Short MetaPlace Demo


Video of Raph Koster giving a brief overview of setting up a MetaPlace virtual place. From the looks of it, creating a basic “metaplace” will be just as easy as creating something like a MySpace page. Just a couple of clicks and you’re done. In addition, to visit a metaplace all a user will need to do is visit the URL in a Web browser.

If Raph and the folks at Areae can make this work as he describes, it will really raise the bar for virtual world user experience. This is the kind of thing I’m talking about when I continually lambaste Linden Lab for the poor initial user experience in Second Life.

I recently had a friend who works at Columbia College here in Chicago describe her initial user experience with Second Life and it was as depressing as you’d imagine: difficulty in figuring out how to navigate the world, little direction as to where to go in-world, a rabbit hole of sim after empty sim except for a couple cybering, and, after a couple of confusing teleports, landing in an erotic art gallery where the proprietor was none to friendly. Eventually she was trapped and just logged off in frustration. She then complained that logging in again brought her to the same place where she was trapped. And that was the end of her Second Life.

Obviously we don’t know what the user experience of navigating each metaplace will be like. To a certain extent it will be up to the individual creator. But given that MetaPlace is so integrated with the Web and Web Services, I have to think that it will also leverage existing Web UX and UI patterns. In the video it appears as if there will be “stylesheets” or templates for creating a world. This will allow novice creators to use pre-built worlds that are ready to go, which lowers the bar, well, just about as low as it will go. Advanced creators will of course be able to use Lua, Web Services, and whatever other building tools Areae provides. I imagine there will also be a healthy business for good metaplace stylesheets.

A New Year


Happy New Year to everyone! Maybe this year, I’ll get off my butt and create some new content. I realized recently that I haven’t put out any fashion in two years now, and my current lines are definitely looking old — not a flexi-prim skirt in sight. Unfortunately I’ll be very busy this year with a new Web startup, plus helping my significant other with a new business as well.

I have worked on one big project this year in Second Life — designing an avatar for a customer, the process of which I documented for later recounting. It won’t be a full tutorial, more of a process guide for building a complete avatar from shape to skin to clothing and accessories. Hopefully I can get that up in the coming weeks.

Photoshop CS3 Extended -- SL Clothing Makers' Dream Come True?


Exciting news for SL fashion designers: Adobe CS3 Extended will contain features that could dramatically change your content creation workflow. According to the Adobe site users will be able to:

Edit existing textures on 3D models directly within Photoshop Extended and immediately see the results. Photoshop Extended supports common 3D interchange formats, including 3DS, OBJ, U3D, KMZ, and COLLADA, so you can import, view, and interact with most 3D models.

From what I can tell, not only will designers be able to preview their designs within Photoshop, but, according to John Nack, Senior Product Manager at Adobe, users will be able to “[Paint] directly on the textures of 3D files & updating the models.”

Right now I personally use external 3d applications to preview and paint textures directly on to models, but it certainly would be great if I could get a lot more of the work done without leaving Photoshop.

I know many of you can’t afford Adobe Photoshop, let alone the extended version, but for those of you who currently use Photoshop for fashion and avatar design in Second Life, you might want to consider the benefits of upgrading your 7, CS, or CS2 to CS3 Extended. Look for more information here once it’s available, and, of course, a tutorial once I get my copy of CS3 Extended.

Human-Avatar Interaction


I recently spent a couple of hours in Second Life attending a Caroline’s grand re-opening party. This was the longest stretch of time (about 3 hours) I had been in world in quite a while. Apart from the occasional customer service issue which requires me to jump in world, I don’t visit SL much any more. I’ll have more thoughts in a post marking my 5 year rez-day in a couple of weeks.

At the party eveyone was dancing and there was a central “dance ball” that anyone could touch that would animate his/her avatar. The dances were nothing to write home about—I recognized many bits and pieces that were ripped straight from old Poser 4 (I think it was 4) stock animation and combined with other “found” animation. (Test animations I had uploaded during the 1.4 Preview back in June 2004, if that tells you anything). Other individuals had a variety of different dance animations, some of which I really liked.

While everyone dancing together and listening to the same music/dj is great fun, the only difference between last week’s experience and parties we had in 2003 was the scripted dance animation. Don’t get me wrong, I think animation is great and SL 1.4 was probably one of the most exciting releases to date. And while there are advantages to pre-scripted animation allowing everyone to type and chat, I really longed for more direct interaction.

As chance would have it I was alerted to two bits of info last week which seemed to provide a possible solution to my desire for more direct human-avatar interaction. The first was a tweet from Lordfly about a project that was started back in 2006 by a dev team at LL (Cube Linden, Aura Linden, and Ventrella Linden) called Avatar Puppeteering. Please do check out some of the videos on the site for a working example of puppeteering in action. The project certainly showed a lot of promise. That is, before it was put on indefinite hold so that the team members could work on “viewer stability, bug fixing, and performance” issues. Tateru over at Massively has done a little digging and found out that Ventrella (and, yes, he was responsible for flexi-prims) left LL last year. Her conclusion is that this project has suffered perma-death.

Which is unfortunate because Mitch Kapor, LL’s Chairman, seems to have become interested in human-avatar interaction himself. According to this article Kapor and developer Philippe Bossut have been developing a hands-free, camera-based interface for Second Life. You can visit Kapor’s site to view a demonstration.

Given these projects and the success of accelerometer-based interaction of the Nintendo Wii and Apple iPhone and camera-based interaction like Sony’s Eye-Toy, some form of more advanced human-avatar interaction is coming. Will it come from Linden Lab? I wouldn’t get your hopes up.