December 22, 2011

IBMs technology predictions and virtual worlds

Posted in Hypergrid, Metaverse, Second Life, User Experience tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 2:18 pm by SarahAndrea Royce

IBM recently published five technology predictions for the next five years and they do this regularly, so five years ago there have been some, too.

And one of that was the idea, that 3D Internet (with the example of Second Life) becomes as common, as the 2D version. Maybe this was even the start of the mediahype around Second Life.

At an article of MSN News from the time you can read the one point about it:

‘• The 3-D Internet: Pohle said this technology is “about translating the user experience on the Internet from being almost a replication of a piece of paper – a Web ‘page’ – to almost a three-dimensional experience on the Internet.” Basically, a virtual world a la Second Life, with open borders.

IBM has been experimenting with virtual environments for locales ranging from Eternal Egypt and Russia’s Hermitage Museum (open now) to China’s Forbidden City (due in 2008). Just this month, the company announced a deal with Circuit City for an experiment in Second Life retailing.

As the 3-D Internet develops, IBM says it will be aiming for the integration of virtual environments into a seamless whole.

“Instead of separate islands of virtual worlds, where you cannot cross over from one to the other in a consistent way, IBM’s vision is to allow your virtual personal to cross over from one world to another, much in the same way you can go from one page to another on the Internet without losing any consistence, enabling all sorts of new applications of the technology,” the company says in a 3-D Internet fact sheet.

Pohle said “we’re not sure where this is going to lead, but the experience you get going to a 3-D site is a very different experience from what you get using the traditional Internet or a messaging tool.”‘

Other articles often emphasized the idea to experience Real Life products in such a world and then being able to purchase them there, even todays reviews in context of the new predictions.

But how should that work? The key element for the user of 3D worlds to become immersed are mirrorneurons. You see something and it is set in context with previous experiences which then am felt again, as if they were part of the action.

Lets have a look at one project that tried exactly that. The now gone motorcompany Pontiac tried it with their car “Solstice” and the result was this car, which is still wide spread as a freebie:
2006 Pontiac Solstice

Its a very good work for its time, which in Second Life terms is actually from another age completly, and Pontiac spent quite some money in that built, yet its only an oversimplified model of the design. You could not really  judge the looks from it, if you compare it with a good ol`2D photography of the actual product:

2006 Pontiac Solstice

But when you have seen the Solstice, you can see it in the 3D Version. It even gets worse when think of actually touching the car or how it feels sitting in it. Can you judge it by seeing how your Avatar fits in? No, you won’t, with the exception that you once sat in the car and renember that while your minds alligns your experiences with that of your avatar.
And let alone the drive scripts, in Second Life those are far from a realistic driving experiencing let alone one that represents the car. In simulation games like Forza this is actually a feature. Yet even the best simulation can’t simulate the sense that rallydriver Walter Röhrl once called “Popometer” (could be translated to buttsensor), an amalagan of all sensoric impulses. I actually made the experience that good RL drivers often suck in games, because the lack of the “Popometer” leaves them somewhat blind.

So the 3D Pontiac Solstice can’t tell you anything, and somehow you only really can experience it as an Solstice, if you had at least one RL-testdrive with the car, completely turning around the idea of presenting products in a 3D world to test them there.

So if you, as a potential buyer, want to buy a product, your still left with 2D photos and information sheets and a real life experienced testdrive (our testseating on a couch, e.g.) while 3D only has shortcomings, at least as long as there is no metaverse available with the simulationquality of the (movie-)Matrix.

Its quite similar with other tasks. You can write your emails in Second Life or OpenSim, or even do quite some more “work” of that kind in case its available as online application with the option of viewing websites inworld, but why should you, when the very desktop or notebook you use to access the virtual world is by far better suited for the task. Information is often presented in 2D because another dimension adds no value to it.

So what is really missing to make 3D internet is a killer application, something everyone needs to do and that is (almost) only possible in an immersive, shared, 3D envirenment.

I was suggested to me that learning and meetings / presentations could be that, but in my opinion it fails on the fact that you have to be already immersed into a virtual world, before it becomes beneficial, lacking the easy access that is needed to make it into a killer application. Another area, where 3D Internet can be very beneficial is the health sector, yet it is to hope that we are never in a situation where nearly everyone needs this.

I really don’t see how 3D Internet would ever be as common as the 2D Internet, and I don’t think it will ever reach a high penetration, while often those who found their use of it, like me, hold it very dearly.

Yet one prediction of IBM came true, that there will be a more indipendent approach and that virtual worlds would be not really seperated anymore. This technology is here with Open Simulator and the Hypergrid.

December 19, 2011

The blender trail

Posted in Grids tagged , , , at 1:54 pm by SarahAndrea Royce

When I started using Second Life last year, one thing that really was the source of my joy was the learning curve. I learned to steer my avatar, change its shape, make basic prims, make clothing, make hair (of each I completed only one to market level), done scripting, particles but than came a hugh wall. A learning curve that was so steep that my attempts to climb up that mountain failed several times and my motivation to try again was on an all time low. Besides the times where I hadn’t time for virtual worlds and each time I restarted with this particular subject it seemed like I couldn’t remember anything learned and had to start all over.

This subject was sculpties.

Or to be more exact, Blender. Or to be even more exact, the combination of the complexity of both. I had experimented with 3D Design a bit about 10 years ago on a very basic level, with the then actual version of 3D Studio Max and an experimental 3D modelling tool by Corel that came with its Version 8 of the Suite ( I used it up until Version 9, ignoring Adobe pretty much until last year) but that was not enough to make it easy to start over with the complex userinterface of blender which, at least from a windowsusers point of view, was very unintuitive. Added to that the special limitations of sculpities which would require an experienced modeller to grasp the concepts easily.

So, for a while I gave up.

But then came meshes. Much more easy as the promise is you model your object and can just export it to collada, to be able to import it to Second Life (or any up to date OpenSim). And thus it eased one part of the learning curve – I just could learn from any tutorial and use whatever I built freely. Yet I really developed a kind of anxiety to the concept of Blender, as I often had my work destroyed with one or two wrong keyboardclicks there and I got myself a test version of the actual 3D Studio Max Version, which comes with a better UI – or so I thought. It was more icon based, thats all, as soon as I made my first steps I recognized that with all my tries with blender, I already got a bit used to its userinterface and concepts and that 3D Studio Max once again would mean to start all over (*). And after all, mesh is not the best solution for everything, many an object in Second Life would best be served with a combination of standard prims (cheap at all sizes, quite flexible if you like to torture then), Sculpties – weighing always one prim, yet providing you with a many faces mesh, which would be primweigh-expensive with actual mesh. And I found myself, again, doing blender tutorials.

Blender Trail
Machinimatrix really has made some great tutorials over time: The blender Trail

Which at the same time tell you something about how you model with Blender and how you optimize for Sculpie, and not stopping there, having the first tutorials for meshoptimization, too. Yet the sculpting part is not complete, I still try to figure out how to stamp holes in meshobjects, e.g. but I’m more motivated now.

I even made a first sculptie completely without following a tutorial, its the bottle in the picture above. Yet it didn’t work out as I wanted, I have to admit, it should me a classic cola bottle, with its 12 dents around it, which were clearly visible in the modelling, but didn’t survive the sculptbaking process. So I think I need to redo that tutorial about doing high precision sculpts 😉

I think I finally managed finally the first steep passage on the way, and now it gets more easy, and I can finally really do something useful and build with my own sculpties and meshes.

(*) Which is a good thing, after all, 3D Studio Max has a pricetag of several thousand dollar

December 17, 2011

Theres quite a discussion about the new old shine

Posted in Grids at 1:36 pm by SarahAndrea Royce

Not everyone loves the new old shine as much as I do. Theres quite a discussion on the Jira ( https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/SH-1912? ) with some people on the opposite of my stand whom I value dearly.

Niran who builts Nirans viewer (an inofficial successor of Kirstens viewer) even said he will most likely not implement it in his viewer because from his point of view, it destroys a lot of content that was especially built for the way shine was handled with shadow. An important difference, at least at the first look, is that at least the highest setting of shine changes the color of the object. On the other hand, with the previous shadow-shine it was simply not possible to look anything realistically shine like metal. Be it metal itself like chrome or gold or a carcolor. You can see all of it in this image of my roadster:
Roadster in SL and alive
While without shadow, what is chrome is then white and what is a dark red metallique color is just plain red and looks like cheap plastic.

And I honestly think that nearly everything with the old shadow-shine looks exactly like that: Plastic. With exceptions, I made a matrix of my “peace of art” under different conditions, comparing the old ways on polished stone:

For discussions about old and new shine

Here you see another problem. In shadow, without an additional lightsource and ignoring the ambient light, there is simply no visible shine leaving to the eye a blob of undefineable something.

And I really think there is much more content broken with the old shadow-shine, now with better options for actually using shadow for more and more people, than there is content that was built to the ways of the old shadow-shine.

What do you think?

December 16, 2011

Now with shadow, there is chrome, too.

Posted in Second Life at 1:21 am by SarahAndrea Royce

It was a long while that shine effects where handled quite different with shadows activated and lightsources spread their light through all walls. You had one “layer” of shadow and if you were inside a building, you usually had just the usual ambient light left.

As Inara Pey pointed out, with the last Betaviewer, there was a change to this: Lighting projectors: Adding depth to SL

Now with the newest Beta Viewer, they fixed the problem with the shine too. So finally you can have chrome, gold or other metalleffects like you had them without shadow and it stays the same way with shadows too.

Quite a while ago, I made a photo that demonstrates the effect quite well on my own work:

Shadow looks good, o well, o no, what is this????
(Its not the nices angle for the car 😉 )

This photo I made today:

Now with Shadow, there is chrome

They work more and more on the details, speeding up with use of a modernized OpenGL for the FPS, lighting and now shine, they definatly are way ahead now from all other viewers in terms of looks.

December 14, 2011

I did it.

Posted in Second Life at 6:02 pm by SarahAndrea Royce

When I wrote about my experiences travelling the Route2 on Heterocera, I wrote
I even found a very nice free spot with access to the road and to the sea, which for the first time ever made me think if owning land in Second Life may be an option
About a month long I again and again visited said spot, and than there was that Linden Lab special with a quarter of a year premium for half price, and I thought, OK, now or never and first I upgraded my subscription and then made the biggest purchase ever in SL, investing about the same amount of money for it as I have paid for my entire SL-Experience before.
I bought the red spot on the Region Algira:
The red spot on Algira is mine
It has access to the Route 2 on one side and (protected) access to the water on the other.

So the first thing I built was a parking deck where I can keep my favourite cars rezzed and directly start tours from my home.
Parkdeck
As I wanted to use the space as ergonomicly as possible I mad a rotating ramp which I tested in a sandbox over and over again to find the right size and hight an added the parkdeck afterwards. So this set the basic outline for my builing, which I wanted to do as much with that flair of the french reviera as possible. This is a view from the street side.
I was very active
The building left enaugh space for banks and flowers and, a plan I have, some waterplays, maybe a bit inspired by the Bellagio in Las Vegas. But I’m still active with the basic outlining and I have to watch prims here (for which there is no need on my OpenSim).

On the water side I opened the house into some balconies:
Today I closed the last gap on the balconie-side
and a peer:
Parts of my home and my peer
At first only with a freebie Sailboat, which is in fact a pretty nice one. I actually thought this would be more of a piece of eye candy since there are no additional water regions on the western side of Heterocera, only what is “leftover” on each sim, but when my new neighbour and I discussed the “December Premiumgift” and I rezzed it to have a closer look, we sponanously made a tour, and I found out, that I can sail about 10 Sims down south and back if I like, before there are borders, where no space is left for a passing boat.
The next day my neighbour came over with some pretty nice photos from the event:
My neighbour showed me his photos
And I really had the urge to get a motorboat. A small one, no yacht, and one with a classic look please. So I ended up with the fine Capri:
Exploring the neighbourhood
Under the main building there is still some room, which I will prepare for a shop, but want to stay true to the french riviera idea and make typical small storefronts. Under the ramp I made a dance floor and an attached stage, both overgrown with wineyards. And, feeling happy to have such a friendly neighbour I build a pathway between his and my land, which even doubles as virtually growing his small 512m2 spot a bit.

Its really a whole new experience, having a building in such an area with cars and boats readily parked for a nice tour
I let my neighbour sail the boat
Only sad thing is the neighbour to my right who uses his spot for a rudimentary built shop, only wrapped in some alpha-forrest-textures, and the landlord who sells some of the land around mine, blocking the waterways somewhat with ugly plates and even more annoying bright lightpoles. I do not really belief it helps him with land sales, because who wants a spot of land in the mids of this?
Landlords that destroy the second life experience

Meanwhile I’m quite happy to show my friends around
With Kim
Having Friends over

By the way. I have an “open policy” no banlines or such crap, and autoreturn is set to 5 minutes if you want to rez something. So, eg. you can come by on one the road 2, park your car on the parkdeck, go to the waterfront and rez your boat to start sailing, later can come back and rerezz the car to continue your tour on the road.