Of collaboration, rafts and Gaia

PosterCollaboration in Second Life is not new, it goes on in many ways and in all corners of our virtual cosmos. Nevertheless, it’s always interesting to see what results when several minds come together in order to create something new.

With this in mind, I hopped over to the Linden Endowment for the Arts recently, where two new installations opened during the last week. Each involves multiple artists working to a common theme (albeit a very broad theme in the case of one!), and each of which has, in the eyes of this beholder at least,  produce very different reactions to one another.

Moving Islands [Rafts] sees Eupalinos Ugajin bringing together  no fewer than 24 of SL’s artists (click the poster, left to see the names) to create a piece that freely interprets the central theme of moving islands or rafts, with Derek Michelson providing assistance with scripting and Takio Ra with sounds. The result is a collection of remarkable pieces which are eclectic, quirky, fun, different, provocative, interactive, and more.

With twenty-four participating artists already involved, and the chance for more to be added (Eupalinos is still open to accepting ideas and submissions for artists – even you, as the exhibit’s poster indicates), this is a very busy installation – yet it is not by the same measure crowded. The space above and below water (not all of the islands  / rafts are floating) has been used to the fullest, and there’s a lot to see (be sure not to miss the world’s first deep-sea diving … cow!). Do make sure you have sounds on as you move from piece to piece, and you may also appreciate the streamed soundtrack compiled by Eupalinos – all four hours of it!

Moving Islands [Rafts] – Maya Paris
This is very much an interactive installation as well; objects and pieces are always on the move (which makes taking snapshots interesting!) and there are places you can sit and be a part of things – giving another twist to the exhibit’s poster noting you can join the exhibition…

It’s not really fair to single out individual elements in a work like this – especially when some of my favourite artists are featured; but I confess to adoring Meilo Minotaur’s undersea “forest”, and Pallina60 Loon’s Nautilus and its accompanying Steamfish had me smiling, if over-exercised after riding on it!

Moving Islands [Rafts]
Moving Islands [Rafts] – Meilo Minotaur
This is an installation you’ll want to take time exploring; some of the artists have provided note cards describing their works, but I felt it more interesting to let each speak for itself. Eupalinos has also compiled a note card listing all of the artists’ websites / Flickr streams, all of which are worth visiting as well. He’s also provided a link to a Dropbox of images for those who wish to make use of it.

Another of the pieces in Moving Islands is Haveit Neox’s Mythic Rafts, which pictures the aftermath of the destruction of the Earth as a result of humankind’s history. “A raft survives the big flood after the polar ice caps had melted,” reads the note card for the piece, “No landmasses were high enough to poke through the new ocean. The Earth had been stretched beyond its limits – pulled apart at the seams.” Given the underlying theme of loss and destructions, It’s something of an interesting (if entirely unintentional on the part of the artist) link to the piece which forms the second part of this review.

Moving Islands [Rafts]
Moving Islands [Rafts] – Oberon Onmura
Destruction, decay and ending seem to be the focus of  The Gaia Theory Project, which also pened this month at the LEA. Presented by the Tanalois Group and the torno Kohime Foundation, and directed by Aloisio Congrejo, Tani Thor and Nino Vichan, this installation brings together a total of eleven artists in what is designed to be an interpretation of the Gaia Theory. And therein lies a problem.

As already noted, the installation is very much directed toward themes of destruction and decay, with extinction, loss and death also featuring. Yet the Gaia Theory is about the organic and the inorganic interacting in a complex system which helps maintain the conditions for life  to exist on the planet. So by focusing on just one side of the equation – desctruction and decay, etc., – the installation comes across as decidedly lopsided; where’s the re-birth, the growth, the renewal?

The Gaia Theory Project
The Gaia Theory Project – Tani Thor

There also appears to be something of a negative towards humanity’s role in things which is presented here, The contributions of man appear limited to toxic waste, the extinction of animals, urban decay, etc. Again, it’s not uncommon in discussions around the subject of Gaia for humankind to be referred to as a parasite responsible for upsetting the balances proposed by the hypothesis. However, it again lends a bias to the installation which some might say is at odds with Gaia Theory when taken as a whole – as Ziki Questi argues in her considered review of the installation.

All that said, there is nothing wrong with using art to raise awareness of the destructive forces – natural and man-made – at work in the world today is a valid activity (especially where humanity’s more destructive or environmentally damaging efforts are concerned. Were this the intent with this installation, I’d venture to say it succeeds. However, as an exploration of Gaia Theory, I can’t help feel that it largely (with one or two small exceptions) falls wide of the mark.

The Gaia Theory Project
The Gaia Theory Project – Kicca Igaly

Both Moving Islands [Rafts] and The Gaia Theory Project will remain open through to the end of December 2013.

Related Links

Postscript: following the publication of this review Melusina Parkin, one of the collaborators in The Gaia Theory Project contacted me as to her own approach to the piece, which she has presented on her own blog. If you’re planning to visit the installation, I recommend you give her piece a read first.

Lab confirms “SL mobile” beta programme


Update October 26th: As noted in the comments, it appears that the new client may be using the OnLive streaming service / application. This has been reported in a recent comment on the forum thread linked to in the article, and also in a further thread on the subject.

Linden Lab has been issuing an e-mail to a limited group of users inviting them to sign-up to be a part of a beta test for a Second Life client for mobile devices.

The e-mail, which has been popping-up in user’s in-boxes for the last day or so, reads:

We’re looking for enthusiastic beta testers to evaluate a version of Second Life designed for mobile devices.

Sound interesting? Then simply…

  1. Visit  [link removed] to create a FREE account with <link removed to be safe>, then
  2. Visit  [link removed] to complete a 5-minute questionnaire

You have to finish both steps to be considered for the beta.

We’ll email those selected when the program begins and check in periodically over the next couple of months to get their feedback. 

This is your opportunity to be among the first to try a new mobile version of Second Life, and we hope you’ll help us to make it a great product with your input.

Thank you for your consideration!

Linden Lab

Some concern had been raised on the SL forums as to whether the e-mail was genuine or not. While some were able to confirm it was indeed genuine. However, just to be clear, I contacted Peter Gray, the Lab’s Director of Global Communications, and to ask whether the Lab would be prepared to point to any specific platforms they’re looking at (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, etc). He replied saying:

The email you’re referencing did indeed come from Linden Lab. The originating address is related to the system used to send the messages out, and there was initially an unfortunate problem with links, which has since been resolved.

It’s too soon to share details about this service that would bring Second Life to mobile devices (as you can see, we’re beginning a limited beta test), but we’re hoping that with the help of some enthusiastic beta testers, things may progress to a point where we can share more information with the community at large soon.

Do note that the beta programme is via invitation only; there is no public sign-up page available – so don’t go looking for one! Also, not all of those responding to the e-mail will necessarily be selected to participate in the programme.

Lumiya for Android has been the ground-breaking mobile client for Second Life and OpenSim since its launch at the end of 2011
Lumiya for Android has been the ground-breaking mobile client for Second Life and OpenSim since its launch at the end of 2011

Getting SL onto a mobile device has been a much demanded option. As I reported in April 2012, Comverse had a stab at getting SL onto the iPhone back in 2008, complete with graphics. Back then, it required an intervening server in place and didn’t get too much further than an initial proof-of-concept.

However, mobile devices have come some way in terms of power and capbilities, although until now all moves in the mobile arena have been left to third-parties, with text-focused clients such as LittleSight and Mobile Grid Client on the Android platform, and Pocket Metaverse on iOS, and of course the incredible Lumiya for Android with its rich graphical capabilities and which I routinely cover in these pages.

It’ll be interesting to see exactly what the Lab have put together, and the code they’ve used – home-built, or perhaps using something like Unity3D? Time will tell!

SL project updates week 43 (1): Server releases, interest list

Simulator UG meeting, Tuesday Octber 22nd, 2013
Simulator UG meeting, Tuesday October 22nd, 2013

Server Deployments – Week 43

As always, please refer to the week’s forum deployment thread for the latest news and updates.

Second Life Server (Main Channel) – Tuesday October 22nd

The Main channel was updated with the server maintenance project that was previously on all three RC channels.  The package includes:

  • A fix for “Group member access to parcels fails when ‘Sell passes to’ is enabled”
  • Fixes for two region crossing issues:
    • “‘Ghost’ avatars and vehicles sometimes appear to an observer at the sim border”
    • “Vehicles which exit a region with a passenger are incorrectly auto-returned and become ‘ghost shapes’ in the physics engine”
  • Extremely high Avatar Render Weights reported to the server are now capped at 500,000
  • A performance issue fix for avatar loading speed in the experimental ‘viewer-interesting’ viewer.

Second Life RC BlueSteel, RC Magnum, and RC LeTigre – Wednesday October 23rd

There are no updates planned for the three RC channels, as a result, there was no rolling restart across the RCs.

SL Viewer Updates

The Google Breakpad RC was removed from the viewer release cohorts at the end of week 42.

Interest List Viewer

The interest list RC viewer is once again delayed.  Commenting on it at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday October 22nd, Andrew Linden indicated the hoped-for schedule for its appearance is before the end of the month, but there is something of a low confidence level in the estimate.

Apparently, there is still a performance issue to be dealt with (whether this is the same issue Richard linden mentioned in discussing the interest list viewer at the TPV developer meeting on Friday October 18th is unclear). Also, it seems that the recent issues of objects steadfastly refusing the render in the interest list viewer without a relog  – thhought to have been resolved in week 42 – have also regressed into the viewer code with recent builds.

The issue of prims failing to render in the Interest List viewer, as demonstrated by Whirly Fizzle in the images above and once thought to have been solved, has apparently returned to haunt the code in recent builds, helping to further delay the appearance of the viewer as a release candidate.

Andrew also clarified that the definition of objects which are cacheable by the viewer has been revised such that it is now objects which have not changed outward appearance or transformed in the last two minutes, rather than the one minute Richard Linden indicated, so as to allow for temp-on-rez objects (otherwise additional logic would have been required to check on these). The changes to the definition also mean that some scripted objects which have certain script calls in them, but which do not change appearance as a result of the calls, can also now be cached by the viewer.

As an adjunct to the interest list viewer discussion, Andrew indicated his “before / after” video for scene loading has received the “Torley treatment”, and the results are “impressive”. This is for the changes already implemented server-side, and which should already be visible to people without the Interest List viewer. There’s no date as to when this video may make its public debut.

Other Items

LSL Control for Materials

There have been renewed enquiries for the introduction of scripted control for materials. This has been requested in the past, and was always considered “out-of-scope” for the initial release of materials. A (further?) JIRA has been raised on the topic (MATBUG-359), but is light on suggestion on what might be required, etc.

Those Lindens attending the meeting (Andrew, Kelly and Simon) could see the advantages of extending LSL to handle materials (and Brooke Linden has indicated she feels the JIRA is a valid request). However, how best to achieve this, and the time-frame in which it might be achieved (not just in terms of a technical approach, but also in terms of the Lab’s internal priorities and workload) are unclear at this point.

Both and Andrew and Kelly felt that requiring the normal / specular maps to be in the object contents might be a means by which to both enable and constrain the use of LSL manipulation of materials because of the lack of permissions associated with UUIDs  and concerns of misuse. While no promises were made as to whether the work would proceed, Simon Linden suggested a further step would be to lay out a clearer proposed API and the exact behaviour required for manipulating materials via script. Andrew also indicated he has a “few” LSL calls to add, so he’ll try to take a look at the materials system o see how hard it would be to give script access to it.

llGetObjectDetails() and keyframe animation states

Simon Linden indicated that there has been some talk within the Lab of adding some new parameters to llGetObjectDetails() which would return an object’s keyframe animation states, so it would be possible to get the step number, state (paused, looping, ping-pong, etc.). Again, if / when this might appear is unclear; Simon appeared to be putting the idea out for feedback from the meeting attendees.