MetaChat – a new virtual worlds client for iOS

MetaChat is a new virtual worlds text client produced for Apple iOS and which was recently added to the third-party viewer directory for Second Life.For those VW users with iPhones who are missing Pocket Metaverse, it could be just the ticket.

The app has been in development for several months, and was first accepted into the Apple Store in August 2017, where it is available for US $2.99. Development of the client is continuing, and the current release (10.7, released on September 12th at the time of writing) includes:

  • The ability to add accounts from different grids with different start locations.
  • See your Friends list, add / remove people from the list, set permissions for fiends (see you on-line, edit your items, etc.)
  • View avatar profiles.
  • Search for an avatar by name.
  • Chat locally or via IM.
  • View group information, join Group chat and / or send Group notices.
  • List inventory and preview textures and images.
  • Teleport to landmarks and move around a mini-map.

The MetaChat website / blog makes for a fascinating read, looking as it does into the background of putting together an application like this, including jumping through Apple’s many hoops in order to get an app accepted on their store (like not being allowed to use the word “beta” with an app – which caused problems when including the SL Beta grid in the grid list). The blog also provides interesting insight into why MetaChat works the way it does with certain things.

MetaChat screen captures via the MetaChat Apple Store page: Friends list (l) and Inventory. Note the quick access buttons at the bottom of each screen

As I’m not an iPhone user, it’s a little hard for me to road test the client. However, I’ve been talking to the app’s creator, Monti Messmer, and will hopefully have a more informative piece on MetaChat, including images from the newest release, in due course.

In the meantime, here are the all-important links.

MetaChat Links

With thanks to John Brianna for the heads-up.

Drax Files Special: Second Life and the power of immersive journalism

Nonny de la Peña (l) and Peggy Weil

A new Drax Files World Makers video appeared on Tuesday, September 19th, taking the form of a special retrospective of a much earlier work – and series.

In 2007, he was involved in putting together a series for Berlin-based Life For You News, an in-world TV magazine in which Drax’s pieces were something of a precursor to World Makers and perhaps one of the first attempts at immersive journalism/ reporting within a 3D world. On September 19th, 2007 as a part of the series, he released a piece examining the Virtual Guantánamo project, aka Gone Gitmo, conceived by Nonny de la Peña and  Peggy Weil.  To mark the 10th anniversary of that story, this Drax Files World Makers special looks back on it through the eyes of de la Peña and Weil, and presents the original documentary itself.

Guantánamo Bay (aka “Gitmo”), rendition, the treatment of actual (and / or alleged) terrorists, the question of human rights, America’s response to acts of terror in the wake of 9/11, including things like the loss of civil liberties through the likes of Patriot Act are difficult if not contentious subjects to examine, simply because of the complexities of the views involved. Such was the containment of events within the barbed wire fences of the prison, what happened there was, for many of us, little more than something in the news, reduced to shots of orange jumpsuits locked together with words like “terrorism”, “threat”, “attack” and so on. Even as reports of human rights violations, the use of torture, the detainment of potentially innocent people without right to  basic habeas corpus, we perhaps remained largely injured.

In 2004, concerned at what she was witnessing with regards to American values, de la Peña, an award-winning documentary film-maker Nonny  released Unconstitutional: The War On Our Civil Liberties. A 66-minutes documentary, the film examined the US Patriot Act, and included material on Gitmo and the equally infamous  Abu Ghraib prison.

In 2006, with funding from the Bay Area Video Coalition and the assistance of the Interactive Media Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, de la Peña set out with artist Peggy Weil to develop the Virtual Guantánamo project. With it, they sought to recreate Camp Delta at Guantánamo and expose visitors to the realities of life there – from rendition through incarceration – in which they had absolutely no free agency over their avatar, experiencing everything directly in first-person.

The experience  – finely balanced in some areas to prevent undue attention of the use of torture – was open to the public for 6 years and became the focal point for conferences and discussions on issues of human rights hosted both in the physical world and at the Gone Gitmo installation (the latter including the likes of Seaton Hall Law School and ACLU). And thus it became the subject of a segment from Depres’ Live For You News series.

Gone Gitmo became a focal point for real world and in-world discussions on human rights issues during its six-year run in Second Life

Presented here, and bookended by commentary and reflections from de la Peña and Weil, the Gone Gitmo video – which itself was nominated for an Internews “Every Human Has Rights” Media Award and featured in Vanity Fair – makes for a fascinating retrospective on several levels. Most obviously, there is the examination of the subject matter itself, particularly in the present political climate.

However, the piece also sits as a reminder that immersive journalism is not a new thing (although at times Headset Hype would have us believe otherwise). de la Peña is (in Forbes’ words) “the Godmother of VR” through her work in this type of journalism across multiple mediums (Gone Gitmo, for example was also produced using Unity, and she has used VR a numerous other projects).

It’s also a reminder of how valuable immersive 3D spaces such as Second Life (and potentially Sansar), can be in bringing people directly in contact with issues and topics of interest / concern, not just as a medium for news or education, but as a means of challenging perspectives and awakening critical thinking. In this, de la Peña’s ideas voiced in the original Gone Gitmo video for dealing with street gangs and their internecine fights with one another, are particularly salient.

Finally there is also the visual reminder of just how much Second Life has grown as a visual medium in the last ten years.

All told, a fascinating piece.

SL project updates 38/1: server, viewer

Neive; Inara Pey, September 2017, on Flickr~Neive~blog post

Server Deployments for Week #38

As always, please refer to the server release thread for updates and the latest news.

  • There was no deployment / restart on the Main (SLS) channel on Tuesday, September 18th, leaving that channel running on 17#
  • On Wednesday, September 19th, the RC channels should be updated as follows:
    • BlueSteel and LeTigre should receive a new server maintenance package, 17#, comprising improvements to address some problems that could degrade simulator performance in rare cases.
    • Magnum should receive a new server maintenance package, 17#, containing a fix for BUG-100505  “llGetEnv (“agent_limit”) is returning an empty string in Magnum, LeTigre and Blue Steel regions.”

Commenting on the RC releases at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday, September 19th, Simon Linden said:

[we] have two very similar RCs out tomorrow, the later version just has one extra bug fix in it … which will either be really good or bad … we’ll see 🙂 … it involves an underlying library update … usually that’s all good [but] sometimes subtle changes cause all sorts of breakage. So far it looks good to us … but that’s what shipping updates is all about, I guess.

On a positive note, with these updates and some still in the pipeline, I think we’re making good progress against some of the bigger crash issues we recently had with system outages.

SL Viewer

On Tuesday, September 19th, the Maintenance RC updated to version The rest of the viewer pipeline remains unchanged from the end of week #37:

  • Current Release version, dated August 9, promoted August 23rd – formerly the Maintenance RC
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Wolfpack RC viewer,version, dated September 12th – this viewer is functionally identical to the release viewer, but includes additional back-end logging “to help catch some squirrelly issues”
    • Alex Ivy 64-bit viewer, version, dated September 5th
    • Voice RC viewer, version, dated September 1st
  • Project viewers:
  • Obsolete platform viewer version, dated May 8th, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7. This viewer will remain available for as long as reasonable, but will not be updated with new features or bug fixes.

Other Items

AO / Animation Priorities

Over the past 3 weeks or so, some people have noticed changes to apparent AO / animation behaviours which appear to mimic priority conflicts. A typical example is someone sitting on an AVSitter item and finding after a few seconds that there AO suddenly overrides the sitter’s animation, forcing them to disable their AO where previously they did not, or someone joining a dance HUD / system and finding their AO overrides the dance animation, causing them to stand, again forcing them to turn off their AO, where previously the two played together nicely.

The problem seems to be more common with those wearing AO HUDs. In most cases I’ve heard about, there has been a claim of no user change to the AO system (i.e. using a new or updated AO) or in the furniture or dance system animations / scripts.

It has been suggested that a fix for BUG-11501 might be responsible, although there seems to be some confusion over the status of the fix for this bug.