Getting dark and steamy in aid of the National Kidney Foundation

Open now through until October 1st is A Clockwork Spiral, a shopping and music event featuring steampunk, steamgoth, dieselpunk, dieselgoth and dark Victoriana in Second Life to help raise money for the National Kidney Foundation. 2014 marks the fifth year for the event, and the second time it has been run as a multi-day event, thanks largely to the demand of merchants and attendees.

Organised by the folk who run the World Goth Fair (Axi Kurmin, Lokii Violet, Dolce Blackflag, Sonya Marmurek and Cruel Britannia), the event is host to 40 merchants, who have brought with them their interpretations of the theme for the visitors to shop while enjoying the atmosphere of the specially built event locations and enjoying good music and good company.

All of the merchants at the event are offering at least one 100% donation item or two 50% donation items in special A Clockwork Spiral vendors. As always, Club Gothika’s Mobile Unit will be the heart of the music events which will be taking place through the 16 days of A Clockwork Spiral, and you can find the club under the central railway station.

The atmospheric setting for A Clockwork Spiral 2014
The atmospheric setting for A Clockwork Spiral 2014

Further details of the event can be found on the A Clockwork Spiral blog, which includes information on the event sponsors, provides a list of participating merchants, and a map of the event area.

When visiting, do keep in mind that there is a lot going on at the region, and it is likely to have a good number of visitors – so please help keep things running smoothly by attending as lightly scripted as possible, and try to avoid wearing texture-heavy attachments as well.

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A look inside the alpha world of High Fidelity

HF-logoI tend to keep an eye on the High Fidelity blog as and when I have the time (I’m currently waiting to see if I get into the next phase of alpha testing, as I’ve so far failed to build the client (I sucketh at tech sometimes), so try to keep up with developments. I also confess to hoping for another video from AKA…). This being the case, it was interesting to get a look behind the doors at what has been going on within High Fidelity courtesy of self-proclaimed “bouncer”, Dan Hope.

Dan’s blog post turns the spotlight away from the work of the core High Fidelity team and focuses it on those alpha testers / builders who have built the client, made the connection and have started poking at various aspects of the platform and the worklist.

Austin Tate is a name well-known within OpenSim and Second Life. His c.v. is quite stellar, and includes him being the Director of the Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute (AIAI) and a Professor of Knowledge-Based Systems at the University of Edinburgh. Austin’s work has encompassed AI, AI planning and the development of collaborative workspaces using virtual environments and tools – particularly the I-Room.

Within High Fidelity, where he is known as Ai_Austin, he’s been extending the work on I-Rooms and collaborative spaces (both of which seem to have an ideal “fit” with High Fidelity) and has been working on 3D modelling, with Dan noting:

You might have figured out by now that 3D worlds are no good if they can’t handle 3D models accurately, which is why Ai_Austin also tests mesh handling for complex 3D objects. The image above shows the “SuperCar” mesh, which has 575,000 vertices and 200,000 faces, being tested in HiFi. There are several other meshes he uses, too, including one of the International Space Station that was provided by NASA.

SuperCar has also featured in Austin’s work within SL and OpenSim, where he has been providing invaluable insight into working with the Oculus Rift, the development of support for it within the viewer, using it with other hardware (such as the Space Navigator). In fact, if you have any interest at all in the areas of AI, virtual world workspaces, VR / VW integration, etc., then I cannot recommend Austin’s blog highly enough (We also share a passion for astronomy / space exploration and (I suspect) for racing cars, but that’s something else entirely!).

Ctrlaltdavid might also be a name familiar to many in SL and OpenSim, being the HiFi name of Dave Rowe (Strachan OFarrel in SL), the man behind the CtrlAltStudio viewer which focuses on adding OpenGL stereoscopic 3D and Oculus Rift support to the viewer.

With High Fidelity, he’s working on Leap Motion integration, to provide a higher degree of control over an avatar’s hands and fingers than can be achieved through the use of other tools, such as a the Razer Hydra. The aim here is to increase the sense of immersion for users without necessarily relying on clunky hand-held devices. As we know, the Leap Motion sits on the desk and leaves the hands free to gesture, point, etc., and thus would seem and ideal companion when accessing a virtual environment like HiFi (or SL) when using a VR headset; or even without the headset if one wishes to have a degree of liberation from the keyboard.

Dan Hope demonstrates avatar finger motion using the Leap Motion, as being coded by CtrlAltDavid in High Fidelity (Image: High Fidelity blog)

Opening this look at the work of various alpha testers / builders, Dan notes:

We can’t create a truly open system without making it compatible with other open-source tools, which is why Judas has been creating a workflow that will allow artists to make 3D models in the open source program Blender using HiFi’s native FBX format.

This forms a useful introduction to the work of Judas, who has been involved in bringing High Fidelity and Blender closer together in terms of providing improved FBX support for the platform, which is now bearing fruit. “Only last week something was added in that allowed me to import the HiFi avatars into Blender without destroying the rigs we need to animate them,” Judas is quoted as saying in the blog post.

Continue reading “A look inside the alpha world of High Fidelity”

Taking a vision quest with Black Elk

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Black Elk, LEA1

Livio Oak Korobase returns to the LEA on Wednesday September 17th, with a new installation entitled Black Elk at LEA 1. The installation draws on the life and writings of Black Elk, a medicine man (wičháša wakȟáŋ) of the Oglala Lakota,  born in 1863, and author of The Sacred Pipe and Black Elk Speaks, a book responsible for sparking a renewal of interest in Native religions, based as it is on Black Elk’s experiences and those of the Lakota people.

Livio takes for the central theme of the installation, Black Elk’s great vision, which came to him as a boy of nine, while ill. In the vision, he was visited by the Wakinyan, Thunder Beings, who took him with them to the centre of the earth, and to the central mountain of the world, the axis of the six sacred directions, watched over by the Grandfathers.

This was the first of many vision he had throughout his life, and which, when he related it to the medicine men of his tribe when 17 years of age, established him as a great medicine man himself.

Black Elk, LEA1
Black Elk, LEA1

Symbolism is strong in the work at LEA 1 – as you might expect, given the focus – with horses, birds, bison, fish and more featuring large (literally as well as figuratively), together with more sacred characters. Around and among these hang quotes from Black Elk, powerful statements on who we are, where we come from and what we are a part of – that we are all, really, one nation; joined together and sharing hopes, loves, fears, life – and death. These words were formed through an early life marked by war and conflict and events such as Wounded Knee.

Given this, it should come as no surprise to see a quote by John F. Kennedy sitting alongside those of Black Elk. The quote is from Kennedy’s June 1963 Commencement Address at American University, given in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, an event which came so close to visiting a global calamity on the world, and time when Kennedy, whose early adult years were also shaped by war and conflict, resolved that East and East must find the ways and means to live and work together as peoples of a single world. In this, they offer something of a latter-day reflection of Black Elk’s words.

Black Elk, LEA1
Black Elk, LEA1

When visiting, I would recommend that you use the region’s default windlight setting – used to take the images seen here – as this will allow you to experience the installation to the fullest, the use of reflective surfaces is very well executed, and gives a further depth to the piece. Also, if you don’t feel like walking everywhere, there is a horse rezzer, so you can ride around the pieces in the installation – and don’t miss the two teleport arrows at the arrival point to get you to the more elevated parts of the installation; and do keep an eye out for Livio’s signature Creature!

All told, a thought-provoking piece, beautifully executed and well worth visiting.

Black Elk, LEA1
Black Elk, LEA1

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