Thomas Buchauer continues to work on Pixieviewer the in-browser viewer he’s developing for OpenSim use. The new release still sees the viewer restricted to his own Pixiegrid environment – which has also been updated – and brings with it changes to the UI and promises of things to come.
The new version surfaced at the end of March, together with a blog post from Thomas outlining the updates and looking ahead to what he’s planning to add to the viewer. The latter items Thomas lists as:
- Private Messages and User Profiles
- Media Tools which will allow the display any Document (ppt, pdf, doc, xls etc) or any Image directly in-world without converting them first, and which will also will support video streaming
- Guest Logins which will allow logins directly from a link without any questions and registration – clicking the link will open Pixieviewer and deliver a user to the desired destination.
Logging-in to Pixieviewer remains unchanged. However, once in-world the updates to the UI are immediately clear. The somewhat bland UI I critiqued in terms of viewability in my original look at Pixieviewer has been replaced by a series of coloured buttons which do much to improve using the viewer when using it on smaller screens.
The buttons at the foot of the window are divided into three groups – what I’ve mentally labelled “personal”, “tools”, and “system”.
- On the left are the “personal” buttons:
- A “Home” button for teleporting you home (which currently returns you to the default Welcome area of Pixiegrid
- A “User Profile” button – which will eventually provide access to … user profiles
- In the centre are the “tool” buttons:
- Find Places – list and visit other locations
- Media tool – not yet active
- Build – the in-world building tools
- On the right are the “system” buttons:
- File a bug report / suggestion
- Open the Pixieviewer blog (in a separate browser tab)
- View statistics on the current scene
- Log-out of Pixieviewer
There is one additional button, located in top left corner of the screen. the Audio / Video Conferencing button. According to the blog entry for the update: “If a Place has Conferencing enabled, you will see a blue conference icon that allows you to join or create a realtime Audio Video conference with unlimited number of users.”
The option is currently being tested, and the Welcome Area has conferencing enabled. Clicking on the button opens a window which includes a an option to allow Pixieviewer to grab control of your microphone / camera, together with options for accessing camera and microphone set-up. There are also buttons to log-out of a conference and hide the conference window (handy if you are engaged in voice-only conferencing while doing things). It currently appears as if anyone clicking on the Audio / Video Conferencing button will join an existing conference.
All of the buttons are labelled with icons, but rolling the mouse pointer over them displays easy-to-read hovertips.
The Places button allows users to teleport elsewhere on a grid. Clicking it opens a floater listing the available places, complete with an image of each. Clicking on the blue arrow iconed button to the right of a place in the list will teleport you there.
Currently, Pixie grid has three available areas: Welcome Area (to which you can also return by clicking the Home button on the bottom left of the screen), a sandbox and a “Mirror Island” region.
The sandbox region is obviously an area designed to encourage people to try-out Pixieviewer’s build tools (which remain unchanged in this release), although all three regions are at present all build enabled. Given the sandbox is available, people are encouraged to us it when trying the viewer, rather than cluttering-up the Welcome area.
The “Mirror Island” is curious – when I saw it on the list, I assumed it was a “mirror” of the Welcome Area – possibly sent-up to test teleports / in case the Welcome Area gets a little crowded. But no. Teleporting to the island brings you to something rarely (if ever?) seen in OpenSim / SL … a functional mirror which doesm’t rely on tweaking the water and up-ending everything.
It’s not quite perfect in “reflecting” the world – not the cube in the “mirror” above which is not actually on the ground in front of my avatar, but is actually located behind the mirror. However, it’s still a neat demonstration, and it will update dynamically if you build in front of it (just remember to delete anything you place out before leaving!).
On the Galaxy S2
The new colour buttons are definitely an improvement running Pixieviewer on my Galaxy S2 – they are easier to see and use. Pixieviewer still needs a lot of pinch-zooming to get to everything – but that is not a fault of the viewer, it is a fact of life when using a small screen. In some respects the pinch-zoom actually makes using Pixieviewer a little easier in that you can (to a degree) focus-in on what you’re doing. The movement issue I previously encountered when running Pixieviewer on the S2 remained – set my avatar walking and at times that was it; she would not stop, turning left / right would leave her walking in circles. However, the spinning on the spot appears to have been solved!
A nice, tidy update, showing that things are still very much moving forward for the project. Again, it’s unlikely that Second Life users will get to try-out Pixieviewer in SL due to the need for a server-side module in order for the viewer to work. While there is still a good way to go before Pixieviewer is ready for prime time – Thomas himself is looking towards around six months of further development, it remains something those working in the OpenSim environment may wish to keep an eye on.