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Archive for March 2013

more than meets the eye

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I like being surprised by virtual world designs, and it happened just few moments ago.

I returned to peek under the hood of an educational sim, one only recently discovered (first clue here). I roamed around and flew up-up-up, ctrl-alt-zooming into spaces here and there; right-click-more-more inspecting random objects…all an attempt to reveal the plan, to discover more of the story.

Then I came upon a teleportal door.

image of virtual world avatar standing next to door labeled "men's dressing room"

Teleportal in Alice’s Boutique leads to….

Its location is devoted to avatar appearance, providing freebie clothing to new users. To my surprise, the familiar Anywhere Door led to a skybox hundreds of meters overhead, and…

… an elegant solution to a common problem (“How do you give users privacy for changing clothes?”)

...private dressing area for men; masculine and refined. Makes me wonder about the ladies' room...

…a private-skybox dressing area for men; masculine and refined. (Makes me curious about the ladies’ room.)

This is where the surprise sunk in. You see, I had found the skybox during an earlier flight around the sim.  I must have cammed right through the Anywhere Doors, because the space seemed disconnected, empty, and somehow incomplete; a room with no clear purpose, no obvious context. Bold-headed, I thought “this is just an unfinished sketch” and “too much is going on here.”

Discovering the elaborate build—one that is taking shape under the eye of a single, motivated educator—was a pleasant surprise in itself. Discovering that the host has an eye for interactive, user-centric design was the best surprise of all.

I reckon  I will be writing more about this space; and, until l I get my head around it a bit more, I have put off naming it here.

(If you just have to know…here is your own teleportal.)

Written by azwaldo

March 24, 2013 at 3:27 pm

grokking subQuan

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I happened upon Cooper Macbeth, a SecondLife™ rezident whose passion both for education and virtual worlds is evident. Previously acquainted, we both attended a presentation and chatted briefly afterwards.

Later that same day, he posted a question about camera controls in a scripting group, a group that I watch. I have some experience with the issue he described; so, a quick reply engaged us in discussion and we were soon chatting in his Sushi Bar.

Image of virtual world sushi restaurant

Cooper Macbeth’s Sushi Bar, a custom venue for instruction

The Sushi Bar (SLurl) is a pleasantly appealing, interactive, educational stage that facilitates instruction. Cooper designed and built this elaborate classroom to deliver a specific—yet subtle—lesson in mathematics.

subQuan (sub’-kwän; from Latin subitas quantitas) is the ability to perceive at a glance a quantity much larger than seven by organizing the items into rows, columns, and containers
— from DreamRealizations Wiki

As interesting as the subQuan principle was, I found myself focused on Coop’s design. As VW instructional designs go, it is exemplary. Cooper and partner Ute Frenburg have been developing the presentation and its VW component for years. That is a long time in the metaverse.

SecondLife™ rezident Cooper Macbeth presenting SubQuan to a group

The space employs scripted control of each user’s camera to focus attention on particular spots, illustrating lesson content in a fluid sequence during his live demonstrations. His current challenge is to further refine the user’s experience by smoothing camera transitions from one view to another.

I don’t know if my feedback helped; but, I certainly learned something new. (Love it when that happens.)

In showing me where he needed scripted camera controls, Cooper Macbeth was demonstrating his subQuan presentation. However, in sharing his project, he demonstrated a sophistication in design that surpasses much of the educational content that I have seen.

He showed me, once again, how thoroughly VWs can augment our reality.

Written by azwaldo

March 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm

serious design

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While listening to tech-prophet Bruce Sterling’s recent rant my mind ran to virtual world design. There is no doubt. I am fully immersed, again. To digress…

If you dig tech, but are unfamiliar with his writing and reporting, you would probably still enjoy Bruce Sterling‘s closing remarks at this year’s SXSW conference and festival.

Plug in here.

Apparently, at the same conference, Google gave a glimpse in their vision by sharing four key design principles for Google Glass.

  1. “design for Glass”
  2. “don’t get in the way”
  3. “keep it timely”
  4. “avoid the unexpected”

Sterling then described what an evil Google Glass would look like…

You just take the four Glass design principles and you reverse them. You use software that was not designed for glass; buggy, abusive software; stuff that breaks up, or jams, or just fails to display.

You grab fiercely for attention.

You disrupt the user’s day.

You send the user stale, useless information.

You do freaky coding that breaks, or hacks—or powns—the device.

This is when I drifted off. Pause audio, make note, start a list; then, back to Bruce…

He continued, within days of Google’s announcement to close down Google Reader, speaking of how technology consumes itself.

Yes we killed the past. We didn’t pull the trigger on it directly; but, it died for our benefit.

Yes we burned it up. No one is historically innocent.

Yes we are carnivores at this barbecue. The saving grace here is that we eat what we kill.
Go on, eat it. Don’t pretend…live up to it…to kill and eat it is fierce, but honorable.

His closing primed me to proceed with prejudice.

How can we get past the wow factor? How can really inquire with this, how can we treat it with moral seriousness? The first step is to accept that our hands are not clean. We don’t just play and experiment. We kill.

So, now, I ask you: “What are the design principles delivering the best VW designs?”

Written by azwaldo

March 22, 2013 at 3:18 pm

interactive design at alphatribe

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Twice, recently, I have been asked what I mean when referring to virtual world designs as “interactive“. I bumped into a fine example today…

Flying about, I came upon an oddly abstract assembling of objects, finely shaped and all textured in monochrome. Look closely and you find various sit-target animations; hidden, whimsical surprises.

Skybox doodling at alphatribe sim. It is a joy to watch Alpha Auer dance.

Skybox scene at alphatribe sim; the space designed for a party.
For scale, note avatar near center, up and to the right.

SecondLife™ veteran Alpha Auer has a sixth sense for virtual world design. Her alphatribe sim (SLurl, or blog) is only her most recent space to capture my attention.  Perhaps you remember Syncretia?

Sit-target animations let the visitor dramatize the scene.

Closer view in same scene as image above.
Sit-target animations help visitors dramatize the scene.

Apparently, this particular corner of the metaverse is a stage, custom-designed “by Kikas and Marmaduke” for a party. Very cool.

Here, we are not left to merely look upon the scene.  We can interact with objects, immersing ourselves in the setting. This is what I think of when I imagine “interactive” design. Keep me clicking and you keep me coming back.

It is probably a joy to watch Alpha Auer dance.

Written by azwaldo

March 18, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Reality Augmented

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As an undergraduate student I learned that things stick in my mind if I just write them out. Let’s see if that happens this time.

Yesterday, while chatting with a new acquaintance, I found myself shading the truth once again; not quite lying, just not letting the whole light shine…so to speak. Using words like ‘graphics’ and ‘animation’, alluding to interactive design and educational content, I danced around my deep interest in virtual worlds. I reckon I’ve heard the oh!-you-play-video-games sort of response too often.

That should stop, here and now.

Anyone familiar enough with virtual worlds knows how the interface and technology seem to augment our reality. My social interaction, perspective, my imagination and creativity; all of these have evolved along with my experience in virtual reality. But, there is much more to it…

If you are a SecondLife™ user, just have a look at this video (~ 2½ min.) and tell me if you do not find something familiar.

SpaceTop, CHI 2013 (PREVIEW) from Jinha Lee on Vimeo.

How will shaping and animating digital objects inform our walk through the physical world? Just sign up, and follow your imagination.

Our host in this next video (~3½ min.) asks…

How do I get this information, which is 2-D…into the operating theater?

Hang on ’til—or jump to—around 2:20 in the video to see reality augmented, and tell me he is not showing us a truly virtual world…

Where technology improves our ability to visualize problems and find solutions, how can we dismiss the value in “playing” such games?

Written by azwaldo

March 11, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Pixieviewer – New Browser Based Virtual World Viewer

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screenshot: browser aimed at PixieViewer website with result being "Access denied."
Screenshot: browser aimed at PixieViewer (July ’14)

Registered and logged in to Pixievieweranother virtual world—today; but, this time it felt different.

screenshot of Pixieviewer web page with hyperlink that opens virtual world viewer in the browser

Hyperlink to a virtual world, courtesy of Thomas at Pixieviewer

See that familiar blue hypertext in the middle of this screenshot? This time, when I stepped into the metaverse, it happened from within my Google Chrome browser.

Pixieviewer is a browser based viewer for virtual 3D environments.

It is designed to run on any device (including tablets and mobile phones) which supports modern HTML5 capable browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Safari and others.

(from the website)

This seemed significant; it felt like a virtual world, not just a world rendered in a browser…and we need browser based access to VWs if the platform is to expand its niche.

screenshot of avatar in virtual world standing on top of cube

Pixieviewer virtual world avatar atop custom widget.
(Click to view full size.)

Pixieviewer creator Sunny Salamander describes the technology behind Pixieviewer at his website, and explains:

One of my goals in virtual worlds is to lower the hurdles that come along with the new technology and make it easier to use.

Will I be able to point Pixieviewer toward my own OpenSimulator region? Does this relieve the casual user from the complexity of standard viewer interfaces?

I clicked on a link in a webpage and a moment later watched as a new world revealed itself. No downloads, no waiting; no worry about installing software from an unknown vendor.

I think the metaverse just got a little bit bigger.

Well done, Thomas.

Written by azwaldo

March 10, 2013 at 1:03 am

Landmark Exchange

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Image of animated virtual world with maps as big as cars laying on the ground

SciLands region map at STEM Island
(Click to view large image.)

We have plenty of opportunity to swap and share web links. Think about how often you have said (or heard) “thanks for the link.”

There are quite a few ways to learn about locations in the metaverse, too. And, given the medium, you can find some creative approaches to sharing destination information.

Elucian Islands
3-D Site Map at Elucian Islands, now closed*
(Click to visit image at Flickr)

My favorite destination information location was the Destination Station (image below). But, I rarely saw anyone there. I may have been late to the party.

Still, I enjoyed seeing the design of the space; especially the casual seating in the middle (appeared later than the image here)…it looked as though rezidents might hang around. I imagined them talking design, recommending sites to visit, swapping landmarks.

image showing virtual world location with many pictures

Destination Station; Browse images, touch to visit
Image by Daniel Voyager; click to view at Flickr

Destination Station is also missing from the grid.

So, if you are ready to discover a new space…how do you find it? Or, if you have found a great new space…how do you share it? Are you a profile surfer? Do you check out Profile Picks to discover new content?

image of a common pushpin in virtual reality animation

The Landmark Exchange

The Landmark Exchange is an attempt to design a new way to share content. Got landmarks? Drag one and drop it. Looking for a new place to look? Touch, and learn. What if you could touch a prim in one grid and learn about landmarks submitted in another?

I am curious to see where this widget goes.

The first version can be found at my SeaPrior Plaza parcel in OSGrid (where I have buried my nose in scripts for a few weeks). There is another one placed in my new SecondLife™ parcel in the NW corner of the Urdu region (SLurl).

Quite a few features fill out my wish list. My nose goes back in a script right after this post.

Working features, so far…

  • Any user can touch the object and receive landmarks.
  • The object is easily set to only receive landmarks from members of a group.
  • Object checks new LMs for copy permissions (because a locked-down landmark is no good to any avatar).
  • Drop a good LM and object will IM the owner with the name of the landmark and name of the user.

The landmark pushpin is a recognized symbol, and my Landmark Exchange should be an easy addition in any location, to any design. So, next time you see one in world…give it a push.

Mine are loaded.

Written by azwaldo

March 5, 2013 at 4:12 am