Saturday, 28 February 2015

Crowdfund Settlement News & Next Public Meeting Info

Dahlia Trimble has fixed the llLookAt() function for OpenSim and it works beautifully according to Fred Beckhusen who has tested it extensively. It is very low-lag with a modified sensorless script Dahlia gave him to test with and he put a high-def video version of how well it works on Vimeo seen here...

llLookAt is Fixed! from Ferd Frederix on Vimeo.

Now we have this success the Pledge Makers readily agreed at a private meeting on Friday 27th to pay a bounty of $1200 to Dahlia Trimble and the breakdown of payments due by the Pledge Makers is as follows...
 

Talla Adam (Kitely Grid) $120
Shin Ingen  (Ingen Lab Grid) $120
Fred Beckhusen (Outworldz Grid) $300
Selby Evans (Virtualoutworlding blog) $300
Gavin Hird (Geir Nøklebye  @ Xmir Grid) $30
Terry Ford ( Butch Arnold @ 3rd Rock Grid) $60
Michael Sietz (Digital Worlds Group LLC) $210
Alex Ferraris  (Avi-Labs/Aviworlds) $60

Progress info for this fund is here.
 

The target sum for the fund was $2000 and that was reached but the way we work is to ask the developer what they would like for payment if they complete the work and Dahlia asked for $1200. That left a surplus $800 which it was agreed the pledge makers would hold their own share for a time and it might be called on for follow-up maintenance of the code. Dahlia agreed to make minor tweaks and adjustments free of charge but anything major will, it is hoped, be covered by the surplus fund. 

We now hold public meetings at various grids on the last Sunday of the month where we hear proposals and debate them. A proposal can be made by anyone at the public meeting for some new code feature or to fix a bug in some important feature the community really world like to see working properly. Once the proposal has been considered we ask if anyone will guarantee at least half the target sum considered sufficient to interest an Opensim developer. We then call for pledges and publish a Crowdfunding request to Opensim Virtual with details of the item proposed. It is possible we may get more than one proposal at the meeting but since this has to be handled in Administration going forward I may only take the first proposal that gets a guarantor and postpone other proposals to the next meeting. It is basically a simple system that actually works and has produced quick results in the first project.

The next public meeting to hear & debate new proposals will be held Sunday 1st March 8pm GMT/ 3pm EST/ 12pm PST.
HG address: grid.xmir.org:8002:Barcola


For those of you who live in Europe and don't relate to GMT, the meeting is 21.00 Central European Time.

Friday, 30 January 2015

ZanGrid to join the Hypergrid And Other Metaverse News

On the 1st February, Zandramas becomes ZanGrid and the Club region will open to Hypergrid visitors so ZanGrid is set to join the open Metaverse and start welcoming a whole new bunch of visitors. 3rd Rock Grid showed the way last year and, after many months of agonizing on the merits and risks of Hypergrid, and working to persuade their residents that it would benefit the grid, they opened up a number of regions and gave their residents the option to be open or remain closed on an individual basis.






Butch Arnold, CEO of 3rd Rock, said their grid is seeing more traffic since they opened HG and some visitors have registered accounts with us. I told Butch I see your traffic is up some and he replied, "it is indeed.. almost doubled since October." The grid uses partial Hypergrid which blocks most content leaving the grid other than note cards and landmarks. Anything can be brought in of course so that includes deliveries from Kitely Market but Butch told me they are still working on their system.

ZanGrid has the benefit of seeing the success 3rd Rock is making of its entry into connected worlds of Hypergrid and, no doubt, they will look closely at their achievements. In any event, I am certain ZanGrid will see a boost in visitor traffic.

Opensim Virtual Crowdfund Meeting...

 
OV will be holding a meeting for the pledge makers to discuss the current Crowdfunding project to have llLookAt and llMoveTo fixed. 3rd Rock Grid  was chosen by me to hold the first meeting and Butch Arnold said he was happy to offer a venue and any help they can give. I'm drawing up a policy (or charter) to present to the pledge makers which sets out how we will operate the fund. 
Fred Beckhusen’s flying bee. (Image courtesy Fred Beckhusen.)

Everyone is welcome to attend the meeting though but the first part will not be open for general discussion. I want to make sure the pledge makers have their say and get to decide how we proceed. Once that is out of the way then I'll invite the audience to ask questions and engage each other in debate if they wish to.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 9 PM which is 8 pm UK, 3 PM EST and noon PST on Sunday 1st February 2015.

The pledge makers who have confirmed by email are as follows...



Talla Adam (Kitely Grid) $200
Shin Ingen (Ingen Lab Grid) $200
Fred Beckhusen (Outworldz Grid) $500
Selby Evans (Virtualoutworlding blog) $500
Geir Nøklebye (Xmir Grid) $50
Butch Arnold (3rd Rock Grid) $100
Michael Sietz (Digital Worlds Group LLC) $100

Alex Ferraris (Avi-Labs Grid) $100

That makes a total so far of $1750 confirmed pledges and the target is $2000.


Update (2nd Feb 2015): Crowdfund Meeting at 3rd Rock grid 

The meeting at 3rd Rock grid was fruitful and went well. Turnout was about 20 from other grids including all but one of the Pledge makers. They all teleported in successfully via Hypergrid. Apart from the loss of some attachments like hair everything seemed normal and relatively lag free. There is a log of the meeting posted here on it's own page together with a video from Fred Beckhusen illustrating the issues the Crowdfund is being raised to try and address. Opensim United also posted the log and pictures. 

Michael Sietz (Digital Worlds Group LLC) has also raised his pledge to $350 bringing the fund up to the target sum of $2000. I regret no more pledges can be accepted now.


Follow-up news on the Crowdfunding progress will be posted to the Crowdfund-log page on this site so please stay tuned!


 Closed Grids & Hypergrid traffic neck & neck but every way is up!
 
Ever since Maria Korolov published last month's traffic metrics on Hypergrid Business and declared that the Hypergrid worlds now were leading in total visitor traffic I have been watching our own Grid Search metrics closely. Our search engine updates all the metrics twice a week presently and displays a breakdown of which part of the Metaverse is getting the most traffic. Last month, according to HB, the combined closed grids figure was down below that for the combined Hypergrid worlds. But according to Grid Search, which tracks the most active grids, the none-Hypergrid worlds are still leading. In fact I have noticed a recent surge in Inworldz traffic which is helping to keep the none-HG grids up above the enabled grids.

The value of these metrics is questionable however and it has been pointed out that the closed grids display only unique logins while the open grids display both unique logins and Hypergrid visits which skew the figures. What they say is the same person might login at their own grid then visit other grids via Hypergrid thus pushing up the numbers if they get around a lot of them. On the other hand, people say the closed grid owners create large numbers of alternative name accounts and log them in just once a month which also skews their figures too. Other's just ignore all this and look at the trend which is generally positive in any event.


But today's figures were amazingly close regardless. They are as follows...
Total Active Grids: 188

Distributed Regions: 34879
Registered Users: 415096
Monthly Active Traffic: 24802
Est' Daily Peak Traffic: 886
Hypergrid Traffic: 12400
Closed Grid Traffic: 12402


You can take these numbers any way you like but they are drawn from the grid splash pages either manually or by our scraper program. incidentally, I recently made some code improvements so I could start to display individual regions of interest too and I will be looking at the code again with a view to increasing the number of splash pages the scraper can read so we can run it daily. Not only will that save me a lot of work it should be possible to show which grids are online or not.


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Crowdfunding Opensim Development & Metaverse News!

There have been many calls to crowdfund Opensim features the community would like to see implemented but no concrete proposals to date have been made. Crowdfunding is not new and has proved very effective in getting new projects and ideas developed. Oculus Rift came into existence due initially to Crowdfunding. The Mesh Deformer was also supported by Second Life merchants in a Crowdfunding call and, while Linden Lab rejected it, the open Metaverse Inworldz grid took it up and had it developed for their residents but also donated the code as a feature of Opensim Viewers.




A few days ago J.Duke posted a topic to OV asking when we would get Havok physics because he wanted to bring his articulated truck trail system to the open grids (see link: http://bit.ly/1DyaX15 ) and, of course, Opensim is not going to get the Havok system because it's too expensive. However, Fred Beckhusen, the well known scripter in both SL and OS, said it's not the physics we need to change but llLookAt and llMoveTo are broken in Opensim code and need fixing if we are to see improvements in vehicle function of the kind J. Duke is looking for.

I felt this called for a Crowdfunding solution to get Dev's interested in working on it so today I'm making a personal pledge of $200 ( and I might donate more if the the pledges come in) to launch the campaign to raise a bounty. Fred Beckhusen has also said he is willing to help fund this so lets get it started. Is our community committed enough to help raise this bounty? What about those who make money running a business on the Opensim platform code, the commercial grid owners and Hosting companies,  will they pledge money and earn community kudos?

Initially, I think we might set a target of $2000 which, if mostly funded, can be claimed by any developer, or dev's, that successfully solve the problems and submit effective code to the core Opensim team. I will keep the community informed both here and at OV.

How will we do this?

Keeping it simple. We can use the comments here or at G+ Opensim Virtual to discuss the project and make a pledge if anyone want to. Please don't pledge what you might not honor and not less than $10. Nothing will be collected by me but once we have the working code in Opensim and there are no issues (Members will test it for sure) then I will declare the bounty available to whoever is recognized as responsible for the code contribution. Those who made pledges will then be asked to send their donation to the named bounty claimant - probably through Paypal so the claimant will need to have an active account and let us know they have received the money. There maybe a better way to do this so I'm open to suggestions.

So, there you have it. Money will be pledged and put on the table. If any Opensim developer is reading this wants to email me and make me aware privately of their interest then you can reach me at talla0adam|AT|gmail.com


Aviworlds Re-launched & Alex strikes back with Avi-Labs
The dramas surrounding the "bouncing" grid, Aviworlds might have settled down some now as Mike Hart has finally rested control from Alex Ferraris and re-launched it but not without Alex announcing the launch of yet another grid, Avi-Labs aimed mainly at his old following in the Brazilian community. Aviworlds, however, is making a strong pitch for the Brazilians by including greeters at their welcome region that speak the language.

Presently, Alex Ferraris is not a member of OV having departed recently. Actually, he has been in and out of OV almost as often as he has opened and closed Aviworlds when he still owned it. Anyway, I have been urged not to let Alex back because people are saying he just gets embroiled in dramas which reflect badly on the Open Metaverse community in general. This does mean Avi-Labs may not be promoted at OV but I have now let Aviworlds be promoted here since the ownership issue appear to be settled. Alex Ferraris says about Avi-Labs, "steaming ahead for a place in the top ten most popular grids in the metaverse." It will be interesting to see how these rival grids measure up to each other in the traffic metrics.
 

Breaking News: Zandramas Grid to change name to Zangrid
Making the announcement at their new G+ community ZanGrid, Suz Blessed posted  "Soon Zandramas will be ZanGrid :)  Same grid  just a different name, That is all :)". ZanGrid (Zandramas) is a grid people can join on invite and referral only. 



Finding Grids, Venues, Shopping and getting traffic
Opensim Virtual has its own Search Engine capable of finding most known grids. See the Metaverse link above for a demonstration of it in action on this blog. The Search can also be used in an Opensim Viewer such as Kokua to find and display the login splash pages of various grids. It may be used in-world too by opening a browser window in the viewer and searching for regions to visit. The Login link may also open a Landmark in-world which you can click to teleport or you can copy and paste HG addresses directly into the world map and TP from there. It works really well in Singularity but due to the V1 nature of that viewer it tends to open a web browser on your desktop which it shouldn't. The latest Firestorm viewer is currently broken too for opening landmarks and splash pages, so testing has proved. To use the engine in world call the address: http://www.x-retro-x.com/search.php

 


Using Grid Search is easy. Just select a category and enter a search term and the engine will display a selection of grids and regions matching the search criteria. The displayed items also show the current traffic data and a popup preview with a brief description of the grid. If a grid is open to Hypergrid then the address is shown too for copy & paste.

Gird owners who don't see their grid in Search can ask for it to be added by sending an email to
talla0adam|AT|gmail.com. Please note that the engine is designed to rate grids according to their traffic level so that busy worlds appear at the top of the display results. This means that grids which don't display traffic data on their splash pages will always be low in results and may not appear at all if they are off-line too much.

Finally, I do aim to do more work on our search engine so it can more easily find what users are looking for but it works well enough even now.



Monday, 7 July 2014

Who will build the first billion user Virtual World?

Just recently we have learned from Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab, that they has been quietly working on a new, more advanced Second Life. But the announcement comes not only after the much hyped High Fidelity already in development by former Lab CEO and SL inventor, Philip Rosedale, but also not so long after Facebook bought up Oculus Rift for 2 $billion as well. And so we now get the ground shattering news that Facebook's Oculus developers are part of FB's aim to build the first billion user virtual world!




Interesting that Ebbe has been saying something similar stating that Second Life Two (or SL2 for want of a name) will be aimed at a mass audience with the clear intention of breaking out of the niche corner it's been in for the past 11 years and try to get on the mainstream social network bandwagon. He is on record saying it's going to be "Multi-device from day one (including phones). "We're building the next-generation platform for hundreds of millions of people; not for millions of people." he said in an interview. So it probably is no coincidence either that Oculus CEO, Brendan Iribe mentioned the "Metaverse" specifically while speaking about Facebook's Oculus acquisition at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference. He said his team were very surprised to learn exactly what Facebook's aims were which amount to nothing less than a massive Facebook virtual world with its own cities, entertainment venues, businesses including a currency and full commerce - not unlike the current Second Life model basically but more advanced and fully supporting aspects of virtual reality such as the Oculus Rift goggles of course.

So it's clear the race is on and, arguably, Linden Lab has the experience and a good head start to launch the first of the next generation of virtual worlds where cartoonish avatars are replaced by life-like virtual representations of real people. The graphics will be stunning for sure and lag will be a thing of the past. The new avatars will work, play, shop and socialize online like never before. Imagine buying real world goods in a virtual Amazon store where you get to see demonstrations exactly what a product will do. Imagine too, dressing your avatar in beautifully crafted top brand clothes that are available for real by mail order. So long as you create an avatar that is an honest clone of your real self then you'll be able see how the latest fashions look on you as you strut your stuff in your Oculus goggles. Moreover, the next generation of virtual worlds will almost certainly be seen on a web page rather than downloading a viewer for, if you recall, Cloud Party, which made use of WebGL to render their world in a browser, was bought up by Yahoo very recently too. Firefox and Google Chrome are both planning to add special features in order to allow virtual reality support in their browsers which will advance this much further (see here). What we are seeing now is that all the right peices are coming together and the big players are gearing up to take advantage of a true virtual reality revolution in the making.

gears of war 2 ipad wallpaper via: idesignnetwork.com

You can expect the learning curve to be much lower too and it is probable that new ways to interact with the world like using head sensors that detect brain wave paterns (see Emotiv Insight) so the user can literally think what they want to do or even use facial expressions to direct actions - no hands needed! Possibly there wont even be any building tools in the browser version either because it will be aimed at a mass consumer audience and the creative people and those who want to make money will be offered separate developer software at a high price no doubt thus ensuring the big players with the money to invest enjoy something like an exclusive developers club. In any event you can bet your bottom dollar all the big online stores will want a very prominent and focused presence and that will mean huge sums of money being invested in desgin and presentation not to mention the fees to the VW platform owners.
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of virtual world and MMO fashion
cutesy of New World Notes
Identity and privacy are big issues for the current VW users and Facebook's refusal to allow pseudonyms could turn out to be its Achilles heal when it comes to trying to rule the Metaverse. Linden Lab policy is firmly rooted in respecting their residents use of pseudonyms and it's hard to see how that can change while, for Facebook users, they have been conditioned (some would say brain washed) to reveal all to the world so FB can exploit it for the benefit of the advertisers. It could happen though that if SL2 is to go mainstream as Ebbe hopes then the Lab policy might change on identity too. However, the Facebook virtual world even with it's real names policy is going to be a lot different from the current experience of checking FB 15-20 times a day to see what real world friends and relatives are doing but I doubt anyone really knows just how much of a difference it will be. People prance around in front of their Wii now to get fit and do sports so will they prance about wearing Oculus goggles doing similar things with their friends and relatives in a virtual space in stead? Will people be floating along in the new FB/Yahoo/Linden Metaverse while actually on some kind of tread mill? Mores the point will everyone want to look like super models because they can? And you can bet your life the Adult industry will wade in with every which way to enjoy virtual sex. I mean, think of Haptic technology that provides physical sensations where "acoustic radiation" stimulates a sense of touch on the skin without the need for cumbersome gloves and body suits. There are so many questions one could ask about a Facebook virtual world but it's coming and I don't think Linden investors want to miss out this time round.

Now, we know that there is a lot of disquiet amongst Second Life residents on whether the Second Life they know and love will close after the new platform is launched and also whether or not the residents can take their names and inventory with them. Ebbe gave some
Picture Credit: Emotiv Insight
rather mixed messages on this saying on the one hand you will probably be able to take your stuff but on the other hand he says they are not interested in backward compatibility. Linden Lab is a business after all so it’s not really surprising that the Lindens are saying they have no plans to close SL1 because it would be financial suicide to say otherwise. Ebbe Altberg just hasn't been choosing his words very well but there is enough in what he has said to suspect they are keeping the "antique" SL1 afloat while its high pricing model continues to finance the development of SL2 and their other products.


Picture Credit: Sinful Robot
So, the Lindens are saying they wont close SL1 but they are not saying too much about SL2 other than it will be a lot better but really a lot of this is all corporate double speak and the Lindens have a pretty poor record when it comes to dealing with their residents. The directors seem to care nothing for the fact Second Life is a social entity and huge passions are stirred up when changes are made. To the directors it's a business in which business decisions are made with all regard to what will maintain and improve the profitability of the company. Don't be surprised to be told SL1 is closing once SL2 is firmly on the road. It will just be a business decision that has probably already been taken but, for now, they have to keep the golden goose alive. Linden executives have their price like any other business the world over so don't be too surprised either if SL2 ends up another Facebook acquisition in its drive to become the ruler of the Metaverse.






Monday, 23 June 2014

Linden Lab CEO Promises a Brave New Second Life - Don't Panic!

So, Linden Lab CEO, Ebbe confirms the Lab is working on a new virtual world platform that may eventually replace Second Life but he proceeded to avoid giving detailed answers to questions about it on SLU. Well, I guess it's good PR if nothing else for a reigning Linden Overlord to even take the time to brave the SLU hoards to answer anything at all but, in the Lab's time honored capacity for doublespeak, he managed the Q&A rather well I thought even in the face of off-topic TOS questions thrown at him by Karl Karl Stiefvater, the former Lab employee known as Qarl Linden. Of course, Ebbe was just avoiding answering him and barely acknowledged his posts. In fact Ebbe's answers to most questions about the new platform were remarkably brief. The essence of what he had for answers was; it's too early to say what it will be or, in an actual answer to another question on SLU; "What can you tell us about the graphic engine? Home made, third party or mix?" Ebbe replied bluntly, "Secret for now..."

The Sorcerer tricks Aladdin and offers "new lamps for old lamps".
Robida Aladin (1848-1926) illustration from page4


One SLU member was moved to post, "I've seen chatbots that are better at engaging in conversations than Ebbe has been in this thread." So I think this Q&A is not going to tell us much but from what I gather, and going by what the last CEO, Rod Humble said in the past the Lab has been working on their new creative spaces - as Humble liked to call virtual worlds after he reckons to have finally got the idea of what Second Life is - which included Patterns and all the other video games released under his tenure. So, while Ebbe admitted the project has been in development for some time the best he can say is that it will be better than Second Life. Presumably that means it is going to be very similar to SL but built on a new server engine and platform code base that was confirmed in a roundabout way when Ebbe said, in answer to another question, that it was too difficult to upgrade the current SL platform saying "Too difficult and too time consuming." So it will be completely new and yet probably little different in business model and that is how I understood his reply to another question; "but we're thinking of it to be similar to SL in that way...but better."


One wonders how much is this about changing the business model and how much about innovation. Too early to tell but Ebbe does seem to be more forthcoming on the business plan for SL2 and not a lot said otherwise about the platform.

He did say, however, that, "We're early in our discussions about business models but I'm thinking lower land tax and higher sales tax and ultimately aim to make things up with volume...(charge less to many rather than a lot to a few). This is possible with better tech and making something more people want to be part of." So now I'm getting the platform will be better coded, new engine, and a new business model as well. The new revenue model Ebbe says he would like is probably what they are planning anyway and given that Rod Humble already bought up the video gaming site, Desura I kind of have an idea what might be on the cards. Well, it all goes back to the TOS issue really for the Lab has already given themselves the rights to take all that content the residents created and use it in anyway they want. Now think of how Steam profits from user content and my guess is something similar is going to happen with SL2. No, I don't think the Lab will sell our stuff but in the new system they will control the market much more than they can do now in SL1 and I suspect it will cost the traders a lot more to do business. Moreover, I doubt prim objects will have a place in the new system and the avatars will be a totally new model as well. Therefore the system will, I'm sure, only be compatible for Mesh uploads and probably voxels rather than prim's. Bottom line is the residents will need a new wardrobe and houses and furniture. Well, Ebbe said it would cost more for the many and less for the few. I can't see anyway that can happen if those who currently enjoy free entertainments and lots of freebies and low cost quality products aren't forced out or made to pay something towards the upkeep of the platform.


Is there a connection?
Desura From Wikipedia: Linden Lab, the makers of shared creative spaces including Second Life, Patterns, Creatorverse, on July 10, 2013 announced that Linden Lab acquired Desura. The service would continue uninterrupted for current customers and the team and technology become a part of Linden Lab. After acquiring Desura, Linden Lab changed their Terms of Service to include the wording that they have future rights to use and adapt content from their virtual citizens. Speculation exists as to whether the acquisition of Desura is tied to this change in TOS.

Some might see it as a good thing but, personally, I reserve judgement until learn more about SL2. Right now it's all pretty vague but I'm pretty sure some panic will set in especially among the Land Barons. I mean, if it will cost the few less then the people that have been paying the most in SL1 the land owners and renters are looking at lower tier and with low tier and possibly a lower setup fee will almost certainly mean more of the renters will become land owners. The Land Barons might still get a deal but are they likely to get favorable enough reductions in setup fees in SL2? Considering they still hold expensive land in SL1 so what will become of that investment? Maybe the Lab will try to encourage take up with special deals from the start until the thing gains critical mass and then, yeah, you bet they will hike the tier anyway as they did in SL1 so, ultimately, the few will probably pay not much less and the content creators will pay a whole lot more. All the rest will still likely get a free lunch but they might have to pay a membership fee next time round. I really think the Lab should be wary of the Land Barons though. They could start sending powerful shots across their bows by dropping a lot of their most expensive none-grandfathered sims as they did after the Lab offered low cost setup's to residents one weekend a couple of years ago. The land model as it stands benefits the Barons and any threat to that could have damaging consequences.


One SLU comment said, "I am glad the cat is out of the bag, we would have invested in a bunch of new sims soon. Of course all new projects have been cancelled now." To which a reply came, saying, "Or, you might want to milk the current land model for all you can while it's there. Ebbe mentioned earlier that he'd like to see the new thing's fee structure less dependent on land. It's quite possible that land barons will find themselves in a drastically different business, if there is a place for them at all."

How will this affect Opensim?

Actually, I rather think Opensim grids will do alright out of it because if SL1 doesn't get much more development or new features because it is now left with just a caretaker team then this will give Opensim chance to overtake SL1 in terms of quality and innovation. In fact I think there is scope here to advance Opensim in new ways like adding new building tools and even voxels perhaps - especially if only to replace
terrain hightmap  since voxels have the  ability to represent overhangs, caves, arches, and other 3D terrain features. I think the avatar might be improved too while the Lab has decided that SL1 is too much of a problem to change. There may not be an open source viewer for SL2 either so all the more reason for the TPV developers and Opensim developers to work closer together to bring on new features that benefit Opensim while not available to SL1. We have seen in the latest releases of Opensim substantial improvements and now with new physics and variable size regions it is already ploughing ahead anyway. And, as I already said, I seriously doubt it will be possible to upload old prim content to SL2 either. Ebbe said they didn't want to be constrained by backwards compatibility although Siana Gearz, commenting on Hypergrid Business insisted Ebbe said at the meeting that he's quite certain porting content over from Second Life into new platform by original creators will be possible, even though we know that the technical architecture of the content will be different. She then stated, "I was there for the whole duration of his visit, I know what he was asked and what he said. The content porting question came up multiple times and he finally said "I think it should be possible." However, given the vagueness of the Ebbe's answers to most questions I really think you have to take what he is saying at best with a large pinch of salt.

I seriously doubt SL2, which is still a long way off, poses any near term threat to Opensim anyway and, if anything does, I rather suspect it will be High Fidelity since Philip Rosedale has stated it will be open source and embrace the Hypergrid concept as well as private ownership of the servers. But, of course, High Fidelity is a way off too and yet I see Kitely Virtual is already a contributor to the code base which indicates to me they are hedging their bets and that gives me reason to believe High Fidelity is the one to watch, not SL2. However, I still think Opensim has a lot going for it and the uncertainties and house moving pains the SL residents will have to go through in the next few years will just add to the appeal of the free Metaverse.


SLU

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Introducing Replex Viewer for Opensim & Second Life

Maintained and packaged by Latif Khalifa, the viewer developer also responsible for the Radegast lightweight text client, the viewer is based on Singularity code with many new features including object Import/Export enhancements supporting Materials (specular and normal maps), Object Physics and Light Image. There is code merged from CtrlAltStudio Viewer to support the Xbox 360 controller as well as added support for Controller Keys, A = Alt, B = Shift, X = Ctrl, Y = Escape,   Back = Toggle Flycam mode (fun!), Start = Toggle Cursor mode, Right Stick Click = Toggle Mouselook, Left Stick Click = Jump/Fly - all of which gives this V1 viewer added support for Oculus Rift and virtual reality. There is a lot more including options to change the buttons on the UI and a handy option to enable an emergency teleport when you are AFK during a region restart.


Image courtesy of Replex



There is no formal release date yet but you can download the dev versions to test drive from the Replex site.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Walking With Avatars in Virtual Reality

Recently I posted a topic about virtual reality headsets and glasses to Opensim Virtual, the Google Plus community pages for sharing information about the free Metaverse and said I would certainly prefer these rather more stylish glasses illustrated on the cover of Clyde DeSouza book, MAYA  than the
present Oculus Rift head set, and wouldn't it be nice, I added, if it was equipped to read the wearer 's brain wave patterns to enable hands free keyboard and mouse functions? Well, it so happens that brain wave readers, or Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) have been around as long as those old cumbersome head sets used from the 1980's onward to explore virtual reality. Even back then great big expensive embedded electroencephalograph (EEG) readers were used in the laboratory to send neurofeedback to equally expensive mainframe computers for analysis. But now there are relatively cheap head sensors and software that could be adapted to work with the Oculus Rift and the other new headsets in development.

Emotiv Insight, developed by Vietnamese emigre, Tan Lee and funded by a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign raising $1,643,117 recently, is a "sleek, multi-channel, wireless headset that monitors your brain activity and translates EEG into meaningful data you can understand" according to the makers. It is expected to start shipping in early 2014 and will be compatible with Android, iOS, Mac, Linux and Windows Platforms. The company will also be supplying an API and SDK for developers and researchers.

Picture Credit: Emotiv Insight
Basically, the Emotiv Insight can do exactly what I thought would solve the problem of hands free control while experiencing virtual reality. You just train the Emotiv Insight by thinking and making facial movements. The makers say, "the brainwear can understand and decipher basic mental commands. It can detect commands such as push, pull, levitate, rotate and even commands that are harder to visualize such as disappear. It also detects facial expressions such as blinks, winks, frown, surprise, clench and smile."

Couple all this with advanced haptic devices such as Fundawear, the high-tech vibrating underwear developed by the Condom manufacturer Durex which stimulates intimate parts of the body at the touch of a button, and you have all that is needed to engage in long-distance relationships over the Internet in a shared virtual setting.

In the novel mentioned above, MAYA, the author refers to Dirrogates, or Mesh-clad digital surrogates inhabiting a virtual space. They are not really the same as the characters from Neuromancer by William Gibson who where cybernetically enhanced humans that could "jack in" to cyberspace and when you consider some of the technology I am discussing here you can't escape the cross over between what is real and what is virtual. I mean, some of the headsets do actually allow one to mix realities in that the real world is overlayed on the virtual to whatever degree the wearer chooses and we, as 
Movie: Neuromancer. Credit: Interplay
users of the technology, will be closer to Molly Millions of Neuromancer fame than the Dirrogates of MAYA. We are perhaps more familiar with the term "avatar" though which we use to represents ourselves when we don a Rift and an Insight sensor to experience virtual reality. Whether we are able or disabled we would now be able to interact on equal terms with anyone, anywhere in the world. We could work, live and play and even experience sexual pleasures with the aid of devices like Fundawear and, to some degree, a certain level of danger and shock horror too. With mind control, advanced visuals and haptic devices we can indeed sit back and inhabit the Matrix.

This all holds out exciting possibilities for virtual worlds like Open Simulator or the many others. Opensim is, in my view, well placed and already feature rich enough to take full advantage of the virtual reality equipment that is fast becoming available and, moreover, anyone can pick it up and start to use it in anyway they want. No doubt, the online sex industry will take a lead and why not? Second Life was built on Adult themes. Educationalist that have flocked to Opensim since Linden Lab canceled the discounts they enjoyed may not approve of adult entertainment in Opensim grids but they lived with it in Second Life for years and had no control at all. At least with Opensim they can exercise a level of control unheard of in Second Life so they can isolate themselves much easier from it.

The future looks exciting!

The march of technological advancement is relentless and, judging by the truly amazing stuff in development mentioned above it remains only for me to list some of the headsets starting with the one's I think hold out the most promise...

Former Valve engineers Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson have launched a KICKSTARTER campaign to fund development of the castAR, a 3D augmented and virtual reality headset. The castAR system bridges the gap between the physical world and the virtual world. The final retail glasses are expected to weigh less than 100 grams, which is only slightly heavier than a pair of 
Credit: Technical Illusions

sunglasses, and requires no calibration or adjustment. If you wear prescription glasses, castAR is designed to sit easily on the outside of them. The aim of the designers is to make castAR the most versatile head-mounted display available. They also offer an attachment that transforms castAR into a true virtual reality system as well as a true augmented reality system. Whichever reality you prefer, there is now a single system capable of taking you there, they claim. The company, Technical Illusions, launched the KICKSTARTER campaign to raise $400,000 and it has already gained 1,086 backers pledging $260,821 with 30 days still to go at the time of writing this.

The castAR system has been quietly in development for the past 18 months while Oculus Rift has enjoyed the limelight. However, castAR looks more sophisticated and, together with other headsets about to come onto the market in the new year the Oculus Rift team might be hard pushed to maintain their present lead. In any event I should watch this space because Linden Lab, owners of the Second Life virtual world, are keen to support Oculus Rift according to CEO Rod Humble and maybe are looking for a project to buy up themselves. Linden Lab has been busy diversify their product range in the past few years since Humble took over and has released a number of video games as well as adding video game development features to Second Life. They have also bought up Desura, the game distribution site and my guess is they would surely like a virtual reality headset to add to their product range as well.


Not to be out done a bunch of students have demonstrated yet another virtual reality system which uses Oculus Rift together with PlayStation Move for positional tracking and Razer Hydra for in-game control. However, the weight load is high as demonstrated by Richard Mitchell at IndieCade 2013. "All the components are self-contained with a backpack and a helmet," he said,
Credit: Richard Mitchell
posting to joystiq, "meaning there are no wires to trip you up, allowing you to actually 'walk' inside of virtual space. I took Project Holodeck for a spin," he went on, "trying my hand at some virtual zombie slaying, and the experience was certainly unique." So, the system needs a backpack, a helmet with huge post device on top which I'm sure dirty minds out there will find amusing, and finally Oculus Rift to provide the viewer experience.

However, as I said, there are more headsets in the running now and Maria Korolov, writing in Hypergrid Business, has listed a number including Durovis Dive, which offers 3D Virtual Reality Gaming on a Smartphone, Eyedak vrAse who also ran a KICKSTARTER campaign to raise $55,000 back in August.

 
Avegant which, they say, "your eyes no longer have to focus for themselves the gadget does it all for you." According to Avegant CEO Ed Tang, this effectively mitigates the problem of eye strain, and makes the device easier to wear for extended periods of time.
Credit: VUZIX

Finally, Maria lists three others which are aesthetically more pleasing but appear to lack the functionality that makes a true virtual reality headset. These include Sony HMZ-T3 Personal Viewer, Vuzix Wrap 1200AR, and the Zeiss Cinemizer OLED.


 





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