Wandering With Love In Her Heart

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr)

My previous travelogue featured TreMeldazis’ Salt Water, which at the time I mentioned was one of three regions in his care, the others being  Isle of Grace, which is restricted access and appears to be Tre’s home, and Sounds of Silence, a homestead region designed by Sunshine Zhangsun, which is open to the public.

Given the regions do go together somewhat, you can see one for the shores of the others and cross between Salt Water and Sounds of Silence, I thought it only fair that I also write about the latter as well.

Sunshine has called the region With Love In Her Heart, and it lies to the east of Salt Water, separated from it by a narrow channel of sea water. Rated Moderate, the region shares much in common, terrain-wise with Salt Water: beaches form much of the coastline, with low-ling grasslands just inland in places, while rocky hills make up the rest of the landscape.

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr)

However, move inland, and things have an altogether more pastoral theme. Goats wander the hillsides, sheep and cattle graze on the higher grasslands and horse roam the lower grassy reaches closer to the sea. There is a farm here, which – possibly due to the influence of the documentaries I’ve been watching of late – put me in mind of the Australian outback.  The two houses are open to visitors and furnished, one having the appearance of a family home, the other a working studio.

Up the hill from these, lying in a shallow grass bowl with bare-topped hills surrounding it, sits a barn with cattle and sheep roaming nearby. The feeling of homestead is enhanced here by the small burial plot sitting in the shadow of a tall tree.

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr)

From the barn, one can wander on over the hills to the east to to the beach, or turn more southwards and follow one of two paths which cut through the hills. The first of these leads back to the arrival point; so if you teleported into the region, it might be the route you followed to reach the barn and livestock. The second path leads down to a circular cove nestled between the hills and rocky cliffs, where two secluded stretches of sand can be found facing one another across the calm waters, linked by a path over the rocks to one side of the cove.

Here you’ll find places to sit, both on the sands and on the water, offering spots for quiet contemplation or a little time with a close friend / loved one. Explore the island, and you’ll find other such places and little social spots – towels spread on the beach here, a little boat sitting just off the coast there, a small camp and fire pit towards one headland, a makeshift tent of blankets and cushions looking out to the north, and so on.

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr)

All told, With Love In Her Heart offers something of a tranquil setting; the landscape sits easy on the eye, there are places to wander and to sit, and like Salt Water, plenty of opportunities for photography (rezzing is open, but do remember to pick things up after!). As I mentioned with Salt Water, taken together, both regions are worth a joint visit.

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The man whose novel helped inspire Second Life takes Magic Leap

It has been announced that science-fiction author Neal Stephenson has become the latest high-profile individual to join the ranks of Magic Leap, the still-mysterious company that seems to be doing something highly innovative with augmented reality – and perhaps virtual reality as well.

Stephenson, who wrote Snow Crash, the novel which first coined the term “metaverse” and is often referred to as one of the influences behind the development of Second Life, has accepted the position of “Chief Futurist” at Magic Leap, in news being broken by the likes of Wired and The Verge.

Neal Stephenson, Magic Leap's new "Chief Futurist"

Neal Stephenson, Magic Leap’s new “Chief Futurist” (image: Bob Lee via Flickr)

Writing in a blog post for Magic Leap, Stephenson states he had been approached by the company months ago – and in a rather unique way:

A few months ago, two Irishmen, a Scot, and an American appeared on my doorstep with Orcrist, aka “Goblin-cleaver,” the ancient sword forged during the First Age of Middle Earth by the High Elves of Gondolin, later retrieved from a troll hoard by Thorin Oakenshield. It’s not every day that someone turns up at your house bearing a mythic sword, and so I did what anyone who has read a lot of fantasy novels would: I let them in and gave them beer. True to form, they invited me on a quest and asked me to sign a contract (well, an NDA actually).

The use of Orcrist in the offer is cleverly symbolic: one of the Board of Directors of Magic Leap is Sir Richard Taylor, founder and head of WETA Workshop, the company behind the models, costumes and special effects seen in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies directed by Peter Jackson.

Precisely what Magic Leap is developing is something of a mystery, although as I’ve previously reported in these pages, what has been shown to the likes of Google, Legendary Pictures, Andreessen Horowitz and others led them to invest some $542 million into the company in October – and that on top of $50 million of investment at the start of the year.

What little is known about Magic Leap is that it is currently working on what it calls “cinematic reality”, which uses a headset which may eventually look something like a pair of sunglasses to overlay anything the wearer sees in the real world with 3D digital images that move and respond to the wearer’s own head an eye movements, and which appear to “interact” with the physical world around the wearer.

You'll believe a whale can fly - or that's perhaps Magic Leap's hope (among more practical things)

You’ll believe a whale can fly – or that’s perhaps Magic Leap’s hope (among more practical things)

Recently, Sean Hollister over at Gizmodo followed the lead set by Tom Simonite, a bureau chief at MIT Technology Review, in tracing down patents filed by Magic Leap in an attempt to find out more about what the company may actually be producing. As I again reported, their findings make fascinating reading for anyone interested in emerging AR and VR technologies – and in the history of Magic Leap, which up until the huge investment by Google et al, had been quietly flying under the radar for a number of years.

In that same report, I also covered the fact that what might be on of Magic Leap’s first major public demonstrations could be at the Manchester International Festival here in the UK in July 2015.

The Age of Starlight is a new film bringing together Oscar-winning director Kevin MacDonald, the visual effects team behind the 2013 George Clooney / Sandra Bullock blockbuster Gravity and science pundit and physicist Professor Brian Cox. The film will tell the story of the cosmos around us utilising Magic Leap technology, allowing audiences of up to 50 people at a time witness – and be immersed in – the unfolding majesty and mystery of the universe in what is billed as being a transformative, emotional experience.

The Age of Starlight: an immersive, transformative film using Magic Leap technology will be shown at the Manchester International Festival in the UK in 2015

The Age of Starlight: an immersive, transformative film using Magic Leap technology will be shown at the Manchester International Festival in the UK in 2015

It is apparently this transformative power within the Magic Leap technology that has attracted Neal Stephenson. Again, on the Magic Leap blog he states:

Here’s where you’re probably expecting the sales pitch about how mind-blowingly awesome the demo was. But it’s a little more interesting than that. Yes, I saw something on that optical table I had never seen before–something that only Magic Leap, as far as I know, is capable of doing. And it was pretty cool. But what fascinated me wasn’t what Magic Leap had done but rather what it was about to start doing.

Magic Leap is mustering an arsenal of techniques–some tried and true, others unbelievably advanced–to produce a synthesized light field that falls upon the retina in the same way as light reflected from real objects in your environment. Depth perception, in this system, isn’t just a trick played on the brain by showing it two slightly different images.

Magic Leap is not exclusively about games. It’s also going to be a great tool for readers, learners, scientists, and artists … What applies to games applies as well to other things of interest, such as making the world safe for books, doing new things with science and math visualization, and simply creating art for art’s sake.

We still don’t know precisely what Magic Leap will present or how it will work, and truth be told, there is an awful lot of hype and hyperbole surrounding the emerging new market for AR and VR it is hard at times to separate fact from fiction. But when the likes of Sir Richard Taylor and Thomas Tull (CEO of Legendary Pictures) pour their own money into a project, and it attracts names such as Brian Cox, Kevin MacDonald and now Neal Stephenson – you have to suspect something very special might well be sitting just over the horizon.

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LEA announce AIR 8 selection

LEA_square_logo_60On Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 the Linden Endowment for the Arts announced the successful applicants for the 8th round of the LEA’s Artist-in-Residence (AIR) programme.

They are: Solkide Auer, Art Blue, Giovanna Cerise, Asmita Duranjaya and Sable, Mario2 Helstein, Mistero Hifeng,  NaTaS Janus, Gracie Kendal, frankx lefavre,  FreeWee Ling, mediciprincess, Whiskey Monday, Haveit Neox, Lemonodo Oh, Krystali Rabeni, Searby, Sniper Siemens , Misprint Thursday, Lorin Tone and Mary Wickentower.

Qualia: The Sentience of Being - frankx lefavre, December 2014

Qualia: The Sentience of Being – Frankx Lefavre, December 2014

The LEA received over 40 applications, and those selected were viewed as presenting “truly outstanding proposals that represent a diverse range of virtual art.”

The successful applicants will each be allocated a full region within the LEA for a 6-month period. They have up to four months to prepare their projects, which range from full-sim immersions, to innovative builds geared specifically for multimedia works such as sound and machinima. Each installation must be open for a minimum of two months of the 6-month allocation, and it is expected that some will be open in advance of the four-month build deadline. All exhibits must be open to the public by the end of April 2015 at the latest.

Chaos, Kosmos - Giovanna Cerise, December 2014

Chaos, Kosmos – Giovanna Cerise, November 2014

All openings will be announced in the LEA blog.

Firestorm is (SL) Go – and across multiple grids!

SL go logoOn Tuesday, December 16th, 2014, OnLive, the providers of the Second Life streaming service, SL Go, announced a new addition to the SL Go service: The Firestorm Viewer.

The announcement follows several months of collaboration between the Firestorm Team, lead by Jessica Lyon, and the folk at OnLive, lead by Dennis Harper, the results of which now mean that with immediate effect, SL Go now provides a choice of TWO viewers to subscribers and users:

  • The existing SL viewer – which OnLive are referring to as “SLV” – can be used from any Mac computer, PC, and from Android devices and iPads to access Second Life
  • AND The Firestorm viewer, initially available for Mac computers and PCs, which can be used to access Second Life and OpenSim grids.

SL Go’s pricing options remain the same whichever viewer you opt to use, and you can swap between them at any time you like, should you wish. Simply make your choice from the SL Go selection screen.

SL Go users access the service via PC or Mac now have a choice of viewer: the SL Viewer (SLV, as OnLive refer to it) or Firestorm

SL Go users accessing the service via PC or Mac now have a choice of viewer: the SL Viewer (SLV, as OnLive refer to it) or Firestorm (image via OnLive)

Since its launch in March 2014, which I covered in-depth at the time, the SL Go service has proven to be very popular with people who are using low-end systems which traditionally have problems when trying to run the viewer locally. Because the viewer is streamed from OnLive’s dedicated servers,  it’s the servers that do all the heavy processing, delivering a fast, smooth service to users, thus helping to give a new lease of life to older hardware.

Of course, because SL Go is streamed, it means that – like the SL viewer offered by OnLive – certain functionality within the Firestorm offering has either been removed for security reasons (such as the Develop menu, and no access to debug settings and content cannot be uploaded), or has been disabled (such as the option to save snapshots to a hard drive – as that would effectively mean saving them to the OnLive server).

Firestorm viewer on SL Go from OnLive - click for full-size

Firestorm viewer on SL Go from OnLive (click for full-size)

The big benefit in using Firestorm through SL Go is that – with the noted exceptions due to security issues, etc., – it brings the richness of Second Life’s most popular third-party viewer to those on older systems who have perhaps felt themselves to be increasingly edged out of Second Life, something Firestorm Project Manager Jessica Lyon commented on when discussing the release with me.

“I’m really happy about this,” Jessica said. “For years folk on lower-end systems have seen significant improvements to Second Life, particularly with how the world looks, pass them by because their systems are unable to run them. We’ve even heard from many that they simply cannot use Firestorm or any other viewer and as being pushed out of SL completely.

“This release of Firestorm through OnLive, together with the existing SL viewer, hopefully gives those people a new way to enjoy Second Life. I really hope this works for them!”

I can personally attest to that. In 2010, I purchased an Asus PC EEE 1201N notebook, which has found running a viewer like Firestorm increasingly heavy going. With Firestorm through SL, with all the bells and whistles turned-up, I’m averaging around 60 fps!

Firestorm on SL Go from OnLive: almost 60 fps on a Asus PC EEE 1201N notebook with all the bells and whistles active! (this image replaces an earlier version, after I realised I'd uploaded the wrong screen cap - one with shadows disabled)

Firestorm on SL Go from OnLive: almost 60 fps on a Asus PC EEE 1201N notebook with all the bells and whistles active! (this image replaces an earlier version, after I realised I’d uploaded the wrong screen cap – one with shadows disabled)

That SL Go does bring a new lease of life to older hardware can be seen in the fact that since the launch of the service in March, 2014, the largest take-up among users has been by those using the service through the OnLive PC and Mac clients. But those who want Firestorm on their mobile devices need not fear – it will be coming in 2015.  This is something Jessica is also looking forward to.

“A could of years ago we fooled a great many people with our April Fool’s joke of a Firestorm Mobile client,” Jessica said. “The excitement over the announcement, and the outcry when it turned out to be just and April Fool’s joke, was overwhelming. The great news is – and no joke this time! – that OnLive will be making this capability real very soon!”

And it doesn’t end there. One capability that Firestorm brings to OnLive and SL Go  users is the ability to log into other grids as well as Second Life. The version of the viewer supplied to OnLive is the OpenSim version, which means it is complete with the grid manager and start-up grid selection drop-down, allowing you to log into all your favourite grids – as I did, logging-in to Kitely and Fallingwater at the Seanchai Library.

Use Firestorm on SL Go and any PC / Mac / laptop to access your favourite OpenSim grids (click to enlarge)

Use Firestorm on SL Go and any PC / Mac / laptop to access your favourite OpenSim grids (click to enlarge)

Thus, with a single subscription to OnLive, you gain access to the entire metaverse from any low-end PC or Mac in your home.

“We’re happy to be able to empower SL Go users with more choice. They’ve told us they want a choice of viewers, so offering the popular Firestorm viewer was a natural next step.” said Rick Sanchez, VP of Product and Marketing at OnLive, at the launch of the new offering.

To get started with SL Go, you can sign up for a free 7-day trial. SL Go is offered via a monthly subscription at $9.95 (£6.95) per month for unlimited access. Note that OnLive does not associate any SL Go information with Second Life; your Second Life user details and avatars remain private.

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I’ll have a more in-depth look at Firestorm on SL Go available shortly.