Lab seeks to make buying clothes that fit easier … sort-of

secondlifeThe Commerce team have issued a blog post and Knowledge Base article aimed at helping people ensure the clothes they buy will actually fit their avatar.

I’ll be honest and admit that I hadn’t realised that there was a particular issue with clothing that needed any clarification; but I’m also biased in that I’ve been around SL long enough and reporting on it, that understanding the various clothing types doesn’t actually present me with a problem. However, I can understand a new arrival being confused by terms such as “system clothing” or “clothing layers”, and “mesh clothing”, “fitted mesh clothing”, “rigged mesh clothing” and so on, and wondering what the heck it is all about and where the differences lie.

The blog post is aimed at content creators, and is intended to encourage them to define the clothing they produce in terms of three avatar types, and to label their clothing accordingly with icons.

However, to get a clearer understanding of what is being proposed, it is perhaps best to refer to the Knowledge Base article, which provides far more comprehensive information.

Essentially, it has been decided that clothing should be defined in terms of avatar categories. These are defined by the Lab as:

  • Classic – Classic avatars are the original default Second Life avatars.  They have a modifiable humanoid shape, and can wear clothing in the form of textures and attachments added to that shape. Most of a classic avatar’s appearance and clothing can be modified by pressing the Appearance button in the Second Life Viewer, but cannot take advantage of newer graphical features such as normal and specular maps.
  • Standard mesh – A standard mesh avatar is a classic avatar that is wearing a rigged mesh attachment, usually a full-body avatar, and whose classic body is hidden by a full body alpha mask.  It is classified as “standard” if it was created using the standard fitted mesh model available on the Second Life wiki.
  • Custom/branded – A custom avatar is a classic avatar that is hidden by a full body alpha mask and is wearing a customized rigged mesh attachment or attachments that otherwise replace the classic avatar body.  These avatars can come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and each model typically requires clothing specifically designed to work with such an avatar.

Hints to help a consumer determine what category of avatar they are using are also provided,

In addition, the Lab is asking that creators define their clothing as one of four types in order to indicate which categories of avatar it is most likely to be compatible with:

  • Classic only – The “layer-based” textured clothing applied directly to classic avatars.  This clothing type only displays properly on classic avatars and is rendered completely invisible by the alpha mask worn by most mesh avatars.
  • Mesh only – An attachment that is designed to appear as clothing on a standard mesh avatar.  It may appear to be a layer-based texture, but does not work properly on classic avatars.  Mesh only clothing must be created outside Second Life in a 3D modeling tool.
  • Classic/Mesh – Attachments primarily designed for standard mesh avatars that can be made to work on a classic avatar.  In order to be classified as classic/mesh, the clothing must include an appropriate alpha mask designed to hide the affected parts of a classic avatar.
  • Branded – A catch-all term meant to encompass the many possible custom avatar designs.  Such avatars can typically only wear clothing specifically designed for that specific avatar; therefore each custom designed avatar and its compatible clothing may be considered a “brand”.  Likewise, clothing designed for a custom avatar shape should not be expected to work properly with classic or standard mesh avatars, or even other custom avatars.

In order to help shoppers find clothing that properly fits their avatars, Merchants are additionally being asked to use one of two label images to use when advertising their clothes, and to update any clothing they have listed on the SL Marketplace so that it is defined by one of the three avatar categories (so that it is defined as being compatible with Classic Avatars or Mesh Avatars or, in the case of a specific custom avatar, it is defined by the avatar’s brand name.

The two logos the Lab are requesting content creators use to denote their clothing are:

images ©
images ©

Note these are copyrighted stock images, requiring the use of the label, “©” with each.

Further details can be obtained directly from the Knowledge Base article, which also includes notes on why custom avatar types should ideally have a unique brand associated with them.

The new definitions do appear be to perhaps as confusing as the current terminology (“system”, “fitted mesh”, etc.), as such it will be interesting to see the response to this proposal / request, and how well things work in practice.

Talking castAR and High Fidelity

The Silicon Valley VR (SVVR) Meet-up at the end of March featured a series of presentations from people within the VR field, including those by Brian Bruning, VP of Business Development and Marketing at Technical Illusions (castAR) and Philip Rosedale of High Fidelity.

The full video of the presentations is provided below, and I’ve included notes on each of these two presentations in particular. When reading, please be aware that these are notes, and not a full transcript.

Brain Bruning – castAR

Brian Bruning’s presentation commences at the 0:05:48 mark.

Image courtesy of Technical Illusions
Image courtesy of Technical Illusions

I’ve covered the early work on castAR in the past, some of which is touched upon at various points in the presentation, so I don’t want to repeat things here. What is interesting is that the system’s development has been following a similar route to that of the Oculus Rift: Technical Illusions have been out attending technology shows, conferences, exhibitions, etc., to gain visibility for the product , they ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for castAR which raised $1,052,110 of a $400,000 target.

[07;10] castAR has three modes of operation:

  • Projected augmented reality (AR), which presents a 3D hologram image projected onto a retro-reflective surface in front of you. allowing you to interact with it via a “wand”
  • Augmented reality of a similar nature to that of Google Glass
  • Virtual reality of the kind seen with the Oculus Rift.
castAR projected AR gaming with the castAR wand (image via Technabob)

The emphasis is that the headset is natural, comfortable-looking (a pair of glasses) which has three product features built-in. As a result of the Kickstarter, the company has now grown to 10 people, and the technical specifications for the system have been decided:


  • Less than 100 grams in weight
  • Fits over most prescription glasses
  • Ultra flexible micro coax cable
  • Active shutters with 50% duty cycle

  • 1280 x 720 resolution per eye
  • 120hz refresh rate per eye 24 bits of color per pixel
  • 65 degree horizontal field of view 93% fill factor
Tracking System

  • 110 degree FOV
  • 120hz update rate
  • 8.3ms response time
  • 6 degrees of freedom
  • Absolute positioning Over 200 unique tracking points
  • 0.07mm accuracy at 1.5m
AR & VR Clip-On

  • 90 degree horizontal FOV
  • Very low distortion freeform optics
  • 5mm by 8mm eye box
  • Removable flip-up shutter for AR mode

[11:20] castAR has its roots within the gaming environment and has been developed with the games market in mind (again, as had pretty much been the case with Oculus Rift), although they had recognised the potential for wider applications – they just hadn’t anticipated that someone like Facebook would step into the VR / AR arena and potentially add impetus to the wider applications for VR / AR.

[11:45] One of the benefits seen with a combined approach to VR / AR is that there are situations in work, in education, in research / medical fields where a completely occluded view of the real world  – as required by head-mounted displays (HMDs) such as the Oculus Rift – are simply not appropriate (Mr. Bruning jokes that there are even some activities associated with gaming where a HMD is inappropriate – such as simply trying to eat a snack or take a drink without interrupting the game flow!). In these situations, the projected AR or the Google Glass-like” AR are seen as more beneficial, and hence the drive to address all three modes of operation.

[13:20] Technical Illusions believe that many of the challenges faced by AR and VR content creators are similar in nature – such as dealing with UI issues, both seeing UI elements and interacting with those UI elements, or dealing with physical objects which my be places within a VR / AR scene. As such, Technical Illusions are focused on educating content creators to the needs of immersive / augmented environments and are producing dev kits to assist content creators in developing suitable environments / games / activities which take such issues into account.

[14:57] Current planning is for Technical Illusions to have their dev kits and the Kickstarter sets shipped in summer 2014, and to have the consumer version ready to ship by the fourth quarter of 2014, and it is indicated that price-point for consumer kits (glasses, tracking components, retro-reflective surface and input wand) will be “sub $300”.

The castAR update is an interesting, fast-paced piece, primarily focused on the projected AR capabilities of the glasses. Little or nothing was said reading the ability of the system to be used as a VR system, and no disclosure was given on the VR clip-on system.

This is apparently a deliberate decision on the part of the company, in that they are allowing VR HMD focused companies promote the potential use of VR, While Technical Illusions focus on the potential of projected AR capabilities.  While an interesting approach to take, I can’t help but feel that (assuming the VR clip-on is at a “feature complete” status) promoting all capabilities in castAR  wouldn’t be better, as they help present the product as a more versatile tool.

Continue reading “Talking castAR and High Fidelity”

A Carnival of Architecture to say farewell to a landmark

The Paper Tower - ACC Alpha, april 2014, as seen from Sparquerry
The Paper Tower – ACC Alpha, april 2014, as seen from Sparquerry

Four years ago, architect Haveit Neox raised the Paper Tower over his ACC Alpha sim. At 175 metres in height, the Tower became a landmark for the region and the neighbouring Sparquerry, where more of Haveit’s fabulous works reside. However, all good things must come to an end.

In January 2014, Haveit took part in the LEA’s series of Interim Projects, and presented his Paper Observatory, indicating that it would replace the Paper Tower on the occasion of the latter’s 4th anniversary. And so it is that on Thursday April 10th, 2014, a special Carnival of Architecture will take place at ACC Alpha, during which the Paper Tower will vanish into inventory, and the Paper Observatory will descend from the sky to take its place.

The Paper Tower - ACC Alpha, april 2014
The Paper Tower – ACC Alpha, april 2014

Festivities will kick-off around 14:00 SLT, with a parade. Then, at around 14:30, free vendors will appear in the Paper Tower Court where the Paper Tower once stood, offering attendees the opportunity to obtain architectural attachments – walls, domes, columns, etc., – they can walk and fly around wearing and come together in groups to “build” their own versions of the Observatory. Then, as a part of the grand finale, the Paper Observatory will descend upon the Court and those in it, in – to use Haveit’s apt description – a raucous collaboration of performance art.

For Haveit, the departure of the Tower is something of an emotional event, and it took him some two years to come to the decision to take it down. “The Paper Tower is one of my pet builds – one of my first,” he says of the Tower. “Working on its grand scale and industrial motifs was an exciting new adventure in my new exposure to 3D building. I have many fond memories with friends, and with public events in and around the Tower. It is one of the last standing of my newbie builds.”

The Paper Observatory at LEA25, January 2014
The Paper Observatory at LEA25, January 2014

One of the problems with building tall structures in SL, as Haveit points out, is that while in RL they provide excellent platforms for viewing your surroundings, due to the default camera offsets in SL, when you build over a certain height, all that’s seen is the sky. The Paper Observatory compensates for this by having a translucent floor.

While the Tower will be taken down, it will not vanish altogether; although the observatory will occupy the space once taken by  the Tower, the Paper Tower Court beneath it remain and continue to be an exhibition space, and the themes of paper and decay seen in the Tower are reflected in the Observatory’s design, which will be used to display scientific information.

Those wishing one last visit to the Tower can still do so ahead of the Carnival, although most of it has been cleared ready for the removal. While there, and if you haven’t done so previously, you might want to explore the rest of Haveit’s remarkable designs and builds within ACC Alpha and Sparquerry.

One of Haveit's pieces at ACC Alpha
One of Haveit’s pieces at ACC Alpha

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