Welcome to the tenth Sign of the Kite (SOTK) newsletter of 2016. Remember SOTK is the shortform newsletter that keeps you up to speed with all things Kitely and OpenSim. It is written BY residents FOR residents and is neither sponsored nor endorsed by Kitely. This newsletter is also available in pdf format.
Got news of your world or group, an event, a recruitment drive, a newsworthy shop, product or promotion? Drop a brief notecard on avatar Graham Mills_2 inworld or PM Graham Mills via the Forum. All that’s needed are 2–5 sentences with a title, URL and/or hypergrid address. All times in PDT, please, and nothing A-rated/NSFW. Copy deadline is 17:00 Wednesday for inclusion in Friday’s news.
Note that we’re currently running a fortnightly publication schedule.
Events at Freda’s Fantasy
Tuesdays 2pm PST, starting 4/26. Kitely Free Association Open Chat — This is the Tuesday chat that has been hosted for some time by Dot Matrix. Freda will host for as long as the group will have her. Please come prepared to chat in text or (if you must) in local voice. Topics will be determined as we gather week by week. The LM will take you to the front door at the main house. Come on up the stairs to find us.
Wednesdays 5pm PST, starting May 4. Beta readings for Freda’s novel-in-progress, Ermengarde The Expansive and The Year of Long Light.
Freda (Stephanie Mesler in real life) published Ermengarde The Expansive, the chapbook, a few years ago. Now, she is finishing the first draft of a full-length Ermengarde novel. It’s ready for beta-listeners and Freda hopes you will be one of them. In that first Ermengarde book, we met a plump princess who couldn’t get her father’s respect, even when she caught a falling star with her bare hands and slew a dragon all by herself. In the novel to be shared aloud in Kitely, Ermengarde becomes Queen, marries badly, saves the world from destruction, frees an oppressed species from slavery, and frees herself of unreasonable expectations.*
Beta-readings will be held in Freda’s Fairytale cottage at the foot of her Magic Mountain. Use the LM to get to Freda’s Fantasy and then select Fairytale from the TP pad menu located at the landing.
If you would like a free copy of the original Ermengarde The Expansive chapbook, send email to StephanieMeslerWrites@gmail,com.
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Additionally, there will be occasional write-ins, quiet work times for writers, students and others who have work to do but would like to have quiet company while doing it. Those are scheduled ad hoc. The best way to know they are happening is to join Freda’s group, Freda’s Place. Use the LM below and click the group joiner at the landing to join Freda’s Place.
Did you know?
The forum thread for the SOTK newsletter has received approximately 2700 views over the past two weeks. It’s likely that many came via search engines and this means that more people are potentially discovering the possibilities of OpenSim and Kitely and this explainer is directed at them:
- FYI: OpenSim (also known as OpenSimulator) is open–source software for the creation of virtual worlds that can be run on your PC or hosted remotely as with the Kitely.com commercial grid. Worlds in Kitely and beyond are optionally networked via the Hypergrid. They are accessed via dedicated browsers such as Firestorm. Content can be created inworld or imported as mesh models. It can be scripted in LSL which is substantially compatible with the language used in Second Life (TM). Objects can display web content and access external web servers via LSL scripts. Subject to permissions being set, content may be exchanged with other avatars and can be sold either inworld or, for example, on the web-based Kitely Market which delivers inworld to more than 100 non-Kitely grids.
RezMela: first public release
Many have watched the development of RezMela with interest and enthusiasm. Here CEO and lead developer Ramesh Ramloll describes the genesis of this immensely powerful tool and how you can use it.
What is RezMela?
Many of us find that a pencil and a paper are great tools to sketch out ideas. We thought it would be quite useful to be able to create virtual worlds with the same ease and fluidity as sketching ideas out on the back of an envelope. Sketching is not simply a way to capture an idea so that it can be shared for collaborative purposes. It can also be an iterative cognitive process for stimulating, refining or exploring various solution spaces to address a particular problem of interest.
At a basic level, end users or developers can use objects from the RezMela library to deploy large–scale virtual learning environments and can control events that happen in this environment to various degrees as appropriate.
I find it easier to explain RezMela to new users by requiring them to view the application as just an incarnation of the Wizard of Oz idea: Just imagine that you are the wizard and you want to create a world and control everything in it. In order to do that, you need to have a control room and an interface comprising of control points, such as knobs and switches, a remote camera even, that will allow you to control and observe your little universe at distance from a safe ubiquitous location. The question is how to design that control room and its various interfaces. That’s precisely what RezMela developers think of when crafting the application. There are of course other interesting considerations that come into play when designing RezMela library objects themselves which keeps us quite busy during during the ideation phases.
In short, RezMela is more a creation, monitoring and control application that provides a simple way to pack scenes or to optimize the use of a given space through rapid re-use and tailoring of content.
Architecturally, the end game would be for RezMela to evolve into a layer on top of a VR operating system (which I sometimes consider OpenSim to be) and to be grid–agnostic. This infrastructure will make it easier for users to build their own higher–level applications or virtual appliances as it were.
The first public release will focus on the rapid virtual world generation aspect. The next stage of development, which has already begun, is to implement a dynamic data visualization layer that will merge the user–friendly world generation and control functionality with in-context avatar/event data visualization. This will power our user performance capture tools which is an important component of competency evaluation for many of our private paying clients using RezMela. In any case, spatial information visualization is a major field of study in itself and we hope to make some contributions in this domain as well.
As a company, we have two product avenues that have opened up. One is to further evolve the world editing and control aspect of the RezMela system and the other involves developing RezMela apps (for applications or appliances) embodied as a RezMela library object. Just to give a few examples, we are developing a RezMela library object which will be embodied as an office but with an embedded interface that will allow users to interact in a collaborative way with Google Docs. We think that the ability to directly manipulate 3D artefacts connected to a document repository will have important implications to the design of future virtual offices. Another RezMela app we are working on involves the development of an inworld and more functional inventory system for virtual objects. We believe that it is still difficult to make a strong case for turning virtual worlds into the default front end that everyone will to go in order to access the information space that comprises the internet and all that it contains.
Our contributions will continue to demonstrate our interest to make some progress on this path. As you can imagine, every one of our fields of interest is fertile ground for continuous improvements, and we are really looking forward to grow our team. So, if anyone is willing to help us, get in touch – you bet we’ll be listening.
Encouraging community growth
I feel RezMela can benefit a lot from input from the opensim community. We encourage everyone to join our RezMela community on G+:
Look out for upcoming announcements regarding RezMela’s public availability and various RezMela competitions with prize money that we will be organizing soon.
We also have a live stream set up that we plan to use in the near future, mostly for tutorials and events:
Anyone interested in having access to the application needs to have a Kitely account and at least a region. Send an IM to Ramesh Ramloll or Handy Low so that we can make arrangements to have the application sent to interested parties. As long as we have enough funding to keep advancing the project, we will keep RezMela affordable, and right now, it’s free.
Graham says: Thanks, Ramesh and Handy. This is an amazing technology that could be really useful for one of my projects which looks at the early evolution of a city and its populace over time. I’m sure there are many other people that will find their own niche (or not so niche) applications and making RezMela freely available is a really smart way to engage others. I hope we can report back on some of these applications in this newsletter.
Clutterfly Redux: A new Linda Kellie store on Kitely
For a few days in April, Linda Kellie made an OAR file of her Clutterfly store available for anyone to download and share. The content includes a large assortment of women’s clothing, furniture, and miscellaneous do–dads. The OAR also contained Linda’s Mesh Kits which allow you to customize the mesh objects she has made. This huge OAR (more than 1 GB) takes a long time to start up, but it’s worth taking a trip through it. Everything is free, full perm, and CC00.
Update on the Multi-grid Treasure Hunt
There are just under 10 days left to complete the hunt. Currently there are 120 participating regions/worlds, of which 23 are on Kitely grid.
The time to beat is currently just over 5 days.
Keep your eye on the scoreboard at
If you are taking part in the hunt, click your avatar name to see if you need to visit extra regions that have come on stream at a later stage (this happened in the previous hunt).
Date for your diary: July might be History Month!?
The mysterious Green Knight. All will be revealed this July… or will it??
Serene came up with the concept of Medieval Month and Graham spun it into History Month. If it’s of interest, please show your support on the forums. Graham’s somewhat breathless blurb for Serene’s original concept follows:
Hold onto your feathered hats as Kitely slips back in time this July. With feasting, storytelling, hunting, jousting, archery and fighting, you certainly won’t be short of things to do. Fine clothes and chivalry, fever and filth, the choice is yours. On the other hand if you want to tax your brain, follow quests and be entertained by talks and builds that give the lowdown on what life was really like in this period, buboes and all. If it’s culture you seek, we will have a gallery of medieval art accompanied by period music and insights into how the major events of this era have been interpreted subsequently by poets, painters and playwrights.
If we go with History Month we might divide it into some kind of chronological sequence. Feedback and offers of support welcome via the forums.
Life in the round: photospheres and panoramas
Panoramas and photospheres are interesting places to start if you want to connect your build with real world scenes. Many smart phones now allow you to capture panoramas and photospheres that, while sometimes imperfect, may be good enough to set that scene (and are something students can make). You can convert both to cubemaps using an online utility provided by Sergey Gonchar. You get back a set of 6 images suitable for texturing the inner surfaces of a room-sized cube (sometimes referred to as a skybox) in Kitely.
You may need to play around a little with texture scaling and orientation but the results can be fairly impressive within the limitations intrinsic, say, to 360 degree video compared to VR. Graham found that photospheres give the best results and suitably licensed images for testing can be found via the usual suspects and elsewhere besides (for example, sphereshare.net has Terms of Service that encourage downloads). Graham had to add borders to the top and bottom of his panorama to stop content leaching into the distorted floor and ceiling textures (he used Irfanview to do this).
Inworld view of the sculpture gallery. Left, front and right sides are shown in part or in their entirety (ceiling is due to seams between faces; no attempt made to optimise images before upload).
You can also make cubemaps from screenshots captured inworld. In this case you need to use a program such as Hugin to create and save a panorama in equi–rectangular format before creating the cubemap textures. Graham used Hugin (free) and found that a FOV of 45 degrees worked satisfactorily on the 12 overlapping images. Although he included coloured inworld markers as a guide, these are probably not essential. Again, a border was added and the image resized (reduced 50%) before creating the cubemap. This is for a single row of images; given more time it could be expanded vertically.
Part of the OpenSim Micrographia build from a similar inworld perspective (no attempt to optimise inworld textures).
Panoramas and photospheres can also be viewed on the web using the Spherecast viewer provided by OpenSim educator Justin Reeve. This also has an option to generate a pseudo-3D image for viewing with Google Cardboard. Spherecast is going to offer additional features in the near future that are presently invite-only. Demonstrations can be seen on their website, including a sequence of narrated RL images that evoke memories of Justin’s wonderful Undersea Observatory OAR.
The same panorama viewed using Spherecast in Cardboard mode.
If you are OK working with snippets of code, vrEmbed.org can be used to create simple interactive tours/stories for Cardboard using ordinary 2D web images and panoramas as well as 3D stereo images.
You can even incorporate virtual content in dae/collada format into photospheres using the Holobuilder application (web-based with free starter account but scenes can be adapted by others). Remember that you can export your own prim content in dae format from Firestorm via the leftclick menu. Simple animations and labels can be applied and scenes hyperlinked to form a tour. As with most of the above, you can display the scene in Kitely using media-on-a-prim although, of course, it will now be 2D.
Hopefully, the above has whetted your appetite. You can create mini-scenes in Kitely or RL and display them inworld, on your PC or your mobile device. Imagine a teleporter that displays your arrival point before you make the jump! Inevitably there can be rough edges; some of the Cardboard displays proved prone to flipping or failed to keep Graham’s phone alive. Some of that might be down to his use of niche Cyanogen OS kit. Nevertheless, there is much potential here both in and beyond OpenSim.
The Education Beat
Amongst all the hype it’s always good to hear back from an experienced educator (Greg Perrier in this case) on what has worked for them (albeit on the “other grid”).
New VR tech
Social virtual worlds hit the news from familiar quarters in April. No sooner had Project Sansar (y’know, from that “other grid”) announced it would be taking sign-ups for a Creator Preview than High Fidelity (y’know, from that guy that built that “other grid”) moved into beta. Graham suspects non-disclosure agreements are going to limit what we hear back from Project Sansar but High Fidelity is there for the testing. While Graham appreciates the open sourcery and foresight that has gone into building HiFi, he found the experience still underwhelming though maybe it’s his steam-powered hardware/connectivity or the beta status or the lack of adjunct hardware like an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive with those nifty hand controllers. On the other hand, the videos do look very promising (anyone familiar with Graham’s sartorial inelegance will understand that the avatars are not going to put him off).
Still, there are general murmurings of patience being needed before this “new” technology finds widespread adoption beyond niche applications (see HG Biz article). The announcement of Minecraft for the Gear VR might be a game-changer but it’s probably too early to tell. Google’s next steps will also be worth watching (there are some hints in a recent interview with Clay Bavor, e.g. AR doesn’t feature at this stage).
Meanwhile Austin Tate continues to blog his explorations of porting OpenSim OARs to Unity3D, this time from the perspective of multi-user operation. Unity themselves are trying to generate enthusiasm for their Carte Blanche inbrowser editing system which (unlike, say, RezMela) is currently in stealth mode.
Closer to home Serene is excited about the possibilities of a new workflow for bringing third-party avatars into OpenSim (subject, of course, to licensing issues). More anon (possibly).
Finally, from the “Where are they now” department, former OpenSim mavens Daden released their first Google Cardboard app for their fieldscapes project that allows students to use low-cost VR to explore landscapes on-site during field trips, e.g. places nearby they didn’t get time to see.
Production team: Dot Matrix, Serene Jewell, Graham Mills_2, Shandon Loring
This week’s editor: Graham Mills_2
Thanks to forum and community meetup participants for suggestions
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