Sun are having a press conference in SL now too

As reported in a few places (but 3pointd is where I saw it) Sun is having a press conference in SL.
Its great to see some other major tech companies come into this space. We know there are a few of them out there in various shapes and sizes, its just we have been a bit more public as IBMers over the past year blogging and experimenting with what this all means. I thought we had done the first fortune 500 press conference, but I suppose we had a more direct one to one with each of the particpants over the 2 days, though the event we were showing was real SL interaction across the world.
This is a big area and there are a lot of avenues to pursue. The important point will be, as with the web, open standards.

Don’t forget to relax in Second Life as well as work

Well after the hectic coast to coast US trip, and coming back to some amazing pieces of news that seem to indicate that a lot more people in a lot more places are even more serious than we could have hoped for about this whole Second Life/Metaverse explosion, I finally get to write a blog entry on it all.
Its taken 9 months (or 5+ years depending what yI start counting), and there is a way to go but it is certainly is exciting times for the entire industry.
In all of this rush of potential, having bought 2 islands, planning things, seeing events, touring the SL world and blogging about it I had lost somewhere to retreat too. My public first land was a bit too small, and I am letting some friends us it as a sandpit.
I now rent a small plot from Jessica Qin on Austin island.
Its good to be the customer.
I had put a rather bad treehouse up, but tonight I started on my “organic art” project.
I decided not to terraform at all, but use what I had on my plot. So here is the start.
Its a start, going for curves and twists in prims, a nice simple pod to sit in.
Just blending in and chilling.
Next week it all gets hectic again. Off to London continuing the flow of the meetings in the US with as many of the key agencies and people in this whole new business, then lots more meetings RL and SL, calls, and somewhere in all that we get to build on our newest island (once the Alliance Navy have finished their training mission, as I lent it to them as part thanks for attending our 3d Jam )
Hi to everyone I/we met on the US trip. In keeping with the rules of customer confidentiality and business meetings not being blog fodder, it was great to meet you all, and great to meet lots of likeminded talented people.

Wonderland and Philip Rosedale at Picnic06

Over at Wonderland is a great write up of Philip Rosedale’s talk at Picnic 06 a cross media event. Of note are the statistics. These are constantly getting bigger when referring to Second Life.
In a meeting I had this week the statistic was quoted that the Second Life virtual turf is the size of Boston. In this regionally adjusted pitch its the size of Amsterdam 🙂
I particlarly like the quote “We hear a lot of anecdotes about people improving their real lives after having done it first in Second Life.” As someone whose entire job has changed to focus on this very real emerging technology and let me make a lot of new friends and contacts with some very inspirational people inside and outside of the company I work for, I would say i am one of those anecdotes!

More Travel, now in NY and geeking out at the Wired NextFest

Well my international jet setting has taken me form San Jose including popping down to Fishermans Wharf in San Fran, back over the US to Danbury for some great meetings with the IBM Innovate Quick team that Roo and I are part of now as Metaverse Evangelists.
We are off to Somers and Southbury as Roo has just arrived in the US too.
However, today being a Sunday, I took a GPS enabled trip to NY city in my hire car.
I have not been to New York before so I was not sure what to expect parking wise. The GPS did its thing, I aimed at the Empire State Building as I noticed there were a lot of parking garages around.
I passed a convention centre on the way to west 34st. Lo and behold there was “Wired Nextfest” on.
Well, much as I wanted to see the sights, events like this need to be visited. So I did.
It was relevant as well as Second Life appears in Wired in a massive spread this month, and I had been reading Wired at Washington where I was delyed for 5 hours on my way to NY.
Anyway, there were some really awesome things to see there. I dashed around but saw lots of amazing robots includingan Einstein one that walks very spookily and a very human animatronic. A door that opens to be the right size to fit the person going through, an art installation of 50+ nabztag rabbits sponsored by Atari. A VR ball like a giant hamster wheel for people to interact with a simulated world, the virgin space plane, robot football, loads of display that reacted to people in the space, brain ball in action (using brain waves to move a digital ball in a contest of wills), lots of bio solutions fuel, building light. Clever displays, interesting gestrure based military devices, scanning equipment, a bionic suit the works in fact.
I did go to Times Square and up the Rockafeller building so I did not just geek out.
There are some mini videos of things from my little pentax. Very rough and one is not rotated properly.
Anyway the next few days are full on metaverse days and nights including meeting up with some very cool SL people over in New York, more on that later.
It is odd that the all things metaverse help us to not travel, but somehow I am now in jet lag hell becuase of pushing these technolgies so much. Its odd how things work out!

Google Sketchup -> Second Life export

SketchUp is great. Not only is it free, but it supports Ruby as a scripting language, and provides plenty of interesting APIs and reasonable (though not very well inter-linked) documentation too. It’s long been discussed, in conjunction with Google Earth, as a potential virtual world, and rival to Second Life. While it will be fascinating to see how that develops, and whether they become more comparable over time, what interested me much more in the short term was some way of getting 3D data from SketchUp into Second Life. Dave did this recently with PowerPoint, which and it reminded me just how much I wanted to do the same thing in SketchUp.

What I really wanted was SketchUp -> Second Life exporter. I didn’t want to buy SketchUp pro (though I thought about it), because even that wouldn’t solve my problem. More recently, I saw that Blender 2.4.2 makes it possible to import SketchUp’s (proprietary, binary) .kmz file format. This is cool and potentially very useful, especially when you consider the Prim.Blender project allows you to draw SL prims and export them. Ideally, it would also do the hard work of creating simple SL style prims from the complex 3D data. This is not an easy project though, as discussed at 3pointD recently.

Eventually I gave up my search for a basic SketchUp -> Second Life exporter and realised I was going to have to write one. I’m really not a Ruby guru, but I surprised myself by knocking something up in 20 lines and no time flat. Ok, so it’s not very good, and it doesn’t bring us any closer to the nirvana of complex models being automagically generated using the minimum number of prims, but it was so easy that I’m very surprised not to be able to find anyone else taking this approach already. (Perhaps someone will fill me in it has already been done and I’ve simply missed it.)

Importing into SL as a notecard

So, what is it?

What I wrote was a short Ruby plugin for SketchUp. It writes out basic model information to a text file, allowing it to be imported again (as a notecard) into Second Life. From there, an object parses the notecard and re-generates the model in-world. It does not support the full power of SketchUp by any means, and takes some judicious short-cuts to avoid generating zillions of prims. In erring very heavily on the side of simplicity, I’ve made something that you’ll either find delightful or frustrating. Each face in your SketchUp model, you end up with a flat, rectangular prim which represents the bounds of that face. Imagine if every face of every shape in SketchUp was simplified down to a rectangle which marked it extents. That’s what my script does. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. The interesting bit of the Ruby plugin looks something like this…

model = Sketchup.active_model
file ="/testfile", "w")
model.active_entities.each do |entity|    
   if entity.typename == "Face" #ignore everything but faces 
      # (e.g. we won't pay any attention to edges, points, etc)
      face = entity.bounds # For now, make a rectangular prim

While it works very well for fairly basic models…

SketchUp - SL export (simple)

Something more complex ends up being made to look fairly ugly. Curves and non-regular faces are particularly badly hit…

SketchUp - SL export (complex)

Future developments will include colour/texture support, as well a bit more thought about the mapping between the SketchUp model and Second Life prims. I’m sure there are loads of things that can be done to improve it. I’m already enjoying it as a faster way to put simple things together though.

New Media Knowledge – “My So-called 2nd Life” conference

NMK are a UK based not-for-profit set up as an information hub around digital media and they run some lovely (and very affordable) events.

Darren pointed me at one recently, entitled My So-called 2nd Life. I was planning to attend, so I’m delighted to report that I was recently asked if I would speak at it. It’s in London, it’s not until the 24th October and it’s ridiculously good value, so I hope to see plenty of friendly faces there.

Web page as a texture in Second Life

Jeff Barr in his blog has written up what he has been doing to get a snapshot of a webpage on a prim. He mentions the ubrowser, and the fact that it has been tried but is as yet not in production to put full web functionality as a texture on any object in Second Life.
Many of us (us being people interested in such things) are chomping at the bit, as we did with the http requests, to be able to have this sort of function. It makes the integration to web1.0 and web2.0 complete. People will be able to build active bookmark walls with existing content and services as one way to not require a complete re build of content, whilst they move to a more Services Orientated Architecture. A spectrum of options for integration makes this sort of platform even more attractive.
I really like the way that many of us in Second Life are all trying to do similar things, but some people get there first. This is a prime example as I know I had considered ways of doing this. Its great that a wide team of people are all trying to both be productive and push things forward, with a hint of competition.
As usual its where you read it first that changes your perception of who did it first (before anyone hassles me by saying they have already done it).
Jeff has turned his snapshot text on a prim through the media parcel (not unlike the flickr integration on hackdiary) but is doing some rendition of images with an out of world proxy service.
I popped over to see it, and bumped into Jeffronius Batra, and he pointed me to the demo area.
I asked if it was OK to take some snapshots and to do a trackback. I also asked myself permission to reproduce eightbar as a graphic on a prim via the service 🙂
web page on a prim


It’s all getting a little Hollywood around here.

As Ian wrote, he appeared on The Register yesterday. On the same day, Andy Stanford-Clark (who is no stranger to the small screen) also made a full page spread in The Telegraph, talking about IBM’s Innovation Jam. I also happen to know there are more media apperances on the way for other Hursley people… Anyone know a good agent? 🙂

Our private island is a little less secret now

We have been putting on quite a show the last few days. We have been doing press, writer and analysts interviews on why we regard things like Second Life and general metaverse technology as so important.
To underline this importance we had Dr Irving Wladawsky-Berger our vice president of technology strategy and innovation at IBM over here in UK from the US. He is a well known figure inside and outside of IBM becuase of his very open attitude to ideas and his smart way of understanding so many areas that IBM works in. He freely admitted that he was put on the track of considering anything related to games technology a few years ago by Hursley’s Chris Sharp.
We put on a show for everyone around having a truly global meeting in Second Life as a backdrop to all our conversations. We had people from India, UK, US, Canada and even Australia, so some people were well into timezone hell.
We illustrated in the actions of the group how we had all taken to the excellant multi gadget chairs by Timeless Prototype. As this lets us indicate we are indeed having a meeting despite the fact that you really dont need to sit down in a virtual world.
We also showed Hugo’s Amazon interface, and Yossarian’s translator.
To show how we energize brainstorms we used a favourite of Idz Ni’s (and now most of eightbar) of the Abramelin Wolfe canon that lets us fire ourselves about the island. This is the equivalent of taking a 3 min break for chocolate in RL.
We also showed onbaording new employees, and the real educational benefits of this environment.
Roo had to dash over to Zurich but popped in to say hi and take some photos.
Me, IWB, Idz Ni and Ada Alfa with a worldwide cast on the screen
Anyway, it was great for us to all talk and explain what we have all been up to to a new audience.
Irving also did some radio and tv interviews, with the tv interview having our backup machinima playing in the background.
All the various write ups and programmes will start to appear. I will post them here as we get told about them or bump into them.
The first one is here by Martin Banks on The Register
So now that is all done I can prep for my trip to Almaden in California next week. I should be there weds thru Friday, then Roo and I have meetings in New York the following week. I thought the metaverse meant less travel 🙂
** Minor update to point to the new blog article on Irving Wladawsky-Berger’s site and trackback