What Everyone Needs To Know About (Second) Life “On The Cloud”

Business, Community, News Announcements, Second Life, Virtual Worlds on April 17th, 2010 36 Comments

On a Second Life Cloud

Last week, Blue Mars announced they were becoming a “cloud based service” featuring server side rendering.  This led many people, including New World Notes’ Wagner James Au, to ask, could Second Life do the same?   To settle the matter, Au posed the question to Linden Lab.  Joe Miller (aka Joe Linden) the company’s VP of Platform and Technology Development offered a VERY interesting answer, stating:

“Rather than using the ‘cloud service’ metaphor here, it sounds like what you’re talking about is better termed ‘server-side rendering’ and streaming that content down to machines that would otherwise be unable to run a full 3D client. That is technically possible with Second Life, and we’ve actively demonstrated it internally, with a full Second Life client and all graphics settings set to maximum, while maintaining an impressive framerate. However, we’re not announcing any future plans for new ways to deliver Second Life today. While using the ‘cloud’ metaphor is a bit of a misnomer for the above, standing up a Second Life grid in the cloud is something that we already do; we have customers running instances of Second Life Enterprise in the cloud, and no dedicated hardware is required to stand up a private grid.”

Au then interpreted this as, “So if you pay for a private, firewalled version of Second Life, you can get the cloud option. For regular grid users, expect to access SL with a high-end computer for the foreseeable future.”

This is not entirely true, because the “cloud option” that some Second Life Enterprise customers are apparently using most likely does not provide server side rendering. A platform can operate “in a cloud” without providing server side rendering. Therefore, those paying for the private, firewalled version (Second Life Enterprise customers) and using the “cloud” option would still need high-end computers that meet the Second Life requirements, just like the rest of us.  Joe Miller was simply using these particular SLE clients as an example of how they can and are running SL “on the a cloud.”

As for server side rendering (what most people are really interested in) Joe Miller said that they have “actively demonstrated it internally,” but they are “not announcing any feature plans today.” This is VERY interesting!  I couldn’t believe how many people missed this important sentence!  In fact, Joe Miller came back TWICE to comment and re-iterate it saying,

“I didn’t say there were no plans to offer server-side rendering. I said we had no plans to announce anything in that regard today. There is a big difference.”

“The facts are we can (and have) run the SL client on machines that render in the “cloud” and interactively stream that experience to laptops, netbooks, low-end computers, and mobile devices that otherwise aren’t capable of rendering rich 3D content on their own. That was the question that Hamlet asked.

It’s also true that we’re just not ready to make any announcements about how we might deploy such technology in the future. There are many factors involved in moving to such a model.”

While nobody can say for sure what this means, I think we can all read between the lines here and interpret this to mean that Linden Lab is looking at and considering options such as these and may even be working on something along these lines.  Very exciting stuff!

Since the difference between “cloud computing” and server side rendering was very confusing for many of us, but obviously an important topic, as one of Second Life’s biggest limitations is it’s hardware requirements… I’ve asked Sand Castle Studios’ own Reed Steamroller to further explain what these terms mean and more importantly how do they affect Second Life and us.  His synopsis is what follows.

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Creating Educational, Immersive Experiences and Simulations at VWBPE

Business, Community, Education, Machinima, Second Life, Virtual Worlds on March 12th, 2010 No Comments

vwbpe-logo

Today begins the very prestigious Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference, here in Second Life. It runs today, March 12 through tomorrow March 13. Thousands of educators are expected to gather for the event.

Our company, Sand Castle Studios, has been given the honor of hosting a panel discussion on Creating Educational, Immersive Experiences and Simulations, along with our long time collaborator, the well known, and award winning, machinimagrapher, Draxtor Despres.

During this panel, we will look at how virtual environments are being leveraged to add value to learning through immersive experiences, simulations, and serious games. In addition to presenting several successful examples of each, we will also discuss 3D learning design approaches and sets of archetypes that are core to creating differentiated learning experiences. We will examine the most successful techniques used to create these experiences and what to look for when putting together creative teams. Finally we will cover how you can get your students involved in machinima and how to promote your projects in order to expose them to the widest possible audience.

Our presentation will last for a total of 40 minutes, followed by a 40 minute long Q and A session and discussion with the audience. This will give you all a chance to discuss with us any issues you’ve been facing in the virtual world arena.

Our presentation will be given on the SIM “VWBPE West 3” at 11:00 PST. For your convenience, here is a SL URL to the location:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/VWBPE%20West%203/229/168/71

This should be very informative and enjoyable experience for all!  We hope to see you all there!

Virtual Machinima for Social Good

Machinima, Virtual Worlds on March 3rd, 2010 1 Comment

In his latest Machinima, award-winning machinamagrapher Draxtor Despres takes a look at some of the forefathers of machinima and where the art is going, even reaching out to director James Cameron.  He also examines how the New York based organziation, Global Kids, has enriched the machinima platform with their social issue work, including their latest project, “Discovered,” which was created by teens on the Second Life Teen Grid.

Another great piece Drax! We were thrilled to be able to build the history of machinima museum/theatre for this piece.

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What is Second Life Art?

Linden Lab to Support Second Life Art (But First They Have to Define It)

art, content creation, Machinima, music, News Announcements, Second Life, Virtual Worlds on March 1st, 2010 13 Comments

While the Second Life community was buzzing about the long awaited (Beta) release of the new Second Life Viewer 2.0, Linden Lab also made another big announcement.  On the official Second Life blog, Niko Linden announced the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) program.   The LEA program is being created to help support, encourage, and highlight Second Life artists and their work.

In the upcoming months, it is our pleasure to take a more active role in encouraging the arts inside of Second Life. We are excited to announce the creation of a Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) program which will help support, encourage, and highlight Second Life artists and their work. We hope that the collaboration between Linden Lab and the wealth of talented Second Life artists will contribute to a vibrant new chapter for the arts in Second Life.
The Linden Endowment for  the Arts (LEA) program’s goal is twofold:

  1. To create an immersive space for artists to share their art, build connections, and prosper in the Second Life community
  2. To provide a new way for artwork to live on within our ever-changing virtual world.

While still under design, this program will be a partnership between Linden Lab and Second Life artists, with the additional objective of gathering, displaying, and maintaining art at an inworld Arts Hub. We are currently building the LEA organizing committee, which will include members of the Second Life artist community and Linden Lab employees, to guide the program’s management. Under the creative direction, organization and guidance of the LEA committee, we will hold biannual art exhibitions, highlighting the most creative artwork happening inworld.

Niko says that they are currently looking for a “small but dedicated group” of Second Lifers who are willing to make a commitment to the program, which (at least for now) will be headed by CEO Mark Kingdon.  Those interested in joining the committee can apply here.

While this extraordinary endeavor is long overdue, it also faces some challenges.  Despite the fact that Niko says, “the key to understanding art is not in trying to decide what it is,” that is exactly what Linden Lab will have to do.  The announcement is already full of comments arguing this very question… What is Second Life Art?

So far, most of the controversy stems from Crap Mariner’s insistence that Second Life music is art.  He argues that the Second Life musicians are not always just “one guy with a guitar playing on a stage.”   He says that some SL musicians create immersive experiences as part of their shows, and that they cannot be “pushed to the back burner” anymore.  I agree and disagree.  Music is absolutely and undoubtedly an art, but just like not every painting is art, not every musical performance is an art either.   Having said that, musicians like Grace McDunnough and her full out live music production Musimmersion, most certainly fit the billing of art.  But where do we start and end that thin defining line?

I tend to lean towards definitions in which Second Life actually facilitates the experience and/or emotions that the art provokes.

Bryn Oh described this better in her response to the announcement:

We are in the frontier of a new art movement which is unlike others before it.  As an oil painter i would not expect a jpeg of my work to be considered for inclusion, as all the element which make up the beauty of a painting are lost when converted to this format.  All the brush strokes which convey emotion are no longer seen, the colour is often changed when scanned and they lose the presence which an oil painting can have in real life.  I think we have to look at it from an art history point of view.  What, in ten years time, would an art historian say defined this new medium?  What is unique about SL art over other forms of art we can find in rl.  A 2D painting on a wall can be appreciated for its colour theory and composition but we remain passive observers. The ability we have in Second Life is to create paintings that you can enter and explore.  Instead of paint we use sound, prims, particles, scripts, narrative, and many other tools which allow us to create a new form of art.  Immersive environments allow the viewer to be drawn into the virtual experience and forget rl for a time.  That interaction is unique to this medium except for perhaps installation art or earth art.  Determining what is unique about this medium should really be the guideline as to determining what should be included.

Wagner James Au also attempted to create his own similar definition of Second Life art on his blog:

Second Life art is art that attempts to essentialize an important aspect of the human experience in a way that’s only feasible in SL, leveraging most or all of Second Life’s unique affordances.

In the end no one can ever truly define art.  In my opinion, the keys to the success of this program will be (as Bryn said) determining what is unique about this medium and the art in it and also remembering the distinction between a craft (music is a craft) and actual art (Musimmersion is art).

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Everything You Need To Know About Second Life Viewer 2.0 (Beta)

Business, Community, content creation, Education, News Announcements, Second Life, social media, Virtual Worlds on February 23rd, 2010 20 Comments

sl2b

Today, in a much anticipated announcement, Linden Lab launched the Beta version of their new Second Life viewer.  It will undoubtedly completely revolutionize the way we view and use Second Life, not to mention the first user experience.  There a heaps of changes and new features (small and large) included in this version and lots of additional features and changes in the works.

To get started you need to download the new Viewer 2 (Beta).

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Scoble Leaves Second Lifers Hanging

Business, Community, events, Marketing, News Announcements, Press Releases, Second Life, Virtual Goods, Virtual Worlds on February 22nd, 2010 6 Comments

scoble

This morning, tech enthusiast, blogger, and social media superstar, Robert Scoble (aka the Scobleizer) sent the Second Life community and Twitter world into a frenzy with his post, “Is Second Life about to enter its ‘second life?’” He begins by rehashing the usual “failings” of Second Life.   Yet, even after all his experiences with Second Life, he still got why the initial flow of corporations left SL completely wrong.  However, what followed was more interesting… He announced that tomorrow everything is going to change.

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My Challenge to Frontline’s Digital National

Branding, Business, Community, Education, events, Machinima, Marketing, Second Life, Virtual Worlds on February 22nd, 2010 10 Comments

digital nation

Recently, the PBS program, “Frontline,” featured a 90-minute documentary entitled “Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier” which examined what it means to live, work, socialize, in a digital world.  I first heard about the documentary from media theorist, writer, and digital native Douglas Rushkoff during his recent appearance on the virtual talk show, Metanomics.  On the show, Rushkoff discussed his most recent book Life, Inc. and the Digital Nation documentary which he wrote with the film’s producer and director Rachel Dretzin.  I was excited as he described how segments of the film came together, stating ”It’s not us telling America, ‘This is who you are.  You are in a digital nation.’  It was more kind of our digital nation telling us who they are, feeding us the stories that they wanted to see covered.”  (watch the full Metanomics episode here)

Unfortunately, when I tuned in I was saddened, disappointed, and frustrated. It’s not that the piece wasn’t interesting or well done, it was just smothered with this overwhelming feeling of inevitable doom.  I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.  Professor Robert Bloomfield who optimistically hosted Rushkoff’s aforementioned appearance on Metanomics just a few days before the show aired, now wrote on the show’s blog, “The emotional thrust of the piece is clearly that life on the virtual frontier is frightening, dysfunctional, and spells the end of all that is good and wholesome.”

I could easily write pages on how I think this documentary asked the wrong questions, how I think a similar program probably aired decades ago with an identical warning about television, how many of us use computers all day long at work and no one calls us addicts, or how at one point I got up and yelled at a dazed mother to stop mourning over her “addicted” son and do some parenting… but I’ve seen many great blog posts discussing all these points and more.  The segment that I haven’t seen discussed enough is the segment on virtual worlds.

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New Years Party Pack 2010

Holiday Packs, Uncategorized on December 31st, 2009 No Comments

*SCS* New Year's Eve Pack 2010

This pack includes 6 New Year’s party items. They are all made from sculpted prims and were careful modeled using professional software to create an amazing realistic look.

The pack includes:
* Champagne Bottle
* Champagne Glasses (with sipping animation when worn)
* 2010 Party Tiara
* 2010 Party Top Hat
* 2010 Party Glasses
* Party Horn (with sound effect)

All items are copyable and modifiable so that you can adjust them for your needs.

You can purchase the pack In-world or on X-Street

Burning Life 2009

The 20 Burning Life Camps You Must See

Community, content creation, events, Second Life, Virtual Worlds on October 24th, 2009 16 Comments

The Man (Burning Life) The Man – http://slurl.com/secondlife/Burning%20Life%2DBlack%20Rock/251/13/24

Burning Life 2009 opened in the virtual world of Second Life this past weekend.  Burning Life is described as a festival of community, art, and fire.  It is it the virtual counterpart of Burning Man.  Though there have long been many unofficial overlaps between the two, this year SL’s Burning Life was officially added as a Burning Man Regional Group.

Burning Life 2009 stretches across 34 SIMs.  While each camp has it’s own special qualities, I found 20 that really stood out to me.

  1. **TRANSCENDENCE** – SAND CASTLE STUDIOS

    **TRANSENDENCE** - SAND CASTLE STUDIOS

    OK, I *may* be a little biased on this one, but when Reed Steamroller and I came up with the concept for this, I never expected the masterpiece he would create.  The architecture is breathtaking when you examine the complexity of the interlocking sculpted prims.  As if that wasn’t inspiring enough, the brilliant colors on the baked textures are captivating.

    http://slurl.com/secondlife/Burning%20Life-Bluewing/216/224/24/

  2. Among Other Things – AM Radio

    Among Other Things - AM Radio

    Definitely the most inherently fun and interactive exhibit for an outsider to experience as you help create the art for the installation by adding your own graffiti to the trains, which are gorgeously built and textured by this well known Second Life artist.   As an added incentive, when you enter the camp, you receive the wheat from AM’s famous Wheat Fields exhibit as a gift.

    http://slurl.com/secondlife/Burning%20Life%2DJungo/223/37/24

  3. Cabaret of Flames – Poid Mahovlich

    Cabaret of Flames - Poid Mahovlich

    Poid Mahovlich combines her deep artistic sense, and her personal experience of the real life Burning Man to bring us this tribal immersive exhibit of fire and art.  The powerful sound of drums will surrounded you upon entering the camp, setting the mood to transport you into the desert, and make you feel like you are actually part of the real Burning Man experience more than any other exhibit.  It digs deep to your core and entrances you.  In addition to the transformative experience, you will be offered a gift of fire fans so you too can participate and become part of the exhibit/experience as you dance on the playa.  Poid talks about her experience and what inspired her to build The Cabaret of Flames in a special mini blog and includes an incredible machinima which is as *must see* as the exhibit itself!

    http://slurl.com/secondlife/Burning%20Life%2DRabbithole/75/163/24

  4. Vessel’s Dream – Bryn Oh

    Vessel's Dream - Bryn Oh

    This well known artist and machinimagrapher doesn’t just create art, she creates experiences.  Her camp this year is based off her poem Lilac.  Unlike other exhibits, to truly experience her immersive installation, you will have to follow the clues and explore the mythical and symbolic characters and rooms (hint: use your camera).  I highly recommend you take the time to enjoy the challenging and fascinating journey this exhibit will take you on.

    http://slurl.com/secondlife/Burning%20Life%2DBordello/21/147/24

  5. America’s Homeless Problem – Viomax

    America’s Homeless Problem – Viomax

    This thought provoking exhibit is beautifully constructed and makes a simple, but strong statement about the homeless problem in America.

    http://slurl.com/secondlife/Burning%20Life%2DPaiute/68/229/25

  6. Untitled – Marcus Inkpen

    Untitled - Marcus Inkpen

    This dreamy installation is one of the most spellbinding exhibits I saw.  It is truly a work of art.  In addition to the in-world version, rockerfaerie has documented it in her ethereal machinima.

    http://slurl.com/secondlife/Burning%20Life%2DBluewing/47/94/24

  7. Read more »

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Second Life Founder To Start New Company

Can a World Continue To Exist Without It’s Creator? – Philip Rosedale Leaves Linden Lab

Community, News Announcements, Second Life, Virtual Worlds on October 16th, 2009 9 Comments

Philip Rosedale (SL and RL)

I’m a ball of emotion tonight as I read on Linden Lab’s Official Blog that the founder of Second Life Philip Rosedale has decided to leave Linden Lab.  The decision comes about a year after Rosedale passed the CEO position over to Mark Kingdon and took over as Chairman of the Board.  Rosedale claims that he will continue his role as Chairman and all that the change really means is that he will no longer be working full time at Linden Lab and will be restricted to “outbound and media type things.”  Instead, Rosedale will be working on a new company that he says is Second Life centric.

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Yoko Ono Unveils Virtual Peace Tower

How I Met Yoko Ono in Second Life

Community, events, Second Life, Virtual Worlds on October 10th, 2009 4 Comments

Yoko Ono

On Friday October 9th 2009, Yoko Ono was in Iceland for the annual lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower, a tribute to her late husband and former Beatle, John Lennon.

Although I am a longtime fan of John Lennon and the Imagine Peace Tower, like many, I have never been able to travel to Iceland to witness the lighting.   This year,  I was privileged to share in the collective experience of the lighting of the Tower and meet Yoko Ono all from the comfort of my home through the magic of Second Life.

Shortly after the annual lighting in Iceland, Yoko joined us in Second Life to unveil a new Imagine Peace Tower and begin a new tradition in the online virtual world.

Yoko began the event by thanking us all for witnessing the unveiling of the Tower.  She continued,

“They say, if all the people in China were to jump up and down at the same time,
the axis of the globe would shift.

Well, we are here together. Billions of us.
Standing at the dawn of a new age, determined to shift the axis of the world to health, peace, and joy by loving and caring for all lives on Earth.

Some of us are here physically, some are joining us in spirit.
Some of us are imprisoned, tortured, maimed, and silenced, but they are also here today with us.
Some of us have passed away before being able to enjoy a new age of love and peace.

But we are all here today standing together with hope.

The light is the light of wisdom, healing and empowerment.

Even in the moments of confusion, fear, and the darkness of your souls,
Hold the light in your hearts,
And you will know that you are not alone,
That we are all together in seeing the light of peace.”

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SCS Custom Project Mockup

Virtual Bill Gates in PC vs Mac Machinima

content creation, Machinima, project, Second Life, Virtual Worlds on October 9th, 2009 12 Comments

Virtual Bill Gates

I was recently approached about an upcoming project that would require our team here at Sand Castle Studios to create some custom content within the virtual world of Second Life.  While I can’t talk about the project itself yet, I can share with you a machinima by award winning machinimagrapher and long time Mac lover Bernhard Drax (aka Draxtor Despres in SL) that previews the mockup we put together including virtual Bill Gates who calls out Draxtor for secretly using Windows!

Special thanks to Second Life residents and friends Beyers Sellers, Bevan Whitfield, Anonymous Sorbet, Ze Moo, Java Moonwall, Chantal Harvey, Annabelle Fleury,  Shava Shuntzu, Cyclic Gearz, Tuna Oddfellow, Wilson Voight, Delphina Audina, Arywn Quandry, and Apatia Hammerer who played the office workers.

Pictures of the filming and sets can be seen here.

For more behind the scenes fun, check out The Office Party, a spoof filmed by Chantal Harvey after the shoot was over.

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The new look of SecondLife.com

Second Life Launches its New Website

Machinima, News Announcements, Second Life, social media, Virtual Worlds on August 26th, 2009 8 Comments

SL frontpage

We first heard of some of the new features coming to Second Life, including this new website (the Dashboard feature had been in Beta on the back channel since late June), when Tom Hale demoed them at this years Second Life Community Convention (SLCC).

Yesterday, Torley Linden gave us a sneak preview of the new site as he highlighted some of its key features in one of his renowned video tutorials.

.

Today, the new site went live on http://secondlife.com/ and I have to say I love it!

The first thing you notice is the beautiful high quality photos (thank you finally!) and the visually stunning machinima’s. I especially loved the Titanic like ending of the “What is” video (below).

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SLCC 2009 Wrap-Up

Community, Second Life, SLCC, Virtual Worlds on August 20th, 2009 No Comments

Here are some of my favorites from SLCC ’09:

  • The biggest and best announcements came from Tom Hale as he introduced Second Life 2.0: and some of it’s key features such as the new SL viewer, the new website, and the interactive web media API. You can read all about these new features and changes in detail here.
  • Tom also announced the long awaited features of mesh support and global illumination. These concepts might be a little complex to some non-content creators, but they look stunning! Learn more about what these features are and what they mean for Second Life here.
  • Mark Kingdon and Philip Rosedale gave joint keynote speeches at SLCC.  Philip discussed how we are still at the very beginning of what virtual worlds will be and how we will need to weather tremendous changes as we move towards a more global digital world, but no matter how hard, we must endure them, because these changes are not just evolutionary, but revolutionary as well. You can view parts of his speech here, here, here, and here.   Mark discussed all the changes and amazing features coming to SL and how they are working on growth and making SL a better place. You can view parts of his speech here, here, and here. You can also view his slides below.

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The Future of Second Life

Second Life 2.0: Tom Hale Presents the New Second Life Viewer, Website, and Interactive Web Media at SLCC

Business, Community, content creation, Education, events, Marketing, News Announcements, Second Life, SLCC, Virtual Worlds on August 19th, 2009 10 Comments

The biggest news coming out of the Second Life Community Convention this year was delivered by Linden Lab Chief Product Officer Tom Hale, aka T. Linden, who announced a dramatic user experience roadmap and gave a tour of several of its features including a new SL viewer and website.

The new SL viewer, which will debut later this year, was designed with user experience in mind. The navigation is a updated so that you can easily go “back” and forth between previous locations and easily use SLURLs as locations. The most used features of the viewer are clustered into a single drawer that opens to a right hand panel and then can be shut when you are not using it, in order to unclutter the display. It promises “no more panel proliferation”.

Also coming by the end of this quarter is a vastly improved Second Life website with a machinima to entice visitors, an interactive keyword searchable map, and an improved XStreet SL shopping experience. They also updated the registration process and provided new users with a PDF quick start guide. The user dashboard is also updated as well and will eventually be your social networking homepage.

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