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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

Media Cafe is BYOB

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Survey Says…

I have visited at least two dozen virtual coffee shops; locations in SecondLife™ that use “coffee” in their name or description. I have so many mugs they get their own folder.

About a third of those places have no music, at all. Most have audio streaming, several even have a radio or other device (such as a phonograph); but, only one gives media access to vagabonds. Not one presented shared or parcel media.

image of modern design virtual world coffee shop

Coffee Shop at TSTC commons
Nice furnishings, no music.
(Click image to view full size.)

Granted, I may have overlooked radio buttons here or there; and, a space like Texas State Technical College’s  (image above; SLurl)—a location designed primarily for a small community—is not designed to attract traffic. Still, you want me coming back? Feed me some content. Give me some options, at least…a bit of control over the space.

It is a simple thing to let users select an audio feed. The scripts are easily found, and there are hundreds of streams if you know how to find the URLs. Or, you can just check out the list of Music Streams at the SL wiki.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Bepop)

The Media Cafe project is not just about interactivity, though. It is sticking virtual toes into the cool water of user-generated content.

image of virtual world scene with an object that looks like an old radio

Not just any radio will work in the Media Cafe…

Quite a few issues to be sorted. Is a chat-driven menu better for this than blue dialog boxes? You can choose the soundscape at your favorite hangouts from a list; but, can you load a new URL into the radio? Streams can be submitted via chat, after all. If you knew you could submit a stream URL, would you bother?

You could allow any user to load a new stream, or restrict this to members of a group. Parcel media even lets us provide different audio content to different users. If you are not using parcel media for video, why not make a self-serve, unique audio selection available to every visitor?

Everyone gets their own iPod.

If we want the synergy of sharing socially, we all have to generate some content. So, if you visit the Media Cafe

bring your own bebop.

(It’s a Fair Exchange.)

Written by azwaldo

February 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Think Banana

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I have spent the last hour trying to describe something. What a mess I made…

Select > All


I had been stuck all day. A friend pointed out a flaw in my Media Cafe design project: Nobody needs to be in a virtual world to read the news or surf the Internet. The fun just fizzled right out of it. I needed to find something that I had lost. I needed to get back on track.

The deleted mess was me trying to explain the process; but, I will simply say:

Lateral thinking did it.

Media Cafe is not about designing a re-purposed virtual coffee shop. It is about what I would like to see in every virtual coffee shop I have visited. I should not be trying to get someone to come. They are going already.

So, if we are there anyway, let’s make it worth the visit, eh?

The Inkwell in Bonaire region (slurl).Click to see full image.

The Inkwell Coffee Shop in Bonaire region (slurl).
Click image to see full size.

Written by azwaldo

February 1, 2013 at 8:35 am

Posted in design, media cafe

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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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