Monday, March 17, 2008

Life 2.0 Keynote

Flew around and talked and took pics before today's sessions started.

From the Life 2.o website:
9:00 AM PDT - 10:00 AM PDT
Mitch Kapor, Chairman, Linden Research - SL:MitchK Linden
Deeper, more satisfying immersion hangs fire on the emergence of a new generation of interfaces, which harness gesture both to project identity and assist communication, and to enable simpler, more vivid means of interacting with objects and people. Continuing the thread begun at Davos and Metaverse U., at Stanford, Mr. Kapor will describe and chart the implications of one such device, nearing introduction.
Mitchell Kapor is the Chairman of Linden Research, maker of Second Life. He is a software designer, entrepreneur, activist and philanthropist. In 1982 he founded Lotus Development Corporation and designed Lotus 1-2-3, the "killer app" which made the PC ubiquitous in business. As an angel investor, he was the first funder of UUNET, Real Networks, and Linden Labs. He is the co- founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been called the ACLU of cyberspace, and is the former Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, which makes the open source Firefox web browser. He is also a trustee of the Mitchell Kapor Foundation, which supports programs in education and environmental justice, and of the Level Playing Field Institute, whose mission is to enhance equal opportunity in the workplace and support the values of an inclusive society.

Mitch started out talking about aha moments he's had with virtual worlds and mentioned Susan Vega and An Inconvenient truth. One really brought home the reality of new types of interaction in "immersive spaces" and the other brought home the environmental impact virtual meetings could have be decreasing the need for the use of fossil fuels (particularly jets) to get to a significant percentage of meetings. The energy to run a computer is far less than the energy used to travel.

Then he said he always gets the question, "How is this different than videoconferencing?" Shmoozing., pre- and post- presentation conversations, meeting new people --- these are all possible in the metaverse and not in videoconferencing.

Photorealisitic avatars were next. You can now upload 3 pics and within 5 minutes have an avatar that looks like you.

Of course the use of digital realities for training is also very promising.

His own group is looking at diversity training to increase empathy and understanding through the use of avatars and virtual worlds. It is coming but it isn't here yet.

Gestures are the elements of the next big change. 3DV or the 3D camera is here and on it's way to the world. The technology uses infrared with very fast shutter. With the right software a 3d camera can capture real world scenes and insert into them into the virtual world.
Cameras will be basis of freeing us from the keyboard in a way that is reminiscent of the movie magic technology used in "Minority Report."

Christmas 2009 will be the real marketing debut of this as an available technology on a market scale.

For the most part, gamers are still driving the technology in this area.

Kaper Enterprises' use of 3DV cameras will be viewable on You Tube within a couple of weeks where you will be able to see the use of gestural control of avatars leaping, crouching, and the like.

Being able to mirror real life body language and expression will be next major focus for avatar overlays and will be much more realistic. The ability to use body language will make for a much more immersive experience. It requires a huge amount of work and isn't just around the corner as it requires a significant re-engineering of the back-end of virtual worlds.

He believes this change will be just as revolutionary to fundamental technology as the mouse was as a fundamental change technology for GUI.

The cost divide will lessen over time as well.


Why will it take so long?
  • camera limitations
  • until technology is there
  • habit system of 1985 --- just too soon.

Many things have to be right.

Can a comment on P. Rosedale reaction to his stepping down as chairman of the board be made?

It took 7-9 yrs for vision realization of Philip's idea. A founder doesn't remain CEO forever, at some point a success means division. (Visionary perspectives often different than that needed for the running of a Company.

It is going to be exciting.


A better interface is high on his list.

He's not sure what comes after 3VD. It is a very long way off.

Open sim - open source?
The largest most vibrant ecosystem possible is good and healthy. Wouldn't you rather have a big pie rather than just a big slice of a small pie?

Will see touch devices versus camera devices as targets of research.

Even SL for mobile devices.

Component development for SL presents "insurmountable opportunities."

Redesign and rearchitecture is very important and you have to prioritize innovation.
Emotional and financial investment factor in of course.

Everyone in the community understands the family sensitive nature and challenges of stand alone grids.

Thanked the audience for the intensity of interest and attention. He applauds such enthusiasm.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Intellectual Property, Privacy and Identity in Open Virtual Worlds

Intellectual Property, Privacy and Identity in Open Virtual Worlds
Sunday afternoon sessions - Life 2.0 conference.

Speakers (copied from the Life 2.0 web site):

Eben Moglen (SL: EbenMoglen Euler) - Director, Chair and Chief Counsel of the Software Freedom Law Center; Mark Lenczner (SL: Zero Linden), Architect, Linden Lab; David Levine (SL: Zha Ewry), IBM Research; Sean Dague (SL: Neas Bade), Developer, IBM Linux Technology Center, Contributor, OpenSim; Tish Shute (SL: Tara5 Oh), principal,; John Jainschigg (SL: John Zhaoying), Exec. Director, UBM/ThinkServices Metaverse.

I arrived a bit late due to RL constraints and when I attempted to load the sound from the website, rather than through SL so I wouldn't experience the problems encountered yesterday, I seemed to need to load uStream TV to get the stream and I had to create an account to do that which slowed me up even further. Still I really, really wish a conference packet would have been generated and distributed so attendees could know what they would, or might, need for particular sessions.

That said, the session, just like yesterday's sessions, were great. This session was a panel discussion where the speaker's avatars were seated on a stage at the "front" of an auditorium filled with seats. Because of this configuration I only took one picture.
The first thing I noticed about the panel should have been of no consequence but it was maddening. The avatars were all sitting in the same position with their toes tapping in perfect synch. Fortunately I was immediately drawn into the panel conversation as well as the text chat which is why I would recommend actually attending such conferences with your avatar online and in the venue where the audience's and speakers' avatars are located. The audience interaction is often more important than the panelists, although that, pleasantly, was not the case with this particular group of panelists. I suspect this will hold true for the entire conference, although it can be dangerous to act from suppositions -- and disappointing -- but I'm really not too worried about that with Life 2.0.

There is no way I can capture the non-stuffy intellectual level of discourse. I will not post chat transcripts as I do not like it when others do, and I think somewhere in the terms of service for interacting in SL I agreed not to do so.

I'm sorry I missed the first part but some of ideas covered in the portion of the talk I did catch included:
  • Code Angels -- bits of code that let you know the potential dangers faced when entering a sim.
  • Informed consent.
  • Rights to information versus avatar rights. (This one tripped me out. Reminded me of the topic of a brown bag luncheon I attended at Purdue decades ago. )
  • multiply-joined immersive spaces
  • history and (versus) judgment
  • negotiated rights
  • social norms vs. social evolution
  • danger of imposing technological constraints rather than allowing social evolution.
  • open sim and avatar transportability
  • markets (grid traction) -- restrictive tariffs are needed -- or all commerce will go on in one place and never in others
  • "people voting with their feet" really can occur in virtual worlds as trade barriers only work in real life as mobility is limited. this isn't the case in virtual worlds as choice and mobility between servers is becoming possible
  • hard to impose strade restrictions on a highly mobile population
  • open sim and avatar transportability
  • payment for service will provide some screening similar to angels
  • uninspected spaces versus inspected spaces
It was at this point that I had to enter the parallel text discourse the "avatar audience" was having.

Who will do the inspecting?

I am not going to go into any great detail from this point on as I only want to convey an impression of what the session was like. Let it just suffice to say that the texting was just as intricate and intellectual as the panel discussion. And... (this is one of the great things about virtual venue conferences) the panel discourse was informed by themes, and specifics, of the audience comments. In this way the traditional channel of formal questions is supplemented by input via text discourse and the type of banter and whether it includes sarcasm, references to other published commentary on the topic, laughter, mockery and the like. While the virtual venue might seem more impersonal, it is more personal than the restrictive nature of RL conferences where only authorized speakers have any voice. Of course in virtual environments one does have to consider that verbal "griefing" could occur. But then interaction between panelists and audience members could too. The folks who were only connected via web streams certainly missed a rich context stream.

Great topics floating around in the audience: Corporate avies that everyone gets used to as the personality of "x" that can be (and are being) possessed by other people in the company. You get used to X - expect X - know X and then one day X does not equal X as the corp has come in and inhabited the shell formerly known as X. If the avatar used by an employee is more than a corporate operative then it seems like the avi should go with the person. But that is not the case, most likely, if one signed over rights to intellectual property in a contract made during the hire.

Many sticky issues such as Free trade versus Fair trade arose. The techies in the audiences seemed genuinely incensed that this larger glocal market could put them out of work via outsourcing. Writers have faced this for ages (literally, think scribes, then printers, then... coders?) and as technology becomes more widespread the value of the technology goes down -- and they no longer control the information disseminated by that technology. This cycle of invention control dissemination used to take generations... now it plays out in a persons lifetime.

I was also impressed that the problem of not being able to follow who is speaking from audio-only cues was discussed and possibly "remedied" through suggestions that could be acted upon such as talking sticks, avatar animations so speakers could stand. One that wasn't thrown out was something similar to the little green voice dot over active speakers in SL.

Overall I would have to say the overall information flow in this session was similar to that in a high level academic seminar with the level and breadth of discourse.

More tomorrow if I can find the time to attend and write up.

Life 2.0 Sculpty Day II Spring 2008

Session: Saturday afternoon. Posted Sunday.

I have been looking forward to this conference for quite some time. I wasn't able to attend the morning sessions on scripting, and I'm afraid that I won't be able to report on this aspect of the conference at all due to time constraints.

I have always loved visual information and yesterday was a very good day for rich sensorial input. Sculpties are not my forte as I just don't have the bucks nor lindens for two and three thousand dollar, high-end professional graphic rendering programs. However, that doesn't mean I don't want to know about the cutting edge technologies and applications. I'm not a graphic artist, I'm just an avatar with a couple stores in SL (and don't tell anyone but I also have a region in Openlife Grid under a pseudonym and I've even ventured into a couple other grids.)

I teleported to the main landing point just outside the arena on Dr. Dobbs Island before the afternoon sessions and got into the swing of things by finding a seat in the arena and listening to conversations while I fiddled with voice (that I tend to only use voice for interviews) and I still think the use of voice stream is best for presentations. Echoing and spikes in sound levels drove me crazy as improvised mics and folks with open mics and such took control over sound out of the hands of the organizers.

(See: pics of Rissa Maidstone (above)and John Zhaoying (below)
so you can identify the honchess and honcho organizer types.

When the call for the first session of the afternoon was made I had great hopes that visual cues would be used to orient avatars in the SL space because we were directed to gather around the blue ball. This worked well as there was a very large blue ball floating in a courtyard outside the arena. That was the end of really good directions.

While receiving directions for how we were to shift to another display for the first time I actually heard people using the terms left and right. Firmly anchored reference points need to be used. In later sessions terms like north, northeast and such were used, but even these sorts of directions, while much better than totally personal frames of reference such as left and right really aren't good for precise navigation in SL either.

I would have like to have seen registration packets used with various exhibit spots and presentation locations clearly labeled so I could orient myself at my leisure as folks do in RL. Some sort of large scale visual orientation needs to be used. My preference would be for some sort of organizational and demarcation system that is visible and easily decoded from the map of the area or by simply flying up and panning out and up with the camera.

Sometimes gaming folks forget that some avatars in SL have never engaged in rapid orientation and motion that some games require. SL appeals to a variety of people with very different motivations and behaviors. Some people just talk. Some people just shop. Some people just fornicate. Some people just blow things up. Some people just dance to the music. All of these behaviors and action groups can attract users who are very sophisticated in their knowledge of one or two aspects of the virtual world. Individual blends of these skills are unique.

All this said -- the talks were great!

Aminom Marvin

The first talk was by Aminom Marvin who is a student in the graphic arts and discussed sculpty technology and software from that perspective. I think his description of how a sculpty object

The Black Box

A sculpty creation product created by The Black Box who was the second speaker in the afternoon line-up.

The programming (aka in SL as scripting) behind the black box must be incredibly large and detailed in order to have an in-world effect of creation and maipulation of sculpties. While I didn't understand that much of the specific tech talk involved in the presentation I did get the concept that the process works with slices of an object that controls individual vectors of an image map. Or that is what I think I got out of the talk. LOL. In any case I will have to check out the product in-world.

Crash Prefect

Crash's talk was more accessible to me at a conceptual level.

His use of a 3 prim barbell model to illustrate what happens to an individual prim when it is sculpted to appear as many different objects came closer to an "aha moment" for me per the notion of sculpties than has any other explanation.

We all learn differently and different teching approaches willl have variable levels of success.

Anjin Mieli

The sound was so bad for me during this presentation that I didn't get much out of his talk unfortunately but I loved the work. The bas relief effect is amazing. All I can say is rich, deep, velvety shadows, real carving..... I'm going to look at his work in more detail as I think I heard that it is primarily achieved via Photoshop that means I might be able to use the technique to some degree in GIMP (if I can ever get it to load again....)

Cel Edman

Somehow I missed Cel's talk -- although I got a pic of him later. Too bad as this is the guy from whom I have purchased merchandise.

Yuzuru Jewell

This talk was less accessible to me as the text-based presentation that was put through a translation program. I actually quit listening for the most part when I read words to the effect of "no plans for a Macintosh version." One of the great things about SL is that it is effectively platform independent.

Xenius Revere

I understood most of this talk. Yea! However I will never be able to afford Maya, the program Xenius uses. Some of the effects he illustrated never did load on my computer, and I'm not into blow 'em up games, but the process for creating 3D scenes is most intriguing. The 20-plus prim car was so realistic that I wondered why anyone would want to reproduce anything so closely in the metaverse. The answer of course is that someone hired him to do it. He builds mechanistic avatar war machinery for battle games for fun. The example of this never did get beyond amorphous bloops.

Wish I was a student. You can apparently get Maya for about 300 bucks if you are verifiable as connected with an educational institution.


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About this blog and Second Ana:

My photo
The Womens Center, Second Life
Ana Herzog, avatar in the virtual world of Second Life, expounds on the semiotics of identity in the metaverse, alternate realities, feminism, artistic expression and the growing use of SL as a a progressive networking tool. Second Ana was born into Second Life on July 8th of 2006. Her island, The Womens Center, will officially open on the Autumnal Equinox. She owns Casita Gaia, an Interior Furnishings Boutique in Barcelona del Oeste. She is the local coordinator for CODEPINK SL. CODEPINK SL is an international chapter of CODEPINK Women for Peace. CODEPINK is also represented by our hut hangout on Commonwealth Island where our neighbors include the ACLU and Green Peace.