be constructed from so-called prims (cubes, cylinders etc). By means of tools known as ‘offline builders’, it is also possible to import components from CAD (computer-aided design) programs such as Autodesk Maya and 3DStudio. However, these tools cannot convert complex or exiting models. Bart Roeffen, one of the members of the TU Delft Second Life Working Group, has written an import function which does allow the conversion to take place. Using Maya, every technically drawn object, such as a building or a car, can now be transferred to Second Life.
TU Delft is applying this import routine to the many eye-catching prototypes made by researchers and students for Second Life. These prototypes can then be demonstrated and experienced. TU Delft will make the script available to the Second Life community as soon as the TU Delft islands are opened at the beginning of September. This allows others to be able to use the import routine so that it can be developed further in other countries. Until this happens, we want to develop and expand the script ourselves.
At the moment, we are working on import routines for other packages such as 3D-Max and AutoCAD. We are also investigating how textures can be imported. The behaviour of objects cannot be imported so they will have to be programmed in Second Life for the time being.
For more information about the script, please contact Bart Roeffen, b.roeffen [at] deltasync [dot] nl"
Importing textures and working around large objects are the biggest challenges the SLRG faces at this moment.