Category Archives: Other Worlds

Fallingwater at Seanchai Kitely ready to open its doors

Fallingwater at Seanchai, Kitely (Image idea borrowed from Shandon Loring!)

Fallingwater at Seanchai, Kitely (Image idea borrowed from Shandon Loring!)

As I’ve recently posted, in June I donated my Fallingater build on Kitely to the folk at Seanchai Library to become a part of their new home world on that grid, and I’ve been working to overhaul and upgrade it since then.

The work on the place is now more-or-less complete, with just a few nips and tucks remaining, and the folk at Seanchai are now ready to open the doors to Fallingwater’s first official engagement as a storytelling venue.

So, on Saturday August 30th, at 09:00 PDT (SLT), Shandon Loring from the Seanchai team will be presenting Out Of Time, Tales of Time Travel, described as:

Individuals rewriting their own pasts. Brave souls safeguarding the world today from yesterday. Fools tampering with Einstein’s laws of physics. Stories exploring the wonders and perils of time travel, and humanity at its best and worst.

Anyone with an interest in storytelling in voice, and all the traditions which stand therein, and / or who wish to hear engrossing tales from Second Life’s and Kitely’s premier group of storytellers, are welcome to drop by the Seanchai Library’s Kitely home world and Fallingwater.

Related Links and Resources

Tony Parisi joins High Fidelity

HF-logoOn Thursday August 21st, Philip Rosedale announced that Tony Parisi has joined High Fidelity.

Precisely what Mr. Parisi’s position at HiFi is, isn’t stated, but Mr. Rosedale does say:

Tony has just joined us as an advisor, and is also working with us on some secret High Fidelity stuff that is coming soon. He’s a perfect person to add to the High Fidelity team.

Tony Parisi (via SVVR)

Tony Parisi (via SVVR)

Tony Parisi is the co-creator of the VRML and X3D ISO standards for networked 3D graphics, and a 3D technology innovator. He’s a career CTO / software architect and entrepreneur, has and is serving on a number working groups, and may also be familiar to some as one of the SVVR Creating the VR Metaverse  panel in April 2014. More recently, he was featured in a Drax Files Radio Hour feature-length interview, which I also reviewed (and am embedding again at the end of this piece, as it really is worth listening to if you missed it the first time around).

Tony’s full bio can be found here, and while the work he’ll be doing at HiFi is currently “secret”, Philip Rosedale does expand on why his involvement is a good fit for the company:

What we are building at High Fidelity is a bigger project than any one designer or company.  To bring virtual reality to everyone will mean a broad set of standards and open systems, and Tony has been designing and championing big pieces of those standards for his whole career, most recently with WebGL.

There can be no doubting Tony’s background and understanding of the potential for consumer-focused VR – again, just listen to the interview below for proof of that.

So interesting times at High Fidelity just got more interesting!

(Nice touch on the updated website as well, with the video header.)

Taking it Easy with High Fidelity, aka AKA sing

HF-logoThe folks at High Fidelity has been blogging a lot lately. I covered recent moves with improvements to the avatar facial expressions and synch the mouth / lips to better reflect their movements as we speak (and sing!), and one of the more recent blog posts is something of a follow-up to this, with members of the Hi Fi team having a little fun. It’s fair to say that if they keep things up, Emily and Ozan and (I think that’s) Andrew on backing vocals could find themselves in-demand for gigs virtual and otherwise!

Anyway, we’ll get to that in a moment.

The other two posts are focused on Philip’s favourite subject: reducing latency, particularly where sound is concerned. As the oldest of the posts Measuring the Speed of Sound, from August 13th, reducing latency is something of an obssession at High Fidelity, and the post talks about various experiments in trying to reduce audio latency. I’m still not convinced on Philip’s big downer on voice communications over mobile devices, where he’s in the past referred to the 500 msec delay as a “barrier” to communications; I’ve yet to find it silting conversations.

That said, I can see his point in ensuring that audio and video remain synched when it comes to direct interaction, particularly given the nature of what High Fidelity are trying to achieve with the likes of facial and gesture capture to achieve a greater sense of presence. Within the post, Philip discusses the most recent work HiFi have been carrying out in comparing various mediums and how they handle audio and audio latency.

Paloma’s Javascript Project touches on the work of 17-year-old Paloma Palmer. A high school student, Paloma has been honing her JavaScript skills during the summer vacation as an intern at High Fidelity. Video interviewed by HiFi’s Chris Collins, she describes her project in coding voxels to respond directly to volume inputs over a microphone in real-time, coding a form of graphic equaliser in voxel cubes which responds, with minimal delay, directly to both her and Chris’ voices and intonations as they speak – a further demonstration of the low latency goal HiFi are aiming towards, and one which, as the blog post notes, “opens up a bunch of new creative content areas for the virtual world”.

HiFi's Chris Collins talks with Paloma Palmer, the 17-year-old intern who has been working at HiFi through her summer vacation (inset)

HiFi’s Chris Collins talks with Paloma Palmer, the 17-year-old intern who has been working at HiFi through her summer vacation (inset)

However, it is with High Fidelity’s AKA covers Easy, which sits sandwiched between Measuring and Paloma which offers the most fun, as well as demonstrating some intriguing elements of HiFi’s capabilities.

The post actually takes the form of another music video (and embedded below) in which Emily, with Ozan on guitar and I think (and I see Ciaran Laval is of the same mindset as me) Andrew Meadows (himself aka  – or at least previously aka – Andrew Linden) providing the backing vocals. Together they’ve formed HiFi’s own band, AKA (as in Also Known As), a name chosen because, as Emily explains, it allows them to be anyone they want to be. Chris Collins and Ryan Karpf are also on hand, although they don’t participate in the song.

The video this time is a cover of the Commodore’s Easy. We’re promised a deeper explanation of some of the technicalities behind it from “Executive Producer” Ryan at a later date. What is great about the video is that it is totally informal (witness the start, and keep running right until the end when you watch it).

The video is worth watching for the way Emily’s avatar clearly reflects her emotional response to the lyrics, and for the way Ozan’s avatar appears to be playing his guitar, rather than simply strumming it one-handed, as we’re perhaps used to seeing with avatars; his response to the music is also clear. I assume this has been done by some form of motion capture via whatever camera system he is using, but we’ll have to wait for Ryan’s follow-up to know more.

There are other great delights in the video – Andrew’s surfacing from the pond waters to give the backing “ahs” had me snorting coffee; they are delightfully surreal. I have to say that Chris Collin’s avatar looks somewhat blissed out (aka a little stoned – no offence, Chris!), an impression heightened with the cutaway to Emily’s look on his comment about feeling very cool and relaxed prior to the song starting!

All told, the video is an absolute delight, and also reveals some interesting little elements within HiFi (witness Ryan’s enthusiastic hand-clapping at the end).

Anyway, enjoy!

Getting more animated at High Fidelity

HF-logoOne of the things people have critiqued High Fidelity about is the look of their avatars. Yes, they can use 3D cameras to capture a user’s facial expression and translated them into facial movements on an avatar but, well, the avatars just look a little odd.

Or at least, that’s an oft-heard or read comment. I’m not entirely in disagreement; SL avatars may not be technically up-to-snuff in many ways, but they can look good, and over they years, they have spoiled us somewhat.

However, High Fidelity is still only in an alpha phase; and things are bound to improve over time with the look and feel of their environments and their avatars. As a demonstration of their attempts to improve things, the HiFi team have recently released a couple of videos and a blog post from their animator, Ozan Serim, formerly of Pixar Studios.

In the post – which marks his first time writing  for the blog, Ozan explains how he’s trying to bring more advanced animation to the platform’s avatars to, as he puts it, “make live avatars look really amazing – as close to what we see in animated films today.” This isn’t as easy at it sounds, as he goes on to note:

This is a big challenge – we have to do everything in a fraction of a second without the benefits of an animator (like me!) being able to ‘post-process’ the results of what is motion captured.  So I’ve been working on the ‘rigging’: how a live 3D camera and a motion capture package like Faceshift is able to ‘puppeteer’ an avatar.  With less accurate data, we have to be clever about things like how we move the mouth to more simplistically capture the phonemes that make up speech.

To demonstrate the result, Ozan includes a video of Emily Donald, one of the other HiFi staff members, singing

 As well as this video, using the “default” format of HiFi avatar, Ozan and members of the HiFi team have been working on improving the overall look of their avatar, and some early results of their efforts can be seen in another music video released at the start of August, and which is linked-to in the blog post.

This is again experiment in rigging facial expressions to more fully match those of a human being, with special attention being paid to the “A”s and “M”s as the avatar (Ozan) lip-synchs to Freddie Mercury singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. This is another video where it’s worth watching the avatar’s mouth movements – and also eye and eyebrow movements, which also reflect a strong level of emotion.

Again, there’s a fair way to go here, but these early results are fascinating, and not just for the technical aspects of what is being done here: capturing, processing and rigging subtle facial expressions in real-time. As a commentator on the Bohemian Rhapsody notes, “cool but creepy” – a reflection of the fact that HiFi have taken a further step into the Uncanny Valley. It’s going to be interesting to see how well they fare in crossing it.

Related Links

With thanks to Indigo Martel for the pointer.