Monday, 6 September 2010

Teleport Home

Strange event for me, I decide to go to the UWA august awards, set my alarm for one in the morning and go to bed...I catch the last five minutes after crawling up at twenty past the hour. There's a DJ on afterwards and a large crowd, only i'm not in the mood for either, it was great to be a part of UWA if only for just the smallest of moments but now is not the time... I lean back and hit Teleport Home.

A wash of morning light floods through the garden, along the walls and down past the cylindrical keep in front of me, this is where i've called home for the past two years. A spot somewhere in the middle of the mainland, a nowhere in particular owned by two SL and RL friends, good times here.
Earlier in the evening over a glass of wine they casually mentioned they were selling the land, having spent less and less time in world recently and complaining that when they are there it's impossible to find anywhere to get to (surprise, surprise), they decided it's time to go.
I took the news with the humour and congratulations it deserved but it was not until later when I stood staring into the windlight sky with the virtual breeze passing over me that I began to realize how much this fantasy has sunk itself into my mind.
When I first arrived at the land my friends showed me around the keep and all it's floors filled with their personal belongings, but over the months my behaviour changed, I would not enter the keep or cam inside, I tidied up after myself in the garden and I tucked my belongings away where no one could see them.
Somewhere along the journey i'd pulled in these virtual items and this house and built a framework of mental rules to fit around these coloured pixels. It makes me wonder, if at any point we do bring any part of our psyche into lands, avatars and creations then what is it to stand inside part of someone else...what do we bring away from that?

Anyway, perhaps i'm just a melancholy fool, contemplating my future and where i'm going to settle but sometimes it's so good to sit back, escape and Teleport Home.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Sociology of objects, disability access to viewers

Following on from my previous posts I have been playing with scripts and the ways in which virtual plants may react to avatars, in particular I played around with the idea of trees that could react to an avatars height by lowering their fruits so the avatar could reach them. All potentially just theory since an avatars SL range is well beyond their physical reach, but the idea of using data gathered from an avatar to create reactions and interactions or even help via object changes sparked this memory:

Many years ago I studied the sociology of objects for a year, in particular computers and other tech, we were shown black and white photos of the first computers that filled whole rooms and in front of these chairs. We discovered the chairs were used to stand on by the operators to reach the top dials and controls, but the surprise was this, the computers were designed by men who never expected anyone other than tall males to control the computers, in reality a large majority of the controllers and programmers were women.

It just made me think about the way objects in virtual worlds are programmed and in also how the viewers themselves are perhaps enclosed to a particular user base, which led to a few ideas I thought I would throw out there:

Why not have a viewer side option to allow the remapping of colours? A simple screen showing the colour along with a text description to allow people who are colourblind to alter what they need.

Profile options for "hidden" disabilities, e.g hard of hearing, which a scripted object could the pick up, for example an object could sense an avatar with hearing problems and increase its sound volume output when they are near. These options could be hidden from people viewing your profile but I guess by allowing scripted object access to these "flags" could lead to some dubious programming.

More movement options, there are very few real movement control alternatives built into sl, this caught my eye on Philip Lindens love machine site for their own loveviewer:
The ability to move an avatar just by moving the mouse forwards and backwards! how simple!

Mouse controlled chat HUD, I realise that there is already software available for this such as built in GUI keyboards on operating systems and voice controlled text etc but I always see SL as an operating system in and of itself, the ability to layer huds and avatar controlled objects on to this keeps it a concise package. A graphical GUI hud for sl text chat along with programmable keys for set sentences/phrases would fit, or even to save more screen space a txt chat option with fewer keys could be shown. Again, no reason why this could not be created in the viewer itself, there are already a few chat huds sowing some of these features.

Very small option and one that some more builds could really benefit by, when an object is interactive it's sometimes hard to see just where? why not add context sensitive options, when hovering near or over click-able parts, increase levels of glow for example.

One final thought was on using windlight settings to create high contrast options for the visually impaired, I've had a quick go at doing this but without great success.

Anyway, I may have sidetracked myself from my previous posts objectives and maybe alternatives already exist for the above options, but it did lead me to looking at the GUI/viewer itself and IT's usability for the majority.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Virtual Nature Evolution Part 2: Whispering Tree's

The idea came for this when I began thinking about the modification of RL plants and trees to enhance the world for communication advancement, more specifically the idea that genetically modified tree's could be produced that not only grew faster but were also irradiated to enhance the range and strength of wireless signals for use in public parks etc.

I've been playing with the idea of a virtual tree that not only communicates and interacts with Avatars in an abstract way but can also react/affect the environment and objects around it, the other point was that the tree had to be able to communicate with other trees of it's type as well to create a communications mesh.

Whisper Trees (a concept design for nature communication in SL):

Disclaimer: I appreciate that none of the code ideas may be possible or practical in any way, that there may be a much more efficient solution to this and that yes, I may be entering into my own little head space :)

The central idea is that each tree sits and listens, scanning across the range of chat channels, listening for signals between objects, chat from avatars etc. The tree then locks into that channel and replicates the signal over a set period of time, with more trees each listening to the signals and each other this would essentially create a mesh spreading across a sim.
The trees would allow objects to communicate across sims, random chat would be picked up and repeated throughout the nature of sims and repeated to any passers by, essentially broadcasting out through "Whispering Trees".

For example in the above pic, object A sends out a signal on a chat channel, the nearby tree would be scanning through the channels and would eventually pick up the signal, repeat it and slowly it would pass throughout the network of trees in the sim (perhaps lighting up each one as they communicated), until the signal repeated by the trees reaches object B that could react to it.

For another application the trees could listen out for avatar chat, then if a tree receives to different chat signals it could splice the two together, once the chat has been merged and spliced throughout a forest say, the resultant chat being received by avatars entering the forest could produce quite bizarre stories!

The idea behind this concept is not to produce necessarily something that can be replicated in world but perhaps to spark a series of evolutions on an idea, that nature in virtual worlds can expand and integrate to a greater sense with the world around it...

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Virtual Nature Evolution Part 1

First we had flat prim plants and trees, then multi prim followed by sculpty plants leading on to some amazing one prim plant/trees.
All of these advancements or versions of SL nature have been in the visual or artistic sense, the variations in creativity and evolutions of plant design are so varied it would take months to track them all down and classify them, but where does VW/SL nature head from here, or does it even need to go anywhere apart from the visual.

SL and it's use of scripting and interaction could be used to modify nature in such a way that would not be possible in the RL, by injecting abilities into organic objects we could potentially create an evolutionary design model that could communicate not only with the avatar but also with the surrounding environment and objects.

Example 1:

Creation of a simple sculpt plant with free scripts injected into the leaves (natures plants/leaf design provides an almost perfect 3D menu system to choose from).
In this example the scripts were all freebies to show the potential of the designs, eg a plant on an avatars land parcel could be used to track avatars movement on the parcel, or a communications branch could provide newsfeeds, sl to rl email, drop boxes for busy avatars etc. Media/Entertainment branches could contain online status for visiting avatars, parcel media stream options for radio/video.

Bouncing these ideas seemed like fun, like the design was going somewhere, but when I looked hard at what was there, is it not JUST an object, by adding scripts and options to a once visually organic shape are we not removing the essence of its nature? It may as well be a plastic model with the same menu, just passing it would look like any plant or tree but closer inspection would show it to potentially be just a gimmick.

For all this, after asking a few people about the design and options they came back to say that something like this would be "cool" and perhaps could replace a number of items in their SL homes into one plant. Which kind of went against my whole ethic for VW nature creation, when you can create the marvellous and fantastical in the true sense why not take the ideas to a greater level?

Which led me on to using VW nature as a communications system that can interact with the Avatars/objects/environment around it and essentially mesh together with itself (oooh, just realised how very AVATAR that sounds!.:)), anyway, will continuen in part 2, The Whispering Trees.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Playing with my mind

Not having any space in the house to do any painting until I can sort out a small studio in the freezing garage i've been using Brushes on my ipod to play with a few ideas that i'll hopefully bring together in a piece in March.

It's a pretty personal piece based on a conversation I had years ago that's been playing on my mind more and more, now's the time to get it out into a creative form that should put it to rest.

To keep myself balanced I bought myself a Trudeau JaqCat boat to take on the water, it's rare that I buy anything inworld (Prefer to make my own items) but this is something else! It's one of the few things i've experienced in SL that feels...interactive? Immersive? the feedback from having the sim wind changing and the sails moving is great. I've spent the past few days just sailing along near the mainland with no real aim, just very relaxing, good times :).

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A bare nature

Almost every week a new sim hits the grid and everyone goes wild for the first peek but sometimes it's nice to just sit back, strip away all the work and glory in a vastly populated invisible world.......

Tempura Island

Chakryn Forest

Bentham Forest


Peeling back the layers of complexity, the multitude of prims, alphas and sculpties to a sim in it's most primitive form. Imagine being able to scrape back a painting to a canvas in an art gallery, what lies beneath and is it possible to relive the process of the artist in reverse..

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Simple homes of the near future

With the recent introduction of the Lindens home scheme there has been a fair amount of backlash from the community regarding the sim city style housing project sims and apparent cattle marketing of residents into homes. I appreciate where the lab is coming from with this, I myself was put of from becoming a premium member after the removal of the 512 land plot but at the same time wasn't the lab explaining almost a year ago that while premium membership was falling it didn't make a real difference since the majority of money was being brought in by land sales and rentals?

Which got me to thinking that perhaps by enticing residents back to premium membership and into homes they aim in the future to try and promote the growth of in world/xstreet sales? I mean if all of a sudden thousands of residents have homes and (assuming they use them) start furnishing them, they've got to get the product from somewhere?

I'm not against this move but in my head the idea of a sim full of resident homes would never be a flat down blueprint, I always imagined a number of layers variously disjointed yet never chaotic taking up the land and sky.

I've had various sketches of homes I thought would befit SL and recently knocked these up in a sandbox:

The open aired playful mansion

The idea behind this was to take a stately home and remove the elements not needed, the doors, the roof, walls etc but keep a sense of home still, the entrance, the horizontal and vertical and add the magical, the play on physics and scale. After building this someone noted it looked alot like a neko build, with scratch posts for seats etc, perhaps they have a point.

The Organic Home

This was really rough, but it comes in under 25 prims with seats and again plays with the idea of fantasy/scale/height, why not have a home as a series of flower pods that can be flown into?

The Alice in Wonderland

I liked this one the most :) it's house sized, has windows, the reminisce of doors and is open befitting an avatar that can fly. For me it's a sense of space and possibilities, if the walls are brought down how do you decorate a home like this?

I let the stairwell going to the roof/floor/top/room as I enjoy keeping part of the real alongside the unreal, it helps the brain agree to what it see's and also helps keep a sense of normality in a scene that's bizarre.

Tubes and Steel

For me aesthetically it's the weakest of the four but is again low prim and just a template to be built upon, I liked the idea of entering a home from all angles, flying up a tube from below, to a platform from above etc.

Viewing platforms for seating and building can easily be expanded upon, again try to imagine this kind of build in greater depth across a sim in vertical layers, the sea level land of the sim being used for...what?

These were pretty quick and simple builds using basic prims but i've made them available in sandboxes when I can with full perms (how do you get freebies into larger circulation?), if anyone wants a copy i'll be boxing these up and adding to a homes pack as a template to build upon, just IM me and i'll send one over :).

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Snowy Hoobinoo's not at home, welcome Snowy Hoobinoo

2009 a way I didn't expect, SL and RL disasters and emergencies all piled up in the last few weeks and pushed me the edge of a burnout, also being let down by people in/out world did not help.

So, how to make a new start to 2010? by breaking away from it all of course :) and making some drastic decisions:

Epistems is gone, really gone, the lands rented for a few more weeks and ALL my plants/tree's etc are in a freebie box for anyone to grab. It was taking up too much time trying to play at business in SL and paying rent/keeping people happy etc was really becoming tedious. The quick realisation that I could just say behind at RL work for half an hour and earn the same amount with dare I say it more pleasure, just killed it dead. Incidentally just after the announcement by the Lab to crack down on errant items on xstreet my sales were decimated.

I had been working on several contracts for people in SL/VW's with RL pay towards the end of the year and was feeling good, almost to the point of allowing myself to dream of maybe one day taking this off as a career path. Then it started to hit, constant harassment, miscommunication, non payment etc and all the other pitfalls of working freelance, again sitting back and thinking hard about what I was doing I realised that a lot of those in VW's, no matter how far up the tree or how many sims they own, don't know the first thing about business and in a RL situation I would of written these of as flakes a long time ago. Hey....a RL situation? where real money changes hands, yep, took me FAR to long to get there and so, gone, unless a decent contract or spec is drawn up beforehand i'm not interested.

My inventory, gone, 6000 items now down to under 2500, keeping my textures etc but the rest is history, backed up onto a drive but in 6 months time, if i've not needed it, gone too.

Snowy Hoobinoo, plant creator and plant avatar, gone.

Snowy hoobinoo, metamorphosis of stupidity/fun and goodwill, arrived.
Free from constraints and commitments has really helped me to enjoy SL again in the past week, I could of created an alt but deep down I know, Snowy really is a part of who I am even to the extent of the name sticking to me in RL. Changes like this to me are more akin to buying a new set of clothes, something not quite you but more a step towards what you'd like to be, same here too, changing slowly, trying to find a path/place in an emerging world.

Still exploring, Blue Mars and Caledon are a step in the right direction, i've not met many people there yet but it looks like the devs are listening . Ignore the buzz and just see it for what it is, content creation is a little fiddly but becomes routine easily enough. Not too keen on having to learn yet another tool in Google Sketchup so i'm waiting till blender support is fully integrated.
Took a look at the opening offers for stores in Caledon, great incentives and I bet there are a few queuing up to make the most of the initial rush for content once the monetary system is in place.

But good things for the future, creative fires are burning, art show booked for March which if I can pull it off should be something very different for me. Building a series of alternatives to Linden Homes and amassing a new persona for myself, hoping to get more involved in the community as a whole and to make a difference , perhaps i'll stop being such a hermit.....:)