Light that distorts matter

2006.08.02 (Wednesday, August 2)

In the category of material/immaterial mashups, here’s one from Siggraph:

Mutating material objects with light, as if they were video, with Morphovision [New Scientist].


Bending time in virtual space

2006.08.02 (Wednesday, August 2)

“If we are going to build synthetic worlds, it makes some sense to populate them with both live people and simulated characters. The simulated characters can be a sort of automated tour guide… recordable avatars give you a way to capture the interactions in a social setting and play them back for later study.”

Croquet-Bento, from the post “Robots/Animatronic Avatars/NPCs for Croquet,” proposes video capturing an avatar’s POV and playing it back to simulate presence, content and interaction separate and apart from its actual occurrence. Virtual worlds will be able to resonate with both sentient and non-sentient content so as to increase the frequency and density of stimulus and interaction, while not putting too much pressure on server-side load (lag). But, aside from the graphic, artistic and technical requirements to pull this off, the world must also be socially prepared for the active presence of robots and cyborgs.

At issue with the proposed method of video play-back bots, will be the the world’s sense of temporal continuity. In metaverse environments like Second Life (SL), time seems to advance in a linear, progressive and regular manner. This is ostensibly similar to real life (RL) experience, but is not a necessary quality of all media based environments. Cinema, for example, uses devices to either accelerate, slow-down or jump-cut the temporal continuity of a situation. Acceleration is used to augment the amount of information (action, story-line…) contained within a specific duration; slowing-down time is so that a scene can be spatially deconstructed to better visually orient the relationships of objects and context; and, jump-cutting is to juxtapose to seemingly discontinuous scenes (flashbacks, dreams, simultaneous events..) so that the narrative thread of a story can be constructed. While these devices seem obvious to us now, early film going audiences were quite disoriented by these techniques that were first employed early in the last century.

“The architecture of Croquet makes it straightforward to capture all the messages for a given avatar as you drive the avatar around the space, and then later inject those messages into a robot avatar to do the playback of what happened.”

In order to insert a simulated presence based on a specific, past tense event, it will be necessary to incorporate the idea of elastic time as a component of the world’s media. Time will have to be able to move both forward and backward, be paused, accelerated and put in slow motion. And this will have to be seamless, integrated into its very fabric.

The world must also be capable of capturing not just the sensory information, sound, images, but also the parametric data, “…motion and gesture,” that is the language of these transformations. As discussed in my post “Rezzing Procedural Space,” this information can integrate the logical structure of a scene and account for its composition in terms of the objects and their transformations. This becomes another way of recording it, and eventually playing it back.


3-D Web Mashup Mania

2006.08.02 (Wednesday, August 2)

Ajax, javascript, xml, 3D, web apps… all in the same software dev library. It’s called Ajax3d, and it combines on X3D “…the ISO standard for networked 3D graphics… with the ease of use … of Ajax.” It’s developed by Media Machines, whose experience with interactive 3-D communities can be traced back to the early days of VRML.

Can this help get fragments of Second Life into a browser? Will this open up ways to replay scenes from SL in real 3-D, instead of having to capture video? Can this lead to a real mashup between


Mashup: Object & Interface

2006.07.31 (Monday, July 31)

This short video, called Cubic Tragedy by Ming-Yuan Chuan , was shown at the Siggraph conference, and highlights some of the paradoxes and frustrations of building with the Second Life modeller. The most insightful gag shows how the edges can become blurred, through spending too much time in 3-D space, between camera, action, interface and art.


Rezzing Procedural Space

2006.07.27 (Thursday, July 27)

Smart Geometry is a work-group promoting research in advanced 3D CAD applications. Of particular interest is GenerativeComponents from Bentley Systems, which describes a “parametric and associative” system for the development of design projects. Wow. A GenerativeComponents application describes a 3-D dataset (a fancy name for a bunch of objects) by not only its geometry, but also by the “abstract relationships,” the many decisions, large and small, that make-up this particular design. Representing the logical structure of a build, and not just its explicit geometry, is an attempt to describe and explain the builder’s intentions –the how, what and why of its spatial composition.

But what does this have to do with SL?

In Second Life (SL), spatial complexity emerges from the deliberate accumulation and modification of geometric primitives based on an idea or ideas about space. Although there are countless ways to proceed so as to realize a specific building, it is always the result of specific decisions unfolding over a linear or non-linear period of time; this can be thought of as a kind-of recipe. For example, a build (ABC) has three objects (a, b & c) that followed the recipe (a-> b-> c) for its fabrication, the order in which the objects were composed. Using the same three objects (a, b & c), but this time following the recipe (c-> b-> a), we now have constructed a build (CBA). While the two builds might have common attributes (quantities, size, scale, colors, distances etc…), the overall quality of space differs.


GenerativeComponents, taking this into account, integrates the designer’s intentions to the composition of the scene until it becomes both the build AND the tool, the concept and its fabrication. In fact, makes the idea and the object reversible.

Users of 3-D modellers or CAD software work graphically, applying intuition and experience to establish a specific workflow. It is this workflow –the commands, decisions and modifications of objects, that is captured and encoded by a GenerativeComponents program. A recipe is created from this mix of geometry with the decisions that transform it. The proceedure is captured, analyzed and made reusable as the logic, memory, process, context and content of the project.

The idea of an object is reinvented, geometry is fused with the seeds of its generation.
Experimentation, through the development of evolving design scenarios, can proceed without having to manually re-build a detail design model for each alternative.
And finally, since the interface of GenerativeComponents applications is a mixture of graphic manipulation and a dataflow scripting interface, there is a natural convergence of the two generative models. Builds employing SL as a media rely on LSL, the Linden Scripting Language, to complete the deployment of complex space, thus a platform permitting their coming together is a welcome advancement of the buliding/programming environment.


Identity: agent.indvidual.territory

2006.07.25 (Tuesday, July 25)


A) At Paris’ Musée du Quai Branly, a current exposition asks, “What is a body?” The response comes from the world of comparative anthropology, and presumes that :

  1. the body, while perhaps an individual entity, is not, in terms of a society, a private one;
  2. the body is not a finished object, but rather a public fabrication;
  3. one is not alone in his or her body. We are constantly elaborating a relationship with something that is not a part of us and that varies from culture to culture. It is an important differentiating element between cultures and societies, whose differences can be traced to this significant other. [More detail after split]


B) In Second Life (SL), “I” am composed of three distinct mechanisms [taken from the LSLWiki]:

  1. an agent, the “client’s presence within a simulator“;
  2. an avatar, the “visual representation of an agent”; and,
  3. a camera, through which “an agent sees” the world.

These 3 elements permit me to perceive, interact and communicate in the SL spatial, natural and social environments. But taken together, these otherwise local, simple and omni-functioning elements have one essential, global ambition: to represent Me, and to make tangible my POV. It is thanks to the fundemental engagement between agent (individual) and simulator (context), that I exist.


C) In SL, I am not alone inside of my avatar. I share it, like in the anthropological body, with something that is not a part of me. The contemporary body is defined by the tension between its individual limits and its shared, common evolutionary and biological structures (as represented by a strand of DNA). This conflict is played out by man thought the creation of symbolic imagery, projected by his technologies of cultural and communication.
The body in SL is the result of the tension between the individual agent and the world’s simulator; where, if we substitute the term simulator (or sim) with territory, then “I” am defined by the tension between the sensory limits of my SL agent and the territories that I occupy at any given moment. My agent becomes both my reactive and receptive nervous system to capture external stimuli, and my connection to the consensual, communal spaces of this virtual territory. It is this territory (via the simulator) that lets me possess the essential cultural capacities of memory (of ideas and things, shared and individual), media (think, make and do; ideas, material, action) and space (personnel and public). Read the rest of this entry »


“Who are these people?”

2006.07.24 (Monday, July 24)

From the blog Non-Governmental Imagination [via Technorati] :

“As I watched that crowd of swaying avatars on stage, I couldn’t help but feel like a dinosaur. I was a little scared of this medium, in that it seemed so foreign to me and would require so much work to get a firm grasp of. I know SL is experiencing tremendous amounts of growth right now, and the people immersed seemed so comfortable flying around (literally) and building worlds and friendships that I had to ask myself “who are these people and where do they find the time to spend in Second Life?” These same questions, mind you, are the same ones I asked about bloggers two years ago. Although blogging may have been a niche activity then, it’s not now. I guess I just reacted how lots of people do to new ideas they can’t wrap their head around. Will SL become the new blogging, a medium which is cheap or free and any NGO would be foolhardy to ignore as a means of raising awareness or money?”


Automation interface

2006.07.24 (Monday, July 24)


The reBang post, Hybrid Reality Cocooning, is about software that connects real space to a 3-D digital representation. This is used to establish an interface for building automation tasks like controlling lights, sound, television, climate, appliances and even simple tasks like opening and closing doors, by hooking into home automation software and hardware standards. vCrib has an integrated 3-D browser and modeller devoted to debugging, simulating and executing actual home installations. (See the video).

Its integration with metaverse networks like Second Life ( SL) suggests yet another example of one reality augmenting another; whether it’s material reality augment an immaterial one, or vice versa. Essentially, the two realities are reversible as far as augmentation is concerned. From being able to control and monitor real spaces from a distance, like turning off the stove in your home, or seeing who’s at work in your studio by jacking-in to SL when you’re cross town, someday SL –the simulacra, will be put to work accessing your real life, and not just feeding off of its metaphor(s).


OT: Blocks of Color & Movement @ Paris

2006.07.23 (Sunday, July 23)

While everyone is waiting in SL for the Relay of life

…a slice of real-time from my RL… [video]
Read the rest of this entry »


Real world, serious games

2006.07.23 (Sunday, July 23)

[Saving the World, One Video Game At A Time @ NYTimes, 23 July 2006]

  • “…a new generation: games that immerse people in the real world, full of real-time political crises. And the games’ designers aren’t just selling a voyeuristic thrill. Games, they argue, can be more than just mindless fun, they can be a medium for change.
  • Video games, serious-games advocates say, also possess a persuasive element that is missing from books or movies: They let the player become a different person (at least for an hour or two), and see the world from a new perspective… most (people are) interested in playing as their own “side.” But when he pushed them to switch positions they developed a more nuanced sense of why the other side acted as it did.
  • Ultimately, a video game is just another medium for artistic expression…”

[The View from Jerusalem @ New World Notes, 18 July 2006]

  • “The “SL Israel” group is several dozen strong, primarily comprised of Israeli Residents, and when their country’s conflict with Hezbollah reached a savage apex over the weekend, I sought them out, to get their perspectives– on the situation in particular, and how it’s impacted their Second Life.
  • “So for awhile me alone working on this ‘temporary Temple’, and hope to enter ‘Jerusalem’ sim.””