Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Second Life Revamped

It's been a while since I last visited the world of Second Life. At the time I left, recession was kicking in, not only in the real world, but doubly in Second Life. It was not only the credit crunch, no, it was the Gartner Hypecycle kicking in with a bite.

Companies were disappointed in the 'marketing' options of Second Life, and it was too early to get a solid business case for immersion. Now, Second Life is gearing up again. They've changed their marketing campaign for Businesses and revamped the website.

Now, the revamped website is a pretty neat thing. It's no longer the plain old promotional website, but it has grown into a SLMS, or a Second Life Management System - which I already suggested back in 2007,

Highlights of the new secondlife.com from Torley on Vimeo.

Now the new attitude is promising. Back in 2007 and 2008 Second Life was bustling with Corporate activity, but after some exploration, allmost all companies left to do real 3D business elsewhere, like ABN Amro or Wells Fargo for instance. Second Life was not secure. Second Life management at that time did not really make an effort to support companies in Second Life, but I think now they've seen business drop and some part of 'reality' (i.e. cash) kicked in. There's money to be made from big clients, so I'm curious to see where it goes. Will have to see which companies have arrived since December 2008 and which have left since then top give a quick update on the Second Life Real Life Company Guide.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Weblin clones SL Avatars to the web

Yesterday the German based webservice Weblin announced it has a new service, a 'Weblin Gate' which lets you take your Second Life avatar to the web. I've blogged Weblin last year september, when it was just launched, but haven't used it a lot since. However, that might change.

What Weblin basically does is let you create an avatar which can walk across the bottom of your webbrowser. When you're on a page with other weblin users you can see the other avatars on the webpage and interact with them. Weblin also has an option for its users to create custom avatars, but you have to be an expert in 3D graphics and animation if you want to have that avatar be able to move.

The service Weblin is offering now in Second Life is that they make a photograph of your avatar, then override your animations and 'film' your avatar making the typical Weblin moves so the service recreates your avatar outside Second Life. Dean Takahashi was among the first to blog the new service and he wrote:

What happens in virtual worlds, stays in virtual worlds. That’s the way it’s been when you create an avatar, or virtual character, in places such as Linden Labs’ Second Life.

But now Weblin, a Hamburg, Germany-based startup, has figured out a way for you to teleport your Second Life avatar to any web site. The Weblin Gate being released today lets Second Life Residents (or players) export exact replicas of their avatars and use them on any web site.

As far as writing goes, I like the first sentence of that blogpost, but regarding the facts, it would be too much credit to the folks at Weblin. We're not talking real teleportation here, or interoperability as the in-crowd calls it, it's more like scraping or cloning. As usual the ever present Virtual Worlds News nailed it down quite fast as well, writing:

This isn't true interoperability--the service takes a picture of the avatar in Second Life and maps it on to a Weblin avatar, and users don't carry their assets or identity with them--but it is an interesting form of portability and a step towards larger goals.

That would be correct, also the outlook on this remark. I didn't use Weblin much before, but now it's fun to stroll over the web with my Second Life avatar and meet other Second Life avatars out there on twitter for instance, or, As Grace puts it on her blog 'Gracified':

Early adopter Second Lifers have already adopted weblins as a means by which to chat and socialize outside of the virutal world of Second Life, whether it’s attending Malburns and Tara’s brilliant weekly show, or just catching up while the grid is down.

It works quite easily, though it got screwed with me yesterday, hence my rather late blogpost. Anyway, things start out in visiting the Weblin photobooth in Second Life, on the New Berlin sim.

Once inside you'll meet Paule, an automated avatar who'll give you instructions. You've got to pay at the cash register (1 L$, which will be refunded immediately, but necessary to get your ID) and you can get onto the photoshoot area. Make sure you've got your animations turned off. Last night when I visited the first time, the preview snapshot only showed Paule's bum and not an image of my avatar. Today, it worked out fine though.


As soon as you're up there, almost crucifixed, you'll get a link to a preview. When the preview looks about right, you'll call Paule to continue. The Weblin script overrides your avatar and starts filming the appropriate movements. When that process is finished, you'll get a link to your new avatar. Quite simple. Below a picture of my new weblin avatar walking across this blog.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Augmented Reality: What is it, and what can we do with it?

In the past two years we've seen an enormous boost in Virtual Worlds, using 3D visuals. They are not really 3D though, we've put the idea of a 3D environment into a flatscreen. Real 3D stuff is when you suddenly have holographic choppers flying around your head if you open up a lego box.

Below is a video of the BBC experimenting with Augmented Reality (and yes, it includes a chopper).

But what is Augmented Reality?

According to Wikipedia, Augmented Reality is...

Augmented reality (AR) is a field of computer research which deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data (virtual reality), where computer graphics objects are blended into real footage in real time. At present, most AR research is concerned with the use of live video imagery which is digitally processed and "augmented" by the addition of computer-generated graphics. Advanced research includes the use of motion-tracking data, fiducial markers recognition using machine vision, and the construction of controlled environments containing any number of sensors and actuators.

Ronald Azuma's definition of AR is one of the more focused descriptions. It covers a subset of AR's original goal, but it has come to be understood as representing the whole domain of AR: Augmented reality is an environment that includes both virtual reality and real-world elements. For instance, an AR user might wear translucent goggles; through these, he could see the real world, as well as computer-generated images projected on top of that world. Azuma defines an augmented reality system as one that

  1. combines real and virtual,
  2. is interactive in real-time,
  3. is registered in three dimensions.
This definition is now often used in some parts of the research literature (Azuma, 1997).

But what is it to you? What do you see as augmented reality, and what use does it have? Does it have any use, or is it just a plaything? What do you think? What would be usefull deployment in your line of work?

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Intel and Qwaq team up to crack the Virtual Workspace

Ever since the plans were on the drawing table 3-D based collaboration software developer Qwaq has kept its eye on the price: The virtual workspace for the enterprise. It resulted in an environment where focus didn't go out to slick avatars, but towards integration of office applications.

Earlier this week Qwaq made a joint announcement with Intel according to which Miramar, a 3-D information space technology originally developed by Intel Corporation's research labs, will be brought to market by Qwaq, which reminds me somewhat of the joint collaboration of IBM and Linden Lab. It shows that the major players on the technology market understand the potential of 3D environments, have been working on it themselves for years, but failed to crunch the 3D-ness and need to team up with new emerging specialist companies, which in their turn could use a big partner to crack open closely sealed corporate IT doors.

First Intel is/will be using the Qwaq technology internally to improve their teamwork, an act which they apparently didn't get together in Second Life, where they also have a strong presence. It will enable information, which is now only available to individual departments or divisions, to be easily accessed and shared across the enterprise, in dynamic unified views.

Secondly, Qwaq and Intel plan to work together to integrate Miramar technology into a new cross-platform edition of Qwaq Forums, which is expected be available next year. As for Miramar’s backgrounder, the software with immersive 3D and 2D components was originally developed by Intel Architecture Labs aimed at increasing the productivity of distributed enterprises by enabling new information visualization capabilities across distributed teams.

A very thorough article on the collaboration was posted online yesterday at the TechRadar magazine and originally featured in PC Plus issue 274. Here's the introduction

Working in a virtual world

Leave your car - and yourself - at home. Here's a virtual office
you can actually work in.

The use of virtual worlds and genuine 3D interfaces for anything other than fun and frolics has been a long time coming.

Granted, virtual worlds such as Second Life get an awful lot of media coverage, but until recently they remained a niche activity, even among the gaming community.

However, thanks to years of research by Intel and a collaborative effort with a specialist company known as Qwaq, 3D visual metaphors in general and virtual worlds in particular are becoming the latest business productivity tools, used for all kinds of collaborative work, from conferences and training sessions to work groups and project management.

The story of Intel's involvement in 3D interface and collaboration technology is actually rather convoluted. To make sense of it all, PC Plus met up with Intel's Cindy Pickering at the recent IDF conference in San Francisco. According to Pickering, it all started in the late 1990s with a project known as Miramar in which Intel Architecture Labs was investigating the use of 3D metaphors as alternatives to conventional, fl at 2D workspaces.

3D Multitasking

The research began by observing how client PC users coped with complex multitasking and then studying the effects of adding a third dimension to the user interface. "Going back and forth between lots of windows introduces a lot of task overhead. Having that third dimension allows you to put things aside in a different way that means they're still visually available, but without dominating the virtual workspace," Pickering explains.

Read the full article here.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

First peek at Hangout

Last week I wrote a first piece about the new 3D environment called Hangout, on hangout.net which currently is in Private Beta. Fortunately I have received an invite for private Beta testing.

Step 1 is registering and creating your avatar. It's pretty sleek, flash based and has a limited set of options right now, so could not make an exact replica of the mighty handsome VeeJay Burns that walks Second Life, but this'll do for the time being.

Step 2 is to download a 400Kb app installer to render your room. This is the amazing Unity webplayer, amazingly small, yet powerfull and full of potential.

Step 3 is to log in and get going. However, something went wrong and I crashed about six times


My Hangout


What I intended to show you was a 3D embedded version of my hangout. Something went wrong there. I'll keep you posted

What you see now is a snapshot of my Hangout... Well, I still have a lot of decorating to do. If you want to see the real thing, you'll have to add 3D to your browser.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

The Revival Of Consumer Virtual Worlds

During the weekend topnotch research agency Forrester released a new paper on Virtual Worlds: "The revival of Consumer Virtual Worlds -- Virtual Worlds Emerge From Their Initial Boom/Bust Cycle". Here's the executive summary from the 6 page paper:

"The two years since virtual worlds went "mainstream" have been a roller-coaster ride for all involved; for every success like World of Warcraft, there have been negative developments such as the media backlash against Second Life. Now, as a number of new worlds are appearing, the technology is improving, and interest levels are growing, virtual worlds are ready to enter their second phase. Forrester recommends that consumer product strategy professionals watch the space carefully — if they are not involved already — as we expect the next 12 months to be momentous for consumer virtual worlds. Much-heralded new worlds will arrive, marketers will return to the medium after initially being burned, and Web3D elements will start to creep into consumers' lives. "
The first sentence makes me extremely sceptical immediately, since Virtual Worlds are far from being "mainstream yet" Especially with the market behaving as it is (The Dow downed severely today after the US Governments bailout failed in congress) I predict there won't be many consumer product strategy professionals out there that will take a shot at immersion.
In short, Im not yet up to paying $ 280,- on this paper yet, will have to wait for it to become available through my office.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get your own 3D place to Hangout

Earlier this week I got an invite from one of the guys over at Hangout, one of the latest 3D startups this year. Hangout was launched for private Beta testing on september 8 (at the TechCrunch conference) and released a lengthy article on PRWire:


"September 8, 2008 -- Building on the popularity of social networking, online games, and digital media, Hangout Industries (http://www.hangout.net/) unveiled the world's first casual and immersive 3D social networking experience that allows teens and young adults to create and customize their own virtual rooms featuring real brand-name products, and where their friends can join them in a safe and secure environment, to hang out and have fun together. For teens, Hangout helps My Space become My Place." (full article here)

Especially in this business, with so many worlds and environments being released, I would be very hesitant to use the words "the world's first..." in a press release. However, the guys made it to the TechCrunch finals. Here's their Crunchy presentation:




Looking at Hangout I must admit they've done neat things with the $ 6,000,000 of VC funding, but. The graphics look very good and already they've managed to get a bunch of sponsors in, youth-focused brands which want to make sure that Hangout users can interact with their favorite products in the room including AllPosters.com, Cardboard Robot, Café Bustelo Coffee, Celsius, Dank Squad, Dim Mak Records, Dim Mak Collection, Imperial Motion, IS eyewear, Milo, Monster Energy, Mumz the Werd, Neff, Ogio, Pioneer, Pony, Rockwell Time watches, Sessions, Skullcandy, Suunto Watches, Triumvir, Zappos.com, and Zuriick. Colin Brickley, Director of Sports and Entertainment Marketing at Pony commented "Hangout's visual quality lets us present our brand online, with no quality compromises. If we can get kids to put our shoes on their virtual selves, they are that much closer to buying our physical product. We can't afford not to be in Hangout."



Did I already tell you it looked good? But will that be enough to survive in the business, as the concept in itself isn't new. It's up for heavy competition in the industry in which, I think, it is not about the world or 3D hangout itself anymore, but ultimately about its connectivity, its integration with social thingies etcetera. Looking forward to seeing where this one will end up.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Weblin - a 3D Chat overlay for your browser

Just after writing about Myrl, a new website offering a gateway to many different worlds, I read an interesting story by Vint Falken on Weblin, which tries to bring 3D to the web as well.


If I remember correctly, weblin used to advertise with ‘bringing the virtual world to the web’ … or something like that. Weblin - by Zeitgeist - ’s far from a virtual world (yet), but the concept of layering the avatar on top of normal websites is surely fascinating and well executed:


  1. You have a cute little avie that is customisable using the ‘avatar creation kit’.(takes 100×100px animated gif up to 50kb).
  2. It has a ‘monetary value’, named ‘Kala’ that is described as ‘the virtual weblin currency’. (Purchasing those is not yet possible. You receive 150 Kala (Kalas?) on start.)
  3. Weblin points. You get those as a reward for activity. Use them to unlock features & avatars.
  4. Contact list. See which of your befriended weblins are currently online.
  5. Mute button. Always handy! ;)
  6. Private chat. Duh!
  7. Integration with del.icou.us, twitter, stumble upon and even a self hosted WP install.
  8. Dating. As you’re on the same wegpage, you’ll surely have the same interests? What I love about this one is that weblin Flirt is standard disabled. So they don’t bother you with it unless you do state you’re looking for a relationship.
  9. Basic animations: jump, dance, wave and even better… decline/refuse.
Read more...

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Integrate or wrap up

Many will agree that Virtual Worlds are wonderful tools when it comes to visualising hard to explain stuff and offer a range of quite useful possibilities. Yet NVE's are still a niche market and have obviously failed as marketing tools. They don't hold the power to overturn the internet yet and become mainstream applications.


In my opinion the key lies in integration with mainstream and social networking tools. Virtual Worlds such as Second Life are still mainly social worlds, used for social interaction for certain special interest groups and in this regard they are a mere 3D Chat addition to social networks. In this day and age these social networks are in charger of the internet with Facebook, Myspace etc. holding vast communities. If Virtual Worlds are to stand more than a "snowballs' chance in hell" in this web 2.0 battle for numbers they have to bridge the gap.


I think I've mentioned Kaneva in the past as pioneering this with their user profiles with blogging, etworking features etc. to enhance the social power of their virtual world. I've mentioned integration a number of times in the articles here on MindBlizzard and in presentations I did in the past year and a half.

Just over a year ago I wrote:

"One of the great features of Kaneva is the personal homepage that you get as a resident - a good start to integrate Web 2.0 and Web 3D into one environment. Think of the power of integrating Second Life with Flickr, Blogger, YouTube, Twitter/pownce and Facebook all in one!"

We've seen a small Facebook widget appear last year in which you could linkup with your Second Life friends, an attempt to integrate Second Life with Joomla, but now the integration takes a step forward as Tribal One integrates Facebook and OpenSim in a first step towards a new approach to 3D/Web integration

As usual, UgoTrade, has a very extensive and thorough blog on this integration:

The picture above shows the in the left pane fetched pictures from Stefan’s Facebook photos. As Stefan explains a hybrid web app is talking to the region to change the picture accordingly and pull the photos into frames on the wall (for a more detailed technical explanation see here).

read more at: UgoTrade.

More to come

There's bound to be more to come on cross platform interfaces and 3D/Web integration. Check out Digado for example with it's accounts on the "Second Life Interface Debate", and here's a vid from Smashing Magazine on "Futuristic Interfaces"


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Friday, February 29, 2008

Siemens Solid Edge to enhance Second Life 3D design

PLANO, Texas, Feb. 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Siemens PLM Software, a business unit of Siemens Industry Automation Division and a leading global provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services, today announced a new interactive tool that enables users to create their own 3-D Razor Scooter in Second Life. The tool is easy to use like Siemens PLM Software's Solid Edge(R) software and meant to expose Second Life residents to the possibilities of CAD software.

In the real world, Siemens PLM Software hosts "test drive" Solid Edgeseminars to illustrate how easy the software is to use. Solid Edge is apowerful hybrid 2D/3D design system and a core component of the VelocitySeries(TM) portfolio.

In the virtual world, the new interactive tool provides companies a glimpse into the use of 3-D modeling software inproduct development. A transparent screen guides Second Life residents to click through a range of selections to create a custom-built scooter in less than a minute. "

In our industry it's important to be able to vet out design ideas as quickly as possible," says Bob Hadley, product development manager, Razor(R). "In the real-world, with Solid Edge, we're able to introduce at least two or three times as many new products each year as we could previously. To compete in our industry, that's essential. Siemens PLMSoftware is taking this to the next level by integrating real-world design experiences in virtual worlds."

According to a recent report, "Getting Real Work Done In Virtual Worlds," Forrester Research, Inc., Jan. 7, 2008, "Virtual worlds like Second Life ... are on the brink of becoming valuable work tools ... " Thereport notes that virtual worlds have advantages over other approaches to communication and collaboration. One example is "they allow people to work with and share digital 3-D models of physical or theoretical objects. Many disciplines rely on 3-D models and designs: Surgeons, architects, engineers, and product designers all use CAD models or sophisticated visualization systems to explore and create complex real-world objects ...You can release near-final designs to a limited external group of users and solicit feedback before starting fabrication." The report predicts that within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today.

"This new tool is a great example of how companies can use some of the unique characteristics of the Second Life platform to create interactive experiences for their products," said Chris Kelley, vice president, Platforms and Partners, Siemens PLM Software. "Our goal in Second Life continues to be to find new ways to collaborate with our customers and partners in an effort to provide a more immersive way to experience our software. The user experience in Second Life is based upon our successful Solid Edge Dare to Compare Test Drive events where you learn first-hand how easy it is to use Solid Edge compared to competitive products."

In the real world, Solid Edge Dare to Compare Test Drive events guide users through key stages of 3D design: part modeling, sheet metal, assembly creation, drafting and documentation, plus analysis and full motion simulation.

To reach the Siemens Innovation Connection on Second Life, visit http://www.siemens.com/plm/secondlife.

To attend a real-world Solid Edge Dare to Compare Test Drive, visit http://www.siemens.com/plm/daretocompare.

Source: PRNewsWire

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Your expectations of the Metaverse in 2007 (2)

Yesterday I blogged about my expectations for the Metaverse in 2007 in answer to Rick's question. His reply to my answer (part of it) was:

"My problem is that, imho Second Life isn't a business platform at this moment
in which these goals can be achieved."


and

"Then it comes to waiting for the next 'killer app' which really draws the
crowd into the metaverse. However, I'm having difficulties in formulating the
needs in which this 'holy grail' should provide. Is it mass collaboration, the
digital long tail, outsourcing or will the virtual economy grow to such an
extent that retail goes 3D because of efficiency? In other words, what is your
vision of a businessmodel that goes beyond the limitations of Second Life, which
added value can a 3D environment have for entrepeneurs and how will crowds be
involved?"


These are easy questions, much like "Why are we here? How does the universe work?" The answer is similarly hard. If I had a straightforward answer, I'd probably be a millionaire soon.
It's the X-million dollar question.


As a Metaverse Evangelist, or sr. Networked Virtual Environment Consultant I could talk about the potential of metaverses forever. To be honest though. We have to be realistic.



  1. We're at the early stages of the industry. Many companies are still having difficulties in understanding web 2.0; seeing blogs and wiki's rise but don't know how to implement it in their corporate strategy, let alone we can convince companies to adapt to the Metaverse overnight. It's a process.
  2. There's a couple of industries that can make quick wins with metaversal presence (like real estate), but not every product is suitable for a 3D environment (like mortgages)

Desinging the Metaverse Killer App

When it comes to designing the metaversal killer app I'd say it's too early to tell. We still don't have a web 2.0 killer app. Every day new sites, new worlds and new functionality emerges. The killer app will have to be a mashup of the best of both worlds; 3D Facebook, Google virtualisation or whatever. I've got tons of unformulated thoughts on this but what it comes down to is that we have to move from technology driven design to social design; step out of the binary limitations and explore the realms of psychology and communication to understand human needs for interaction and information and only then move on to functionality on demand. 2007 is a year of options. We see variation, we see diferent platforms, technologies and cultures emerge. Now is the time to explore, the time of veni vidi vici. Observe, Asses and Implement (though by by trial and error). To Incorporate, that's 2010 and beyond for the majority of companies.

Time for bed now. A few more points need to be addressed tomorrow...

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Defining the Virtual World Industry - input needed



Last week Nick Wilson started to try and define the virtual worlds. It's a pretty hard job to try and categorise this stuff. Currently I'm writing a few chapters for a (Dutch) book on Web 2.0 and emerging trends and am faced with the same question. Could you help out in making some educated guesses?





Defining the worlds





Here's some of the definitions I'm using:



Web 3D seems the most applicable generic term, but there is no such thing as a universal format for Web 3D and it comes in various guises, some more and some less likely to be used as a business platform.



Terms which are most commonly used are Virtual Worlds, Metaverse and NVE’s (Networked Virtual Environments). Virtual Worlds are not 3D by definition, there are many 2D platforms which are also considered as virtual worlds.




A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars. This habitation usually is represented in the form of two or three-dimensional graphical representations of humanoids (or other graphical or text-based avatars). Some, but not all, virtual worlds allow for multiple users.[1]




The term NVE was first used by Gartner in a quick study on Second Life, but residents of various virtual worlds prefer to call it the Metaverse, as coined by Neil Stephenson in his 1992 cyberpunk classic ‘Snowcrash’



Another section of web 3D consists of the socalled Paraverse, sometimes also dubbed mirror worlds, since this world is most akin to our own reality.



The Paraverse Parallel Universe is a virtual environment that is based on real
world data such as GIS and satelite information that is overlayed with 3
dimensional objects representing the objects in the real space. Examples of a
paraverse include Google Earth, Microsofts Virtual Earth, Nasa's World Wind and
TerrainView.[2]






A large and booming business in the web 3D environment are the online gaming worlds, the socalled MMORPG’s (massively multiplayer online role plaing games) such as World of Warcraft, Runescape etcetera.



Finally, there are all sorts of variations and hybrids such as:







  • Interverse A term used to describe a globally integrated NVE, accessible through a single common client and integrated by a common back plane.



  • Intraverse A term to describe the 3D equivalent of the intranet, a private or corporate NVE residing on an internal network and accessible to users within that network environment only.



  • Extraverse A term used for the 3D equivalent of the extranet which is privately or corporately owned and resides on a private network but accessible by one ore more organisation, but not by the general public.



    [1] Virtual Worlds definition by Wikipedia

    [2] Paraverse definition by Wikipedia





Sizing the worlds




Now it's time to get into numbers. A first excellent start by doing a raw headcount of registered users was done by Christian Renaud at the Virtual World Conference. Now let's see if we can split up some other things:







  1. Networked Virtual Environments can be split up 2 ways: Online Gaming and Social network worlds. How are they divided? 50-50%?



  2. They can also be divided by 2D and 3D, what's this pick 40-60%?



  3. How much of Online gaming worlds are 2D, is that 40%?



  4. How much of Social Network Sites are 2D, is that 50%?



  5. What is the division between Metaverse / Interverse, Intraverse, Extraverse and Paraverse?

    I'm using Extraverse as term for corporate sites, like themed sites, Laguna Beach etc.



  6. I'm also looking at our usage of the web. Like web 2.0 stuff we use it at three levels:





    1. Personal (like gaming)


    2. Social (like Second Life)


    3. Business (like Qwaq or dedicated training platforms)

      What's the spread for these in Virtual Worlds?





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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.


FLOATING CITY

[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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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Second Life Introduction at Sogeti

During April and May Sogeti Netherlands has organised a series of seven workshops on Second Life for its employees and customers. Damanios Thetan from Damanicorp, an experienced and well known content creator explained how building and scripting worked in several workshops on advanced building.



Last tuesday a new episode was written as Damanios and yours truly VeeJay Burns gave an introduction to Second Life for a group of 120 Sogeti employees (including C-Level) and clients.




VeeJay gave a historic overview passing web 1.0 to web 2.0 and the current evolution in web 3D whereas Damanios provided the technical details on building.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Metaverse Map v1.1

Here's the updated Metaverse Map with an overview of 2D and 3D virtual worlds.

The large image (1024 x 1024) can be found here.

Use the map freely, links will be appreciated though ;-)


In alphabetical order:

  1. Active Worlds
  2. Areae
  3. Croquet
  4. Cybertown
  5. Cyworld
  6. Deamville
  7. Disney Toontown
  8. Dubit
  9. Eccky
  10. Entropia
  11. Everyscape
  12. Forterra
  13. Frenzoo
  14. Gaia Online
  15. Google Earth
  16. Habbo Hotel
  17. Hipihi
  18. Immersive
  19. Kaneva
  20. Manor, the
  21. Microsoft Virtual Earth
  22. Mini Friday
  23. Moove Online
  24. Multiverse
  25. Muse
  26. Nasa World Wind
  27. NGI World
  28. Ogoglio
  29. Open Sim
  30. Outback Online
  31. Palace, the
  32. Planet VM
  33. Playdo
  34. Questville
  35. Second Life
  36. Shanda Entertainment
  37. Sims Online
  38. Sony Home
  39. Sparter
  40. Stagespace
  41. There.com
  42. Towerchat
  43. Trion
  44. Uonenet
  45. Virtual Ibiza
  46. Virtual Magic Kingdom
  47. Virtual Worlds SIG
  48. VP Chat
  49. Vzones
  50. Webkinz
  51. Weblo
  52. Why Robbie Rocks
  53. Whyville
  54. World.com
  55. Worldbridges
  56. Worlds Unlimited

I know I left out Club Pinguin and Three Rings (couldn't find any good logo's) and probably missed out on a few barbie-worlds....

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

MiniVille

For those of you that find Second Life or any other Metaverse a bit overwhelming, here's Miniville. It's French though, so I had a hard time figuring out what you can and cannot do on this site.
It lets you create a nice little village by the sea.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Genealogy meet Web 2.0

Welcome to the 21st Century! This is the age of fast, slick webapplications. The first half of this decennium we've had the Web 2.0 boost and now we're getting ready to rock on Web 3D.

Aside from playing with new cool apps I've got about three hobbies which are so 20th century:
  1. Model trains
  2. Stamp Collecting
  3. Genealogy
Especially when looking at Genealogy many people are under the impression that it is soooooo boring, dusty archive work. That's gonna change though: Genealogy meets Web 2.0 in the new Geni app (currently in Beta)
Geni is a cool app that has a very neat interface and lets you add people directly, elevating Genealogy to a social bookmarking and networking gig.
In this first shot you see your startingpoint, the person of the year 2006: YOU
Easily add relatives, preferably by email to get the social networking on a roll.
There's lots of Profiling to do on this second screenshot. To really get it kicking it would need widgets and it'll be up for Facebook and Myspace competition.
The third screener is about localising your friends and family

As for social bookmarking, it's got potential, but for genealogy freaks it's a start. The real genfreaks are desperately waiting for a GEDCOM interface.

GEDCOM is the standard format for importing and exporting family trees and works with known programs such as Aldfaer, phpGedview and TNG and every other thinkable Genealogy software. Imagine I've got to retype all 5,000 family members (back to 1500) into this app when I've already have them databased!

As far as the forums are a good thing to go by, Geni is offering a GEDCOM export (in alpha stage), but GEDCOM (v. 5.5) import isn't sorted out yet. It was planned for this release, but is delayed.

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AjaxLife an Odyssey

"In Homer's Iliad he (Ajax) is described as of great stature and colossal frame, the tallest and strongest of all the Achaeans, second only to his cousin Achilles in skill-at-arms, and the 'bulwark of the Achaeans'. He was trained by the centaur Chiron (who had also trained his father, Telamon, and Achilles' father Peleus), at the same time as Achilles. Aside from Achilles, Ajax is the most valuable warrior in Agamemnon's army (along with Diomedes), though he is not as cunning as Nestor, Idomeneus, or Odysseus. He commands his army wielding a great hammer and a huge shield made of seven ox-hides with a layer of bronze. He is not wounded in any of the battles described in the Iliad."

[source: Wikipedia]


In Short, Ajax is colossal, Ajax is a winner. Doesn't he just Rock?

The Trojan war is long gone, but Ajax has come back to life in AjaxLife, as an Ajax based Webbrowser for Second Life.

Katherine Berry, a TeenGrid resident has created an impressive Ajax-based client for the virtual world of Second Life. Linden Labs themselves have been working very hard on the "sim-caps project", in changing asset management, backbone construction and what have you got in preparing a move from UDP to HTTP.


"The “caps” in “sim-caps” stands for capabilities. This is a well known design pattern whose biggest success has been web cookies. Now before you all jump on that, realize that cookies, properly implemented, are what make the internet go ’round. It is how every major site with accounts keeps you logged in."


This AjaxLife webviewer might well be a messenger of what fully HTTP enabled Second Life may bring when it comes to accessability.

Here's a short piece of the original post describing AjaxLife:

Due to some combination of boredom, wanting to talk to people in SL, and inspiration from a vague memory of something Interfect Sonic did, I decided to start work on an AJAX based SL client.

It’s still under heavy development, but the result so far is an application/page/site called AjaxLife. It now works on the MG (I think!)


Features
  • Basic map
  • Teleports
  • Accepting/declining teleport offers
  • Local chat, instant messages (partially — you can’t start them except with online friends)
  • Inventory received notifications
  • Friend on/offline notifications
  • Balance change notifications, etc.

In short, a project to watch closely as it has a lot of potential. If Second Life integrates with the web it will not be long untill we see the first widgets and toolbars appear.

Here some mandatory snapshots provided by Katherine:



At the start of this blog I wrote that the Trojan War is long gone... There might be a catch.

For now, the AjaxLife is running on Katherine's server. Some of my friends were wondring what it would in terms of password logging.

This is the official statement on Katherine's blog:

"If you want to use it, and trust that I won’t look at your password (which I can’t, and nothing that this does is logged, but you should always be careful and stuff), you can test it at https://secure.katharineberry.co.uk/ajaxlife-s/login.kat"

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Eco Savvy Eolus

Although I was stressed because of my doubledate (which later evolved into a triple and even quadruple date), tonight's main venue was the sneak preview of Eolus One.

The best way of introducing Eolus is by quoting another excellent Ugotrade post:
"I met Eolus McMillan from Implenia on Second Life yesterday. And, I heard the extraordinary story of how creative minds from different backgrounds, IBM, SAP, Wago, Zumtobel and Implenia amongst others, have come together to make a major leap towards 3D internet. The fruits of this collaboration will be unveiled on July 6th, on Second Life. The picture above shows a birds eye view of EOLUS One on Second Life.

The most important aspect of this breakthrough is the EOLUS focus on Real Life and Second Life interactions that serve to make a better world - addressing many aspects from CO2 Reduction, Energy Management, Health, to Education, Collaboration , Networking, and more."


After this excellent blog, the story was quickly picked up by Nick Wilson of Metaversed who quickly arranged a podcast interview to give us a lowdown, followed up by today's Things to Do outing.





















Our host was Eolus McMillan, or Oliver Goh gave us the grand tour of the site, which started at the museum:

"Here you can see the story of how we came up with the idea of Eolus One. It basically started one evening at a European computer exhibition. Ansi and myself met there. She had a booth at the IBM stand showing digital divergence and I was there for the energy management part.

We met one evening and found that we had a common vision to merge the projects and we sketeched out a plan on a napkin, you can see it in the corner. The idea was to bring partners from cross industries together to form a think tank."

Well, on the pics below, you can see that it worked out, there are many well known names participating in this project.

"In this building we have many aspects of every day life that we cover shopping on the first floor an exhibtion/ innovation area in the second offices in the thirs together with residential and an executive floor. Behind me you see a model of a house (still in the museum), a house that I live in in RL. The house can be fully controlled from SL"



















When we came to the control room, Oliver showed us what he meant by controlling his house from Second Life.

"What you see here it the control center of Eolus One. It is actually tied to a number of rl buildings. The idea here is to show how companies can improve Facilities management services
to make the processes more efficient and improve the failure rate.


I will be able to show you the technical parts when the exhibtion opens (which should be open by the time this blog is done). The system is linked in to ERP2005 (SAP) and the whole maintenance process is shown here. You can monitor the hvac systems, change schedules, programm the building automation system and so on. The idea of the control room is that it knows the identiy of the avatar and represents the data in the context of this person. So for example if a finance person sits here he would receive other info on the screens as a technical person"

We're closing in on 7-7-7, Earth Day and Eolus is one more climate savvy project trying Second Life as stage. Yesterday I blogged on the Spanish getting climate savvy in SL as well, and today Philips was giving out energy low lamps.

However, Eolus does hold some extraordinaire potential in making real and virtual worlds interact. This is a show to watch!

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/EOLUS/128/128/0

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Kaneva Expedition

Who thought Second Life was just a hype at the start of 2007 has to rethink. Yes, perhaps Second Life is a little hyped with an absurd amount of media attention, but 2007 looks to be the year that Virtual Worlds are going mainstream in the Western World (emphasizing Western, since Cyworld already seems to be a bare necessity in Korea)

Among the many Metaverses there's Kaneva, which I visited today.

Registration was quite easy and since there are no family names, like in Second Life, I was able to register myself as VeeJayBurns.

After the registration it's time to download. The first download, the install wizard is just 2Mb, but then the full engine is downloaded, 250 Mb, after installation about 500Mb.
One of the great features of Kaneva is the personal homepage that you get as a resident - a good start to integrate Web 2.0 and Web 3D into one environment. Think of the power of integrating Second Life with Flickr, Blogger, YouTube, Twitter/pownce and Facebook all in one!
Character creation is very limited, compared to Second Life, same pretty much goes for content creation.
Uploading textures, or patters works from webpages, which is actually a better interface than the inworld upload that Second Life offers.
Another great thing about Kaneva is, besides you getting your own 'homepage', you also get your own 'home'. That does bring back memories of First Land in Second Life (which I missed out on :-( )
A thing that surprised - in a good way - was the speed of Kaneva. Movement was quite fast. On the downside, as in SpaceStage I did not meet any people or found an easy way to wander around the world.

Kaneva does have some benefits to offer, some addons that may help to create a Metaversal identity, but is lacking in other parts compared to Second Life. For instance, Second Life really has the upper hand when it comes to content creation and the openness of the world. Also the 'mandatory' orientation island exerecises may seem to be a bit overdone, but when entering a world for the first time - without any practise, does leave you at a loss sometimes.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

StageSpace - a German VW

A German VW.... Virtual World that is, not Volkswagen. Yesterday I read Tao Takashi's review of the new German Java driven Metaverse called StageSpace.

Tao, a well known blogger and respected resident of Second Life, wrote quite qn informative post so I decided to go for a quick look.
Since it's past midnight I'll stick to a few screeners:




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Monday, July 02, 2007

Metaverse news this week

Here's a short overview of intermetaversal news:

3pointD

3pointD reports on EVE online:
"With the news a few days ago that MMO space opera EVE Online had hired an in-game economist, most commentators focused on how much fun he would have compared to all the other economists in the world, and how curious it would be to read quarterly reports from an imaginary universe. I think it has broader ramifications than that, particuarly when it comes to economies such as that of Second Life and Entropia Universe, which are explicitly tied to real-world currencies. Though Second Life pushes itself as a place where real money can be earned, it has consistently done a very poor job of making any useful economic information available. Its reports don’t resemble traditional economic and business reports, and in any case lack clear explanation of their methodology. They’re useful as far as they go, but they don’t go nearly far enough — which is an inexcusable state of affairs for a place that’s advertised as a capitalist paradise. The presence of EVE’s new economist should provide at least some distant motivation for Second Life to get its economic act together."

read full article at 3pointD: EVE Online Raises Bar on Virtual Economics.

Also read on 3 pointD:
"Huge global marketing and communications company Publicis and big 3D design company Dassault have teamed up on a new plugin-based 3D browser tool called 3dswym, which will “offer a collaborative Web-based platform allowing marketers to connect directly to consumers in order to jointly create and adapt new consumer goods and new retail environments using advanced Web and 3D tools.”

read full article at 3pointD: Publicis and Dassault Dive In for a 3dswym.

Metaversed

Nick Wilson at Metaversed is keeping his eyes open as well

Metaversed reports on Cyworld
"According to GameStudy.org SK Communications, the company behind the massive online community of Cyworld recently merged with Empas, Korea's largest search engine. A quick look at SK Communications' revenue profile for 2006 shows that Cyworld is their biggest earner, having cleared them US$80 million last year. The sale of virtual assets beat out both advertizing and the sale of real-world assets via e-commerce. This is a clear demonstration of the potential of the micro-payment model in social networks of all kinds."

and on NGI:
"Network Game Interaction (NGI), a two-year old company specializing in ad insertion into both MMOG and casual games, has just secured US$10 Million in first-round venture capital funding from GSR Ventures. Currently NGI places ads in about 50 top Chinese online games, claiming a 70% coverage of the gaming populace."

read the full article at Metaversed: NGI Secures US$10 Million In VC

and even more on China:
"The most public argument for this would be Cyworld China. Since launching in June 2005 they've reached 3 million subscribers and are growing by 15,000 a day. Add to this Tencent's QQ with its half a billion registered users, and you have an audience that is accustomed to purchasing virtual items and "forming deeper connections via immersive environments."

read the full article at Metaversed: Is China's Virtual World Space About to Go Super Nova?

Ugotrade

Tish Shute has made another one of her famous lengthy and thorough reports, which as always is filled to the brim with the latest need to knows.

"I met Eolus McMillan from Implenia on Second Life yesterday. And, I heard the extraordinary story of how creative minds from different backgrounds, IBM, SAP, Wago, Zumtobel and Implenia amongst others, have come together to make a major leap towards 3D internet. The fruits of this collaboration will be unveiled on July 6th, on Second Life. The picture above shows a birds eye view of EOLUS One on Second Life."

Read the full article at Ugotrade: EOLUS Makes Leap To 3D Internet On Second Life

Ambling in Second Life

Finally there's a nice message at Aleister Kronos' Ambling in Second Life blog -again on the Virtual World business in China -
"I came across an article in the Asia Times, that you might find interesting. It concerns the burgeoning appetite - and market - for 3D virtual worlds in China. Rather than focusing on the Mindark deal, which will see Entropia entering the marketplace, it looks in more detail at the (for me) more intriguing prospect of HiPiHi. This is a "home grown" Chinese virtual world, still in Beta test, that apparently bears uncanny similarities to Second Life (although no decision has yet been taken concerning the implementation of an inworld currency)."

Read the full article on Ambling in Second Life: China and Virtual Worlds

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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... ...it 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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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Friday's Geek Meet speakers

Nick Wilson got together another team of excellent speakers for tomorrow's Geek Meet.
This session will see talks by:

The only thing is, it's kind of a late night show for us Dutchmen, as this weeks meet will start at midnight.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Metaversed uncloackes

This week we saw a sudden change at Metaversed as its spiritual father 57 Miles and cowriter Onder Skall, from Second Life Games came out of the closet and revealed their true identities.

"Caleb and I have been talking about moving to our real names on the site for some time. It seems short sighted to use Second Life avatar names on a virtual worlds news site. Though there is a downside to diluting two fairly strong brands, I think it feels right. And that's good enough reason to do it.

You can see Caleb's profile here and my updated profile here if you're interested in our backgrounds, and find out more about Metaversed authors, including how to become one," according to Nick Wilson, f.k.a. 57 Miles.

Now how does this work out? 57 Miles is indeed a strong, known brand in Second Life after months of labor, spending too much time in Second Life and blogging like crazy.

For my part, I already knew 57's true identity, as it wasn't hard to get hold on. So nothing new to me personally. And I do like the real Nick. On the other hand it leaves you wonder on privacy on the web. I've mentioned Web 2.0 is getting hard to handle. This not only counts for keeping up with many sites, blogs, email accounts and IM's, but it sure is having an impact on managing your identity. Privacy in Web 2.0 or Web 3D is hard.

Managing your identity is hard, but keeping up appearances even harder. Just Google for VeeJay Burns and you're bound to stumble on my true identity sooner or later as well. I've wondered why Ian Hughes, IBM's metaverse guru was so open about his identities at the eightbar blog. The answer is obvious: If you know and use Google, it isn't hard to find out the truth anyway.

In short, if you're trying to protect your privacy, don't get into web 2.0 or web 3D at all ;)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sketchup: Sculpties 2 Go

Well, we've reported on Sculpties coming to Second Life, as part of the 'advanced 3D modelling' things to invade Second Life. One of the questions was if this would set homegrown primbuilders back and give professional modellers an edge in using expensive 3D suites, like Maya or 3D Studio Max.

Well, here's the good news: You can start for free! I found out at the Eightbar blog that you can export Google Sketch-up as well: http://eightbar.co.uk/2006/09/29/google-sketchup-second-life-export/

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

State of the Virtual Union

It's a saturdaynight, 10pm, or 1 pm Second Life prime time, yet the grid is rather quiet today. All my homeys are offline as well. Probably spending some quality time with the family...
So here I am, while Mrs. Vee is doing the laundry with some time to browse the blogs.

All in all I'm seeing various blogs taking some time to take a real life breath and slow in posting new and wild adventures. Reuters reports that Second Life's growth is cooling down a little and concludes that Linden is in need of professional help to overcome the latest bugs and setbacks.

True enough, there have been bugs, and releases didn't quite turn out the way. I am sure the Lindens are having a bad headache this week, they just don't say the word, but LL is under pressure as residents are getting impatient. One of the things in my opinion is that LL is not communicating the challenges it faces. Give out a clear roadmap on what you're doing. They've got some cracking High Performance Teams out there who know what they're up against, yet the Tao of Linden seems to be hampering a structured Release Management approach. They're making progress though.

We're walking a path of innovation on the road to Web 3D and you just can't expect everything to be slick and smooth all at once. Second Life is not the only immersive world having it's difficulties, but since SL gets more serious press coverage than most other metaverses together, it's easy to think only Second Life faces challenges. 57 covers this to some extend as well as he reflects on the Virtual World Roadmap, reminding him of the early days of the internet, like being back at the BBS days.

Some good news is that Second Life Insider reports that eBay was discovered in Second life and IBM is running Wimbledon again, just like they did Roland Garros.

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