Evolving epredator

I have been experimenting with many avatar creation sites recently for some projects. I have two experiments I usually try, one is the predator themed version. This usually tests the creative flexibility of a system, with a mask or mandibles messing up most systems.
The other is some green (preferably spikey) haired version thats a caricature in some way of me.
Most recently I looked at Evolver.com a great looking avatar creation service that is designed as a web based wizard for rich 3d content which is then exportable in a variety of formats, from animations to yes, 3d prints of the avatar.
It is also interesting that there is a much more complex and richer export to 3d applications with rigged bones etc for Maya and alike. This seems a good addition though I suspect that many of the users of the high end packages are already skilled in design or have suitable models to work with. I have to try and see if it fits into my “not quite a graphic designer but with aspirations” tool chain and it would be great to grab the custom me and pop it into Unity3d.
evolver epredator
evolver epredator face
This is a sample video the site makes for you with animation of the character too.

Apply to become a TED Fellow @ TED2010!

I received this via eightbar and thought is worth posting

Ever dreamed of attending a TED Conference…of being around some of the world’s greatest minds and discussing the best technology, art, architecture, music, film, science, literature, etc? Are you innovative and want to meet with other people like you from around the world? Then apply to the TED Fellows program!

Apply online here: www.ted.com/fellows/apply.

Organizers of the TED Conference are searching for 25 promising Fellows from around the world to participate in TED2010. The TED Fellows program will accept applications for fellowships through September 25, 2009.

MORE INFO:

About the TED Fellows Program

The TED Fellows program is a new international fellowship program designed to nurture great ideas and help them spread around the world. This year, organizers will select 25 individuals from around the world to attend TED2010. At the end of the year, organizers will select 15 individuals from a pool of the TED and TEDGlobal Fellows to participate in an extended three-year Senior Fellowship, bringing them to six consecutive conferences. The principal goal of the program is to empower the Fellows to effectively communicate their work to the world.

Benefits

Benefits of the Fellowship include conference admission, round-trip transportation, housing and all meals. Fellows will also participate in a pre-conference with the opportunity to present a short talk for consideration for TED.com, elite skills-building courses taught by world experts, social opportunities and surprise extras. This is not a monetary Fellowship; the benefits are in-kind only.

Who we are looking for:

The program seeks remarkable thinkers and doers who have shown unusual accomplishment, exceptional courage, moral imagination and the potential to increase positive change in their respective fields. The program focuses on innovators in technology, entertainment, design, science, film, art, music, entrepreneurship and the NGO community, among other pursuits. The program targets individuals from the Asia/Pacific region, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Middle east, though anyone from anywhere in the world is welcome to apply. Applicants are generally between 21-40 years of age, though anyone over 18 and over 40 may apply. They must also be fluent in English.

Application process and more information:

All applicants must apply online at http://www.ted.com/fellows/apply. Information about TED is available at http://www.ted.com; and information about TED2010 is available at http://conferences.ted.com/TED2010/.

Please email fellows@ted.com if you have any questions, would like more information, if you’d like to nominate an extraordinary individual!

About TED:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader to include science, business, the arts and the global issues facing our world. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). Attendees have called it “the ultimate brain spa” and “a four-day journey into the future.” The diverse audience — CEOs, scientists, creatives, and philanthropists — is almost as extraordinary as the speakers, who have included Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Nandan Nilekani, Ashraf Ghani, Jane Goodall, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Sir Richard Branson, Stephen Hawking and Bono.

Augmented Reality API – Build your own future, pixels or atoms

Thanks to @abc3d for tweeting this link on ReadWriteWeb for the Wikitude Android Augmented Reality open API

One thing to not forget in all this is that whilst we can augmented physical locations with information we can also augment virtual locations in the same way. So not only are the virtual worlds visual databases and user created content wikis that can be used to provide information out to the real world, they are also clients that can receive augmented data from multiple locations. The mobile phone magic window application clearly has some future, but there is so much more we can do too 🙂 Don’t forget we can also augment our reality by creating physical instances of things with rapid fabrication and 3d printers too.
Wash away those cave paintings people.

“Mined” the gap

it is always interesting when your online reputation is your actual CV. It used to be just for those in Who’s Who or major celebs to keep press cuttings. Now we can all do it, even us “minor” celebrities.
For a good few years I have always pointed people back to things I have blogged or to my links showreel on delicious or just let them Google me. Usually I suggest that they Google epredator as that handle has much more unique value than my full name.
@Moehlert just tweeted this MIT data mining visualization (via @Jowyang, via @debs…) of where we crop up online in various forms. So I thought I would run it a few times with epredator, Ian Hughes and epredator Hughes just to be on the safe side.
epredator web dna
The results show lots of hits for Ian Hughes, but of course as it was looping through it was clear many of them were not me 🙂

I like the epredator hughes results more as they were generally about articles and references in combination. They show a very large result on fashion, which I can only assume is conversations about avatars, sports is probably Wimbledon and books and news will fit back to the delicious links.

Give it a go, its like an abstract visual version of Wordle
cv2008 Tag Cloud

I will talk and Hollywood will Listen

There is a great article in the LA Times I saw Twittered more than once today about the coming batch if Game/Virtual World related movies about to entertain/annoy/discredit or legitimise the sort of things we are all up to.


, originally uploaded by OfficialAvatarMovie.

Avatar obviously sounds like one that fits the current avatar and islands models, though of course it really looks like it is not about virtual avatars as much as about mind and body sharing. This of course fits with the fact that Avatar (or a derivative) is related to a more supernatural/religious use of an incarnation. So yes we have geeked out and assumed it only means a digital representation, but language is fluid.
I am sure these films will be entertaining, but we may have next generation of the “hey I know this operating system… tap tap tap” “logoff now!!!” etc… which I suppose we will just have to pretend isn’t happening 🙂
Movies, TV and general entertainment culture do start to bring a mass acceptance even if the movies are exploring the potential darkside and off the rails side of social and technology innovation.
I have heard (and probably used myself) the example of Minority Report style interfaces when talking about AR and gesture based interfaces. It is that that I think most people remember and lock onto more so that the serious implications of judging someone based on a precognition of what crime they might commit.
That’t not to say we don’t have to keep a watchful eye on all the misuse of tech, ID cards, CCTV, spying, hacking, DNA databases but in general I find it better to focus on the positive uses and we will evolve ourselves around the power mad control freaks.
I am not sure any Hollywood script writers/film makers need a 42 year old brit to play an ex-corporate metaverse evangelist with an idealistic streak for the common good of people interacting and making work and life more interesting. However if they do, just tweet me 🙂

Immersive banner ads, new worlds and exposing platform choice

In the ever evolving and growing virtual world business we are seeing yet more interesting changes since my previous post.
Blue Mars is entering the fray as a virtual world experience. It is one powered by a high end game engine Crysis CryEngine 2. I suspect this will get quite a bit of interest from people who regard some of the other places as to old or to weird. It looks like its content development is a gated process rather than the freeform nature of some of the other platforms.
I have not been in the beta yet, I guess my invitation got lost in the post? When I do get in I will give a better description. As far as I am concerned more platforms is good, and it validates the direction we have all been going.
Also the last few days 3Di made another anouncement. Hot on the heels of the “opensim in a browser” they have extended that to use the same principle for more immersive banner advertising.
3d banner
Whilst the press release does claim a first, which as always is debatable, it does look like some product wrapping has gone on to enable this deployment.
Of course it is already possible with other plugin approaches such as as web.alive to have an embedded virtual world on a webpage, or richer experiences with unity3d embedded in a page. The interesting part here is of course the use of opensim, which indicates that the construction of the content viewed by the plugin is able to be very simple.
I started to wonder if we were realistically going to start to see user generated content in banner ad virtual worlds?

Closing Thought Springer Style
Lots of ways of interacting may seem confusing and worrying to people, and indeed investing time in places either as a company or an individual does have its challenges when there are lots of places to choose from. However this is the nature of the internet. There is not one website, one application platform, one way of doing things. Virtual worlds are on that continuum.
In development there is of course a difference, running a website on Websphere, Coldfusion etc has technically challenges, coosing a backend database or language also is important, but generally your customers don’t know or don’t care. Having an HTML layout or some Flash plugins start to make a different to your users experience. The exposed face of the system (including its speed and performance) gets the focus of any user. With any virtual world you end up with a user experience and feel straight away regardless of the things you build or provide in the environment. The choice of platform and access to it has both technical direction and creative direction all wrapped into one. You enhance that experience with your extra creative and technical endeavours. So the technical implementation of the virtual world and its base experience and branding is very important, it has exposed what used to be behind the scenes technical platform choices and given them a face. A location both in a choice of which virtual world or worlds and within a particular one, has become important. In many ways the degree of user perception and experience that impacts the platform choices is an anti-pattern to cloud computing. In cloud we (as users) don’t really care where something runs, how much storage, how many processors, what the plumbing is, we just want it to be there when we need it. With the extremely visual and socially engaging nature of virtual worlds we absolutely do care about where something is, where we are, who we are associated with.
The question, for both us as users, as customers and as businesses is which platform to go for. The answer is not straightforward, but I would suggest that with the increasingly low cost of entry to these just pick one you like the vibe of. Holding back to wait for the best of breed pick would be the same as not having a customer database installed because you weren’t sure if DB/2 was better than Oracle or MySQL, so you just did not bother. However I would also suggest that you engage people to help you describe that vibe, people in your organization (or outside it 😉 ) that mix the technical direction with the creative direction.
You need to find people who are a blend of techie, have an eye for design, a feel for social interaction online and a passion for pushing things forward. There are lots of people like that out there, usually buried in your organizations. Please find them and grow them.

Browsers, plugins and virtual world steps in the right direction

We have great conversations in the virtual world industry about mass adoption of virtual worlds and how that might happen. Usually all the barriers to adoption are human not technical. Social resistance of world x or practice y or risk z within a particular business or social community. Some of this is based on fear or on thinking there will be a lack of control. However in all this is the great saviour of mass adoption. “Oh thats OK it works in a browser, no special hardware/software/IT Policy/training/implementation… etc is going to be needed so lets just adopt it.”.
That of course is a fallacy, but none the less I will take adoption trigger wherever I can and the more avenues to enagage with a virtual world the better. Of course Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Youtube etc all run in a browser and require little effort to access them, but still those scared of a revolution in communication will want to block them just in case people waste time on them.
That said there have been some very interesting developments the past few weeks with browser integration and virtual worlds.
Second Life announced and let out its Media Plugin framework into the wild (and a much improved website for us residents too). For those who don’t get involved in the details at the moment Second Life is able to do various things with content from outside of the virtual world. 1. Play a quicktime movie on a surface using the quicktime installed on your computer (or stream audio) 2. Place a read only version of a webpage on a surface, 3. Make requests for data out into the ether that is the internet and respond to that data (That was how Wimbledon worked).
The new plugin architecture lets that principle of using quicktime become open to people that want to write new plugins that we can then all take advantage of and use accordingly. Hence we have seen demos of remote terminal with VNC already crop up.
It is interesting that this stops the Second Life client being an extra client on the desktop and starts to make it actually a Browser that does streaming 3D as well. Web browsers really are just collection of plugins that do various things, the most used plugin for graphics tends to be Flash, but as you will have noticed this is not a download free plugin anymore as constant updates are required.
As we all become more literate with updating plugins ( or plugin providers become more more lazy with permanent updates), and as plugins get validated or certified by more IT departments and virus checkers then the always on nature of the web means a plugin is not the issue it once was.
This video from AimeeTrescothick uses the test client for a plugin (rather than a deployed one) but it shows using VNC to remote access into other machines. An example that anything can be wrapped in a plugin and delivered onto a surface in Second Life.

All the example we are seeing tend to be flat, but with a little bit of work and thought we can texture any surface with any data and this may act as a way to bring content rendered on another platform in world at least for viewing and with some interaction without actually copying assets from one place to another and causing copyright issues. I demonstrated this with a live rendered video avatar placed onto a sphere back in March 2008. The aim being to show that even with simple video replace you can get deliver content across worlds live.
The other interesting report was that of the the 3Di opensim viewer in a browser. This time a plugin to a web browser to enable access to the virtual environment side by side with web content. This was covered on New World Notes, and is well worth an investigative look.
A whole host of plugins already exist (and more on the way) for browser ultra rich content, Unity3d, Torque3d, Flash.
Of course Web.alive, Metaplace, ProtonMedia, Forterra, Qwaq, Vastpark, and vanilla Opensim all provide various degrees of this too, some have plugins, some are plugins but the key is nothing is isolated. These are not supposed to be locked away structured game experiences, they provide live integration between people, experiences and data when they physically cant be together in a real space.
So we have an increasing number of technical implementations to show information, some of it 3d, in web browsers, in custom clients even on handhelds. We have network connectivity to allow live interactions between people in those environments. Clearly the more ways to access and interact the more likely people are to just do that.
So just as we have seen the open letter to your boss, and an open letter to your metaverse evangelist we need a very simple open letter to everyone.
Don’t be scared, it will be alright, you can benefit from this revolution.

SXSW 2010- Second Life Where are they now? go vote please :)

John Swords asked if I would be up for making the journey from the UK to Texas for the SXSW event next year to be part of his panel Second Life Where are they now. I said yes straight away. Panels are democratically decided, so get voting please.
Its an ideal panel for those of us who have made major changes in our lives, in my case starting an enterprise surge then moving from intrapreneur to entrepreneur because of it.
Swords post about it is here and the voting form is here
I think the subject is right up our collective virtual streets, and specifically the fact this was no dead end but the start of something much bigger for everyone.
So you are you going to vote yes and give me a reason to dig into the Feeding Edge travel budget and head for Texas in 2010
Voting closes September 4th

The prize for innovation in avatar interopability goes to ….

Codemasters Colin McRae Dirt 2 on the Xbox 360
I was taking a look at the latest incarnation of off road console gaming. Codemasters Colin McRae Dirt 2 on the Xbox 360. The previous Dirt game was brilliant and it looks like this is going the right way too. The demo is even packaged with voice overs from Ken Block and Travis Pastrana indicating it is a demo (i.e. not just a disabled functions as with most demos).
Having had a blast around an excellent simulation of a Baja track and then an even more impressive and stunning rally stage set in Morroco I was thinking about how this mirror world, and the purity of the experience as a simulation blended with fun and some interesting game related features (such as rewind when you total the car) would not be one to have any quirky avatar or non car related expressions of personality in it. I often use Forza 2 (soon Forza 3)(as here in 2007) as an example of how expression and customization of things like cars are done in context and that interoperability is a social and branding activity more so than a technical challenge to move data from one environment to another. “We don’t want our avatar from X, wandering around in Y as it will break the atmosphere”, “yes but we can”.
I happened to pop into the demo customization options and selected something that said avatar as a cockpit customization. I was amazed, amused and impressed when on the replay of the hectic drive I saw this.
Dirt 2 - Embedded Avatar
My personalized xbox avatar dangling from the mirror, swinging around with ragdoll physics in car. It s such a subtle little idea, yet I was surprised. There in this real yet fun off road driving simulation, where mentally I was the driver of the car in overalls and helmet, hurtling and sliding through the desert, I was able to reference back to a little bit of my more global system wide visual persona. My predalike dreadlocked avatar with his new virtual t-shirt.
It did not break the spell, it fitted. The avatar was embedded in world yet not interfering with it. Well done to the Codies !

Whilst this feature was on the 360 I am sure there are equally interesting features on all the other versions it is out mid September (which whilst i am on the subject all the games that get release pre-xmas are always in mid September which make it mighty annoying when the predlets want to by me a birthday present for the end of August!
Colin McRae: Dirt 2 (Xbox 360)
Colin McRae: Dirt 2 (PS3)
Colin McRae: Dirt 2 (PC DVD)
Colin McRae: Dirt 2 (Wii)
Colin McRae: Dirt 2 (PSP)

What have I done to me now? Gizmoz

I was investigating some other avatar creation tech and dropped into Gizmoz.
Increasingly there seems to be simple yet accurate ways to capture and model faces. In this case a single photo was enough to generate this image.

Of course whether we choose to represent our real faces, versions of us adjusted, or some much more abstract rendition in various places online is both personal preference and context.
Gizmoz seems like a lite version of Crazy Talk which incidently got a good few mentions on this weeks dogearnation podcast.