A Little Bee that’s a real honey in Second Life

The Foilborne AD25H
The FoilBorne AD25H “Little Bee” by Ape Piaggio

Regulars to this blog will know I’ve been closely following the development of Ape Piaggio’s latest project – the AD25H “Little Bee” – (see here and here). Well, I’m happy to say that the Little Bee is now ready for launch – and what a honey it is! This is a package overfull of surprises, and something every motorboat lover in SL is going to want.

The AD25H is a boat which has from the start been a winner in my eyes. Built on the lines of a classic tender speedboat, it evokes an immediate feeling of summertime on the Italian Riviera, cruising along a sun-drenched coast or speeding by golden beaches, the music of Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Connie Francis, Morgana King or The Chairman himself – take your pick – playing on the boat’s radio.

My Little Bee moored against my Foilborne Kv23H to compare relative sizes
My Little Bee moored against my Foilborne Kv23H to compare relative sizes

Marketed under Ape’s FoilBorne Industries brand, the Little Bee builds on the stunning work put into her Kv23H FoilStream (which I reviewed in January 2015), and while a lot smaller, the Little Bee actually packs a lot more into it.  With passengers aboard, it can be a gentle, caring ride with Ape’s Anti-Crash Security System (ACSS) doing much to assist with region crossings. But should you feel a need for speed when out on your own ,this boat can deliver – up to and including converting to a hydrofoil for that extra kick of driving fun.

One of the many things about Ape’s designs I love is the sheer attention to detail. With the Little Bee, this starts with the packaging, which is delightful in its presentation, and a promise of goodies to come.

Like a kid at Christmas: kneeling behind my newly-arrived AD25H, admiring the packaging
Like a kid at Christmas: kneeling behind my newly arrived AD25H, admiring the packaging

On unpacking, the box delivers a number of items to inventory: the boat, a HUD for the boat, a trailer and “TugBee” – a little VW Beetle  specifically designed for towing the Little Bee on its trailer. A paint system brings up the rear, while the boat itself hides a stand it is automatically mounted upon if rezzed away from Linden water.

This is a friendly boat. Get in as the driver, and it will welcome you aboard in both text and via an audio message (unless turned off).

The controls are the usual,  UP / DOWN or W & S for the throttle, LEFT / RIGHT or A & D for turning, with PAGE DOWN and PAGE UP operating the hydrofoils (only at low speeds / when stopped). Touching the boat as owner accesses the full menu, passengers the seating menu.  I’m not going to run through all the options – suffice it so say, everything you need is there to operate the boat, and owners of the Kv23H will see the Little Bee has matches it in options – and offers more besides.  The expected options such as multiple camera options, auto-mooring, engine / race options, and so on, are all here together with the AD25H’s wakeboard and parasail deployment options and a few surprises.

The boat includes a HUD for those who prefer not to see hover text floating over their vehicles, with essential controls for deploying / retarding the foils, rezzing the wakeboard / parasail, etc.
The boat includes a HUD for those who prefer not to see hover text floating over their vehicles, with essential controls for deploying / retarding the foils, rezzing the wakeboard / parasail, etc.

Talking of the parasail and wakboard, both of the latter can be rezzed from the boat’s Accessories menu. Note that you will have to be on water that allows object entry, and should leave a degree of space behind the boat (don’t rez them when moored with a pier right behind you, for example). Once rezzed, riders simply sit on the wakeboard / parasail (and will receive a wearable handle for the former), and away you go. You  can even rez multiple wakeboards and also have the parasail rezzed and used with the wakeboard(s).

Those riding either the wakeboard or the parasail have a degree of control on their motions. The former can be turned left or right via the usual A/S / arrow key options, with stunts accessed via the PAGE DOWN and the UP / DOWN keys. The parasail’s rider can adjust their height with the UP / DOWN keys. When driving the boat with the wakeboard / parasail in use, I’d recommend keeping your speed down to no more than about 50% of throttle to avoid region crossing complications.

When deploying the foils and  / or using the wakeboard / parasail, you’ll get to see two additional features on the Little Bee: the Event Cam and the CineCApe system. These allow for some dramatic shots of the boat in action, with CineCApe notably allowing the wakeboard and parasail riders to adjust their camera position using PAGE UP to gain some impressive views of their ride. I’ve used clips from both in the accompanying video.

Wakeboarding on the AD25H
Wakeboarding on the AD25H “Little Bee” – you can rez multiple boards for friends – and even take someone parasailing at the same time!

The car and trailer offer a sophisticated system for taking the Little Bee overland. The “TugBee” VW Beetle is nicely designed and comes with a range of features: opening doors, working lights and brake lights. The usual WASD / arrow keys are used for driving, and the Page keys for stepping up / down through the gears.

Hitching the trailer to the car is a matter of rezzing both, preferably in the same orientation and close to one another, then clicking the car for its menu and selecting Attach. To get the boat on the trailer, carefully reverse the car down a suitable slip or gentle bank so the trailer is about up to its axle in the water. Drive the boat up close to the trailer, click on it and select Trailer from the menu. The trailer’s hand brake should unwind and the boat haul itself out of the water and safely onto the trailer. Raise the hand brake by touching the trailer and you’re ready to drive away.

Continue reading “A Little Bee that’s a real honey in Second Life”

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High Fidelity: into the solar system and STEM grant recipients

HF-logoI’m rather into space and astronomy – that much should be obvious from my Space Sunday reports, and coverage of mission like the Curiosity rover, astronomical events like the transit of Venus and so on.

So when High Fidelity posted news on the 2015 summer intern project, and the words “solar system” featured in it, my attention was grabbed. The post opens:

Hello! I’m Bridget, and I’ve been interning at High Fidelity this summer, working to build some JavaScript content in HF. As a math and computer science major, I had the opportunity to hone my programming skill set, learning from Hifi’s superb team of software engineers and design-minded innovators.

So here’s the culmination of my work this summer: a virtual orbital physics simulation that provides an immersive, interactive look at our solar system.

Bridget's solar system model correctly simulates the movement of planetary bodies around a stellar object , utilsing both Newton's and Kepler's laws, thus producing a dynamic teaching model for orbital mechanics and gravity
Bridget’s solar system model correctly simulates the movement of planetary bodies around a stellar object , utilising both Newton’s and Kepler’s laws, thus producing a dynamic teaching model for orbital mechanics and gravity – with a potential application for teaching aspect of physical cosmology

The goal of Bridget’s project is to demonstrate what can be built using JavaScript (and some C++), with a particular emphasis on building educational content in High Fidelity, and by using the solar system, she has come up with a highly innovative approach to teaching orbital mechanics – and more besides.

Essentially, she has created a model of the solar system which uses “real” gravitational physics to simulate the motion of the planets around the Sun. The planets themselves occupy orbits scaled relative to Earth, and fixed reference values are used for the orbital period, large and small body masses, and gravity. Then, a little Newtonian physics is thrown into the mix, together with a sprinkling of Kepler’s Laws of planetary motion. Thus, the scripting ensures that the planets maintain a stable orbit, while updates correct mimic each planet’s orbital trajectory around the Sun.

This generates a model that is interesting enough in itself, if somewhat simplified in nature, as Bridget notes, whilst also pointing to its potential for further use:

While the simulation exploits a somewhat simplified model, namely neglecting the elliptical nature of the planets’ orbits, it can easily be modified to account for additional factors such as the n-body problem.

In other words, there is the potential here to both refine the model in terms of orbital mechanics and planetary motion as a part of the teaching / learning process, and perhaps even dip a toe into physical cosmology.

the simulation
the simulation includes a UI which allows users to perform a number of tasks, including playing a little game and being able to zoom into the planets.

Bridget also notes:

Another fun aspect of the project was implementing UI to create possibilities for exploration and experimentation within the simulation. A panel with icons lets you:

  • Pause the simulation and show labels above each planet revealing its name and current speed
  • Zoom in on each planet
  • Play a “Satellite Game” (think Lunar Lander, but with a satellite around the earth), where you attempt to fling a satellite into stable orbit
  • Adjust gravity and/or the “reference” period, and see what happens!

Bridget’s work marks the second time a summer intern has reported on working at High Fidelity during the summer hiatus. In 2014, Chris Collins chatted to the (then) 17-year-old Paloma Palmer, a high School student also honing her coding skills. She focused on coding voxels to respond directly to volume inputs over a microphone in real-time. You can see her discussion with Chris on the HiFi YouTube channel.

Staying with education, and following on from my coverage of High Fidelity’s STEM VR challenge, Ryan Kampf announced the first of the grant recipients on Friday, August 14th.

The VR challenge invited educators, be they individuals or groups, to take up the STEM VR Challenge, to submit proposals for educational content in High Fidelity which meets the criteria set-out in the Challenge website, namely that the content is:

  • HMD (e.g. Oculus Rift) featured
  • High school age appropriate
  • STEM focused
  • Social (can be experienced by >3 people together).

On offer were up to three grants of US $5,000 each for recipients to further develop their ideas.

In his  announcement Ryan indicated that two recipients for grants had been selected from submissions: the TCaRs VR Challenge and Planet Drop VR.

Both use game mechanics, with TCaRs (Teaching Coding – a Racing simulation) enabling users get to interact with and customise their racing cars using JavaScript, while Planet Drop places players into an alien planet environment which they must explore through “cooperative asymmetrical gaming”. Each has highly specialised information, based on their chosen STEM field and provided to them via a game HUD, and the aim is for them to work together, sharing the information they receive as quickly and effectively as possible to allow the team to solve challenges and advance through a story arc of increasingly impressive accomplishments.

Conceptual illustration of the "Mech Pods" the players in Planet Drop will use to explore their alien environment
Conceptual illustration of the “Mech Pods” the players in Planet Drop will use to explore their alien environment

Congratulations to Bridget on her summer intern project (the script is available for those wishing to use it), and to the STEM VR challenge recipients.

2015 viewer release summaries: week 33

Updates for the week ending: Sunday, August 16th

This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version: 3.8.3.304115, August 18th – formerly the summer maintenance RC download page, release notes
  • Release channel cohorts (See my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • No updates.
  • Project viewers:
    • Notifications project viewer updated to  version 3.8.3.304107 on August 13th – new Notifications floater separates incoming notifications into System, Transactions, Invitations, and Group. It provides a better way to view, interact with, prioritize and manage incoming notices for busy residents (download and release notes).

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V3-style

  • Kokua  issued a test version -3.8.3.38326 – on Friday, August 14th containing fixes for issues with SL Experiences and includes the My Suitcase support from Cinder Roxley – release notes

V1-style

  • Cool VL Viewer Stable branch updated to version 1.26.14.4 and the Experimental branch updated to 1.26.15.3, both on August 15th – release notes

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Space Sunday: images of meteors, aurorae and comets

A composite image of the Perseids by Jeff Sullivan
A composite image of the Perseids by Jeff Sullivan showing roughly half of the meteors he captured on film in a 3-hour period over the Mojave Desert, California, on August 13th

Visually, it’s been a stunning week for astronomy and space science. We’ve had amazing images of the Perseids reaching this year’s peak as the Earth ploughs through the heart of the debris cloud left by comet Swift-Tuttle; there have been amazing shots of the Northern Lights Tweeted to Earth from the International Space Station; and another comet – 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko has shown us just how active a place it came become under the influence of the sun.

As I noted last Sunday, the Perseids meteor shower promised to be quite a spectacle this year, once again coinciding with a new moon which would leave the night skies particularly dark – ideal circumstances with which to see the meteor display for those able to get away from more Earthbound light pollution.

Gary Pearson caught this incredible meteor trail over Brancaster, Norfolk, UK on August 12th - a stunning display from an already vaporised particle of dust
Gary Pearson caught this incredible meteor trail over Brancaster, Norfolk, UK on August 12th – a stunning display from an already vaporised particle of dust

The Perseids – so-called because they appear to originate from the constellation of Perseus – are always a popular astronomical event; during the peak period, it is possible to see between 60 and 100 meteors per hour. They are the result of the Earth travelling through a cloud of dust and debris particles left by  Comet 109p/Swift-Tuttle’s routine passage around the Sun once every 133 years.

As the comet last passed through the inner solar system in 1992, the debris left by the outgassing of material as it was heated by the Sun is extensive, hence the brilliance of the Perseids displays. As noted, with the peak of the Earth’s passage through the debris (which lasts about a month overall from mid-July through mid-August, so there is still time to see them) occurring at a time when there would be a new moon, 2015 promised to offer spectacular opportunities for seeing meteors – and duly delivered.

Amateur astronomers Stojan Stojanovski, Kristijan Gjoreski and Igor Nastoski of the Ohrid Astronomy Association in Ohrid, Macedonia
Amateur astronomers Stojan Stojanovski, Kristijan Gjoreski and Igor Nastoski of the Ohrid Astronomy Association in Ohrid, Macedonia, captured this meteor as the Sun set on August 13th

Across the northern hemisphere between August 12th and August 14th, 2015, the Perseids put on some of the most spectacular displays seen in our skies in recent years – and people were out with their cameras to capture the event.

The highest concentration of meteors was visible after 03:00 local time around the world, although by far the best position to witness the event was in the northern hemisphere, with things getting under way as the skies darkened from about 23:00 onwards in most places.

It is not uncommon for the shower to coincide with a new moon (2012, for example was the same). However, this year’s display has been particularly impressive for those fortunate enough to have clear skies overhead.  “I have been outside for about 3 hours” Ruslan Merzlyako reported on August 13th. “And the results are bloody fantastic! Lots of Perseids and Northern Lights had just exploded in the sky right over my home town. For now, I am not going to argue with Danish weather, because I am 200 percent happy!”

A composite image by Danish photographer Ruslan Merzlyakov, who also caught the background glow of the Northern Lights in the skies of Denmark
A composite image by Danish photographer Ruslan Merzlyakov, who also caught the background glow of the Northern Lights in the skies of Denmark

You can find more images of this year’s Perseids event on Flickr.

Aurora From Space

Staying with the Northern Lights – more formally referred to as the Aurora Borealis –  the current commander of the International Space Station, Scott Kelly, captured some stunning images of the event, some of which he shared via his Twitter feed,  during the 141st day of his current mission – the joint US / Russian Year In Space – aboard the station.

“Aurora trailing a colourful veil over Earth this morning. Good morning from @spacestation!” he tweeted at the start of the series, which included a remarkable time-lapse video. With a further image, he commented, “Another pass through #Aurora. The sun is very active today, apparently.”

Continue reading “Space Sunday: images of meteors, aurorae and comets”