Who, What, Why?
Friday, July 29
by neilC on Fri 29 Jul 2011 18:55 BST
There have been several attempts over the past year to create a viewer for Second Life and OpenSim based virtual environments that would run 'in a browser'. I've tried to write about them all, from Linden Lab partnering with GaiKai to provide a server-side rendered and streamed experience of SecondLife to Tipodean using the Unity 3D web player to render OpenSim. Every time I saw one of these I thought - if you have to download and install a plugin, why not just wrap the full viewer up as a plugin and install that? Well now SpotOn3D have done almost exactly that:
Voila - Second Life in a Browser
It isn't designed for accessing Second Life. It is mainly designed for embedding on Facebook pages along with Facebook user account integration to drive more adoption of SpotOn3D grids and worlds. What they have done is to create a browser plugin which launches the full SpotOn3D viewer as a separate process, and ensure that the viewer draws it's rendered frames onto the space that the plugin has reserved for it in the browser window. This means that the full viewer (based on the 1.23.5 Linden code base) is running, giving you the full experience. Even voice works. The fact that the viewer is running as a separate process is useful - it should mean that if the viewer crashes it won't take out your browser (provided that the plugin has been written to cope with the sudden disappearance of the viewer process). The plugin has been created using the FireBreath open source toolkit for creating cross-browser plugins, although it seems that right now there are no hooks for communicating from the page to the viewer other than to launch it.
To try it, head to http://3durl.com/world and install the plugin. After installation you get a choice of two grids
Choosing a grid after plugin install
If you don't have an account you'll need to create one, then return to that page and use the account info to log in. Then the viewer will launch magically in your browser. The viewport is fixed size unfortunately right now, but it works perfectly. There is a degree of sluggishness (I assume there is an overhead of sending mouse/keyboard input to the viewer process from the plugin) and overall everything felt somewhat slower than running the client natively. However, there's no denying that it is a full SL viewer-in-a-browser.
Arriving in SpotOn3D... in a browser. Yep, still in the browser
So just what has been achieved here, other than an interesting technical feat? Right now the drive seems to be to try to hoover up some of the Facebook herd. Reduce the barrier to entry for the curious. I can see that having some value, if you have a business model requiring lots of users, as SpotOn3D does I think. But those users must have a great initial experience. If you make it a few clicks to get in, the user will have little commitment and hence will just as easily flit off somewhere else. And if this thing takes off, SpotOn3D could get hit by hundreds suddenly dipping their toe in the virtual water - how will the grid cope? Is it going to load balance them off to copies of the sim? Will there be staff on hand to greet them all? It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
It is important to realise that having the viewer launched as a plugin does not bring with it the advantages that a true 'browser' based viewer would have. The full viewer is still running, requiring relevant permissions to install it, and all the same firewall requirements that the full viewer has. This is not going to help with adoption of immersive environments in enterprises, other than maybe providing a foot-in-the-door ("Oh, yes, it runs in the browser")
I guess I should mention Kitely in the context of creating easy to access OpenSim virtual worlds. In fact there's not so much difference between the approaches. Kitely installs a plugin, but their plugin launches a separate client rather than embedding it in the browser. However right now their account integration with Facebook is already done, and they give you your own region that spins up on demand.
So how did I log into SecondLife with it? By accident when trying to work out how to 'close' the embedded viewer - I wasn't sure that closing the browser tab would log me out so I used the viewer menu to log out - and there is a lovely grid drop down and manager, so you could connect it to any SecondLife or OpenSim server. Bear in mind that the SpotOn3D viewer isn't in the SL 3rd party viewer directory. And why not just launch the full viewer?
My home location in Second Life. Did I say this was in a browser?
Monday, May 23
by neilC on Mon 23 May 2011 12:55 BST
Trying out KeepStream, a new rather snazzy tool for assembling collections of resources from Twitter and Facebook, this took literally a couple of minutes to assemble. Thanks to @botgirlq and @storytellin
Saturday, May 14
by neilC on Sat 14 May 2011 19:48 BST
I'm going to be discussing collaboration tomorrow evening on Tonight Live in Second Life. I remembered that I'd given a talk on the subject a couple of years ago, at the Beta Business Park in SL, and rather than let the presentation fester on my hard drive I might as well share it. It ends with a tour of the Roobaab CMS and 3D meeting tools. But the meat in the middle is some thoughts on collaboration and the tools for doing it. Maybe it is helpful to someone.
Friday, May 13
by neilC on Fri 13 May 2011 21:02 BST
They say you should try everything once, and since I've never been on a live chat show in any form, when I was asked if I'd like to be interviewed on 'Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe', the biggest live show in Second Life, I immediately thought "Er, erm, no, not really, well, what if, but, oh OK then".
So for your enjoyment and my toe-curling embarassment, catch the whole thing live this Sunday at 6pm SLT (BST - 8) in-world at the studios in SL or on Treet.tv or later archived on the Tonight Live web site. Yes, that means I'll be trying to sound roughly like I know what I'm talking about at 2am my time, having played at a live pub music session earlier in the evening. My mileage may vary.
Friday, April 22
by neilC on Fri 22 Apr 2011 19:39 BST
This blog is largely about 'serious' collaborative uses of virtual world and related technologies. However sometimes things touch you to an extent you want to share. I recently found this poem, it's not posted much out on the web as far as I can see - and it should be. The relevance or otherwise I leave up to you. more »
Thursday, January 20
by neilC on Thu 20 Jan 2011 13:06 GMT
It has finally happened - the Kinect motion-sensing gadget from Microsoft has been hooked up to control avatars in virtual worlds that use the Second Life viewer:
Thanks to New World Notes for spotting this!
This kind of thing tends to get people very excited, and rightly so - making interaction with 3D virtual environments more intuitive and less clunky is key to bringing the benefits that these environments hold. I'm easily swept up by the giddy shiny too, imagining being able to have all my movements and facial gestures immediately reflected in my avatar, visible to everyone, under my control (turn down transmission of grumpy, accentuate transmission of happy, apply improve-posture algorithm etc). This is maybe a step along the way, but before getting too excited it's worth understanding exactly what is happening here and what the limitations currently are. Read on for detailed analysis... more »
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