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.

Advertisements

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 21, November 02, 2008

How ‘real’ are VWs?

A research team, led by North Carolina State University’s Zelnak Professor of Marketing and Innovation, Dr Mitzi M. Montoya, has developed a new way of measuring how “real” online virtual worlds are – an important advance for the emerging technology that can be used to foster development of new training and collaboration applications by companies around the world. ( http://news.ncsu.edu/news/2008/10/wmsmontoyavirtual.php)

The research was focussed on developing the measurement tool specifically for business applications in the virtual world because the productivity and effectiveness of workers interacting via online environments is closely linked to how well the workers are able to feel as if they are actually in the virtual realm.

“This is an important issue,” Montoya said, “because we believe that if users feel they are ‘present’ in the virtual world, they will collaborate better with other members of their team – and the more effective the virtual world will be as a setting for research and development or other collaborative enterprises.”

Additionally, Montoya said “an increased sense of presence in the virtual world leads to better comprehension and retention of information if the technology is being used for training purposes, and trainees are happier with the process.”

The measurement scale, called Perceived Virtual Presence (PVP), factors in how users interact with the virtual environment, with their work in that environment, and with other users.

“Now that we have developed the PVP scale,” Montoya said, “it can be used to determine which PVP levels are most conducive to training, collaboration or other applications.” Effectively, the PVP scale can be used to design a virtual environment that has the degree of reality that will best cater to a company’s specific needs.

Montoya developed the PVP metric with Dr Anne P. Massey, Dean’s Research Professor of Information Systems at Indiana University.

Distance Education Event

November 10-14, 2008 – The US Distance Learning Association is sponsoring National Distance Learning Week (NDLW)  to promote and celebrate the growth and accomplishments occurring today in distance learning programs offered by schools, businesses, and governmental departments (USDLA). In support of this initiative, and highlighting the global reach of virtual environments, several organisations are collaborating to present and celebrate the tremendous potential of the virtual world of Second Life for distance learning. November 10 (Free in SL -12:30 am SLT and run through 8:00 am SLT): a full-day conference will include presentations from within Second Life and in real life at the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne (audio capability and the latest version of Quick Time required) . http://slurl.com/secondlife/Selmo%20Park/67/174/26

The first presentation will be at 12:30 am SLT from students of the L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs de Paris presenting “Eden of the Lost Animal.”

Other featured speakers include Bryan Carter, University of Central Missouri; Ed Lamoureaux, Bradley University; Jeremy Kemp, San Jose State University; Claudia Linden from Linden Labs; AJ Kelton from Montclair State University; Tim Linder, Meramec Art Department; and Beth Ritter-Gluth, Literature Alive.

Collaborating organisations include: University of Central Missouri, the Alliance Virtual Library in Second Life,  the Bibliotheque Francophone, and the L’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs de Paris. Info: Bryan Carter at: bc&@mac.com

Healthcare training

Margaret Hansen (SL: Maggie Waechter), of the San Francisco School of Nursing, has provided a lot of the answers on what virtual training in healthcare in worlds like Second Life can achieve and at the same time pointed to the directions virtual healthcare training should take. (http://www.jmir.org/2008/3/e26)

Entitled “Versatile, Immersive, Creative and Dynamic Virtual 3-D Healthcare Learning Environments: A Review of the Literature.” the Hansen overview comes to the conclusion that Virtual worlds  “may change the way people learn and live in the future”.

“The major strengths associated with virtual worlds are one’s ability to design and construct unique environments and then share them with others in a collaborative fashion,” she said in her report. “Educators may write specific learning goals for students to complete while learners actively build and interact in environments that promote creativity and social networking.”

Other advantages include  “virtual training approaches that yield results and are invaluable for healthcare professionals, and improvement in students’ access to places otherwise difficult to reach and heightened student engagement because the real-time social interaction and gaming aspect spurs chances for “discovery-based and goal-oriented learning”.

She, however, does not shirk from the challenges faced by healthcare education in 3D worlds, detailing what criticism there is.

She concludes in part: “Virtual 3-D learning environments may encourage active learning while students create and explore activities similar to those of a “field trip”, versus the experience of a static classroom setting. This reaching out and meeting new avatars and practicing communication skills in an aesthetic environment may help maintain today’s students’ interest in learning and provide valuable experiences that may enhance student engagement, promote participation, and motivate self-directed learning.”

Picture below: Maggie Waechter (the avatar of the author) visiting the Sexual Health sim in SL.

OpenSpace Land revolt

An avatar/resident revolt over Linden Lab’s signal of  a 67 percent  hike in the purchase price and maintenance fee of “OpenSpace” SL sim land has led to headlines,  avatar self-‘immolation, forum and blog protests and the threatened exodus of  hundreds of avatars for other virtual worlds.

The proposed price rises have also  worried educators who have used “cheap” “OpenSpace” sims to make their regions more attractive as well as ordinary residents who have used the “void” spaces for a multitude of purposes other than just decoration.

The most balanced coverage of the events so far has probably been provided by noted Second Life journalist Wagner James Au (pictured). http://gigaom.com/author/wjamesau/
He notes, however, that there have been protests like this throughout the world’s five-year history, but without a competing virtual world offering all the unique features of Second Life, angry customers have largely stayed put, despite their grumblings.

“Now, however, there is an increasingly viable alternative: OpenSim, an open-source platform for developing virtual worlds, that was, ironically, made possible after Linden Lab released its viewer code,” he said. “Though still in beta mode, OpenSim has attracted developers with IBM, Microsoft, and numerous startups, so it’s bound to rapidly improve.”

Given the fact that registrations for one OpenSim jumped dramatically in the days after the Linden announcement it might be wise this time for the Lindens to take notice before more residents start voting with their tiny avatar feet.

<!–[if !mso]> <! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } –>