Metameets – The last post : 4 of 4 (plus 1)

Finally I get to talk about the last parts of the Metameets conference gathering last month. It is rare that posts take this long as I prefer to fire a quick post up and not leave things lingering, however it was so packed that that just was not going to happen to do it justice.
First it was great to see Toxic Menges tell us all about the now famous Meroos. These virtual life critters are a Second Life phenomenon. They are not simple scripted in world creatures. Their evolution and life cycle is controlled on servers outside of Second Life. They are registered purchased goods expressed and interacted with in Second Life. I did buy a Meroo after the presentation, but it has run away as I forgot to feed it. A-Life is always fascinating and when combined with a virtual world and a value economy even more so. Meero’s evolution and breeding cycle, specializations and changes are all out there to be discovered and lots of people are farming them for profit, or caring for them as pets.
This is really advanced a-life in how it works within the scope of a shared environment. Toxic pointed out how the Meeroo’s come up and give your avatar a hug in world. This is not a standalone tamagotchi.

Next up was a remote pitch by film maker Bernhard Drax/Draxtor Despres on The making of SL/WoW documentary Login2Life. This was part in world (we all rezzed with him in virtual Amsterdam) and then heard all about this new reportage covering all elements of the SL and WoW experience. It is running on German TV very soon and hopefully will be available world wide as we all know Draxtor does great work.

We have Melanie Thielker back to do a second presentation specifically on Roleplay in Virtual Worlds. Melanie enthused about the potential of role play in virtual worlds, how characters form and play and act. It is a very specific form of entertainment that can be a little scary for people used to being handed their experiences. In some ways it is like the difference between a radio and choosing your own songs. Both work, both co-exist and virtual worlds provide an ideal way to explore what role play is.

Toni Alatalo got a chance to show off RealXtend and the subtle differences and extensions that this platform has over SL and Opensim. One of the key elements of the model this works on is that everything is a world object. There is no specific need to have an avatar or an island. (So much nodding and whooping from me). Toni also gave his presentation with the virtual world, mixing and zooming around screens and examples of eagles swooping and catching fish.

Timo Mank came to talk TMSPTV a meditative space and a playground for co-creation across realities. This was an intriguing project that turns the island idea on its head. This was a creative collective that represents its stories and ideas in Second Life in order to reach a wider audience yet is drawn from a physical location which is itself a communal physical island. It has a culture of storytelling and each day the stories are retold as part of a daily routine. That culture is capture and placed in world.

Karen Wheatley talked about The Evolution of Virtual Theatre. This was a fascinating insight from a theatrical production point of view. Karen stages live plays in Second Life but adapted for Gorean culture. The Jewell Theatre has been staging full-length original plays in Second Life since August 2007, so there is a lot of experience on hand. In staging plays Karen has to consider the fact that the audience actually may be sat in one place but can move the camera anywhere. There are no cheap seats in SL. Set changes can happen very much quicker too, with objects rezzed and moved as needed. Most of the plays have been text based due to unreliability of voice sometimes. Chat was adjusted with the equivalent of a text microphone that relays the chat labelled as the character name not the avatar name. Yes thats right a person with an avatar playing a character lots of levels of redirection there. Actors also have to be aware that they need to explicitly puppet their avatars with a directors missive “T*ts to the action people”. Having had to deal with the challenges of locations and tv studios I appreciated the challenges of staging in SL in this more directed way. As Karen said you use what you have got and the challenges of a platform or place become part of the production.

Steve Zapytowski continued the theatrical strand with Blended Performance: Live Actors and a Virtual Player. Steve is professor of Design and Technology, Kent State University. Founding member of the Institute for Learning in Virtual Environments (iLIVE). He presented from in SL and we watched some local videos of his work. This was about a physical production of Hamlet but the ghost was a stage effect that was pre-render animation of a human figure. They had to mix the pre-renders with suitable lighting and cueing to make the ghost move, appear, puff away etc. It look very powerful and very interesting. There was lots of discussion about live puppetry versus the pre-canning but again thats a choice of the environment and how to work. Each has its flavour and challenges.

Finally up was Chantal Harvey / Mamachinima that strangely I already blogged, it was where I started this thread of metameets.

So that was Metameets. An amazing collection of ideas, people and passion. I throughly enjoyed both being the MC and hearing everything and meeting everyone. The Club Karlsson venue was very cool too and everyone was very helpful . What a blast ! Well done all. In particular joja dhara for bringing us all together in the first place (though she asked me not to thank her at the time so I have messed that one up πŸ™‚ )

Metameets part 3 of n : Grid wars and envelope pushing

Metameets might seem a long while ago at web speed but the themes and trends emerging are still relevant. So I make not apology for this being a long run series of posts πŸ™‚
On day 1 we got to another section about the grid and kicking this off was a discussion about Second Life third party viewers or TPV’s as they are called. This is a fascinating case study in both competition and symbiosis with a load of niche and specialised interests thrown in for good measure.
Kirstenlee Cinquetti/Lee Quick is the driving force behind the very popular TPV Kirstens Viewer Lee has a great passion for the Second Life environment and also is very interested in photography and film making.

So the aim of his viewer project was to take the Open Sourced Snowglobe code from Linden Lab and enhance it and improve it to make a very focused viewer that presents a great visual experience, as good as it possibly can be. He makes no apology for the spec of machine needed and this is where the cooperation with SL comes in. He is able to provide a focus and a niche built on top of the standard open source code to enhance some users experiences. However he is, and has to be, so on top of the releases of the code and changes to the grid (servers) that he finds things out before they go really public. When a function appears, hidden away, he and his team will find it, test it and patch their viewer to use it, or work around it if it doesn’t work properly. In many ways he is quality assurance for SL, whilst being completely independent. He said the Lab hates him πŸ™‚ but i am sure they love him in equal measure too. It is difficulty for many commercial companies in andy industry to understand this user/developer/prosumer model. Kirstenlee is pushing the envelope with access to features that are intriguing (like stereoscopic 3d). He is restructuring major parts of code to treat the user interface in a much more engineered way to allow for cleaner layout and transparent parts of the interface. He is now looking at better camera controls, fixed views, dollys etc for the machinima makers to use. All of this is good for SL (and also the related platforms like opensim potentially). The Lab benefits from this focus, but I can imagine that it can also be difficult as when developing an releasing products time and priorities are different for different people.
Next up and on the a slightly different co-op confrontational path was Melanie Thielker. She is another (of the very rare) core opensim developer and has done a lot of the restructuring work. Here though Melanie was talking about her hosted business based on Opensim Avination This venture is a growing business, with a focus on roleplay. It is very impressive to be able to both spark up and push forward a customer facing grid whilst also living in the open source development world. However that gives Melanie a great perspective on what needs to be done and real life systems architecture to keep her grids running and growing. This grid is of course in direct competition with the Second Life one, but exists because of the spin off of Opensim and the open source approach to development in taking something closed and making it better.
Next we had a bit more of a standard product pitch, though it is still a leading edge idea. Fred van Rijswijk from C2K dashed in to share some of the interesting things being done with Layar. Layar is a “traditional” augmented reality application. The client allows the merging of real and virtual content based on location of the client. I say traditional as I think AR is about anything from anywhere merged with anything from anywhere else in more than one way. We do have to evolve to that though. Rather like the early web AR generally requires someone to make things for you. Design and game agencies can craft the 3d models and register them in layers to be viewed. It is interesting to consider all the content creation in various virtual worlds done by general users and how that might be liberated by AR applications? Augmenting one AR with another etc. I do like many of the Layar examples and the increasing move to go from flat HUD styles to more interactive 3d objects in space is an interesting direction.
Finally for the day Tim Goree of Nokia and a rather well known metaversanlity riffed on some ideas without the aid of a power point (yay). Tim knows his stuff and I am happy he has managed to stick with it in a large corporate environment and keep pushing. Tim was musing on the avatar, not just as a single mesh used to represent you in a virtual world, but as an identity construct that flows across all digital media. He talked about some of Microsoft’s work in ultra realistic avatars (which help with the concept of visual identity) but he also talked about the underlying need to choose how and what to share with who and own your own identity.
I am borrowing Tim’s quote from Roland over at Mixed Realties (as I took no notes πŸ™‚ )
“Count up all the virtual worlds user hours, gaming user hours, chances are all this is more important than the web”, so Tim continued. β€œAvatars have been used to validate transactions for hundreds of years – think stamps, coins for example. These days there are billions of (virtual) avatars out there, why not use them to change society?”
It was then left for me to wrap up, as Tim had said some cool forward thinking things I just mentioned the IEEE Virtual Environment Colab and its event coming up as validation that many people are gathering again to push the industry to the next step and not just considering moving data from a to point b (though we still need to do that). I also pointed to the Btween3d conference in London sponsored by Sony that is bringing thought leaders from lots of industries to consider the whole of the domain.
So with consensus driving bodies such as the IEEE looking for the patterns and exemplars in the virtual world and related technology domain, and a major gathering in London on the subject it was good that the pioneers in the room at Metameets were still very much on the leading edge, pushing things forward whilst the world catches up with them πŸ™‚
Next Day 2 (which is more art than science and a shows the breadth of what goes on out here/there)

Metameets – Lazy teachers and revolving doors – Part 2 of n

In my previous Metameets post I stopped half way through day 1. So we pick up on a change in conversation this time with education.

(image from As I took hardly any pictures at the event!
Education is always a good subject for virtual worlds yet is always a fight against the status quo. It is good to hear where the experts in the field are taking it.
Jolanda Verleg from Insperion started her presentation with a vision of a “Lazy Teacher” getting us to imagine a class full of students busy at work whilst the teacher sat back with their feet up on the table. This was a deliberately provocative image to challenge the nature of teaching. The premise put forward is that traditional broadcast teaching, stood in front of the class needs to be put aside in favour of more engaging techniques that use the immersion of virtual worlds with the students and allows classes to take on a life of their own. The full presentation is here and is a well thought out description of Adventure, Background, Competition and Drama (Jolanda calls those the ABCD of learning) that provide very human focused ways of learning to learn and discovering. To quote directly “Be there for them, just don’t step in front of them to block their way…”

To continue the education theme Ineke Verheul stepped up to describe a school learning project using virtual worlds with the The Chatterdale Mystery. She described an environment that recreated a village and within that a task was set for students to travel the village asking questions of residents to try and discover the location of a bomb. The aim of this was for the investigation team to be exercising their investigative skills needed in the curriculum. It has another fascinating side though in that the people they talked to were not bots but role playing fellow students. For those students this was then an exercise in practising their language skills (in this case english). So there were in fact two lessons going on with different groups interacting in the same environment.

On the schedule next was going to the the FenΓͺtre sur chambre, which for various reasons as it was a remote presentation did not happen. However we all agree that it is one of the most important and worthy uses of virtual worlds. People cannot be anything but touched by its impact.”windows in the bedroom” uses virtual worlds as a connection between children in long term hospital wards and their parents and friends. Creating and playing together. (It’s not about ROI or profit or efficiencies etc its about people connecting in difficult emotional situations and that is very important)

Our final education slot of the day was down to two students Lars Dijkema and Mathijs Hamers from Elde College. We had to make a fuss of them as they had just graduated the day before, so to come and talk to us was a fantastic commitment and they arrived with a lot of enthusiasm and vigour to share their project with us. The project was a computer science one, but their mentors (such as Rick Reesen, a good friend and still at IBM doing some interesting things all with virtual world flavours) and teachers helped set them on the explore the use of virtual worlds. The overall project for the class was to investigate eco friendly and positive school environments. The guys decided that the idea they wants to explore they would do by building a virtual classroom exhibit. They quickly found that expanding that idea to build the whole school and providing a shared environment for their fellow classmates to show their ideas had a powerful social effect too. In their demo of the build the first thing that struck me was the revolving door. It was spinning away at the entrance. I thought it was just there as a graphical trick but it was spinning to attract attention because it was part of an idea to generate electricity for the school from motion of the door. I thought that was a great idea, and the visual cues and where and when I saw that will stay with me. It may have already been created elsewhere but the guys had taken the idea and implemented, then shared it and now I have that idea in my head. Great stuff!

This does of course link back to Jolanda’s presentation on how to teach and engage. The ownership and drive of the students was enabled and shepherded by the teacher and the attitude of the school. Elde College has a very open attitude to the technology and what can be used and accessed. It is a model that every school should take a look at over the risk averse control mentality.

That’s enough of that for now. Still to come, entrepreneurship, TPV’s for SL, AR and a vision for the future

Beginning at the end

The last few days I have been here in Amsterdam at the Metameets conference and the MMIF (machinima festival). I have to collect my thoughts and write about the whole thing and some of the ideas that where shared and combined over two days. The good news is I know what they are as I had to pay very close attention to everything as moderator. (A harder job than it sounds, but a blast to MC such an amazing set of speakers and delegates).

However we finished the presentations yesterday with the wonderful Chantal Harvey/MaMachinima showing and talking about some great pieces of work. It was also a bombshell moment when she announced she was no longer doing machinima to concentrate on doing a feature film. I think the room was just shocked and stunned, but I think that this is a beginning at an end.

Chantal makes some great very well produced, very well delivered pieces and I know that the scope and the size of any of her projects will not diminish that.

Her swan song “final piece” in this phase of the life of machinima was this.

Watch this space

Why metameets 2010 rocked

Why did metameets 2010 rock so much? The answer is simple, it is the same one I gave to John Mahon’s initial question on day one for what the killer app is for virtual worlds. People. Too often a conference will be about an particular product or artefact that needs to be sold/monetized/promoted. In the case of metameets, whilst there is a heavy Second Life focus, it is about us all connecting with one another. Some of that involves close proximity of one another’s carbon atoms gathered in a physical location, however lots of it was powered by people being present from wherever they happened to be at the time.
Clearly we are all enthusiastic about the use of virtual worlds and its related tech as a medium for the things we do. Also we are very tolerant and understanding of the various ways locations real and virtual got connected. We knew the tech would not always work, however the team how put it all together and made it run had so many bases covered it was very impressive.
Consider what was actually going on.
1. A group of early adopters fly in from all over the place to be at the Dublin Institute of Technology, many who know one another from purely online interactions and the mini fame bubble we have in all this.
2. A group of early adopters drop into the sim in Second Life where video from the DIT is streamed in.
3. The video of both Second Life and DIT is also streamed/recorded to a web chatroom
4. Some speakers present in Second Life as a talking head, some present as a more TV style chat show interview format.
5. Some speakers present in the DIT, mixture of slides, body language, stage performance etc.
6. Some speakers present as a Skype stream mixed with slides.
7. The whole thing gets threaded on twitter with a #metameets hashtag
8. Inworld chat in SL, and twitter, and web chat, and skype and physical voice are all used to present questions to speakers wherever they happened to be.
People in the physical room were also engaged with the online parts, some people in world, some on twitter etc.
How many conferences have you been to where there is not even a web stream, or a suggested hashtag, where the whole thing has been designed to be closed off. This was 100% open.
The team were both in the conference and organizing it, and as participants were were equally enabling and helping. A whole set of people were also not in Ireland but directing the streams from elsewhere
We realised that sometimes the remote presentations either direction meant we were a little detached form one another atmosphere wise. However, those are solvable. I was not in SL very much as I happened to not sit by a power socket, so it really was a very old fashioned problem of needing more electricity (we had wifi) to then engage in SL or webchat. I did though use my iphone a lot on the wifi to engage on twitter.
So not only did we have very interesting people saying very interesting things, we were doing it in the ecosystem that we all talk about and thrive in. After a talk people would go for a break, gather in small groups and chat about things, just as the groups in SL and wherever else were able to gather and chat. Chat sounds like a trivial word, but really it was to extend one another’s understanding, to challenge and support the various conversations, to share war stories.
The threads that came together though were so intriguing. The first night in Gogharty’s pub in Temple bar, talking with Ham Rambler about how his very famous Dublin in SL came into being. How the Blarney Stone in SL was modelled on the pub we were in. For me that had lots of serendipity, not least because the builder of said Dublin in SL was originally Robin Winter/Shukran Serendipity who now works at Imperial College with Dave Taylor/Daveee Commerce and who I have been working with on some medical training sims. The blarney stone also featured in one my earliest evangelist moments helping a client persuade the rest of his team about the benefits of virtual worlds, in particular the mirror world aspect. He described to me in front of them how I would reach this pub using verbal directions only. I then sparked up SL and turned the very corners he described to arrive at the Blarney Stone. They then almost 100% got that particular point.
So to all the organizers, speakers and attendees I have to say a huge thankyou. It is so nice to be amongst friends sharing ideas and leaving feeling motivated.
For me it was a great honour to do my pitch, to think some thoughts and also to do them as almost a warmup act for Philip Rosedale who was on straight after me.
Thankyou JojaDhara for inviting me to speak (via my old colleague Rick Reesen πŸ™‚ )
Well done to Malburns and the crew for the remote TV studio direction and wrangling too πŸ™‚
Slimwarrior and BevanWhitfield for seemingly powering the entire place with frantic keystrokes and electric enthusiasm.
Sitearm Madonna for keeping it all on the straight and narrow, and asking some damn good questions.
Other things and people you really should check out.
StuWarf should be an inspiration to us all. As he pointed out he probably was the youngest person in the room, yet he has driven into existence a whole business with whilst still being a student. I hope he will be at the next metameets and get to present his life experience to us too.
Chantal/MaMachinima and her marvellous machinima that the edit her pieces of work certainly bounced around with my emotions , a few brought a lump to my throat, others made me laugh. It is very inspiring too that her work has been show at the world expo in Shanghai.
Slimwarriors album Slimgirlfat is on itunes, I know that because I am listening to it now whilst typing this πŸ™‚
It was brilliant to hear Lisa Feay/Elfay Pinkdot’s rant/monologue/empassioned plea and list of words she never wants to hear again (monetize anyone?). Her radio show and Jazz geek out is worth checking out
Claus Uriza and his pop art lab are certainly worth hearing more about and visiting.
On the tech side of things it was great to catch up with my fellow colleague at the old firm and travel with justincc. He is Mr opensim and it was great to see him in the mix and hearing some cool things to geek out to.
Jon Himmoff of Rezzable had some very interesting things with opensim and unity3d to talk about and show. Something dear to my heart, that kind of integration.
Now of course I realize that this post could go on and on, Jessica Pater, Tim Savage, Paul McDonagh-Smith, Tim Goree, Justin Bovington, Robin Harper, Joel Foner, Mark Kingdon, Philip Rosedale ….. all had cool things to say.
Who could not though be inspired by all this? All in the beautiful city of Dublin.
So yay for bangers and mash
Rock and roll fish and chips
(I hope epredator makes it onto the roll of honour up there with U2 πŸ™‚
Guinness and the Blarney Stone/Gogharty’s
The megaprim needle in the centre of Dublin
My one concern is that somehow we may have excluded some of our virtual world peers as they seemed to be a little annoyed and have made a film about it.
Next year more furries in RL please. Thankyou……

Helping organise thoughts, and speaking freely

Once again for my pitch at metameets I used a little bit of virtual world technology as a mental aid to help me figure out what it was I was going to say and in what order. I am finding thins an increasingly useful technique, so as this is the second time around for it I thought I would explain it again.
I created the presentation in the usual fashion a set of keynote/powerpoint slides, mostly because I had ones from other presentations that I wanted to thread in and re-use. Once I had the single threaded narrative sorted, and the slide in the right order a structure, for what is in effect a story, appeared.
In order to preserve this structure I took images from all the slides and put them into my local Opensim.
Once in there these simple flat panels take on a relationship to one another that just does not happen when you are flicking from slide to slide.
In the picture above the pitch really started at the back. The back row is the underpinning, an introduction. Seven related slides to go through at any pace, but ideally quite quickly.
Next is a challenging step forward, as the next row comes forward. To support that is a another row, which is held to the side a little as it is really optional. In this case its a slide about how it feels to attach things to your avatar. That allows free expression, no script but just a memory of a feeling.
Then the next row is group into three groups. This is a change of pace, a set of ideas with an example in each of the three.
Then the penultimate row as you come forward is the tying it all together picture. Ideally by the time I get here the other 3 ideas have started to make a little sense.
Then there is the final slide to finish on.
Rather than sit and read the slides or over rehearse I just had this image on my iphone of the layout. It is enough that I can see the sort of pages I had created and when presenting I can think where I am in the flow. So if there is some sort of distruption, or an idea that comes to mind whilst talking I can think quickly as to where it will fit in or if it has missed its chance.
This is really just storyboarding meets mindmapping, but the multiple dimensions of it and the visual memory of having been there is incredibly powerful and I recommend anyone try and structure some thoughts or ideas or keypoints in some way like this to see how it feels.
Does anybody else do this, I would love to hear stories about it ?

Not all avatars and islands – Metameets 2010

I am over here in Dublin this weekend for a very good gathering and conference Metameets 2010. I was lucky enough to be able to present yesterday, and as I mentioned in a previous post I decided to suggest we had some more places and directions to go.

Not all avatars and islands? from Ian Hughes

The underlying premise of this is that a thread of narrative, and event, a set of ideas do not have to live in one virtual world or in one place. Threading and augmenting physical and virtual and web in multiple ways may start to give us new metaphors for connecting our ideas and improve human communication online. This is because though I love virtual worlds at the moment, and they are not going away, I know there is more we can do, better ways still to use all the ways we can interact and engage. It’s not all avatars and islands.
What was a great honour too was to effectively be the warmup act for Philip Rosedale, talking about Love Machine and Mark Kingdon talking all things Linden Lab/SL. Both those presentations were streamed in. In fact quite a few in the afternoon had to be streamed in due to the ash cloud stopping some travel.
I will write a post on the whole experience and some thoughts once we are done, but for now the slideshare of my pitch is up.
One of the anecdotes to describe this that came to my whilst I was talking was to consider being in an irish pub, with the band playing and wanting to join in on the penny whistle. You don’t have one to hand so you quickly check out the virtual world shops and find one you like, 3d print it out in the pub, join in and then find the whole thing is captured and streamed into another virtual world, like the blarney stone in Dubln SL. It’s not one place or one experience.

Next week live and direct at Metameets Dublin

Time flies by so quickly and it is nearly time for Metameets 2010 in Dublin on 7-8th May. I am doing a 30 minute talk at the event, live and in person on 7th. If you look at the schedule you will see a good few familiar names . The speaker list is in an interesting order too I like the billing order πŸ™‚
So what am I going to talk about in my slot.
The whole conference is right where I am interested in talking about things, the theme being “Old Myths and New Realities – The New Realities of Virtual Reality in the Old World.”. With the cast there I feel a little pressure to keep up. It is odd but when you are thrown in the ring with the people who you have been influenced by and whose work and thoughts you respect, with an audience who is well informed and educated on the subject, it becomes a different discussion to the usual evangelical one of “hey this really is a good idea people!”.

I want to build on my washing away cave paintings and where my current thinking is with how we are already changing things quite dramatically for society. So I was planning on this.

Synopsis: Virtual worlds have already acted as a disruptive technology and combined with other web movements have caused a positive social disruption to all parts of our lives, work politics and friendships. However many people are already scared by our new ways of communicating and interacting. Yet have we, as virtual world exponents, already got too comfortable with avatars and islands? Should we be considering where we go to next layering and combing real and virtual. How do we start to thread our online existences? Is there another step to take in the not so distant future that lets us communicate our ideas online in ways we have yet to evolve to consider.

Quite often things come up as I am presenting, its sort of an adlib performance as I am not big on writing scripts and sticking to them. If there is anything anyone wants to ask beforehand or see me weave into this then let me know here or on twitter etc.

For instance Rita King/Eureka DejaVu posted this article on something we did in world the other day where we met to discuss a drupal based web project and some wireframes. I quickly sparked up some shared media screens pointing to google drawings so we could walk and talk our way around the ideas, and a live version of a site on another panel. It was good to be able to move around the space and refer to things by our avatar position, though sometimes it felt there should be an event better way to negotiate and explain the concepts to one another in this space other than clunking our avatars around. However, it worked and it was quick, simple and almost cheap (if you ignore the fact I am paying Linden so much for an island!)
I have included Rita’s video here form her original post. You even get to hear my Norfolk accent droning on about how good drupal is as an example of voice comms πŸ™‚ Rita said “go on say something interesting” πŸ™‚