Nov 18, 2008

Text Wizardry

Currently working with Spell Check and Automatic Text Translation for text chat. Both are definitely something we're looking into adding to the system for launch and preview.

More information about this can be found in our forums :)


- The Management

Nov 10, 2008

Now With Search!

Quick update for things going on here at Andromeda3D:

  • Looking into the SimulCloud SDK system for Weather and Clouds
  • Trying to work out something for Binaural Audio solutions in world
  • Forums are back online
  • Search Box on Andromeda3D site is now indexing and searching the Forums
  • Trying to work out a solution for user inventory storage
Hopefully that just about covers it, though the Media section is now split into Audio, Video and Images. We'll add more to the audio section as time goes by. Also, keep an eye on the Images and Video section as we continue to add to those lists as well.

New things being added all the time, so check back often!


Andromeda3D Team

Nov 6, 2008

New Jooce Account

Leave it to us to break the old Jooce account beyond repair :) We've made a new account under the name of AndromedaMedia and have migrated all of the files from the old account to the new Public Desktop for people to download.

Also we've taken the time to add some more downloads and videos to the public desktop, but be forewarned, the SimulCloud and SimulWeather demos require Shader Model 3 in order to work. No Macintosh versions have been posted on the Joocetop yet, but keep an eye out in case we get around to it.

Currently the Forums are offline, though rest assured somebody is working on getting them back and running again.

The Gallery section of our website has been updated as well, splitting between Images, Video and Audio. All three sections will expand in content over time, but what we have now should tide everyone over for the time being.

Just a reminder, there is currently no public prototype of Andromeda3D, so if anyone offers such a file to you, keep in mind that unless you get it from us it's not legit. Available to the public via our public jooce desktop are a myriad of technology demos for you to test out on your system. These tech demos are currently technologies that we are working with in order to add vast amounts of functionality to the finalized A3D browser system.

Nov 1, 2008

More News From The Front Lines

Things happen for a reason these days, and we are pretty sure those who have been following our progress have been wondering just what it is that we're up to lately. Unfortunately we are unable to report our progress at this time in any detail past the vague "we're making progress" assertion of the past few months.

Some progress is being made with the P2P VoIP and Video Chat System, but as always it'll take more than just preliminary testing in order to fully integrate it all into a single browser system. The rest of what we've been up to is currently being covered in the beta section of our forums, so if you have an account with us, feel free to read up on the latest behind the scenes information.

Oct 13, 2008

Some Updates :)

Been awhile since we've written anything for the blog, and a lot has been happening in the labs since the last update. Just to catch everyone up, here's the current scoop:

The Contact Form has been reinstated (finally)

System Requirements have been added

Membership Plans section underwent a minor update

... while a slew of other things continue to happen that we cannot publicly post at the moment.

Meanwhile, in the Forums, some posts have been added documenting some excellent free texture resources as well as some audio resources for 3D environments. Hopefully our Beta team will continue the threads and add their own places for content.

In the realm of A3D, things progress slowly but surely, and as the United States economy essentially collapses under our feet, let us be glad that the brunt of it hasn't killed this project. It has, however brought us to a crawl, though as we stated before - we simply refuse to give up :)

- Swimming in Molasses

William Burns
Project Leader

Sep 22, 2008

Progress Report :)

No news to report, really. Still progressing on track, foundations are being laid in place still. At this point it's a matter of just putting it all together one at a time and making sure it works.

Hopefully we'll make enough progress soon to spring a Beta Preview on the group when they least expect it :)

Aug 31, 2008

We Have Normaility... but what is normal anyway?

The auto-redirect seems to have been fixed, thanks to the hosting administrators. Some upgrades were going on with the servers and a few things got slightly messed up in the process. In one instance, an entire server hard drive took a nose dive (luckily it wasn't ours).

So let's recap for a moment:

Site was redirecting to a GreenCard Application site [supposedly the redirect flag on the server was turned on for everything instead of just the 404 pages]

Checked the site this evening and everything seems to be in order again.

If you notice anything out of the ordinary with the site again, feel free to give us a heads up so we can try to find out what is going on. We would again like to personally thank Dr. Duke and Keith Thomas for giving us the heads up about the redirect issue.

And now we resume our regularly scheduled programming :)

Darian "Is It Just Me, or Do Pokemon Seem Completely Non-Plausible?" Knight

Aug 30, 2008

US Greencard Lottery?

Thanks to a handful of our website visitors we've been informed of the odd redirect issue on our site. Visitors to the site are being redirected to US Greencard Lottery inexplicably.

We've been looking into the issue and talking with the hosting admins to figure out what the issue is and how best to remedy it.

In the meantime, for those who can see the website as it normally is, please forward this message to the rest of the beta group and let them know a fix is in the process.

Our sincerest apologies for the downtime.

Quick Explanation:

Apparently there was a hardware failure on Box15 of the host, and while Andromeda is hosted on Box12, our suspicion is that during the restoration of Box15, other servers in the vicinity were also included in the restoration process just to be on the safe side.

The site will be temporarily down until things are restored, but we are getting reports that some visitors are now returning to original functionality and able to view the site uninterrupted.

Aug 17, 2008

Second Logoff

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you haven't figured it out already then we're about to tell you.

Second Life is broken.

I'm not entirely certain at what point this dawned on me personally, but when it did I immediately wondered why so many people tolerate this sort of thing. In any other industry, any software package that has a high failure rate is simply not released, and if it is released to the public then those responsible end up being fired.

It is my understanding that Second Life has been around for about 10 years now (1999 - Present) and yet after that much time in development and fixing, the system is still highly prone to complete blackouts and rolling restarts. When you find it a craps shoot to log in, that should be your first cue that something may have run afoul in this Metaverse.

Missing inventory items? Everyone waits patiently for Linden Labs to correct the problem. Issues with you inventory disappearing? Wait contently while Linden Labs fixes it, and so on.

The point here is, Second Life is poorly designed as a framework, especially one that is being open sourced. It has exactly zero capacity to upwardly scale and suffers from computer killing trafic, How often would you tolerate anything else in your life breaking as much as Seconf Life does?
As an american, I can tell you the answer should be none. Yet everyday sims proclaim how great the Lindens are for dealing with these corporate entities while completely sidestepping the issues at hand and blindly forgiving the massive faults.

If you though I was bad for tearing ActiveWorlds Inc apart publicly, then trust me, compared to Second Life, Active Worlds is the respected elder. Second Life, bluntly stated, has holes in it the size of the Grand Canyon, ones that avatars walk through every day just to log in. And yet people say "How nice of them to fix this issue so quickly."

Here is a list of things that should not, under any circumstances, be an outstanding issue when you've been in public use for nearly ten years:

1. Logging in. Seriously... there's no reason that the central database is down and most if not all citizens experience difficulty to get in to the world.

2. Inventory items should not simply "disappear". This is a no brainer, and yet again linked to SL's serious flaws when designing this - those being: Database Failures and Hard Drive Failures. On a weekly basis? I mean, are you kidding me?

3. Yes, I understand that you can do lots of great stuff with LSL (Scripting) but did you really feel the need to make a building interface which is conducive to building? Why does an amateur scripter have to create a Particle Generator HUD, when Linden Labs has over 100 programmers working on their staff?

4. What, exactly, is Havok 4 physics good for if you incorporate it into the system and 90% of the functionality is missing? Where are the cloth physics which is standard for physics engines? Flexi-Prims are a very poor example for using Havok 4, considering it would natively allow cloth physics which leads us to being able to set an object as a material

5. 10 Second Wav Files in PCM 44.1 KHz. Is Linden Labs even vaguely aware that there are thousands of audio and video formats in the world? And taking this a step farther, let's ask them another question (and this time the same rules apply). Why even limit the filesize to 10 seconds... it seems like a horrible joke on the content creating public.

6. Windlight can be summed up in about 6 files, at least in the capacity that Second Life makes use of them. These files are called Shaders. These shaders, if implemented correctly, can create stunning visuals and make an environment more immersive. When implemented incorrectly, you end up with Second Life Windlight edition. This is the edition where, when you enable all shaders, your computer comes to a near standstill if not entirely crashing.

7. Again with Windlight, but this needed to be said - The clouds feature under "atmospheric shaders" is a fancy name for "Draw a 3D Perlin Noise animation on the sky dome in 2D, while using every ounce of your computer to do it". Maybe you can run that section just fine, and maybe you have a great video card as well - but the idea here is that such a simple inclusion should not bring a computer to its knees for all but the high end users.

8. 2 is company, 20 is a crowd, 200 is impossible. Let's talk a moment about scaling issues here. You and one other person in a sim runs fine (as fine as SL runs for you), when 20 people show up, you're facing a very high probability that you and many others will crash. 200 people in the same spot and the sim needs to be restarted. I don't think it matters if you have 50,000 people online simultaneously... what matters is that they are spread out over a ridiculously large map, and if they ever showed up to the same place, they would crash. This alone I feel is mind boggling, considering that SecondLife (and ultimately Linden Labs) is making an effort for rapid growth of users (so they say).

9. I'll be the first to say this: I miss the Active Worlds way of creating Zones. In Second Life, this is woefully under powered in the form of Parcelling.

10. Prim limits and no way to permanently join prims in order to consolidate space. A large part of lag in Second Life is due to the shear amount of individual objects need to be loaded. No different from simply treating every object in Active Worlds as a singular object for building, and then removing the option to use premade models in the builds.

I have many more things I've mused about over the past few weeks, but I'll save everyone the hassles. Just be content that we are indeed learning a lot for participating in Second Life, and are writing them on the whiteboard.

That is not to say that I will not use Second Life (at least until Andromeda is ready), I am just not personally impressed at the shear lack of common sense in their development choices, otherwise known as the Second Life Viewer and Server.

In Other News

Queller is back! Woo. No need to withhold your posting and community stuff anymore, as the man himself has returned.

Blacking Out At The Keyboard From Lack Of Sleep -

William Burns
Project Leader

Jul 23, 2008

Behind The Scenes

The past month has been absolutely insane for us, and coming from the month prior to that where Mr Queller was severely injured six ways to Sunday and in recuperation, let's say we've been a little busy trying to catch up.

From June and the injuries, family losses, and what would come down to just bad luck (web server outages, hard line outages from the massive flooding in Indiana, plus the tornadoes and lightening storms) and now into and soon to be the end of July...

Massive infrastructure failures near where the Queller Technology servers are located have kept them offline this month and in sporadic communications with the rest of what appears to be civilization. Luckily Andromeda3D is their only concern so they aren't answering to any other clients like another company would be at this point.

Which brings me to Andromeda3D as a project, and a long overdue status update for those of you who read the blog or have it delivered automatically to your email.

For the time being we've decided to continue on with development of other things concerning the systems integration while we try to figure out the remaining issues with the System Analyzer (nVidia cards are still not reporting back to us their hardware specs). Not to say things are not moving forward, they just took a lateral step for other things. So more progress, just on other things not related to the system analyzer portion.

We're again getting back on track, and making progress pulling the rest of the system together for your A3D goodness. Apologies to the beta team who was looking forward to the June 1st milestone, we know you had your hopes set on it (as we did too prior to June + July just working out very badly in RL). We promise that we are making progress and have been since the end of June, so when we do release that first stage, you can expect a better polished system in place for your wait.

August is the month to look out for, but since I am barred from making any definite dates or giving out progress details publicly, this is all I am going to say for now.

Dog Tired and Still Typing

William Burns
Andromeda Media Universe

Jul 6, 2008

Time Is An Illusion - Downtime Doubly So

Estimated time until the server came back on - 5 Days

Actual Time It Took - about 12 hours.

That is some serious speed right there.

Website Is Down

The server that our site resided on apparently had a full out meltdown from traffic. Hard drive failure ensued. The admins are looking into it and probably going to replace the hardware this week with a shiny new hard drive.

Estimated time till completion is about 5 days. Again, sorry the site rocked so hard it blew up the server. We'll try to tone down the awesomeness next time.

Until then, the forums are still alive and kicking offsite at

Sorry for the inconvenience. Luckily we did a full website backup about a week ago, so we didn't lose anything.

Jun 29, 2008

In Other News

After we've taken great pains to figure out approximately how large the Milky Way galaxy is in miles, we've come to realize that there may indeed be no real reason to need anything more than a single galaxy when structuring A3D.

Some ideas are still being kicked around, in that galaxies can be clusters in the universe, and within the universe they are separated by vast distances. This in itself has led us to seriously consider a travel delay when using teleportation.

Much in the same manner as there is a delay when using a Stargate system, we would create a travel delay based on a speed times distance equals seconds of delay sort of equation in order to impart an idea of the vast distances you are traveling in the virtual universe.

These are just some of the things we are thinking about today.

Empty Spaces

Today's posting is on a topic that has been perplexing us for quite some time, and it is something we take for granted more often than not in our world.

When modeling an entire Universe, it cannot be overlooked that in the process there is bound to be quite a deal of raw data involved. Space, as we know, is a very large place. In our universe, we are bound to come across a mind boggling amount of celestial bodies, of which are part of the countless galaxies and solar systems throughout this place we call home.

When we think of a Solar System, we like to think of our own little corner of the universe. A single star in its perceived center with a handful of celestial planets revolving around it. Around those planets, sometimes, we also find smaller bodies revolving around them as well. In these orbits, these nearly predictable orbits, we see what appears to be some manner of order involved.

Sure our galaxy, what we call the Milky Way system, is roughly 750,000 light years across in size. And when we look at these astronomical numbers we often fail to realize the magnitude of what we are looking at.

A light year is the distance that light could travel in one year as measured by the rotations of this planet we call home, Earth. Since we know that light can travel at 186,000 miles per second (approximately), how far can we surmise light may travel in a year? If we extrapolate the distance travelled into a light minute, that is 186,000 miles times 60, we get an answer of approximately 11,160,000 miles per minute. 11.16 million miles in a single minute, that is an exceedingly large number to deal with, let alone attempt to model in a virtual environment.

But that is simply a single light minute, and we know that the very least that our own Milky Way galaxy should encompass is roughly 150,000 light years across but I've decided to go as far as 250 light years so we can get an idea of scale (and mostly because the calculator is fighting me on that level).

So we figure out a single light hour, and are greeted with yet a previously unthinkable complexity for distance. 669,600,000 miles per hour. Light apparently travels very, very fast indeed. Nearly 670 million miles per hour is the approximation for this figure, and yet we are nowhere near the edge of our own galaxy, and in fact we've barely left home by these figures.

So we extrapolate again in order to figure out what a Light Day would cover in distance. There are 24 hours in our Earth day, and we know that there is 669.6 million miles per hour. So we do some math again to get a single Light Day.

In the course of 24 of our Earth hours, light will travel approximately 16,070,400,000 miles. At this point we're reaching into the early billions of miles. In just a single day light will cover approximately 16 billion miles. But now we must figure out how many days make up an entire year and multiply again. For the sake of argument, let us simply take a standardized 365 days in a single year.

I understand we can calculate that with much better complexity and maybe even to the minute or second, but for this exercise we'll try to keep it simple.

5,865,696,000,000 miles in 365 Earth days. Close to 6 trillion miles in a single Earth year. That is how far light will travel over that given span of time. And yet we are not done yet, because the Milky Way galaxy that we call home is approximately 100,000 Light Years across if we go by only the lowest estimates.

This number is going to be exceedingly large, and we know it. We're talking mind bogglingly large at this point.

1,470,632,759,080,745.869156905 miles in 250 years. That is the approximate distance of light over that period of time. It is a fantastically large number in itself, and if we don't ignore that the Milky Way is 100,000 light years across and not a measly 250, it makes the mind boggle.

What comes after a trillion? It is at this point that I had to actually look it up, and found that there is indeed a name for a number with 15 zeros after it. Quadrillion, and after that is Quintillion (which immediately brought a geek reference to my mind of Quintilla from Hitchhikers Guide), so we're going to say that since the Milky Way Galaxy is about 150,000 Light Years across -

Let us round up to make this easier to digest. Let us say that ridiculous number is not
882,379,655,448,447,521 but instead a more manageable 882 Quadrillion miles. Again, we're not looking for dead accuracy, but just a general idea of these distances involved. We'll leave the accuracy for astrometrics assuming anyone in their right mind would ever want to start a space program in Andromeda Universe.

The reason for this little exercise is to give people a sense of proportion when asking us how soon the universe will be ready to populate. I will not say that the entire virtual universe will be populated by planets and celestial bodies like our own universe is today for real, but I will say that a number of questions have been raised during this research which lead me redefine the requirements of this project daily.

For instance, do we really need an entire universe? If so, then how do you suppose to handle 882 quadrillion miles of space in a galactic spiral arm?

It turns out, the answer isn't as hard as we thought. In space, we think of these ridiculous numbers and distances as though some database needs to keep track of every inch. In reality, the database merely needs to keep track of non-empty space and your relation to it.

All else is just empty spaces.

On paper,
882,379,655,448,447,521 quadrillion miles seems terribly impressive, but in a database, simply keeping track of the locations and layouts of 800,000 celestial bodies is a matter of about than 80 Gb of space for the coordinates. I'm sure there is more than 800,000 celestial bodies in the Milky Way galaxy, but after doing some math (based again on rough estimates) figuring about 10 bytes of info in the database per coordinate (which would be about 10 numbers per coordinate and way more than we actually need to plot a single celestial body in our universe), and taking into account that there is roughly 1000 bytes per kb and 1000 kb in a megabyte (1024 actually, but we're approximating), we arrive at roughly 1,000 celestial coordinates per Megabyte of storage.

So the trick isn't to try and think of the empty space as part of the whole, but instead your relation to the non-empty coordinates in the system. Space, it seems, it a very vast and empty area. Sure there are elementary particles filling it up, but we're not very concerned about things on that scale for the moment. We are also interested to see if we would ever need to dedicate and entire 80 Gb of space to handle the coordinates for 800,000 celestial bodies.

For people used to other means of virtual environments such as Active Worlds, think of this as 800,000 world servers. And yet, in the grand scheme of things, it may be very possible indeed to see that many and more. How many web sites are there on the Internet today? What if they were all virtual worlds in this digital universe?

As for these astronomical numbers, and talk concerning the universe, galaxy and a solar system, I must point out that when put back into perspective, a Galaxy in the classical sense is a force to be reckoned with. 1.5 Quadrillion miles across, and what has to be ten times as many or more celestial entities than even I can suppose today. 1 million just seems like a very tiny fraction of how many planets would exist in a single Galaxy.

So the next time you see the Active Worlds server pricing, and you see their listings for Sol, Galaxy and Universe, put it into perspective.
882 Quadrillion miles is awfully large on its own, let alone a universe, and with a few hundred and maybe even a few thousand world servers in their universe configurations, it just doesn't seem appropriate to call it a Universe anymore... let alone a Galaxy.

With that in mind, we have been working on the framework that will allow us to structure the Solar Systems, Galaxies, and even the Universe itself digitally. While we feel that it may in fact be impossible to statistically fill the entire virtual universe with virtual worlds, the real world is welcome to try. As it stands, the framework for the Solar Systems and Galaxies are mostly intact and running, and as it is we would just scale up for the Universe should we ever need to place anything outside the galaxy.

For those of you who are curious as to how many miles are in the full Milky Way galaxy, and not just the 250 Light Years, I present to you this number, step by step:

If you ask Google it gives you scientific notation, and while that is technically accurate, it doesn't really give you a sense of scale when looking at the number. When written out in its entirety, 882 Quadrillion miles seems ridiculously huge - which I think is a good thing because the Milky Way Galaxy itself is ridiculously large as well. The problem with even this number is that it's not as accurate as it could have been when doing the calculation leading up to 150,000 Light Years, so I'll do the stages of calculations using more accurate numbers -

Follow along:

Light Travels approximately

186,282.397 miles per second

There are 60 seconds in a minute, and 60 minutes in an hour. So take the speed of light per second and multiply it by 60 to get a minute, then multiply that number by 60 to get distance per hour.

670,616,629.4 miles per hour.

Times that number by
24.01643836 to get miles per day. (yes that's the exact number of hours per day)

16,105,822,943.2 miles per light day. (more accurately 16,105,822,943.176063784)

Multiply that number by 365.2425 days in a year (yep, this is the more accurate number) and we get this number for a single light year -

5,882,531,036,322.98347662762 miles in a Light Year.

Continuing on, we run into a bit of an issue. We don't actually have an exact number for the size of the Milky Way galaxy. The numbers range between 100,000 Light Years across and 200,000 light years across. So what to do?

We'll take the average of the two and say the Milky Way Galaxy is only 150,000 Light Years across.

5,882,531,036,322.98347662762 multiplied by 150,000 is -

882,379,655,448,447,521.494143 miles. Which is the closest and most accurate number I can figure for the diameter of the Milky Way galaxy at the moment.

The Milky Way Galaxy is 882 Quadrillion, 379 Trillion, 655 Billion, 448 Million, 447 Thousand, 521 Point 494143 miles across. Or if we want to round up we can say the Milky Way galaxy is roughly 1 Quintillion miles across.

Hopefully I've followed the maths correctly with this and found a fairly accurate number. The first few times I tried to calculate this high up, I seemed to have botched the number.

In the end, it's just a coordinate and a lot of empty spaces.

- The Management

Jun 18, 2008

Recent Advancements

Things have been quiet on the home front as of lately. Rest assured there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

Water Testing

System testing has been completed for the first phase of our optimized water grid. There now exists the beginnings of the Shader 2.0 as well as the Shader 3.0 water grid, and we are busy making adjustments to the existing implementations in order to make them as good as we can get them for varying hardware configurations.

A great deal of effort is being put forth in order to ensure that we achieve the absolute best balance between looks and speed at this stage, while also making certain the advancements are capable of running on the widest amount of hardware. As it stands, we have made great leaps forward in our ability to project a sustainable water grid - with a total amount of rendered triangles on screen ranging upwards of 350,000 on average.

From this point onward, we will be making arrangements to make adjustments in order to modify the water grid system further and to increase it's speed and stability going forward.

Current screenshots of the water systems are available publicly in our forums should you wish to see them for yourself.

With the water grid system in place, we can move forward in merging the existing spherical planetary and atmosphere systems with it, thusly forming our first planet.

During this time, we ask that our patrons remain patient as we make such arrangements. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we are behind schedule, although we are quickly gaining ground in a unified effort to catch up once more.

At this time, no ballpark figures will be released as to when we will be able to allow our patrons and participating interested corporations to enter and eventually purchase worlds of their own, although we do make assurances that we are progressing on a modified schedule.

First an foremost in our efforts is the promise that our system shall be a true advancement over anything currently existing today. As such, we are very concerned with making certain that every sub-system in our platform is performing at absolute optimum ability prior to release.

We thank you for your patience, and ask that you understand our concerns, as they are concerns on your behalf in releasing this next-generation platform for your use.

Jun 6, 2008

Early Morning Updates


Forums have once again been updated. This time we've added roughly 200 games in a new arcade section. The arcade keeps track of your score, keeps a high score list, allows you to challenge other forum members to beat your top score, etc. When you get the high score for a game, you get a trophy awarded for it.

Some games are immediately playable, while others you can unlock by being active in the forums. Yet another thing to keep everyone busy and active in the growing Andromeda community.

Andromeda Website

Currently the main website has undergone some changes as well, with the most noticeable being a complete design overhaul. Not all of the sections are filled in yet, and a few are just preliminary, but as one of our beta members put it - "It provides more information than the prior design".

So we'll be going with this new design for the time being and making changes and tweaks as we move forward. Please keep in mind that simply because the system has certain features built in, does not necessarily mean that we will be activating them for usage.

Part of our main concern when building this system for you is that it also run well on a wide range of systems, so to this point, we may have to disable some features in order to accomplish this. We will keep everyone up to date as to these adjustments as they happen; if they happen.

Beta Section

The beta section is moved over to the new site update and working, with the exception of the programs directory. The queller technology server is currently undergoing some maintenance and should be back online within a few days.

Beta Registrations

Registrations for the Beta Team are currently closed to the public with the exception of directly contacting the development team for special consideration. We would like to thank everyone for their continuing interest in this project.

New Emails

Part of the Queller Technology Server update includes setting up the emails for the website. Hence the contact forms are currently down while we set that up to replace the old forms.

Queller Update

We would like to personally thank everyone who has sent their best wishes to Queller during his recovery period. For those who were not aware, he was severely injured recently and as a result is now with stitches and recovering from fractured ribs.

He is making a good recovery, and with a little rest will be back on this project in no time. Again, we thank everyone for their kind words of support during this time.

Jun 5, 2008

Forum Update Complete

Back by popular demand, the Forums have been updated and moved to the new server. With this update we've included the ability to embed Youtube Videos as well as implemented a new Awards System.

Earn your badges in a myriad of things from making a single post to making 5,000 posts. Awards are being added regularly, so check back often and see how many you can collect.

- The Management

Jun 3, 2008

Wishing Queller a Speedy Recovery

Recently our main programmer has gotten very hurt as a result of some rogue carpentry. He's currently in bad shape but recovering.

We apologize for the delay, but we're taking this time to wish him a speedy recovery.

The forums should be back online by tomorrow evening, as the upgrades are still in progress. Slowly but surely things will get put back in order, so we thank you for your patience in advance.

- The Management

Jun 1, 2008

Fate Plays With Loaded Dice

Due to events out of our control, the first preview is postponed. Looks like the gods of the internets did not approve of our release day and have cursed the secondary server from being online. This in turn has taken our main programmer and all around guru offline as well for the time being.

As soon as things go back online and we do a status check, we will continue forward - hopefully with the intended Preview.

Also, the forums will be down for maintenance as things are transfered to a nifty new server. It's Sunday, so it's not like you had nothing better to do than sit around here and watch the clock, right?

We'll keep everyone posted and up to date as things move forward.

- The Management

May 29, 2008

AMU Preview 1

If you haven't been paying attention, we'll repeat the news:

Andromeda Media Universe Preview 1 is slated for release to the Beta Team on June 1st, 2008.

That being said, we're trying to meet the deadline as best as possible. There are a few setbacks here and there as we march ever closer to deadline. One of which happened to be dealing with the atmospherics and haze for the planet. Another issue that seems to be coming up is related to various sub-systems as we bring them online.

Some things simply do not want to play well with others, but we are still bringing them together to work as a well connected team of features. That being said, June 1st is simply a Preview Release, so while the system has many amazing things built into it, keep in mind that much of it will not be enabled for the first preview release until we can make absolutely certain that it is stable and working. That is why we have a beta team in the first place :P

On another completely unrelated note -

It has come to our attention that the server this is hosted on is located in Amsterdam. We have no idea why this bit of information amuses us, but we'll figure it out eventually.

*Edit: It was just brought to our attention after this, that the reason it is so amusing that this server is located in Amsterdam is because in Amsterdam, marijuana is completely legal. This being said, every time this server goes down, it's actually just too stoned to serve you the pages. Yes, even as corporate people, we at AMU are still laid back enough to joke.


A Town Hall Meeting has been scheduled for all Beta Team members. The email went out this morning informing everyone of the time (1PM EST), Date (Saturday, May 31st 2008) and Location.

If you have yet to participate in the Beta Team, and do not make any effort to let us know you wish to remain on the team, after June 1st 2008 you will be removed from the beta team going forward.

Just a friendly reminder.

- Andromeda Development Team

May 27, 2008

Random Site Outages

One of the reasons we originally opted not to get a domain attached to this project was that we had a sneaking suspicion that after we did, we would begin to get slammed with traffic from around the world.

While the servers usually adjust automatically, sometimes it takes about 15 or twenty minutes for that to happen as our site is hit by the onslaught of visitors. During that time, you may experience slow downs or time outs when trying to load

We are well aware of this, and the best answer we can give at this time is to be patient and try again in 15 minutes. Believe it or not, the bandwidth for our server is actually astronomically high so it is to be expected that a random hiccup here and there will occur that will disrupt access.

We're looking into another server for a later date that has what we have termed "an insanity bandwidth clause" - meaning in the very high Terabytes of traffic. So for the time being please be patient as we do what we can to accommodate all of our new visitors.

Thank you for your patience and understanding,

- Andromeda Project Team

May 24, 2008

All Clear

Forums are back online. Thank you for your patience.

May 23, 2008

Forums Down

The forums are currently down, assuming for maintenance. We are working on getting them restored and back online as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your patience

- The Management

May 19, 2008

Something About Nothing

There is this general feeling I get when I think about the vast expanse of nothingness that is the universe. Sure there is a whole lot of something in there, but on the whole it is separated by larger expanses of nothing.

Unlike you see in science fiction, space is a pretty dark place or so it would seem. When on the surface of a planet, you can see the stars at night and in rural areas this must seem like an overwhelming sight to behold as the vast expanses of the heavens unfold over your head.

Lately I've been pondering whether or not when you actually get into space, if that same sort of overwhelming aspect of a starscape is still there. From videos I've seen from NASA, it is a very different picture when you are actually in space itself or even on the moon. The moon footage is eerily devoid of stars in the lunar sky except maybe the Earth itself as it rises over the horizon.

It is also possible that these circumstances are simply not on par and due to other circumstances that I have yet to uncover.

In other news -

Andromeda Media Universe now has a registered domain name for easy access. Pointing your browser to will take you to this now very public project page. Along with this update included such things as adding text links at the bottom of every page to accommodate browsers with flash disabled. Also a new sitemap was created and submitted to Google proper, so now the behemoth of a search engine will start indexing this site.

You will no longer be able to simply bookmark individual pages on the site, including the beta section. This is for relative security reasons, and also because we would like to keep the address bar simple and clean. As for the Beta Section, the entire area was recoded from scratch in order to work the same across all browsers (to our knowledge). So Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera and others should see the beta section the same way.

This also includes getting the nice clock in the bottom right corner to finally work cross-browser as well. Added google search to the beta section, and also a log out button on the task bar which will return you to the main site. Cleaned up the login and password boxes making them rounded and stylized.

As of this posting, the countdown until First Preview of the AMU platform is about 13 days away. Lots of things going on between now and then as we gear up for D-Day. For the time being, we have also set up a new Forum for the site, but are using this one as a test run before we determine if we would like to finalize it at a later time. The address for that is -

Please take the time to register and post an introduction profile. The forums are moderated, so please keep that in mind. If you post something inappropriate, you will be banned.

Other than that, I bet you can't wait to see the preview, can you? We'll keep you posted as we make updates and changes. Until then, why not subscribe to this blog and have it send to your email when we make updates?

Till next time,

William Burns
Project Leader
Andromeda Media Universe

May 13, 2008

The Countdown Continues

With only 19 days left before the beta release of Andromeda Media Universe, things here are speeding up in development.

The server structure is completed, world server is finalized, and we've been working on the front end for the past few weeks. Over the past few days we've been obsessing over how to make the sun look as realistic as possible from the ground and we've learned a lot along the way.

One thing we've learned is that the color of the sky is altered by the atmosphere itself. We realized this about two days into working on the sun while trying to match the look and feel from a photograph. We were aware that the atmosphere played a part, but weren't entirely aware of how much of a part it would play until we began having issues matching the RGB for the sky gradient.

We were taking direct RGB samples from the photograph itself, and yet the same RGB colors weren't matching in the environment settings. So after a looking into things, we realized that the atmospheric scattering in the browser was actually working and doing it's job as coded, thusly altering the color of the sky based on intensity of the haze.

It's refreshing to find out that something isn't working simply because something else happens to be working as planned, versus something just being broken. So that brought a breath of fresh air as we realized this to be the case. The atmospheric scattering of light actually works and we are happy about that.

As for the sun itself, we've been working out multiple layers in order for them to properly adjust depending on the angle you are looking at them. This, as we realized later, may have been a waste of time as we realized that if you look at the sun itself you are more than likely blinded. So assuming that the bloom effect will kick in and create that sort of effect of the sun being brighter and possibly blinding you (within reason), the layered effects of the sun itself may or may not play a part pertaining to the average user. That's not to say, though, that the sun doesn't look really good as a result of this effort.

Next in line for our attention is adding in the moon itself (which is a modified version of the sun routine and shouldn't take long), and then we're off to the spherical planet itself - which should be happening in about a day or two from this posting.

A lot of what we're doing now is simply adding the routines that we had made prior to the servers themselves. The reasoning for this was that at this stage, we would be able to simply drop the routines that were pre-made into the system and link them up.

Considering we've added the dynamic shadow system (which is also capable of casting shadows for semi-transparent and colored objects), I think we're making a lot of progress and should be able to do the beta release on June 1st without any major issues.

We'll keep everyone posted on the progress through the beta section, and also take a look at the programs section occasionally to see what systems tests we are putting forward for you to evaluate.

Until next time -

William Burns
Project Leader
Andromeda Media Universe

May 3, 2008

What is in a sound?

Today's post is about something that we often take for granted, something which we pay no real attention to because the effects are an automatic assumption.

Of course, we are talking about sound.

Sound comes in many types, bitrates, formats, and channels. We can say possibly that the codecs for sound formats such as MP3 or OGG are the shell in which the essence are wrapped, and that the interpreter itself is what utilizes this in order to produce the audio. But what happens when you take it another step forward, into the third dimension?

In real life, our ears are placed roughly 6 inches apart and separated by our head in between. When acoustics in the air reach each ear (we'll say a stereo channel, left or right) the sound itself is shaped by the very structure of our head in ever so subtle ways. This in turn, the left and right channels of our ears, allows our brain to process a spacial location for sounds that we hear.

There is a form of recorded audio known as Binaural Recording which uses this characteristic of human hearing to it's advantage, and places small microphones inside a dummy head modeled after a human head. Some even take this further and model in detail the fake human ears in which the tiny microphones reside.

When recorded in this manner, it is possible to convey spatial position to the listener as though the sounds were really happening around them - but the effect only works for headphones. This in itself is because headphones are placed over the ear and isolate each channel to the listener in the same manner that the tiny microphones for the dummy head were isolated (earbud headphones do a poor job keeping this effect)

Obviously this effect of Binaural Audio is lost when listening on a set of standard speakers, as the acoustics are out of phase, but it does bring up a very interesting idea concerning virtual audio implementations.

When listening to a Binaural recording with headphones, your brain fills in the blanks and then informs you of the positions for each sound as they are located around you. So if there is a guitar playing in front of you, the acoustics in binaural audio would trick your brain into telling you there is a guitar playing in front of you. The same can be said for all space around you - left, right, front, back, up and down.

The down side to binaural audio (other than the headphones) is that since it is recorded via a stationary microphone setup, moving your head around does not change the locations appropriately of the sound locations. Instead it would seem that you are moving the entire room when you move your head.

Applying this idea, though, to a virtual world, we suddenly see the amazing benefits to having positional audio. Where in many cases today, virtual environments only offer four degrees of spatial awareness in audio (left, right, near, far) applying full spatial audio techniques to a virtual world would offer us the ability to hear with higher resolution.

As an example, let us say we have a chirping bird as a looping sound effect.

In a system with four degrees of spatial awareness (left, right, near, far) we would only be able to place said bird to our left or right and with a relative distance. With a full spatial audio algorithm, we would be able to hear with higher resolution, in that not only would we mentally place said bird to our right or left, near or far, but also above, below, front or behind.

Increasing spatial audio resolution to 8 degrees of freedom doubles the accuracy by which the brain can tell the listener where in a 3D space a sound is located. In this latter case, we are talking about the difference between knowing the bird is on our left or right and near or far, to knowing that same bird is on our right, behind us, about 25 feet up, and about 50 feet distance.

When utilized with multiple sounds, we in turn create a fully spatial soundscape for the user, and thusly a fully immersive environment. So then we take this one step further, because in a virtual environment we can move around.

With a spatial audio algorithm, the audio samples and locations would be dynamically adjusted as you moved around, so moving in the virtual world would alter this spatial soundscape in real time.

The effect would only work either with headphones or a surround sound setup, but when you listen only with a normal set of speakers the audio would sound like normal audio without the spatial effect. At best you may be returned to left, right, near and far (4 degrees) versus a full 8 degrees of audio.

If you have a pair of headphones handy, and are ready for a really amazing experience, we have provided a link to a list of streaming samples. One of our favorites happens to be the Virtual Haircut.

Binaural (Holophonic) Audio Examples - Listen With Headphones!

Until Next Time -

Andromeda Media Universe
Development Team

Apr 19, 2008

Business As Usual...

Over the next few months, things are going to seem really quiet around here. Rest assured we're still on schedule for the first beta test, which as of this writing should be around the first week of June.

Until that time, we're buckling down and kicking into overdrive to try and work some magic. So far so good, as advancements are being made daily. From now until our first beta testing, we advise the current beta team to sit back and relax.

As of today, pre-registrations for the current beta team are closed. Any pre-registration forms we get from this point on will stay on file for consideration in our secondary phase.

Looking forward to a stellar summer!

William Burns
Andromeda Media Universe

Apr 8, 2008

Great Googly Moogly!

You may have noticed a few minor changes here at Andromeda Media Universe. Well, ok, a lot of changes actually. RSS feeds, the ability to have our updates sent directly to your email, DHTML tooltips, some screenshots of the Jooce Desktop, an a complete rewrite of some of the pages on the site complete with new visuals.

Needless to say we've been busy over here.

We even reworked the blog archive to better fit with the website theme, as well as added some amusing tooltips to the header titles - go ahead, mouse over the words "Developer Blog", we'll wait.

Nearly every picture on this site now has a helpful (or amusing) tooltip to give you an extra bit of information. The RSS Subscription dropdown menu has (count'em) a total of 11 different ways you can keep up to date with this site (not including the actual blog archive address).

The blog archive dates back to 2006, back to the days of our earlier research leading up to Andromeda Media Universe and even before VR5 Online was discontinued in order to put full effort into this project and join up with Queller Technology Group. So take some time and re-read some of the history and research leading up to what you see today. Some of it is inspiring, while some of it is actually quite funny or off topic.

In Other News ---

We spent a majority of last night working on the login window for the browser. After resolving a Vista issue we moved on to more important things, such as what things you should be able to do when you log in. To date, the username field is a conditional dropdown menu, and when the system sees multiple profiles saved, will give you the option of choosing one. The password field is to be expected, just normal stuff. And then here is the Location dropdown menu...

We're not entirely certain why this wasn't thought of before (aside from the interesting but nearly useless version in Second Life). The Start Location drop down has three options:

  1. Home: This is the Home location that you have chosen, not some predefined gateway.
  2. Last Location: Where you were when you logged out.
  3. From Bookmark: By far our favorite addition. As a user, you obviously have a list of favorite locations saved for easy teleport. So why not be able to choose one of them as your starting location?
So there you have it. You get to choose your home location, you get to choose last location, or you can start from any number of bookmarks you have saved.

Speaking of Bookmarks, the bookmark system will have two views. The compact view is the automatic default and shows just the names of the locations (which are named by default via the zone names but can be easily renamed manually). When you hover your mouse over a Bookmark name for a few seconds it will show extended information such as a thumbnail image of the location, location information, planet and owner of the location.

Everything considered, we've been really busy.

Until next time -

William Burns (Project Leader)
Andromeda Media Universe

Apr 6, 2008

Coming Soon: Superfast Internet

Jonathan Leake, Science Editor
Times Online

The internet could soon be made obsolete. The scientists who pioneered it have now built a lightning-fast replacement capable of downloading entire feature films within seconds.

At speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband connection, “the grid” will be able to send the entire Rolling Stones back catalogue from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds.

The latest spin-off from Cern, the particle physics centre that created the web, the grid could also provide the kind of power needed to transmit holographic images; allow instant online gaming with hundreds of thousands of players; and offer high-definition video telephony for the price of a local call.

David Britton, professor of physics at Glasgow University and a leading figure in the grid project, believes grid technologies could “revolutionise” society. “With this kind of computing power, future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine,” he said.

The power of the grid will become apparent this summer after what scientists at Cern have termed their “red button” day - the switching-on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the new particle accelerator built to probe the origin of the universe. The grid will be activated at the same time to capture the data it generates.

Cern, based near Geneva, started the grid computing project seven years ago when researchers realised the LHC would generate annual data equivalent to 56m CDs - enough to make a stack 40 miles high.

This meant that scientists at Cern - where Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web in 1989 - would no longer be able to use his creation for fear of causing a global collapse.

This is because the internet has evolved by linking together a hotchpotch of cables and routing equipment, much of which was originally designed for telephone calls and therefore lacks the capacity for high-speed data transmission.

By contrast, the grid has been built with dedicated fibre optic cables and modern routing centres, meaning there are no outdated components to slow the deluge of data. The 55,000 servers already installed are expected to rise to 200,000 within the next two years.

Professor Tony Doyle, technical director of the grid project, said: “We need so much processing power, there would even be an issue about getting enough electricity to run the computers if they were all at Cern. The only answer was a new network powerful enough to send the data instantly to research centres in other countries.”

That network, in effect a parallel internet, is now built, using fibre optic cables that run from Cern to 11 centres in the United States, Canada, the Far East, Europe and around the world.

One terminates at the Rutherford Appleton laboratory at Harwell in Oxfordshire.

From each centre, further connections radiate out to a host of other research institutions using existing high-speed academic networks.

Apr 3, 2008

Andromeda Gets Jooce'd

For the Beta Team who attended the Town Hall event last Monday, the announcement is out.

Stefan Surzycki (CEO of has given us the greenlight to officially integrate their network into Andromeda Media Universe. So what does this mean for you, the users? Well this announcement means that on launch, the web desktop view of Andromeda will officially be "Powered by Jooce".

We'll be doing what we can to sync up our development roadmaps, and you better believe the Andromeda Beta Team has already been putting Jooce Beta to the test. If you do not know what Jooce is already, feel free to hop on over to for a free account.


Andromeda Media Universe

Mar 9, 2008

What's in a name?

Sent out this morning to all person's officially accepted into the beta team was an email confirmation. For those who received this email, congratulations and welcome aboard!

Now down to the nitty gritty, so to speak.

Also included in your email was your first task, to suggest some names for this browser. Andromeda Media Universe is the default name we're going with for lack of anything better, and since the programmer and I cannot actually come to a consensus on what to call it, I'm turning to our Beta Team to do what they do best - help us guide the direction of the project.

Andromeda Media Universe is my idea, and there are a handful of ideas from the programmer (Tim) as to what it should be called. He personally hates the name Andromeda Media Universe, and since I don't think any of his suggestions have that "staying power".. ya know, that magic word or phrase that manages to sum it up, isn't tacky, and sounds good, I'm putting this in the hands of the Beta Team.

So send in your name suggestions - things you think would be better than Andromeda Media Universe. If any of the names can actually be agreed on between myself and the programmer, then we'll go ahead with that instead of Andromeda for release.

If we can't agree on a name, we'll be defaulting with Andromeda Media Universe as it is right now.

Feb 28, 2008

Update O Rama

Well, after the clouds system work, we're moving on to the more mundane stuff like encryption. It's nothing too terribly interesting (because we do happen to have to work on the foundations) but it is something that is absolutely needed.

I won't go into details because that would just give hackers a reason to try and attack this thing, and the less we say about how it all works, the less they know to begin with. Suffice it to say, security for Andromeda is pretty airtight as far as this sort of thing goes. Being computer guy myself, I know better than to ever say something is "unhackable". Where there is hundreds of thousands of hackers banded together, there is always a way. Hopefully we've kept it as secured and locked down as we can, and it doesn't require too much of your CPU time in the process.

In other, more interesting news, discussions have opened concerning audio formats that Andromeda will support. On the list is the obvious OGG, WAV, etc along with possibly a Tracker format like S3M in place of MIDI.

We're not huge fans of MIDI over here because it sounds like crap and should be set ablaze in this age of high fidelity audio and broadband internet. S3M isn't super popular, but in the inner circles of audio it has it's uses for better sounding music tracking.

The jury is still out on the usage of MP3 format for various reasons, mainly the idea that there is a patent on it and the company that holds that patent wants licensing for products which use a decoder. That price is fairly steep for a format that is widely used, so we may or may not include MP3 on the list.

In the end though, it's not a big deal because Vorbis is an open source format (OGG) and has incredibly better sound over MP3. So when all is said and done, OGG is the Betamax of audio formats while MP3 is the VHS.

But.. kinda... not.. Ok that was a terrible analogy, and I apologize. OGG is lesser known and used, but it's quality is superior in a lot of ways to MP3. And while MP3 format is the distributed equivalent of VHS, they have licensing for decoder usage which gives it BetaMax qualities. Where on the other hand, OGG has a free distribution model (like VHS), but superior quality (like BetaMax). Unfortunately, like BetaMax, it is lesser known and used.

I seriously think I just wrote the world's worst analogy... *sigh*

Nope, the sky didn't open up and smite me, so I can obviously have done worse than that one.

My real question about this though is, at what point did MP3 become the new GIF format? I mean, GIF started out great and became widely adopted and used. As soon as it did, though, the company that owned the patent for the format decided to charge people for using it, by imposing a surcharge on the software which can decode and encode it (read: Photoshop, PaintShop, etc). Now years later (or maybe this has always been like this and I was unaware) the company which has the patents for MP3 format are suddenly coming out and imposing a surcharge on software which can decode MP3 format audio, but this seems just like how GIF worked out in the end because they waited till it became popular and in wide usage before saying "oh, and by the way, you all owe us money".

That is a very underhanded manner to do business.

Which is why so many places are looking into a form of Animated PNG format to replace GIF. Firefox is supporting APNG format (which is not officially supported by the PNG group) and is a Frankenstein sort of format, but the alternative was MNG format which wasn't fully adopted either by the PNG group themselves. So what the world really needs right now is an Animated PNG Standard, which is free to use, and to fully usurp the GIF format.

You'll be happy to know that Andromeda supports pretty much all major file formats for images, including Gif and Animated Gif. While we know that GIF has some screwed up license fee to be paid, like the rest of the world, we don't care.

We have plenty of alternatives for an animated image format built in, like MNG and APNG that are ridiculously superior to 256 color GIFs. So by all means, let the people who own GIF format send us a cease and desist. We'll remove them from the software overnight and not shed a tear.

As for MP3 though... I think that is just a sad, sad, tale. We'll see how that works out in the end, though after checking into OGG I've come to the conclusion it sounds just as good if not better without the hassles that MP3 would bring. So we're leaning towards excluding MP3 format altogether and sticking with OGG.

Open Source formats are seriously on the verge of slaughtering the proprietary formats. Anybody actually use ATRAC from Sony? How about those crippled DRM formats from the online stores? These companies need to wake up already... or better yet, by all means, keep it up! We need more DRM and more licensing fees!

Yeah that's the ticket! Piss off the world so much that they drop your format altogether (*cough* GIF *cough*).

Anyways, that's the update for Andromeda... and here's Bob Johnson with the weather...

- Andromeda Team -

Feb 11, 2008

Development Update

Progress is picking up as we move into the latter stages of alpha. Of recent, the focus of the progress is centered on the new clouds system, based on the Dobashi method. Current tests are showing the lowest frame rate to be 53 while the standard FPS is around 189 or higher.

Our target goal for the system overall is to achieve a constant frame rate of 30 or higher, with emphasis on a balance of looks and speed. The clouds system is highly optimized to be volumetric while looking natural and not requiring an overly large amount of CPU power to run.

The reason for this is that the clouds system does not require such things as Shaders to work, unlike the Windlight system that Second Life is currently using. This results in a clouds system that both looks good and runs at a high frame rate on older systems without Shader supported graphics cards, which turns out to be a problem when a user has a system that cannot properly support Shaders.

We at Andromeda Media Universe believe that such things as shaders should be an addition to the system but not a requirement in order for the environment to still look good. Basics such as clouds should be default, and not an option, with lighting effects on the clouds being the option should you wish to increase its' looks.

Procedural textures are coming along nicely as well with initial testing on the terrain going as planned. We have to remove part of the dark streaks from the algorithm (the shadows are too dark on the generated texture) but other than that it looks like very respectable grass with the odd flower thrown in for randomness.

As of this posting, I would like to say thank you to the 27 people who have so far sent in their pre-registration forms. Progress towards closed beta is coming along at a steady pace, but is still a few months away as we are looking to start the beta in late spring 2008. If you have any friends which you think would like to join the closed beta, by all means have them fill out a pre-registration form and we'll keep it on file for later.

Thank you from the Andromeda Media Universe Team

Jan 31, 2008

Thank You, Professor Yoshinori Dobashi

Professor Yoshinori Dobashi is the gentleman which wrote "A Simple, Efficient Method for Realistic Animation of Clouds" along with listed contributors K.Kaneda, H.Yamashita, T.Okita, and T.Nishita respectively.

This research paper provides the blueprint for some fantastic cloud animation in computer graphics, written circa 2000, and is listed as part of a presentation they gave at the 2000 Siggraph Convention. Siggraph is pretty much the top of the line when it comes to outstanding computer graphics and technology research, so it's no surprise that their method was presented there.

The clouds animation video in our media section is an example of this method in practice, and we all must admit it is incredibly good looking. There is just one catch; it's not fast enough for real time rendering.

So what is a virtual worlds designer to do when faced with something this gorgeous and then hammered with the prospect that it isn't capable of real time rendering?

It's time to optimize the living heck out of this code and apply some techniques that did not exist in the year 2000. After all, we are entering into the year 2008 and our computers and respective hardware have come a long way since eight years ago.

What we are essentially looking at here is the unrealized potential to have realistic volumetric clouds in a virtual world, if only somebody took a stab at the technique and applied it for a real time environment. It's not going to work out of the box, obviously, but we believe with a creative perspective we can get it to real time rendering with little hassle.

This, of course, is going to require that the code be heavily modified in order to make use of modern hardware and techniques. So much of this is going to be loosely based on Prof. Dobashi's research while writing this cloud system from scratch.

Arguably his research is invaluable, but even in 2000 it wasn't real time with probably the fastest hardware available. Even though our hardware has improved considerably since then, there is still going to be required some ingenious "tweaks" to get it in real time (while hopefully not degrading the looks).

This is normally the point where we run around the office yelling "SCIENCE!", but we'll have to save that until after we get it working in real time and after we get a few drinks into us...


Anyway, now you have a bit of insight into how we do things here. So thanks Professor Dobashi for your invaluable insights.

Till next time -
Andromeda Team

Jan 30, 2008

The Importance of Atmosphere

Recently I was in a conversation with one of the companies who are interested in migrating away from the Active Worlds browser and to the superior Andromeda Media Universe. During the conversation, I had mentioned that we had gotten ahold of the mathematics involved for a computationally non-intensive real time volumetric cloud system (as shown in the media section) and that we were looking to implement this technique in order to provide a more compelling and realistic environment.

What came as a reply to this stunned me just long enough to pause before answering.

Essentially what was said was that they didn't understand the need for such a realistic cloud system in the grand scheme of things, and wondered why in fact we were putting so much effort for the smaller details.

The way I explained it was, that since Andromeda is modeled after a full universe, each "world" would truly be a spherical planet located in a 3D coordinate of space. By doing this, each planet would need atmospheric effects to increase it's realism and plausibility overall.

Part of the atmospherics is the inclusion of a volumetric clouds system so that when you are moving through the higher altitudes and into space you would not be passing through flat textures merely hung in the sky for the illusion of clouds, but instead you would pass through levels of volumetric clouds in a 3D space which were ultimately created using an optimized metaballs system of fluid dynamics.

Of course there exists in the sky manager for the planet the ability to set the axis, tilt and rotation of a planet as well as a planet size in order to tell the browser how to accurately represent the planet when seen. Along with that is also the Day|Night system of control since this process is a given and built in (whereas in an Active Worlds environment this process is crudely implemented through an externally running bot).

Furthermore, aside from the practicality of realistic volumetric clouds, there exists a nuance in the environment which is required in order to increase the immersion to the user. Realistic cloud cover is obviously one of those things that you take for granted in real life, but in a virtual worlds system shoddy cloud cover (flat textures scrolling across the sky or just a static skydome) really stand out like a sore thumb.

With this in mind, you can see up front how companies are thinking completely business minded with these technologies and completely ignore the need to improve them for the sake of the user and for a better overall experience.

A little bit of research will find that Linden Labs themselves are integrating a type of atmospheric system into their browser, but their approach is a bit weak. Instead of making a system from scratch where they could ultimately improve or create better ways to implement it, they have reached a turning point in their existence.

There comes a time in a technology company's life when they simply stop coding advancements and begin buying other companies that have already made them. While I am not against this, I do believe that this method of acquiring resources is a bit on the lazy side and severely stunts the advancement of the targeted field.

Sure, you can go ahead and just buy out another company in order to acquire their technology and integrate it with your own, but where is the adventure in that? Where is the quest to make something better in the process? You never know when one of your programmers may have an epiphany while coding it from scratch, and when you start buying technologies instead of making them, you are writing off that section of advancement.

Of course you can always have your coding team working on the source for what you just acquired, but ultimately they are working with somebody else's code and have to start blind. Then there is that pesky problem of not paying attention long enough to realize that since you are only adding to an existing 3rd party source, it is very possible that in the future you may have to outright scrap that section to use a new and improved version.

I have checked out the Windlight system and it looks good. I am also quite wary that it may be just a billboarding technique with a perlin noise animation. Either way I give both Linden Labs and Windlight kudos for their approach, though admittedly this approach is the last one we would have tried considering we're trying to implement a metaballs procedural clouds system.

I have the Windlight version of Secondlife on my desktop now as a preview version, and assuming it isn't horribly lagging or crashes, I will give it a shot to see how well it has been implemented.

Aside from this, I'll move on.

Another video in the media section (replacing the per pixel lighting video) is the video for the work in progress game "Infinity: The Search For Earth". This is an independent programming project done by a 3rd party which allows for seamless travel between space and a planetary surface, with very well done graphics and effects.

The reason this is posted in the media gallery is to give you an idea of what it's like to integrate the planet and the universe system through a seamless transition in order to create the illusion that the planet exists in a real 3D space which is arguably infinite in size.

This is more of a way to illustrate the difference between what it is like to be in a 3D environment which has a continuity between spaces and what it is like to be in an environment that is a flat planet and does not have seamless transition to space - in the latter I am referring to places like Second Life and Active Worlds. With Second Life, it doesn't matter how great the atmospherics look, there is arguably nothing above them at higher altitudes since the Second Life Grid is just a single planet. Even with the Active Worlds browser, there are multiple worlds but each world is isolated and kept to an alphabetical lit by name. There is no universe in any of the systems, except Andromeda.

It doesn't matter if AWI sells "Universe" servers. The name is only metaphorical in any sense of the meaning and does not mean there is a universe to contain the multiple planets which exist within it. I won't even start with Second Life because for all the power they tout, they only have a planet.

A Metaverse, in it's truest definition, is a combination of two words: Metadata and Universe. Metadata is just digital information while the word Universe means many worlds, galaxies, etc in an expanse of space. Second Life is not a Metaverse, but instead if they wish to be accurate are a MetaWorld. Active Worlds at best is a MetaGalaxy because they fail to have a navigational 3D Universe space to house the planets and galaxies.

Andromeda is being built as a real Metaverse. There will be a digital universe you can explore in 3D, and this universe will contain the planets, galaxies, stars and more. When it is launched, we hope the world will finally understand what a real Metaverse looks like, and stop calling the imposters by that prestigious name. Active Worlds deserves a MetaGalaxy name at best, and Linden Labs deserves MetaWorld at best.

Anyway, the Atmosphere video in the media gallery is included in order to show that such a thing is possible and not out of the realm of possibility to implement reasonably.

Thanks for reading, and check back often for updates!

Andromeda Media Universe Team

Jan 22, 2008

New Navigation Bar and other stuff...

So another update to the site in these wee hours of the morning.

New navigation bar done in flash, thanks to our resident flash guy Raven. Still working on making a rotating planet for the banner. That is taking a little longer than expected.

Also an embedded chat box on the main page, courtesy of - feel free to leave a message or just use it as a chatroom. Keep in mind your IP address goes with your messages, so keep it clean.

And as the coup de grace, the flash web player is now streaming radio stations and not just static music files from the server. Issues with Internet Explorer and it's inability to understand web standards will probably prevent you from hearing the streaming stations, which is why we highly recommend you switch to Firefox.

Head over to to grab the latest version, because Internet Explorer is an abomination.

Till the next update -

Andromeda Media Universe Team

Jan 17, 2008

Pre-Registration is Officially Open!

Ok, not the most exciting news to be heard, but it's a step in the right direction.

Located on the main page is the link for the pre-registration process. Clicking it will pop up a form for you to fill out (unless you're running some sort of pop up blocker, then disable it).

This isn't a sign up for Beta, by the way, but a pre-registration process to collect all of the interested people in advance. All of the forms submitted during this pre-registration will be used later to determine who will be allowed to participate in our closed beta for Andromeda Media Universe, so be sure to fill out the form accurately as well as give us your best explanation about why you feel you should be included in this group.

Submitting this form will not guarantee a spot in the beta team, as the openings are limited.

Do your best to tell us about yourself, and hope to see you in the Universe when it's time.

Best Regards -

Andromeda Media Universe Team

Jan 16, 2008

Improved Site Design

If you have been keeping up with our progress, you will have noticed by now that the website has been completely revamped. This is just the first step in a number of things we have planned over the course of the next few months before we start beta testing the browser. The flash animation has been removed and replaced by some graphics that are much less bandwidth intensive, broken links are now gone and every link now works as well.

The AJAX feeder for this blog section was tweaked, and the loading animation redone to replace the old animation that was built for a white background.

Our contacts page underwent a huge overhaul and now uses an automated form complete with a working CAPTCHA system to discourage spam.

In the next few months, we'll be making more updates to this website, complete with more pictures in the photo gallery, possibly a few in world videos, and also there is the possibility that we'll be making some custom wallpapers for download.

Slowly, but surely, we're getting things together leading up to beta testing. So stop back often to see what updates we have in store for you.

- Andromeda Team

Jan 10, 2008

Let There Be Trees!

So we've gotten a number of requests for some still shots of what this place looks like, and while we keep saying that it's nothing really impressive yet (as most of the systems haven't been integrated), I will say that the preliminary tree system looks sharp.

Some pictures are added to the gallery section of the website showing off some of the early trees, and while they are pretty low detail for the trees, correcting that is a matter of using a different set of tree textures for the leaves, and throwing a few higher detailed batch models into the directory for the procedural generator.

In the end, it's scalable and efficient, meaning that even in this basic test we're seeing 30 - 50 FPS without optimizations. Our goal is to hopefully see upwards of 90 - 100 FPS after optimizations, but we'll have to wait and see how things go.

The screenshots for the trees in the gallery were taken from the program running on my laptop, which is a 1.7ghz with 1GB RAM and an ATI Radeon XPress 1100. So you can rest assured that the browser isn't going to require a super computer to look good and run fast.

One other thing to note, the terrain batch used for the scene was a static terrain area. Like we've said, a lot of the sub systems aren't implemented yet - terrain editing is one of them.

Lots of stuff to do in the coming months, but we'll keep you posted. At least we can have vastly more trees than in Active Worlds (which is progress for us), and is just one thing checked off the list.

Jan 8, 2008

Andromeda Media Universe

With the rapid developments in our Prometheus project, and now this new website to cater to it, we would like to welcome everyone who has been following the research of VR5 Online for the past few years.

Andromeda Media Universe is the outcome of our previous efforts, codenamed Prometheus, and is an advanced virtual universe system designed based from our years of research in VR5 Online as well as our findings from the VR5 World in the Active Worlds universe.

While Andromeda Media Universe is not available for download as of yet, we will be using this website as our main information outlet for all things concerning Andromeda. Within the next few months we are looking to launch a closed beta test of this system for a group of selected individuals in order to better accommodate our most valued asset - you.

Any and all information available for this project will be posted on this site, and nowhere else, so please bookmark this website and check back often as we get all of the media features for this site online.

In Other News

For those who have contacted us concerning the decommissioning of the VR5 Online server and domain, we would like to thank you for your ongoing support for our efforts. The VR5 server and domain were actively decommissioned in order to reappropriate our efforts solely to Andromeda Media Universe going forward.

For many, this means that the original links for things like Metaverse EX are no longer valid and for others this means that our famous Object Path is no longer available for use in your world. We apologize for this, and would like to point to our current downloads section for the Andromeda site which is the new home of both the Metaverse EX browser as well as the Twilight Toolbar.

AW2EX conversion is no longer available and has been discontinued, as well as the AWHighRes installer. Again, we apologize for this turn of events, though in the future we may re-release the AWHighRes download package as a legacy download.

Current development for Metaverse EX is now halted, and the current version is considered EX Final. There are no future plans to continue this browser's development.

Stay tuned to this website for future developments, media, and downloads as we progress with this project. If you are interested in being added to our Beta team, please contact us at

Coming to Terms with the Evil That Is AJAX -
Darian Knight