Author Archives: Inara Pey

About Inara Pey

Eclectic virtual world blogger with a focus on Second Life. My blog can be found below and I'm semi-active on Twitter and Plurk.

Oculus VR Principal Scientist to address OpenSimulator Conference

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On Tuesday July 22nd, Chris Collins, writing on behalf of the 2nd OpenSimulator Community Conference, announced that one of the keynote speakers at the event will be Dr. Steve LaValle.

Dr. LaValle, a professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois, is the principal scientist for Oculus VR, and he will be addressing attempts to bring the Oculus Rift headset to the mass consumer market.

Dr. Steven LaValle (image: )

Dr. Steven LaValle (image: University of Illinois)

Since Palmer Luckey’s 2012 prototype demonstrated that smartphone-based advances in display and sensing technology can enable a lightweight, high field-of-view VR experience that is affordable by the masses, widespread interest has grown across many industries, research labs, and potential end users of the VR technology. Dr. LaValle’s talk will highlight ongoing technical challenges, including game development, user interfaces, perceptual psychology, and accurate head tracking.

He is certainly well-placed to be able to do so, having been working with Oculus VR since a few days after its successful Kickstarter campaign and has led its R&D efforts up to its $2 billion acquisition by Facebook in March 2014.

Commenting on Dr. LaValle’s appearance at the conference, Cris Collins, who is serving at the conference chair, said, “With all the excitement surrounding the Oculus Rift and other virtual reality technologies, we want the virtual reality community to know that OpenSimulator is a great platform for building the open metaverse.

“OpenSimulator has hundreds of thousands of registered users and a land mass twice the size of Second Life. It’s the only open source platform with an Oculus Rift ready viewer that already has hundreds of interconnected worlds operating in an emerging metaverse and thousands of worlds run privately by corporations, schools, government agencies, nonprofits, and individuals.”

About the OpenSimulator Conference

The OpenSimulator Community Conference is an annual conference that focuses on the developer and user community creating the OpenSimulator software.  Organized as a joint production by the Overte Foundation and AvaCon, Inc., the conference features two days of presentations, workshops, keynote sessions, and social events across diverse sectors of the OpenSimulator user base.

The 2014 OpenSimulator Conference will take place on the OpenSimulator Conference Centre grid on November 8th and 9th, 2014, with registrations opening on September 15th, 2014, and interested parties can sign up to receive an email reminder to register.

The conference will include four themed tracks and a Learning Lab for hands on hackerspaces, speedbuilds, and more:

About the Organisers

The Overte Foundation is a non-profit organization that manages contribution agreements for the OpenSimulator project.  In the future, it will also act to promote and support both OpenSimulator and the wider open-source 3D virtual environment ecosystem.

AvaCon, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting 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.

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Second Life helps cane growers learn about sustainable farming practices and more

There is no doubting that Second Life is an excellent platform for teaching and learning. That’s been demonstrated time and again, with many and varied educational and distance learning programmes being run through the platform, and with many schools, colleges, universities and other organisations making use of Second Life for a wealth of education and learning activities over the years.

One of the more intriguing means of using the platform educational purposes has been recently highlighted in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation website and video report, Queensland’s Cane Farmers Learn About Climate Change Via Virtual Reality World, which outlines a project initiated in 2012 by the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), Australia, and which is now being extended.

Sweet Success is a programme developed by the Australian Digital Futures Institute (ADFI) and the International Centre of Applied Climate Sciences (ICACS) at USQ. It uses machinima created in Second Life to encourage Queensland’s sugarcane farmers to consider sustainable farming practices (including their own environmental impact on the land), and to stimulate discussion about how to incorporate an understanding of climate risk into their decision-making.

Sweet Success sought to better inform sugar cane farmers on climate and environmental impact using digital techniques, including machinima filmed in Second Life

Sweet Success sought to better inform sugar cane farmers on climate and environmental impact using digital techniques, including machinima filmed in Second Life

The videos are set in an environment typical of that found in Queensland’s cane growing region, and feature a number of individuals typical of the character and disposition of Queensland cane farmers. Lasting some 3-5 minutes, the films serve as both a focal point for discussion and as  a means to introduce the farmers to the climate information, interactive models, etc., which might be used to better inform their farming decisions.

The initial programme involved around 20 sugar cane farmers who were able to watch the films, study the material and discuss the issues and ideas raised. While there was some initial scepticism, the farmers admitted the videos were a positive means of passing on information on things they may not have thought about.

Dr. Helen Farley, one of the researchers involved in Sweet Success, and her SL alter-ego

Dr. Helen Farley, one of the researchers involved in Sweet Success, and her SL alter-ego

Dr. Kate Farley, one of the Digital Futures faculty members involved in the project, and herself a long-term advocate for the use of virtual worlds for learning and teaching in higher education, describes the decision to use Second Life as being primarily a matter of finance and convenience: Second Life allowed the films to be put together at a far lower cost and much quicker than would have been the case with live action location shooting.

Matt Kealley, senior manager of environment and natural resources for the Canegrowers industry group sees the approach as potentially offering the means to deliver a lot of information on farming, climate, weather and so on to his members. He also believes that once the novelty of being presented with a film shot in a virtual environment had worn off, his members found the information presented to be “compelling” in content and value.

In fact, such has been the success of the pilot programme, the project has now been expanded to include some 400 Queensland sugarcane growers.

Dr. Kate Reardon-Smith of the ACSC

Dr. Kate Reardon-Smith of the ACSC

While the cost-effective nature of using Second Life as a film medium might have been the primary consideration in using it for the Sweet Success films, Dr. Farley, together with fellow researcher, Dr. Kate Reardon-Smith, believes that the approach has other benefits as well.

Leading a series of presentations on the work, both Dr. Farley and Dr. Reardon-Smith point to the use of Second Life as being ideal for addressing matters of climate risk assessment, sustainable farming methods and so on for a wide variety of farming locations and systems, simply through the use culturally appropriate clothing, language and design. In addition, the digital nature of the finished product makes it easy to package with the supporting material for dissemination anywhere in the world.

Nor is Sweet Success the only activity undertaken by USQ to use Second Life as a means of educating farmers. In 2010, ICACS, under its old title of the Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments (ACSC), joined with the Asia-Pacific Network to use Second Life avatars as a means to present real world climate-based scenarios to farmers in the Andhra Pradesh region of India. The aim of the project was to challenge farmers about on-farm decisions that involve seasonal climate risk. As a distance learning project, it was delivered to Internet kiosks within the region where farmers could then discuss and debate the issues raised.

The ACSC-APN project in the Andhra Paresh region of India also used Second Life as a means to

The ACSC-APN project in the Andhra Pradesh region of India also used Second Life as a means to engage farmers on the subject of seasonal climate risk and farming decisions

All told, both of these projects present a unique and fascinating extension of the use of Second Life as an educational medium and for distance learning.

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All images via the University of Southern Queensland

Lab slips out a formal announcement of their next generation platform

LL logoWe’re all aware that the Lab is developing a “next generation” virtual world platform. It’s been the subject of much debate, speculation, supposition and more.

The confirmation that the Lab were working on a new platform came during a TPV Developer meeting on June 21st, when it was mentioned almost as an aside by the Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg. In the period of the SL11B celebrations, mention of it also appeared in a number of on-line media publications.

However outside of these interviews and comments, there appeared to be no formal announcement about the new platform. Well, not until July 11th, anyway; that was when the Lab issued a press release about it.

Entitled straightforwardly enough, Linden Lab Is Developing The Next-Generation Virtual World, the release reads in part:

Linden Lab has confirmed that it is developing the next generation virtual world that will be in the spirit of Second Life, an open world where users have incredible power to create anything they can imagine and content creators are king. With 2015 targeted for a beta, the new virtual world will go far beyond what is possible with Second Life, and Linden Lab is actively hiring to help with this ambitious project.

“Second Life is the most successful user-created virtual world ever,” said Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab CEO. “Eleven years after first opening, it continues to thrive with more than a petabyte of 3D content created by users, a strong economy of user-to-user transactions in which tens of millions of dollars are paid out to creators every year, and an active community that spans the globe. There is a massive opportunity ahead to carry on the spirit of Second Life while leveraging the significant technological advancements that have occurred since its creation, and no company is better positioned to create this than we are.”

It doesn’t provide any more in terms of specifics than perhaps most SL users tracking the subject are already aware. However, it does at least pull together several key statements concerning the new platform, made throughout the epic forum thread on the matter, into a single reference source:

Linden Lab’s priority in building the next-generation virtual world is to create an incredible experience and enable stunningly high-quality creativity that’s easily accessible across multiple platforms. In order to not constrain development toward those goals, complete backward compatibility with everything created over Second Life’s 11-year history has not been set as an absolute requirement from the outset. However, Linden Lab does plan to make certain essential elements transportable for existing Second Life users, including users’ Linden Dollar balances, identities, and social connections. It’s likely that more modern content from Second Life, such as meshes, will also be transferrable to the new platform, but the specific details of compatibility will be addressed as development progresses.

You can read the entire release, including comments on the future of Second Life, on the Lab’s official press page.


UWA Transcending Borders challenge: L$1.03 million in prizes

On Monday July 21st, 2014, the University of Western Australia (UWA) announced the opening of their new combined Art and Machinima challenge, Transcending Borders, which brings together their 7th MachinimUWA and their 5th UWA Grand Art Challenge into one event.

Transcending Borders is sponsored by  Tom Papas & SciFi Film Festival, LaPiscean Liberty & SL Artists, AviewTV, Taralyn Gravois and Arts Castle Gallery, TheDoveRhode and Peace is a Choice and S&S Gallery of Fine SL Art, Jon Stubbs & UWA Student Services, as well as The UWA Virtual Worlds Project, and the prize pool is an impressive L$1,030,000, with a further L$180,000  available as special audience participation and other prizes!

Those wishing to participate are free to enter either the art or the machinima challenge – or both, if they wish; just so long as all entries are received no later than midnight SLT on October 31st, 2014. Winners will be announced in December 2014.

Entrants are invited to interpret the challenge theme, Transcending Borders, in any way they please. It might refer to transcending borders between space and time, or the past and present or the present and future, the borders separating nations or cultures or languages, or any one of the many borders we encounter as we navigate our physical and virtual lives.

The major rules in submitting any artwork or machinima to the challenge are (please also refer to the UWA blog post for the full set of rules and requirements):

  • Artwork entered should be able to be interpreted by the casual viewer as representative of the theme. If the link to the theme is difficult to ascertain, it should be referenced in a note card accompanying the work
  • Any submitted artwork should not exceed 150 LI, and should preferably by submitted with COPY permissions, and art entries are limited to one per entrant
  • Machinima entries should preferably be no more than 4 minutes and 30 seconds in length, although this is not a “hard” rule
  • There is no limit to the number of machinima entries which may be submitted by an entrant, however, the average viewer should be able to determine how any given film fits with the theme; if this is difficult to ascertain, it should be referenced in the notes accompanying the film on the web
  • All submitted machinima must be made specifically for this challenge, and must include “For The University of Western Australia’s MachinimUWA VII: Transcending Borders” in the opening credits.

Art submissions should be made via the art entry receiver at the UWA Art Chellenge Platform in Second Life. Machinima entries should be uploaded to any publicly-accessible location, but preferably to YouTube or Vimeo, and the details of the entry (name, creator, location, etc.) supplied to Jayjay Zifanwe and LaPiscean Liberty in-world or by e-mailing the details to Jayjay (

L$515,000 in prizes in both the art and the machinima categories, with each category having a L$100,000 first prize.

Furthermore, the machinima category has an additional special UWA Prize for the best machinima which features one of the Winthrop Clock Tower, the Sunken Gardens or the Somerville Auditorim.

There are also two special Curator Prizes, one for art and one for machinima (the latter will be awarded to best film which features one artwork from the current art challenge or a winning entry from past UWA art challenges).

For full information on the challenge, including infromation on the theme, all rules, submission guidelines, prizes (including audience participation prizes) and details of the judging panel, please refer to the UWA blog post.

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