Colour Key: an enigmatic journey

Colour Key
Colour Key

I’m an unabashed Rebeca Bashly fan. I have been for a goodly while, and still think her 2011 interpretation of Dante’s Inferno was an inspired installation (you can still visit it at UTSA Artspace and see for yourself). Similarly, The Tower from December 2012 was an equally fascinating study.

This month she is back at the LEA with another towering (literally – Rebeca does like the vertical medium in SL!) full sim installation entitled Colour Key, which opened on Monday October 7th. Quite how to describe this piece (other than “big”) isn’t easy. The artist herself has very little to say on possible interpretations and meanings, stating only that Colour Key is “all about human nature, breaking your spine to find answers that are under your nose. Explore and discuss, this is a joy to me”

Colour Key
Colour Key

Like The Tower before it, one travels through a tower-like structure passing scenes and images along the way. However, rather than travelling bottom-to-top as with The Tower, this installation takes you from the top down; and whereas  The Tower was deeply evocative in the images and scenes presented, Colour Key is more enigmatic. There is a common motif running through the build – that of the key (hence the title) – but the key to what? That’s for the observer to decide; and one’s ideas and views tend to be challenged as one passes through each scene.

This is also a dark build; not in the sense that it is sad or macabre or suggestive of suffering or evil or anything like that. It is literally dark, so much so that if you run with shadows enabled, you may actually want to set them to None (no need to disable ALM, though, unless you’re finding the scenes particularly dark). There are passageways and stairways to walk and climb as you travel down from the top of the tower, and if you’re not careful you’ll risk disorientation trying to make your way through the build with shadows active (particularly after you’ve sat on the box as instructed).

Colour Key
Colour Key

Scale is another feature of the piece. Parts of it are simply huge – such as the gigantic meat grinder poised menacingly over the first part of your journey and through which you must apparently drop. Keep an eye out for a key at each stage of your journey, it provides your only means of moving through the various scenes until you reach the ground.

This is an installation which needs to be explored and experienced rather than simply blogged about. It’ll be available through until the end of October, and a visit is recommended.

Colour Key
Colour Key

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Cloud Party: Oculus Rift support and more

It’s been a while since I last reported on developments over on Cloud Party. There’s a lot that has been going on and which I’ve received e-mails about; I’ve just not had time to sit down and write-up everything.

The platform has recently started introducing features and capabilities on a weekly basis which have seen one or two new features introduced each week. The most recent of these is an official announcement of support for Oculus Rift.

Cloud Party’s CTO Conor Dickinson using Oculus Rift (courtesy of Cloud Party)

The blog post, issued on Wednesday October 9th, gave details on the support being provided,  including the regions within Cloud Party which have been set-up for use with the headset.

There’s currently no native Rift support within Cloud Party, so those with an Oculus Rift SDK kit will need to go one of two routes: either run OculusBridge, a standalone app which bridges the headset and a web browser via websockets, or via vr.js, a browser plugin which works directly with the headset (although the blog post notes this is not recommended as a result of Google’s announcement that Chrome will cease support for plugins in 2014).

The blog post additionally provides general advice on using the Rift – including notes about head movement (the visual stimulus and sudden head movements have been known to cause nausea and other issues as a result mismatched inner-ear cues).

One of the builds within Cloud Party supporting Rift use is a hoverbike race, which appears to be based on the race launched in late September and promoted via a short video.

Other recent updates over the past two months or so have seen a revamp of the Cloud Party website, which had it take on far more of a social environment feel, with the ability to preview people’s builds, “Like” them, share them via social media, etc., and which included the ability to embed builds in things like YouTube, etc.

August also saw the introduction of a new membership structure, with free accounts replaced the limited-functionality “anonymous” accounts together with a two-tier subscription option for general users. Thes free account option provides users with an unlimited number of “small” builds (up to 10MB bandwidth per build), 5 marketplace listings and knowledge base access.

The Basic subscription option, at $14.95 a month ($11.95 if paid annually), includes the “free” membership features and:

  • 2 medium sized builds
  • 20 free marketplace listings
  • Billing / Fraud Support
  • Privacy / group edit settings on builds

The Pro subscription, at $99.95 a month ($79.95 if paid annually) features the above and:

  • 4 medium sized Builds, 2 large Builds
  • 100 free marketplace listings
  • Live tech support

There is also an Enterprise subscription / billing option, but details of this have to be applied for from Cloud Party directly.

Further recent updates have seen avatars within Cloud Party become more customisable, with facial customisations and animated attachments, while builds have gained customisable skies and the ability to play videos.

A key factor with many of the updates is that they’ve also been accompanied with tutorials on how to make use of them’ such as with the customisable skies, helping users make the most of the updates. One has been promised for the Oculus Rift support as well.

For those not already aware of the fact, Cloud Party is no longer tied to Facebook for access. You can now do so via Facebook or Google+ or via account registration. As a formally “anonymous” user, I switched to using my Google+ account back in August. Logging-in with it was smooth and hassle-free – although I did experience an odd moment of deja-vu when an avatar picker looking remarkably like the one used in Second Life many moons ago popped-up!

The avatar picker in Cloud Party. Reminiscent of the "old" SL avatar picker
The avatar picker in Cloud Party. Reminiscent of the “old” SL avatar picker

All told, Cloud Party continues to hum along, and while it may not be to everyone’s taste, it’ll be interesting to see what else pops up in the coming weeks.