Project Bento User Group update 28 with audio

Bento: extending the avatar skeleton
Bento: extending the avatar skeleton

The following notes and audio were taken from the weekly Bento User Group meeting, held on Thursday, September 29th at 13:00 SLT at the the Hippotropolis Campfire Circle. and chaired by Vir Linden. For details on the meeting agenda, please refer to the Bento User Group wiki page.

Note that this update is not intended to offer a full transcript of the meeting, nor does it present the discussion points in chronological order. Rather, it represents the core points of discussion, grouped together by subject matter were relevant / possible, whilst maintaining the overall context of the meeting.

RC Viewer and Scale Locking

The next release of the Bento RC viewer should be appearing soon. When it does, it will have a couple of updates:

Slider Scale Locking

At the last meeting, Vir requested feedback on the proposed ability to effectively make joints in a mesh “slider proof” by overriding the scale as well as position in uploaded mesh models, as seen in the proof of concept viewer put out at the start of September.

The option has now received positive feedback, and will included in the next RC update. It will comprise a check box which, if checked will lock joints against scale changes, and thus the sliders affecting the joint will no longer influence it. Leaving the box unchecked for the joint will allow scale changes.

Performance optimisations

There has been one noticeable “hot spot” of viewer performance degradation as a result of all the new Bento joints. This has been sufficient for the Lab to make some changes which should help improve FPS for users when in a region with a lot of rigged mesh.

Going to Release

The question on when Bento will reach a release status tends to come up at every meeting, and the answer remains the same. Bento’s promotion to release status is dependent on a number of factors, including:

  • The viewer’s crash rate compared with the current release viewer and other RC viewer in the release channel
  • Whether exposure to a wider audience of users uncovers non-bento bugs or regressions which require additional fixing
  • Relative priorities between Bento and other projects.

However, there have been few Bento-specific bugs raised against the RC viewer, and while it still requires time as an RC as changes are still being made, Vir’s hope is that it will be weeks rather than months until the viewer is promoted to release status (bugs and other priorities allowing, as noted.

Joint Position Locking

A joint’s position can be locked from slider influence by setting a custom position for it. However, the slider’s influence isn’t completely disabled, as a change to scale can still have influence. For example, if the scale of a parent join is changed, it can influence where a child joint appears, even if the child has a custom position set (hence one reason for the scale locking. However, there has been a suggestion that joint position locking may not be working smoothly, so Vir is interested in hearing about situations where this might be the case.

The question was asked in joints could be locked from within Second Life – that is, after upload. the short answer to this is no, as it would require a significant amount of reworking which falls well outside of the scope for Bento.

My company of wolves: wearing the "Morgan" avatar, my Alt attends the Bento meeting, under the protection of two Bento wolves (designed by Medhue Simoni) - that's Whirly on the left, and Medhue on the right)
My company of wolves: wearing the “Morgan” avatar, my Alt attends the Bento meeting, under the protection of two Bento wolves (designed by Medhue Simoni) – that’s Whirly on the left, and Medhue on the right) – see the addendum below for more info on the wolves.

Animation Priorities And Formats

As all SL animators know, the platform supports two animation types: .BVH and .ANIM. The differences between them, in essence, is that .BVH is a format which pre-dates Second Life. During the upload process, an attempt is made to process the .BVH file to make it more efficient. The .ANIM format is more of an internal format for Second Life, and bypasses all the processing common to .BVH files; all the settings are already baked in, including the priority.

Generally speaking, the priority in which animations play is based on their priority; those animations with a high priority than other will take precedence in playback. If to animations with the same priority are called, it can be indeterminate as to which may play first. There have been some proposals to make this more deterministic, but it is a non-Bento effort, if it is being actively pursued.

However, if using the .ANIM format in Blender, it is possible to set the animation priority on a per joint basis, prior to exporting for upload to Second Life – although it is not clear if the Second Life .ANIM format supports a per-joint field for prioritising animations. Also, all of the options available in the .BVH uploader for Second Life are available for .ANIM files from within Blender / Avastar, and can be set from there prior to export.

Maya also has a native .ANIM format, but it is important to note that this is not the same format as the Second Life .ANIM file, and it is not  compatible with Second Life.

Other Items

Mixing and Matching Bento Parts

One of the aims with Bento is to allow users to mix and match Bento parts. So, for example, if you have a Bento elephant, you might in theory be able to get a set of Bento wings and add them to become a flying elephant. To achieve this, a Bento mesh no longer has to define positions for all the joints in the skeleton – only those it actually uses need to be defined.

However, this still means customers must be aware of the joints being used by different mesh models to avoid potential conflicts. Again, if the elephant mentioned above uses the wing bones to animate its ears, that’s going to conflict with the use of wings using the same bones  – and yes, I’m avoiding Dumbo and his ear-flapping flying for the purposes of this example! 🙂 ).

One way to avoid this might be for creator to document the joints they’re using in their mesh models when selling them (e.g. in the Marketplace listings, on their vendor boards, etc). But quite how this might work in practice remains to be seen – and will largely rely on the community to consider matters.

MayaStar Update

Cathy Foil has reached a point of getting all the sliders working with the all of the bones, although some are not yet working properly. She hopes that MayaStar will be updating a in the next couple of weeks. She also reminded people that Aura Linden is, in her own time and unpaid, writing an exporter for MayaStar for .ANIM files. This will be provided as an open-source project.

Bento Follow-up?

After the main meeting had finished, Cathy Foil indicated that she and Matrice had discussed a possible follow-up for Bento with Vir, which he was positive about. This would be to add a further appearance slider which would allow an avatar to be correctly / proportionally scaled larger or smaller.

This would apparently be a relatively simple addition, although work would also have to be put into correctly scaling walks, runs and flying to avoid things like Mach 5 tinies roaring across a region because the scale of their steps remains unchanged (the upper and lower limits of avatar size would also need to be defined). Given the potential benefits of such a slider – more efficient land use as avatars could be more easily scaled down to make use of smaller spaces, etc. -, it could also be a useful task for one of the few remaining slider slots which are available.

The discussion included the idea of using animations or even a file (/script) to define avatar scale, with Cathy indicating that animation scaling was ruled out early in the project on the grounds of cost, and that Vir was unsure of a way to easily allow file-based avatar scaling.

Next Meeting

Due to the Lab’s monthly internal meeting, which conflicts with the Bento meeting, the next Bento User Group meeting will be on Thursday, October 13th.

Addendum

Those interested in the Bento mega-wolves by Medhue can now obtain them through the Marketplace, and read about them on Medhue’s blog. You will require a Bento-enabled viewer to render them correctly. With thanks to Whirly for the pointer.

Additional Links

Be a part of the Lab’s 2016 Halloween events

secondlifeThe latest in the Lab’s social meet-ups in-world with residents is currently in the planning stages. Given the time of year, the Lab have decided to mix the Halloween season into things and hold a “travelling meet-up”. They’re also putting together the Halloween Shop ‘Til You Drop event, as a blog post from Xiola explains.

Following the success of the 2015 Creepy Crawl, the Lab are looking to do the same in 2016: spend time in-world hopping from venue to venue, spending time with residents at each, dancing chatting and generally having a good time. The event will take place on Monday, October 31st, and the full details for those just wishing to hop along and join the fun will be announced in due course.

However, for those who wish to offer their venue / place as a possible stop along the way, there are some simple instructions to follow, as Xiola states in the blog post:

  1. Make sure your place is listed in the Destination Guidehere’s how to submit.
  2. Hop over to this form and fill it out before October 20th – we’ll start selecting the venues after that!
  3. Keep an eye out for an email and/or notecard after the 20th to let you know if your venue was selected.

So, if you fancy hosting a little Linden Halloween fun, make sure you get your venue in the DG (if it isn’t already) and fill-out the application form – do keep in mind that preferred venues should be

Shop ‘Til You Drop is a Halloween-themed shopping event taking place between Friday, October 21st and Monday, October 31st 2016.

If you’re a Merchant who specializes in costumes and other Halloween-themed items and would like to participate, the Lab invites you to fill-out and submit the Halloween Shopping Event form – keep in mind the event will be open to a General-rated audience. Selected Merchants will be offered a booth to display and sell some of their items at a special discounted price to shoppers. Given the time frame, Merchants are advised to submit the form sooner rather than later, and to keep in mind that not everyone may be successful in applying.

Again, for those wishing to attending the event, further details will be forthcoming from the Lab nearer the date.

VWBPE 2017: Call for Proposals

Image courtesy of VWBPE
Image courtesy of VWBPE

The 10th annual  Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference was recently announced, together with a call for proposals.

Scheduled to take place between Wednesday, March 29th and Saturday April 1st, 2017 inclusive, VWBPE is a global grass-roots community event focusing on education in immersive virtual environments which attracts 2200-3500 educational professionals from around the world each year.

In the context of the conference, a “virtual world” is an on-line community through which users can interact with one another and use and create ideas irrespective of time and space. As such, typical examples include Second Life, OpenSimulator, Unity, World of Warcraft, Eve Online, and so on, as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or any virtual environments characterised by an open social presence and in which the direction of the platform’s evolution is manifest in the community.

2017 is a special year for VWBPE, marking its tenth anniversary. With this in mind, the overarching them for the four days is that of Legacy. A call for proposals has been issued to those wishing to participate in the event as speakers and presenters.  It invites educators and those involved in the education sector to reflect on work and their accomplishments within the context of the conference, and consider submitting a proposal and sharing their work with the wider education community.

Image courtesy of VWBPE
Image courtesy of VWBPE

As with 2016, the event is interested in papers carrying the ideal of Looking Forward and Looking Back:

  • Looking Forward – do you have a new project, research, service, or tool that you wish to share, something you have never before presented at VWBPE or elsewhere? Submit a proposal to start building the legacy for the future
  • Looking Back – do you wish to do a retrospective view of a past VWBPE session, where you share lessons, new research or updates, to your original presented work? Submit a retro proposal to help look back at the legacy you helped to create, and how it has impacted current practice.

Those wishing to submit a proposal should visit the VWBPE 2017 Call For Proposals page, read the guidelines and submit a proposal under the relevant category – Academic, Communities of Practice, Creative, Immersive Experiences. All proposals must be submitted by Sunday, November 27th, 2016.

Virtual Science Fair

via VWBPE
Image courtesy of VWBPE

VWBPE 2017 will include a new  event: the Virtual Science Fair which invites educators from all disciplines and levels are invited to participate in the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Science Fair. If you are interested in including an immersive project as part of your curriculum, consider showcasing it with VWBPE. You can find out more by visiting the Virtual Science Fair page at the VWBPE website.

Additional Links

Lumiya 3.1: go faster stripes and taking snapshots

lumiya-logoLumiya, the go-to Second Life / Open Sim client for Android by Alina Lyvette has received a further set of updates and bug fixes with the rapid-fire release of version 3.1 and version 3.1.1.

Both updates appeared on Tuesday, September 27th, version 3.1.1 offering several bug-fixes following the initial 3.1 release, while the latter offers fixes, tweaks, improvements and new features.

The major improvement is actually under-the-hood, with the adoption OpenGL ES 3.0 support within Lumiya. For those running the app on a modern smartphone or tablet, this should see much improved rendering of meshes in the 3D world view, including mesh bodies and avatar attachments, and improvements in frame rates. It should also provide much better rendering of translucent mesh clothing, getting much closer to how it should actually look.

Alongside of this comes a number of UI / functional changes and additions, including:

  • The ability to edit parts of your Profile & add notes to other profiles
  • The ability to take and share snapshots
  • Setting your home location
  • Mesh body HUDs should now work as expected
  • Kemono avatars should now render correctly
  • Play sound stream moved to the Action menu (top right of screen) when in the Contacts / chat windows
  • Screen corruption in 3D view on certain Adreno 305 and 320 GPUs (e.g. Sony Xperia T3)
  • A fix for a crash when saving notecard data.

Some of these updates are looked at in more detail below.

Lumiya 3.1 should allow mesh body users to use their HUD systems - use pinch-zoom to enlarge the HUD if required
Lumiya 3.1 should allow mesh body users to use their HUD systems – use pinch-zoom to enlarge the HUD if required

Profile Editing

The Profile editing options comprise: changing your Profile picture, editing your About details and creating / editing personal / private notes on either your own profile or the profile of another avatar (personal / profile notes only).

You can change your Profile picture, edit your About description and / or add personal notes in Lumiya
You can change your Profile picture, edit your About description and / or add personal notes in Lumiya

To do this with your own Profile, go to the menu (top left icon) then My Avatar > My Profile. This will open your profile. Tap Change Picture to open your inventory to select a new picture. To update your About description or personal notes, scroll down to the relevant part of your Profile and tap the Edit option. This will take you to an Edit screen, and open your device’s on-screen keyboard for editing.

Tapping the Edit options with About and personal notes will open an edit window and display your device's on-screen keyboard
Tapping the Edit options with About and personal notes will open an edit window and display your device’s on-screen keyboard

Add Notes to another Profile

To add personal notes to the Profile of another avatar, locate the avatar in your Contacts or through the Nearby option. Tap the avatar name, then tap their Profile icon (top right of the window). Their profile will open, and you can scroll down to Personal Notes and tap Edit.

Take and Share Snapshots

Lumiya 3.1 presents users with the ability to create and share snapshots from the 3D view. To take a snapshot, go to the 3D view and position your camera as required. Tap the Action menu (top right of the window) and then tap Share Screenshot…

This will take a picture of your in-world view, and then display your available options for sharing the image. Note that this might include options to save the snapshot to your device which are not supported at this time. You can, however, upload to Google+, Google Photos, etc., or send via e-mail, etc.

You can now take and share snapshots using Lumiya
You can now take and share snapshots using Lumiya

Setting Your Home Location

When you wish to set home to the location you are in, open the Action Menu and tap Location Details. A Set Home option should be displayed on the right side of the location title bar.

Setting your Home Location from the Locations Details window
Setting your Home Location from the Locations Details window

Feedback

I’ve not had the opportunity to play in-depth with the updates with this release, so this is very much a rapid-fire overview based on the time I’ve had available with Lumiya 3.1. During my 90 minutes (ish) for fiddling, I encountered no problems and happily edited my profile, updated some notes on another profile, and e-mailed a number of snapshots via Gmail. Testing my Maitreya HUD went well, with pinch-zoom I could enlarge it sufficiently to tap the tabs on it, mask / show parts of my body, etc. Understandably, rendering of the HUD was a little fuzzy and made reading labels a little difficult, but anyone with a reasonable degree of familiarity with their HUD shouldn’t find this a major issue.

Alina indicates that further updates are on the way, and what we have here sees Lumiya take a further step to becoming the indispensable option for Android users needing on-the-go access to Second Life and OpenSim (data charges allowing if not on wifi!).

Related Links

OSCC 2016: call for proposals and volunteers

Image courtesy of the OpenSimulator Community Conference
Image courtesy of the OpenSimulator Community Conference

The 2016 OpenSimulator Community Conference (OSCC) will take place on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th December 2016.

An annual conference that focuses on the developer and user community creating the OpenSimulator software.  Organised as a joint production by Core Developers of OpenSimulator and AvaCon, Inc., and sponsored by the University of California, Irvine, Institute for Virtual Environments and Computer Games, the conference features a day of presentations, panels, keynote sessions, and social events across diverse sectors of the OpenSimulator user base.

Call for Proposals

The Conference for 2016 will feature a series of dynamic short presentations and panels that spotlight the best of the OpenSimulator platform and community, and a Call for Proposals has been issued to individuals or groups who are shaping the Metaverse.

The focus for the 2016 event is the visions for the future and the evolution of the platform, with 20-minute sessions available for speakers, while community-sponsored tours, content give-aways and Hypergrid explorations take attendees to far away places. The organisers encourage presentations that span current innovations and activities, performance artistry, educational simulations, innovative business cases or  have a publication or track record of real world use.

Image courtesy of the OpenSimulator Community Conference
Image courtesy of the OpenSimulator Community Conference

Those wishing to participate directly in the conference as speakers can do so via the following tracks:

  • Creative
  • Education
  • Technical
  • Experiential
  • Other

All proposals should be submitted using the conference Proposal Submission form, and any questions direct to the conference organisers.

The key dates for proposals are:

  • October 9th, 2016 11:59 PST: Deadline for proposals
  • October 23rd, 2016:  acceptance details e-mails will be dispatched by the conference organisers to accepted speakers
  • October 30th, 2016: accepted speakers must register for the conference in order to be included in the conference schedule and the programme
  • November 19th, 2016: presenter Orientation & Training sessions to prepare speakers for the conference and to set-up Presenter Booths. Any custom content, props, and audio-visuals must be submitted to be included in the conference programme.
  • December 10th – 11th, 2016: 2016 OpenSimulator Community Conference
  • December 11th, 2016 – OSCC Hypergrid tour and other community events.
Image courtesy of the OpenSimulator Community Conference
Image courtesy of the OpenSimulator Community Conference

Community Social Events

A key part of OSCC is the social events held in the run-up to, and around the dates of, the conference itself. Those interested in running / hosting a social event should complete the Community Events Sign-up page.  There will also be limited available space on the OSCC conference grid for those who would like to host an OSCC meet-up or an after conference event on Sunday, December 11th. Please contact the conference organisers. with any questions.

Volunteers

The conference needs volunteers to help in a range of activities:

  • Greeters / audience assistances
  • Moderators
  • Builders
  • Scripters
  • Social Media / Communications
  • Streaming and Technical Support

Those interested in volunteering can do so via the Volunteer Sign-up form,  Depending upon interests, volunteers can select more than one role if they wish.

About the Conference

The OpenSimulator Community Conference is an annual conference that focuses on the developer and user community creating the OpenSimulator software. The conference is a joint production by Core Developers of OpenSimulator and AvaCon, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the growth, enhancement, and development of the metaverse, virtual worlds, augmented reality, and 3D immersive and virtual spaces.  The conference features a day of presentations, panels, keynote sessions, and social events across diverse sectors of the OpenSimulator user base.

For EVRE in Second Life

EVRE
EVRE

“This sim was initially named EVER.” Tahiti Rae says of her latest full region installation, EVRE, now open through until the end of 2016. “While fervently researching a long and well-documented genealogy of my family … I thought how fun it would be to study the women who had married into the family. I learned that one of them had a second husband … When I researched him, I was astonished to discover that the “old tyme” spelling of his name was “Evre”. Hence, the R and the E were immediately swapped. Apparently, the correct trail was followed and at the right time. It’s connected.”

And thus we are introduced to her haunting, complex and highly photogenic study of consciousness, connectedness and time, as expressed in the installation’s sub-title: Are we Everywhere … At all Times? In this, the reversal of the R and the E in the region’s name could be seen as allowing it to serve a second purpose, as when separated to the two pairs of letters give us “ev” and “re” – a shorthand, almost for “everywhere”.

EVRE
EVRE

I’ve long been an admirer of Tahiti’s work. She is one of the more thought-provoking, consistently engaging and visually aware immersive artists in Second Life. The installations she creates draw from many sources and influences; they are always stunning to the eye and a source of considered contemplation for the mind. In this, EVRE is no exception. In keeping with Tahiti’s request, I’m not going to dwell too much on describing the installation – as she notes, this is a place to be discovered.

The core of the installation is a tour through twelve worlds, each accessed through a “memory clock” – a large fob watch hanging from its chain. Each world represents a different time and place, accessed by touching the “memory clock” and then using the map to teleport. The order in which the worlds are accessed is perhaps of less importance than ensuring all twelve are visited before making the jump to ALL TIME (via the large clock in the region), and thence to a final world, TIMELESS. However, for those seeking to explore the worlds in some semblance of an order, look for the signs with red lettering at the landing point. This will provide you with a note card list of all the “memory clock” SLurls.

EVRE
EVRE

In following the clocks, we effectively become dimensional travellers, visiting different point is time, witnessing events – becoming a part of events. I use “dimensional” rather than “time” deliberately, because of that question posed in the installations sub-title: Are we Everywhere … At all Times? If we are, then our journey here is not so much through time, as between the barriers separating the different periods in time represented here.

In doing so, we also encounter some anachronisms; some of these are more obvious than others, but none are accidental. In this, EVRE put me in mind of the philosophical question T.S Eliot throws to his reader in the opening of Burnt Norton, one of his Four Quartets, and a log-standing favourite of mine:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

EVRE
EVRE

Tahiti’s installation may offer a different slant to Eliot’s pondering, but they both raise the same underpinning question, and point us towards a contemplation of both all time (the eternity which surrounds us) and, with EVRE at least, a consideration of timeless – her final world. A place which encourages us to ponder the purpose of time, which is, to use the often ms-attributed phrase,  to “keep everything from happening all at once”.

Of the worlds themselves, as presented by Tahiti, and in keeping with her wish not to offer too many spoilers, I will say that time should be taken in visiting them; there are some exceptionally beautiful discoveries to be made, and nuances which might be easily missed on a hurried visit.

As noted, EVRE will remain open until the end of the year, and it will be the venue for a number of events, as outlined in the first world, Psi.

SLurl Details

  • EVRE (LEA 27, rated: Moderate)