The SLENZ Update – No 49, March 3, 2009

As real as it gets –

architecturally speaking

Almost since the  inception of  MUVEs such as  Second Life, architects have seen the potential of being able to create exact, real life, fullscale, 3D, building models within virtual reality for such things as architect/designer/client walk throughs, design visualisation and tweaking. No one has been quite able to pull it off properly until now without  onerous in-world ‘building” work rather than the straight importation of an architectural model.

The announcement that it has been done effectively using Realxtend,  a  development of the OpenSim platform, was made by freelance  virtual architect and founder of Crescendo Design, a studio specialising in creating innovative, cost effective architecture and strategies for virtual reality platforms such as Second Life and OpenSIM,  Jon Brouchoud (SL: Keystone Bouchard) in  his blog, The Arch  ( ) .

Brouchard (pictured) described the  importation of a full-scale architectural model from Revit using Visibuild ( )  into the virtual world – the combined 3-part effect of being able to import contextual structures shared by others and import professionally built CAD or BIM-derived models and model bits and pieces using the familiar in-world building tools –  as a “pretty astonishing new opportunity.”brouchardjon

“Of course there are still kinks to be ironed out, and some parts of the work-flow that would benefit from further optimization, but that’s where Visibuild’s value becomes most apparent,” he said. “They have the capability of streamlining that process for you, and serving as a one-stop service and hosting environment for architects, urban planners, realtors, city governments and anyone else with a vested interest interest in architecture and the built environment.”

“Since most modern architectural software automatically generates 3D models anyway, the gap between your model and a virtual environment is no longer treacherous or time consuming – but relatively simple (or cost effective if you’d rather have someone else import it for you). If you already model in SketchUp, for example – you’re only a few clicks away from enjoying the benefits of experiencing the model virtually and inviting others to experience it with you in realtime. ”
The house was furnished with   “model” tables, chairs, sofa, stove,  Jenn-Air appliances, Kohler fixtures and more imported from Google 3D Workshop.

[I’m indebted to SLED Lister and Auckland University senior lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture and Planning Judy Cockeram (SL: JudyArx Scribe) for the headsup. Cockeram is scheduled to launch architecture studies on the university’s  second island sim,  Kapua, adjacent to  Long White Cloud ( )  just north of the SLENZ project sim of Kowhai, which adjoins the original Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology island of Koru (]

The SLENZ Update – No 36, December 24, 2008



We wish all our readers the best for 2009  in real life and virtual worlds despite the economic downturn which has spread around the globe. May all of you have  a safe and happy Christmas and may  the prospects for our world, whichever world that is,  brighten in the New Year. The SLENZ Update will not appear between Christmas and New Year, even though all worlds will continue turning.  The next issue will be about January 5, 2009, although  we may blog anything special which happens in between the holidays. In the meantime for  you who are still reading blogs on Christmas eve here are two items to think about over the holiday break.  By the way I think I want a Playstation 3 from Santa!!!!

For VW tourists

amongst us …

No Virginia, Santa cannot teleport with Rudolph, his sleigh and his assets between Virtual Worlds. Yet.

But as Peter Quirk (Senior Consulting Program Manager at EMC, Boston)  says its “the early days” for Virtual World interoperability.

Commenting via LinkedIn he  noted that most of the worlds (hundreds at present – see ) have been “designed as walled gardens”. quirkpeter

Commenting that interoperability comes in many forms – asset compatibility or interchange, common authentication systems, avatar compatibility and re-use, real-time messaging and voice interoperability, common currency, trade between worlds, etc – he said  that in terms of asset compatibility, it’s becoming clear  that commercial tools like 3D Studio Max, Sketchup and Maya and free tools like Blender can produce assets in multiple formats that can target multiple worlds.

The Collada format and the KML wrapper supported by Sketchup and Google Earth is gaining traction as an import format for a number of platforms.

Asset libraries are also developing quickly. Google’s 3D warehouse provides assets in Sketchup or Collada format, but tools exist to convert them to other formats (see my post for an example) Dassault Systemes has leveraged its investment in professional parts libraries to build a library of 3DVia parts for Microsoft’s Virtual Earth and 3Dswym. I’m sure more will follow. Turbosquid is a clearinghouse for digital artists to sell 3D models and textures. The assets are delivered in the formats used by high-end design tools, with which they may be repurposed for Virtual Worlds.

“Unfortunately, that’s only half the story – scripts are what make assets interesting and the interoperability of scripts is minimal,” he said. “There is some compatibility of Linden Scripting Language between Second Life, OpenSim and realXtend but there are enough differences to make it difficult to predict whether a script will be usable on any platform. OpenSim has its own script extensions (OSSL) and realXtend achieves a lot of its scripting power from server-side Python scripts which can make up for missing functionality in the OpenSim LSL implementation.

However, Quirk said, common authentication in Second Life, OpenSim and realXtend is getting close. This year’s experimental  teleport activity between Second Life and IBM’s OpenSim  was based on major work to develop open grid protocols for authentication, grid discovery and asset management. (See ).

But, Quirk went on, Avatar compatibility is likely to be more complex due to the fundamentally different ways of representing meshes and skeletons, not to mention the IP issues of taking clothes and accessories between worlds.

“Real-time messaging and voice between worlds shouldn’t be hard but there hasn’t been a lot of focus on this, presumably because one needs to be able to discover the identity of someone in another world before calling them,” he said.

Noting there are tools in Second Life for connecting to Jabber, MSN Messenger, AOL and other IM systems, Quirk said, “I would expect these to appear in OpenSim/realXtend soon. You’d think each of the IM platforms would have some interest in becoming the interworld chat conduit, but the advertising-subsidised models don’t work in virtual worlds. On the other hand, mobile phone operators have demonstrated solutions for talking between Second Life and the real world and they have a workable revenue model for equipping each avatar with a virtual mobile number.”

Quirk said he believe a common currency is a some way off. OpensSm is starting to implement support for “play money” as some call it, but a serious bank or Linden Lab will have to provide the back-end services to enable conversions from real currency to in-world currency and for currency exchanges between worlds.

On this point  he commented that many national and state governments are interested in taxing sales and capital gains in-world, further complicating the roll-out of cross-world trading. In many of the teen worlds the money enters the world via gift cards sold in stores. The sales tax is paid in the store. There is no indication that these walled gardens want to open up to other currencies yet.

I just wannna

go Home … ;=)

YouTuber “thecreativeone” (David diFranco)has created an interesting “newbie” consumer tour of Sony’s Home virtual world for Playstation 3.  The graphics and some parts of the user interface look terrific, although movement sometimes leaves something to be desired. But  for those in their teens and twenties and even thirties Home  looks like real competition for for Microsoft and Nintendo in the console catchup game (wish it was on PC) and could even threaten the up take  of  Virtual Worlds, like Second Life, through cannibalising their client bases.  While this video isn’t well organised, it gives you a good idea of what Home is about even though he did not cover the Mall where you purchase items with real cash and  the customisation of one’s room’s wallpaper, as well as other some other major points (grin).  diFranco, who  said that although bowling was  all right, it “definitely is not as fun as Wii Sports’ Bowling, ” added, “Home is a living, breathing world, with real players interacting with one another in a variety of ways,” he said. “Whether it is furnishing your personal space or versing someone in bowling, there is something for everyone. While Home is definitely far from perfect, its future seems to be bright, and with many enhancements on the way. I made a “short” video showing off Home, which can be viewed below. It’s very loosely edited, but it should give you a good idea of what to expect in this online world.”

He didn’t mention it but  Sony,which announced  last month that 17 million PS3s have been sold worldwide leading to one estimate of the PSNetwork having 8.5 million users, would appear to have a headstart over almost all PC-based Virtual Worlds.  The major exception is  Habbo Hotel which has 100 million registered avatars, an average 8 million unique visitors monthly,with 75,000 avatars being created every day. Eat your heart out SL?

The SLENZ Update – No 31, December 04, 2008

Count down to SLENZ

‘open’ workshop

December 15, from 9am to 5pm (New Zealand Time) (SL Time 2pm – 10 pm December 14) : New Zealand’s leading virtual world learning research group, Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ), has invited interested educators to attend a free, one-day workshop in real life on Wellington Institute of Technology’s Wellington campus and in Second Life on the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology’s island of Koru ( Registration essential on first-come, first-served basis as numbers limited. For registration email:

One global player in virtual education

‘Immersive Education’


The range  of educational opportunities and organisations promoting or researching  virtual worlds is increasing day by day. One of the more interesting is Immersive Education, developed by the Immersive Education Initiative, a non-profit international collaboration of universities, colleges, research institutes, consortia and companies  working together to define and develop open standards, best practices, platforms, and communities of support for virtual worlds, simulators and game-based learning and training systems.(

Immersive Education combines interactive 3D graphics, video game and simulation technology, virtual reality, voice chat, Web cameras and rich digital media with collaborative online course environments and classrooms. Immersive Education gives participants a sense of “being there” even when attending a class or training session in person isn’t possible, practical, or desirable, which in turn provides educators and students with the ability to connect and communicate in a way that greatly enhances the learning experience.(

The Immersive Education Initiative is an official activity of the international Media Grid standards group. ( The Media Grid standards group actively applies open standards to specific problem spaces, such as distance education, digital libraries, and the impact of digital media on culture and society.
Immersive Education is not limited to one platform but considers the whole gamut and for that reason alone is well worth following.  For instance late last month Immersive Education Japan (iED Japan) ran a series of Immersive Education Days at University of Aizu, Japan, as part of Immersive Education: ASIA, programme.  Immersive Education presentations, lectures, workshops and related events included IEI members from Boston College, University of Aizu, National University of Singapore, Keio University, Smithsonian Institution, Montana State University, Southeast Kansas Education Service Center at Greenbush, University of Essex and Sun Microsystems to provide an in-depth overview of Immersive Education, the Education Grid [] and related technologies. To coincide with the event Japan’s first “node” (virtual world and collaboration server) on the Education Grid was announced. Hosted by the University of Aizu and sponsored by Sun Microsystems, Japan’s Education Grid node will enable cultural and technological exchange with educators and students around the world through virtual learning worlds and collaboration environments. Related announcements/initiatives included the launch of three new Project Wonderland (pictured – video is on IE site, along with videos from Second Life and Croquet) Community Groups; progress report by the Open File Formats Technology Group; formation of the Library Technology Working Group; formation of the Psychology of Immersive Environments Technology Working Group; formation of the Assessment, Evaluation and Grading Technology Working Group; preview of Second Life, realXtend, and OpenSim nodes on the Education Grid; and the official launch of the Initiative’s “Own the Node” program.


Second Life: Better every day?

Some Second Life residents might not agree with the Linden Lab claim that  Second Life is becoming more usable and more reliable. Perhaps I’m tempting the Gods but I for one , however, believe the claim. Putting aside ISP problems my  Second Life experience has improved considerably over the past three years – and I would average more than two hours a day in world often at peak US usage periods – but its still far from perfect.

I make this observation in light of the  Lindens’ recent claim ( that their staff has been hard at work over the last  few months making Second Life more relevant, more usable and more reliable.

“Our work is showing up in Second Life’s usage statistics,” M.Linden said on Tuesday. ” On Sunday of this past weekend, we hit another concurrency high of 76,946 and yesterday log-ins for the previous 60 days crossed the 1.4 Million mark.”

Noting that reliability was a top strategic focus for the Lab, he said that the launch of LL Net (the private fiber optic ring connecting the Linden Lab data centers) to provide additional redundancy and eliminate  reliance on VPNs, was ahead of schedule..

On the issue of making Second Life more relevant, he said,  the Big Spaceship project to improve residents’ first hour experience was proceeding well alongside a new website design.

Although the team also was making great progress on the major usability project, redesigning  the viewer so that it was easy to use for new residents without sacrificing functionality for experienced users, he said, it would be well into the second half of next year before the new client was implemented.

At the same time Linden Lab has been out hiring  and as placed Howard Look (SL:Howard Linden) formerly a VP of Software at Pixar, into the role of SVP of Customer Applications ( “The Front”) He will be responsible for leading the engineering team responsible for the customer-facing part of the Second Life experience.

Interestingly for educators Howard also has a passion for education and spent time this past summer as a substitute teacher (4th grade and middle school math).


December 12, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m: (Public seminar) Open Educational Resources and Scholarship in the 21st Century, University of Auckland Conference Centre, 423-342, 22 Symonds Street, Auckland. Speaker: Joseph Hardin, the Director of the Collaborative Technologies Laboratory in the Media Union and Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and currently the Board Chair for the Sakai project. Prior to joining the University of Michigan, he was head of the Software Development Group (SDG) and Associate Director for Software Development at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois. Most notably, his teams were responsible for the development of the NCSA Mosaic browser, arguably the tool that launched the world wide web.