Oct 022015

Microsoft have purchased the physics engine Havok from Intel, report IGN, several other good news outlets (and some bad ones). There’s also a blog post from Microsoft in which they state :

Microsoft’s acquisition of Havok continues our tradition of empowering developers by providing them with the tools to unleash their creativity to the world. We will continue to innovate for the benefit of development partners. Part of this innovation will include building the most complete cloud service, which we’ve just started to show through games like “Crackdown 3.”

Havok shares Microsoft’s vision for empowering people to create worlds and experiences that have never been seen before, and we look forward to sharing more of this vision in the near future.

Now if you’re wondering what this has to do with Second Life, it’s because Havok is the physics engine that Linden Lab use in Second Life to simulate physics, gravity, collisions, etc. So what does this purchase mean for Second Life? I have absolutely no idea, but hopefully it won’t change a thing.

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Oct 022015

Watercolours In The Rain

It is 1888, a battle-torn and weary America is still reeling from a war against itself. Although it has known peace for twenty-years, old hatreds still remain. American born Aubrey Lancaster has fled to London with her family, hiding from the secrets of their past and looking to start over. Aubrey soon finds that London has problems of its own. A killer roams its streets, one unlike the world has ever seen before! In the realm of vampires, werewolves, druids and witches, catching a killer is nothing more than opening your eyes to what really exists around you, a world which very few can truly see. But, make no mistake, it is there!

So reads the blurb on Amazon for the book Watercolors In The Rain (The Whitechapel in Red Series Book 1) by David J Lavigne. Now parts of that book have made their way to Second Life, courtesy of an interactive art installation supported by The Linden Endowment For The Arts.

Gone Fishing

We are invited to take a journey into the mind of the author at the installation, which has been put together by a team working with David Lavigne to bring chapters of the book to Second Life and the scenery is pretty damn impressive. I could be a tad biased here, I like this sort of thing. I’m also a massive fan of storytelling in all its forms.

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Oct 012015

Shermerville Central

The current hype wave regarding virtual reality is now moving on to more and more news about the investment stage of the process. What I find interesting about many of these articles is that many of them refer to Second Life and Linden Lab as points of reference. I’ve talked about this before but the more of these articles appear, the more Second Life’s place in VR history gets cemented.

This is exemplified well in two recent articles. The Irish Independent talk to one time Linden Lab employee and now venture capitalist, Ethan Kurzweil. Ethan is the son of Ray Kurzweil. Ethan worked on new customer acquisition and user retention at Linden Lab over nine years ago and talks to Adrian Weckler in an article entitled “The billion-dollar investor’s guide to getting startup cash in Ireland“.

The second article is by Chris Owen at The Huffington Post and is entitled “Virtual Reality Industry Rapidly Gaining Investment – and Momentum“. Whereas both of these articles talk about where they think Second Life went wrong, the fact that they are still today talking about Second Life also points out that Second Life went right in a lot of areas.

The Irish Independent article is about more than virtual reality, it’s more about investment and in particular why investment in Dublin may be a good choice rather than San Francisco, but Second Life does get discussed. Ethan Kurzweil points out that a lot of things that happened outside of Second Life, such as Skype, Whatsapp, Telepresence etc. were the sort of ideas that people thought could all be embraced by a platform such as Second Life.

However Ethan also points out one of the reasons for Second Life’s longevity, the sticky factor. People stay in Second Life. The comment comes in response to a question about the Second Life economy, or more to the point, the fact that Second Life had an economy. Ethan points out that there’s still an economy in Second Life :

There still is. It’s still a profitable company based on the Second Life product. The one thing that probably everyone underestimated is just how sticky it is. I haven’t worked there in nine years. But there are probably users who are just as sticky, just as loyal and just as highly monetisable as they were back then.

However Ethan also points out some of the flaws with Second Life. I know many Second Life users don’t agree with these sort of sentiments but I see them repeated far too often to dismiss them :

Yeah, not the way that they implemented it, because it’s too hard, too nichey and too geeky. But I do think there’ll be a way to engage in a virtual way that is more immersive than what we have now. And maybe it’s a VR thing and not a flat world like Second Life had.

The flat virtual world society are at this point shouting “We told you so!”

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Oct 012015

Discovering A Lost Kingdom

The Alexandrian Free Library in Second Life is not a place, it’s a series of linked libraries and events who, well hold events ranging from book readings, music, art exhibitions and more. The agenda for the next couple of weeks is listed in this blog post.

Alexandrian Free Library Events – September 30 – October 13, 2015

Exhibit: Discovering a Lost Kingdom
Where: Rocca Sorrentina Exhibit Hall, Rocca Sorrentina
When: August 30, 2015 – October 31, 2015
This exhibit introduces visitors to the Kingdom of Naples at its height during the late 18th century. As a cosmopolitan and dynamic society Naples was a focal point of European economic, cultural, and political activity, and its government was a leader in political reform up until the time of the French Revolution. The work of Neapolitan thinkers had considerable impact beyond the kingdom; its artists and musicians were sought after by royal and noble patrons throughout Europe; and the Kingdom was a commercial and manufacturing hub for the Mediterranean community.

Having been created in SL to be a part of the Kingdom of Naples, Rocca Sorrentina presents this exhibit as an overview of the people, events, ideas, and natural and man-made environment that made Naples so special in the late 18th century.

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Sep 302015

Hamlet Au over at New World Notes has blogged about mobile phone footage from Joyce Bettencourt of John Carmack talking Metaverse, Second Life, Minecraft and a hell of a lot more at Oculus Connect 2015John Carmack: “Crass Commercialization”, Not High-Mindedness, Will Lead to the Metaverse.

John Carmack, for those who aren’t familiar with the name, was the co-founder of ID Software and lead programmer on games such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake amongst others. These days he’s the chief technology officer for Oculus VR … the company behind the Oculus Rift … I hope most of you are familiar with Oculus VR! Oculus offer their staff free breakfast, lunch and dinner on their campus, so they sound like a decent company to work for although with perks like that you wonder if their staff get time to go home or out for a meal. Don’t panic, they also say they have family friendly policies.

Anyway, back to the footage. This comes in at just over fifteen minutes long and would probably have been longer if it hadn’t been for the fact that Joyce’s battery on her phone died whilst filming. Modern technology hey. I hope this is legally obtained footage, I trust Joyce so we’ll dive right in and I’ll embed the video at the end of this post.

John Carmack talks about virtual reality, head tracking devices, how the technology is still evolving and you get an insight into just how technically challenging getting a compelling VR experience to work is. He also talks about virtual worlds and the metaverse and I guess that’s what most people who read this blog will be interested in.

He starts talking about virtual worlds around the two minute mark and then gets deeper into the concept of a metaverse around the four minute mark where he states that he fought against Oculus building a metaverse team because they don’t really know what they are doing well enough yet, he adds that they didn’t want to build a Second Life but better in some way. John also raises the point that what the metaverse is still a question that hasn’t really been answered.

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Sep 292015

Hanna's Martian Colony

Whereas some people were disappointed about NASA’s Mars Announcement yesterday, I was bloody well excited :

New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

I mean ok, it’s not like Ripley’s Alien has been found but it’s exciting enough. Indeed I was so excited that I went looking for Martian artifacts in Second Life and popped along to Reddit to read an AMA (Ask Me Anything) between Reddit Users and NASA scientists.

Inside The Colony

Now if you’ve been paying attention to the news over the last few years you may be forgiven for thinking that Second Life and Reddit are wretched hives of scum and villainy where no decent person would set foot. However if you scratch beneath the surface you find two platforms with some bloody great content.

My first space port of call was Hanna’s Martian Colony, which is a user created area with a very good science fiction vibe. I then went to the SL Planetarium which is next to the international space flight museum and also has a section about exploration of Mars from previous missions.

However, alas, I realised that despite Second Life having shows such as Virtually Speaking Science and indeed, just Virtual Speaking (which is more about politics), the NASA scientists would not be coming to Second Life to talk. I’m not sure anywhere in Second Life would be large enough to house them. Therefore I had to go to Reddit, a place I’m not really that familiar with, other than reading that it’s a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

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Sep 292015

Dr. Kiki Sandofrd has posted a very interesting interview with High Fidelity CEO Philip Rosedale; The Man Who Created Second Life Thinks We Can Make an Earth-Sized Virtual World.

I found this a fascinating read and it exemplifies so very well how Philip has not lost his enthusiasm for virtual worlds, indeed he sounds more excited than ever about the concept. We’ll forgive Kiki for calling a company Linden Labs, this is such a common mistake that the URL Lindenlabs.com resolves to the correct website. The articles talks about how Second Life was once bigger than it is now and yet, as I’ve mentioned before, when people look to the future of virtual worlds, they can’t help but look back at Second Life and even grudgingly seem to admit, it’s not the giant flop that some paint it as.

When asked how virtual reality will change society, Philip answers :

If you look at Second Life today, as a sort of a terrarium for looking at that question, it already has. It demonstrates that we go after and exploit and enjoy the benefits of any increase in tools that enable our creativity and our commerce—and that our willingness to engage in business and in transactions with each other seems to be virtually boundless.

He says a lot more, he talks about how virtual worlds can cross boundaries and get people to talk with each other when those people would otherwise be enemies. I haven’t seen enough studies on this to have a firm opinion on it to be honest, but there is the common denominator factor. The issue is surely going to be that if virtual worlds grow as some predict, some of those common denominators will be removed.

However what’s this business about earth-sized virtual worlds, well Philip gets to that in the interview :

In a recent analysis that I did in thinking about this, I figured out that if we used all our computers—connected via broadband to the Internet—to make a virtual world, it would be as big as the landmass of Earth. You and I could go fly around in it, wander into some cave in Siberia that no one had ever been probably, write our names on the wall in there, and come back ten years later and the names would still be there.

Obviously, as soon as someone says something like that, the next question is likely to be whether virtual worlds could ever be the size of a galaxy. Indeed, that is pretty much the next question in the interview, but you will have to read the article on Nautilus to find out more.

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Sep 252015

The Shelter

The Whidbey news and times have recently published an article about a Second Life DJ; A virtual party guy: Oak Harbor DJ touching the lives of others via online show. The article features Rich Vance, an online DJ with his own website, Briefcase Full of Rock and he also dabbles in Second Life as DJ Rockandroll Michigan.

The article has some confused ideas about how Second Life works :

Wearing a headset, he broadcasts over the Internet in real-time, making use of a site called Second Life, which lets computer-users chat, flirt, make song requests and even dance together — all virtually. Most participants live in the U.S., though some are in Europe.

Well they are in the right ballpark I guess, but it’s really the story of Rich Vance and his love of music that shines through. The article tells us that Rich is physically and mentally disabled but that he has a real passion for being a DJ and in Second Life, he gets to be that DJ.

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Sep 242015

Feed A Smile LLIK

Friday September 25th sees the start of a three day celebrity auction in Second Life with the aim to raise funds to help build more classrooms for a school in Kenya. I’m talking about the country of Kenya here, not a region in Second Life!

The celebrity auction is associated with an official charity, Feed a Smile, Live and Learn in Kenya. The charity has been active in Second Life since 2010 and was featured in episode 16 of The Drax Files : World Makers.

Feed A Smile Lavender Field

This weekend’s event is getting some support from other Second Life residents, most notably in the form of MadPea Games who have been blogging about this for some time. A recent blog post explains how the event has been gathering momentum as they announced; We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat! :

Since we released the video from the school in Kenya that we’re fundraising for we’ve had even more well known residents sign up to put themselves on the Auction Block for our star-studded Celebrity Auction. We even have 2 Lindens put their brave avatars forward for the challenge!

I’ll also embed the video at the end of this post.

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Sep 232015

University Of Western Australia

With Machinima, you are getting a glimpse into the soul of the artist, they are not making this film so they can sell tickets at the movies.  They are making this to show you who they are.

That’s the introduction from Jayjay Zifanwe of The University of Western Australia for the latest edition of the Drax Files World Makers series, which is sponsored by Linden Lab. Whereas Jayay is in the main subject of this episode we also see other machinima makers, who have been inspired by the projects the University of Western Australia run and who have gone on to other things in some cases due to that inspiration. At this point I should point out that Second Life, Linden Lab and The University of Western Australia have a lot to answer for, but I’ll come to that later.

Jayjay makes a good point about machinima, it’s a diverse industry because people are diverse and people make machinima. In some ways it could be argued that machinima is diverse because it’s more of an indie scene than mainstream cinema, therefore people will make machinima about subjects that backers would shy away from. There’s a power from an editiorial perspective that machinima can be relatively cheap to make. However, as machinima makers get more talented, get more ambitious and invest in more expensive machinima making techniques, their artistic freedom is likely to be challenged. However machinima is undoubtedly a diverse sphere at this moment in time.

Jayjay informs us that he has a budget with prize pool of over five hundred thousand Linden dollars, that’s around US$2,000. We can see an example of how this prize fund is used in the shape and form of UWA’s Pursue Impossible, which has prizes for artists and machinima makers :

The theme is “PURSUE IMPOSSIBLE.” Artists & filmmakers can interpret the theme as they see fit. What is your impossible? What is the impossible goal you have conquered, or that you have seen your loved ones or your heroes conquer? What are the things you once thought were impossible, but now are able to overcome? How do virtual worlds help you to visualize, create, and push the boundaries of possibility? What are the things which seem impossible now, which you think you will attempt to hunt down? What are the impossibilities of the mind? of the heart? of the soul? Is it the pursuit of the impossible that takes precedence? Or defeating it? You the artist… You the machinimatographer…You decide.

Pursue Impossible is still open, entries close at midnight SLT on October 31st, so if you’re interested you still have time to put something together.

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