Thursday, September 10, 2015

Safari goes Looking

John Snow: Ahhh, glad you made it. I'm told by my old colleagues at Westminster Medical School that you are one of their finest graduates, Stephen. I am in need of a skilled yet young-minded doctor to help me with an investigation of utmost importance. Do you feel up to it? (say "yes" in local chat).

Sonic, cholera, and OnLook might not sound like an appealing mix but for this week's Safari it was a wild ride through space and time!
This week Mobius Grid wanted to do something special to mark the 16th anniversary of the launch of the Dreamcast console, an iconic piece of gaming equipment that changed the virtual lives of many a young(and-not-so-young)ster. 

A party ? You better believe the Safari wanted in on that! To try to blend in on Mobius, which is in layman's terms a 'Sonic the Hedgehog-themed world'  most of the safaristas donned appropriate furry attachments, some like Jessie Campbell and me for the first time. 

 Some possibly wiser heads (or less adept avatar-changers) chose the 'normal' option and to sit out the dancing, which was largely Funky Gibbon on Acid. It was hilarious fun, and some really embraced the idea - here's Pathfinder
Lucy Afarensis
and Wizardoz Chrome
Rocks the Squirrel was spinning vintage tunes in Dreamcast theme, and a whole load of Mobians were there to welcome us, to represent them all, here's the top Mobian Serra Royale, our kind and friendly host.

Going to Mobius is always a treat. Everyone we have met there has been so kind and friendly,and immensely creative in a style that is as unique as it is beautiful. Go check it out! The addresses to all our stops will be at the end of the post.
Our second stop was a big change of theme, but also extremely well thought out. We went to REDGrid, which is the virtual world belonging to Ball State University. Dr Stephen Gasior uses the 3D environment to help students learn about investigating epidemics to figure out the cause.
Getting to REDgrid was no picnic, because the hypergrid was spitting back landmarks - but as you all know by now our Safari notecard includes the low-tech HG Address for each destination. 
At REDGrid on a sim named after pioneering medical detective Dr Snow.
Fuschia and me blend right in with the Victorian ambience

It's called 'Virtual Epidemiology Investigation' - a series of NPCs explain about the theories held in Victorian times about what caused cholera. The visit starts in the classroom with the received wisdom of the time, and with the help of a HUD, follows in the footsteps of Dr Snow by allowing the student to interview various sufferers and survivors of cholera, trying to understand the anatomy of the outbreak. It's interactive learning - you're meant to respond to questions and answers given by the  NPCs. Some are funny, some poignant, all very lifelike!

Somehow the build, by Stephen and Kim Anubis - managed to withstand the arrival of about ten of us. It's really meant to be visited by one student at a time, but despite that the NPCs behaved pretty well. Here's one of them with Stephen and Kim. 

It's a really interesting exercise in figuring out how people's answers can be interpreted and used to create a scientific model of an epidemic. There's a lot of interesting detail here and it's a fun trip to take even if you're not a student. I heard this radio play about Dr Snow, and you might enjoy hearing it before you go, although *spoiler alert* the play reveals just what was causing that cholera!

Last stop was to UCI Mondego and a conversation with Crista Lopes aka Diva Canto about her OnLook viewer. Here's the tidied up transcript. 

Thirza Ember: so can you see yourselves?
Casias.Falta i dont see my ava
Mal Burns: yes - all good here
Crista Lopes: are you all using Onlook viewer or something else?
Casias.Falta i am using onlook
Thirza Ember: I have OnLook working
stiofain nbmcmedia: i relogged with diff av on fstorm because my av disappeared on onlook
Mal Burns: oh - forgot - still in singularity
Crista Lopes: if you are on Onlook you should not see yourslves. Maybe you need to close the local chatbar by pressing ESC
Casias.Falta when i arrived with onlook i saw my ava for a few seconds the it disappeared
Crista Lopes: ok great, yes that should happen
Crista Lopes: you should all be invisible if you are using OnLook, I haven configured my server here to make ppl's own avatars invisible, but it may not always mileage may vary!
Crista Lopes: try closing the chat bar. maybe that will make it work
Thirza Ember: it seems to make Singularity get some problems, though - when I use Singularity now, it has lost all my passwords, for example
 Stiofain.MacTomais: i seen my onlook av for around 30 secs then disappeared and ui changed
Thirza Ember: the ui changed?
Stiofain.MacTomais: the radar disappeared and ctrl commands dont work
Casias.Falta crista will the documentation on how to set up a server for onlook be online sometime or maybe already
stiofain nbmcmedia: can the hg destination for onlook be preset?
Crista Lopes: casias, it's not documented. I'll try to write a blog post about it
Casias.Falta great am looking forward to trying it out
stiofain nbmcmedia: Crista do u plan further updates to onlook ? or do u expect viewer devs will adopt the features?
Crista Lopes: I am actively seeking funding to do a complete re-engineering of one of the viewers based on my experiments with OnLook but taking it to the next level but it requires money, because it's a lot of work that I don't think viewer devs will do for free. It's all a matter of who's going to do it  reengineering the viewer will be a departure from Second Life and most viewer devs don't want to do that -- or haven't been wanting to do it so far
Casias.Falta great news
Mal Burns: yes - very good
stiofain nbmcmedia: sl is a pretty toxic brand name, i would say there would be interest from the community for a crowdfunding
Mal Burns: Crista - can i ask about how much funding would be needed for something like that?
Crista Lopes: I'm not talking about $5k...
Crista Lopes: I'm talking about $50k at least
Mal Burns: whew - ok
stiofain nbmcmedia: ok will just chk my paypal balance lol
snowbody Cortes: lol
Crista Lopes: yeah it will not be viewer development as usual. Most 3rd party viewer development is really lightweight, not much more than changing the skin, really. Little things. I'm  talking about a complete re-engineering os substantial parts of the viewer and breaking compatibility with Linden Lab, in the sense that once we do it, we will not be able to merge any further developments from Linden Lab
Casias.Falta what economic entity do you think well benefit or be interested in funding a project like that
stiofain nbmcmedia: would that be with the aim of having it work in a browser too?
Crista Lopes: no -  two completely different technologies -- browser and this
Crista Lopes: but this can be made to be more like a web browser
stiofain nbmcmedia: ok good info
Crista Lopes: a different species of web browser
snowbody Cortes: C++ ?
Crista Lopes: it's not the language
Crista Lopes: it's the graphics code
Mal Burns: and could possibly be engineered as an app at same time?
 Mal Burns: for android,ios etc
Crista Lopes: no
Mal Burns: ah ok
Casias.Falta well there is an android viewer
Crista Lopes: this will be a standalone application, like what it is now, but where the UI is completely programmable server-side, so it's another kind of browser
Crista Lopes: not a web browser, but a opensim-VW browser
Mal Burns: got it
Crista Lopes: a web-browser based viewer for these kinds of content is not feasible
Lucy Afarensis: thanks
Mal Burns: might be a boon to closed grids wanted custom viwer, but defeats hypergrid idea 
Crista Lopes: the only way to see this content on a web browser is to use streaming services like frame and appstream
snowbody Cortes: just to understand better, do you think to extend the Linden protocol stack or do you plan to create something different ?
Casias.Falta probably better to call it a viewer and now a browser
Crista Lopes: this content is completely unoptimized, it blows over the limits of the browser in no time
stiofain nbmcmedia: yes and that seems to be prohibitively expensive
Crista Lopes: so my goal for now is just to have a better viewer that works more like a web browser in the sense that the UI comes form the server
snowbody Cortes: so you extend the protocol
Crista Lopes: I hope to make it modular, the UI be interpreted by a JavaScript engine, just like in a web browser but with ties to the 3d scene so that if you click on a object, JavaScript can be run and then potentially talk to the server some more, basically like a web browser. I'd like to preserve the rendering engine of these viewers, which is amazing for amateur content
snowbody Cortes: TCP instead of UDP then
Crista Lopes: no, this will not be a web browser, it's still a standalone application, so it will use whatever protocol is better
Lucy Afarensis: A few years ago i was involved in a project to create custom linden plants by modifying the trees.xml file
Crista Lopes: it just uses the model of the web browser, it will be much more than that and the data will come from the server rather than being hardcode din the clients
Lucy Afarensis: could this be module so the the server could tell the viewer to use a custom set?
Crista Lopes: yes
Lucy Afarensis: cool
Casias.Falta i take it this will not address the issue of customizing what URI is the default when a viewer is downloaded
Crista Lopes: For OnLook there is no default and yes, that is orthogonal
stiofain nbmcmedia: so we cud set the destination on hg ?
Crista Lopes: on login?
stiofain nbmcmedia: yea crista is what i was hoping
Crista Lopes: I really can't answer that. Once we make the UI programmable it really opens the decisions up to the virtual world owners - that's the whole point
Crista Lopes: I am about zero interest in making a bunch if UI decisions for everyone
Crista Lopes: people should decide
 stiofain nbmcmedia: lol
Crista Lopes: I'll make decisions for my vLab and my other grids, and those decisions will be based on what I think is important for my grids, which is actually different from grid to grid
Crista Lopes: my vLab has a certain type of uses that are very different from my urban planning grid, hence they require different UIs. There may be groups of people who decide to normalize the UIs and that's fine,  just like social network sites all look more or less like facebook, but that's a social convention, not a technical necessity
Casias.Falta do you ever have trouble showing a new user how to get the proper URI into the viewer the first time
Crista Lopes: Casias not with Singularity or OnLook. Since the grid box is writable, so I just tell them enter this URL on the grid box. Fair enough, ppl don't need to use the grid manager anymore in Singularity
stiofain nbmcmedia: that's why we use singu dload for newbs every step cut out makes a diff to take up
Crista Lopes: yes, the grid box being writable was a great thing they did at my request...
stiofain nbmcmedia: but is still way too complicated for most ordinary comp users
Crista Lopes: yes - viewers need a complete rewrite not just the minor aesthetic changes that the devs do
Lucy Afarensis: Do you think it will happen?
Crista Lopes: I hope so!
Lucy Afarensis: me too
Crista Lopes: it'll just be a matter of time until I find the funding for it; it's not research, otherwise I would have gotten the money already
Casias.Falta are you in touch with the fellow that developed ctraltviewer
snowbody Cortes: Crista, when you say UI, do you mean also the 3D viewing of the world or the classical user Interfaces ?
Mal Burns: aside from funding, how long would such a development take?
Casias.Falta and are you interested in the stereoscopic option
Crista Lopes: 6 months to have something usable.  I'm interested in VR headsets, but that's orthogonal to this, and when I say UI I mean the GUI, not the 3d scene
Crista Lopes: the 3d scene (the rendering engine) is just about the pearl in the middle of a very ugly piece of code
Casias.Falta ha ha
Crista Lopes: what they are doing with rendering these highly unoptimized 3d scenes is unparallelled
snowbody Cortes: the middle pearl that do see the world so nice ;)
Crista Lopes: there is not other rendering engine out there that can cope with this, so imagine just the 3d scene with no UI no avatars, no nothing. That's the base. Then the interaction should be programmable, and each application requires their oen interaction and UI, some need avatars some don', some need chat some don't, some need rich buttons, some dont, etc
snowbody Cortes: a web bower is already a programmable GUI and the HTML page fetched and displayed is the result of that ...
Crista Lopes: exactly, like the web browser: -- the model not the actual software
snowbody Cortes: html is based on a xml description sorta
Crista Lopes: because web browsers have limits that are unable to cope with this kind of content
Crista Lopes: web browsers are able to do two things:
Crista Lopes: (1) interpret html -- that's the equivalent of interpreting the 3d content here
Crista Lopes: (2) interpreting JavaScript so to be able to support a multitude of UI -- that's what I want to do here
snowbody Cortes: uhm ... 3d could be realized by vrml... that's another xml description sorta
Crista Lopes: web browsers can render 3d content. They just can't render the kinds of content that tehse worlds proud themselves of having -- amateur-created content. Amateur-created content is highly unoptimized -  there's megabytes of stuff
stiofain nbmcmedia: guilty
snowbody Cortes: with some extension 3d java they can
 Crista Lopes: that isn't really necessary, and would be optimized by professional artists - webgl can do 3d content very well
Crista Lopes: so if you throw one of these scenes at a webgl viewer, it will crash in no time
snowbody Cortes: so my wondering is where you will be in between ...
Crista Lopes: what do you mean?
snowbody Cortes: I mean that you will plan a remoted-designed UI; the server will insruct the client about how to organize the widgets, or something like that
Crista Lopes: My plan is to save this rendering engine from the misery where it lives and give it a proper programmable framework for UI
snowbody Cortes: by xml format
Mal Burns: i assume the final (actual) design will depend on the world provider/host - what you will create is the template for a modulr system they cvan use for that?
Crista Lopes: yes
Lucy Afarensis: yay!
Crista Lopes: funding permitting!
Thirza Ember: My friends... I must close it's late here ... thank you Crista for letting us visit! I'm going to post a little bit of this conversaton, I know many wanted to be here but hypergridding today has been terrible, so many got lost.
Mal Burns: yes indeed
Crista Lopes: thanks for visiting! Bye

This week's URIs (HG Addresses)
Mobius grid     
Virtual Snow   
Crista's grid    


  1. Great destinations this week. Thanks for visiting Virtual Epidemiology Investigation

  2. Awesome turnout and content. Great to see everyone!