Sep 022014

VHA Building

Episode 22 of The Drax Files World Makers – Virtual Health Adventures, has caught me somewhat by surprise as I thought the final edit was being published today, with the actual episode going live tomorrow. This is all my own fault as we can see from the blog post from Linden Lab, sponsors of the series and from the excellent review of the episode from Inara Pey, others understood that the final edit meant it would be published today! I’ll embed the video at the end of the post.

This episode deals with usage of virtual worlds, why their immersive nature can be far more productive than a traditional website and it even exemplifies people using The Oculus Rift for even greater immersion. Pay careful attention to that because you’ll see how that issue of where the keyboard is, is a very real issue when you’re using The Oculus Rift. However also pay attention to how important the immersive environment is to this episode and of course The Oculus Rift can help to make an environment even more immersive. The main theme however is one that people probably don’t associate with a virtual world such as Second Life, that theme is working with amputees to assist them to overcome emotional trauma.

Sandra L. Winkler, assistant professor at NOVA University in Florida, who teaches occupational therapy says :

“Second Life is the perfect place for amputees to overcome emotional trauma by sharing stories and realizing they are not alone!” 

Dr Winkler, who unlike her namesake Henry, hasn’t yet jumped the shark, is working on a three year study funded by the United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. That study is roughly halfway through its three years and whereas Dr Winkler admits that at this stage it’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions from their current work, she does feel that the virtual world environment combined with new technology is a significant next step in tele-healthcare.

Dr Winkler’s research is aided in Second Life by the development work in virtual worlds of Virtual Ability Inc. who have long had a presence in Second Life.

Admiring Scenery

In the episode we see amputees embracing the virtual world and going through exercises as well as putting a virtual wheelchair into a virtual car. There is scientific evidence that this sort of process does indeed help people to be able to transfer these skills to the real world and this was something we also saw in The Drax Files: World Makers Episode 13: Creations for Parkinson’s.

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Sep 022014

The new Skill Gaming Policy officially arrived in Second Life yesterday. However it arrived with an apparent late twist to who is authorised to participate. The last blog post on the subject stated :

If you live in a jurisdiction where skill gaming is permitted and you plan on playing these games in Skill Gaming Regions in Second Life, you should not need to do anything differently. However, adding payment information on file now is a good way to help ensure you’re able to play as soon as Skill Gaming Regions are live.

However it seems that there had either been an omission or Linden Lab decided they needed to be a bit more careful regarding who can participate. On August 29th, after some venues had been approved, a change appears to have been made to the FAQ. The change to the FAQ is a sensible one and one that really should have been mentioned before. The change to the FAQ points out that to participate you must have current payment info on file and you must be 19 years of age or older. On top of this you can’t be connecting from a prohibited state or be a resident of a prohibited state.

The change to requiring current payment info on file is likely to throw those who wanted to go play on their alts, although those who are determined to do so know what needs to be done to allow them to access Skill Gaming Regions.

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Aug 302014

The movie Mary Poppins turned 50 this week, which is an impressive milestone. A less impressive milestone is Linden Lab’s refusal to allow people to mention Dick Van Dyke in all his glory on the Second Life forum. I’ve mentioned him in his full name here in this blog post, I haven’t been struck by lightning, I haven’t been stampeded by a rampaging mob! Well not yet anyway. Come on guys, apply some common sense with those word filters and ditch the Dick Van **Bleep** silliness.

However one area where Linden Lab are doing a superb job is with their excellent promotion of The Destination Guide. The Lab have been regularly promoting the destination guide and this month is no exception as they blog : Highlights from the Second Life Destination Guide 8/27/2014. I’ll ignore the arse about face date format, I still don’t get the reason for that in a numerical sense.

One of the really nifty features of the Destination Guide is the ad widgets :

Hot Bay City Nights

Now in its third year, Hot Bay City Nights has hot roads and cool cars. Come see established vintage automobile designers in the Bay City Fairgrounds from August 23-30 as they present the best in vintage and retro vehicles for all avatars. Additional events provide plenty for all to do, including the crowning of 2014’s Miss Bay City and a number of charity car washes. The event will raise funds for Child’s Play, a charity that provides toys and games for children in hospitals around the world.

Visit in Second Life

It’s a shame these widgets can’t be used for promoting events. However the destination guide, now that Linden Lab pay it plenty of care and attention, is an excellent resource and Linden Lab are to be commended for promoting, updating and utilising it.

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Aug 292014

Back on August 14th High Fidelity’s band, AKA, that’s their name, published a video of the band performing a cover of the Commodores song “Easy”. The original video was accompanied by a promise that executive producer Ryan Karpf would provide a behind the scenes follow up post.

That behind the scenes post appeared this week : “Easy” Behind the Scenes. Inara Pey has eloquently covered this and Ryan’s hypnotic eyebrows already. However I’m going to cover it too, although I may pass on mentioning Ryan’s hypnotic eyebrows. That doesn’t count as mentioning them!

First of all, the production of this video involves a lot of peripherals. The actors used PrimeSense or Asus 3D cameras. PrimeSense were acquired by Apple just over twelve months ago. Faceshift software was used for the expression tracking.

Emily (0n vocals) and Ozan (on guitar) used PrioVR upper body suits.

Camera man Grayson was using, to quote Ryan, something like the Elgato capture unit. Audio editing was done in Logic and video editing done in Premiere. I’m assuming these are products from Apple and Adobe as those are the companies I know produce products with those names.

Ok so first of all, the average user is not going to have access to all of those peripherals and pieces of software. However we should bear in mind that this video and the follow up one are aimed at demonstrating the capabilities of High Fidelity. At this point you may be thinking that the future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear shades.

However that’s not all that was involved, far from it. Next came a Javascript script to utilise nine different camera positions. The beauty of the script was that it mapped to different keys on the keyboard, therefore camera 1 may well have been mapped to key 1, camera 2 to key 2 etc.

However they were far from good to go, whilst building the set they ran into a bug that High Fidelity’s Alpha users had reported. Basically having too many models in close proximity caused the server to crash. A technical explanation of the issue is provided by rad Hefta-Gaub. At this point I should warn you to beware of geeks bearing gifs. This is all in the video, well not the part about geeks bearing gifs.

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Aug 282014

I’ve recently suggested that Second Life Should Cut The Facebook Cord due to the fact that Facebook is not Second Life avatar friendly. Back in July I suggested that Linden Lab Should Embrace Google+. This was based on the fact that Google + had changed their naming policy to one where people can now use any name they like. Prior to that Google + required you to use a name you were known as, which did allow Second Life avatars to have a presence of sorts, but was still a grey area. There’s no real grey area with Facebook, they want people to use their real name only for accounts.

A good way for Linden Lab to encourage people to embrace the better fit of Google + would be for them to include their Google + page in their connect with us or follow us sections on their website. The Google + page isn’t as popular as the official Facebook page but has had over 4 million views, which is none too shabby.

However like Second Life in virtual world terms, Facebook is where it’s at in terms of social networking. Personally I’m not a fan, I mean I’m really really not a fan. However I do have a Facebook Page. Why do I have a Facebook page? Well because it’s not a breach of Facebook’s terms of service to do so, whereas using my Second Life name as a Facebook account is a breach of the Facebook TOS.

Many Second Life users have tried to use Facebook under their Second Life name and many have found themselves having their accounts deleted, due to that TOS breach. So if you absolutely must use Facebook with your Second Life name, then create a Facebook page for your avatar.

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Aug 272014

Linden Lab have issued a reminder : New Skill Gaming Policy in Effect September 1, 2014. The blog post also contains a warning that the new policy will be enforced. Skill Gaming in Second Life is basically defined as :

  • A game where the outcome is determined by skill, rather than by chance.
  • Has the option for payment to participate in Linden Dollars.
  • Pays out in Linden Dollars.
  • Is legal according to United States and international law.

That’s pretty much the gist of it, so if the game allows you to pay in with the option of paying out if your skill allows you to win, then it’s a skill game. Now if those criteria aren’t met, say for example you can pay in but there’s a random chance of the game paying out, such as a traditional fruit machine style game, then that’s gambling and is strictly forbidden.

Now if you haven’t been paying attention then you may be wondering how on earth Linden Lab know if the game you play or create meets this criteria. Well that’s what the Skill Gaming Policy is for. Games of skill will only be allowed to be played on approved sims. Only approved games, created by approved creators are permitted and they can only be operated by approved operators. This means that if your game meets the skill gaming definition, you will still be breaching the rules of the new policy if the game, the land or the person operating the game have not been approved.

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Aug 262014

Hamlet Au over at New World Notes has posted a link to an excellent article in The Verge : The Rise And Fall And Rise Of Virtual Reality. The tag line for The Verge’s article is : In the wake of Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR, can this revolutionary technology triumph anew?

The premise of the article, as the headline suggests is that Virtual Reality has never really got going yet. They see the internet as an alternative, not a version of virtual reality. This is not a short article, but it does make for fascinating reading. However the more relevant part of the article for people who read blogs such as this and Hamlet’s blog comes with the Facebook QA, which is an interview with Second Life co-founder and now Vp of Engineering at Facebook Cory Ondrejka.

In the interview Cory talks of the advantages of using a headset such as the Oculus Rift and how immersive it can be. People may be wondering how people are going to use these devices and Cory touches upon an area that links in with the Facebook theme but also offers an interesting use case :

So let’s say you have a friend getting married and you can’t be there. Today you’re going to get texts and videos. But what if you could put a 360 video camera in the audience? Then, what you have is an ability to really feel like you’re there, and look around and see what’s going on in a way that’s making an incredible connection. Moviemakers will take advantage of this. You think about what you could do with director’s commentary or additional scenes. What if you could turn around and have these 360-degree views of the set while they’re shooting? Wouldn’t that be the coolest thing ever?

I’ve seen people touch upon similar areas before in terms of a rock concert. Hey you can’t get a ticket to the live event, but how about a ticket for the virtual reality event? There’s potential there. I’m not going to reveal too much of Cory’s interview, it’s well worth reading if you have an interest in virtual reality, as is the whole article but let’s get to the killer app issue because the lack of a killer app has been cited as one of the failures of virtual worlds as we know them :

What’s going to be the killer app? While we don’t know exactly what it’s gonna be, we’re confident there will be a bunch of them. And that killer app is gonna be so much better than anything you can experience on a screen or phone.

However some people have a different view and we may have to rejig how we describe killer apps. In an article in, unrelated to the excellent Verge article,Cloudhead Games’ Denny Unger warns :We’re very close to having the first death in VR.

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Aug 252014

High Fidelity seem to be ramping up their communications this month and they have posted a video on YouTube to inform people of their Worklist. I’ll embed the video at the end of the post, it’s not a long video.

High Fidelity is currently in the Alpha stage and is an open platform covered by an Apache 2.0 licence. This means the code can be downloaded from GitHub, forked etc. Now you could just look at the code and play around with it or you can go via the Worklist route and look at which issues have been posted. Now if you’re a developer and fancy doing some of this work, you can bid on the work and get paid when it’s complete.

Now you may be wondering what they mean by getting paid, are they talking about virtual money? Well from a cursory glance at the jobs done page it looks as if they’re paying people in US dollars, not virtual money.

The High Fidelity team will work with people who bid on work, so you’re not going to be left out on a limb.

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Aug 232014

The summer season of The Drax Files Radio Hour has had a few repeats and this week is no exception, it’s a repeat of the excellent interview with Tony Parisi.  This is well worth a listen because Tony talks of the challenges of client downloads and how they turn people off as well as lots more excellent commentary from a person who has experience in virtual worlds and beyond. Tony also thinks the 3D internet is right around the corner, but confesses he’s been saying that for many years.

However this interview becomes even more relevant with the news that Tony Parisi has joined High Fidelity as an advisor. If you don’t know who Tony Parisi is then I suggest you read his bio. He was also involved with the virtual world Vivaty, but you can hear about that in The Drax Files Radio Hour. However a snippet from his bio :

Tony is the co-creator of the VRML and X3D ISO standards for networked 3D graphics, and continues to innovate in 3D technology. Tony is the co-chair of the San Francisco WebGL Meetup (, a founder of the Rest3D working group ( and a member of the Khronos COLLADA working group creating glTF, the new file format standard for 3D web and mobile applications.

High Fidelity are assembling an impressive looking team, it’s a shame Jeska left, but hopefully that was the right move for Jeska. As for Tony, not only is he an advisor for High Fidelity, he’s also involved in some top secret stuff!

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Aug 222014

It started innocently enough, Janine Hawkins (AKA Iris Ophelia) penned a piece for Paste Magazine : 10 Best MMOs. At number six in the list sits Second Life. However this wasn’t the villain of the piece in this article.

No the villain of the piece was the initial image the editors of Paste Magazine used to represent Second Life. This was not Iris’ call, so don’t hound Iris about this. However this also raised a wider issue, one of whether Linden Lab provide news outlets with decent pictures in the first place.

This is a very good question, and one that to be fair to Linden Lab, they did address. This also raised the issue of using Flickr to use images and when images are or aren’t fair game for usage. As you can see, this is far more complicated than it should be.

Draxtor Despres pointed to the Second Life Flickr pool as a repository for images the press could use. However this is the unofficial pool and those images have different rights. Draxtor realised this and then pointed people to the excellent SL Is Looking Good Flickr Pool. However that has the same issue with regards to rights. This is why Linden Lab decided to setup their own Flickr pool. This pool has a terms of service that spell out that LL can use these images for marketing :

As a participant of the Program, you hereby grant to the Company a perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable, and cost-free right and license to use, distribute, or sublicense (through multiple levels), and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your Submissions, for the purposes of marketing, promotion, and/or outreach for and about the Second Life virtual world.

That was an issue of some controversy when the group was created by the way. When you think about it, it’s strange that Linden Lab later went on to make their own terms of service for Second Life even more controversial because they had feedback on those terms that people weren’t happy, but that’s an aside.

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