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  LEGO Storms ‘Second Life’  
Posted 2006-07-15 by Tony Walsh
LEGO's Mindstorms robots will be making their Second Life debut in coordination with a live event being held in San Francisco next Thursday. A joint effort between Linden Lab, the Electric Sheep Company, and Flashpoint PR, the event will be held simultaneously at Wired Magazine's headquarters, and on the island of Supernova in Second Life on July 20th at 3:00 PM Pacific Time. Live video of Wired staff members shilling Mindstorms will be piped into Second Life, where residents can display robot-themed works created with virtual Mindstorms LEGO pieces. But why would anyone build with LEGO in Second Life?

In the real world, LEGO Mindstorms make sense as a plug-and-play, consumer-level robot-creation kit, solving the problem "I can't build a functional robot easily." In Second Life, LEGO Mindstorms don't solve any problem at all. Second Life already has its own building blocks known as "primitives," freely available in a wide variety of morphable shapes. These building blocks can already be used to create complex, programmable 3D objects of nearly any size or shape--including, ironically, the virtual LEGO bricks used to make virtual Mindstorms robots. Second Life is already a solution to the problem "I can't build a functional 3D object easily." Unfortunately for its Second Life marketing effort, LEGO isn't adding any value to the virtual world.
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Comment posted by Urizenus
July 15, 2006 @ 4:35 pm
Comment posted by Satchmo Prototype
July 15, 2006 @ 11:21 pm
I would totally agree with you if you meant that LEGO isn't adding any functionality to the world. But...

I think by giving out a fully modifiable Mindstorm NXT model in Second Life and asking residents to creatively remix it adds a great value to the world. Other than another afternoon of high quality programming (watching the Wired event live while sharing in user created Mindstorm remixing) this is a good example of freeing your brand. It is no surprise that a company with fierce consumer loyalty and a history for letting people remix the product (The NXT's firmware and dev kits are Open Source) would be on the leading edge of letting fans play with the brand in a virtual world.
Comment posted by Seonaid Barrett
July 16, 2006 @ 10:09 am
I think the many Lego enthusiasts will disagree with you. There are two reasons this adds value to the SL universe.

1) It adds a challenge. Many people can script, but how many can program a Mindstorm's robot. Maybe it's not a marketable skill, but it is supposed to be fun.

2) It adds art. How many people oooh and aaah at the huge Lego sculptures at the various Lego stores, Downtown Disney, and online?

It may not be art you're interested in, but I'm happy with any effort to bring something new to SL. (So long as it's not theft or unverified new user accounts. ^_~)
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
July 16, 2006 @ 10:50 am
Seonaid, those are great arguments (I liked them better than Satchmo's, sorry Satch).

I would agree that virtual LEGO Mindstorms solve the problem "Second Life's standard object-creation tools aren't sufficiently challenging," (a.k.a. "I need more constraints placed upon my creativity") but I think that this is a problem exclusive to a very small percentage of veteran SL users. Now, if a newbie could build easier with virtual LEGO than with SL's tools--then the product really is solving a substantial, widespread problem.

I only partially agree that virtual LEGO Mindstorms add art to SL, but I think that's probably because my definition of art differs from yours. In my view, giant LEGO sculptures are more likely to be novelty ("Ooh, look, it's Paul Bunyan made of LEGO!"), or folk-art (along the same lines as needlepoint or macrame owls), rather than so-called "high art" (interestingly, Eric Harshbarger's pieces seem to fall variously into all three of these categories). Furthermore, I see LEGO art as corporate, not public culture. Each brick is branded, thus every piece of "art" is an homage to the LEGO brand. As an artist myself, I wonder why I'd make art with LEGO if there were alternative building supplies handy.
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