The SLENZ Update – No 114, July 15, 2009

SECOND LIFE BUILDING OPTION

Import builds from easy-to-create

Google Sketchup  3D models

… at a (very) small cost

A demonstration in real time (9 minutes without preparation) of
how a 70 metre square can be created in SketchUp (using the
Sketchlife extension) from 10 metre square tiles, textured
using a single texture image spreading over all
the 49 tiles, and uploaded to Second Life.

West Australian Second Life resident Mrs Brandi ( EvgeniSergeev in his/her product details/YouTube publications)  has developed Sketchlife to allow Second Life residents  to create and upload builds/models using free, easy-to-learn Google SketchUp, a programme which is simple enough for it to be used regularly by primary school students in many New Zealand schools.

Created by University of Western Australia student “EvgeniSergeev”  ( is that a nom de guerre?) as part of the 2009 project for putting The University of Western Australia into Second Life , Sketchlife is being billed as an application that can convert 3D models made with Google Sketchup to Second Life through the use of an “importer” briefcase available free from the Mrs Brandi’s table at the university’s build in Second Life.

Brandi_001Mrs Brandi’s table with free Sketchlife …
the Sketchup-import truck behind is free too.

“After winning Google’s ‘Build Your Campus in 3D Australia and New Zealand‘ competition ( in 2007, the models are on Google Earth) and also creating a VRML-based virtual campus with more detailed models,” Mrs Brandi explained to Wagner James Au of  NewWorldNotes, “we had about two dozen high-quality SketchUp models of buildings, and there was no easy way to put them into Second Life. That’s an island-full of buildings which are complete and textured, so it seemed worth the effort to write an importer.”

Hence Sketchlife, which, according to Au,  Brandi says is also useful for creating Second Life builds from scratch in Sketchup.

“Quite complex models could be built,” he/she said. “There is a limit of 512 prims per upload, to keep things sane (but if one needs more, they can be uploaded in multiple stages.)”

You can obtain the Sketchlife client for free from Mrs Brandi’s table in SL, though as with many but not all executables,  there is a price:  LS1 per primitive with no texture;  and L$2 per primitive with at least one texture. However, a model containing only one prim with at most one textured face can be imported for free allowing experimentation without one having to pay anything.

EvgeniSergeev explains in his product pages that  while  most 3D modelling tools use meshes (vertices connected by edges which define faces),  Second Life has adopted solids, referred to as primitives as their building blocks.

“This guarantees that there won’t be any stray polygons flying around, but it also prevents mesh models from being imported automatically,” he/she says, adding, however, that while  the in-world modelling tools in Second Life are quite good,  they are stone age compared to the 3D modelling power tool that is SketchUp.

“Therefore, if we can’t bring SketchUp to Second Life, we’ll bring Second Life to SketchUp.”

The video below shows  this happening: a very simple model of the words “Hello World” is built and uploaded using Sketchlife tools. It demonstrates the process: press “Export”, copy and paste the model key, drop the textures into the box, and, finally, copy and paste the build key. The process is the same for all models.

The SLENZ Update – No 105, June 29, 2009

ANOTHER TABLOID BLOG FRENZY

Hysteria over Australian SL-block

rumours:  fear-mongering or worse …

CENSOREDLooks like bulldust to me …

I haven’t commented on the latest round of histrionics and hysteria fomented by “tabloid” bloggers about the Australia moves … but as one of the most authoritative writers on virtual worlds,  James Wagner Au (pictured), has pointed out in NewWorldNotes it’s more about smoke than substance, with Second Life and video games bloggers implying a lot more from the Sydney Morning Herald story than is actually in it.WagnerJAu

I say this  despite the fact that  the Christian Today Australia, an online Christian “tabloid”,  in a blatent, unattributed lift from one of the more rabid bloggers, Duncan Riley,   said today that  Second Life was to be “banned in Australia” and that this had been confirmed by a spokesperson for Australian Federal Minister  Stephen Conroy  that “under the (Australian Rating System) filtering plan,  it (censorship) will be extended to downloadable games, flash-based web games and sites which sell physical copies of games that do not meet the MA15+ standard.” [The MA15+ means restricted to those people ages 15 and above.  Games for 18-plus “adults” are classed as RC (Refused Classification) because of pornographic, illegal material,  certain forms of ‘hate speech” and  copyrighted content, despite some Australian States having legalised brothels and a large  “adult” porno industry both in real life and easily accessed on the net]

The story just grows like Topsy: the interpretation of one trenchant critic of  Australian Government filtering of internet content, quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as referring to the possibility of Second Life being blocked, has become fact. But  whether true or not it’s important to New Zealand residents of Second Life because it gives more “ammunition” to critics in New Zealand even if that “ammunition” is more akin to bulldust than reality.

But one thing that seems very common among Second Life residents is the propensity to have panic-attacks and anxiety complexes and to find rumour and innuendo nutritious.

The possibility of an Australian ban/block  on Second Life has been canvassed off and on for months in various media – but there has never really been anything more than a little smoke.

And, anyway even if the Australian Government does receive “complaints” and goes ahead with a “ban” it need have no effect on educators.

Zindra Alps_002Adult Zindra – virtually another  Second Life game which could be
blocked without harm to Australian educators …

With the creation of Zindra, Linden Labs have virtually created two “games” – to use the Australian reference – and it should be easy enough under the current filtering regime being trialed by Australian ISPs for any Federal Government agency to block the “adult” potentially more raunchy game while continuing to allow access to the “PG, Mature” Second Life without the raunch.

Although not on line this has been done with video games sold in  real life shops in Australia, such as Grand Theft Auto and Fallout 3, with a special edition being created for their Australian audiences.

Given this, for teaching purposes, “blocks” on the “Adult” game should not affect Australian educators because they have no reason to go into Zindra (for education purposes) and so should have little effect on the real life education and business uses of  Second Life  in Australia – unless, of course, the main reason for some Australian “educators” being in the game is “adult” content.

I also wonder whether the Australian video games industry is not promoting this issue and the Second Life connection to it in a bid to deflect criticism and draw Second Life and other virtual worlds into their bed, as it were, to obfuscate the real issues of violence and violent sex  in many video games.

The debate, however,  as noted above is obviously not about pornography because some of the most raunchy pornographic picture and video sites on the web originate from Australia, and have only rudimentary age checks (answer what date you were born before accessing this site) and so are, in reality, open to anyone of any age: as they are not” games” however, they appear not subject to the debate in the on-line games context.

Finally, as an afterthought, I think money could be well spent on doing research on Second Life residents and Second Life bloggers to see whether they have a higher propensity for hysteria  and paranoia than the average person who doesn’t get “addicted” to SecondLife. *grin*

The SLENZ Update – No 95, June 8, 2009

Teleporting between  Virtual Worlds

‘Seamless, intuitive and immediate’

travel  between OpenSims

The future  is here:  a seamless virtual world environment where one can teleport  transparently between any OpenSim virtual world  – no not SL yet but wait for it –  no matter what the OpenSim virtual world is and where in the real world it is mounted.

If it lets you in and door is open you will be able to teleport there.

Zonja Capalini referred to  teleporting between OpenSims via hypergrid  in her comment and video on THE ‘OPENSIM’ EXPERIENCE – Worlds of difference but ones that Kiwi developers should probably try out but now  OpenSim boundary crossing was given the imprimateur  of  the mainstream virtual blogging community  by  virtual world guru Wagner James Au (pictured right) (SL: Hamlet Au) in NewWorldNotes  last week.WagnerJAu

Au described it as a “milestone breakthrough”  following the Second Metaverse U  conference(Stanford University) demonstration of Science Sim, the Intel-backed, OpenSimulator project linking a number of 3D science experiments into an interconnected network.

The ” exciting” and “jaw dropping” event was presented by  Tom Murphy, professor of computer science at Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Ca

“In the demo,”  Au said, “Murphy ran an OpenSim viewer on a big video screen, teleporting from a science project running on sims located in Oregon, to another in Utah, to another at NorthWestern University in Illinois, and back again. From the viewer’s perspective, the teleport procedure looked exactly like it does in Second Life, except instead of TP-ing from one part of the grid to another, Murphy was going from one private cluster of OpenSim servers to another.

“The process was seamless, intuitive, and immediate,” Au said.

“This strikes me as a profound innovation,” he said. “From an avatar’s prospective, it’s now possible to travel from private OpenSim sim to private OpenSim sim in a way that’s indistinguishable from Second Life.

“Of course, teleportation of virtual money and assets is another question, but for metaverse experiences which don’t require those, OpenSim is now a viable alternative.”

Au noted that the teleportation code had been created by Cristina Videira Lopes (pictured right) (SL: Diva Canto), Associate Professor in the School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to joining Academia, she worked at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center.  She is co-inventor of AOP (Aspect Oriented Programming), a programming technology featured in the MIT Technology Review (2001) as “one of the 10 emergent technologies that will change the world.”Cristina Videira Lopes

She’s also the visionary behind OpenSim’s hypergrid, which Au and Capalini have  previously written about.

Maria Korolov commenting on Au’s report said  that on OpenSim residents had been  happily using hypergrid teleports for some weeks now. For example she recently took her avatar shopping at OSGrid (picked up a free hot tub) and took  it back to her standalone grid, and installed it there.

Assets transfer fine, including clothing and hair and inventory,” she said. “I still have the same rights to them as I did on my home grid — I can’t give something that’s marked “no transfer” or copy something that’s marked “no copy.

“If I make a backup (by saving an OAR) file I will have a copy of all the assets that are on that region. for the purposes of restoring them later if something happens. If I distribute that OAR to other grid owners for them to load up on their grids, I will be violating the IP rights of the producers of my assets — same as if I made a backup of a computer program and then distributed it.

“So we already have cross-dimensional shopping.  Currency is still an issue — it would make more sense to keep currency in an on-grid account, rather than with your avatar. For example, if you go to a website that gives you credits, those credits aren’t stored in a cookie, but in a secure database owned by the website.

“That way, when you go from one website to another, the money doesn’t go with you — it stays where it’s safe.

“Or one can use PayPal or Google Checkout, which  can use on OpenSim as well,” she concluded.

Zonja Capalini  videos about hypergrid teleporting are here and here.

All I can say: The whole wide world is waiting out there, baby! Well virtually anyway.

The SLENZ Update – No 24, November 12, 2008

SL learning “fun”

lecture_in_sl

Second Life provides options for multi-modality in communication that “make learning fun – always a desired outcome,” according to two Finish researchers.
This was only one of the findings from their recently completed in-depth study of distance learning in Second Life, published recently in First Monday, the peer-reviewed journal of the University of Illinois (Chicago). http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2178/2033
Reflecting other research Kim Holmberg and Isto Huvila (both have researcher/lecturer roles in Finland’s Department of Information Studies, Åbo Akademi) found that, although virtual learning is reshaping what happens in the classroom and will be a valuable add-on learning tool in the future,  Second Life and other virtual worlds can never fully replace in-class learning.
But they said, “To place Second Life, Web-based learning environments and face-to-face education in order according to which one is the best is hardly useful.

“According to the results of this study, the three learning environments compete very well with each other,” they said. “There are benefits in face-to-face education and in real physical presence that are difficult to achieve in other learning environments.
“Education in Second Life is closer to face-to-face education than traditional methods in distance education that are based on asynchronous communication and two-dimensional media. Second Life provides options for multimodality in communication (voice, chat, gestures, space) that make learning fun – always a desired outcome.”
The researchers said they were convinced that the concept of interreality – the integration of physical and virtual worlds – is “an advantage in distance education, if it can bring distance education closer to face-to-face education.”
Interestingly of the 30 students that participated in the study of a course in information studies – 28 female, two male – few had difficulty navigating through SL and most felt that it was superior to other Web-based learning environments.
Second Life was used as a platform to deliver lectures and as a place for organising group assignments and having discussions.
“One reason why the barrier to participation in Second Life was lower may be the fact that SL provides means for multimodal communication, even in-world,” the two researchers said.
“Students could use text-based chat inside SL to ask questions and participate and the teacher could answer and respond at a suitable time without interruption. It is possible to communicate through different channels at the same time, and students can use a channel that best suits them. Another possible explanation might be that the use of avatars gives students some level of anonymity with students ‘hiding’ behind their avatars.
But they added, provided that participating face-to-face education does not require too much travelling and learning outcomes are satisfactory, “Second Life does not necessarily provide any significant benefits, at least not when using it only as a platform for lectures and teamwork.
“When considering distance only as a physical measure of separation, Second Life provides a means to overcome it. The existence of multimodal and non-interfering means of communication and socialisation by using chat, instant messages and voice calls in personal and group interaction provides users a wider range of possibilities to communicate than in face-to-face sessions.”

Browser wars?

My belief that the creation of a universal generic browser (carrying assets) will be the key to the widespread adoption of virtual worlds received somewhat of a setback this week with Wagner James Au reporting in Newworldnotes, about a leading open source developer creating a non-SL compatible viewer.
Asking whether there was a fork ahead in the road to the Metaverse (http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2008/11/a-fork-in-the-m.html#more) he wrote about KirstenLee Cinquetti’s, development of the Openlife R16 viewer, (pictured, courtesy nwn) cinquettikirstenleewhich, although based on the original open source code of the SL viewer, only works with Openlife.
Au said the move was significant because the work by Cinquetti, previously renowned for her SL-compatible viewers, especially her dynamic lighting-enabled Shadowdraft viewer, could complicate attempts by Linden Lab, IBM, and other organisations to create full interoperability between Second Life and OpenSim servers as well as possibly lead to browser wars a la the early days of the net.

SL prize details

Every educator believes they are working not only for the good of their students but also for the good of the world and even the universe.
Well, Linden Labs has now allowed them – as well as every other Second Life resident – to compete in a “superlative achievement” award in what would appear to be a made for education prize opportunity (http://lindenlab.com/lindenprize)
Robin Linden and Everett Linden gave further details of the Linden Prize in SL this week. The prize will see one Second Life resident or team receive US$10,000 (paid in $L) for an innovative inworld project “that improves the way people work, learn and communicate in their daily lives outside of the virtual world.”
When originally announced four months ago by Mitch Kapor the prize was described as rewarding “superlative achievement” exemplifying the mission of “elevating the human condition” through using SL.
“We expect and want to create a wide funnel of people thinking, ‘Hey that might be me,'” said Everett Linden (Everett Harper in RL and Linden’s Director of Community Initiatives).
He said entries were expected from people in healthcare, people-creating communities with real impact, scientists with psychological studies, people with diplomacy projects, and architecture among other things.
“The key thing is that can you document tangible evidence of improving and having a good impact on people’s lives, and I say that broadly,” he said. “And it’s got to be compelling and high-quality, from compelling to aesthetics to technical to pure execution. It should really have a sense of being influential to creating future development across virtual worlds into the real world. ” Applications close January 15, 2009, with the winner and finalists announced no later than April 30, 2009.

campuspeople1

SL Community

For those of you who missed it previously Jennifer Ragan-Fore (SL:Kittygloom Cassady), SLEDcc Co-Chair, has again provided the slurl of the streaming pages and blogs of the successful “edu track” of the Second Life Community Convention in Tampa. http://sledcc.wikispaces.com/Audio+Visual+Archives; http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=blog+sledcc08&btnG=Search; Flickr uploads http://www.flickr.com/groups/sledcc08; RezEd discussions http://www.rezed.org/ ; and tweets http://twitter.com/sledcc .

Kemp on SL strength

Building community in Second Life is “really a matter of fostering user ownership and getting users involved,” says Jeremy Kemp, assistant director of San Jose State University’s SL Campus and wellknown virtual world guru. “That’s the strength of Second Life,” he said, “it’s a world created by users.”
And, in Second Life, according to Kemp, where a group of students meets at the same time online, there’s a sense of embodiment, a feeling of being in the classroom and a sense of presence.
“They get the feeling of being there,” says Kemp, and “they can see me in the classroom.”
Kemp expressed this view to Samantha Cleaver in an article in the ecommercetimes on Virtual Learning and the Avatar Generation – diverse issues in higher education, which looks at distance learning up close. http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/web20/65082.html?wlc=1226309206&wlc=1226353422

Events

November 17, 1-5pm (SL time) “Real World Impacts from the Virtual World” including a “sneak preview” of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s new sim “Foundations” should be of interest to educators and researchers. Interactive events covering how groups use virtual spaces like Second Life to build opportunities in preserving native peoples’ cultures, creating accessible spaces for people with disabilities, helping obese people make healthy life choices and teaching underprivileged youth about paleontology and science. Venues: (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Foundations/119/233/36) and the neighboring archipelago that includes the Network Culture Project, Justice Commons (http://slurl.com/secondlife/The%20Justice%20Commons/134/130/29) and Aloft Nonprofit Commons (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Aloft%20Nonprofit%20Commons/88/52/23/).

November 18, 2008, 7-8am (SL time) – Edward Lee Lamoureux (pictured at right), associate professor, Multimedia Program and Department of Communication, Bradley University) (SL:Professor Beliveau) participant in the recent lamoureuxInternational Distance Learning Day event. will share a portion of his IDLD talk with the Healthcare Education group (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Health%20Eduisland/174/144/25) Info on Lamoureux http://slane.bradley.edu/com/faculty/lamoureux/website2/

November 28-29, 2008 – Australasian Virtual Worlds Workshop 2008, EN 101, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia, and selected locations in SL. Keynote speakers include: Larry Johnson (CEO, NMC), Chris Collins (Director of Enterprise Business Systems, Linden Lab) and Bruce Joy (CEO, Vast Park) This workshop builds upon foundations established by the Second Life Discovery Day held in 2007 at Monash University, Australia. Registration for presenters and students is A$20 and for other participants A$50. In-world attendance slurls will be emailed following registration. http://avww.org/files/AVWW%20programme%20Panel%20and%20Presenters.pdf

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