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Archive for January 2013

Setting the Virtual Coffee Bar

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I wandered the grid to see some virtual coffee shops; the first seven in the search results for “coffee” in SecondLife™, in order.

Image of virtual world coffee shop, avatar seated in distinct pose

Multi-pose seats and doughnies at BRB Coffee Shop in SL’s Marachia

All of them had coffee machines and animated mug prims; but, they did not all have pastries. Two had seats with adjustable poses and two had tea service. Not one of the seven I visited displayed any sort of news or current events; no streaming media. They all had music; but, I never saw an option to change the stream. No knobs and dials.

Two seem worth mention here.

My first stop, BRB Coffee Shop (slurl), set the bar early. A nicely designed space with various seating areas, the scene was casual and comfortable

The detail at Cool Beans Coffee Shop (slurl)busied the eye; plenty of care in the texturing. For making a cool, quaint space; this was most impressive.

Image of virtual world coffee shop with finely detailed design elements

Rich texturing of Cool Beans Coffee Shop

Still, I did not see anything delivering information. To be fair, there may have been more interaction available,  me missing out in a hurry to bop around in my survey. I will be back to Cool Beans, though.

I only ever saw one other user, and that was an owner tending their own parcel.

I saw an interactive bookcase; no literature beyond its facade but it had an animated pillow, for posing with a book. One spot had a crystal-ball-sort-of hover-text fortune-telling object. It was—at least—a sign that the builder was trying to engage users with some type of written word, even if it was just a bit of schmaltz.

There was a cat.

I do not mean to seem cynical. I recognize the appeal in some of those spaces; an easy destination in which to meet and have a quiet conversation. “Let’s TP over to Cool Beans for a bit.” Many VW users probably have a folder full of such locations; all good for quiet, atmospheric conversation. And, I have made advantage of plenty of pose-ball settings to snap a screenshot for grins.

I think I am just looking for something new.

Written by azwaldo

January 31, 2013 at 8:56 am

Posted in metaverse, narrative

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Media Cafe

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Yesterday, I tried to describe what I would like to see in a virtual world coffeeshop. We see too many VW builds that merely recreate familiar environments. Virtual reality is not meatspace. Simply duplicating what is already known tethers the imagination. So, today, I began to build a Media Cafe in a parcel provided by the folks at OSGrid.

Image of virtual world building with loose parts, not joined

First build of Media Cafe follows a design by Ryan Schultz

A good coffee shop will attract visitors, encourage them to linger, and see them return again and again. If this project plays out, the Media Cafe should 1) attract users, 2) promote interaction within the space, and 3) engage visitors to return later with media URLs of their own.

The structure of the build, its architecture, supports the first two objectives. If a user finds the building to be of interest, she is likely to investigate further. If the surroundings are pleasant once she is in the space, she is likely to look around to find something to do. Interactive content will have to bring them back again…something to explore in a later post.

For today, assembling the virtual space was the focus. I sought inspiration in a design submitted early in the Studio Wikitecture 4.0 project by Ryan Schultz (Theory Shaw in SL).

Ryan Schultz's design for a virtual classroom

Ryan Schultz’s design for a virtual classroom

His design surprised me. There was enough of “school” or “classroom” about it to recognize it as such, but it was disconnected—virtually exploded— in a fresh and compelling way.

We should expect technology to help us transcend the familiar.

Starting with something recognizable and twisting it into something new liberates the imagination. Wandering within that exploded classroom I felt excited about what would come next, how the collaborative team might build on this model. Freeing a brick-textured block from the windows and floors left me free to see media prims that could move and adjust. I found that camera constraints were gone; those gaps in the walls let you anchor your mouse if you backed into a wall.

By taking a small—but dramatic—step away from the regular ways of putting up a wall, Schultz helped me to see how virtual worlds can reveal a new reality.

It was not just his design that inspired me, though. Wikitecture facilitated collaboration. The final design in the 4.0 challenge was the result of many designers noodling about and sharing ideas…together. (And where else you gonna have a chance to work with someone called Veeyawn Spoonhammer.)

It would be cool to see others riff on my Media Cafe. So, holler in world; or, just visit the space. You can find it in the northeast corner of SeaPrior Plaza of OSGrid. The first widget has even been installed: an interactive suggestion box with its back end in the cloud (courtesy of SL:Omei Turnbull).

But, for now, you will have to bring your own coffee cup.

Suggestion box installed at project. Got two cents?

Suggestion box at Media Cafe. Got two cents?

Written by azwaldo

January 30, 2013 at 1:06 am

Virtual Coffee Shops

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Shortly after registering for SecondLife™, while still in Orientation Island, a mentor offered to teleport me to a virtual coffeehouse. Someone passed an animated beverage cup and told me how to “wear” the mug.

Image of four avatars seated on a terrace, several holding mugs.
Brewsters Coffee House, first visit away from Help Island; TP offered by a mentor (February, 2007).

It was 2007, and there I was, marveling at how one could mingle with others in a simulated coffee shop. Steeped in fascination, I began thinking about the role of simulated spaces in a virtual world. Why a coffee shop? What purpose did it serve to design that space in that way?

In meatspace a coffeeshop offers two opportunities: coffee and community.

Sure, that virtual coffee shop simmered with community. In fact,  the personal socializing in VWs surprised me from the start. But where is my virtual caffeine? Are we merely duplicating one environment within another?

Image of virtual world coffee shop

OSGrid user Patrick Saccoccia’s Starbeans
Art Town’s Coffeeshop in OSGrid

Early last year, Prof. Ken Perlin from NYU spoke to rezidents of the Google campus about the future of Augmented Reality, imploring the audience to imagine how such technology might be employed, how it would be most useful.

“These issues…these discussions have to be very public and people have to be talking about them so that we can figure out what we all want…so that we can go keep [sic] moving ahead with our technology without everyone looking over their shoulder and mistrusting it.”

—from Perlin’s Google Tech Talk (video)
(Watch him sorting algorithms at 35:50, or the topographic mapping demo at 38:24.)

Any average avatar will yammer on about the role of technology. However, this is an Academy Award winner who teaches graphics to grad students. I mean: come on, the man received an Oscar for programming virtual reality.

“The solutions have to be: everybody gets together and says ‘What do we want as a society?’ ”

Meanwhile, back in the grid, I am thinking that virtual world design should inform augmented reality. So, regarding VW java…”Where’s the juice?”

How can we optimize the function of virtual world simulations? Dressing up at virtual shopping malls, we dance at virtual clubs. We drive digital dirigibles and slide down virtual carnival rides. But, what can be consumed in a virtual coffee shop?

Well…what if our virtual coffeehouse served up Internet media?

Instead of beverages, what if we found links to websites and blogs; in place of caffeine, information? We could meet to share links, swap perspectives, discover stories together. One user picks up a link, another drops one off. We could still wear animated mugs and mingle minds…let’s just splash some virtual books and magazines on the coffee tables.

This idea has been percolating for years. Now that I am back in the metaverse, it is time I ask…

image of coffee urn with website logos emerging from spigot

Image by Flickr member: Stewart Black

If virtual coffee houses were media cafés

…would you pour yourself a cup?

Written by azwaldo

January 29, 2013 at 6:59 am

Posted in media cafe, narrative

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