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.