Sunday, December 14, 2008

First impressions of PS3's HOME

Center of Plaza

Eventually I managed to log into HOME (open beta) - playstation 3's new virtual world - at 5am GMT on the 12th Dec... until then it seemed the PS Network was taking a hammering.

My initial response was to compare it more to Twinity, than a true Second Life alternative... ie. private apartments and group spaces, linked to a central hub world, no 3D or scripted user generated content (yet) , and a lack of sophisticated camera controls that will make it a pain to create interesting machinima with its beautifully rendered world - ( but hey, that's part of the challange of machinima )).
Its a very sanitised experience, perpetually a bright midday summer's day ( which actually gives me a migrine ), avatars that can only be human and in peak condition (ok I'll grant you can be slightly chubby and have worry lines ) and a controlled branded experience of Sony and partner products ( which was to be expected. )

My curiosity of this new Virtual World has been peaked for several months (watching the lucky ones running around in a closed Beta), and I was always interested to see if it offered any educational benefits or opportunities. Particularly it was the Group tool and Clubhouse space that caught my eye. As this offers the opportunity of creating a small community within HOME.
Initially you are given a private apartment ( a lovely oceanside flat ), but this is a space only you can manage, not give shared control.

A Club is an option you can purchase for £3.59.. this gives you administration of a group title ( choose wisely - as you can't change it later ) - to which you can invite or people can request to join. Along with the group, you are given a default Clubhouse, where your friends can meet, even if you are not online.
When you purchase, Sony imply that in the future, there could be monthly costs to running a group.. but during this open beta ( till end of march '09 ) its a one off payment.

At present, the default clubhouse is a dojo style interior, but from the greyed out option in the clubadmin tools, it looks like in the future you will be able to purchase new spaces.
It also seems you can only create One Club per avatar which you have ownership of, so again think before you create. I have yet to see if there is a limit to the number of other clubs you can join, in Second Life it is annoying that you can only join 25 groups, so I wonder if the same is true here, but at the moment, it's free to join someone else's club.
As admin you can allow other members to help administrate the group and content of clubhouse. ( similar to flatmates in a Twinity apartment )

Furniture Limits in Home Spaces

Within the clubhouse, you can add furniture, to a limit of 40 items... this could easily be used up, particularly as I'm interested in using the Clubhouse as an Art Gallery, and I can foresee that I will need picture frames for each photo or image I upload into the space.
At present you can't purchase any media or image frames ( I'm assuming as this is the start of an open beta, Sony are probably wanting to present a positive image, so avoiding the user's opportunity to post copyrighted material up in spaces, or the inevitable clubhouse or private space full of Porn Pictures, or simply they are trying to avoid the server's been jammed up with content. ), but I have seen images from the closed beta that show their existence - linky to a photo from edpredator -

Within the Clubhouse, you have a bulletin board tool by default...
Bulletin Boards in Clubhouse

Sadly the bulletin board is a tad disappointing. Posts are limited to a subject line of 32 characters, and a message of around Twitter length. Only admins can post messages to the board, so at best its more like having sticky notes on a fridge, or a simple way of announcing group meetup dates.
The Posts are also censored - you can only used approved words - ie. no swearing, and it also denies you posting up Telephone numbers.
I tried putting in web links, which appear, but are not clickable. So you can't use the bulletin board as a portal to web content.


I'll reserve a final judgement, as the Open beta rolls out new 'Appliances', 'Picture frames' and new content hopefully over the next few months.

Things I would love to see appear in the future are :

Use PS3 webcam to send a videostream into the Clubhouse, be a simple way of presenting a conference or similar.
Stream Audio, or at least play audio content that's uploaded. ( I'm assuming a PS3 Internet Radio Station is on the cards, if not - they're missing a trick ) - a pragmatic solution is to use the pre-existing voice chat for now.
Objects or Tools, to link up outside webpages.


Anywho - if you're an educator exploring HOME - my avatar's name is Annabeth

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Using Camera controls in Second Life

As I'm doing a workshop on using Second Life to teach video production skills at Stirling University this week. I thought it would be useful to create some images to explain the camera controls in Second Life.
Feel free to take a copies and upload into Second Life if you find it useful.
Flickr set here

Selecting your Attention




or teleport to

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Exploring the 'rule of thirds' in Second Life

Whilst doing a real life digital camera induction, I had some thoughts about creating some tools to help explore some of the conventions of photography composition, particularly a rule of thumb called 'Rule of Thirds'.
This led to making a HUD overlay, that presents a grid, dividing up the screen into thirds. ( if you change your screen resolution, edit the HUD so it stretches to the edge of the screen )
The lines and intersections of these lines, are regarded as the sweet points of balancing a composition.

A Rule of Thirds - HUD - used to aid balance of elements in a photographic composition

The Beach and Sea fall along the horizontal lines, whilst Angrybeth falls along the left vertical line.

Though its a simple tool, what excites me, is that it shows Second Life can be used to explore some photographic fundamentals... which if you are based at an institution that may lack a breadth of equipment to do this practically in Real Life, gives us a Virtual opportunity. ( thankfully at our college we have enough equipment, so each student can have a camera, but I know of other places where this resource can be a limited access )
Also I'm interested in using Second Life as an 'interdisciplinary' space, here the tool could be used by students exploring Game Art and Design, who may not traditionally do a project with photography or video , but maybe are exploring shotframing and composition within 'cutscenes' within a video game.
For those that dabble with a range of digital media, Second Life is a great place to reinforce ideas and skills of video / photography production that transfer well to 3D animation or virtual environments.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Embedding - Just Leap In - 3D scene into Moodle

Having a play with the new closed beta of Just Leap in, a web browser based virtual world. Like Google Lively, you can embed the player into your own webpage. So to have a dabble, I embedded the Just Leap in code into a label into Moodle.

Embedding 'Just Leap in' - 3D Scene into Moodle

Now more of these web-based virtual worlds are starting to emerge, might be a second wave of interest in virtual world teaching and learning. I hope some of these web-based VW's start to allow scripting and content creation on par with Second Life, and then it'll really start to get some synthesis

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

End of Year sandbox

As part of end of year let hair down, a few of the more SL engaged students continued to develop some extra curricula personal work in the Collective Sandbox. Here's some pics....

Rob's fantasy build...

Phil's mad scientist lab...

Steve's maze temple...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The DDM Students in SL - Machinima

A casual vox-pops catching the thoughts and interests of the DDM students using Second Life. This short machinima documentary was created by 2nd Year student Steve Searle, as part of the optional pathway in Moving Image.
I thought I'd share it with you...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Play - a collection of sound sketches

Play - brings together all the sound sketches (toys) that I've created in Second Life™ World over the last few years. Each an exploration of the Scripting Language and other properties of the Second Life world.

This collection was presented at the People : Place : Prescence conference and exhibition on 2nd April at Foundation for Art and Creative Technology in Liverpool.

The collection can be found here >> SLURL - and will stay up till the End of April '08.

Though most of these works - could be recreated in other software, it is the social aspect of the virtual world, that makes me stick to working in Second Life or similar. Seeing groups of online people experiment and collaborate on producing music with my pieces, is more rewarding than a more solo experience on a flash based website or similar. And I still get goosebumps when I watch a group of international avatars all playing together telepresently, yet seemingly all together in one place and presence.

Play - a way of learning, Play - to be actively engaged, and Play - to perform .

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Twinity - Using URL's in a Picture

Link to higher quality mp4 file

A 3 minute video of how to place a Picture to display a webpage. This video shows a link to - which demonstrates how to bring Video streaming into Twinity by embedding the media within a webpage. Quicktime does not seem to be supported, but flash based material like and youtube works fine. For now this show's you can present a video exhibition inside Twinity.

Using Chatterous Persistant Chatroom in Twinity.

With the aid of Chance Abattoir and Jurin Juran, we had a play with the URL on a Picture object. This was set to display a Chatterous room. We could input text to the chat room with no problems thru interaction with the picture in Twinity, including Pasting text ... ( though copying text from the Twinity webpage didn't seem to work ).
It seemed for us inworld we saw our own web pages, especially at Login, rather than the watching one operator surfing the web. This could be a problem if a tutor, wants to take a group on a guided tour thru flat based - webmaterial, ie. Slideshare.

For a webpage that required login (ie. Moodle), when I swapped from one avatar to another - I didn't need to login again. It seemed that the Twinity Client was keeping the computer logged into a website, rather than against a avatar account, which could be a real problem with multiple people using the same computer to access learning materials thru Twinity.
( I will investigate this further.... )

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Twinity Beta - Art Installation - 'Mirror World'

After a few hours of playing with Twinity, I got round to making a simple Art installation using the given shop items. Useful items were the radio which I set to stream in the ambient music from Somafm's 'DroneZone'
The mirror's are fun, but freak out when you have toooo many of them.
Twinity seems potentially ok for machinima - though I'd have to use another avatar as a camera, as the view-controls are limited to orbiting the user.

I kinda like the way light works in Twinity - Night and Day is set to the timezone your apartment is in.. Years ago in Second Life you couldn't control the sun position, so it reminded my of those nostalgic days.. but in the context here, as a Mirrorworld it is behaving correctly.

Anywho - if you can log into Twinity - check out the apartment by searching for - Annabeth's Art Gallery.

First 30mins in Twinity

I'm always looking at what other Virtual Worlds are available for use in Education or Art Exhibition. Recently my beta account for Twinity came thru, so I booted up a PC to give it a whirl.

There is little client documentation to get you into making your 'apartment' your own look. So with a bit of experimentation I threw myself into making some attempt at customising the space I was given.

a very uncluttered interface...

As I was more focused on seeing how I could get work displayed. I concentrated on the picture objects that could be added to the environment.
It was a pleasent suprise to find I could do HTML on a Prim :) - by setting the picture frame to a URL rather than an uploaded image. This webpicture (though clunky to operate) - I could navigate the website on the wall or switch to fullscreen browsing mode as well. ( I'll have to get a group of people in to try to see if they see the same webpage whilst its being browsed by someone else ).

Manipulating objects at first is a bit fiddly and limited.... but not dissimilar to IMVU. Give it a few more hours, and I'll be throwing stuff about - ah feeling like a newb again.

Within 10 minutes of creating my location, a Twinity support avatar popped in to say 'hi', - how nice I feel like I had neighbours ;)

the obligatory virtual world shrug snapshot

First impressions, I'll give it more time to explore. It immediately proved that I could use an 'apartment' as an 'Flat based / Weblinked' Art Portfolio.
But the furniture ( apart from lights ) I can't interact with ( eg. sitdown ) - perhaps in the next patch..

Building and scripting 3D content though doesn't seem immediately obvious, ( I think a trawl thru the forum is required. ) - Though Manon (the Twinity support avatar) said end-users couldn't script yet.
So we'll have to see what the future brings...

Anyway if you get into Twinity - search for Leeds College of Art and Design

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easter Break - New Gadget Play

I finally got round to getting an Asus EeePC 4Gb/512Mb Linux mini-laptop, ( which I've fallen in love with it's bagsized nature ).
Though the inbuilt 'Easy Desktop' software, is more than enough for most cases, especially web-surfing, word processing and blogging, I wanted to push out the boat to see what else I could get running.. So after a day of tweaking, I got GIMP, Inkscape, Processing, Audacity and NVu installed, which gives a little more productivity when I'm on the move.

Finally I got round to installing SecondLife, particularly the Linux 1.19.1 ReleaseCandidate client.

Following some of the instructions from this really helpful post at -> link I got it up and running.

For the moment, I've not tweaked the client so it runs within the window of the Asus, but got desktop mirroring at 1024x768 instead.

Frame rate wise, SL's between 2-5 fps, that was on both an empty island and a sim with about 18 people in.
I'm running the graphic details down to lowest and draw distance at 64m.
It helps that I'm plugged into the college network, and being the holidays - its running really fast.

If you're not expecting to build in SL, and do lots of walking about.. it seems fine for IMing people, listening to a lecture, inventory sorting or a bit of scripting.

Though this is first impressions, I'll see how I feel after a few days...

Anyhow, I got the Asus for a bit of persona gadgetry, but it has got me thinking about cheap and cheerful computers that are affordable for students. At the moment, I can't fault this little machine, as a useful tool for blogging, which is something we are encouraging our Art and Design students to do.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

HTML on a PRIM (Sort of)

With the new Second Life Release Client 1.19.1, we get a chance to see a feature that will be implemented soon, HTML Pages displayed thru the media streaming texture.

As its kinda useful to some projects I'm doing , I rattled up some basic code last night to slideshow webpages with clickthru to their URL. Feel free to amend and add functionality if useful.

list URLs = ["","",""]; //List of URLS
list Desc = ["Leeds College Website","Angrybeth's Page","BBC homepage"]; //List of URL descriptions - keep in order of List of URLs...

integer slides;
integer slidecount = 0;
string SETURL;
string URLDESC;
llSetTimerEvent(20.0); //Change this for timing of sequence, obviously....
slides = llGetListLength(URLs);

if (slidecount == slides)
slidecount = 0;

SETURL = llList2String(URLs, slidecount);
URLDESC = llList2String(Desc,slidecount);
slidecount ++;

touch_start(integer touched)
key who = llDetectedKey(0);

Obviously, stick this script inside the prim that is displaying the media texture...

One thing I do like is that llLoadURL - opens the inclient web-browser like the OnRez client. But at the moment it doesn't support Flash

But, when you load a webpage with Quicktime media embedded, it shows up on the Avatars HUD rather than on the webpage.