Eightbar on tour

Well this is not quite a neon light for eightbar on tour, more pipecleaners, but we make do.
Pipecleaner eightbar
Some of the eightbar crew, name Roo and I are on tour to the east coast of the US.
Monday is a mass summit of IBMers upstate New York.
Tues, Weds is an in depth gathering of the CIO Innovate Quick Metaverse team in Connetticut.
The we move base to the big apple for the final two days of the Virtual Worlds 2008 conference. There will be much more on that in a post soon.
Roo is chairing a panel and there a whole statck of fellow IBMers going to be there.
Come and find us at the IBM booth or just look for my striped leather jacket and say hi.

IBM Virtual Worlds 1Q 2008 roundup

A brief summary of what’s been happening with IBM in virtual worlds in the first quarter of this year. It’s an impressive list.

Mike Rhodin, General Manager of IBM Lotus software, recently made five predictions about the future of collaborative working. They included open standards, increase in IM and other real-time tools. The number one prediction was

The Virtual Workplace will become the rule.  No need to leave the office.  Just bring it along.  Desk phones and desktop computers will gradually disappear, replaced by mobile devices, including laptops, that take on traditional office capabilities.  Social networking tools and virtual world meeting experiences will simulate the feeling on being their in-person.   Work models will be changed by expanded globalisation and green business initiatives that reduce travel and encourage work at home.

“The definition of “meetings” will radically transform and become increasingly adhoc and instantaneous based on context and need.  3-D virtual world and gaming technologies will significantly influence online corporate meeting experiences to deliver more life-like experiences demanded by the next generation workers who will operate more efficiently in this familiar environment.”

Bruce Morse (IBM VP of Unified Communications and Collaboration) and Steve Mills (IBM Senior VP, Software Group) are both quoted in a recent eWeek article, which discusses a major investment in UCC, as well as an announcement about a partnership with virtual worlds company Forterra Systems. Specifically,

Sametime development manager Konrad Lagarde gave a demo during LotusSphere this year. He demonstrated some early integration between IBM’s internal Metaverse and Sametime.

During the presentation, Lagarde text chatted with a participant, also a 3-D avatar, who shows his enthusiasm by jumping up and down. Lagarde also showed a conference call feature for the Sametime client with pictures of invited attendees arranged around a two-dimensional drawing of a conference table. Those that are already present are shown around the table, while at the bottom of the screen are shaded photos of those who are invited but have not yet arrived.

Dan Pelino, General Manager, IBM Global Healthcare & Life Sciences Industry announced the IBM Virtual Healthcare Island in Second Life in February.

“We believe that the use of our new virtual world provides an important, next-generation Internet-based resource to show how standards; business planning; the use of a secured, extensible and expandable architecture; HIE interoperability; and data use for healthcare analytics, quality, wellness and disease management are all helping to transform our industry.“ IBM’s Healthcare & Life Sciences (HCLS) Industry will continue to develop the new island in months to come.  The island can perform as a virtually “always on” demonstration tool for IBM’s sales personnel.

Michael Osias of IBM Research is quoted in an announcement about a 3D visualisation of a data centre, which was implemented using OpenSim.

Implenia, a Swiss construction, building services and real estate company, used the IBM virtual data center solutions to extend its existing virtual operations center which was previously used mainly for the facilities management processes. Adding the data from datacenter equipment allowed Implenia a finer control of the HVAC and security system. The virtual data center is a tailored 3-D replica of servers, racks, networking, power and cooling equipment that allows data center managers to experience real-time enhanced awareness of their dispersed resources.

“Viewing information about your data center in 2-D text — even in real time — only tells a data center manager part of the story, because our brains are wired for sight and sound,” said IBM Researcher Michael Osias, who architected the 3-D data center service. “By actually seeing the operations of your data center in 3-D, even down to flames showing hotspots and visualizations of the utilization of servers allows for a clearer understanding of the enterprise resources, better informed decision-making and a higher level of interaction and collaboration.”
see also http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2008/02/ibm-launches-3.html

PowerUp (powerupthegame.org) is an educational game created by IBM, using the Torque engine. It teaches teenagers about engineering as well as environmental issues. PowerUp is

a free, online, multiplayer game that allows students to experience the excitement and the diversity of modern engineering. Playing the game, students work together in teams to investigate the rich, 3D game environment and learn about the environmental disasters that threaten the game world and its inhabitants.
see also http://annieok.com/tangent/?p=505

Emotiv (emotiv.com) and IBM announced a partnership in February around a headset which “interprets the interaction of neurons in the brain” and is due to go on sale later in 2008.

“It picks up electrical activity from the brain and sends wireless signals to a computer,” said Tan Le, president of US/Australian firm Emotiv.

Emotiv is working with IBM to develop the technology for uses in “strategic enterprise business markets and virtual worlds”  Paul Ledak, vice president, IBM Digital Convergence said brain computer interfaces, like the Epoc headset were an important component of the future 3D Internet and the future of virtual communication.

Bluegrass was discussed in January 2008 in the Virtual Worlds News blog

IBM Research is working to solve the digital divide in the workforce with Project Bluegrass, a project that integrates three key factors in motivating Millennials — collaboration, communication and visualization. Project Bluegrass takes the IBM Jazz technology and creates a virtual-world environment where software developers can work, chat and brainstorm around a virtual water cooler while “seeing” their teammates alongside interactive visual representations of ideas, data from the Web and from Jazz-based sources.

Metaverse object creation

For a while now our CIO Innovate Quick team have been busy on the Torque based Metaverse. As we have explained before this is primarily aimed at having a set of resources we can delve a bit deeper into the code of. The aim is not to create an all encompassing platform, as personally I dont think there ever will need to be an all encompassing one.
The team creating and writing and enhancing what we have has grown recently. This has meant some of the things we were missing, but wanted to put in are now getting done.
The biggest of these just went live, that of object manipulation. We tend to develop the Web 2.0 way and put things out there for people, fellow IBMers, to experiment with and break at will. This principle has been used for lots of things under out Technology Adoption Program(TAP). Applications get floated out under this banner and successful ones get adopted in a more serious fashion.
Torque as a game engine already had a live editing function and interface, but this was only really for the server, not for each client to interact with.
Now we have the start of the ability to create objects from the pallette in real time. The strange thing was that despite having been able to do this as a server for some time I felt different rezzing and moving an object as an avatar. I knew that I missed the ability to do this, having been spoilt in that sense by Second Life, but to be able to enter a world and just Rez, even if you are not going to do it all the time seems to have a different psychological impact (at least on me!) to more static virtual worlds where it is merely your participation that is allowed.
Of course as soon as you can create then a power mad spark fires up and you want to build lots of things, more and better. However for now we are able to investigate what this will mean for our colleagues entering this environment, for a comfort factor and then move to start to examine the business value to creation and manipulation in our own environment.
penguin ball
So yes this is not a complex business object that we are interacting with, but I was able to build this live (from the objects we have) and so that is an interesting start to another part of the journey.

All change at Linden Lab

Well it is all over the blogs, so it has to be here too but Philip Rosedale is stepping down as Linden’s CEO to become Chairman of the Board. I got to hear this on twitter first and it seemed worth a bit of perspective from where I am sitting as we have been part of this journey in some way or other.
Second Life is growing, the business and social side of virtual worlds and metaverses is growing, for a visionary and creator to have cope with day to day operations is quite unsuprisingly not something that someone in that position should plan to do.
The CEO runs/leads the day to day organization in some form, even in a libertarian organization like Linden Labs. Philip states in his personal announcement “I am not going anywhere! I will focus on product strategy and vision, continuing to design the right kind of company, and being an effective communicator and evangelist about Second Life.” Props to New World Notes for pointing this link out
I can see the problem. Having a passion to get things going is very very different from ongoing projects. It seems a very sensible move to let give him the space to do what he does, very much in touch with the company. Chairman of the board is not exactly standing down is it?
I also twittered that this helps to get around founders syndrome, which as the Reuters article indicates tends to be avoided by most passionately led startups with this sort of move.
So I really dont think this is something for people to get worried about, if anything it shows a maturing of the general metaverse business and the success that it needs this sort of move to happen.
So good luck Philip and good luck to any successor as CEO.
Ren Reynolds and I just agreed over twitter to had a Spud(potato) gun duel at dawn to win the right to make the decision for Linden Lab.

Sport Relief 08 – Springy Shoes and AllStars Vs Lindens

As a follow up to yesterdays post members of the “Sport Relief Fund Raisers” have now received a pair of springy shoes ready for the racing fund raisers. As you can see they go well with any avatar though not my usual choice of footwear.
Whilst the sim can be opened up for members of the press we have also received a teaser poster. Lets face it its tomorrow that it starts so we can all go along together.
All pictures from the fabulous Snapzilla

Details so far to the group have been as follows:

Group Notice From: Lottie WeAreHere

Ok racers we are nearly there and yeah yeah the red item is on it’s way :p

So how do you raise money (important!). Friday at the Official Sims you lovely people get VIP access. There will be a fab Donation Bucket.

This Bucket allows you to rez copies at home/or take around as you race on Saturday. People pay the donation bucket the amount they sponsor you.

It also tracks who raises the most on the official leaderboards and all is routed to the official avatar ‘Support SportRelief’.

Group Notice From: Lottie WeAreHere

You raise the most, be it by holding an event and putting the buckets out or racing the grid and using your shmoozing skills to get cash in? (See the leaderboards across the sims)

We’ll invite the person raising the most to the All Stars Team versus the Lindens on Sunday 9pm on the official sims.

There is a bit more to that notice but its a secret so you have to join Lottie’s group to find out 🙂

Sport Relief 08 – Charity Fundraiser in Second Life

The excellent chairity Sport Relief is holding a charity event 14-16th March in Second Life. There are various press releases flying around but as this is for a good cause then a little bit of viral marketing does not go a miss. The sim’s themselves are not yet public but the avatar based racing looks like it will probably need you to join the group “Sport Relief Fund Raisers” owned by Lottie WeAreHere.
I am sure I will be able to get along and participate, and as with many of the other charity events we can all do some good with our virtual world presences and get donating.
If you are not sure what this is all about then check out the official sport relief site
More to come over the weekend and good luck to everyone running it.
*Updated the dates and the group name 🙂

Crossing worlds – Video Avatars

I recently tried a little experiment using the excellent Live! Cam Avatar application I have, the one that I re-did Daz with.
In this is tried using a live avatar from one place, namely my machine and injecting it into Second Life as video feed. Its a simple but effective demonstration of pushing live content around.
The key to this is that the video avatar was a live puppet, in this case singing a song from an audio stream. The mapping is just a sphere texture, but I know done with more care it would work on a scultpy.
So I can have an avatar from one system injected into another in a simple but effective way.
We can of course take this further with better data interchange, but this show what we can do now. I know that this video avtar on a bubble can be moved around from external stimuli too. i.e. the mapped prim can be moved becuase of an event external to second life. So technically (as I own the parcel) I could walk around and act as a normal avatar despite being rendered on another system entirely.

Compare and contrast – SXSW

Roo is off at the fantastic SXSW conference in texas. You can follow his fun and frolis over on his blog I found it quite amusing that we posted individual photos up on flickr customizing out respective laptops, which I thought worth a comparison.
Mine was the arrival of my epredator Moo stickers with QR codes which I thenk stuck on my work Lenovo T61 Thinkpad epredator.com and eightbar.
Moo Stickers
Roo on the other hand had got his new personal MacBook Pro custom laser etched in Texas with an autobot logo
autobot macbook
Just to keep the linked flow of things Roo also twittered he was just off to the Moo party 🙂
Note also how this was not about us hooking up and following one another via one single social network or virtual world. Both Twitter and Flickr and various blogs also feature in keeping us appraised of what one another is up to. Even though in this case Roo is having the lions share of the fun and a little bit of Metaverse Evangelist PR 🙂
*update I just noticed this said comments were turned off. That was unintentional despite the spam we get, normal service is now resumed, it must have been the mad UK weather ATM.

Spimes, Motes and Data Centres

A few of you may have noticed recent coverage around on the blogs about Michael Osias’s 3d datacentres. Ugotrade has as usual a great write up and analysis. You may have seen the work that our friend David Orban has been doing with OpenSpime. What’s that all about I here some of you ask?
Spime is a word that Bruce Sterling created, along with Spime Wranglers(The people who control and gather information from Spimes). The Spime being a self contained small device that broadcasts all sorts of information about its surroundings. Again Ugotrade has covered this in some depth in Tish’s most recent post
For a while here in Hursley Andy Stanford-Clark has been using the term “mote” as in remote and we have shown his instrumented house replicated in Second Life. Also Dave Conway-Jones has been busy with various forms of sensors and actuators. Also in some of the public research going on here for sensor arrays of the future spime like devices are being simulated in game environments to aid in understanding what would happen if they were applied to a large area.
So it would appear that Hursley and many members of eightbar are in fact Spime Wranglers already.
This ability to instrument the world fits into the principles of mirror worlds rather than the pure escapist virtual worlds and metaverses. Being able to augment reality, or augment virtual reality requires masses of live information, so a Spime or a Mote array is fairly crucial to the whole thing. In many ways instrumenting a data centre makes the data centre an entire spime in its own right, so you can see these things are linked very closely.
The balance of a nanotech generic smart dust gathering generic information but organic patterns forming for that versus specific devices understanding the monitoring of piece of information will make for interesting wrangling decisions too.
My key interest in this at the moment is using this approach to not just monitor and report on the real world, but on multiple virtual environments. A spime can be virtual too.
Finally, as I twittered this to David. I cant get the song out of my head Spimerman, Spimerman does whatever a Spime can. So maybe the Spime wranglers are going to be the information superheros for the next generation.

Interaction the way we want it as Humans

I noticed a great post by Christian over on the Cisco virtual world blog about the rise of expectation in new interfaces. I think in nearly every pitch I do towards the end I remind people that we seem to have tied ourselves to keyboards, supposedly to stop typewriters jamming, mice for navigation of 2d windows, and a few other metaphors for interaction that we are now in a position to break away from. I wrote some of this last year in a mini predictions post
One of the things people always seem to say on entering a virtual world (those who are not metarati or gamers) is the fact it is hard to move around. That may not be the case in reality, but just as people struggled with a mouse and menus and windows 15 years ago, they are doing the same with arrow keys, mouselook and the various other convaluted ways we seek to interact with the computer.
Clearly people’s expectation of display devices will be changed by the multitouch iphone, or simple gesture interaction as we see with the wii controller. All that is well trodden technology in some respects now. It has become commercially robust and is now in all our hands to push things forward.
Another exciting development and one I am sure we will cover in a lot more depth in the near future is Emotiv. There is a great BBC article on it here and you will notice a certain company mentioned alongside it and those of you at GDC may well have seen it. A very soon to be available commercial device to detect brain patterns and allow us to interact with the machines in yet another way.
Combine all these with the augmented reality, projection, headset approaches and we have a very rich set of tools to work with to see how we as humans are able to free ourselves from some of the self imposed shackles we have for interaction. Another article here on Kurzweil’s keynote at GDC hints at an even deeper future
Of course, thats not to throw away any of the old ways, we still use command lines where needed, we still use books and print where needed, but having more and richer things more suited to an indivuals neuro linguistic programming stack, or adding in accessibility for all so we can all interact however and wherever regardless of particular limitations can only be a good thing?