Lab issues Experience Keys release candidate viewer

The cornfield (game play area iuses a much darker and more atmospheric windlight)
The Cornfield: the Lab’s Experience Keys demonstrator (game play area uses a much darker and more atmospheric windlight)

On Wednesday, December 17th, the Lab issued a release candidate version of the Experience Keys viewer. Alongside  the promotion comes a new blog post promoting the availability of the viewer and the Experience Keys / Tools beta programme.

For those not previously aware of Experience Keys, the blog post provides some explanation:

Experience Keys are a powerful feature that allows creators to build more seamless and immersive experiences in Second Life. Without this feature, you need to grant individual permissions to every single scripted object included in an inworld experience, and that can mean a lot of dialog boxes interrupting the fun! Experience Keys make it possible for creators to build experiences that ask your permission just once. In other words, you can opt-in to the entire experience, rather than having to grant individual permissions to every single scripted object included in it.

I provided an overview of Experiences, Experience Keys and the the viewer-side updates when the Experience Keys viewer first appeared as a project viewer. While there have been some updates since then, the core of that article should still be valid where the viewer is concerned, and finding actual Experiences is now a lot easier given they are now listed in the Destination Guide. You can also try-out the Lab’s own Experience Tools activity, the Cornfield via the LR Portal Park1 (and it looks like another one might be opening soon!).

As to the viewer, this essentially gives you all the tools you need in order to track and manage those activities you opt to participate in or those you opt to turn down – again, the key thing with Experiences is that you retain overall control; if you don’t want to participate in something, you can decide not to opt-in. So, for example, is a region has an Experience associated with it, but you’d rather just explore, you can decide not to join the Experience when prompted, but do so at a later time. There’s also a Search option (with its own Maturity setting) that allows you to locate Experiences from within the viewer.

The Search tab on the new Experience floater - part of the Experience Keys project viewer
The Experience Keys RC viewer provides you with the tools you need to manage the Experiences you decide to participate in, or decide not to join. (the Allowed / Blocked tabs, above right), while the Search tab makes it easy to locate in-world Experiences (click for full-size)

As well as the tools for those wishing to find and participate in Experiences in SL, the viewer also includes tools and options which allow those wanting to build their own experiences – but you’ll need to refer to my preview article for more information on that.

You can, of course, still participate in those Experiences which are already available in-world with any viewer – you just won’t get the same richness of information and options that the Experience Keys RC viewer provides.

An Experience dialogue box. On the left, as it appears in an Experience Keys enabled viewer, with options to display the Experience Profile (by clicking the Experience name link) and to accept / refuse the Experience and to block the Experience (so you'll never see a prompts anywhere for it again) or to block just the current inviter. On the right, how the same dialogue appears in a viewer that is non Experience Keys enabled - you can only opt to accpt or refuse the invitation
You can use a “regular” viewer to join Experiences in-world, but you don’t get the same richness of information and options as presented by the Experience Keys RC viewer. Information displayed by the latter is shown above left, compared to a “non-Experience Keys” updated viewer on the right. While the “non” viewer still gives you basic information on the Experience you might be about to enter, the RC viewer provides a lot more – including a link you can use to display additional information on the Experience, which may additionally help you decide if you want to join in or not

Also, when you leave a region in which an experience is running, you needn’t worry about anything untoward happening to you – all permissions, etc., associated with the Experience are revoked when you leave.

As the official blog post notes, Experience Keys are, from a creation standpoint, still in beta, but the signs are the first set of capabilities will be rolled out in the very near future, hopefully not too long after the Christmas / New Year break. After that, and depending on uptake / feedback, etc., it is likely the system will be enhanced and extended.

One thing to note with Experience Keys and Tools, is that while the emphasis is primarily on game-base activities, they offer a lot of potential in other areas as well – guided tours, store demos, and more. All of which will potentially make the capability a very flexible addition to Second Life.

There will be more to come on Experience Keys and Tools, but in the meantime, and like the official blog, I’ll leave you with Torley’s explanatory video.

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Lab update on missing inventory

On Tuesday, December 16th, the Lab issued a brief statement on the matter of missing inventory which has been affecting some SL users since Wednesday, December 10th.

News on problems first arose via a forum post as people started noticing animations from Akeyo and Vista (among others) being replaced by “IP replacement” placeholders – which usual indicate removal as a result of a DMCA action. Some of those affected additionally indicated that they had also received an e-mail on the matter from the Lab – although others apparently did not.

How widespread the issue actually has been, is hard to judge; the forum thread itself involves a relatively few people, although this is obviously no accurate barometer of the overall impact and certainly not any form of mitigation for those who had been affected. Matters were further confused as a result of some support tickets raised on the matter being responded to as being a “resident to resident” issue, and therefore outside of LL’s remit.

By Sunday, December 14th, a number of SL users were pressing both the Lab (through their official community account) and Ebbe Altberg for comment, prompting him to reply:

missing-inv-3Ebbe Altberg's Tweets on the issue

Ebbe Altberg’s Tweets on the issue

Quite what went wrong isn’t clear, other than it apparently being a possible fault within an internal process. Even so, it appears to have caused a few headaches for the Lab in terms of sorting out. On Tuesday, December 16th, Ebbe further Tweeted:

Only this turned out to be a little premature, as a blog post was subsequently issued indicating that the Lab was still working to fix the matter:

Due to a recent internal error, some Residents may have noticed a few items were recently replaced within their inventories. We are working to reverse the process and hope to have the original items restored quickly.

If you believe that your items were affected, please keep an eye on your inventory – you should see the original items restored soon.

In addition to restoring the original items as quickly as possible, we are also taking steps to resolve the issue that caused the error so that we can avoid repeating it in the future. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

As this article is being written, some people are still indicating that they have yet to see inventory items reinstated. An important point to not here is that if you have been impacted by the situation, do not delete the “IP replacement” placeholders in your inventory; if you do, you may adversely affect the return of your items by the Lab.

Per my comment above, precisely what went wrong is unclear. However, mistakes can and do happen, and generally  without malice aforethought. But that said, given there was something of a serious mistake made, one in part exacerbated by a degree of confusion in communications from the Lab (vis e-mails sent to those affected and support tickets being closed), one hopes that the lessons learned in both correcting the matter and as a result of reviewing how the problem first arose will be taken to heart.

SL project updates week 51/1: server, viewer

Umbral Photography, Hydra Isles (Flickr) – blog post

A little late this week – holiday preparations and being a little under the weather are to blame.

Server Deployments Week 51

On Tuesday, December 16th, the Main (SLS) channel was updated with the server maintenance package deployed to the three RC channels in week #50. This update comprises:

  • A fix for BUG-7595 “Allowed & Blocked experiences persist with parcel owner change after purchase or abandoning”
  • A fix for (non-public) BUG-7036 “Experience based scripts in attached child prims reference their operation by region position instead of root position like non-experience based scripts”
  • A fix for (non-public) BUG-7048 “llGetExperienceDetails() returns 4 for state and “operation not permitted” for state message while over mainland parcels that have the experience allowed”
  • A fix for BUG-6757 “Different error code returned for an Experience that is not permitted to run on a parcel / region OR a user clicked No on the permission request dialog”
  • Additional internal Experience Key fixes
  • To find experiences with all unicode names you have to leave the search field blank and page through all results.

This deployment marks the last planner server deployment for 2014. There will be no deployments to the RC channels on Wednesday, December 17th, and no further planned deployments until January 2015.

SL Viewer

The new build tool chain for Windows is moving close to being implemented. Commenting at the open-source Developers meeting on Monday, December 15th, Oz Linden said:

We’re very close to having the new tools builds working on Windows… once we’ve done that, I’m going to merge them to the Snowstorm repository as well and all open source contributions will be on that base.

This means that self-compilers will have to update their tools, and work with the new autobuild  process.  As Microsoft recently issued Visual Studio Community 2013, which allows developers to create non-commercial applications for free, it is hoped that over time, many (or all) of the differences between the open source build configurations and the Linden versions can be eliminated, other than when using the proprietary packages.

Other Items

Windlight Assets

We all love windlight settings – so much so that since the arrival of windlight and wiki instructions on how to create our own windlights, it is fair to say that many hundreds of windlight settings have been created and circulated, and many of them have been incorporated into viewers (I actually keep a folder of my favourite windlights I use to replace the “default” offerings in the viewers I routinely use, and add new ones to it that I find and like or tinker with as I go along).

Now it looks like there may be some movement on the subject of windlight and environmental assets from the Lab. “I’m hoping that doing a new round of development on environment settings will get to the top of the list before too long,” Oz Linden said, during a general discussion on windlights during the Open-source developer’s meeting. If the work is taken up, it could led to the introduction of windlight assets which could help make things like ll-supported  parcel windlight settings a lot easier.

Wandering With Love In Her Heart

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr)

My previous travelogue featured TreMeldazis’ Salt Water, which at the time I mentioned was one of three regions in his care, the others being  Isle of Grace, which is restricted access and appears to be Tre’s home, and Sounds of Silence, a homestead region designed by Sunshine Zhangsun, which is open to the public.

Given the regions do go together somewhat, you can see one for the shores of the others and cross between Salt Water and Sounds of Silence, I thought it only fair that I also write about the latter as well.

Sunshine has called the region With Love In Her Heart, and it lies to the east of Salt Water, separated from it by a narrow channel of sea water. Rated Moderate, the region shares much in common, terrain-wise with Salt Water: beaches form much of the coastline, with low-ling grasslands just inland in places, while rocky hills make up the rest of the landscape.

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr)

However, move inland, and things have an altogether more pastoral theme. Goats wander the hillsides, sheep and cattle graze on the higher grasslands and horse roam the lower grassy reaches closer to the sea. There is a farm here, which – possibly due to the influence of the documentaries I’ve been watching of late – put me in mind of the Australian outback.  The two houses are open to visitors and furnished, one having the appearance of a family home, the other a working studio.

Up the hill from these, lying in a shallow grass bowl with bare-topped hills surrounding it, sits a barn with cattle and sheep roaming nearby. The feeling of homestead is enhanced here by the small burial plot sitting in the shadow of a tall tree.

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr)

From the barn, one can wander on over the hills to the east to to the beach, or turn more southwards and follow one of two paths which cut through the hills. The first of these leads back to the arrival point; so if you teleported into the region, it might be the route you followed to reach the barn and livestock. The second path leads down to a circular cove nestled between the hills and rocky cliffs, where two secluded stretches of sand can be found facing one another across the calm waters, linked by a path over the rocks to one side of the cove.

Here you’ll find places to sit, both on the sands and on the water, offering spots for quiet contemplation or a little time with a close friend / loved one. Explore the island, and you’ll find other such places and little social spots – towels spread on the beach here, a little boat sitting just off the coast there, a small camp and fire pit towards one headland, a makeshift tent of blankets and cushions looking out to the north, and so on.

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr)

All told, With Love In Her Heart offers something of a tranquil setting; the landscape sits easy on the eye, there are places to wander and to sit, and like Salt Water, plenty of opportunities for photography (rezzing is open, but do remember to pick things up after!). As I mentioned with Salt Water, taken together, both regions are worth a joint visit.

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The man whose novel helped inspire Second Life takes a Magic Leap

It has been announced that science-fiction author Neal Stephenson has become the latest high-profile individual to join the ranks of Magic Leap, the still-mysterious company that seems to be doing something highly innovative with augmented reality – and perhaps virtual reality as well.

Stephenson, who wrote Snow Crash, the novel which first coined the term “metaverse” and is often referred to as one of the influences behind the development of Second Life, has accepted the position of “Chief Futurist” at Magic Leap, in news being broken by the likes of Wired and The Verge.

Neal Stephenson, Magic Leap's new
Neal Stephenson, Magic Leap’s new “Chief Futurist” (image: Bob Lee via Flickr)

Writing in a blog post for Magic Leap, Stephenson states he had been approached by the company months ago – and in a rather unique way:

A few months ago, two Irishmen, a Scot, and an American appeared on my doorstep with Orcrist, aka “Goblin-cleaver,” the ancient sword forged during the First Age of Middle Earth by the High Elves of Gondolin, later retrieved from a troll hoard by Thorin Oakenshield. It’s not every day that someone turns up at your house bearing a mythic sword, and so I did what anyone who has read a lot of fantasy novels would: I let them in and gave them beer. True to form, they invited me on a quest and asked me to sign a contract (well, an NDA actually).

The use of Orcrist in the offer is cleverly symbolic: one of the Board of Directors of Magic Leap is Sir Richard Taylor, founder and head of WETA Workshop, the company behind the models, costumes and special effects seen in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies directed by Peter Jackson.

Precisely what Magic Leap is developing is something of a mystery, although as I’ve previously reported in these pages, what has been shown to the likes of Google, Legendary Pictures, Andreessen Horowitz and others led them to invest some $542 million into the company in October – and that on top of $50 million of investment at the start of the year.

What little is known about Magic Leap is that it is currently working on what it calls “cinematic reality”, which uses a headset which may eventually look something like a pair of sunglasses to overlay anything the wearer sees in the real world with 3D digital images that move and respond to the wearer’s own head an eye movements, and which appear to “interact” with the physical world around the wearer.

You'll believe a whale can fly - or that's perhaps Magic Leap's hope (among more practical things)
You’ll believe a whale can fly – or that’s perhaps Magic Leap’s hope (among more practical things)

Recently, Sean Hollister over at Gizmodo followed the lead set by Tom Simonite, a bureau chief at MIT Technology Review, in tracing down patents filed by Magic Leap in an attempt to find out more about what the company may actually be producing. As I again reported, their findings make fascinating reading for anyone interested in emerging AR and VR technologies – and in the history of Magic Leap, which up until the huge investment by Google et al, had been quietly flying under the radar for a number of years.

In that same report, I also covered the fact that what might be on of Magic Leap’s first major public demonstrations could be at the Manchester International Festival here in the UK in July 2015.

The Age of Starlight is a new film bringing together Oscar-winning director Kevin MacDonald, the visual effects team behind the 2013 George Clooney / Sandra Bullock blockbuster Gravity and science pundit and physicist Professor Brian Cox. The film will tell the story of the cosmos around us utilising Magic Leap technology, allowing audiences of up to 50 people at a time witness – and be immersed in – the unfolding majesty and mystery of the universe in what is billed as being a transformative, emotional experience.

The Age of Starlight: an immersive, transformative film using Magic Leap technology will be shown at the Manchester International Festival in the UK in 2015
The Age of Starlight: an immersive, transformative film using Magic Leap technology will be shown at the Manchester International Festival in the UK in 2015

It is apparently this transformative power within the Magic Leap technology that has attracted Neal Stephenson. Again, on the Magic Leap blog he states:

Here’s where you’re probably expecting the sales pitch about how mind-blowingly awesome the demo was. But it’s a little more interesting than that. Yes, I saw something on that optical table I had never seen before–something that only Magic Leap, as far as I know, is capable of doing. And it was pretty cool. But what fascinated me wasn’t what Magic Leap had done but rather what it was about to start doing.

Magic Leap is mustering an arsenal of techniques–some tried and true, others unbelievably advanced–to produce a synthesized light field that falls upon the retina in the same way as light reflected from real objects in your environment. Depth perception, in this system, isn’t just a trick played on the brain by showing it two slightly different images.

Magic Leap is not exclusively about games. It’s also going to be a great tool for readers, learners, scientists, and artists … What applies to games applies as well to other things of interest, such as making the world safe for books, doing new things with science and math visualization, and simply creating art for art’s sake.

We still don’t know precisely what Magic Leap will present or how it will work, and truth be told, there is an awful lot of hype and hyperbole surrounding the emerging new market for AR and VR it is hard at times to separate fact from fiction. But when the likes of Sir Richard Taylor and Thomas Tull (CEO of Legendary Pictures) pour their own money into a project, and it attracts names such as Brian Cox, Kevin MacDonald and now Neal Stephenson – you have to suspect something very special might well be sitting just over the horizon.

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LEA announce AIR 8 selection

LEA_square_logo_60On Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 the Linden Endowment for the Arts announced the successful applicants for the 8th round of the LEA’s Artist-in-Residence (AIR) programme.

They are: Solkide Auer, Art Blue, Giovanna Cerise, Asmita Duranjaya and Sable, Mario2 Helstein, Mistero Hifeng,  NaTaS Janus, Gracie Kendal, frankx lefavre,  FreeWee Ling, mediciprincess, Whiskey Monday, Haveit Neox, Lemonodo Oh, Krystali Rabeni, Searby, Sniper Siemens , Misprint Thursday, Lorin Tone and Mary Wickentower.

Qualia: The Sentience of Being - frankx lefavre, December 2014
Qualia: The Sentience of Being – Frankx Lefavre, December 2014

The LEA received over 40 applications, and those selected were viewed as presenting “truly outstanding proposals that represent a diverse range of virtual art.”

The successful applicants will each be allocated a full region within the LEA for a 6-month period. They have up to four months to prepare their projects, which range from full-sim immersions, to innovative builds geared specifically for multimedia works such as sound and machinima. Each installation must be open for a minimum of two months of the 6-month allocation, and it is expected that some will be open in advance of the four-month build deadline. All exhibits must be open to the public by the end of April 2015 at the latest.

Chaos, Kosmos - Giovanna Cerise, December 2014
Chaos, Kosmos – Giovanna Cerise, November 2014

All openings will be announced in the LEA blog.