Toward a Metaverse Future Society!

AvaCon announces:

AvaCon has exciting things planned for 2013!

We are working on new initiatives to connect and support the communities and people involved in co-creating and using the metaverse, including new events, a new membership-led community organization (coming soon!), and our latest call for proposals for the recently launched Metaverse Cultural Series.

Metaverse Cultural Series 2013

The Metaverse Cultural Series 2013 is a set of events featuring performances and lectures that highlight unique aspects of metaverse culture. The events will take place in multiple virtual world spaces and the series will showcase innovative artists, thinkers, performers, and academics whose work is on the forefront of exploring what it means to work, play, and live in the emerging metaverse.

If you are interested in performing or speaking in the Metaverse Cultural Series 2013, or hosting an event in your virtual space, we encourage you to submit your proposal at: http://avacon.org/blog/events/metaverse-cultural-series/

Hosts and performers will receive a $50 USD stipend for their participation in the program!

Metaverse Future Society – Coming Soon!

There are many places on the web where communities of interest gather around a particular technology or virtual world platform, but there are few places where those communities can come together to discuss the broader metaverse concept, where it converges with gaming and the web, and where we want it to go.

We envision a new kind of membership-driven organization where those passionate about the metaverse can help shape its future. Through issue advocacy, collaborative working groups, technical standards, and policy development, we can tackle the challenges of the fledgling metaverse today while also growing the career opportunities and professional skills of those working to create the platforms, content, and experiences for an exciting metaverse of tomorrow.

Stay tuned for more information about the Metaverse Future Society and how you can get involved!
Volunteer Opportunities & Open Staff Positions

AvaCon has exciting plans for the new year, and we’re on the lookout for people passionate about the metaverse and virtual worlds to help us showcase all of the terrific work being done in Second Life, Opensim, Unity3D, Open Wonderland, CloudParty, Utherverse and other metaverse-y platforms and technologies. We especially need volunteers with great organizing skills who love to meet and work with people in multiple worlds.

If this sounds like you, then join our organization today and help us help the people making the metaverse a reality! See our open positions and volunteer opportunities at: http://avacon.org/blog/positions/

Donations to AvaCon Now Tax Deductible

We are very pleased that AvaCon received formal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS as a public charity organization, so donations and sponsorships for AvaCon events and activities are now tax deductible!

It’s never too early to start planning for your next year’s taxes, so please consider giving a donation to support AvaCon’s mission as we work towards the growth and development of the metaverse, virtual worlds, augmented reality, and 3D immersive and virtual spaces.

Donate today at: http://avacon.org/blog/donate/

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!

We want to personally wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year and we look forward to supporting, sharing and helping shape the future of the metaverse with you as we start an exciting 2013.

Sincerely,

Joyce Bettencourt, President
Chris Collins, Vice President
Kathey Fatica, Treasurer

Interesting. It’s not the first time efforts are being launched for this kind of metaverse-wide approach. I remember roadbooks being feverishly discussed, and of course we have MetaMeets and the folks around the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research. I think it’s neither too late nor too soon for this latest initiatieve – knowing some of the people involved, I’m sure new and passionating ideas will emerge and lead to new and unexpected projects.

A virtual worlds community going beyond virtual worlds?

Fleep Tuque, a major virtual worlds community expert, said on her Google+ page that AvaCon, the organizers of the Second Life Community Convention (SLCC) plans to include the open-source version of Second Life, OpenSim, and other platforms, in the upcoming gatherings (which will get another name). On the AvaCon website it seems they’re looking for volunteers.

In a famous blogpost Tuque previously explained that people who care about the future of the Metaverse need to move beyond Second Life. There was no edition 2012 of the SLCC as there was disagreement between Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, and AvaCon.

All of which is very interesting as the community conventions were highly creative gatherings, with keynotes from visionaries such as Philip Rosedale and Ray Kurzweil. Most of all, these conventions inspired people who are actually building new layers on top of our reality and who are part of a digital culture avant-garde.

This is how AvaCon defines its mission:

Our mission is to promote the growth, enhancement, and development of the metaverse, virtual worlds, augmented reality, and 3D immersive and virtual spaces. We hold conventions and meetings to promote educational and scientific inquiry into these spaces, and to support organized fan activities, including performances, lectures, art, music, machinima, and much more. Our primary goal is to connect and support the diverse communities and practitioners involved in co-creating and using virtual worlds, and to educate the public and our constituents about the emerging ecosystem of technologies broadly known as the metaverse.

But what is the Metaverse exactly? This is what Wikipedia says:

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.

So we talk here about the sum of all virtual worlds but also about augmented reality and even ‘the internet’, which seems to be quite a broad definition. Maybe that’s normal as the mobile revolution, ubiquitous computing, the internet of things are integrating ‘the internet’ with the ‘physical space’.

I do hope AvaCon will embrace this broad definition. (Some) people in virtual worlds not only want to export their creations into other virtual places, they also want to turn bits into atoms through 3D-printing (read about Second Life artisan Maxi Gossamer in the New World Notes).

It also makes sense to go beyond virtual worlds (which does not mean abandoning them) as we know them and not just beyond Second Life. In essence these virtual worlds create the illusion of 3D on a flat screen. But what about this? Thesis Prize Winner at the Harvard Graduate School of Design 2011 Greg Tran:

Greg believes that ”People assume we have digital 3D already but this is a fallacy. When you rotate your model on ascreen or watch a Pixar animation is actually just a digital 2d REPRESENTATION of material 3d.What people are calling 3DTV and 3D movies are just a form of shallow depth or Bas Relief, not true digital 3D. The critical/operative imperative of the digital 3D is that there is a subject moving through space. The digital 3D is in its beginning stages, but will evolve in a similar way to the digital 2D. The digital 2D began as a specialized, singular medium which was largely used for documentation purposes, but has evolved towards personalization, interactivity, fluency and distribution.”

Or what about telepresence through iPads mounted on light structures? Or about avatars combined with robotics?

One of the lessons of the latest MetaMeets conference was that it’s very worthwhile to gather people who are interested in augmented reality, mobile applications, Kinect and Kinect-style sensors, and virtual worlds (plural). I hope AvaCon will succeed in doing this on an even bigger scale and that they will embed their virtual worlds focus into a larger vision.

Read also: The Metaverse is Dead (and the discussion following the post).

Hat tip to Daniel Voyager for posting about Fleep Tuque on Google+ (did I mention I’m kind of addicted to Google+?)

Virtual communities on Google+

Getting tons of invites for communities on Google Plus. A limited selection: communities for Digital Culture (look for Ted Newcomb to get an invite), Second Life (288 members already), Second Life Arts (135 members), Opensim Virtual (‘First there was Second Life, then there was Freedom), MetaMeets (3D internet conference), Augmented Reality, 3D printing (1,307 members), Ingress (the Google alternate reality game) (7,193 members) and other Ingress-communities (for the resistance, the enlightened, for various countries…).

Google+ also offers a selection of interesting communities and of course allows you to search for specific interests: fond out more at Google+ communities.

There are discussions about whether the discussion threads should be indexed, tagged (of should we use hashtages), privacy, big corporates, but I definitely have the impression it increases the activity on Google+ and makes it far more valuable.

What does the success of Minecraft mean?

‘Could Minecraft be the next great engineering school?’ Scott Smith asks at Quartz.

He explains that Minecraft can be considered as a particularly interesting MOOC – and an example of peer2peer learning.

Minecraft has become a kind of anarchic massive open online course (MOOC) all on its own, without developing courseware or costly new program licenses. Part of the proliferation is due to user-created video, particularly on YouTube, where a quick search yields 7.5 million mentions. Video podcasts, recordings of building in progress and most importantly, walkthroughs, or videos of players demonstrating how to master levels or particular construction techniques, keep the global Minecraft horde digging and trying to impress or teach one another, forming a key part of the informal player-to-player education that makes the game a fascinating phenomenon to observe.

Let’s have a look at this game and engineering:

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Minecraft is spectacularly popular, even though it’s an open or ‘sandbox’-game. Wagner James Au at the New World Notes reported a while ago that the game is more popular than Call of Duty on Xbox Live – as it became the most popular game.

Which contrasts with my conviction that these open ended, sandbox-like games only cater for a niche audience. Is Minecraft a unique success story or is there a wider trend in favor of these open games? Linden Lab is launching Patterns which seems to be heavily inspired by Minecraft, so they seem to believe in the wider trend.

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Another question is why Second Life – as another open environment – seems to stagnate if such a trend exists. Could it be that sophisticated graphics are of lesser importance?

Read also my post about Minecraft in Layar and Minecraft Reality.

Changing the world while exiting the trough of disillusionment

I’m recovering from the second MetaMeets day, but here comes my report about the second part of this two-day conference in the beautiful ‘s Hertogenbosch (the Netherlands).

This day was hands-on: we had a workshop during which we learned to use sculptris to make a model, meshlab to clean it up, and then have it 3dprinted at fablab. My own creation was less than stellar (I even had no computer mouse so my equipment was to blame of course, not me!) but anyway, it was great fun. Chris Kautz facilitated the workshop, he has a great website packed with tutorials and resources: art-werx.com. On YouTube he has a series as crocodileEddie.

Much of the conference was about escaping from the virtual or digital world into the real world via augmented reality or 3D-printing, but we also discussed how to get the physical into the virtual, using Microsoft’s motion sensing input device Kinect.

The chair organizer of MetaMeets Jolanda Mastenbroek was thrilled to try out the Kinect – by slowly moving her body, she brought avatars in Second Life to life – they were moving in sync with her movements in the physical world. This could also work for the open source-version of Second Life, OpenSim.

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For the techies, please consult this page about Kinect and Second Life. It’s an ongoing project, but imagine the possibilities for machinima, gaming and inevitably adult entertainment (always an indication whether or not a technology will succeed).

In my presentation I asked for business models. Can people earn a living in this sector of virtual worlds, augmented reality and mixed realities? Someone who combines with great success his physical artwork with virtual stuff is the French artist Patrick Moya. We watched this video about his work:

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A very different style is this beautiful impression of the Second Life art installations by Artistide Despres, filmed and edited by Marx Catteneo (aka Marc Cuppens) http://www.marccuppens.nl
handheld machinima 2012:

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Cuppens also showed this video about The Cube Project LEA 2012 Second Life.

The Cube Project August 2012, “Over 25 virtual artists have joined the ranks of The Cube Project, curated by Bryn Oh, to create a 20-sim exhibit in just 5 days. What’s the theme? Artists can only use two distinct virtual objects: a black cube, and a white cube.”

Bryn Oh: “We are turning away for a moment from the wonderful range of mesh or photoshopping beautiful textures to work instead on simple minimal compositions in black and white, over 20 regions. The overall idea is to create a massive harmonious environment rather than follow the standard exhibition practice of each artist having a clearly defined separate space to exhibit.”

The Cube Project is a collaborative artwork consisting of virtual artists Bryn Oh, Cajska Carlsson, Charlotte Bartlett, Dancoyote Antonelli, Giovanna Cerise, Haveit Neox, Kicca Igaly, L1Aura Loire, London Junkers, Maya Paris, Misprint Thursday, Nessuno Myoo, Oberon Onmura, PatriciaAnne Daviau, Pol Jarvinen, Rag Randt, Rowan Derryth, Sea Mizin, Secret Rage, Solkide Auer, Remington Aries, Solo Mornington, Tony Resident, Werner Kurosawa and Xineohp Guisse.

A video impression by Marx Catteneo – handheld machinima august 2012
Music by the Artist: Logical Confusion Track: Darklight Album: Logical 3
Downloaded from tribeofnoise.com

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Virtual worlds are not dead, they just smell funny, Flufee said at the opening of the conference (see previous post). It’s a quote from Frank Zappa who said Jazz isn’t dead. It just smells funny. The same applies for virtual worlds. They are somewhere on the agonizing slow exit of the trough of disillusionment in the Gartner cycle of hype, but they allow us to change the real world as we put layers of digital information on the physical reality. They also allow us to change the real world as they enable artists to create new art.

Read also the first part of the MetaMeets report. I also updated my wiki mindmap about this conference.

‘Virtual worlds are not dead, they only smell funny’

Allow Flufee McFluff to introduce this post about the first day of the MetaMeets conference:

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You can find the mindmap on which my own presentation (slideshow) was based in the previous post. I update the mindmap in function of what I learn during this two day-conference.
Some highlights of the conference:

The artist Sander Veenhof showed us the beauty and the subversive power of augmented reality. For instance by organizing an exhibition at the MoMa without any official approval:

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Veenhof often uses Layar, which is a mobile browser for augmented reality. However, these days Layar seems to focus more on activating print media with interactive experiences – which may be more interesting business-wise, but seems less revolutionary. So it’s not surprising Veenhof these days is rather fond of junaio, which boasts being ‘the most advances augmented reality browser.’

– CJ Davies and John McCaffery presented the Project Open Virtual Worlds at the University of St Andrews. CJ is currently developing a modified Second Life viewer for a tablet computer that allows avatar movement & camera control to reflect the tablet’s real world position & orientation using a combination of accelerometer, magnetometer & GPS data. I think it’s pretty exciting to combine avatars and real world in this way.

– Talking about combining the virtual and ‘the real’, Bart Veldhuizen talked about shapeways.com which is specialized in 3D-printing in various materials – so not only plastics but also metal, nylon or silver. Shapeways boasts a community of about 150,000 members. So would it be interesting for those community members to collaborate in 3D environments? That’s not self-evident as the ideal designs for 3D-printing often diverge from what is ideal in a virtual world such as Second Life. Also, the community members may also be competitors and not so keen on collaborating. There is discussion about all this, as other designers often do want to collaborate and work in ‘virtual guilds’ and virtual worlds could be interesting places for discussions, brainstorming and early prototyping.

– So, to refer to Flufee, are virtual worlds dead, now that the talk is so much about 3D-printing and augmented reality? In the discussions about virtual worlds Maria Korolov (Hypergrid Business) gave expert advice about OpenSim, which seems a good solution for education, especially for younger kids. This was also demonstrated by Nick Zwart, an award-winning pioneer in the educational use of virtual worlds (language education) who uses OpenSim.

WordPress Brings Bitcoin to the Blogging Masses | Webmonkey

“Upgrading your WordPress.com blog no longer requires a credit card or PayPal account. Starting today you can raid your virtual piggy bank to pay for WordPress upgrades with the digital currency Bitcoin.”

This is interesting. How ‘virtual’ is bitcoin anyway? Maybe Linden Lab – the company behind Second Life – missed an opportunity here, they could have turned the Linden dollar into a currency going beyond virtual worlds. But bitcoin is far more radical, as it does not depend on one issuer, so it’s a different model. 
via Diigo http://www.webmonkey.com/2012/11/wordpress-brings-bitcoin-to-the-blogging-masses/

MRUniversity: it’s not a massive open online course, but it could be used to create one

Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, two economics professors at George Mason University, launch Marginal Revolution University. They’ll deliver free, interactive courses in the economics space, so I read on Open Culture.
Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok run the blog Marginal Revolution. Some years ago, Cowen also was a guest at the Metanomics-show in Second Life.
Users are invited to submit content. The professors don’t call their courses a MOOC, but “it can be used to create a MOOC, namely a massive, open on-line course.”

New World Notes not convinced about 3D-printing

“No doubt, it’s going to be an important tool for hobbyists and designers, and for assorted applications here and there, but Wired wants to convince us it’s going to be more than that. ”

There, Wagner James Au, the virtual worlds expert and New World Notes blogger, said it: he’s not convinced 3D printing will be Big. 

In the discussion thread I asked whether SecondLife, Cloud Party, OpenSim or other open ended environments will be particularly useful in collaborating and designing prototypes for 3D-printing. Or will it just be one of many possibilities to collaborate on 3D designs for printing, and not necessarily the most obvious one?

His answer:

Quite likely, I mentioned that possibility in my book — but those platforms have less than 1M people, and only a small percent of the population actively engages in 3D prototyping.

>
via Diigo http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2012/10/3d-printing-chris-anderson-wired.html#comments

The economics of video games

“Bloomfield is working on a platform, called the Synthetic Economy Research Environment, that could enable economists to produce games that simulate large-scale economic phenomenon like a central bank.”

I often wondered whether professor Robert Bloomfield (Johnson School of Management at Cornell University) was still involved in virtual worlds research. He was the charismatic host of the rather high-brow Metanomics talk-show in Second Life. Now I got my answer, via Brad Plumer who published a post about the economics of video games on Wonkblog at The Washington Post. 
via Diigo http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/09/28/the-economics-of-video-games/

Another professor known for his virtual worlds research, Edward Castronova, reacted on the WaPo-post on Terra Nova. The Metanomics-site still exists, but it seems there are no more updates.