Linden Lab announces Voyages Live: Egypt with Insight Digital

The Tomb of Nahktamon (“TT341”) in Sansar – part of the collaboration with INSIGHT

Linden Lab has announced the first Sansar virtual tourism / history event, which will take place on Wednesday, October 4th., between 10:00 – 11:00 PDT on Wednesday, October 4th.

Presented in partnership with the Institute for Study and Implementation of Graphical Heritage Techniques (INSIGHT, also referred to as Insight Digital),  Voyages Live: Egypt offers those registering for the event the opportunity to join with Egyptologist, author, and INSIGHT co-founder, Dr. Philippe Martinez for an interactive guided tours of select Egyptian heritage sites which have been recreated in Sansar with a high degree of fidelity.

The cenotaph at Gebel el-Silsila as modelled in Sanar

These sites, which are inaccessible to the public, have been recreated as a part of a joint project between INSIGHT, the Sorbonne University, and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. The project has used LiDAR (or LIDAR – Light Detection and Ranging – a surveying method that measures distance to a target by illuminating it  with a pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses) and photogrammetry (the science of making measurements from photographs) to produce models of sites of antiquity in Egypt. Some of these models have been  optimised by Linden Lab and presented in Sansar in exacting “you are there” detail.

One such model in particular, that of the entrance to the tomb of Nakhtamon (“TT341”), was optimised from a model of some 50 million polygons to produce a 40,000 polygon Sansar experience used extensively in promoting the platform in the run-up to the Creator Preview and Creator Beta programmes.  This experience is linked to the Voyages Live: Egypt experience, which also allows visitors to travel to what appears to be a work-in-process of the Ramesseum “Coronation Wall”, and to the cenotaph at Gebel el-Silsila.

Dr. Phillipe Martinez, Lead Archaeologist for INSIGHT, and who will be leading the Sansar tour on October 4th, 2017, pictured at Gebel el-Silsila

As the co-founder and Lead Archaeologist for the INSIGHT programme, Dr. Martinez is well-placed to talk about the INSIGHT work in the digital preservation of sites of historical import in Egypt and on Egyptology in general. Thus, Voyages Live: Egypt offers a potentially fascinating field trip. However, it is only open to a limited number of participants, so those interested are advised to register sooner rather than later in order to secure a place on the tour. Detailed information on the event will be sent via e-mail to all successful applicants in due course.

With thanks to Jenn at Linden Lab.

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A Dark Moon rises for Halloween in Second Life

MDark Moon, Calas Halloween 201; Inara Pey, September 2017, on FlickrDark Moon, Calas Halloween 2017 – click any image for full size

Every year, Ty Tenk and Truck Meredith produce a stunning immersive environment in Second Life to celebrate Halloween and to help support their Calas Galadhon regions. In 2017, they opted for a sci-fi design with the title Dark Moon; it carries a degree of emphasis on a certain film franchise ideal for  Halloween, richly re-imagined and with little twists of humour along the way.

“It’s something that’s been fun putting together, and a little bit different for us,” Ty informed me when inviting Caitlyn and I over for a sneak peek shortly before the region opened to members of the Calas Galadhon group.  To be honest, “different” is not the word I would use – not unless it is spelt “astonishing”, at least; because Dark Moon is a stunning build. It will open to the public on Sunday, October 1st, 2017 and will remain so through to the end of the month. However, until then, anyone joining the Calas Galadhon in-world group can enjoy advanced access.

MDark Moon, Calas Halloween 201; Inara Pey, September 2017, on FlickrDark Moon, Calas Halloween 2017

Spanning several levels, Dark Moon carries visitors on an adventure from space ship to moon’s core, with much to discover along the way. The voyage begins on the EVA / cargo handling deck of the Cargo Ship Utopia, where visitors can find instructions for best viewing the installation. In short order, make sure you have Graphics > Preferences > Advanced Lighting Model enabled (you do not need to enable shadows, so hopefully the performance hint won’t be too great), set your viewer to the region Windlight settings (Midnight) and make sure both local sounds and the audio stream are active. I’d also recommend dropping draw distance down as well; this is largely an enclosed build, and except for one or two points along the way, a draw distance of 128 metres is more than sufficient.

It’s pretty clear that the Utopia has encountered serious troubles. The cargo deck is in disarray, and many of the crew appear to have taken to space suits to escape the ship – some of them perishing in their attempts, smashed visors and broken suits testament to the violence which overcame them. Corridors are splashed with blood, and the causes of the panic await visitors within the ship’s biodomes, which might be encountered whilst seeking the teleport portal off the ship.

MDark Moon, Calas Halloween 201; Inara Pey, September 2017, on FlickrDark Moon, Calas Halloween 2017

This will lead visitors down to the surface of a moon. Here the tour shuttle awaits visitors, waiting to whisk them through the remaining levels of the build and to the Dark Moon itself. I recommend the ride; it gives a feel for the explorations to come – although it far from reveals all. However, Caitlyn and I did at times find the default camera positioning in the shuttles a little troublesome.

At the end of the tour is a teleport to get back to the moon’s surface – and from there a further portal, once reached, carries visitors into the bowels of the satellite, on the first step of a progressive downward journey. This take you through stunning aliens scenes from the gigantic setting of a high-tech civilisation, through a field of very familiar mist-enshrouded eggs and down into catacomb-like halls. to where a final portal awaits those who find it.

MDark Moon, Calas Halloween 201; Inara Pey, September 2017, on FlickrDark Moon, Calas Halloween 2017

The sheer scale of these builds is such that it can be hard to find the way – so look for the silver figures as they point towards routes which can be taken. There are also secret ways, tunnels and chambers awaiting discovery, one of which holds the famous Space Jockey. These may not have obvious points of entry – or have entry points which take you by surprise; such as dropping through a coruscating pattern on the “ground”.

And there is a touch of familiar humour as well – when aboard the Utopia,  for example, take a look at one or two of the spacesuited figures nearer the ship’s hull; you might note a familiar someone. There are also nods in place to other sci-fi franchises  – such as the guardians of the final portal lading to the Dark Moon, where a month of entertainment is planned throughout October. Keep your eyes out, as well, for the zero gee dispenser in the catacombs and an opportunity to float around parts of the installation.

MDark Moon, Calas Halloween 201; Inara Pey, September 2017, on FlickrDark Moon, Calas Halloween 2017

The Calas Galadhon Halloween and Christmas builds are ways a joy to visit. They are a reminder of the rich vein of creativity evident in Second Life and offer superb opportunities for exploration, photography, and fun and socialising through the events held within them. However, they also serve another purpose: to help raise the funds needed to keep the Calas Galadhon regions open for the enjoyment of everyone in Second Life. Ty and Tuck meet 40% of the cost of the eleven regions (including Erebor, the home of the Halloween / Christmas builds) out of their own pockets – so, when you come across the donation kiosks scattered throughout the Dark Moon builds, please do drop some Lindens into one of them.

To (hopefully) entice you into visiting, here’s a little video I shot ahead of the opening – and I hope 20th Century Fox don’t mind the choice of music! 🙂 .

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