Experience the Adirondacks in Second Life

Experience the Adirondacks; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Experience the Adirondacks (click any image for full size)

The new year has brought with it a new region design for Sera Bellic’s demonstration region for her Lick Sim Designs. The rural fields and rolling hills of Belleck House, redolent as they were of the Scottish lowlands or the countryside of Ireland, have now passed, and their place taken by another outdoor scene; one this time inspired by the North American continent.

Experience the Adirondacks offers visitors a taste of the Adirondack massif in the north-east of upstate New York in North America. This is a roughly circular dome of mountains whose formation owes much to ancient glaciation, and which shelters a range of wetlands as well as being home to the Adirondack Park.

Experience the Adirondacks; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Experience the Adirondacks

In Second Life, Sera offers a similar environment to  visitors: the region is surrounded by high mountains, some of them showing rounded tops and deep v-shaped flanks, suggestive of glaciers having helped carve them into being. Within their shelter, the region offers a gently sloping landscape with rocky outcrops to one end and wooded slopes leading down to a curving bay to the east. This, in turn, is protected north and south by long fingers of wooded headlands, the northern one providing access to the region’s single cabin, built out over the water.

This is a scene from the great outdoors, where physical activity can be the order of the day, and this latter point is immediately evidenced to visitors upon their arrival. The landing point sits on a large wooden platform sitting over the flooded floor of a sheer shaded crater-like hole, a waterfall plunging into it over the precipice to one side. Unless one resorts to cheating and the use of flight, the only way off the platform is by either a walk under the water or a swim across it with the aid of a “floatie”, rezzed by touching the blue sphere floating over the water.

Experience the Adirondacks; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Experience the Adirondacks

There are further watery activities to be found as you explore: swimming is available in the curving bay to the east, canoes can be obtained from various points and used to paddle around the region’s shoreline, while for the adventurous, a climb up to the plateau at the southern end of the region will reveal an opportunity for cliff diving – just be warned the water at the foot of the cliffs is a little shallow!

For those seeking something quieter, there are a number of seating and cuddle spots scattered about the region, including a very well-appointed tent for those who take their glamping comforts seriously 🙂 .

Experience the Adirondacks; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Experience the Adirondacks

So if you’re looking for a brief break from the normal grind and fancy a little fresh, mountain air mixed with a little swimming or canoeing, why not Experience the Adirondacks for a while?

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The Drax Files 35: exposing the bones of Project Bento

Project Bento extends the avatar skeleton, adding a significant set of bones (e.g. 30 for the face, 30 for the hands Project Bento - extending the SL avatar skeleton
Project Bento extending the SL avatar skeleton

Project Bento is an ongoing project running as a collaboration between Linden Lab and content creators / animators to extend what is possible with the standard Second Life avatar. It’s also the subject of a series of reports and updates in this blog and, more importantly in this particular context, the subject of segment #35 of The Drax Files World Makers.

At just under 3.5 minutes in length, the segment is somewhat shorter than previous editions of World Makers, but what it lacks in time, it more than makes up for in terms of content. Anyone wishing to grasp the intent of the project, its complexity, and its collaborative nature can do no better than to sit down and watch World Makers 35.

Bento’s roots as a real project go back to around the start of 2015. The Second Life team at the Lab (which is probably larger than many people are prepared to give credit, comprising as it does product managers, engineers, designers, coders, the viewer team, etc.), periodically get together to discuss how and where they might improve Second life and offer new features.

Improvements to the avatar skeleton is one of those things that has long been requested by SL users and content creators, and thanks to work previously undertaken under-the-hood within Second Life, both within the servers and the viewer, it had, by early 2015, reached the point where it was felt it could be undertaken in a manner which would both yield a positive outcome.

Vir Linden, Senior Software Engineer at Linden Lab, and technical project lead for Bento
Vir Linden, Senior Software Engineer at Linden Lab, and technical project lead for Bento

Vir Linden has been the engineering lead in the project, which is by managed from a product perspective by Troy Linden and from an engineering standpoint by Oz Linden. It has over the months involved many from the SL team at the Lab including Aura Linden, Grumpity Linden, Dan Linden, Simon Linden, Rider Linden, and Coyot Linden, many of whom feature in the World Maker’s Video.

Perhaps most importantly of all, from a user’s perspective, is that from very early on, Bento featured – one might say almost driven – by content creators themselves, including Cathy Foil, Siddean Munro, Flea Bussy, Toady Nakamura, and Matrice Laville.

These are the people who focused on what bones should be thought about in order to extend the avatar skeleton, and who undertook a lot of the work testing ideas and feasibility, options for integration into tools already available to support avatar creation (such as Avastar, Mayastar), and so on. Several of the LDPW moles were also involved in the work, offering input and ideas based on their long-term experiences as content creators and developers.

Meetings for the project were held on a weekly basis (transitioning into the public Bento User Group meetings on Aditi once the work had reached to point of being available in a project viewer), and both Drax and I were invited along to witness the collaborative nature of the work between residents and Lab staff (although I admit, my attendance was sporadic, as the scheduled meeting time ended up being awkward for me to make in the latter part of 2015).

Bento project meetings were held in-world, allowing Lab staff and content creators / animators develop the project collaboratively.
Bento project meetings were held in-world, allowing Lab staff and content creators / animators develop the project collaboratively.

The complexity evident in Bento can be summed up in the fact that there are now 106 bones in the SL avatar skeleton, plus the original 26 collision volumes of the basic avatar, giving a total of 132 joints. These new bones include:

  • 11 extra limb bones for wings, additional arms, or extra legs.
  • 6 tail bones
  • 30 bones in the hands (all 10 fingers!)
  • 30 bones for facial expressions
  • 2 other new bones in the head for animating ears or antennae
  • 13 new attachment points associated with the new bones
Bento has huge implications for avatars of all kinds - even bunnies, as Etheria Parrott demonstrates with the facial features on this Bento Bunny . watch the video
Bento has huge implications for avatars of all kinds – even bunnies, as Etheria Parrott demonstrates with the facial features on this Bento Bunny . watch the video

Getting to this point alone took time and effort – and no small amount of testing. How many bones could the avatar realistically support within Second Life? What would be the data load placed on the simulator (allowing for a considerable amount of work the simulator used to do having been moved to the CDN service, something we’ll also be seeing more of in the future)? What happens when you get a lot of animated avatar appendages all operating in the same space?

These are just some of the questions which had to be addressed by those initially working on Bento, and are still being considered now in the more open Bento beta. Nor is it just a case of providing the bones and the options for animating them: there’s also the matter of ensuring the data relating to  bone movements, etc., can be reliably managed, tracked, communicated and visualised by both the simulator and the viewer.

All of which adds up to a complex project, but it is one seen as genuinely important by those at the Lab working on it, as Troy, Coyot, Aura, and Vir note in the video:

[Troy] The avatar is an extension of the resident. It’s an extension of their personality in a Very detailed way. [Coyot] Enabling  that imaginative element of ourselves is really important and not to be under-rated. People can go, “ah well, it’s fantasy, whatever,” but the imagination is an expression of who we really are. [Aura] By allowing avatars to have these new expressive modes, we can really increase this visual communication that people have. [Vir]  That’s going to increase the sense of presence in the 3D world.

Continue reading “The Drax Files 35: exposing the bones of Project Bento”

Windlight moves location in Second Life

Windlight Gallery in its new home
Windlight Gallery in its new home

Windlight Magazine and Art Gallery has relocated in-world. Now located in its own region, the gallery remains the centrepiece of Windlight Magazine in-world activities and the home to the Windlight Art Fellowship Programme.

As well as the gallery, the region is home to the Ristorante Ivanna, Chromatic Gallery, featuring the art of Windlight founder and owner, Johannes1977 Resident, office space for magazine staff, and the Tribute and Crown pub, which is conveniently located a short walk from the offices (hey! writing for a magazine is thirsty work, OK?!).

Ristorante Ivanna
Ristorante Ivanna

The region has yet to formally open, but work is progressing apace, with the gallery almost completely set-up, and members of the Windlight Staff gradually moving into the new office accommodation.

As the gallery now occupies its own region, there are a limited number of rental units which will be made available as the region opens. These will be available at L$200 per week, with a 100 LI allowance, and are placed in a prime spot facing the gallery building. Artists wishing to have a studio shop will get initial preference on the units when rentals open.

The Tribute and Crown pub - handy for after office hours - with the boathouse through the trees, where visitors can enjoy 7 seas fishing and other pastimes
The Tribute and Crown pub – handy for after office hours – with the boathouse through the trees, where visitors can enjoy 7 seas fishing and other pastimes

“We’ve decided to make the move so we can house larger art shows,” John told me as we discussed the relocation. “It also means we can support 3D projects as well.” Having a full region certainly gives an added sense of space to the Windlight facilities, and as a member of the staff, I have to admit the new staff offices causes me to get a little creative in setting out my workspace 🙂 .

So, if you have a landmark for the Windlight Gallery, do be sure to hop over to the new location and update it; and while you’re there, why not have a wander around?

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One Billion Rising 2016: Volunteers Sought

One Billion Rising (OBR) will once again be taking place in Second Life on Sunday, February 14th, 2016. The theme for 2016 if Rise For Revolution, with the organisers of the event stating:

Rise for Revolution 2016 is an escalation of the first three stages of our campaign – One Billion Rising, One Billion Rising for Justice, and One Billion Rising: Revolution.

We’ve danced. We’ve demanded justice. We’ve demanded changes.

This year we are enlarging, deepening and expanding the revolution.

And we need to focus on the most marginalised women and girls to bring about true, long-lasting change.

Change can happen if… Grassroots movements and marginalised communities are in the lead.

Change can happen if… We demand accountability – making sure our justice calls are realised
We will continue to demand justice, and we will continue to highlight the issues surrounding the social injustices inflicted on women, and to keep highlighting where these issues connect. We will continue to challenge institutions, governments, policies, laws – and make these systems, which are responsible for creating situations of poverty and violence, accountable.

Change can happen if… We harness our creativity and energy
We will keep highlighting, creating and envisioning new, brave and radical artistic initiatives to bring in the new revolutionary world of equality, dignity and freedom for all women and girls. THERE IS NOTHING MORE POWERFUL THAN ART AS A TOOL FOR TRANSFORMATION.

Change can happen if… WE ACT NOW. AND WE ACT TOGETHER.

In Second Life, we will be marking the occasion (as we did last year) with a twenty-four hour one day event that will allow women and men to gather. There will be music, there will be art installations and exhibitions, there will be poetry sessions, there will be storytelling events, there will be live dance  performances, there will be dancing – and there will be information kiosks that will share information about organisations devoted to promoting justice for women across the globe, and stories of events that will be happening around the world.

OBR in Second Life will once again focus on a four-region stage, all under a General maturity rating, allowing people to come together, and which will be surrounded by an area of art installations and informational exhibits on organisations that need funding. The stage areas will feature performers and music over the 24-hour period, enabling people all over the world to attend this virtual event no matter their time zone. Pictures are welcome on the event’s Flickr group.

The main stage at OBR in SL 2015
The main stage at OBR in SL 2015

About One Billion Rising

One Billion Rising was the biggest mass action in human history. The campaign, launched on Valentine’s Day 2012, began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls.

  • On 14 February 2013, people across the world came together to express their outrage, strike, dance, and RISE in defiance of the injustices women suffer, demanding an end at last to violence against women
  • In 2014, One Billion Rising for Justice focused on the issue of justice for all survivors of gender violence, and highlighted the impunity that lives at the intersection of poverty, racism, war, the plunder of the environment, capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy
  • In 2015, millions of activists in over 200 countries gathered to Rise for REVOLUTION, to change the paradigm, demand accountability, justice and systematic CHANGE. We are rising to show we are determined to create a new kind of consciousness – one where violence will be resisted until it is unthinkable.

In 2016, the theme of Revolution continues with a call to focus on marginalised women and to bring national and international focus to their issues; to bring in new artistic energy; to amplify Revolution as a call for system change to end violence against women and girls; to call on people to rise for others, and not just for ourselves.

The campaign has been covered widely by media in all corners of world including The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and many more.

If you would like to be involved in One Billion Rising in Second Life, the OBR organisers invite you to do so in a number of ways:

  • By attending the event – watch for more details on the One Billion Rising website to learn more
  • By forwarding to them information about groups known to you that can be added to the informational kiosks. Email 1billionrisinginsecondlife@gmail.com or post on the OBR in SL Facebook page
  • By volunteering to help organise and run the event. OBR is seeking greeters, security, stage managers, media liaison and information processors, who will help build the information that will go into the OBR displays. Full training will be given
  • By adding your reasons for rising to the special Why I’m Rising page
  • By applying to be part of the OBR in SL Press Day
  • By helping  to sponsor the event – contact Samantha Ohrberg in-world to find out how.

Visit the One billion Rising in SL website to find out more.