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Chris's Random Ramblings

Mon, 14 Jan 2008 - Australian Open Tennis Championship 2008

For the Australian Open in 2007, as part of the virtual world work we do for IBM, Kelly, myself and some others built a partial replica of Melbourne Park in Second Life where the event is held. At the site you can visit the Rod Laver arena, see games from centre court replicated in the virtual world in almost real time, and get some free virtual merchandise. You can also see an ongoing game from the players point of view which is quite cool.

Last year, whilst we did some tours for guests, the sim was kept private, but now the sim has been made public so anyone can visit. Also, this year a Couture on the Court fashion competition is being run where there are linden dollar prizes available ($L250,000 for first place) for original outfits. Details about the competition are available at the site - entries close 12am Australian Eastern Daylight time on January 21st.

Aus Open Court

Couture on Court Competition

Tue, 29 May 2007 - OpenSim

The Second Life client code was released under an open source license early this year. There were some really cool immediate benefits, such as a linux ppc build being available only a few days later. Linden Labs have stated a few times that they plan on also releasing the server code under an open source licence, but this has not yet occurred.

In the meantime, there has been considerable amount of work done on Open Sim which is an independently developed, Open Source implementation which uses the same protocol as the Linden Labs server (and thus you can use the same client).

In functionality terms, compared to the Linden Labs grid it only supports very basic functionality, but there is enough there that you can host your own server, connect to it, walk around and build some objects. As far as I can tell there is no support for scripting yet, but there is some support for physics modelling using a third party library.

open sim

One of the more exciting aspects is the Deep Grid, where anyone can connect a sim which they host to this grid. So far I've had no luck in finding a server on this grid that I could connect to, but this is basic infrastructure which is required for an open grid to thrive.

Mon, 15 Jan 2007 - Screenshots from Second Life Tennis

Kelly and I were able to head over to Melbourne on Friday to see the real Rod Laver Arena setup for the Australian Open event and meet some of the other IBM people working on the event. Arriving at the grounds to pick up our accreditation I was able to walk through the real life gate entrance in exactly the same place as seen here in the SL version.

rla entrance

Garden square was configured a bit differently for the Australian Open than when we made a brief visit in December.

rla garden square

The Match Update Centre in Second Life is quite different from the one in real life, but some designs work much better in Second Life. In future it will be interesting to think of more 3-D ways of representing data which is available.

rla muc

There has been some talk about how you can "be the player" in the simulations. What happens is you can have yourself automatically moved into positions where a player would have to be to play a shot during the rally. So during a game your viewpoint is that of the player and you can see the ball heading towards you, then away from you after "you" hit it. Your viewpoint then moves smoothly to the next position ready to respond for the next shot. Ghosting of the ball makes it easier to follow the play.

Screen captures can't represent how immersive this experience can be, but I don't have any movies available of it. Some people have described it as changing the nature of how you can experience a sporting match.

rla rally

And its great to see that just a few days of the client being released under an Open Source licence that a Linux PowerPC port is available. The power of Open Source development at work :-)

I'm headed up to Sydney for LCA 2007 on Tuesday night. If you're there - don't miss out on the Hackfest on Thursday afternoon. We'll have fun questions and some great prizes including a Quad processor G5 machine, for just a couple of hours of concentration.

Fri, 12 Jan 2007 - Second Life Tennis

This is what Kelly and I have been working on the last few weeks. Lots of fun! So much potential for some really innovative ideas in virtual worlds, its great to be able to spend time working on some of them.

Tue, 09 Jan 2007 - Second Life Client GPL'd

Have been way to busy (with something that should be public real soon) to blog recently, but I'll take the time to note that the Second Life client has been released under the GPL!. Woohoo!

Sun, 10 Dec 2006 - Richard Posner talk

On Friday I wandered along to a public talk and discussion with Richard Posner, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Topics discussed ranged from anti-terrorism laws, copyright issues and how taxation could apply to virtual worlds. It was organised by the Creative Commons organisation, and held on 4 sims in Second Life.

Richard Posner

Some of the discussion was way above my understanding of the law (I suspect there were a few lawyers asking questions), but much of it was pretty interesting. Demonstrated a good sense of humour too, for example when a griefer dressed as a giant wooden box jumped on stage, he commented "That's an example of the kind of threat that worries me -- a huge box marching through an amphitheatre".

There were excerpts from his recent book, Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency as well as a virtual book signing (yes thats kind of an odd thing to have) afterwards.

It was the first big public SL event I've attended and overall I was pretty impressed by how well it worked. Certainly its not the kind of event I would have been able to attend in real life and worked much better than a talk using IRC, feeling much more like attending a real life event. I think similar kind of events involving people in the Open Source world could work quite well, and make it much easier for those who don't live in the big cities to participate. With the ongoing development of libsecondlife, an open source implementation for the Second Life client, hopefully there'll be more interest from the community.

Sun, 10 Dec 2006 - Penguin spotted in Second Life

Kelly has built a giant LCA08 tangram penguin in Second Life. Its big enough that you can make it out from the online SL map.

penguin

Mon, 27 Nov 2006 - SL Avatar Chess

Interaction between people in virtual worlds is a richer experience than using IM or IRC. Its much more than just a communication channel as you can actually do things with other people. For example, Kelly seems to spend just a bit of time shopping with other people in SL ;-) But there are other things such as playing Avatar Chess, where a separate person plays each piece on the board. I'm not sure how well chess strategy through democracy works. But I can certainly understand why virtual worlds such as SL are attractive to people who are geographically separated, and want to be able to do more than just be able to "catch up" with what the other has been doing.

Linden Labs recently changed their terms of service. One of the good modifications has been to explicitly allow people to use 3rd party clients if they wish. I don't know of any other fully functional ones out there yet, but it does clarify the situation a lot more for the open source libsecondlife project. There are quite a few changes I'd like to make to the client, so hopefully a fully-functional open source client is not too far away.

Mon, 30 Oct 2006 - VNC read-only client in Second Life (sorta)

Its kind of held together with sticky tape and blu tack, but I have a very slow frame rate (maybe record slow!) vnc client view working inside Second Life

Ozlabs

Lots of people have wanted a web browser on a primitive in SL, but this is really cheating as its not interactive. However, I don't think it would be that hard to get it to be able to change to arbitary webpages based on in-world commands - it'd be nice if you could remotely tell firefox to open a url in the current tab rather than opening a new tab or window.

If I can get the frame rate up to a decent value, I think it could be quite useful as a computer training tool. Students could see live demonstrations from a VNC session which the instructor controls, without the need for the students to setup a vnc client themselves and work out how and where to connect.

So far I haven't had much success with getting the real time video streaming tools on Linux working the way I want. They're pretty well setup for live streaming from hardware (eg webcams, video capture cards), but haven't had any success in working out how to convert a series of image files into served streaming video. I think that theoretically ffmpeg and ffserver should be able to do it, but either that functionality is broken or I haven't found the magic incantation yet. If anyone reading this has this sort of thing working, please let me know how its done.

Thu, 19 Oct 2006 - Second life IRC Bridge

I've been playing around with building and scripting in the Second Life virtual world, mostly building simple things like teleport pads, greeter objects, and fountains in order to learn how things work. I've also been thinking about linking real life concepts into the virtual world, so built an object which bridges IRC channels into second life.

When placed in Second Life, everything publicly said within 20 metres is relayed into the IRC channel and everything in the IRC channel is relayed into Second Life and can be heard within a a 20 metre radius. There is an existing project SLIRC which uses the open source libsecondlife, but it requires a spare Second Life account to setup. In contrast my implementation just uses RPC-XML calls (you can effectively make function calls into Second Life objects over the internet) and is glued together with a bunch of Perl and PHP. There is some latency (average of about 2 seconds) in the bridge, but for IRC I don't think that matters too much.

If you're interested you can have a look at (and play with) it in Second Life in the OzLabs building on Hursley Island.

Ozlabs

Kelly has been building up a virtual model of a house design we've been working on (no we wouldn't really have a moat in real life). Its been really quite useful in deciding what sort of things would work and what wouldn't in real life and we've been tweaking the original 2-D design in response.

House

It has been interesting to see that Reuters now have a presence inside Second Life, with a reporter spending an hour day inside Second Life to report on events. I had a look around their virtual office and saw that they have RSS and video feeds of real life news. From what I have read elsewhere it sounds like they are also trying to develop areas within SL for discussion of real life news which will be an interesting change from web type forum discussions.