It’s no secret that I have been fairly impressed with Unity3D. I find it extremely liberating in comparison to Second Life’s (and any other MMO) pre-packaged notion of what online 3D environments should be. I had to give a talk yesterday, so I used that talk as an excuse to taking my knowledge of Unity3D to the next level. I decided to make my presentation in Unity3D, and have the audience be part of the presentation at some point — similar to what we see in SL/OpenSim, but with the experience on the Web browser and under my complete control. Go here to see the result. Let me explain what you see there.
I was sick-ish last week, so I decided to use my idle cycles to finally learn Unity3D. I thought I’d share my impressions, given that (a) I’m not a 3D modeler, not even an amateur one, and (b) my only experience with 3D environments has been Second Life / OpenSim. I suspect there are lots of people like me. Being an OpenSim aficionada, and fairly ignorant of everything else (mainly for lack of time), I always felt like I was missing the big picture. Indeed, I was, and I’m glad my cold last week gave me the opportunity to explore a completely different point of this large design space. The picture above shows one of the environments I created. The bottom line, if you don’t care to read more, is this: the Unity3D ecosystem feels like Second Life for grown ups.
I do a fair amount of work with people in urban planning. Realism in those virtual environments is the starting point for the imagined plans they have in mind. The very first thing they want is the realistic terrain of the area. It has proven difficult to get the elevation data of specific areas, but we always end up finding it in some obscure place or other. Unfortunately, the terrain by itself doesn’t quite give the feel of the area as it exists today. Instead, it gives the feel of the area as it might have existed 10,000 years ago! — no signs of human civilization. Which, as nice as that may be, doesn’t quite do the job for urban planning. This weekend I was finally able to generate realistic terrains in OpenSim overlayed with a realistic image. Here is the story.
VWRAP is in limbo. Even though I was not involved in it until recently, I feel bad that it may simply disappear. It feels like a massive waste of energy for those involved for longer than I was; but, more importantly, it feels like a missed opportunity for gathering a critical mass of virtual world / virtual reality engineers — a community that seems to be plagued by silos– together with a critical mass of people who have been driving some important protocols on the Web.
For the past couple of months I’ve been flirting on and off with Amazon Web Services (AWS). This past summer my students started using it in some of our research projects, so I had to catch up with them. Those projects have nothing to do with OpenSim, but I made my own learning plan focused on getting an OpenSim instance to run in the cloud.
There is s new diva distribution release, corresponding to OpenSim 0.7.0.2. Along with OpenSim improvements, this new release has several improvements to Wifi, and most of them were contributed by Marck. A big thank you to him! Let me go through them.
It took a long time, but OpenSim 0.7 is finally here! It’s quite difficult to explain the value of refactorings and of re-conceptualizations of the software, which is what happened to OpenSimulator between 0.6.x and 0.7. Those things tend to be intangible at first (“WTF? This does the same thing! And it has bugs that it didn’t have before!”, etc.); the ROI only shows up later.
A recent thread about financial contributions to the OpenSimulator project touched on issues that we don’t talk about that often in the opensim-dev mailing list: organizational, institutional and financial aspects of the project. These aspects are all different, but they usually go hand-in-hand. I thought I’d share my thoughts on this, and get some input from the community. As usual, goes without saying, these are my personal thoughts, and not any official statement from the core devs (hopefully this will become clear if you understand this post, and we can stop adding this disclaimer in every email/post).
Yesterday, Stefan wrote down his thoughts on Linden Lab’s troubles. I loved that post, he’s right on. Let me add to that by stating the importance of the work that many of the laid off Lindens did, and the role of OpenSimulator from here on, at the technological level and beyond.
Things are moving into 3D, including the Web. I’ve been very excited with everything that is going on with WebGL. Sure, WebGL is still not good enough to render very rich scenes like those we find in highly immersive games, especially when the scenes aren’t optimized, such as the case with user-generated 3D content. But I have very little doubt that the needed optimizations will happen, and that soon we will have immersion on the web browser. It’s already happening. People want it, Google wants, it will happen.
So, let’s fast forward to the time when the Web browser can render rich 3D scenes, which, at the rate that the Google people and the Unity3D people are going at it, it probably is only a couple of years away.
The news came yesterday after lunch: major layoffs at Linden Lab, as much as 30% of their employees. Lindens who had been there from early on, respected engineers, all laid off. All of those who had, at some point, been involved in the idea of virtual world interoperability — gone. Then the new vision: Second Life on a browser, accessible to the masses via well-known social networks. Wow. This is what I call a 90-degree course adjustment.
Clearly, I know nothing about the internal situation at Linden Lab. Probably their VC money has dried off, maybe their revenue is not enough to pay so many people. Who knows what’s behind a 30% ‘rightsizing’… But the new vision is an indication that this is not just about balancing the budget sheet; it’s about redefining what Second Life is. LL’s CEO wants it to be more like FarmVille than like World of Warcraft. Too many people have commented on his vision, I’m not going to do it. He’s the head of the company, he should try to make his vision come to life.
What I want to talk about here is what this 90-degree course adjustment entails for OpenSim. I confess yesterday I had that familiar feeling of having reached the point of having to stand and lead. Not me, personally. But the OpenSim project, as a whole. The torch is on us. Let me explain.