"What? Another one??"
Just a quickie to let you know that I'm taking a week away from the Garden of Virtual Earthly Delights, and plunging back into RL 24/7. Mrs K and I are off on our travels, pottering around Mittel Europe this time. If you're in Cesky Krumlov over the coming weekend, look us up!
Otherwise back inworld in about a week.
Wednesday, 25 July 2007
"What? Another one??"
Tuesday, 24 July 2007
Maybe it's the lure of the exotic East, but I am keen to explore the work being done in Asia on Second Life. If you are a regular reader you will know that I have reported in the past on a number of Japanese builds. So I make no excuses for ripping off this news report in its entirety from Daily Yomiuri Online, from 23rd July:
The efforts by Japanese firms to make their presence felt in the virtual world of the online game "Second Life" is expected to accelerate following the release of the Japanese version of the software on July 13.
Mitsukoshi, Ltd. established its virtual outlet in "Second Life" at 10 a.m. Thursday, becoming the first Japanese department store to do so. The outlet features the Echigo-ya Gofukuten kimono shop, the forerunner of Mitsukoshi, which was established in 1673. A robot clerk welcomes visitors. No items are sold in the virtual store, but traditional Japanese costumes such as happi coats, hats made from bamboo and paper fans are distributed for free to players. Mitsukoshi hopes for 120,000 visitors in the first year.
The company hopes the move online will enhance its brand, and encourage users to visit Mitsukoshi's regular Internet store. It believes its presence on "Second Life" could generate as much as 40 million yen in additional sales. A company spokesman said: "By boosting our contact with customers, we're looking forward to steering visitors toward our actual department stores as well as the shopping Web site."
The travel firm H.I.S. Co. provides a service allowing avatars to move instantly to various interesting locations in "Second Life" with one touch of a panel. The company also directs users to their travel booking Web site.
Keiji Mitsubuchi, a professor at the Graduate School of Digital Content that specializes on preparing students for careers in information technology, said, "Companies can earn a reputation for being strong in Internet services by appearing in 'Second Life.'"
TV stations that were once reluctant to utilize the Internet due to copyright concerns, have also begun entering the virtual world. Fuji TV has introduced nine characters in "Second Life" resembling real life teen idols who appear on one of its TV shows. The company hopes users will become more familiar with the program by staging events in the virtual world, such as the idols meeting fans and signing autographs.
TV Tokyo is hosting a summer festival in "Second Life" until Aug. 31. It created a townscape resembling a Japanese city from the 1950s and '60s, and will hold a fireworks display and Bon festival dance event.
Linden Lab began distributing the Japanese version of the game on July 13, with instructions displayed in Japanese. According to the company, there are 490,000 heavy users of the software globally as of June, who play the game for more than an hour each month. The number of heavy Japanese users are estimated at about 27,000, with the number rising from ninth overall by nationality in May to sixth in June. The number is expected to rise further in the future.
According to an estimate by Mizuho Corporate Bank, Ltd., there will likely be 50 million users of "Second Life" worldwide by the end of 2007, rising to 240 million by the end of 2008. The value of the virtual market is expected to grow from 135 billion yen in 2007 to 1.25 trillion yen in 2008, the company says.
However, Linden Lab. says the number of heavy users overall fell 2.5 percent in June from May.
Masayoshi Sakai, a visiting associate professor at Waseda University Graduate School, warns there are limits to the benefits companies can expect to reap with a "Second Life" presence. "There are many companies that can't accumulate visitors in 'Second Life,' so companies need to offer something that visitors can only experience in the virtual world," he said. "Otherwise there's no guarantee the companies will get the benefits they're hoping for."
I think the 50 million is a tad optimistic!
Monday, 23 July 2007
A few days back I posted an entry about Second Life being used as a visualisation and learning tool by DeSalles University, who have made a simulation of Dante's Inferno, replete with teacher and student notes. On a similar theme, I received an IM today from Lem Skall suggesting I check out U21 Global Campus. Ironically, this sim is right next door to the ne that houses my own little plot, New Alville, yet I had never sauntered across for a look, despite taking many long hikes around SL in search of something interesting.
But before looking at the sim, here's a bit of background: U21 Global is a joint venture between Universitas 21 (an international network of leading research-intensive universities) and Thomson Learning (a renowned information and software solutions provider).
Headquartered in Singapore, they deliver a range of management courses through elearning over the internet. They offer an MBA programme that has been awarded the prestigious European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) accreditation for teChnology-Enhanced Learning (CEL) - or so it tells me on the website - along with a number of other management-oriented courses. Given this background, their interest in Second Life comes as no surprise.
The sim, built by Luna Bliss, is still under construction but looks like it only needs a few bits and bobs before it is completed. Most of the island is taken up with their Metaphorical Garden, which can be explored on foot, or via an automated guided tour. I opted for the latter. I have to say that the hippy-dippy guide to educational method was lost on me - but you might get more from it. Here's a slice from the first of many, many notecards:
"Whenever we learn a psychological process occurs as we absorb new knowledge - a series of phases takes place. For example, there is the phase when learning something new is exciting, and there is a phase when we need to let go of old knowledge and embrace the new. There is also the case where we may have to combine new information with the 'old' to create new knowledge. The gardens on this island are designed to mirror these phases of learning, using metaphors of nature to reflect them (for example, the new knowledge phase is spring, and the letting go or the re-creation of old knowledge makes way for the eruption of new knowledge and is symbolized by a volcano). Constructivist learning (the way U21Global teaches) accesses these processes at a deep level and encourages the student of learning to be free to create their own meaning and knowledge, as opposed to the spoon-fed multiple-choice tests so common in many schools."
Luna has made extensive use of flowing texture scripts and particles to impart some movement and activity to the island. Here are some pictures that hopefully give you an idea:
There's something faintly reminiscent of the classic Svarga sim here, though that may only be due to the guided tour.
As well as the features shown here, there is an Information Area that is still waiting for completion, downloadable podcasts and other information resources, and a number of seating areas. There is a lot happening here, and a lot of neat scripting, but I left feeling a bit disappointed - though I can't quite figure out why. I suspect it is the look and feel, which seemed a tad too vivid for my tastes. Anyway, why not pop along and let me have your views?
Saturday, 21 July 2007
You may recall that not so long ago I told you about the Princeton sim. Although it is not yet officially open, today it played host to an Interactive Art thingy (their words, not mine - though they could easily have been mine) - an audiovisual, immersive thingy by artist Douglas Story with soundscape by AldoManutio Abruzzo (with scripting by Desdemona Enfield). The work, entitled "Flowerball" is... well... ummm... it's... err... well, it's... a ball... yeah... containing flowers... kind of.
Probably best if I show you first, eh? You start off at this floating plinth, which displays the artworks you will get to know rather more intimately when you visit the Flowerball itself. Follow the instructions to rez a seat that will fly you down to the installation itself.
You start this part of your trip in what I will describe as a large ear-trumpet. Once you've found your way to the outside (it is sign-posted) you then fly across to the Flowerball itself.
Inside the Flowerball you get to fly about in this bizarre, constantly changing, flowerscape. Make sure you follow the audio setup instructions to get the full brain-melt effect:
And that's it really (or it was for me - due to a problem with the chair scripting we could not get back by "public transport" and had to resort to Hobson's Choice).
I scouted out the rest of the area and came across this building. Speaking with the charming Persis Trilling, I now understand that this is the new information centre, where all manner of RSS feeds, podcasts and vodcasts (sounds like a Russian space mission to me) will be made available. The architect is the ever-reliable Scope Cleaver.
Ah.. but what of the Art Installation thingy? Here's some salient quotes from the accompanying notecard:
The inspiration for FlowerBall came from the feeling that accompanies the best examples of my close-up floral photos: that of being inside the inner chamber of the flower. My first thought was to construct gigantic blossoms in Second Life, but I quickly found that my building skills were nowhere near being equal to the task. I then thought of my avatar sinking through layer upon layer composed of a series of concentric spheres, with the images changing on contact with each layer.
When I first spoke with Aldo about the music (he prefers the term ‘soundscape’) for this project, and told him there would be five layers in the ball, he started talking about pentatonic scales and John Cage. I didn’t understand much of what he said after that, but understood that “penta” has something to do with the number “five.” I also got that the result would be pretty cool….and that part was certainly right.
Apologies for leaving out stuff about the scripting - but apparently it's all clever stuff. If you really need to know, then get yourself down there and find out!
Friday, 20 July 2007
After my diverting trip to see Dante's Inferno I was at a bit of a loss for ideas on where to go in Second Life. Having missed the Things To Do (henceforth: T2D) group trip to the Q sim, I had a look at the map for the area and settled on the promisingly named "Future" sim.
It is really impossible for me to describe this place. There are stranged buildings and pipeways all over the sim, at all altitudes. I could find no useful information (not that I really tried all that hard) and found the entire place somewhat disorienting... kinda like The Future, then! Perhaps if you are in that neck of the woods you might want to pop in and figure out what the heck it's all about. Anyway, I grabbed a few photos and moved on.
I was thinking of writing up something about the new KPN presence in Second Life, following up on the original post from ace scooper, VeeJay Burns, over at the Mindblizzard blog. However, no sooner had I arrived than I received an invitation to try out the Jello & Caffeinated Hot Tub experience.
I hotfooted it back to New Alville, my little place under the virtual Sun, and met up with a good friend, turned Jello enthusiast. After initial pleasantries, said friend gave me a lemon jello avatar, and then the surrealism started....
I have to say, my caffeinated hot tub does indeed acquire an extra something from the presence of fruit-laden jello! However, it is - as with so much else in (Second) Life - something to be practised in moderation.
Thursday, 19 July 2007
Picking up on a couple of other posts, I thought I ought to have a look at the model of Dante's Inferno that has been constructed on the NMC 5 sim, part of the New Media Consortium. Besides, it's a while since I've been there so I wanted to see how the old place was getting on - the NMC, that is, not the Inferno.
As you would expect for a sim here, the purpose of the build is education. In fact there are large numbers of notecards to be picked up, providing a great deal of information about the Circles of Hell, but I won't bombard you with anything more than a few salient facts. Thinks: "there's probably a circle of Hell for bloggers who don't tell all the facts."
Here, then, is the most pertinent information concerning the build, gleaned from the first notecard I picked up. Students at DeSales University are reading Gloria Naylor's novel Linden Hills. The novel is based off the premise of Dante's Inferno, and, in the past, it has been difficult to teach the parallel structure because students are not familiar with the Inferno. Second Life offers the opportunity to build the inferno AND Linden Hills, and, as a result, helps students see the structure.
The build has been carried out by Eloise Pasteur (Eloise Pasteur Educational Designs). It takes you down through the various circles, each dedicated to a different kind of sinner. Teacher's notes are available as you go along. Students are encouraged to make their own suggestions, so dotted around each circle you will see some familiar faces. Each one will give you a notecard telling you who elected to place them there, and why. This has led to some amusing juxtapositions. For example, Jessica Simpson is in the same circle of Hell as Kim Jong-Il. At the deepest most evil level, the final destination for the treacherous, you will find Lindsay Lohan rubbing shoulders with Hitler and Stalin.
Linden Hills is not a book I know - or am ever likely to read, I suspect. But it does have a chunk of sim dedicated to it, which seems to comprise a small number of modern American houses. The main feature of note for me though is the dive-in dumpster. To quote its notecard: An innovative idea for a freebie giver or a camping tool. Go dumpster diving and invite your friends! Realistic trash diving animation included.
It is an interesting idea for a sim, with a great deal of information and a fair degree of interaction. But if you find the whole idea of going into Second Life a bit of a chore, you can always get information from the related website.
UPDATE 3rd May, 2008: My anonymous recent commenter points out that the build has been re-done, and you can read more about it here.
Wednesday, 18 July 2007
I had the curiously unpleasant experience of visiting Perfect Island today. The site, as you may gather from the pictures below, exists to promote the perfectSL HUD (heads Up Display), and ties in with this website.
Part of the island appears to have been hived off for private use, but the rest consists of a number of dancing and relaxation zones - perhaps intended as a good place to try out the HUD. My "unpleasantness" came in the form of the volcano, situated in the centre of the island. Now, OK... I suspect there was something I was supposed to pick up first, but I was cordially invited to drop in to the volcano to see what happened. In the event it seemed to behave like a giant trampoline - I bounced up and out and above the volcano, getting higher each time, until I seem to be summarily ejected, without reason, to the neighbouring sim. A subsequent return to the sim was even less fruitful, as I was catapulted to some ridiculous height. Being neither impressed nor that bothered, I simply TP'd home. I was thinking of not blogging it, but then thought "what the hell."
I did retrieve a notecard, that gave me the following info about the HUD:
The PerfectSL HUD contains a wealth of functions to help you in every aspect of your Second Life. Plus it is FREE!
- Matchmaker radar and compass, points out avatars around you and their match status (Business, Friendship, Sexual, Relationship and more...)
- HUD based Vendor lets you search and purchase products from anywhere in SL
- Multi-language translator lets you communicate in 7 languages
- Rez totally secure private suites to fit your requirements
- Customise your walk, fly, sit and much more with built-in AO
- Get detailed information on any avatar in your radar range
- Pop up a map to locate a person on your radar
- Clickable history list of the last 32 places you have visited
- A handy laser pointer
- Hug, kiss and dance with people around you
- Flight assistance to fly high and fast, even in no-fly zones
- Anti-AFK system
- Speech bubbles
- Animation stopper
- Message you when a match arrives at the PerfectSL resort
- Follow a friend around, even when they are flying
- Shield yourself from griefers
- Repel people you dont want close to you
- Shield smashing kill (No shield can stop this weapon!)
- Multi-pronged attack to remove an unwanted intruder from your presence
- Freeze an avatar to the spot
- Favorites - Record your favorite avi's without cluttering your Friends list
- Cloaking system
- Automatic integration with other BlackBox gadgets: Security Orb, Rover
- Free updates for LIFE
Tuesday, 17 July 2007
It's a shame you missed this - I was exhausted after dancing for hours (well OK, more like 1 hour - but then I'm ancient) at my Swiss friend MeL Cromulent's new dance club, iDanze, last weekend. Unfortunately, MeL has only just been able to send me the information about it. I suppose that's what comes of spending 28 hours dancing. But hopefully you can avail yourself of the facilities for all your frug-a-go-go needs.
Interesting for me - as a bit of a propellerhead and (so Tish tells me) "spimewrangler" - the club was able to handle over 35 people concurrently, even though it is on a mainland sim. In fact, across the whole launch party they accommodated 300 people. MeL and her partner in this venture, Norgan Torok (who also provides some of the dj'ing), took a professional approach to the launch, and actually carried out 2 pre-launch events to iron out any problems. One of these hosted 25 guests - not a bad load test.
To get the flavour, here's a few pictures.
MeL is on the right in the bottom-right picture.
Here's the actual launch information (albeit a bit late now):
In the land called Craggen [Maw], on old nuclear power station sat idle, its fuel rods burning away with nothing to power. Then along came iDanze, who found this power station and saw the potential to harness it's energy. We are proud to announce 12 DJ's spinning live for 28 hours in this refurbished power plant! This unique club is not to be missed and 28 hours live may just be a new sl record, come and help us set it! Breakbeat/Techno/Electronica by SL's best!
iDanze opening party
friday 13th July (PDT)
6pm - 8pm - STEED Schlesinger
8pm-10pm - 2ndthoughts
10pm - 12pm - mOx Hax
Saturday 14th July
midnight-3am - Infiner Morigi
3am - 6am - Konstrikt Boa
6am - 8am - Norgan Torok
8am - 10am - Doubledown Tandino (Baltimore)
10am - midday - Redrum
midday - 3pm - Frax Dae
3pm - 5pm - Compute Oh 5
pm - 6pm - Yuzienborn Janus
6-8pm - Altern8 McMillan
8pm - 10pm - Iionic
MeL kindly supplied the pictures as mine, quite frankly, were a bit crap.
BTW - I still have no idea what the heck a "spimewrangler" is. I just hope it's nice.
While many of the Things To Do group go off to explore the fascinations of Rezzable Greenies (which sounds like something you might find in a handkerchief) I have been squandering my time rummaging around yet another Japanese sim: Sonicmart, belonging to a company of the same name who sell DVDs and CDs online.
Most of the island is given over to the Manatee Beach Resort - a collection of rather plain 1-room beach-houses. However, dominating the island is the Wowow movie building. It is not exactly a cinema. Rather it is a building in 2 parts: the left-side is described as a "screening building", while the right-side is a "museum." However, the screening building, despite having a number of large screens, can only accommodate a small number of viewers. The "museum" on the other hand has a a number of smaller screening rooms - each with a number of seats. Most confusing - particularly as there is little sign of an actual museum.
Wowow looks to be another online DVD supplier - though my Japanese is probably letting me down - and they appear to be promoting an anime movie: Shiguri. By the look of it, an epic tale of blood, guts and big swords. Around the walls you can read brief outlines of the movie's main characters, and see sketches used in devising the storyboards. You can also pick up a free pair of nihon to - Japanese swords. There is supposed to be a freebie T-shirt too... but I could not get it to hand over the goods. A shame as I think it looks cool.
The movie (or Episode 1 to be more precise) is not showing yet - but there is a notice to say that screenings will start on Thursday, July 19th.
As for the actual buildings, they are plain and mundane, the textures lack any 3D feel and the site feels unconvincing - too "flat" to be realistic. But I will be back to see the movie - and hopefully grab a T-shirt!
Although it has been around for some time, I have come across surprisingly few virtual world blog references to the excellent Squawk utility., so I thought I should do my bit to rectify this situation.
In common with many SL'ers - and particularly SL bloggers - I find twitter an excellent tool for keeping in contact with people, picking up all manner of useful and/or amusing references. Twitter,a micro-blog in which you answer the question "What are you doing now?" in 140characters or less, been through a tough patch recently. A victim of its own success, it suffered a series of performance and availability issues as it struggled to cope with rapdily increasing volumes of messages. During this period a number of twitterers decamped to Jaiku, which offers similar capabilities. Latterly it has stabilised and many (including myself) have returned to the simple, basic interface of twitter.
Both of these tools have published interfaces, through which they have been integrated (mashed) with many other social network products. For example, I can track and update twitter from my Facebook account.
And this is where Squawk comes in. It delivers integration between these tools and that ultimate in social, collaborative network products - Second Life.
In Second Life, Squawk is represented as a bracelet object, worn on the left wrist (be default). Configuration is simply a matter of editing a builtin notecard, setting the relevant login parameters for Twitter, Jaiku and other similar tools. By default it uses chat channel 42, though again this can be overridden through the configuration notecard. You can also opt to include your location with your messages - though be aware that as this is displayed as part of your message, you need to keep any text fairly brief.
The basic Squawk is free... which will be a big attraction to the cost-conscious avatar. But you can opt to upgrade it, for a donation of 200L$, so that it displays tweets for people you are following. Download locations can be obtained from the Squawknest website.
My friend TerryAnn Antonelli has been making extensive use of Squawk for a while now. She usually sends out a squawk whenever she visits somewhere interesting in SL, and that, in turn, lets me build up a list of potential sites to visit by following her progress on Twitter.
As an RL/SL social networking tool, I would strongly recommend you give it a whirl.
I would like to thank my friends TerryAnn Antonelli and Deeeeep Witte for finally making me see the light.
If you want to track development of the product, you can do so through this blog. While you can view my twitter profile here.
UPDATE: Lisa Rein ponders: "I have no idea if squawk thing works yet. Trying to get to it! Seems to be working for others though." It works a treat for me! However the Squawknest website does seem a bit problematic. If you can't get a refererence there, try SL Exchange or follow this SLURL.
Saturday, 14 July 2007
We've witnessed the arrival of a number of banks and financial institutions in Second Life, plus the departure of one - Wells Fargo having decamped to Active Worlds. At the tail-end of last year it was Dutch banks, but the last 3 months has seen the arrival of the French banks. I've been a bit slow off the mark picking up on this one - Credit Agricole.
Credit Agricole (please excuse the absence of accents!) is the largest banking group in France, and second largest in Europe, so their arrival in Second Life is hardly insignificant. As far as I can tell, they've been here since April 2007, but latterly they have expanded their presence, which now stands at 5 sims. As is usually the case with me, I stumbled upon the build by accident and went to have a look.
The main sim has 3 principal features:
- A boat - "Le Jules Meline" - is a museum in memory of Jules Meline, the inventor of "mutualism". This at least is the information given on the island, though the Wikipedia entry suggests otherwise. There is a lot of information in French about Mr Meline on the boat, which is a fairly straightforward construction. The textures are not particularly rich or engaging, giving it a rather dull, lifeless feel in my view. There is a piano on the forward deck, presumably for use in intimate soirees.
- "Le Cafe Mutualiste" is a reproduction of their first local branch at Poligny, in the Jura. It is kitted out as an informal meeting area, with comfortable seating inside and out. Again, the textures are rather plain, giving it a flat, dull feeling. However, there is a lot of artwork inside - mainly pictures made in SL - which bear further inspection.
- Finally, there is a modern building which provides a rich source of information about Credit Agricole, and is evidently the "business centre" for the sim. I've noticed with French builds - and this is no exception - that there is a tendency to bombard you with information from large numbers of panels and billboards. It is good to have this amount of information, but i do feel it could be scaled back a little. Perhaps rather than use a large number of static displays, why not use a smaller number of dynamic displays, in which the information is cycled every few seconds. This would give them more space, and thus more of a sense of space. Just a thought...
There are several smaller buildings on the sim, but I could not discern their purpose. Ironically perhaps, these lesser buildings actually use far richer textures and have a much better 3D feel.
The other sims in the presence are given over to different "big themes", such as Nature or The Future. These look failrly new and are in different stages of readiness. As you can see from the last picture, some structures are still at the "plywood texture" stage.
I do not have a view on the bank's intentions for Second Life. However, I read a French blog (that of David Castera) that suggests the reason the bank is here is that they see web3.D being with us in, say, 4 years and recognise the need to get in early and start experimenting. They also want to bring the concepts of Mutualism to a Second Life audience. Beyond that, my French was not really up to the job, and Google translation was more Zen-like than useful. If I interpret this right though, the build has been done by a company/group called stonfield InWorld.
It's not a build with a high wow factor, but it is a welcome addition to the financial presences in Second Life.
Friday, 13 July 2007
I received an invitation last night from my chum Joshua Culdesac, of Virtuool, to come and have a quick look at their latest build. On arrival I struggled to find Joshua for a while, until I noticed a small bespectacled mouse waving a placard in my general direction.
Normally Joshua sports a dapper (and distinctly unthreatening) wolfman avatar. With the niceties sorted out, and the arrival of Joshua's business partner, the hubbahubbalicious Piper Pitney, we fell to talking about the site they have constructed. Situated on the Francophone Europe sim, the French charity La Ligue Contre Le Cancer have a small 4096sq mtr parcel of land.
- The first zone is the Media Room, which will display slideshows and movies.
- The second, my favourite, is the Meeting Zone. This has a neatly scripted configurator that allows the owner to set the space for presentations - in which all the seats face forward towards a central screen and dais - or discussions - in which half of the seats disappear into the floor, and the others rotate to provide a smaller face-to-face discussion forum. One point - the use of yellow lighting makes everyone look jaundiced! Please change it!!
- The third zone provides displays and links to cancer research information. The frugally fashion-conscious can pick up freebie clothing here. It also provides access to a yacht - but I would warn would-be sailors that this is a tricky blighter to sail, and has been known to sink on at least one occas ion!
- The fourth zone is, in effect, a huge plant pot with a closed flower in it. Every time a payment is made to the charity (from donation boxes that can be placed anywhere in Second Life) the flower opens, the plant rotates (displaying the total collected to date) and a chorus of cheers goes up.
The whole site makes strong use of the charity's "brand colours" of orange and blue. As usual with Virtuool builds it crams a lot of clever ideas into its petite space. For example, the walkways have invisible walls - briefly visible if you bump into them - that serve to prevent the n00b or the careless from walking off the side of the path. The level of information is high and the donation flower and yacht make amusing diversions.
We spoke about the plans for the site. Virtuool have been contracted by a marketing agency (un-named) to build the site, and have had liitle (if any) involvement in planning how it should be promoted and utilised. This is unfortunate, since they have a lot of knowledge and ideas about the use of Second Life, whereas the agency has no experience in SL at all. This does not sound like a recipe for success, but time will tell. Hopefully the agency and/or charity will make use of Virtuool - or acquire other Second Life marketing and promotions expertise - to advise them on how to exploit this presence.
After a quick sail, we were joined by Tara5 Oh, Eolus McMillan and Alanagh Recreant for a fascinating discussion about fund-raising for Alanagh's charity in South Africa. This allowed us to test the meeting zone in "discussion mode". But I will leave discussion of that for another day - though my guess is that ugotrade blog will beat me to it.