metaverse


Sensing your presence, Handsfree 3d in Second life

A great video by Mitch Kapor is doing the rounds. Part of the wave of things washing away the cave paintings we have of user input and computer output. It is interesting to see it hooked up to Second Life, which as chair of Linden Lab you would expect to see. However this shows that the technology and software is out there, and is coming to fruition to track our movements and get gesture based, controller free computing up and running. Like Project Natal on the 360 this starts to make things more accessible rather than us chimping on controllers and keyboards all the time.
Of course there is the issue of feedback, of muscle memory and patterns formed from understanding the resistance physics gives us, but that does not mean these are not going to be useful technologies. In fact having watched people (and also doing it myself) even when using a regular controller moving the body to somehow impart that extra turn, leaning back to slow down more means that there may well be a place for the hybrid solution. Controllers for precise feedback, knowing the limit of a steering lock in a car etc, but enhanced by body movement.

See more as it appears at http://www.handsfree3d.com/

This is what a mobile device is for. AR

In the quest for mobile communication the telecoms companies have tended to stick with the same principles. We need a mobile phone to carry voice, we need a camera to take pictures so that we can have a video conversation (that has not quite seemed to take off). Text messages with SMS was a bit of a suprise and point to point MMS is not quite what people wanted. The rise of the social web, communicating in plain site online has more than ever driven the take up of data plans. Far more than downloading movies, or on the move TV it would seem.
Augmented reality is in a gap though. When you take the cameras which accidently evolved to show the world not show the user, you take the processing power onboard and the recent huge rise in combined device capabilities we start to see yet more Augmented Reality.
This is a great IPhone example from some guys at Oxford in the UK.

It is impressive at it is in effect markerless using the environment to figure registration points.
The new Iphone 3GS with its compass and even more ways to tell which way is up lends itself also to this sort of game control mechanism. Which is not Augmented Reality as such, though is a branch of the field. Here the real world is used as the control mechanism for the virtual world, and it does not matter where in the real world you are, but the virtual world is always “inside” on the device.

3d Printing multiple materials with Objet

I just received a sample from Objet of the results of their new PolyJet Matrix(tm) 3d printing technology. Why is this important? This particular technology means that in one pass an object can be constructed of several types and forms of material. In the example sent through, a rendering of Zebedee from the magic roundabout the various components all feel very different. Given my original 3d print sample was a small ABS plastic box from a few year ago things have really come on.
Objet 3d print sample
The hat and nose are actually made of a rubbery substance and soft to the touch, the spring flexes when you push on the sides of it and the body and head have some intricate detail and colour to them (such as the tiny buttons on his front).
It was an Object printer that was used by the creators of the Coraline movie in a very interesting way too.

Objet.com 3d printer sample

There is a whole stack of information in particular on the entry level 350 printer here and you can follow @3d_printers on twitter.
I am even more convinced than ever of the impact of this sort of technology when combined with the digital design and distribution channels we have. It will continue to get cheaper, better and faster and as in my previous post about some uses of the printers we have a whole host of new business and entertainment uses to consider over and above pure manufacturing of products. This is akin to the differences in virtual world technology usage of mirror worlds and mirror builds compared to more expressive and unusual environments. Mix that all up with Augmented Reality applications and we have one very interesting leap and trends forming.
As experts in the field of design in this space also warn such as csven on ReBang there are responsibilities in learning to design these sorts of products. Making people aware of the opportunities in their product design profession will bring along safe usuable products.
Either way, like virtual worlds and Augmented Reality, 3d printing is not going away, in fact they are on a march together it would seem. So join the march I say 🙂

Happy 6th Birthday Second Life

Second Life is turning 6 years old, and as per usual there is a party going on. I popped in to have a quick look (just missing the preview party) but the first thing I saw I loved.
sl6b
This build is animated too. It is a blend of Pac Man, Pong, Star Wars and Tron. I will give it a proper credit when I go back but had to share this picture as I found it instantly fascinating.
It was also interesting that within minutes I bumped into a Wordle banner in there too on a Linden build. Wordle being something that seems to have swept into all sorts of places and created by Jonathan Feinberg from my old firm.
wordle in SL
There is a lot to see with a huge number of resident built exhibits. See you in there!

Lie to me, avatars and actors

I have recently got into watching Lie to me, running on Sky 1 at the moment. It is an intriguing programme that has Tim Roth as an expert of human behavior and in particular body and facial language when they lie (apparently based on the work of Paul Elkman) . If nothing else it is worth watching for Tim Roth’s performance with his typical style of flipping intensities and focus as he talks. I do find it interested how the various elements of betraying ones true feelings are portrayed in the programme though. I have said to people that I think the show is designed to make us all feel clever. Much of what happens is made fairly obvious at the time, highlighting a crooked smile, touching an ear etc, and as humans we do many of those things and know via instinct what they mean.
There is of course an interesting loop here in that we are in fact watching actors, all of whom have a job which involves convincing us that they are something or someone else, yet at the same time they are convincing us that they are lying as part of that role.
It got me to consider the things I often say to people about engaging in virtual worlds and online and how different people have a different Neuro-linguistic Programming balance. i.e. some people refer to things with visual metaphors even in speech “I see your point of view”, or with aural references, “I here what you are saying” etc. These basics of human communication need to be considered in having the right experience for the right people online, and show why some people don’t take to some platforms.
In all this we have the overhanging spectre of people lying online. The accusation that people hide who they are online getting mixed up with people simply proxying who they are online via an avatar. It is these things that then remove our usual human facial detection systems to pick up on lies and truth. I believe the reason video conferencing in a social setting seems to be less popular that you might expect is because of the disconnect of these gestures and the direct feedback with the others on the call. However, when in avatar mediated space does the fact we have to decide on various ways to explicitly engage with people, gestures, sounds, words, position, pace, timing etc provide us with a different set of human detectors for deciding who to trust?
I know there is not an easy answer to any of this and the spectrum of usage is huge, from method acting role play, to fast talking business deals. Though I do think each of us finds a way to blend what we instictively know in a physical meeting about who we are talking too to how we interact online and give out the right signals and react to the right signals. Some people, as in physical interactions are going to be better at it than others.
I am not sure if the Lie to me script writers are going to delve into online interaction in a future show, but it would be interesting to see their take on the science applied to a very entertaining show and interesting subject.

Southampton Tuesday Tweetup

Tomorrow (16th June) is the second Southampton Tuesday Tweetup at Dockgate4 Southampton. The last one was great and some of the photos can be found in this pool on Flickr
I have lots more stories to share from my travels and since starting Feeding Edge. With a bit or organization I may not have to drive there either 😉
See you there fellow southcoast tweeters, I should get it merged with the South coast Metaverse Meetup really. (As I remind myself I need to organize that franchise!)
Anyway follow @tuesdaytweetup for more information

Wimbledon – A fanployee perspective

With Andy Murray winning the tournament at Queen’s on saturday and Wimbledon looming this will be the first year since 1998 that I am not working at the Wimbledon tournament. So I really want to say good luck to all my friends and former colleagues for the forthcoming madness that keeps the Wimbledon web and media presence going. 

It seemed a good time to do a collection piece on Wimbledon. Though as I seem to keep getting incorrect copyright takedowns from some of the media companies who knows how long the media will stay in place. 

Working at Wimbledon has been a very formative experience and I don’t want to repeat what I have written over the years on eightbar (of which there is a great deal), however it should be noted that it is one of the oddest and most high pressure jobs I have done in my career. The responsibility we all feel as a team towards the club, to the event and to one another is something that I will not ever forget. A rare mix of emotions as a fanployee.

The most unusual aspect of the event is the mixture of heads down pressure work to keep things ticking, intense periods of potential boredom when it’s all running smoothly, incredibly inventive moments when someone says “hey what if?”, fatigue and a sort of jet lag caused by early starts and late nights with play starting at midday, adrenalin highs from presenting to visiting customers, press and dignitaries and the actual customer as a partner in all this. Many more work environments could benefit from this sort of fanployee feeling and atmosphere!

I think it is safe to say that most people what work at Wimbledon in some capacity from IBM really do care deeply about the outcome of the project. That passion and willingness to make it all the best it can be also generates some envy and jealousy from those that don’t get that opportunity or who if they did may not cope. I have on a number of occasions had line managers suggest that working at Wimbledon is some sort of award. I can see the point of view, but that always shows a lack of understanding that only comes from actually having been there and coped with the highs and lows.

Wimbledon has been very good to me experience wise though. It was both technically challenging, but also brought mental toughness and the ability to present to people and be passionate about that presentation at a moments notice. (As clients just appear in the bunker office on the main tour and usually need entertaining). 

It was Wimbledon that started me blogging inside the company firewall, telling the behind the scenes tale that no one otherwise got to here and of course that inevitably led to my push in Second Life (yes all this will be in the book thats slowly getting constructed). 

I also can’t take credit for this (or can I?) but this is the first year that Wimbledon has been licenced properly into a video game of any note.
(c) EA Sports(c) EA Sports
EA Sports GrandSlam Tennis on the Wii as covered on the Wimbledon Website

*Update the game is on general release now and available here EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis (Wii) and also with the extra motion controller EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis (Wii) with Wii MotionPlus Accessory

For now though here are the 3 rough videos from 2006,2007 and 2008 of the Wimbledon Second Life build.

Wimbledon Second Life back in 2007 from epredator on Vimeo.

Wimbledon Second Life back in 2007 from epredator on Vimeo.

This is really the post that started it all off so you can see what I was thinking.

Bear in mind this was only just when http requests were opened up, before flexi or sculpty prims and really before anyone thought that this was any more than a joke (which of course a few people still think it is, but I will deal with them later 🙂 )

    Copied from eightbar.eu-gb.mybluemix.net for completeness and backup 🙂 Bear in mind this was back in mid 2006 the start of quite a journey

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IBM, amongst other things, runs the official Wimbledon website during the event. This has lots of exciting well designed tennis information, real time scores and we deal with a large volume of traffic. Most years I am onsite for a period of time, helping explain how we bring innovation to our customer as part of a large cross IBM team. In the lead up to the event, and with what I know about the data we have, I decided to take on a mini proof of concept to bring Wimbledon to Second Life.

The first point is that this is a proof of concept. The build is designed to show the various ideas rather than be a 1:1 representation of the actual place. That’s very possible, but would take more days to build.
Secondly, lots of people could attend, the shots show only one avatar.

The example security gate is there to show you can detect things about peoples avatars in this case it shows the name and if they are wearng anything that contains code.

The first item on the tour is the RSS weather feed globe. It updates now every hour from a weather service, but has a manual overide for some other cities to prove its not all smoke and virtual mirrors

Next is the highlight. The real world tracking data for actual tennis matches. We get a feed for the normal web scoreboard and the point tracker. Here we plot the ball in 3d space and can rotate around it for various angles. The net is actually in control, if it gets told another url to use it plays another rally. This can be done manually, by talking to it, or by another control box that cycles through the various games.
We could put players on this, with the extra data we have on which shot has been played and knowing when the ball changes direction, but I was working to a timeframe.

As you can see you can control the camera even when your avatar is sitting enjoying the game

This shows several concepts. The main one is the 2 spheres, these are ambient devices that change size depending on who is winning the match, it shows the ambient device concept.
The picture on the right is of the IBM special keyboard used to record the matches, with keys for forehand smash, volley etc.

This shows one of the special products at work. The flying wimbledon towel. When anyone clicks the towel it act like a normal banner ad and directs them to the real wimbledon shop for the real towel. This banner add though can be flown as a vehicle. So I can fly around, advertising in places without leaving the ad lying around on private property. Avatar based marketing.

These images show a mixture of photo panels of things at Wimbledon and 3d objects such as the park benches. Just to add a bit of character. The go away rain sign is a legacy of many championships.

This is the most recent addition. advert watching posts. Stand in front of each of the screens and a streaming video of the IBM adverts with people from the AELTC and the BBC talking about Wimbledon, IBM and innovation

Whilst the trigger for the video is standing in front of a particular one (and hitting the movie play button in SL) the video will play on all the screens at once. It does not have to do this, I just liked the effect.

This is sort of Henman hill. Again to show a hint and nod to the real place. The video wall in this case is showing one of last years flash scoreboards, to show the analogy with the full size court and the previous web incarnations for tracking the ball.

Again this is a flavour of mixing 2d pictures with 3d objects the line of benches coming out of the space, giving depth.

More example pictures, with fencing and plants to show the potential

These pictures show an object raining multiple tennis balls down. No real reason its just fun, It actually the same code as the full court but the balls are physical, and hence fall rather than the one on the court demo that hang around, to help show the path of the ball.

The Fred Perry statue can be touched, and it will get the RSS feed from wimbledon.org

The chat history window shows us what Fred said, and formats its nicely.

Further up in the air, to use the small real estate, is a hovering Wimbledon shop.

The products in the shop include a Tshirt, using the actual tshirt as source to build a SL Tshirt that can be worn (see last photo). This shows the flow of money and product placement.

We also have some pose balls. These allow us to put an avatar in a pose when they are attached to it. In this case two backdrops with different poses. People then are able to take snapshots of them ‘in action’ like in new citizens plaza, but tennis branded.

The avatar I am wearing is available for sale from a poster of the avatar. Again shows the flow of money and the potential to look like real people.

We have a pagoda in the sky, its also a video wall showing one of the IBM vignette adverts.

So you can fly in and be immersed in the video.

And there we have it. Back to a normal(ish) look, but wearing my Wimbledon 06 tshirt.
If I leave the private Hursley island everyone will be able to see this shirt


We could do a whole lot more with the browser as a texture gecko engine, but for now the httprequest has made much of this much easier
For more on what IBM does at Wimbledon it really is a fantastic effort and a great partnership.
That is just the start of IBMers in the Metaverse.
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Anyway good luck everyone, and I look forward to actually getting to watch it this year ! Come on Murray !

Handheld Gaming Augmented Reality – Invizimals

These combinations of technology packaged for consumer use are coming think and fast from E3. (I really must go next year!)
This time using a PSP with a camera and some registration markers to allow the collection and battling of multiple handheld views of individual pokemon style characters.
Now I have Eye of the Beholder an AR card game on the PS3 and the last few blog posts have been about Natal and Eye Pet. However this has a subtle extra point. The representation of a character via the magic window effect off a registration point can be done on anything, what they have done here though is use the connectivity of the PSP to allow more that one point of view or experience to be shared.
I see my view of the Augmented World, you see yours and we interact through it. Sounds like a metaverse to me, once we get from the single user experience (which is very cool but essentially a book or a movie) we then start to get to augmented reality virtual world brokered human communication.
In this example the kids are battling together in the same place, but as everywhere is local and distance does not exist on the web you can extrapolate how this could expand (as with Natal and the other tech) to a mixed mode virtual world or communication channel.
I bumped into this via the Guardian games blog feed on Youtube

Future Virtual world interaction, Milo, Project Natal, Eye Pet…

I just got to see this video from E3 with Peter Molyneux from Lionhead and the wonderful Project Natal gear that seems to work already, though you can never quite tell.
This however combines some Artificial life into the mix and Molyneux speaks about how everyone feels the immersion, picking things up, handing things over. There is of course an element of escapism required, but all our media requires that. Enough cues though and the brain engages, as with the few degrees of tilt on a fairground simulator, combined with a rushing video, the sense of speed, g force and braking becomes far greater as several senses are fooled at once.

Also the PS3 is showing what is does with a simple camera and markers, providing similar degrees of interaction without a controller with its forthcoming eye pet. The drawing of the toy for it to play with I am looking forward to see how it works. Its not on this viddler video but in the PS3 Home lounge I saw a kid draw a plane and it then rezzed as a cartoon plane that the pet flew away on. Very similar to the skateboard scanning in the earlier Natal trailer

So not only have we had the toe dipped in the water of removing the standard game controller, the rise of the Wiimote, the drums, guitar and microphones of rockband and guitar hero but we now also have gesture based computing, realtime on consumer entertainment platforms.

Whilst these are for pure entertainment, as the Wii balance board has shown they can move into actual exercise, real movement of real muscles. So think of Project Natal and alike providing a physio therapist the ability to remotely instruct on exercise with a good degree of feedback on actual performance of the patient, kids to rehearse their dance moves for upcoming shows with one another in different schools, an emerging science of remote body language (do we use the same signals as we do in real life when instrumented in this way). The list goes on. Of course this can also still work sat at a desk, pointing at things, handing things to one another and mixed with traditional communication media.

This is showing the way leading to some new interaction paradigms for people. It is also very real. There may be the odd bit of hype but we are now getting several generations into the technology. Next it goes mobile and we have full AR in a consumer package. How exciting is that !

EA Sports Hub in PS3 Home, looking good

I just popped into Home after my usual update post holiday to catch up with things.
The new EA Sports hub is looking very good. Various sports starting to be represented around a single atrium but not just rooms and shops, the golf shop extends off as a golf course.
The posters come alive with loaded content for various games and there appears to be a game of poker to play upstairs, though Home’s downloading live updates takes a bit of time so I am writing this whilst waiting to see.
EAsports hub
It was quite busy too lots of people wandering around whatever shard counts as mine for PS3 Home in the UK.
Well worth a look.
***Update here is the official looking trailer for it.