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  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.
  ‘The Lounge’ Is Dead:  Long Live ‘The Lounge’  
Posted 2007-08-14 by Tony Walsh
First, developers Evil Twin created the Pussy Cat Doll Lounge, a small adverworld geared towards promoting recording artists The Pussy Cat Dolls. Then, Evil Twin changed its name to Doppleganger. Then, Doppleganger changed the name of The Pussy Cat Doll Lounge to The Music Lounge. This weekend, Doppleganger switched its focus to vSide, a much more expansive and ambitious virtual world project which includes districts, social systems, and user-operated private spaces--vSide is large enough that it actually contains The Lounge in its NewVenezia district.

Here's hoping for fewer name-changes down the virtual road.

[Update: Virtual Worlds News reports that with the launch of vSide, Doppleganger has announced $11M in new funding and the addition of three new real-world brands to its roster of brand-placements.]
  ‘CSI’ Creator Plots Virtual World Extension  
Posted 2007-08-14 by Tony Walsh
CSI creator and series executive producer Anthony Zuiker will deliver the opening keynote speech at the upcoming Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo, according to the event's organizers, who say that Zuiker "will provide insight into how the top rated CSI: NY will be utilizing virtual worlds to extend the broadcast television property and making it interactive in the virtual world."

I won't be able to attend the conference, scheduled for October 10-11 in San Jose, but I look forward to hearing the details of CSI's virtual world plot. What I'd most like to see happen with the series is one or more CSI-themed events, or a semi-permanent "crime lab" installation staged in There or vSide. What I'd least like to see is an entire virtual world revolving around CSI.
  ‘LivePlanet’ Bumbles Into ‘Second Life,’ ‘Warcraft’  
Posted 2007-08-13 by Tony Walsh
"Are virtual worlds ready for a CNN to call their own?" The Hollywood Reporter asks, pointing to mainstream media venture LivePlanet which intends to embed reporters in virtual worlds Second Life and World of Warcraft.

Yes, virtual worlds are ready for "a CNN" to call their own--in fact, there has been a thriving "native" media scene inside Second Life for years. Wagner James Au was the first embedded writer in Second Life, followed soon after by myself (less embedded than external) and dishy tabloid The Second Life Herald--we were the first wave of writers alluded to in a recent Columbia Journalism Review article on journalism in Second Life. Since then, a legion of in- and out-world publications and broadcasters have been covering Second Life. It also bears mentioning that nearly every attempt to broadcast regular video reports from Second Life has failed, including the corporate-backed Grid Review. Why LivePlanet thinks it has a chance of success here is beyond me.

Continue reading: ‘LivePlanet’ Bumbles Into ‘Second Life,’ ‘Warcraft’
  Digital Cameras Reveal Hidden Messages?  
Posted 2007-08-13 by Tony Walsh
David Fono introduced me to Kameraflage, a display technology that takes advantage of the fact that digital cameras can "see" infrared light. Content rendered in infrared light--normally invisible to the naked eye--can be viewed and photographed digitally.

The Kameraflage web site indicates the technology will be used in cinemas, facilitating per-person subtitling (viewers watch the movie through their camera-enabled device), but I don't think much of this application. Why watch a movie while sitting in a theater through a cameraphone? In my view, the killer app for Kameraflage is in stamping cinema screens with a geo-temporal watermark so that pirated copies of movies can be tracked more effectively (or obscuring the screens completely to digital cameras). I'm not sure why Kameraflage technology would be needed for this--if there's such a thing as infrared lasers, it'd be trivial to use existing technology to paint over the screen.

Continue reading: Digital Cameras Reveal Hidden Messages?
  links for 2007-08-08  
Posted 2007-08-08 by Tony Walsh
  ‘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.
  ‘Thursdays Fictions’: Book, Film, and ‘Second Life’ Presence  
Posted 2007-07-23 by Tony Walsh
Earlier this year I traveled to Tasmania to co-mentor teams of film and TV producers as part of the ongoing LAMP initiative driven by AFTRS. I had a rewarding experience working as the "guardian mentor" for a project known as Thursday's Fictions, which began life as a book, migrated to a DVD film (to be aired on ABC TV), blossomed into an interactive concept at LAMP, and will now be extended into Second Life.

The creative artists behind Thursday's Fictions, Dr. Richard James Allen and Dr. Karen Pearlman of The Physical TV Company, are brimming with imagination and talent, so I'll be interested to see how their original concept has evolved in collaboration with Second Life-savvy Gary Hayes, Director of LAMP at AFTRS and The Project Factory.

Following the ABC TV broadcast of the film on July 29, you'll be able to teleport to ABC Island in Second Life, where Drs. Allen and Pearlman will host a meet-and-greet in avatar form. A virtual Thursday's Fictions environment is now under construction, with new sections planned for launch this week, and some surprises to follow the broadcast. More info available on the ABC TV microsite for Thursday's Fictions.
  Dell Hell Hits ‘Second Life’  
Posted 2007-07-17 by Tony Walsh
Neville Hobson reports that Dell, which has established a presence in Second Life, plans to offer customer service and tech support for 2 hours daily, 5 days a week, (10 hours weekly in total). Who's brilliant idea was this? First of all, service and support issues don't adhere to a schedule. Secondly, there's a decent chance your particular issue might preclude using your Dell computer to log into Second Life. How many Dell users log into Second Life anyway?

It's definitely a problem with many corporate presences in Second Life that there are rarely staff members actually on-hand in the virtual world. But I don't see how 2 hours, split into two 1-hour windows, is going to be sufficient face-time for the few people who are even aware of Dell's office hours--and who can actually log in--to make use of Dell's in-world service and support. Seems like a doomed proposition to me.
  links for 2007-07-16  
Posted 2007-07-16 by Tony Walsh
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