Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pure Magic at 7Days

Yesterday Second Life saw the official opening of the 7 Days Magic Bakery, which I visited with high expectations, mostly because Aleister Kronos already blogged this build and wrote:

"I have to say that I think the build quality and approach knock just about every other corporate build into a cocked hat. In large part this is due to the decision by involve3d, the builders, to execute most of the build work outside of Second Life, using Maya. The resulting structures and textures were then uploaded for final placement in the sim. The result is a spectacularly successful marriage of forms and detailed textures - which is my pretentious way of saying: it looks great!"

7Days is one of the brands of Greek Vivartia, a foodconglomerate, which mainly produces packaged dough foods.

The Vivartia Bakery and Confectionery Division (following the absorption of Chipita International S.A.) is active in the production and distribution of standardized foods principally with a flour base. Since the establishment of Chipita in 1973, the Division has experienced steady development with particularly successful products both on the Greek and international markets. Always maintaining faith in quality and constant innovation, the Bakery and Confectionery Division of Vivartia has developed strong market labels such as 7Days, Bake Rolls, Molto & Finetti, which consumers trust on a daily basis.

State-of-the-art technology, constant support and the company’s vision for development all contribute to the dominant position held in all markets where we are active. Beginning with the individually packed croissant in 1990, constant research and development, the company improved and broadened the range of dough based products. Innovative ideas have led to new products such as mini croissants, strudels, tsoureki (brioche) and many others.Aside from sweet snacks, however, savory snacks also constitute an important part of the Division’s line with leading products such as Bake Rolls and Pita Bakes. Finally, the Division is active in the realm of chocolate products and produces the savory snacks par excellence – potato chips and cheese puffs. [Vivartia website]

As I said, the official opening was not ontil yesterday, when at 10 p.m. they hit off with a spectacular launchparty. It's been a while since I've seen a launchparty by a corporate build in Second Life. This alone makes the sim noteworthy. At this point in (media) time most companies flee media attention when it comes to their Second Life presence, either because their presence will justly be criticized as they don't know what they're doing in Second Life, or because the media still does not understand the values of the virtual world. Last month I blogged about CIGNA, an insurance company, with a highly succesfull presence in Second Life, and this is indeed another corporate gem, ready to go into the Best Practises for Companies textbook for Virtual Worlds.

So much for the introduction, let's immerse ourselves in this experience and see what all the fuzz is about. Upon teleporting in I receive a neat Landmark introducing the sim:

"Come play with your food! Meet rebellious robots and maestro bakers! Design, eat and trade your own custom pasties! A rich, whimsical bakery theme park … there's lots to do!"

And indeed, a whole town surrounds the bakery. After landing and walking through the entrance we meet Chef Vivardi on the first corner to start of the background narrative.

Next to the Chef you'll see a small sign. When clicked, the narrative starts. You'll find these points of interaction throughout the sim.

Chef Vivardi comes to life here whose job it is to supply the world with wholesome foods. Without taking any mystery out of your tour, the narrative of the brand – wholesome snacks to fit modern lifestyles – is present without dominating. Most importantly it forms the starting point of the 3D story, framing the entertainment, social aspects and interaction. There are rebellious robots, undeniably adorable machines all around, media textures that add life, and movie-quality voice-overs and music. In my opinion the music just totally makes it all come together. [Linda Zimmerman at Business Communicators of Second Life]

Moving on to the terrace

Undoubtedly, the centerpiece of the sim is the snack factory, towering above the surrounding village at the center of the sim.

Inside the factory you can take place at the production line an produce your own 7Days snack. Start with choosing your flavour, then color, topping, packaging and mood and be on your way with a customized snack. The production line is an excellent piece of scripting.

The idea of depicting a production line in Second Life isn't new, see for instance the blogpost "Second Life Yummy Garden" in which I describe how Ben & Jerry's did about the same over a year ago, which also was a big success in my opinion. Anyway, there's lot's more to see. This is a highly recommended sim. Enjoy your travels.


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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

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.

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