MetaMeets! Virtuality Meets Reality

Tomorrow I’ll participate in the MetaMeets gathering in ‘s-Hertogenbosch,The Netherlands. What we’l do and talk about:

MetaMeets is a seminar/meeting about virtual worlds, augmented reality and 3D internet, this year’s topic will be The Art of Creation : Virtuality meets Reality.

Virtual worlds and 3D internet have been developing continuously. Mobile and browser based worlds have been created. Mesh format uploads have provided huge progress in content creation through open source programs like Blender and Google Sketchup.
Machinima creation has grown and improved with special interfaces and innovations in visual possibilities, making films shot in virtual worlds a professional tool for presentation to a mainstream audience.

MetaMeets has chosen this year to shine a light on this versatile digital canvas by taking its participants interactively into the Art of Creation. The programme will begin with a few lectures on the current state of virtual worlds and their new developments. Subsequently, we will have workshops exploring methods of accomplishing each of the key steps in 3D creation. The workshops will range from creating a virtual world on your own server, creating 3D content, creating (motion) pictures of it, and even printing 3D objects as real world 3D models.

We also will have an interactive roundtable discussion based on the movie The Singularity is Near that is released this summer for download and availible on dvd.

This is a mindmap I prepared. My subject is about the virtual which escapes into the real. Or how maybe Second Life is catering for a niche group of people, but the ethos of virtual worlds is spreading fast in what we once called the ‘real world’.

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Create your own mind maps at MindMeister
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Apps on top of the real world

This seems to be pretty cool, but as you’ll see in the ‘read more’ section, it’s much more than just ‘cool’:

And here is how it works:

It’s build by Stockholm-based 13thlab.com and it’s an app available on iOS.

Using advanced computer vision, Minecraft Reality maps and tracks the world around you using the camera, and allows you to place Minecraft worlds in reality, and even save them in a specific location for others to look at.

Minecraft Reality is built on our PointCloud SDK. For more information, and examples of what people are placing, visit http://minecraftreality.com.

Just like the Google ARG Ingress, this is yet another example of the crumbling walls between the digital world and the world formerly known as the real world.

The guys of 13thLab claim: “We think the camera will replace the GPS as the most important sensor to interpret and make sense of the world around you.”

Hat tip for Bruce Sterling on Beyond the Beyond for posting about this.

Read also:
– If the world were your platform, what apps would you build, by Janko Roettgers at GigaOM. He asks the fascinating question: “If your apps aren’t just running on a phone or a tablet anymore, but essentially on top of the real world — what kind of apps do you build?”
– The World Is Not Enough: Google and the Future of Augmented Reality by Alexis C. Madrigal at theAtlantic.
-Minecraft creations meet the real world through augmented reality iOS app by David Meyer on GigaOM.

Let Google hack your mind!

Alternate Reality Games (ARG)! conspiracies! Augmented Reality! Mind hacking! Soon all this on your Android (now in closed beta) – and I guess less soon also on iOS. Meet Ingress, Google’s ARG. It reminds me of Shadow Cities, but then again I could not yet try out Ingress. It seems to be more interesting in this sense that it integrates the digital game layer more into the physical reality – however without actually using physical objects. Also visit the companion website Niantic Project. Cannot wait to experience these things wearing Google glasses… (and of course, while pretending to be a game, Google will eventually hack your mind):

Read also:
– Google Launches Ingress, a Worldwide Mobile Alternate Reality Game by Liz Gannes on AllThingsD
– Inside Ingress, Google’s new augmented reality game by Casey Newton on C|Net
Niantic Project Wiki
Read even more:
– Are ARGs Dead? A Closer Look at a Common Refrain by Adrian Hon on ARGNet
– Niantic Labs Bears More Fruit: Location-Based Massively Multiplayer Game Ingress Hits Google Play by Darrell Etherington at TechCrunch. Notice that the term ‘alternate reality’ is not being used here, but instead ‘location-based multiplayer gaming’.

Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong – The Atlantic

Alexis C. Madrigal explains: 
“For one, I spent most of the 90s as a teenager in rural Washington and my web was highly, highly social. We had instant messenger and chat rooms and ICQ and USENET forums and email. ”

It’s important to have the history of the web right. The internet was social long before Twitter and Facebook came along. It still is social independently of those huge networks (one could also include massively multiplayer online games in the analysis of the ‘dark social’). 
via Diigo http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/10/dark-social-we-have-the-whole-history-of-the-web-wrong/263523/

A gamification course which also teaches ethics

The Gamification course on Coursera, by associate professor Kevin Werbach (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania), has ended. The course got 80,000 registrations and it is expected it will run again in the future. It was a very interesting experience, making me think about using gamification in the news media. In fact, we already use game elements in the media, but there is so much more which could be done.

Professor Werbach is about to publish the book For The Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business. Okay, the title sounds very hype-like, but having participated in the course I can testify that Werbach is not advocating simple, manipulative techniques to be applied in whatever context. On the contrary, we learned how crucial it is to analyze the situation and to think hard about the objectives and the impact gamification can have on people and how important self-determination is.

I guess most of us watched the 2010 presentation by Jesse Schell:

However, there was another video we had to watch (and which was used extensively for the ‘final exam’), the futuristic film Sight by Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo:

The video choice was illustrative for the ethical preoccupations of the course.

Let’s meet at MetaMeets

On November 30 and December 1 the conference “MetaMeets 2012. The Art of Creation : Virtuality meets Reality” takes place (‘s-Hertogenbosch,The Netherlands).

MetaMeets is a seminar/meeting about virtual worlds, augmented reality and 3D internet, this year’s topic will be The Art of Creation : Virtuality meets Reality.

Virtual worlds and 3D internet have been developing continuously. Mobile and browser based worlds have been created. Mesh format uploads have provided huge progress in content creation through open source programs like Blender and Google Sketchup.
Machinima creation has grown and improved with special interfaces and innovations in visual possibilities, making films shot in virtual worlds a professional tool for presentation to a mainstream audience.

MetaMeets has chosen this year to shine a light on this versatile digital canvas by taking its participants interactively into the Art of Creation. The programme will begin with a few lectures on the current state of virtual worlds and their new developments. Subsequently, we will have workshops exploring methods of accomplishing each of the key steps in 3D creation. The workshops will range from creating a virtual world on your own server, creating 3D content, creating (motion) pictures of it, and even printing 3D objects as real world 3D models.

We also will have an interactive roundtable discussion based on the movie The Singularity is Near that is released this summer for dowload and availible on dvd.

The last day’s machinima workshop will feature an evening presentation of that day’s machinima creations and a selection of related machinimas from around the world.

Starting the week before Metameets, there will be an installation on display at our partner’s venue (Nerdlab, Digitale Werkplaats). This installation is the artistic fruit of the workgroup Konnect, which has been exploring ways to create art content using natural interaction devices (like MS Kinect). Martijn Verhallen (Curator Nerdlab), Philippe Moroux (SL artist: Artistide Despres), and Marc Cuppens (SL machinimator: Marx Catteneo) are the creative forces behind Konnect.

I’ll give a talk at the conference about stuff such as 3D-printing, drones, DIY and Maker culture, and how all this ties in into the virtual worlds environments.

MetaMeets poster

There is more about games than competition…

I’m working on my final written assignment for the Gamification Course at Coursera (our professor is Kevin Werbach, The Wharton School, Univ. of Pennsylvania). One of the most inspiring comments were made during the interview by Werbach of Amy Jo Kim, an expert in game design, gamification and and ‘the development of social architectures’.
On the question about the future of gamification, she answered:

I think what we see right now is the awakening of what will be a much bigger and longer trend, and I don’t think it will be called gamification cuz I don’t think it’ll be one thing. I think it will be many different techniques that are inspired by games, that get embedded in different ways in software. So short answer is, I think the word will go away but the wave will only grow bigger and will become an integral part of most software.

Werbach asked about Richard Bartle‘s notion of player types – something which is also much discussed by virtual worlds experts. In Bartle’s player type model for Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) we distinguish:
– achievers, acting on the world, wanting recognition for their achievements.
– explorers, those who want to interact with the world.
– socializers: those who want primarily to interact with other players.
– killers: they not just want to win, but want to totally vanquish and destroy other players. Or they can control a group by playing a very crucial role, like that of a healer, keeping the whole team together.

Amy Jo Kim warns that while useful for a specific kind of game, Bartle’s model as such is not useful in other contexts – like in most gamification contexts (which are not games in themselves, but where elements and gaming design principles are being used). She works with ‘social engagement verbs’:

Very similarly, there’s competing, collaborating, exploring, and expressing. Explore is right out of Bartle, so that one is similar. Competing is similar to the achievers, but more specific. Collaborating is very much what he calls socializers, but with a very game perspective. (…) and then what Bartle didn’t talk about at all that is a huge driver in social media and social gaming is self-expression. That one was missing. And the drive toward self-expression. For many people, that’s a primary player
type.

This is crucial, as for instance young moms or middle-aged moms will respond more to collaborative mechanics and social mechanics. Which is very interesting, as games do not have to be zero-sum games. There is competitive gaming, but there are also collaborative games. Games such as The Sims and The Sims Online, or Rock Band (she worked on those games) don’t have quantifiable outcomes. ‘You just keep playing’. Amy Jo Kim defines those games as a structured experience with rules and goals that’s fun to play. ‘Rules and goals are pretty critical, fun to play is pretty critical, or at least pleasant, engaging.’
I think what she describes is very interesting for gamification in general, it really broadens our vision of what ‘games’ are, and I guess it could also be applied to open-ended virtual worlds, such as Second Life or OpenSim.
Here you see Amy Jo Kim during Google Tech Talks about applying game mechanics to functional software:

The metaverse is dead. Long live shared creative spaces!

Linden Lab, the company behind the virtual world Second Life, is about to launch two non-Second Life products: Creatorverse and Patterns. Creatorverse is an iPad-app:

Patterns will be a ‘new 3D creative environment’. Virtual World-watcher Wagner James Au says on New World Notes that Linden Lab no longer has as mission to make an online world ‘that advances the human condition’ but rather specializes in ‘shared creative spaces’ – not in facilitating the emergence of the metaverse. For those who forgot about the metaverse – which seems these days a bit like an antiquated idea – Wikipedia defines it as thus:

The Metaverse is our collective online shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the internet. The word metaverse is a portmanteau of the prefix “meta” (meaning “beyond”) and “universe” and is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.

Second Life is stagnating, at least not growing like Californian tech companies are supposed to growth (that being said, it seems to be profitable). I’ve been fascinated by that virtual world since about 2007, as it allows to transcend geographical and maybe even cultural distances. It enables people to meet, avatar-wise, in shared and persistent spaces. It has a creative and liberal culture – the world is almost entirely created by its ‘residents’. For a while I thought that maybe the future internet would look like a sophisticated Second Life, and that 2D-objects such as websites would simply be a part of that metaverse.

In the meantime I realized that it’s a niche culture. At first it was believed that Second Life, as a user-generated, free culture for (mainly) adults did not go mainstream because of management and marketing errors. There were other attempts to create a open-ended, user-generated worlds, such as Lively (Google), Metaplace.com (Raph Koster), Blue Mars, which failed. Other worlds are still very much alive such as OpenSim (like Second Life, but open source), the very new Cloud Party (browser-based) and Jibe (an embeddable virtual environment, visit Reactiongrid’s new site). I like projects such as OpenSim and Jibe, but those are even more niche than Second Life (and often the users/residents are former Second Life people).

Moya museum in the virtual world Cloud Party

Patrick Moya museum in the virtual world Cloud Party

Some think that virtual environments will gain traction once they are browser-based (no hefty downloads) and are made easier to use. I’m sceptical: while I feel comfortable in a virtual environment and as an avatar, for many others it’s an uncanny experience, especially in a professional context. I have the feeling that it is about the representation of oneself and others, about identities, not about technical hurdles.

It seems to be different for online games which of course did go mainstream, also for adult audiences – but then again, these are games, not open ended user generated worlds. Minecraft is very popular, but it’s more a game (while there are game environments inside Second Life, the world itself is not a game). As it is explained on the Minecraft site:

I strongly believe that all good stories have a conflict, and that all good games tell a good story regardless of if it’s pre-written or emergent. Free building mode is fine and dandy, but for many people it will ultimately become boring once you’ve got it figured out. It’s like playing a first person shooter in god mode, or giving yourself infinite funds in a strategy game.. a lack of challenge kills the fun.

Still, I do like this notion of virtual shared creative spaces. It is exactly what we’ll need in many different contexts, as globalization increases dramatically and the technological possibilities multiply exponentially. But there is competition. Just suppose you want to link up with other people, elsewhere in the world, for a project or even a joint venture. You don’t have the budget for a high-end videoconferencing system. I guess that Google+ Hangout – with its videoconferencing features, screensharing, chat-possibilities, apps, network, possibility to save the conference and with links with the other Google goodies would do a very nice job. It even is free.
My guess is that you’ll mainly use the Google-stuff. A virtual environment? Maybe to create 3D-objects together, if that would be your line of business or educational project. Or as a fun experiment. Or for a simulation.

I don’t want to downplay the importance of these possibilities. Especially not because I’m a firm believer in the importance of developments such as 3D printing. Creating 3D objects together, or at least experiencing 3D prototypes in a virtual environment might very well be very interesting. But I would not call it ‘the metaverse’.

Gamification becomes ‘hot’

Okay, gamification – using elements and design principles from games in non-game contexts – is already pretty hot. But now the real money could get involved. Ryan Kim at GigaOm sees gamification startups as the next big enterprise target:

Gamification is thought of as a hyped buzzword by skeptics, but it’s increasingly being used by corporations to incentivize consumers and motivate employees. As enterprise adoption of gamification grows, that could make gamification startups the next hot acquisition target in the coming years.

So I better continue the Gamification course at Coursera!

We’re back, with learnstreaming!

I recently discovered the blog Learnstreaming where Dennis Callahan demonstrates the practice of learning based lifestreaming.

I find this really interesting as I learn quite a few things these days: I’m still working on the peeragogy.org handbook, I participate on forums at The WELL and brainstorms.rheingold.com, not to mention my Google+, Facebook and Twitter-activities. Oh yes, there are also my social bookmarks at Diigo and Delicious. And of course I learn a lot in my newsroom, experimenting with new media and participating in our newspaper community.

I could also mention Tumblr and Quora, and many other services (some of which I might have forgotten about).

A lot of those services can be considered as part of my personal learning network. I’ve been wondering how to stream at least part of the learning which is going on there. I considered platforms such as Tumblr or Posterous, Google+ and Facebook. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I think I prefer good old WordPress.

I somehow trust WordPress more than some commercial company which will inevitably merge, disappear or change essential policies in function of considerations which are not necessarily in the interest of its users. I also want to avoid walled gardens – in fact, I want to publish some of my thoughts and experiences which I discussed previously behind closed virtual doors.

Just to warn you that this blog will become far more active. I’ll post about online education, the interaction between digital and physical environments, games (more specifically gamification and serious games), near-future science fiction and other crazy stuff. Watch this space!