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  Child Protection In ‘Second Life’ Isn’t A Software Issue  
Posted 2007-08-22 by Tony Walsh
Sparked by a moral panic earlier this year, two German firms have launched a contest for the creation of software intended to block minors from accessing adult content in Second Life.

Child protection in Second Life isn't a problem software can solve effectively. Second Life, like booze and porn, is meant for adults, not kids. Prior experience tells us kids can't be prevented from getting their hands on booze and porn. All parents can do is raise their children "virtual-street smart," establish and enforce sensible rules, keep their Second Life passwords to themselves, and hope for the best. And, like any purveyor of adult material, Linden Lab has little choice but to make Second Life more difficult for minors to access, even if it makes access by adults more cumbersome.
  CyberExtruder Pulls a Face in ‘Second Life’  
Posted 2007-08-19 by Tony Walsh
3pointD reports that CyberExtruder, developer of technology which facilitates the conversion of 2D photos into 3D digital face models, now offers its services to residents Second Life. In short, CyberExtruder provides photo-realistic avatar faces quickly and for about ten US dollars a pop--one of the most appropriate and useful outside services ever to be bridged to Second Life, in my opinion.

I must have spent a dozen hours over the years tinkering with my own avatar's face (using my own photo as a starting point), and would have been happy to fork over ten bucks to save myself the trouble. I've heard of CyberExtruder before, and until now, never thought it had a killer application. If CyberExtruder proves popular, I could see Linden Lab licensing the technology for integration into a future version of Second Life.
  Multi-User ‘Google Earth,’ Now!  
Posted 2007-08-19 by Tony Walsh
Unype welds multi-user capability onto Google Earth, including 3D avatars and a Skype-powered contacts-list. Developed by Holoscape, the Unype client software (currently in beta) connects Google Earth, Skype, and an Unype Server, where other Unype users are logged. Users select their own COLLADA-format avatar models to use in the system, as well as public profile information such as a URL and photo.

Collaboration between users is facilitated through the synchronizing of Google Earth layers between users, establishing a follow/lead link between users, and the sharing of Google 3D Warehouse models from a private site or directly from Google. I wasn't able to get Unype working on my computer, so I'm not sure if Unype's use of Skype includes voice communication in addition to contacts. Seems like a no-brainer, but the Unype site didn't list voice chat as a feature.

Holoscape also makes an Unype Facebook application which allows users to see, move towards, and contact other Facebookers using a 2D map (Google Maps API) and inside Google Earth.
  Reactions to Technorati’s Overstatement  
Posted 2007-08-15 by Tony Walsh
Blog search engine Technorati has changed how it describes search results. It now refers to search results as "blog reactions," a description I'm not comfortable with. Technorati search results are not necessarily comprised entirely of "reactions," and are more neutrally described as "links" or "references." Not every blog that links to another is "reacting." To say otherwise is suggesting a more conversational blogosphere than actually exists.

Furthermore, when Technorati lists search results, it's only giving you results it was built to understand, rather than results from the entire blogosphere. A long-standing beef I've had with Technorati is its inability to index URLs containing a question-mark ("?"), such as nearly all the content on my Secret Lair network, effectively omitting Clickable Culture blog from its database. I've filed over a dozen support requests about this issue, but nobody seems able to get Technorati to read beyond a question-mark. Sigh.
  Sony PS3 to Embrace User-Generated Content  
Posted 2007-08-14 by Tony Walsh
Reporting from the Edinburgh Interactive Entertainment Festival, Gamasutra brings word that Sony's microworld Home will eventually be opened to user-generated content. Beyond avatar and residence customization, Home users "will be able to share other content that they have created -- photos and videos of themselves, and user-generated content tools such as their own t-shirt designs," project director Peter Edward reportedly said, adding "We'll also be giving out tools to allow scripting, java minigames and so on." Sounds like Sony's willing to get its hands dirty with managing user creativity--opening the doors to user-generated content has major benefits in terms of customer retention, but raises a swath of critical administrative, legal, social and security issues. [Update: such as Flying Cigarettes, Talking Condoms and Virtual Homelessness]

On a related note, I was flipping through this month's issue of Game Developer Magazine and noted that Epic's Mark Rein says that the upcoming Unreal Tournament 3 for the Sony PS3 console will facilitate user-created game levels ("mods") created on a PC. This should extend the shelf-life of the game for quite some time. I'm not entirely clear as to whether the mods will be able to be distributed through the PlayStation Network, but that would be ideal.
  Next-Generation Haunted Portraits  
Posted 2007-08-08 by Tony Walsh
One of the main advantages of 3D characters (as opposed to 2D) is the ability to view the character from any angle. MotionPortrait technology and (as far as I know) unrelated service Gizmoz both map photos of human faces onto 3D models of human heads. Sure, heads can be made to turn slightly, eyes to blink and mouths to smile, but the technology can't be expected to invent features that weren't shown in the original photograph (such as the side of someone's head).

There are plenty of practical uses in games and chat software for two-and-a-half dimensional photos, but I find the constricted range of motion shown in MotionPortrait and Gizmoz characters goes beyond beyond the obvious "Uncanny Valley" effect to something even ghastlier--like a portrait in a haunted house that follows you with its eyes.

The trick with awkward technologies is to flip the constraint around into a feature. I can see 2.5D characters fitting into a haunted house game, or on digital trading cards, or maybe as part of an in-game communication system, but not as characters I can easily relate to.
  links for 2007-08-07  
Posted 2007-08-07 by Tony Walsh
Posted 2007-08-06 by Tony Walsh
Bah, I won't be able to attend FaceBookCampToronto tomorrow. Sounds like a great way to get the creative and technical juices flowing--lots of potential in Facebook Applications still to be tapped, and Toronto's got a solid, long-lived development scene ready to take up the challenge. I noted a few familiar local people and firms on the list of attendees, wish I could join in the fun, but I've got diapers to deal with.
  ‘Shop OnRez’ Brings Slick Shopping Experience to ‘Second Life’  
Posted 2007-07-26 by Tony Walsh
The Electric Sheep Company has launched "Shop OnRez," its re-vamped, re-branded shopping system for Second Life fusing a web-based shopping experience with an in-world kiosk system, wrapped in a slick Web 2.0-esque aesthetic. Interestingly, the new consumer brand's only obvious connection to the Electric Sheep Company is a tiny copyright notice at the bottom of Shop OnRez web pages.

Vendors on the old "SLBoutique" system have been automatically migrated to Shop OnRez. On the plus side, the new system appears to offer improved functionality and accessibility for both sellers and buyers, increasing the lubrication of commerce. On the minus side, it appears that some manual adjustments will be required of vendors, not the least of which is re-deploying in-world inventory boxes. This isn't a big issue for small vendors such as myself, but I can imagine it could be a headache for those with dozens of boxes in-world.

The system's new Terms of Service will be of interest to any legal beagles--it seems to be at least as long as those for Second Life itself. A stellar job of ass-covering there, in my completely unqualified legal opinion.
  links for 2007-07-23  
Posted 2007-07-23 by Tony Walsh
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