Dec 31, 2013


If the past year is an indication, 2014 is going to kick ass


2013 has been a phenomenal year full of all kinds of ups and downs, and on this final day of the year I sit here at the keyboard thinking back about all that has happened.


Aeonix_Aeon 2014 I could focus on all of the negative things, and that would be expected... after all, it wasn’t a stellar year without any hurdles. Linden Lab has done some seriously shady stuff this year, and caused all manner of uproar. But I won’t focus on that because it’s their problem and not mine.


I’ve taken a break from Second Life for various reasons, but most importantly because I’ve been on the Parallel Worlds project with Kevin Simkins. Oddly enough, that saying I had awhile back still holds true -


Our Second Life is in proportion to our First Life. When first life isn’t as skippy as we’d like it to be, we find solace in a Second Life and vice versa. A lot of people seemed to have disappeared from SL and as far as I can tell it’s because their first life picked up and improved making them too busy to log in.


Wurlitzer has been perpetually AFK for months now, and he’s been quite busy in real life. Mewlie is engaged to San in real life, and they’ve been spending a lot of time together, so there isn’t much time in-world for them either. As for myself, it’s been hectic with projects and I’ve hit that recurring ennui that we experience on a regular basis concerning virtual worlds in general.


So I’ve turned my attention to bigger things to keep me interested and busy.


Mainly doing the impossible... which is par for the course with me.


I’ve met all kinds of cool people over the last year... I got to talk with folks at NASA, USAF, and a number of high-end government/military contractors. Some of them with clearance levels that are high enough to tickle the foot of God... but that doesn’t alter my opinion of them.


There is (of course) my ongoing conversation with Mark Skwarek from Semblance AR which is proving to be absolutely amazing. There is a gentleman over at the Mobile Life Centre in Stockholm (Kim Nevelsteen) who is using my research paper as part of his PhD thesis and project, attempting to build one of the proposed components with my work as his guide.


Very awesome indeed, and I’m quite humbled.


Unrelated to Second Life, I’ve been a long-time moderator for a Minecraft server called 222Craft. Watching those players build amazing things and come up with mind-blowing Redstone contraptions has been an absolute highlight.


I got to have a wonderful discussion with Liza over at Primesense about the capabilities of their technology, and what the repercussion of being bought out by Apple entails. I’ve learned so much this year about technologies like pmd PhotonICs and time of flight sensors, stabilization techniques for geolocation based visualization, and have dived head-first into the details of polymorphic type data systems and symbiotic hybrid networking.


Somewhere along the line I also ended up in cahoots with Anthony Chvala who is currently an executive over at Sears but prior to that was at Groupon and Quite an amazing guy Anthony is... but probably just as amazing is Kevin Russell over at Metawave, who I’ve also been having long talks with lately.


The past year has definitely been chock full of mind-blowing things, and I feel privileged that I get to engage with these people... even though the irony is that most of them feel honored to talk with me!


Looking back over the past year, I’m starting to see the bigger picture. At times I can be a total pain in the ass, and I’m fully aware of it – but then I get moments like this where I realize that there are some very important people hanging on my thoughts and opinions.


I mean, this was a year that I was offered access to 32 geo-synchronous satellites! I didn’t turn that offer down, by the way... I just have to figure out what the context is and make sure my clearance level covers access to them.


In the past year I’ve been exposed to such things as Admiral William McRaven at SOCOM and his mission to create the TALOS armor system (essentially it’s Iron Man). When presented the current offerings for AR information systems being considered, I made the mistake (?) of saying out loud that those were seriously low-tech.


I suppose all of the times people told me I looked like Tony Stark wasn’t that far off after all... sorta like fate clueing me in on what was to come.


Apparently my idea of cutting edge technology isn’t the same as most people, so what I take for granted isn’t so obvious to others. I think at this point I’ve become completely spoiled by high-technology. Which probably explains why I love playing Minecraft... just to unwind and not think about the Blue Waters Super Computing Center or Geo-Synchronous Satellites, etc...


It never really occurred to me until recently just how high-end access I’ve reached in life when it comes to technology.


For instance, when Indigo Mertel wrote a recent post about Patterns and Linden Lab including a materials editor that they named Substance Editor, she asked the question about whether or not Linden Lab had licensed Allegorithmic’s Substance system. In order to answer that question, I need not guess but instead I simply asked Sébastien Deguy (the CEO) who is on my skype contacts.


It’s his birthday today, by the way, and he said no they did not license Substance from them as far as he was aware, and seemed a little miffed that Linden Lab named their materials editor Substance.


In his defense, Linden Lab did pull a pretty dickish move there... making a materials editor and naming it Substance.


But I digress (as usual). I think 2013 has been an amazing year and that 2014 is going to be the year for an explosion of Augmented Reality systems and applications. I still can’t say what I’ve actually been up to with Parallel Worlds, but it has a little bit to do with AR in a sense... but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.


Maybe this time next year I’ll be giving you a demonstration?









Dec 4, 2013

Pompous Circumstance

The absurdity of awards in a virtual world.


Couple of things on my mind lately in between project work and theoretical applications. There might be a link between them all, but I haven’t found it yet so bear with me.


There is (of course) the Avi Choice Awards! In which that single sentence is about as enthusiastic as you’re ever going to see me get about it. If awards ceremonies in real life are about as sincere as voting for prom king and queen, reduced to nothing more than a popularity contest where you might go home with a trophy, then my view on virtual world award ceremonies has been double the shallow and half of the accomplishment. A lot like going to Starbucks and ordering a decaf... people need to be bitch slapped for that.



Kara & Will Interview July 7 2013png Coffee with Kara Trapdoor while being interviewed. The moment itself was reward enough.


Don’t get me wrong, people should be recognized for their contributions in the creative space. But I would think simply being popular would do that as a recognition of your talent without taking home (metaphorically) an intangible digital object to glorify the popularity contest to boot.


That’s what the Avi Choice Awards are about, for the most part. It’s an informal popularity contest where people in a clique get together and vote for other people in that clique. I have a low tolerance to stuff like that because to me it’s ultimately meaningless (if not insulting). I speak from experience on this one and not from “exclusion”.


A lot of things in Second Life draw a similar parallel to older virtual worlds, but one thing that never seems to change is that the same things seem to arise from each community in a weird sort of hive-mind where you know they aren’t (as groups) really influencing each other or having regular meetings in a round table but still manage to come up with the same outcomes.


Case in point is the SLxB events. Ok, I get it... prolly more than people think. It’s a community celebration of the virtual world they call home and all the great things within it. That being said, it is really no different than AWExpo from ActiveWorlds... which is more or less the same exact premise and preceded Second Life by a number of years. Back in 2006 and 2007, I was a big contributor to the AWExpo when I worked at VR5 Online, taking home “Best of Show” both years.


People got together, built plots, booths, and whatever in a sort of celebration of community and it, too, was quite massive and varied. Wandering around SL10B all I could think about it was how eerie it was that ten years later I’m in an entirely different virtual world and doing the exact same thing.


The Avi Choice Awards aren’t exempt from that thinking either... since ActiveWorlds in the 1990s –> Today regularly has (had) the Cy Awards which is exactly the same premise and outcome of the Avi Choice Awards. Right down to the “let’s vote for our favorite...” blah blah blah and including the endless pandering and ass kissing to even get on that “list” for voting.




I’m no stranger to virtual worlds awards ceremonies... [Cy Awards: ActiveWorlds]


I could have told you who was going to win those Avi Choice Awards well in advance because the formula to figure it out is dead simple:


Those with the biggest groups, social media presence and highest ratio of personality to Linden Lab cheerleading will win.


Stuff the ballots and be a relentless fanboy/fangirl of the medium as a cheerleader.


That’s it... and it’s reflected quite clearly in the results, now isn’t it? It was the same thing years ago in other virtual worlds as I watched clearly superior works and people get ignored and passed over simply because they weren’t popular or the event organizers didn’t “like” them. Countless times I watched “popular” people march their fanclubs into the voting in order to stuff the boxes... which to me is pretty much like getting a Group Message in Second Life from somebody who is on the ballots telling you to go over there and vote.


I’ve won enough of those awards in the past and even then I didn’t think too highly of it. In a way, I suppose you could say I’m in the same camp as Crap Mariner with my opinion of the whole superficiality of it all. Which is to say that if in the unlikely event I won anything remotely like an Avi Choice Award in this day and age, I’d dress up as Santa and punch the audience. Even in the event that I even remotely showed up on one of those polls, I wouldn’t bother to show up to collect the pretend award that went with it because to me they are an insult.


I’ve been there and done that all before. It’s not an honor, nor is it particularly satisfying to be proclaimed the king of the prom – unless of course you validate your work and effort through an inanimate and superficial object as justification of your worth.


Hey, some people do... and for them it’s whatever cup of tea they wanna have. Makes them think they’re really accomplishing something. But to me, actually accomplishing something is the award...


Personally, if you pander for an intangible award based on opinionated popularity, it makes me think that maybe you’re being rewarded not for the work or effort but for being popular. In that sense you’re an excellent and shameless promoter of self.


What you do, and your works/efforts/contributions to the virtual world (and real world) should be self-evident and speak for itself. The outcome of your efforts are far better a reward than a hollow Collada file in a virtual world sitting on a virtual shelf in a virtual home for virtual people to admire and know you are virtually popular.


It’s about as meaningful as the VEJ (Virtual Education Journal) giving out award after award to Blizzard and World of Warcraft from a stage in Second Life, where Blizzard isn’t showing up for that award because they rightly couldn’t care less about it. I sat through that entire award ceremony and all I could think was “If World of Warcraft is so awesome, then why aren’t we having this award ceremony in WoW at a local tavern?”


So maybe you’re thinking “You’re just bitter cause you weren’t on the list!” – to which my reply is simply “No... I’m thankful I wasn’t”. I can’t convey that sentiment strongly enough at this point. Really... I have collected enough of these awards over the years and I certainly don’t need another one.



Nidus 8


If you came over to visit me in-world, I have my own shelf and it’s filled with awards just the same and it also has accomplishments that are tangible such as a copy of my book, the research paper which was published in ACM over the summer to great acclaim. I did actually win a Cy Award for “Best Build” in which I built a photorealistic and functional gas station. The irony being that I entered it as a joke because it was actually just a project to teach somebody else how to build and pay attention to the complete atmosphere of immersion. When I entered it into the Cy Awards as a nomination, it was explicitly for the purpose of illustrating the very points I’m explaining here – and that the process can be socially engineered/rigged quite easily.


AW20 high rez I also have an SAW award (Support AW) which I consider far more meaningful because it’s for “Best Use of Innovative Technology” referring to the fact that I had single handedly repurposed the entire AW Viewer (Browser) and added functionality nobody had ever seen before, and even successfully turned the online virtual world into a functional desktop paradigm in 3D in which you could launch programs on your local computer from the virtual world. I had done so through carefully reconstructing trigger commands (sort of like the precursor to LSL scripting) based on the idea that there was (back in the early days of AW) a version called the AW Hi-Rez CD in which the assets of the popular virtual worlds such as Alpaworld, Metatropolis, Mars, etc were double resolution and on a CD to pull from locally. Back in the day this was a big deal to go from 128x128 resolution textures to 256x256 due to the fact this was during the days of Dial-Up internet and 56k.


The premise was that there were commands that the viewer could recognize in order to access content locally. I did some more archeological digging in the world Metatropolis (one of the original worlds, and also one that I played a part in rebuilding twice) whereby I found an object with a local file command on it built by one of the staff members of ActiveWorlds themselves (JP McCormick to be exact) whereby it was a touch link to call an old Microsoft VoIP program locally on your desktop.


I got to thinking that if the viewer could still interpret that command as a local link, and the Hi-Rez CD code was still in there to handle local content in the configuration files, then wouldn’t it be possible to figure out the format for local or internet links and tag the configuration files for buttons on the viewer toolbar as well as objects in-world?




Metaverse EX 50 It took me four months, including countless denials by ActiveWorlds themselves that it was even possible, but I managed to create what today is still a pinnacle of ActiveWorlds in showing off what could be done – titled simply Metaverse EX. The toolbar was rewritten using commands that AW themselves denied even existing, resurrecting functionality and repurposing it in the modern age to run programs on your local desktop, open local folders (where you could keep shortcuts or your file downloads from the virtual world for easy access), external tools for helping with building, and even managed to make an online help system accessible instead of the CHT old style help file itself. The last version I made simply had access to Twitter and a few other things natively in the toolbar, and included a small version and large version to save space (which ActiveWorlds themselves adopted, among other functionality I had rediscovered). I didn’t stop there, either... because I went on to figure out a way to link an Object Path (like an asset server) to a P2P redundant content distribution network worldwide, making the object path nearly indestructible no matter how many simultaneous users were in the world.


That’s a big deal considering I managed to host a live concert and have 100 people standing in the same spot without the server crashing. This was back in 2005/06 and today I’d like to ask anyone what the odds are that they’ll be able to have 100 people show up to their event in Second Life without the server going under?





Of course, “concerts” are commonplace now in Second Life, but back then it was unheard of because it was a logistics nightmare. This was before that concert across the “Metaverse” happened as well, so here’s an example of doing something that changes everything... though quite arguably it wasn’t as good as the second concert we did a year later in 2007 when we went all out with a custom stage, choreographed lighting and fireworks, and a laser lightshow with particle effects... Geez I wish we had filmed that one... it was freakin amazing.


That’s what it means to deserve an award... when you not only create something awesome but manage to change the history of the company and countless citizens in a virtual world, influencing everything going forward. But the award itself isn’t what matters... the award (to me) was simply knowing it could be done and that I had altered the course of virtual world history for the better in doing so. Seeing what other citizens of AW were building based on my own inspirations and advancements (such as particle lighting and shadows), seeing citizens push their builds and set the bar much higher... that is satisfying. So it’s a paradox really... if you’ve done nothing to deserve an award, then you won’t get an award... but if you *have* done something great enough to deserve the award, then the award is pointless by comparison to the great things you have done... so why bother?


I’d be far more apt to give an award to whomever thought up Liquid Mesh versus the most popular DJ or Photographer in SL. Liquid Mesh changes the entire virtual world going forward and has a positive impact (even if I don’t necessarily agree with the circumstances). But was there a category for “Best Innovation” in the Avi Choice Awards? If there was, I didn’t see it.


The category itself could have been named “Stuff that’s going to matter in ten more years”


I think maybe the problem with award ceremonies like this is that they are based purely on subjective opinion and not anything that looks like objective fact. I might think Crap Mariner has amazing stories while other people might think he needs to take his meds and stop bitching about people standing on his lawn. Totally subjective thinking... and is that really the basis for an award that should be taken serious?


Hence the reason I’m writing this post today... and explaining the types of awards I’ve received in the virtual world and what they were for. Some weren’t subjective (SAW Award) while others were totally just popularity contest and (my own social engineering) – Cy Awards, AWExpo, International Flight Festival, and so on.


adam2-1 There was another award that I had gotten as well but it amounted to “Best of Show” from the AWExpo in which our booth was a photorealistic replica of a real world booth complete with banners and arcade games. But the big reveal for that year at the Expo was that we (as VR5 Online) had created a photorealistic avatar in mesh while keeping the polygon count reasonable. At that time it absolutely blew away the avatars in ActiveWorlds by a lightyear and likely still blows away the avatars in Second Life by comparison. Even the employees at ActiveWorlds stopped what they were doing and came over to see what we had done with their technology.


After that, ActiveWorlds as a company no longer participated in the AWExpo because whenever we threatened to show up, the entire expo (including ActiveWorlds themselves) immediately threw in the towel conceding defeat before we had even bothered to put our booth in. To say it was an unfair competition was an understatement... we felt like we were NASA competing in a High School Science Fair. So after our second year at AWExpo we declined to continue participating because we were showing up everyone else, and we didn’t want to do that... our goal was just to show off the potential of the AW System (and we did that by far).


I’ve had my share of the awards ceremonies and pandering over what is now close to twenty years in virtual worlds. Yes, I’ve been in virtual worlds about 20 years now and the thought hit me the other day when I was trying to think back to when I first got into them when I was much younger. It puts the Rez Day idea in a proper perspective in comparison... lots of people acting like 8 years in SL is seniority or something... which I suppose being a big fish in a small pond can definitely give you that boost of ego.



Nidus 3


For me, the existence of tangible things in the world and knowing my efforts are having a positive impact on another person’s life in a profound manner is the only award I’ll ever need. When a PhD student in Stockholm at the Mobile Life Centre is writing a thesis for his doctorate and thanking me for the wonderful work I’ve done - when that happens and I find out about how I’m helping to enable such a profound change in thinking or advancement in the industry and academics, or that my work is fostering a new generation through a virtual worlds certificate course - that is my award.


I helped change the real world for the better, and my efforts will continue to do that in a meaningful way. Because of my efforts, the world will change for the better for years to come like a ripple cascading in a pond outward, touching millions of lives and (hopefully) leaving a positive outcome. My goal in life is simply to live it one day at a time and answer a single question:


What have I done in this world that, when I am gone, will be my legacy of positive change?


I believe I continue to answer that question satisfactorily. I may not entirely be the most personable character in the world, and I absolutely agree that I am a right bastard quite often. But despite that, I’m leaving ultimately a positive impact on the world for real. In twenty years nobody is going to really remember that virtual couch you made, or that skin... it’ll fade into obscurity just as much as that award you won when you were popular for your fifteen minutes.


I don’t want to be the rain on the parade, no matter how often I actually am... because ultimately my intention is to help people understand that what is truly important versus superficial is what matters. So every day simply ask yourself -


If I dropped dead today, how long would anyone remember me for what I’ve done in this world?


Live your life like that, and strive to leave a lasting and meaningful legacy of positive change on the entire world. As Steve Jobs once said -


Make a dent in the Universe.


If you’re awesome, you don’t need an award to tell you so. You simply are because it’s self evident. You see it in the people who tell you their stories about how the things you’ve done have changed them or touched them for the better. I’d rather people had donated to Immersiva in that moment to show appreciation to Bryn Oh instead of casting a vote for an award... and as Crap Mariner said in his own group notice – he’d rather people paid their tiers as a show of appreciation.



Something I might consider writing about in the near future:


ZUI (Zoomable User Interfaces) and Hyper-dense Information or;

There’s too much **** on my screen!


Remember to pimp me out on the social networks. Because sharing is caring, no matter what the state of Utah says.




Nov 25, 2013

The Day The Music Died

#AOL to discontinue Winamp as of Dec 20th


After 16 years of Whipping the Llama’s Ass, it looks like the company that should never have survived the dotcom bubble is discontinuing the media player that is a hallmark and legend.






Of course, we’re talking about AOL deciding to shut down Nullsoft altogether, meaning Winamp and all related products and services go dark as of December 20th 2013. Users are (of course) looking for alternatives to Winamp while many are simply saying they’re going to continue using Winamp until it spontaneously explodes from being abandonware.


I have a mixed feeling about this situation... I’ve been using Winamp for the entire 16 years that it has existed (I remember the initial release in 1997), and it’s been my favorite media player since then. To see it being discontinued by AOL is like the ultimate “Are you fucking serious?” moment followed by the invention of a string of obscenities that are dangerously close to tearing a hole in the fabric of time|space and unleashing flying technicolor ass-cracks onto the executives of AOL.


Of course, I have an alternative player (being AIMP) but it has some quirks...


Screenshot_4As you can see on the left, you can make AIMP look just like Winamp if you really want to. At least a reasonable mockup, though I actually used the “Good ‘Ol Winamp” setting on the modern skin in Winamp to get the purple and green version.


I can’t exactly get that same color setup in AIMP so I’m sorta stuck with the blue and silver skin (for now). I have (most predominantly) taken to using the Eternity skin for AIMP which is dark with orange though I can’t horizontally resize it, which aggravates me to no end. Luckily I can resize horizontally with the Winamp Modern Skin for AIMP... To remedy the situation, I’ve inquired about having the skin author do a Good Ol’ Winamp purple and green version... so we’ll see how that goes.


It’s not like Nullsoft wasn’t making any money... last time I checked, they were pulling about 6 million bucks a year, which is definitely more than AOL was worth in their heyday (zing!)


There is (of course) the rumor that Microsoft is already talking with AOL about buying Nullsoft, which means Winamp and Shoutcast services. I think it’s the only time I’ve uttered the phrase “At least there is a glimmer of hope... Microsoft could buy them.”


I feel very dirty saying that out loud.



I really do like the darker skins for media players, and preferably ones that aren’t too busy. So, the Eternity skin on the right is actually pretty nice and it’s less of an assault on my eyes. Though I can’t resize it horizontally so the thing looks a bit small on my screen... Like I said, AIMP has a few quirks but overall it’s a good player.


I’ve attempted to use Foobar2000 and have come to the “Oh, hell no...” conclusion. I do have VLC installed as well, but it’s more of a no-frills Swiss Army knife.


At least one good thing about AIMP is that it has a nice docking feature where it can dock to a side of the screen and then slide out of view. Very classy. Then there is a ... information bar at the top which displays the current song and information when the song starts. It displays across the top of the screen itself (though I suppose you could disable it entirely if you wanted).


I think no matter what, I’m going to be a fan of Winamp. It’s been a part of my digital life for 16 years, and there really isn’t anything that captures the feel of it. Sure, we all had a fit when AOL bought it and made it bloated – after all, the Winamp I grew accustomed to was lightweight and powerful. Minus all of the bloatware baggage in the code, I think under it all there is still the Winamp we grew to love before AOL got their hands on it...


I think the best case scenario... despite my better judgement, is Microsoft buys Nullsoft and all related services in order to keep it going under the //shudders// Micro...soft... banner...


I think a piece of my soul just died.


What are the odds Microsoft doesn’t buy it up and AOL discontinues it but decides to Open Source the whole thing?


I can dream, right?


If you’re looking for a good lateral move from Winamp, you can check out AIMP at the following address:


And also the Winamp Modern skin on deviantArt. Just do a search.



Freeze-ray. Stops time. Tell your friends.


At this point, all I can say is that all sorts of crazy acquisitions are going on in the tech industry. Apple bought out Primesense (the company behind the original tech for the Kinect) – so you can take a wild guess what the iPhone 6 is going to have. But then, Intel and SoftKinetic are teaming up to make short range depth cameras to stick into laptops, tablets and smart-phones next year... so you get the gist about what everyone is up to.





There’s this sudden rush to the AR market, as I predicted from the catalyst effect stemming from Google Glass (and the real reason Google wanted to make Glass). And even before Google Glass (a few years ago) I forecasted the rise of Augmented Reality in a bigger sense. But it’s still a few years off at this point since everyone is rushing into it with half-cocked thinking just to be on the bandwagon.


I’m not sure why everyone is stuck thinking in localized space and PTAM. I never really had any faith in the idea of one trick pony apps for mobile that were AR. But that’s neither here nor there because that’s not something I have to deal with personally.


ptam_screenshot Speaking of AR, I had a wonderful meeting with Primesense earlier this morning, and will have a follow-up December 5th to figure out what the hell Apple is going to do with their 350 million dollar acquisition. In the bigger picture, it would seem Liza Roumani and I are both hoping Apple isn’t going to liquidate Primesense and lock the technology behind closed doors, but Liza isn’t sure yet what Apple is planning. Seems like they’re just as in the dark at the moment as anyone else about what’s going on (either that or they aren’t allowed to say publicly). I’m all for Apple and advancing their products (it’s a business after all) but I hate it when bigger companies buy up little companies and then lock it all up in a vault.


Doubly so when Primesense was facilitating OpenNi with the hardware worth using in conjunction with the open standard for 3D framework sensing. If Apple were to nix that, I’d be pretty pissed off at them for being colossal dickweeds.


But I suppose Liza wouldn’t have wanted to have another conversation on December 5th if she knew Apple was going to liquidate Primesense entirely. So there’s still hope that I won’t have to pay a visit to Cupertino and deal with Tim Cook... but I suppose if I have to, then so be it.


Though I’ve been talking with SoftKinetic as well about the possibility of a long-range RGB-D sensor. Considering ZCam and Canesta were bought out by Microsoft, I’m going to have to pick my poison...


Microsoft... Apple ... or Intel.


Maybe Apple actually is the lesser of the evils at this point.... or maybe I’ll get lucky and Primsense will continue being around to support OpenNI with their sensors while Apple just licenses it while using it for their own stuff. That seems to be the hope from Liza as well because she’s actually interested in what we’re up to with Parallel Worlds, and I think she sees that Primesense Capri3D would be a perfect fit. Probably a hell of a lot better than cramming it into an iPhone and iPad.


2014 is going to be a huge push for augmented reality and related devices, so prepare yourself now. Luckily, I’m already ahead of the curve and past the small localized spaces augmented reality and thinking into the very large spaces...


Honestly, it only dawned on me recently that the problem with AR is actually more to do with solving the long standing issues with Virtual Worlds, which I happen to already be good at. Turns out they have more in common than I thought, but for entirely different reasons than the industry thinks. Plus, those solutions are at a level of complexity that I’m pretty certain few are in a position to solve.


There is still the nagging issue that a lot of those sensors seem to fail when outside. It makes me wonder how the hell anyone was going to use them attached to tablets and smart phones if they only work indoors under very tight conditions... I wouldn’t think Apple would spend 350 million dollars on Primesense if the sensors didn’t work outdoors... but I suppose I’ll figure that out anyway at some point. That’s why I’m talking with a few companies to figure out a good solution that isn’t going to explode like a vampire in daylight.


Either way, I’m still about 5-10 years ahead of the curve, assuming Captain Hammer doesn’t throw a car at me.






I often forget I’m technologically spoiled. Kinda hard to stay grounded when you’re offered access to 32 geo-synchronous satellites, a super-computer, and all sorts of technology on a regular basis. It’s made me into the sort of person that doesn’t take something as read when people say it’s not possible – I’m almost sure a lot of things are possible, but nobody has questioned it enough to figure it out yet. Makes me feel like Dr. Horrible sometimes, building a Freeze Ray to stop time... I just hope Apple Computer doesn’t act like Captain Hammer, corporate tool...


Somebody has to think of the bigger picture and ask the proverbial “Why not?” – I think it’s just coded into my DNA at this point.


Anyways... yeah... 2014 is gonna be a huge augmented reality year. Tell a friend.


Also, the Freeze Ray stops time... it’s not an Ice Gun. That’s Johnny Snow.


Nov 21, 2013

Stockholm Syndrome

I truly think you’ve all lost your mind in #SecondLife





Stockholm syndrome, or capture–bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.The FBI's Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly 27% of victims show evidence of Stockholm syndrome.


Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” One commonly used hypothesis to explain the effect of Stockholm syndrome is based on Freudian theory. It suggests that the bonding is the individual’s response to trauma in becoming a victim. Identifying with the aggressor is one way that the ego defends itself. When a victim believes the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be a threat.




Here’s the situation in a nutshell...


With the introduction of mesh into Second Life, Linden Lab forgot one very important detail that made clothing attachments not work correctly given the dynamic nature of avatar shapes. In response to this, the short term work-around was to create various alpha layers to hide parts of the body, and the community (seeing that Linden Lab had no intention of fixing this very blatant problem) decided to take matters into their own hands and started a crowd funding initiative in order to hire Qarl Fizz (former Linden) to code a Mesh Deformer that would natively and automatically resize mesh attached to the avatar.


The crowd funding was successful and Qarl was hired to do exactly this – create a Mesh Deformer code to integrate into Second Life in order to tie up that nasty loose end of Mesh clothing not fitting people without severe amounts of lengths with alpha layers or having to change your avatar shape


This project was ongoing for quite some time, and some places in OpenSim adopted the code (I believe InWorldz being one of them) while Linden Lab stalled, hemmed and hawed for as long as they could while pretending to be working on making this part of the viewer with the Mesh Deformer project. They dragged their feet so long that it turns out clothing designers were getting tired of waiting and created a quick and dirty little rigging hack called “Liquid Mesh” that sort of did what Mesh deformer was supposed to do in the meantime while they continued to wait for Linden Lab to get off their hands and implement Mesh Deformer.


Being that Mesh Deformer was (and is) pretty much complete and ready to go, it’s a wonder that it hasn’t been implemented already (or even long ago) since it’s been effectively collecting dust and consistently being buried as far as Linden Lab could dig the hole for quite awhile. In so much as logistics go, Linden Lab has effectively been putting petty politics and their own bruised ego over the common good of the community.


Come to find out, Linden Lab has now officially thrown their towel into the corner of Liquid Mesh and closed the Mesh Deformer project.


That’s not my biggest beef at the moment... but here is what is:


The community raised the capital needed to pay Qarl for his work in solving a problem Linden Lab refused to solve themselves. This was a shining moment (as far as I’m concerned) with the ability of the community to pull through and collectively make Second Life a better place as a whole. Many people put their hard earned time (and money) into the Mesh Deformer to make it a far superior solution to Liquid mesh, and Linden Lab has effectively flushed that down the toilet in favor of a method that will now force all clothing makers to re-rig all of their previous mesh clothing to work with this new system and make it harder going forward to accommodate this new rigging technique in order to utilize the simple resizing in less capacity than Mesh Deformer would have solved automatically and backwards compatible with pretty much all pre-existing mesh clothing without alterations (or very minimal at best).


As if that’s not bad enough... I’m watching the community act like this is a good thing and praising Linden Lab for this “innovation”, all the while forgetting that they’re now being served dog food instead of the 7 course meal they actually paid for. The community raised the money for a Ferrari and got a tri-cycle for the same price.


Linden Lab doesn’t deserve praise for this, they deserve scorn for this prolonged act of ego driven indignation and insult toward the community on the whole.







The analogy is this:


Imagine a Second Life pre-mesh. Sculpties were the quick and dirty “hack” to use textures in a way that simulated mesh but it wasn’t anything like it. It was a response to a community that really thought that Mesh should be a part of Second Life while Linden Lab didn’t give it a second thought. Now, under this scenario, imagine if the community said “We’ll raise the money and have it coded for Linden Lab and all of OpenSim, all you have to do is implement it.”


Sounds like a sweet deal right?


So imagine this happens and the community manage to get a working method to import and use mesh in Second Life (which technically actually happened if you realize that realXtend had mesh well before Second Life), and Linden Lab drags their feet on it coming up with every conceivable excuse why they can’t do it. This goes on for quite awhile and creators in the community (tired of waiting) create Sculpties as a quick and dirty workaround to kind of get the same effect as mesh while they are waiting for Linden Lab to get up off their asses and actually do something.


Linden Lab, seeing the “out” in a situation they never intended to support from day one (because it makes them look incompetent for their community solving a gigantic flaw in their own system and hiring an ex-Linden employee they don’t like to fix it) decide to play politics, support Sculpties and put the final nail in the coffin of mesh import. This being absolutely regardless of the fact that sculpties are a poor man’s mesh and nowhere near as good.


Now you understand the situation. You just got screwed over with sculpties when you could have had mesh. This is in no way good for the community, since it was the community that paid for and supported Mesh Deformer.


Linden Lab just told the community to go fuck itself, and flushed your $5,000 and year worth of work down the toilet like the piece of shit it thinks Mesh Deformer is for having the audacity of going over Linden Lab’s head and solving a problem they were too full of themselves to acknowledge or fix.


And here is where it gets ridiculous -


If I didn’t know any better, the community is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Instead of being absolutely pissed off and livid about this highest of insult from Linden Lab, the community is praising this as good for the community and designers!


Let’s weigh it out, shall we?


Quick and dirty rigging hack that now requires designers to go back and re-rig their entire mesh clothing line to use it, needlessly complicating their future workflow and still not being as capable or robust as Mesh Deformer, which the community raised the money and paid for...


or Mesh Deformer – a native system to automatically refit clothing without re-rigging the pieces, and was essentially backwards compatible, requiring only a “default” set of sizes to work with and the system would dynamically change the clothing across the board.


See, a rational person would be absolutely losing their shit right about now. But no, instead I see countless posts praising Liquid Mesh and Linden Lab for “solving” the problem by adding a few extra “bones” to rig to.


I’m sorry... I have a hard time believing the community is this badly afflicted with a case of stupid. I imagined you were all better than this. I believed that you weren’t accustomed to taking pineapples up the ass and asking for more with a smile. Complimenting Linden Lab for taking the time to pick only the sharpest ones from the supermarket.


First the ToS situation and Linden Lab’s outright disregard and indignation to the community for it. Then the whole Skills Hax situation... and now this. In combination with going totalitarian with the JIRA, forcing TPV rules that favor and give ultimate control to Linden Lab for everything, shutting out OpenSim, and effectively making TPVs have to kiss their ass in red-tape and Caesar-like approval in a Kangaroo court of personal opinion and Linden Approval to get anything that looks like an advancement...


The JIRA and TPV overhaul for rules and regulations, the decision to force TPVs to make separate versions for Second Life and OpenSim – they are all very calculated decisions and weren’t (as Linden Lab likes to assert) a situation where they had their hands tied because of other licensing issues that put them in the victim seat. They could have just as easily chosen something that would still have worked the same or better and been conducive to OpenSim and TPVs.


With Emerald viewer and finally Mesh Deformer, these are two very large examples of the community going over Linden Lab’s head to fix a problem or advance Second Life. In the pre-debacle days, Emerald was the defacto TPV to use, much like Phoenix and Firestorm are that today (for obvious reasons).


With TPVs being more popular than Linden Lab’s own viewer, they decided to play dirty and essentially force the TPVs to play with Linden Lab or get out. They changed all the rules for being a TPV, all the submission protocols, invented “Shared Experience”, locked down the JIRA because all the public access and the fact they were looking like incompetent morons refusing to fix long standing issues (over the course of years) made them look bad in public.


You know what Linden Lab did shortly after they locked down the JIRA? They went through and closed bug reports in the JIRA en-mass. Not even bothering to take a look at it, or saying “Will Not Fix” or “Closed”. Just that... and nobody could really be outraged about it because you couldn’t really raise awareness about it when they essentially locked you out.


But this just takes the cake...


I sit here in utter disbelief at the total disdain, disregard, and indignation Linden Lab has for the community, and sit here absolutely baffled that the community is now trained to get bitch slapped around and praise Linden Lab for it.


Please, Sir... may I have another?


Look, I know a lot of you are into the whole BDSM stuff and that’s fine... to each their own. But don’t you think this is taking it too damned far? Did we collectively forget our “safe word” or something when playing with Linden Lab?


Why are you acting like you have Stockholm Syndrome?






Nov 14, 2013

Emerald City Blues

Where’s a bucket of water in #SecondLife when ya need one?


Recently a partial transcript hit my inventory in SL and it looked quite innocent until I got to about 15:57 to 16:01 in the transcript. Apparently in a recent meeting with Oz (The Great and Powerful) Linden, a familiar name came up in passing like it was no big deal, when it should have been a very big deal.






[15:57] Oz Linden: maybe another commit hook test...
[15:57] Jonathan: Oz, do you still want me to file a storm for those gsavedsettings that should be cached or
[15:57] Phoenix-Firestorm Viewer Rocks: a lot of the headers need to be updated anyway to have the correct file name in thtem, or to add the file name to them thats missing currently
[15:57] Jonathan: do you want to look at the whole lot of them as a bigger study?
[15:58] Jonathan: (the settings in the music playing code)
[15:59] Oz Linden: Jonathan... sure, a collection of settings caching improvements would be most welcome
[16:00] Jonathan: I'll need that code from Skills Hax then
[16:00] Oz Linden: Tank... I ran a script to check that recently, and was intimidated by the number of files it would touch
[16:00] Mona: The one of Emerald "fame"?
[16:01] Jonathan: Oz, you had another prject in the works, and that was eliminating references to "dead" settings
[16:01] Ima Mechanique: Oz any news for onRegionChange best practise?
[16:01] Jonathan: from settings.xml
[16:01] Oz Linden: Skills has been making an apparently sincere effort to be helpful for quite some time now



Ok wait... you mean Skills Hax, notorious for the Emerald Viewer debacle (along with a handful of others), and who was essentially forced out and the imminent collapse of the most popular TPV of the time mandated by Linden Lab as a result, is and has been working on and contributing code all buddy buddy with Linden Lab all this time?


I’m trying very hard to parse this information... because really Skills didn’t change and suddenly see the error of (his) ways. But it seems like one of more notorious of the group (maybe except Phox/LonelyBluebird) wasn’t really exiled but given a chance to contribute to the official viewer instead as a consolation prize for having the biggest competition to the official viewer be dismantled.


Forgive me for this, but doesn’t that seem like a Borg assimilation scenario?


I’d write more on this, but I’m more interested in letting the community chime in and have their discussion on it. Far as I’m concerned... it’s a pretty big deal... but what do I know? It just struck me as a what dufuq moment...


It’s just another day in Pixel Paradise lately. I just wish somebody would throw some water on the Wicked Witch and call it a day, ‘cause all of these flying monkeys are getting on my nerves and I just wanna go home.




Meanwhile, back at the Lollipop Guild...


Lollipop GuildHaven’t been in Second Life much lately due to real life obligations and projects. When last I publically said anything on the ToS topic it was about the deliberate attempt to smear Bryn Oh on Metaverse Week in Review by LaPiscean who (a part of the LEA) was looking to justify victimization and “poor me” on the air while painting Bryn Oh as doing the wrong thing and hurting the poor artists and LEA in the process.


Bottom line is, if the LEA exists in Second Life, then it is bound by the same ToS and rules as everything else in Second Life, and that ToS is detrimental and hostile to content creators and artists. Ergo it’s not a leap of logic in any capacity whatsoever to say that if your stated mission at the LEA is to encourage the arts in Second Life, and convince artists to come into Second Life from the real world, then you are part of the problem in knowingly shilling a situation that is hostile to those artists and content creators as a good situation. You’re acting like an official Linden Lab lap dog too afraid to bite the hand that feeds you no matter how much that hand beats the ever loving piss outta you.


To say I was offended by the attempted hit and run of Bryn Oh on the air was an understatement. Bryn did the right thing in leaving the LEA because it was a conflict of interest and crisis of conscience to be the poster child for a hostile ToS under the guise of doing right by them as a public figure. Bryn did the responsible thing, while LaPiscean took the low road and gave us a tour of the gutter. To say I was offended that nobody else thought what was going on was unacceptable on their own stage, and instead repeatedly offered the platform for him to continue speaking like he hadn’t just tried to smear Bryn on the air is also an understatement.


On that same episode I made it a point to say that as a public figure (which a lot of us are) we are in the position to represent what is morally correct as if we were role models to be looked up to as the example. I take that seriously as a public figure, and so I lead by example (just like Bryn Oh did). I haven’t uploaded anything to Second Life since, and I have no plans on doing so until the ToS is no longer overtly hostile to content creators and artists.




MAME Showcase Cabinet: Series III


Dynamo Showcase CabinetHowever, like I also said, I have a few projects in SL that are unfinished and said that (given time) I would try to tie up the loose ends for them but start no new projects until the ToS is rectified. I’m quite serious about not uploading anything more to SL until Linden Lab get their chronic case of stupid out of their system. While time has been a commodity in short supply lately, I have been putting some time here and there to finish up or work on pre-existing projects that I didn’t finish prior to the whole ToS fiasco.


One of which is the last in the Arcade Legends Series III cabinets, which I’ve had sitting in inventory for months now and hadn’t really touched. The final arcade cabinet in the series is different than the others in that it’s a Showcase Cabinet for MAME, mimicking the Dynamo Showcase Arcade Cabinet in real life. The MAME cabinet also is scripted differently in that it allows for many games on shared media to be loaded by clicking the coin slot and choosing a game, which sends the information to the shared media screen to load the game. In this way, the MAME cabinet in-world acts like a true Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator.


This led me to the idea of making a home console that would load games to a television in world playable, but as I’ve already said before – I’m not starting any new projects in Second Life until the chronic idiocy of Linden Lab is less obnoxious. I might have a very long wait judging from the transcript at the top of this post.


As far as the trade-in equivalent for the MAME Showcase cabinet, considering the amount of games I’m putting into it and the nature of it being a showcase cabinet and not a smaller cabinet, and that it’s running on an entirely new script, I’m considering trading two Polybius cabinets for it instead of one. I think that’s fair.









I’m pretty sure some are wondering what became of eureka! content discovery since it was announced in production a few months ago. Progress is coming along fine, though some things had to be redesigned and overhauled to compensate for some SL related glitches in how shared media was displayed (or not) consistently across viewers. So the UI and stuff had to be reimagined to handle it, as well as some other considerations in order to make the system a bit more powerful and robust.


Since eureka! counts as one of those “pre-existing” projects, the work continues on it. More-so the bulk of eureka! work is done on a server outside of Linden Lab and the system is not dependant on in-world for the bulk of its abilities. This was a conscious decision from the beginning of development so it could (theoretically) be ported over to OpenSim and Hypergrid at a later time. However, that would only happen when the 4096 issue is reliably wiped out across the Hypergrid – so it’s probably a good idea that people update as soon as that issue is resolved so you can teleport across the entire Hypergrid in one shot and not multiple hops.


Back-end and front-end overhauls aside, progress is coming along and we’re back on track again for beta testing. I’ll keep everyone posted just as soon as I find out if I can break it before private beta.




So what’s shakin, bacon?


What’s been happening in your world that’s keeping you busy or interested? What do you think of the transcript with Oz Linden? Are there any particular games you’d like to see on the MAME cabinet? Do you have any questions about eureka! that you’re dying to ask?


Feel free to drop your thoughts into the comments below, and remember to Share, Plus and Discuss in the social sphere.



Oct 30, 2013

Quantum Pixel

Lessons from the Metaverse


I’ve been doing a lot of contemplation lately concerning the emergent nature of... well, I suppose everything. When I look back at the history of virtual environments, it never ceases to amaze me how many times companies are caught off guard at the shear ingenuity of the end-user and community to filter and refine the initial genesis of an idea into something beyond their wildest dreams. What is reflected back by the community is like an amplified and far more amazing thing than the original programmers started with.



Something I Lost Something I Lost – Richard Johnson



This isn’t an observation of Linden Lab alone, but throughout many instances. Similarly this scenario has played out time and again whether it’s from the perspective of Active Worlds (and Worlds Online), right up to and including things like Minecraft.


When Worlds Inc had their internal development working on Alpha tech and Gamma tech as candidates for their next evolution in the Worlds Player, they didn’t see the merit in a completely open ended and user-generated virtual world. They had (and still to this day) bet on the publish model where things are pre-created and the end-users are merely consumers.


We see that publish model remaining persistent in the “Web as Future of VR” push  today, which stands behind either proprietary engines and plugins or WebGL and HTML5. Though to be honest, this is nothing more than a rehash of the similar VR hype phase in the 90s that pushed the same exact thing – We called it either proprietary VRML plugins (Blaxxun Technologies) or just VRML/X3D as a standard for the web.


With Alphaworld separating from Worlds as its own company, Worlds fell to the wayside of its once elevated status dealing with the likes of David Bowie and Aerosmith in the 90s (now being patent trolls). Alphaworld eventually turned into ActiveWorlds and it too has fallen to the same issue of lack of foresight. Nearly 7 years ago my final words to them were that they needed to go to a freemium model focusing not on premium subscriptions but microtransactions. That was 7 years ago and they laughed when I said it, but fast forward to this year and that’s exactly what they’re doing, albeit many years late to the scene.


Second Life, likewise was originally designed as a game. It was after the end-users went buck wild with it for all sorts of purposes and uses that they never anticipated that the idea of “Metaverse” popped into their mind and Philip Rosedale jumped on the bandwagon as the “visionary” selling the dream.


Sure he was a bit of an opportunist in all of that (Johnny-Come-Lately), but at least he got on the bandwagon and sort of got the gist of it all. When I say “sort of” it’s because you really can’t jump on the Metaverse bandwagon with a system designed with centralized and game-type architecture. I would say he sorta got it right but the original lack of vision for what Second Life was supposed to be turned out to be the Achilles heel in the end.





AvatarReality (BlueMars) was a great idea, but executed poorly. Unfortunately, for a company throwing so much into using the Crytek Engine, they seemed to have forgotten the fate of the company they were mimicking – Worlds Inc.


BlueMars may as well have been a direct descendant of Worlds Player in the modern age. With a publish model, and having to pre-download worlds in advance before being able to enter them, they were essentially what I would have imagined Worlds Player to have been if they threw a Crytek engine at it.


It was a costly mistake to say the least, and despite repeated attempts to make this clear to them prior to their collapse, I was told that I was being paranoid and everything was doing great.


With Second Life we’ve essentially come full circle in the game vs. metaverse thinking. Rod Humble is (after all) a game executive, so to him anything that has a game engine looks like a game and will be treated as such. There’s no denying this in the aftermath and continuing issues with their ToS. Come hell or high water, they are going to weld Second Life to Desura whether you like it or not.



Obligatory Mini-Rant


As a content creator I’m incredibly pissed about this betrayal and absolute hostility for such an integral part of Second Life. The level of ignorance and contempt for the end-user it takes to do such a thing is astronomical. So much so that I’m not sure that I’ll ever trust or respect Linden Lab again going forward.


Coming from the guy that wrote the seminal publication on the Metaverse, I’d like to think that says a hell of a lot. It’s the best that I can do short of telling Rod Humble where to go. The ToS isn’t an accident... it’s a very deliberate, hostile and contemptuous piece of writing. It was uncalled for and it’s absolutely an insult to the last ten years of Second Life and every single content creator that made the virtual world what it is today.


Instead of going on indefinitely with a rant about it, I’m just going to leave it at that. When you show such contempt and hostility toward an entire population and act nonchalant about it, there isn’t an ounce of respect that they’re going to receive from me any longer. They simply don’t deserve it.




Lessons Learned



I’m easily distracted by red-heads. Pretend this is relevant to the section.



Knowing the history of virtual environments is both a blessing and a curse to me. When writing the paper for Association for Computing Machinery with Loyola Marymount University, I had to see the entirety of the history laid bare before me and then make observations for future research directions. It wasn’t easy for me, because I’m just as much (if not more) of an advocate for the Metaverse (with a capital M) than most. It was painful to see the wreckage left in the wake of twenty plus years in the industry, and to understand that most of it was completely avoidable.


What I learned from all of this is that there is always going to be an opportunistic group repackaging the past and selling it as the future. History continues to repeat itself with a new slogan and catchy buzzword. This isn’t limited to virtual worlds, because let’s face it – Hasbro re-released Laser Tag as if it was a new thing, Hollywood is obsessed with reboots and remakes, and the media industry is all but intellectually and imaginatively devoid at this point with a small handful of breakout hits which get beat to death and squeezed for every drop of commodity they can get out of it (see also Angry Birds).


With the Virtual Worlds Framework (open source) I see yet another VRML type wannabe unable to get traction, however much Lockheed Martin et al would like for it to be widely adopted. Even Cloud Party to me is a fad, though I’m sure nobody would want to hear that.


Of course, then there is OpenSim and related HyperGrid stuff, which is impressive for what it is, but again it follows the same scenario as all of the white label “universes” that ActiveWorlds spawned in 3rd Party existence during the 90s.


At the end of the day, I think even OpenSim is a stop-gap at best, and things like InWorldz, Kitely, AviNation, etc are various iterations of that (sort of like the Opera browser compared to Firefox or Chrome). Though I might be wrong about this later on... the future has yet to be written.


What I’ve learned from all of this enjoys the benefit of hindsight and careful observation of the industry all the way back to when Habitat existed in 1989.




The Metaverse is Emergent


Imagination Imagination Series: A Book Before Bed



Most of what makes up a Metaverse are the emergent creations and sociological behaviors of the end-users when given the tools to create. What a company in this space needs to comprehend before they write a single line of code is that you’re not building a specific purpose driven product. If you look at the demographic appeal for virtual worlds (open ended sandbox) what you find is that it ranges from 18 - 45+ with a near even male and female split. If you’re a marketer looking at that information, you either have a meltdown from not being able to fit it into a narrow constraint (18-24 Male Hardcore Gamer) or you realize that what you’re looking at is the equivalent to the Master Sword of Demographic appeal. You could even extend that demographic back into the age 13 area if you were to put in proper age restrictions for content ahead of time.


What makes a Metaverse platform so appealing is specifically that there isn’t a defined purpose for it. In much the same way as you would equate being in charge of the World Wide Web – nobody can really narrow down the demographic appeal for the Internet as a whole or adequately describe all of the use case scenarios for it.


This is the first modern lesson we need to embrace out of the gate. If you know that the virtual world is agnostic and you’re just providing the tools to foster creation in an emergent fashion, then you’ll never be in a position where the company is effectively trying to replicate community services or creative processes. There is something to be said for understanding this very basic premise, and it’s an understanding that Linden Lab botched horribly with their Premium Account “added value” offerings.



Lesson: You will never predict the infinite number of use-cases and scenarios that your end-users will ultimately utilize the platform for. Don’t try to constrict the use-cases or define the virtual world for them. Just learn to foster creation and that digital evolution, letting the rest take care of itself.


In the words of Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer: Work within the system. It’s a Zen thing... you are part of the whole, neither controlling nor subservient to it. A delicate ecosystem and balance that has widespread reach and effect for even the most simple of actions. What’s in their best interest is ultimately in your best interest as well. Poison them and you poison yourself in the process.





The Metaverse is Symbiotic


SonicEther Unbelievable Shaders SonicEther’s Unbelievable Shaders for Minecraft



The fastest way to find out if something is possible is to tell your community it’s impossible. Watch how fast they prove you wrong. Always celebrate the ingenuity and infinite creativity of your community. Cater to it whenever possible.



One should never assume the rights to content created by the community. If you want extra rights to that content, you should ask or put into place a method by which to properly negotiate that ability. Helping yourself to a mountain of content for resale, redistribution and far more is just sleazy.


It breaks the trust and the social contract you set into motion with your end-users who are in a symbiotic relationship with your virtual world. You need them just as much as they need you, and without each other the whole thing comes crashing down or wastes away becoming a shadow of its former self (just ask Worlds and ActiveWorlds).


Whenever I see any company try to assign themselves sweeping rights and licenses over content they don’t own, it makes me wonder if they really understand their interdependencies with the community that makes their virtual world possible, and it makes me wonder if that company even respects their end-users. It’s a very selfish and narrow minded thinking that pulls such a bait and switch maneuver.


Doing it wrong would obviously be the case of Linden Lab and their ToS situation. But there exists a brilliant case where a company gets this absolutely right, and that company is Mojang - the famous makers of Minecraft.


What makes Minecraft so amazing is the community that sprung up around it as a devoted fanbase, but more so the countless mods they created to empower and extend the abilities of the main game far beyond what Mojang ever thought was possible.


For instance, when the community continually requested shaders to be added to the Minecraft world, Mojang famously said it wouldn’t be possible. And yet, there came a community member that proved them wrong named SonicEther who not only added shaders to Minecraft, but made Minecraft look like a AAA title and absolutely gorgeous with real clouds, shadows, reflective water, and far more.


Even the idea of Multiplayer servers were a community addition outside the intention of Mojang. HD Texture packs, too were another community addition. Tekkit and Feed The Beast additions extended Minecraft into the realm of complexity and ability that nobody at Mojang ever contemplated originally. To say the community is a major part of what Minecraft evolved into is an understatement at best with even Google themselves writing a mod for Minecraft to demonstrate Quantum Physics in an educational manner.


All of this because a small indie company made a mining game with no purpose and low resolution, but in a way that was extensible and modular (even if it was unintentional).


Whenever Mojang wants to add functionality from the community into the official game, they don’t just commandeer it like a bunch of self-centered dickweeds, but instead they contact that community member (or group) and request permission while also working closely with them in a collaborative manner.


That’s how you do it right.


Understanding the premise of your virtual world being a product of collaboration and continuing that going forward. It’s not what your company is going to do, but what your company and all of your end-users can achieve together. It’s about respecting that symbiotic dependency in order to achieve something far greater than the sum of the parts.




Lesson: Build an agnostic toolset that is modular and encourages a symbiotic relationship of creation not just for the content in-world but for the evolution and extension of the platform itself. Work with the community directly and respectfully on all fronts.




The Metaverse is Mind-Bogglingly Huge



Infinity___Citizens_by_elpinoy Infinity – Citizens | ChesterOcampo



Before you write a single line of code, you need to understand that you’re dealing with emergent behavior and an explosive growth factor. Centralized servers aren’t going to help you for long, and they will be your crippling flaw. Limiting the end-users or trying to ultimately control them or what they do is ultimately futile – short of appeasing law enforcement.


Decentralized systems (as recommended by Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer in Lessons Learned from LucasFilms Habitat) are also not quite adequate for this purpose either because it only addresses large numbers of concurrency but fails on low numbers.


As I stated in the research paper, this is the single biggest hurdle to address going forward. That being said, the recommendation in the paper was only a compromise solution that would work but not on the world-wide basis. Even with DSG and RedDwarf it would get prohibitively expensive over time. That’s not because I have some deep hatred for DSG (Distributed Scene Graph) but because it’s an obvious conclusion when you’re simply adding more servers to the back-end to handle it. Call it what you want, but I think (personally) it’s a clever ploy to sell more hardware. At the end of the day it’s still just a brute-force approach to the problem, and only distributed in the bare minimum required to qualify for using that term.


Of course, on the polar opposite end of the scale is which proposes to utilize millions of spare computers from the end-users to compute the sparse voxel octree environment. This is such a wildly huge assumption on multiple accounts that it boggles my mind. Mostly that the average person has a spare computer or two (or three) just sitting around with nothing to do but act as a server and distributed compute cluster. But even barring that leap of faith requirement, we’re talking about requiring a distributed supercomputer to accomplish a virtual world.


That’s a level of brute-force requirement that I’m uncomfortable with because it’s taking it the the Nth extreme and elevating the idea to something whitewashed in marketing spin as a good thing. Voxel type technology can be a good thing (don’t get me wrong) but it has definite limitations as-is, and barring the use of indexed point-cloud systems like Euclideon, will ultimately require a supercomputer to run in a large and sweeping fashion such that a virtual world would require in high fidelity.


We could, in theory, address the voxel approach through something like the VoxelFarm engine (which is impressive), but even that has a requirement of a quad-core processor and fairly high-end graphics card to run it. Anyone else in the virtual world that is underpowered (read: mobile, older computers) are wholly reliant on the compute cluster to do the heavy lifting and stream it, and that’s just an unfair ultimatum.


The answer to all of this is somewhere in the middle – neither decentralized nor centralized but just as symbiotic as the community and company relationship it supports. It also is an obvious conclusion that we should (instead of brute forcing the issue) find a better way to display the high-end graphics. Therein is the reason I’m a fan of Euclideon Unlimited Detail.


If I couldn’t get my hands on that particular engine to work with, I’d absolutely have made plans to ditch whatever engine I had to settle for the moment it became available.



Lesson: Plan a system that is capable of handling over 1 billion simultaneous users without requiring a super-computer. Make it look amazing without requiring a three thousand dollar gaming rig. Don’t make assumptions about your available resources and plan as though you can’t take liberties with your users. Assume only infinite possibilities.




The Metaverse is Ubiquitous





I hate to burst your bubble, but my idea of mobile and yours is very different. What people immediately think of when I say mobile is the future of the Metaverse is a vision of people running around with tablets and smartphones. I believe that’s a stop-gap to the real mobile Metaverse.


The way I see tablets and smartphones in the sense of virtual worlds and augmented reality is like a “Magic Mirror” approach. It’s not immersive at all, and creates a detachment from the virtual environment. When I say the Metaverse is mobile, what I mean is that it’s inherently a spatially augmented reality system. That’s not the same as Google GLΛSS, which is a basic AR Overlay system and very different in context.


Directly integrated into the real world through augmented reality not in a tablet or smartphone, but through a specialized headset (which doesn’t yet exist). What I imagine is spatially aware and immersive in the real world, where the digital and real world merge seamlessly and interactively.


What I see as the mobile future of the Metaverse is putting on a lightweight AR headset, and watching Wonderland unfold all around me in spatial 3D for me to explore. Immersive and interactive storytelling at its best. I imagine those giant flying pink squids from Spook Country (you should read more, just saying).






I imagine a real world that lets me do what I can do in a virtual world and far more.


In order to make that happen, a new breed of AR hardware must be created and the back-end architecture to support it. I have an interest in MetaOne Spaceglasses not because I think they are the answer but because it’s a very small first step to that future. Going forward, it’s going to require something far more advanced to make this happen.


Imagine something like 802.22 WRAN capability (6 mile radius), a Holographic HMD (yes they exist), and (maybe) a Graphene Fuel Cell Supercapacitor for a battery (not as hard to make as you think). Couple that with an Android hardware device outfitted with the sort of sensors that a smartphone has (accelerometer, compass, GPS, etc) and a back-end software toolset that gives the end-user the same abilities of creation as in a sandbox virtual world in real-time.


What would you do with that sort of creative power?


Lesson: Think big. Then think bigger than that. Don’t stop dreaming until you change the entire world. If you’re thinking about things that already exist, you’re doing it wrong. Never settle for good enough.





Thinking About Trees


Ultimately this blog post is about trees, and in a way it still is. When I said I’ve been contemplating the emergent behavior of about everything, it started with the basic idea of a tree in real life and how such complexity arises out of simple rules.


The more I thought about just the tree and the level of detail, and how such detail can arise from basic procedural methods, it got me thinking about the complexities and the symbiotic nature of a virtual environment as a whole.


Not just on a basic level but from a totally emergent complexity. It’s all about planting seeds and letting them grow. Fostering a total symbiotic ecosystem across the board, and with every step.


It’s about global collaboration, and knowing that your role in that ecosystem is a part and not the whole thing. It’s about acting in the interest of the whole, and the more selfish you become the more you harm yourself.


Now if only virtual environment companies understood this insight, we’d be much farther ahead than we are today.


Lesson: This last section is the most important for reasons that aren’t apparent.