Dec 31, 2012

Rationale

Communication and empathy in #SecondLife

 

In my typical fashion, I present a substantial post today concerning the topic of choice: Communication and Empathy in Second Life. It’s somewhat of a “dating” post, but it goes into a lot more than that at the root. I thought it was a fitting post for the last day of the year, December 31st 2012. We’ve made it past the end of the world, so today I’d like to outline my hopes for a better (virtual) world going forward. Of course, we have to explore the complete context to get to that point… so let’s begin.

 

I’ve spent a lot of years in virtual worlds, and the earliest memory I have of them is a situation in Blaxxun Contact when I was about 17 years old. Of course, I had spent a lot of time with VRML systems and BBS software, but I believe Blaxxun Contact was my first foray into multi-user spaces (Cybertown). At the time, I had seen them much like anyone else would coming in for the first time – maybe a game or a communication platform that happened to be in a virtual 3D space.

 

 

 

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MoriRose and Myself

 

 

Here in the virtual world, we could digitally exist much like we already were in chat rooms but with the added benefit of the full three dimensional space. We were no longer just disembodied chat text on the screen, but inhabiting a spatial context. What I found early on is that the situations today aren’t very different than they used to be when it comes to communication and empathetic attachment.

 

Back then, the situation unfolded quite the same as it does today on a daily basis in the dating or (for lack of better wording) relationship arena. My friend at the time was married in real life and had a couple of kids, and upon seeing this new virtual world that I was involved with, wanted me to show him around. He was truly intrigued by the novel form of online communication and existence.

 

Over the course of a number of months, he had really gotten into Cybertown heavily, and met some wonderful people. The problem (I believe) is when he ran into another woman whereby it progressed into an emotional attachment and relationship that was bigger than just a friendship.

 

I remember telling him that you can’t justify cheating on your wife with somebody else simply by brushing it off as a game. Of course, this sounds all too familiar today in the space of Second Life where on a daily basis I hear about husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends doing just that to their partners. He used the all too common excuse on his wife that you probably have used yourself or have heard used time and again – except his wife didn’t buy the line of bullshit and divorced him.

 


 

“It’s just a game.”

 

I hear that far too often today. My friend Quinn in-world came into Second Life solely to find out what it was all about. Her boyfriend apparently had a partner for about about 5 years now, and well before he met Quinn in RL through Match.com as a dating service. They were a couple for awhile before he finally told her his “little secret” of Second Life.

 

I think that’s your first cue that you are probably doing something disingenuous, if you feel a need to hide your actions. This goes for trying to separate yourself in multiple ALT accounts as well. In that context, it’s just cheating on your spouse or loved one(s). There is nothing more to it than that, no matter how much we like to excuse it or spin it as something else.

 

There have only been two instances whereby I saw a sincere need to have an ALT, and both times it was to protect the identity of the main account and the person behind it. So under that premise, I would say it’s an honest reasoning. However, more often than not it’s for a dishonest reason, and that is what bothers me.

 

 

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She came into Second Life because her boyfriend gave her that line “Oh, it’s just a game… don’t worry”. What she found out was quite the contrary. I’m pretty sure she had the (mis)fortune of running into me early on when she came to Second Life… her boyfriend didn’t seem to have any problem with her coming into Second Life based on the premise of her being completely new at it that it would take her quite some time to really become accustomed to it and get her avatar together in a way that would pose some threat to him.

 

His secret, he figured, was totally safe and he had nothing to worry about. She wasn’t going to get hit on, wasn’t going to find herself a boyfriend in SL, and she didn’t even know the first thing about how to go about looking up profiles and such. No… she just sat at Muddy’s and listened to music in her noobie avatar.

 

And then she met me…

 

and I more or less told her what to expect, how he was playing her and likely another woman, and for lack of better wording… cheating on her. What was more messed up was that because he had been partnered to the other woman years before he met Quinn through Match.com, I told Quinn that by technicality she was the other woman and he was cheating on his partner with her.

 

My goal then became to level the playing field on her behalf. I set up her avatar and made her into a drop-dead gorgeous bombshell knockout. So much so, that stepping foot in Wet Willies got her bombarded with IMs from guys complimenting her on her avatar as “the best they’ve seen in years”. All that before she managed to get to the door.

 

It was true, I had gotten her avatar into what amounts to be a black haired Heather Locklear. Worked on shape, found the right skin to go with her looks (in real life). In real life, she’s quite the looker so it wasn’t much of an exaggeration in her avatar. That alone pissed me off even more about him because there she was… not 5 feet away in real life, and damned good looking, and he chose the virtual girl over her.

 

Then, once I had set her avatar up and made her the center of attention, I asked her what her boyfriend’s name in SL was, but she didn’t know the full name. He did, however, tell her the name of the woman he was partnered too and took great pains to keep Quinn from stepping foot anywhere near his sports club, her club, or having them two meeting. After she told me her name, I saw the partnership and looked at his profile… and immediately knew why. He was announcing to the world that his partner was his one and only (which I can get the collective lie aspect or RP) but then went ahead and shot his “It’s just a game” excuse right out the window by stating in his public profile that his partner was his only love in SL and RL.

 

Oh, the shit hit the fan.

 

All those business trips he was taking suddenly added up in her head the moment I asked her if he brought the laptop and had skype, what would possibly stop him from turning on video with her while he was away to prove to his partner he was by himself? Hell… what stops him from calling Quinn on the laptop and video chatting with her while he’s away?

 

The answer was that he was too busy with his virtual girlfriend to pay any attention to his real girlfriend.

 

Quinn asked me if there was a way to see chat logs in Firestorm, and being honest I told her how but warned her that what she would find wouldn’t be good. He was probably giving that girl his phone number, email, and every real world contact he had, telling her she meant the world to him… and of course, she went ahead and read the chat logs anyway.

 

That’s exactly what he was doing… telling her how much she means to him, one day they’ll be together, until then here’s his contact information and he wanted her to txt, email, call, and whatever else…

 

Quinn was rightfully pissed.

 

But here’s the kicker: I had done such a good job with her avatar and getting her up to speed on SL in such a short time, that she now looked infinitely better than his own partner of ~5 years, and was becoming nervous and jealous. He specifically went out to make an ALT just to spend time with her outside of his main account which was partnered, and now he was reciprocally cheating between two women in two worlds.

 

Whatever happens from there is really up to her. I suspect she’ll just go find a virtual boyfriend and pretend he’s not cheating on her. They’ll lead separate virtual lives to escape the fact that their real life together is all but shot to shit.

 

When confronted with those chat logs, and busted beyond red-handed… all he had to say for himself when she said “We need to talk…” was “There’s nothing to talk about. I have work to get done.” and completely blew her off. They did finally talk later on, but about what I couldn’t say. Based on how he’s been acting so far, I’d essentially believe he just gave her the long line of bullshit and justifications, and told her to go have her own virtual life and leave his alone.

 

More or less, it was a situation of: Yeah, I’m cheating on you and there’s nothing you’re going to do to stop me.

 

That is pure arrogance.

 

But we get cocky like that when we’ve convinced ourselves we’re untouchable and without real consequences.

 


 

Is it just a game?

 

I stand firmly on the side of it not being “just a game”. Yes, you can lead a made-up life in virtual worlds, play a character, and explore things you wouldn’t in real life. But along the lines you are still dealing predominantly with very real people and for that there is the notion of emotional attachment and bonding.

 

When I first joined Second Life about 5 years ago, I mostly saw profiles that said they were characters or that the avatar was separate from the person. I saw a lot of selfish and destructive behavior from that phase of Second Life, and to this day I still do.

 

However, something I’ve been noticing more lately is that profiles are beginning to say that there is respect, and honesty, and there are real people behind the avatars and that we should never forget that. Aside from the typical “no drama” and “no bullshit’ sort of lines… people are coming to terms with the empathetic side of virtual worlds, realizing it’s not “just a game”.

 

Sure there are plenty of people who continue to abuse that excuse for obscenely bad behavior, but I hold out hope that it’s shifting into a minority goring forward as enough people get burned by those emotional attachments and realize something they were trying all along to ignore.

 

 

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Emotion is Real Life

 

Unless you are specifically laying out the ground rules of roleplaying and specifically saying “this is just a character and nothing more” you are creating an emotional bond which is the same as if you were dealing with the person in real life.

 

Even when you are interacting under the guise of a “character” you are still interacting with somebody on the other end of a keyboard who has feelings, emotions, wants and needs. I’ve heard quite a lot about “dating” in Second Life and the shallow attitudes attached to it along the way.

 

“If you wanted to seriously date, why are you in Second Life? That’s what dating sites like Match.com or eHarmony are for!”

 

Are they, now? You’ve just read the story of Quinn, so tell me if Match.com or eHarmony are more effective at dating than Second Life. I’ve found that the means of communication is more immersive and robust in Second Life than in a typical scenario of Match.com or eHarmony. After all, how is it more acceptable to think a flat page with a simple bio and some basic stats is better than spending time in Second Life getting to know people?

 

But then again, that sentiment that people use against me to discredit, also (unwittingly) shoots their own interaction to shit. After all, if you’re in a bad relationship in real life or are unhappy to begin with, why the hell are you using Second Life as an escape if you consider it less worthy of your acceptance in emotional roles and connections than a website like eHarmony?

 

I just call it out for what it is… a communication and interaction platform that allows for immersive experiences including, but not limited to, romantic. You can’t really discredit a virtual world as less appropriate for emotional and romantic encounters if that’s exactly what you (yourself) are utilizing it for as a surrogate to escape a bad relationship situation in real life.

 

I’ve personally had roughly the same results in and out of virtual worlds when it comes to dating or building relationships romantically. So to me… I don’t see the difference between the two except to say it’s like a mirror image.

 

In real life we start on the premise of physical attraction and build emotional attraction and compatibility. In the virtual world, we start on the emotional/empathetic attraction and eventually get to the physical. Most never seem to get to the physical part in much the same way as in real life quite a few relationships die out for lack of emotional/empathetic connection.

 

Just ask the unhappily married man/woman in Second Life who is playing the part of the virtual wife/husband. The married but separated couple who turn to the virtual world to play out a happy relationship instead of resolving their real life issues first and foremost. The couple who is roleplaying with virtual children and the happy home. Which again brings up the question of adults playing as children in Second Life in virtual families. A lot of the time it has an underlying premise that they are trying to make up for something that they are lacking in real life.

 

I’ve been in and out of the dating centers of Second Life for quite awhile now, and have read all manner of profile cards that people write on their boards. I’ve been on countless dates where at some point it comes out that they are not single but married… or in a bad marriage… or whatever the case may be. I’ve played the sympathetic ear countless times and given the best advice I could give to them in their situations, like a true friend would.

 

 

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Some take the advice to heart, and others choose to continue trying to turn a blind eye to the real life situation which brought them into Second Life looking for escape. Real life is hard… no doubt about it. You actually have to work at relationships, and you can’t be perfect. You have to deal with rejection a lot, or circumstances which would otherwise not allow you to have something more until you reconciled your past or unhappy present situation.

 

I suppose that’s why so many people have a folder full of fake pictures they give to people in-world when asked what they look like. There is that insecurity up front, and probably one of the underlying reasons why they are in Second Life to escape. They may be great people emotionally and intellectually, but maybe they don’t live up to the fantasy while the fantasy version of themselves is preferable. So they just keep living the fantasy and have resolved to accept the short term illusion over long term reality.

 

In a lot of cases, I completely understand that a virtual world existence is all some will ever get in order to lead a “normal” life. Plenty of people who are terminally ill or bed-bound. In that case, it is a good way to relieve that situation when there is truly no other option in real life. But then there is the other side of that coin where there isn’t a real life barrier but people still use virtual worlds as the escape anyway – they justify it the same as the terminally ill person who literally cannot change their real life circumstance. To me, that’s disingenuous at best. The person who cannot change their circumstances in real life really has no other recourse and would kill to have the opportunity to change it that so many waste when they are perfectly capable.

 

When you are in a virtual world, you are still building empathetic connection to others through your interactions. So when you are “dating” in a virtual sense, emoting, or using the XCITE! furniture for all it’s worth, you are building an emotional connection that is indistinguishable in your mind than what you would get if you were to do any of that in real life.

 

You end up falling in love.

 

 

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Jewlie Diesel and Sanlayan Texan in Second Life.

 

 

So then, there is the opposite end of the spectrum where I tell you about my in-world sister Jewlie Diesel and her partner San Texan. They met in Second Life awhile back, became partnered, and are a couple in real life as well. Currently they are talking about marriage in real life, and he is going to propose. This is what I set the bar at in regards to relationships in Second Life. Two people who honestly come together, get to know each other, and aren’t trying to bullshit each other – who (if things continue to work out and you fall in love) decide they are really in love and want to continue further. Two people who aren’t trying to hold up a fa├žade, and sincerely want something long term.

 

Now, I’m not saying relationships in Second Life have to end in real life marriage. I’m saying that if it’s an honest relationship with sincere intentions, that you’ll progress in a healthy manner and not blow up in some drama filled mushroom cloud of bullshit and deceit. I think in the end, what I really believe in is that this situation (with Jewlie and San) isn’t as far fetched as it is, and that this is the sort of thing I would aspire to with my own intentions.

 

But for those who are going into those interactions with a degree of separation, you have to admit here and now that it is a selfish sort of interaction. It’s right up front based on a lie or fabrication for the purpose of simply using somebody else for your own wants, needs, or whatever with little regard for others. Some people go into it with the fabrication up front, while others are just openly and brazenly wearing that fact on their sleeve like there is nothing wrong with it.

 

If I took the words “in Second Life” out of the sentence, you know it wouldn’t fly if I said “I’m unhappily married, so I’m dating and romantically involved with other people –“. Really, all I’m doing is removing the mode of communication and leaving the rest of the situation.

 

That’s why I don’t buy the line “It’s just a game”. 

 

Of course, there are plenty of people who will argue from the point of Open Relationships, etc saying that somebody who truly loves them will be there for them all the time when they are only there part of the time. That’s about what it boils down to if you think about it.

 

I’m under the impression that if I cannot make somebody happy giving them my all, then I wouldn’t expect to give my all and get a fraction in return. People should be happy… but not on a lopsided basis of all in and 1/4 back in return. People often say “Well, you’re just jealous…” and my reply is “No, you’re just being selfish wanting it all and expecting to give a fraction to them in return.”

 

That’s not a full relationship… that’s a long term agreement to be friends with benefits. Much in the same way as I had a conversation recently with somebody who is poly and was heartbroken when a boyfriend she had left her for his wife… to work on his marriage. All I could say is that I have no sympathy for her in that situation. He did the right thing and her being the mistress (at best) doesn’t really get the right to be broken up about it.

 

She saw it differently, obviously… and we continue to agree to disagree for the sake of keeping a friendship. Otherwise, she is quite an amazing person.

 

But if it works for those couples, so be it. I’m monogamous because I believe in giving the one I love my absolute all and I wouldn’t dream of treating that woman like she meant less than 100% of my love and affection. Of course, I expect that in return…

 

 

Will & Mori_007

 


 

Degrees of Separation

 

One of the conversations I’ve had with Dr. Gilbert (Psychology Professor at Loyola Marymount University) has to do with this whole degree of separation between person and persona, as well as what differentiates the means of communication to create that separation.

 

We would talk extensively about why we would treat somebody on the phone like a real person but then create the degree of separation in our virtual persona. We’re not quite sure why this happens, but I offered a bit of insight into it when he was writing one of his papers in that I suggested maybe it’s because of the “It’s just a game” justification.

 

In a virtual world like Second Life, there is a much higher degree of empathetic attachment and connection versus talking to somebody on the phone, email, or just a text chat. And yet, it is puzzling that we often consider virtual worlds, the people which inhabit them, and the interactions, as less valuable or real than lesser and more detached forms of communication.

 

There is a higher degree of immersion with virtual worlds communication, and the spatial existence which it portrays and yet we too often associate it with a lesser degree of solidity in emotional and interpersonal interaction.

 

In the end, that winds up damaging – and you can clearly see that with the pervasiveness of “drama” in Second Life. I think the biggest surprise is that despite our best efforts to call it just a game and create an emotional detachment, we end up deeply attached and empathetically connected to others. Even though by all indications nobody should have been surprised at all by this, which brings us back to the “It’s just a game” line whereby all indications point to it being anything but if we look at the actual results of our interactions.

 

What it boils down to is that we’re still unsure how to approach this form of interpersonal interaction and spatial immersion, so we justify it as the nearest relevant equivalence (which is a game), but then realize through the interaction and empathetic attachments that we’ve essentially been attempting to lie to ourselves the entire time.

 


 

Deeper Meaning

 

As I write this, I’m currently in a relationship with MoriRose in Second Life, and (at least theoretically) in real life as well. It’s a little early to get into that more and what it all means, but she’s one to say that what she is looking for is long term. Not that I doubt her words… I just know the landscape of Second Life and what I experience quite often otherwise.

 

Maybe the majority of you really are responsible for that stigma that Second Life has? Instead of Linden Lab running campaigns to try and make Second Life seem less like Mos Eisley and more like an acceptable place to bring the kids, maybe you as the community need to learn how to present a better community overall if you want to reverse that stigma?

 

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have our contention or vent our frustrations either… I mean just sincerely begin by trying to be better people overall. There is a difference between putting on a fake smile and pretending everything is ok while sweeping the rest out of sight and actually just being genuine and making the virtual world a better place.

 

I’m a pragmatist, which means that I’m more than capable of seeing both sides of a situation. I’m not really afraid to look at something and ask “What’s the worst that could happen?” and muse on those worst case scenarios. In the same light, I just as easily ask ‘What is the best that can happen from this?” and think about those aspects as well.

 

I believe there is deeper meaning to emotional and empathetic connection in a virtual world context. It has been a few months now since I’ve heard anything from my virtual world mother, Magee Yootz. This is a woman which I’ve known since I was 19 years old, and whom became my virtual mother after my first one passed away (Daphne). Being 33 now, you can do the math and realize that in conjunction with her always having been sick or getting worse over the years, as much as I try to have hope going forward – she is around less frequently and responds infrequently at best and not at all in the worst case.

 

I don’t lie to myself about the situation, and I have had a conversation prior with her over the summer that I know even she will one day no longer be around. That I wanted to tell her just how much she has meant to me over the years and to sincerely thank her for all that she has done while I still had the chance.

 

Magzee YootzIt brings tears to my eyes whenever I have to reconcile the idea that Magz will no longer be around. Much in the same way that Daphne had the same meaning to me when I was younger.

 

That is the point I’m making here on New Years Eve 2012. Real emotional and empathetic connection is indistinguishable from the real life interaction, and it has the same power over you and meaning if you allow it. I really think we need to stop insisting it’s all a game and just treat each other better, more sincere, and with utmost respect and consideration.

 

Because I cry real tears when I think about losing my virtual mother, Magz, and it’s going to hurt like hell the day I really do lose her in my life. Just as I would be heartbroken if I lost Jewlie… or San…  I can only hope MoriRose wants to mean that much to me. That’s why I refuse to concede that Second Life is just a game or treat my avatar in a third person context.

 

So the worst that can happen is she turns out no better than the rest. But the best that can happen is that she proves that my having faith in what Jewlie and San have together can and should happen for myself was worth all the time waiting, and means that much to me as I would mean that much to her. Just like Magz means the world to me…

 

That’s what real family is about… and that is what emotional connection and empathy is about. But most of all, I believe that’s what real love is about.

 

I’d like to make it my sincere wish for 2013 that more people (including myself) can truly know real love and not the illusion of it. That more people stop treating others like a game. That in the end we start treating each other like we all matter… truly.

 

I want a better Second Life, and I want to make sure that our first life is better as well.

 

So make that your New Year’s Resolution. Whatever it is you came to Second Life to escape from in the real world… resolve to change that for the better instead of choosing to escape. Then come back into Second Life with a clear mind and intentions. Only when you put away the past or resolve the present, will you be able to make a better future… in both worlds.

 

Happy New Year :)

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 19, 2012

Shared Hallucinations

Hybrid Reality & The Future of Interaction

 

There was an excellent book that I read years ago by Dr. Ray Kurzweil, I believe the name was The Age of Spiritual Machines. In the book, it walked through the progression of humanity in a digital singularity but more importantly it showed the reader how those changes would become ubiquitous so as the participants would not necessarily notice those inherent (yet drastic) changes over time.

 

As the book continued (I believe following a woman named Molly), you could see the changes taking place in this ubiquitous digital culture, but to her it seemed common and really not that big of a deal. Toward the end, we begin to see the concept of what would be not just a virtual reality or simply augmented reality, but a newly defined space as Hybrid Reality.

 


 

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Hybrid Reality is the combination of Augmented Reality and Reality in a novel manner. While we focus today on the future of Augmented Reality and there is an entire industry of startups trying to carve a niche in this realm, I believe Augmented Reality as it stands is not the future in and of itself. The issue is that Augmented Reality on its own is usually set for information overlays in the real world, or in a limited manner 3D objects. Hybrid Reality, on the other hand, releases the constraint of the markers and even the limited spatial area, instead essentially using real world spatial coordinates as our “grid” and then having constraint-free virtual reality interacting with the real world environment in a hybrid space.

 

In this context, we’re not just dropping a model onto a tabletop, but allowing that model to exist within the real world hybrid view as if the real world were the virtual space in totality. So, hybrid reality objects are aware of the real world – such as spatial dimensions of your view and depth of real world objects in respect to the virtual items. When we talk about hybrid reality, we’re talking about essentially a merger between the virtual and real world view in a near seamless manner.

 

If we have a purely virtual item (or avatar), walking around in hybrid reality, then real world trees and other items would occlude the virtual items in your view appropriately. The limitation would no longer be something along the lines of “You have to be able to see this AR Marker” or “This picture is the trigger”, but instead it would be a Geolocation based system where your position in the real world will decide what is seen, in combination with your actual view.

 

Hybrid Reality, therefore is a step beyond our idea of Augmented Reality, and maybe we could refer to this as AR+ in that it is augmented reality which is geo-position and real world aware. Then, there is the virtual reality aspect of a hybrid reality, where the virtual items are also available natively from the virtual world context (and likely even created there as the toolset). So we end up utilizing the pre-existing virtual world toolset (open sandbox model) to import our items and build, but then those items are then natively available in the real world hybrid view as if the transition was natural.

 

A good example of this would be something like Meeroos in Second Life, where the virtual pet is available in the virtual environment by default, but in a Hybrid Reality view, you could also play with them in your real life living room or in the back yard.

 

 

 

Early Hybrid Reality implementation

 

 

While Augmented Reality is our basis for Hybrid Reality, it is highly extended for a much broader usage in this case. We’re no longer simply driving cars around tabletops or using a webcam to project an Optimus Prime mask onto us. While it is actually quite useful to have AR information tagged to the real world like we do right now, I believe fully that such will just be the underlying foundation… or a supplemental focus in AR ultimately. What we really want out of all of this is to merge our realities in a believable manner and not just act in an informational manner.

 

A hybrid reality, or AR+ in this case would be the equivalent of having the Second Life toolset available to you in Real Life. Essentially we’re talking about making the entire real world an open sandbox environment.

 

Of course, we’d have an endless amount of information and environments overlaid at that point, so we need a filter of sorts in order that a participant does not become inundated. Therein is the interesting part about hybrid reality, in that in this context we’re essentially talking about the ability to shift digital dimensions in the real world to accommodate a preferred view of reality itself.

 

 

 

Project Glass & Ingress by Google

 

There is, of course, lots of hype around Project Glass by Google. As of late, there is also a huge amount of talk around their latest Augmented Reality game called Ingress as well. Now, the Niantic Project (or Ingress) is an Augmented Reality Game or ARG for short. It uses real world geolocation with a mobile application and device to track “portals” for you to “hack”. The videos themselves are very interesting for the promotional factor but sadly Ingress isn’t as impressive as the promotional videos show. Thus we have a difference between the hype and the actual reality of the game being hyped.

 

 

Hype:

 

 

Project Niantic (Ingress) Promotional Video

 

 

Reality:

 

Project Niantic (Ingress) Demo

 

 

The difference between Augmented Reality and Hybrid Reality is the same difference between the above two videos. In a Hybrid Reality system, your view of a game like Ingress would actually be what you see in the first video, and in Augmented Reality the game is like the second video.

 

Now, that isn’t to say that Ingress isn’t innovative or compelling. It’s actually quite brilliant for what it is, and I’m sure it’ll be just as fun to continue playing over the life of the game. It still incorporates the real world into a game in a manner that is compelling and fun, and for that Google and Niantic get brownie points for getting that ball rolling a little further.

 

While I don’t think Google Glass is in itself powerful enough for a full hybrid reality scenario, it does happen to bring Augmented Reality to the forefront of the conversation in conjunction with Ingress, and I believe that Google Glass will be powerful enough as a basic AR system (information based). For many, that’s just fine and it will serve a really useful function.

 

For me, however, I’m more interested in further innovation than just AR or a typical ARG. Where my field of interest lies these days happens to be squarely in the Hybrid Reality side of this industry – which is (not surprisingly) about as quiet as the dead of space. Of course, that doesn’t mean I somehow have a lack of interest in the virtual worlds side of things (like Second Life) because Hybrid Reality is rooted firmly in Synthetic Environment spaces as a whole and requires a symbiotic nature with virtual world spaces by default.

 

I believe it’s time to explore synthetic environments beyond the device and push our understanding into uncharted territories and even wholly new experiences.

 

 

 

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And then there’s Linden Lab…

 

By contrast, Linden Lab, a company with ten years of assets, a virtual world sandbox platform complete with a toolbox for creation, and a pre-existing community and content marketplace – literally every advantage conceivable in the progression of Augmented and Hybrid Reality spaces, instead just blew their sweat equity on handing you what amounts to a box of crayons and a rehashed version of Minecraft.

 

 

 

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Nov 17, 2012

Hybrid Reality

A hypereality game that #LindenLab should have thought of.

 

While I read so many blogs going on about Creatorverse and other games coming out of Linden Lab under their recent guise as “innovative gaming company”, I can’t help but think it’s all lackluster at best. Oh, I know there will be plenty of people proclaiming the ingenuity of Creatorverse and how well received it is among gamers, and I’m sure there are enough people willing to pay ten bucks for a pre-release alpha of a game from Linden Lab who will also say how innovative it is.

 

But honestly, that’s just a load of bull.

 


 

xl_Google-Ingress-App-624

 


 

Creatorverse isn’t innovative because they have a physics engine and some tools to draw stuff. Plenty of games before Creatorverse did similar years ago online, and even the “ecosystem” of community sharing of your creations” comes from the Little Big Planet model (which is no surprise coming from Will Wright and Rod Humble).

 

Here’s the problem in a nutshell -

 

Linden Lab has this thinking as if common video games are the future. They stand on the legacy and assets of an existing community and virtual space which they immediately ignore in their pursuit of other things namely not Second Life.

 

With Steam integration, they are shifting the balance of the existing ecosystem that they actually have into a 3rd party ecosystem that they have to adhere to a different set of rules which are likely not in the interest of the existing ecosystem they have.

 

So, why am I railing against Creatorverse and Linden Lab so much?

 

Because they have a myopic view of the future of virtual worlds and gaming. They rightly believe that mobile is the future, but their implementation of that future is lackluster at best with rehashing other ideas in the gaming realm with a new twist. As a game on its own, it would work fine if it weren’t for the fact that Linden Lab is making it and if that same company hadn’t already been responsible for Second Life.

 

Which brings me to Ingress from Google.

 

It’s an augmented reality game that spans the entire real world, and it works via a mobile application. It shows the real world in a whole new light, and makes participation exciting and compelling. More people will be playing Ingress than will ever give a hoot about Creatorverse or other such games from Linden Lab, which is a shame because the entire point of this pivot was to position themselves as a new type of games company… to create compelling experiences.

 

This is exactly the sort of game that Linden Lab should have been making. They have the pre-existing Second Life platform, which is an ecosystem in and of itself literally geared toward this sort of crossover in augmented reality. Instead, you get a horse of a different color and nowhere near the amount of excitement in the rest of the world as we see with Ingress.

 

Imagine all the content created in Second Life, the scripts, the games, and the environments. Now imagine them brought into real life via augmented reality (even as a game) through mobile.

 

Create it in Second Life, experience it in Real Life.

 

 

Ingress from Google – an augmented reality game

 

 

That’s innovation.

 

What Linden Lab has at this point is a mentality that says “Let’s waste the platform we have and worry about trying to recapture that thunder through other games that aren’t really innovative, but they are different in a sense.” and then immediately get shown up by Google releasing a game like Ingress and showing the world what an innovative, augmented reality, experience actually is like.

 

In short, despite the best efforts and all that planning by Rod Humble on his secret projects, he just had the thunder taken from him by a search engine company in about 24 hours.

 

I don’t see Creatorverse trending on social networks, I see it creating fanfare among a niche audience while the rest of the world is talking about Ingress.

 

So if their entire purpose for all of this was to break out of that niche audience and appeal to the world, they were just humiliated and sent back to the niche audience by Google, and that’s just a crying shame since Linden Lab is supposed to be the leader in virtual environments at this point. It’s a crying shame because Linden Lab actually has a monumental head start in this field and just got surpassed because they were distracted with throw-away games instead of figuring out how to extend the reach of their flagship into creative and innovative ways as a total ecosystem.

 

This is also something I’ve said to be on the lookout for over a year ago if you go through the backlog of these blog archives. Take that with a grain of salt if you will, but the premise of an augmented reality game that spans the real world is innovative.

 

What would be more innovative is if Linden Lab trumped that and brought Second Life into Real Life via Augmented Reality. The ecosystem exists already, and it’s really a matter of them recognizing and putting it to use.

 

That’s how you diversify Linden Lab.

 


 

Apologies for the slow blog posts lately. I’ve been preoccupied with real life projects and work, aside from this being a holiday week coming up. So all in all, I’ve been buried for the most part. I’m sure I’ll have something more to write about after the holidays, but for now it’ll be slow going.

 

 

 

Oct 17, 2012

Prims and Plumbobs

Is #SecondLife a games company?

 

I guess this post was a long time coming, and finally after being sparked further by conversation on Twitter on this topic, I felt the need to better elaborate my actual position on this subject.

 

With the release of Creatorverse and other games from Linden Lab, not to mention Linden Realms, I have a very distinct take on it all. Maybe it’s the same as many people in Second Life and maybe it’s along the lines of the many gamers out there?

 


 

Prims and Plumbobs_002

 


 

Generally speaking, I’m against the gaming focus of Linden Lab. I won’t mince words here because this is exactly what many of us said was coming when Rodvik took over as CEO. We were outraged then at the possibility, and many of the people who are now playing up to Linden Lab and praising their games now are still some of the people who were saying they’d never betray their core community like that to begin with.

 

To wit, this is exactly what so many of us feared when Rodimus Prim took the helm.

 

So, do I somehow retract my original assertions from so long ago? Hell no. They are still exactly accurate and now coming true.

 

While people continue to back pedal and act like they were in favor all along, and point out how Linden Lab was always a gaming company from the start, I’m simply going to tell everyone to remove their collective lips from Linden Lab’s ass.

 

Here’s the run-down for anyone keeping score:

 

Rodvik popped in, took some time to “figure out the X-factor” of Second Life. After some time, he asserted he understood what he just inherited. Hired a marketing person named Kim who said she understood, and shortly after resigned. Will Wright (SPORE) is now on the board of directors, and maybe Philip Rosedale, who at this point can do nothing but watch in disgrace as Linden Lab is bastardized.

 

Maybe Second Life was built as a “game” in the very beginning, but it became more – it evolved. It became what it was supposed to be, and it thrived and grew under that premise. In short, Second Life became more than a game, an open ended virtual environment sandbox where the community created the world and propped up an economy with commerce and transactions.

 

That’s not a video game, so you can stuff it.

 

It went stagnant and faltered when the people in charge, or maybe the board of directors, decided to pretend like they had a single clue what they had on their hands. In reality, they had (and still apparently have) no clue what the hell they actually have on their hands. Is it any coincidence that it started stagnating from about Mark Kingdon forward? That’s about the time when the people in charge decided to start treating Second Life (and Linden Lab) like everything except what it actually is.

 

Do you know how I actually know this to be true? Because they’re actively ignoring a potential multi-billion dollar cash cow in favor of video games. Yes, you read correctly. Second Life is a multi-billion dollar cash cow biting Linden Lab in the ass and they have absolutely no idea how to unleash that potential.

 

That’s why they’re making video games. Because Rodvik actually doesn’t know what to do with Second Life, and the first order of business for a CEO who doesn’t understand their flagship product is to “diversify” and try to recreate that success in other ways because they don’t see a future in what they already have.

 

It would be like Nintendo deciding today to “diversify” and make home computers instead of game consoles. Even you, right now reading this, think that’s the dumbest thing Nintendo could do. And yet, too many are totally ok with Linden Lab willfully jumping the shark and “diversifying” into another category of product that may have some similarities with, but is decidedly a different market than, their flagship.

 

Does that mean that I don’t think Linden Lab is allowed to diversify? Of course not. But I’m not going to sit around and call the writing on the wall something it isn’t. This isn’t a “doom” post for Second Life, but instead it’s a post that says:

 

Look, Second Life started like a game until somebody realized how much better and important it could be. So it spent years evolving into an entirely different animal – right up to working with Open Source to properly diversify their flagship and increase their holdings in a wider capacity. It catered to educational aspects, business, and serious application like any sane platform would and should (just ask Apple and Microsoft).

 

Then, somewhere along the way something changed and there was a falling out. Mark Kingdon came in and made it worse, because he clearly didn’t understand what he had just inherited. And maybe Philip in his interim CEO position tried again to talk some sense into the board of directors… and failed. So now we have Rodvik, who we all feared would treat Second Life like just another video game (because few asserted at the time it was a video game), and now that he actually is treating the company like a video game company, and pumping out video games, it’s a huge change.

 

You just haven’t caught onto the fact it’s a very big deal that the focus is now video games for Linden Lab. I’m not entirely certain people understand that Second Life being the platform of distribution unto itself is a vast difference to being offered on Steam which is a third party distribution platform.

 

Does anyone realize that’s a major step backwards? Going from being the platform to being just another product.

 

This has huge implications going forward… Second Life itself isn’t going to “go away”, but going forward you’re going to find it is a very different animal than what it originally evolved into. In some ways that’s fine, because I don’t think there are too many people who actually do get what the hell these virtual worlds are ultimately going to evolve into if they had enough sense to let it without sabotaging them. But Second Life is going to start de-evolving in the bigger sense as it tries to be a video game platform instead of a Metaverse platform.

 

I don’t want to hear the bullshit story about how Second Life was never a Metaverse platform to begin with, either. It started as a game, evolved into a Metaverse platform (or potentially a MetaGalaxy) and then did a full stop, 180 degrees and promptly pissed itself in fear.

 

There’s a reason why it was referred to as a Metaverse, and to wit by Philip Rosedale and Cory Ondrejka as I amply demonstrate with an hour of STFU: It wasn’t a game, below in video form.

 

 

 

Enjoy an entire hour of STFU. It wasn’t a video game.

 

Google TechTalks
March 1, 2006
Philip Rosedale and Cory Ondrejka

 

 

So why do I have a problem with Linden Lab “diversifying” into video games? Because Second Life, their flagship product and what Linden Lab is literally famous for, isn’t a video game. And the more they “diversify” into video games, and treat Second Life like a video game platform, the more they are de-evolving what Second Life actually aspired to.

 

It’s nothing less than an insult. That’s why.

 

But they are welcome to keep bastardizing things, and building video games. That’s their own prerogative. They might even make some decent money doing that, too. After all, they’ve got the kahones to charge $10 for a fsking unfinished alpha.

 

My vision of a Metaverse didn’t look like the Sims. But apparently chasing EA’s shadow and pretending to be the little game company that could is more important to Rodimus Prim than actually being the CEO of a Metaverse platform.

 

When all you have is a gaming executive, all the virtual worlds look like plumbobs.

 

 

Prims and Plumbobs_001

 

 

 


Sep 4, 2012

Pompous Circumstance

Or: Sympathy for the stupid

 

It’s a well known fact that I have little sympathy or patience when it comes to people acting stupid. There is a pretext to that behavior that few know.

 

On a regular basis I am asked questions that hold such weight to them that I have to think about the implications of my answer. Those aren’t questions to be taken lightly, and more often lately I am finding myself in a position where the answers I give become the basis for mission critical applications. Situations where the failure of a technology will mean the life and death of real people if I made even the slightest mistake.

 

I have a low tolerance for ignorance. In what I do, even a slight margin of error can lead to women and children with their brains splattered against a brick wall somewhere. When I am asked – can this spatially identify potential threats in real time? If I answer wrong, somebody may die. When I’m asked – how accurate is a polymorphic data system, and is it secure? I know that there is a high potential for confidential and maybe even top secret classification for that data. Data which in the wrong hands will endanger many… because I screwed up. I know that there is a real possibility that a quarter of a billion dollars worth of hardware may come to rely on my answer.

 


 

lidar_scan

 

 


 

I’m a champion of the Metaverse – but the technologies that will enable it are put to use in contexts you’d never dream of. I wrestle daily with the answers I’ve given, and when the phone rings I know that I don’t have the option of answering lightly or without grave consideration for the implications. I have to make moral decisions constantly… are the risks of abuse outweighing the potential for good? Will the failure of this particular approach put people in danger or get people killed? More often than not lately, that answer has been yes.

 

I’m not sure I particularly like walking this fine line, but I do so anyway. I’m doing everything that I am capable of doing in order to keep that balanced.

 

Most of what I do is locked up tight. I find myself regularly answering to people who have clearance levels that may as well reside on the International Space Station. It makes me nervous, to be honest.

 

I don’t particularly know what my answers are used for in totality… but I know I’m being asked particularly high-level questions lately. They involve militarization of non-public technologies and research… and for that I am nervous. I am nervous because I understand the implications involved and the consequences for being wrong.

 

I know what these technologies are capable of in the right hands… and I also know what can happen in the wrong hands. I could very well be the cause of total copyright collapse in the world if I’m not careful. Entire industries would fall because of me if I were to be careless. Many people could end up much safer, including the men and women with boots on the ground in hostile regions or they could wind up dead.

 

From innovating interplanetary communications, to figuring out polymorphic data and security. I’m one of those people embedded in a think tank… a go-to sort of mind in the world, and lately I’ve been popular in a sense of quality versus quantity.

 

Lately, I’ve found myself answering to JPL/NASA, US Air Force, and the Whitehouse. I’ve found myself explaining things to some of the brightest minds at University of Illinois and the National Center for Super Computing Applications. In some occasions, I’ve been on the spot directly and found myself talking to people who are of far more importance than most people will ever meet in their entire lives. Other times… well, I’m choosing to answer by proxy because it’s getting harder to answer these questions and still handle the moral consequences if I am wrong.

 

As time goes on, I find that these questions are coming with more and more weight behind them. I really cannot repeat those questions publicly, nor the answers I’ve been giving, but the implications are far and the consequences for screwing it up are deep. I really don’t like thinking about it if I don’t have to.

 

I have a good imagination, and I (unfortunately) know how bad the world really is sometimes. I don’t know if there are any sides to take… all I know is that I am responsible for my own actions, and to do my best for making the results of my own actions not lead to something I may not be able to reconcile.

 

What I am is a person with far more knowledge than I publicly let on, I’ve been involved with technologies and research that few have ever seen, and some very important people are finding out just how much I really do know.

 

This blog isn’t for you… it’s for me, so I may possibly reconcile the things I have to deal with. It is so I can hash out ideas which are quite often connected to those high-level questions which have deeper consequences than a superficial virtual world context.

 

What this blog represents is the closest thing to an unfiltered internal dialogue that you are going to get from me. This is part of a greater conversation that you are not privy to, because you are nowhere near important enough to know those details.

 

I have no sympathy for the stupid, and no mercy for the incompetent.

 

When people engage me here on this blog, they fail to understand that while the biggest consequence of them screwing up is loss of popularity, my biggest worry is the loss of life.

 

You are free to read this blog – but never assume I’m writing for you. I am not here for your entertainment or amusement. I am not writing this because I am concerned about how popular this blog is. I am writing these things because I am concerned about answers far bigger than whatever homebrew project you’re cooking under the pretense of importance. It is in public view because I welcome intelligent conversation and realization… but I have zero tolerance for disrespect and willful ignorance.

 

I may call some of you friends, but for the most part – you don’t even warrant a passing thought in my mind. I have bigger things to worry about than whether you stop following me on Twitter or Facebook. Thousands of people follow me, and I’ve lost track of all but the people who are actually meaningful.

 

In the grand scheme of things, I have a very different set of priorities and motivations for what I am doing and have done for the past 15 + years. It sure as hell isn’t about being popular – so if anyone reading this thinks I’m somehow hurt if you “threaten” to stop reading… don’t let the door hit you in the ass. If you start being disrespectful and throwing backhanded comments, I will mercilessly tear you apart and jack-boot your face to the ground without missing a beat. If you come here under the assumption I don’t know what I’m talking about, or that I’ve contributed nothing of importance to the industry – you’re looking for a fight that you are going to wish you never started.

 

I’m open to intelligent discussion and even debate. But if you’re going to act like a primate smearing your shit all over the comments, I’m going to give you the respect that deserves.

 

This blog has a Disclaimer for a reason. You might try reading it one of these days.

 

 

 

 


Aug 30, 2012

Digital Evolution

An initial Metaverse Blueprint. Beyond #SecondLife

 

Today’s post adds something of interest to the current discussion concerning the Metaverse; however instead of just going on about whether or not what we already have constitutes a Metaverse, or debating whether or not we’re looking at existing systems today as a possible path to that Metaverse, I’d like to offer a very different approach.

 


 

dys_vaccine0000

 

 


 

What I’ll be writing today circumvents that particular set of topics and gets right to the root of the matter by addressing what a Metaverse actually will accomplish. Call it a rough draft or a blueprint, these are the things we should be focusing on today if we ever want to realize that dream which is the Metaverse.

 

Bottom Up

 

Straight out of the gate, I will say that our approach thus far has been lackluster. This isn’t anyone’s fault in particular, we simply have our priorities askew. I applaud =ICAURUS= for taking some initial steps to go about this, but immediately I’m throwing the flag out onto the playing field for a penalty.

 

Addressing whether or not the next system has the appropriate rendering engine is a top down approach. We’re talking about the what instead of the how. This is a dangerous misstep and is usually the first mistake these endeavors make when attempting to build the Metaverse. For instance, let’s look at Linden Lab. It was built in the beginning under an assumption that they never really expected it to be as popular as it was, and so that philosophy dictated some decisions up front which came back to haunt them later on in the lifecycle.

 

Such thinking in the beginning usually leads down the road to situations where we’re talking about patching an outdated system. So let’s think about this from the bottom up instead of trying to build the skyscraper starting from the 100th floor and working our way to the basement.

 

Root Prim

 

To begin, let’s ask a very basic question -

 

What can the Metaverse actually do; or more importantly what is it actually accomplishing?

 

The simple answer to this is that the Metaverse is a Spatial Representation of Data, wherein the ecosystem supports many modes of interaction from local nodes (single user) to multi-node (many users) within a contiguous space.

 

The next question becomes -

 

What data can this system represent?

 

In order to answer this we need to start with an existing context. We could very well just invent new types of data, but it’s far simpler to begin with existing forms of data and go from there. So as a basis, let’s say that the most important foundation for a forward looking Metaverse client is that it begins as a functional Web Browser.

 

This becomes our metaphorical ground level in the skyscraper. From here we build upon that foundation to the top of the skybox, but for now we need to employ the KISS method (Keep it Simple, Stupid)

 

The Metaverse should be able to handle the basic standards that an existing Web Browser today can handle, and do so natively. Remember, we’re building an HTML5 compliant Web Browser first (and a damned good one). I cannot stress that last point enough, because the built in web browser for Second Life is horrible. In this proper context, the web browser becomes half of the integrated experience, and so you can’t afford to screw it up or treat it like an afterthought.

 

Ok, so why are we doing that instead of just building the 3D Metaverse up front?

 

It’s safe to assume that the foundation is a Web Browser simply because it is natively a 2D context of the same data that we would like to represent Spatially.

 

Now we start asking the important questions.

 

Let’s say we now have our HTML5 complaint web browser. What does it support overall? It can handle FTP, HTTP, HTTPS, image rendering, audio playback, video playback, animated images (GIF/APNG, MNG) and of course this wonderful thing called Add-Ons and Plugins.

 

As of this moment, an HTML5 compliant web browser can actually excel better at the obvious stuff than the best of our Virtual World clients. Now that we can acknowledge that, I think we’re in a better position to remedy this issue up front.

 

Modes of Operation

 

I’ve gone over this in a rudimentary fashion within the confines of the Second Life JIRA, but there is far more context than I let on for why I submitted it as a feature request. VWR-22977 

Built-In Web Browser Uses New Canvas Rendering Layer [Not New Floater Window] is a testament to just how far in advance I was thinking before submitting things. To this day it hasn’t been reviewed, nor did I actually ever expect that it would be. All I really wanted was to make certain it was on public display.

 

So here’s the bigger picture -

 

When you’re building a new Metaverse client from scratch, your first view looks something like this:

 

 

Viewer 2 New Layout (Web View) VWR-22977

 

 

It doesn’t look exactly like that, but it’s the best reference image I’m going to provide at this time. The most important aspect is in how our modes of operation behave, which can be simplified to what changes I’ve made to the top navigation bar -

 

 

Viewer 2 New Layout (Web View) VWR-22977.png (PNG Image, 1600 × 860 pixels)_1346327040024

 

 

Viewer 2 New Layout (3D View) VWR-22977.png (PNG Image, 1600 × 860 pixels)_1346327167868

 

 

The most noticeable thing about the change is two-fold: First, and foremost, the client acts like a native web browser wherein the rendering canvas uses the entire space which is now reserved for the 3D Rendering Canvas. In effect, we’re simply using two rendering canvases wherein only one is in view at any given moment while the other one is paused.

 

On the far left is a new type of button which does not exist on a web browser today, despite the other buttons being common to both a virtual environment viewer and a web browser (back, forward, stop, home – and I’d like to state now a reload button for area rebake)

 

So here’s the deal… this simple foundational change in the way things are organized from the get-go is enough to fundamentally change how we perceive the Metaverse and (interestingly) the entire existing Web.

 

Secondly, what this change implies is far greater than what was explicitly mentioned in the JIRA that I filed, but anyone who is savvy to give this much thought begins to see the implications this would have.

 

For instance, the default for a web server is index.htm or index.html and that’s how we know we’re at the “home page” location on a system. With a Multi-Mode Metaverse client, we gain something from this operational change through what can be said is index.vrtp or whatever extension you’d like to call it.

 

It’s your answer for universal Hypergrid teleportation. When a web address becomes capable of serving as a Metaverse teleport (representing a spatial location within the Metaverse) you’ve just opened up a Pandora’s box of opportunity. Instead of remembering a long SLURL, or HyperGrid teleport string, we can embed that as Metadata in a type of XML format on the root of a website along with the index.htm

 

That Metaverse Index File is seen by the client as a location with further XML data attached (like owner, description information, etc) and we can convey that in the client via a notification. When you visit that website with a standard web browser, you just get the website. But when you visit that same website (Say Google.com) the Metaverse client sees Index.htm/html for the Web Browser portion of the client (consider this your dynamic brochure for a location), but it also looks for Index.VRTP (Virtual Reality Teleport Protocol).

 

In this instance, let’s say you’re browsing the Web with your new Metaverse Client. You type in MetaverseTribune.com and your HTML5 complaint web browser loads it up just like you would expect. Now, let’s say they had an index.vrtp on the root directory as well as the index.htm?

 

You’d get an unobtrusive notification saying that the page you are looking at has a location, and you may click to go there in the Metaverse. Or you may turn that notification off entirely and simply use MetaverseTribune.com in the 3D Address Bar instead of an SLURL/Hypergrid Teleport. If they have the index.vrtp on that server, you’ll get teleported to the location, and (as a really cool side effect) when you arrive, the location can have a website automatically loaded in the web browser portion as part of the location.

 

How about just an icon in the address bar that denotes the website has an available location in 3D and by clicking that icon in the address bar you will get the teleport? The same could go for visiting a location that has a website attached to it – an icon appears in the address bar that when clicked opens the homepage as set by the location owner.

 

 

Legacy of Advancement

 

This is just one reason to start with our web browser context first and translate it to the virtual world, but how about other contexts? How does our Metaverse client handle a FTP connection?

 

This is why we’re basing things first by building a Web Browser, because then we’ll start translating how the web browser handles existing standards and protocols into our spatial environment, all while not drastically changing the initial Web mode of operation. This way, if the new user can use the web browser, they will be right at home with the Metaverse view.

 

Back to the FTP connection… how does our Metaverse client handle that context?

 

This is why we’re framing this as multi-node and local-node operation. In an FTP scenario, it would dynamically generate the environment to represent the files (as the objects within the environment) and folders as rooms by which you can walk around in. This also works for parsing local directories (just in case you felt like walking around your Hard Drive).

 

Now we’re asking the obvious “Why the hell would we want to do this?”

 

Because I should also be able to attach hyperlinks to objects in the 3D space, and if that hyperlink is an FTP mode, then it is treated like a portal into a local-node space. I’m not breaking the metaphor of interaction and this is the most important part of immersion.

 

In an FTP or Local-Node context (your hard drive) the owner can set a similar VRTP descriptor XML in the root which defines whether or not it is a singular node (not multi-user; as in, I and many others could see it but not each other) or multi-user (multi-user space). In the context of the web, that’s a hell of a lot of people suddenly traversing dynamic spaces online (potentially 6 billion virtual spaces), and right now we shouldn’t have to worry about everybody running a special server to handle it. See the basic references at the end for the reason why.

 

This is why the architectural foundations of this are far more important than what rendering engine we’re using. While the rendering engine is important, it pales in comparison to the “how this thing operates” versus the “what it looks like” eye-candy portion.

 

In the structural portion, we’re looking at a hybrid decentralized system of operation. In the dynamic modes, we’re connecting to each other in a peer to peer fashion. So you wouldn’t necessarily have to be running a special server to have an environment. A standard Web Server right now becomes a potential Metaverse Space just by adding those XML descriptors, or using in-world Hyperlinks to those dynamic spaces.

 

What about using media from existing servers online within the virtual world? Instead of uploading a file to an asset server, maybe you already have the media on a server of your own? Why not have the ability to state a web address as the file location?

 

Now we’re talking native context for existing MIME types, which already have the storage part down pat. Speaking of which – wouldn’t it be great to natively open PDF files, Images, Audio, Videos, and more in the Metaverse? Again, the web browser does this without even thinking twice… but the current generation of virtual world viewers simply.. well, they don’t address this very well if at all.

 

Hopefully you should see why starting with an HTML5 web browser as our foundation makes sense?

 

How does the Metaverse translate in 3D what a Web Browser handles effortless in 2D?

 

Using the Web Browser as our Metaverse Checklist.

 

 

After we are comfortable handling the translation of existing data into our Metaverse context, we can move on to Metaverse specific contexts which need to be addressed.

 

For instance, a universal passport/avatar. Translation of Metaverse currencies via Exchange Rates. A Metaverse Location Crawler to work as a Search Engine. A marketplace system that is built into the client – which actually becomes damned easy when it has a native web browser context. Decentralized Asset Storage systems that are secure. Authentication. Building an SDK and licensing it.

 

The last item on that list is the least obvious. It’s not mandatory but probably a good way to monetize the work required to build such a system. Setting up the spaces requires no license per-se but if you want to build a new product or plugin with/for it then there is a license. Think of it like a Metaverse App Store. Or just monetize a percentage of the apps themselves and make the licensing and SDK free… whatever floats the steampunk airship…

 

There is a lot to solve here, and the rendering engine is probably the least of our worries. As a matter of fact, if this was properly built – then we could substitute any modern graphics engine on top of our foundation and it would work.

 

Plugins and Add-Ons

 

Just like a modern web browser, the Open Metaverse client should support an extensible plugin architecture for add-ons and outright browser plugins. Maybe the Web Browser portion just handles Chrome Extensions natively, but the Metaverse mode has its own add-ons architecture and maybe an SDK for  full blown plugins to extend the viewer capability much further.

 

This concept of building the base system and then allowing a plugin architecture and add-ons is not new. Web browser already do this as a defacto, and even if we were to look back at Cyberpunk culture, (Shadowrun) we had decks where there were slots to load custom “apps” which extended or improved the custom experience.

 

I’m going with the fictional Metaverse concept here, and our current generation of actual Web Browser as proof this is the right approach to our future Metaverse system. Modular and Extensible.

 

 

Open Metaverse Foundation

 

Should be the equivalent of the Mozilla Foundation in regard to the Metaverse. Time to shake things up and become cool again.

 

 

Basic References

 

Let’s say you’re an aspiring coder (or team of coders) who are looking to tackle this next step of the Metaverse… below I’ll list some exceedingly helpful pointers for reference. These links should give you a head start for the foundation aspects:

 

P2P Architecture – Solipsis Decentralized Metaverse. It offers Area of Interest Networking, and a peer to peer method for handling larger amounts of people. When the system starts scaling upward and becoming popular, you’ll be glad this is in your back pocket to load balance against. This is likely the diamond in the rough that would allow the entire pre-existing Internet to be turned into dynamic multi-user spaces – ie: Instant Metaverse. The website is locked down tight and may never return – however I do happen to have a copy of the source code and research paper archived if anyone is interested.

 

Asset Servers – I could suggest something like Owner Free File system. It’s a multi-use blocks storage paradigm (Brightnet) that would allow the budding Metaverse creator to balance existing caches of users against having to centrally store it all. Saves a lot of redundant bandwidth and processing.

 

Feel free to make this a community reference for ideas on where the pieces of the overall puzzle lay for aspiring coders. Add your own references to the comments below.

 

This is only a very rough stream of consciousness post, and shouldn’t be taken as an “entire” proposal. The only thing I wished to convey was the proper starting context and metaphor of interaction so we (as a community) could start off on the right foot.