Author Archives: Inara Pey

About Inara Pey

Eclectic virtual world blogger with a focus on Second Life, VR, virtual environments and technology.

Lumiya 3: welcome to a new Lumiya

lumiya-logoLumiya, the go-to Second Life / Open Sim client for Android has been extensively updated, with version 3.0 released on Wednesday, July 27th, and a further 3.0.1 release with additional fixes, options and requests, hitting Google Play on Thursday, July 28th.

For those unfamiliar with Lumiya, it is an extensive Android client offering all the essential functionality found in the viewer: ability to chat, IM, carry out group functions, manipulate  inventory and outfits, manage transactions, interact with objects (including viewing & editing scripts, permissions allowing), teleport to places, view the map, and so on. And, for those who wish a more immersive experience on their android device (providing it has the processing power), Lumiya provides a real-time scene rendering capability, allowing you to see the world and other avatars, touch objects, operate your camera, walk, fly, and so on.

With version 3, Alina Lyvette, Lumiya’s developer, has completely overhauled the client, and while there are still some little niggles, the result is once again quite astonishing.

The Interface

For regular Lumiya users the most obvious change is to the client’s UI. This has been completely re-worked top-to-bottom, offering a far more intuitive, mobile device style approach, incorporating things like pinch / zoom screen actions, sliding menus, and a much cleaner look and feel. By default, Lumiya now launches in its blue / white appearance, with the blue / black an option, alongside a new pink appearance option. In addition, the 3D mode has been overhaul to make use of mobile device gestures such as pinch / zoom and drag, and the buttons have been revised and improved to give the in-world view a much cleaner look.

The log-in screen retains much of the “old” look, with short cuts to select the details of any account previously used to log-in to SL with Lumiya & auto-populate the user name / password fields, and to access the client’s settings, together with a drop-down to access the grid selector (where you can also add new grids) or to show your password in text when logging-in.

The clean, cool blue UI with the android menu icon now used for accessing Lumiya's main menu, and the inclusion of profile images for places, contacts, etc.

Lumiya 3 uses the blue / white UI by now the default, although the blue / black (and a pick / white) option remains available for those who prefer it.

Once logged-in, the UI is in conversation mode, with local chat open  the conversation screen opens. This has two points of particular interest: the first is the Android menu icon in the top left corner of the screen  (see above), which replaces the Lumiya icon. tapping this will display the Lumiya menu (which can also be displayed with a simple left-to-right swipe of the screen).

The second is that profile icons are now displayed in the chat and contact tabs throughout Lumiya – in the image above, for example, the profile picture for Preiddeu Annwn is displayed in the image above.

The Lumiya menu can be displayed either by clicking the Android menu icon, or via a finger swipe from the left

The Lumiya menu can be displayed either by clicking the Android menu icon, or via a finger swipe from the left, and can be scrolled up / down, if required

The new UI design does mean there are some significant changes to where some options might now be found which will take users a little time to get used to; however many of these changes make Lumiya feel more “viewer like” in its approach. For example, group options have all now been brought together under the group profile display, rather than various menu / drop-down options. What’s more, they now allow group roles to be created and assigned, and member’s abilities edited.

So, accessing a group profile is now a matter of clicking Group tab in the Chat window, then tapping the required group and tapping the Profile icon in the top right of the group message display. The group’s profile is displayed in a layout similar to that of many TPVs, with individual tabs accessing various options. Thus, people can be invited into the group from the Profile tab (providing you have the ability to invite new members); roles can be added / edited from the Roles tab; and members can be operated on from the Members tab.

With group, you can now invite new members through the group's profile windows (left) view group roles (centre) or members; create new role (via the + button, centre), assign / remove abilities to / from roles (right) and changes members' roles or eject members etc (not shown above). Click for full size, if required.

With group, you can now invite new members through the group’s profile windows (left) view group roles (centre) or members; create new role (via the + button, centre), assign / remove abilities to / from roles (right) and changes members’ roles or eject members etc (not shown above). Click for full size, if required.

Given the extend of changes to the IU, the easiest way to familiarise yourself with them is to spend time using Lumiya. Keep an eye out for changing icons, and things like the Android three vertical dots icon (generally top right of the Lumiya window), indicating when further options are available within in given screen.

The 3D View

The other very noticeable change to Lumiya for existing users is the 3D world view (Lumiya menu > 3D View). As noted above, this now uses Android pinch and drag gestures to manipulated the camera by default, leaving the (redesigned) on-screen buttons for avatar movement and flight. However, for those who prefer to toggle the movement buttons between avatar and camera movement, it can be reinstated via Lumiya menu > Settings > 3D View, and then checking Show Camera Button. note that even with the camera button enabled, you can still use Android gestures to manipulate the camera as well. For ease of reference, screen captures here show the camera button.

3D-1

The updated 3D View in Lumiya

The two overlay buttons – Chat and Outfit – do just that: overlay the in-world view with your chat options or Outfit folder, allowing you to converse or change outfit, as per previous versions of Lumiya.  However, the two buttons which are likely to be of particular interest in the new 3D view are the HUD button (lower left) and the Target Picker (top right of the Lumiya window).

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Techcrunch and THE examine Project Sansar

Project Sansar: increasingly in the tech media's media's eye

Project Sansar: increasingly in the tech media’s eye. Credit: Linden Lab

It appears that, in keeping with their word, the Lab is starting to allow journalists into Project Sansar. At the start of July, Ed Baig got a look inside Sansar for USA Today, as I reported here and here (with Ed’s own article here). now it is the turn of Techcrunch and, earlier in the month, Times Higher Education (THE), with pieces appearing in Russian, Polish and Brazilian outlets.

In Second Life creators look to revamp reality once again, this time in VR. Techcrunch’s Lucas Matney steps inside Project Sansar at the invitation of Ebbe Altberg, and his guide is the Lab’s VP of Product Bjorn Laurin (Born Linden). As with most articles we seen of late, nothing intrinsically “new” is added to what has so far been revealed about Sansar in terms of capabilities, approach or screen shots, but  there are some interesting tidbits, all the same. For example, early on he notes:

Traversing the worlds of Sansar and chatting with my guide, Linden Lab VP of Product Bjorn Laurin, was a mostly seamless experience but still an oddly unsettling one. It’s not that anything was particularly creepy about the place I was viewing through an Oculus Rift headset. Sansar is visually placid and often beautiful, but it’s also startlingly scalable and boundless. Scale is something that’s often taken for granted in an age of video game epics like Skyrim and GTAV, but when every horizon you see through your own point-of-view is conquerable, you’re left to either feel very bold or very lost.

Lucas Matney considers Project Sansar for Techcrunch

Lucas Matney considers Project Sansar for Techcrunch

The two things that are interesting here are the comment about the “mostly seamless” experience of moving between “Sansar worlds” (“worlds” here, I assume, means Sansar “scenes” which have been “stitched together”  – to use the Lab’s terminology – to create an “experience”). This appears to imply that whatever mechanism is in place to move avatars between different connected scenes (teleporting?) is pretty smooth and that there may not be too much in the way of any interruption when moving between scenes. It’ll be interesting to discover if / how this might extend to vehicles at some point down the road as Sansar develops.

The second interesting part of the comment is the apparently limitless size Sansar presents to users, suggesting that as with Second Life, Sansar will convey a sense of massive spaces which might reach beyond their physical limits – so will people be looking out onto open “water” as with SL, or will the “land” appear to stretch off into the far horizon – or is it simply that the available Sansar scenes all make use of the upper bounding size (previously reported to be around 4 km / 16 SL regions on a side)? Either way, it may well be that environments in Sansar aren’t quite as “enclosed” – at least visually – as people might be fearing.

A further point of interest in the article takes the form of an astute observation perhaps overlooked when discussing Sansar’s potential for success:

Like Second Life, Project Sansar is not an experience that needs to be perfect at its initial launch or see a certain number of first week user numbers to be a hit. It just has to stay consistent, evolve with the hardware/interface trends of modern VR and steadily push boundaries as it updates.

Hence why the Lab isn’t trying to cross all the “T”s and dot all the “I”s with Sansar from day one, and why they do repeatedly warn SL users it is not going to necessarily be to their taste when the doors first open. VR is going to take time to mature – not just in terms of user conviction, but the very hardware and software itself. Things will change within the industry, probably quite rapidly (look at the pace of change of other “disruptive” technologies, such as the mobile ‘phone), thus it’s important for Sansar to be in a position to demonstrate it can meet user cases and needs – but also remain flexible and responsive to emerging technology and the new needs / opportunities arising from it.

In a time when we’re perhaps becoming inured (so to speak) with the comparisons to Sansar with the likes of WordPress and YouTube for content creation, it’s perhaps refreshing to have someone put their finger on the button of LL’s monetisation focus for Sansar, with Matney observing the company plans to essentially build “an app store for VR creative properties”. This is not only a neat way to encapsulate Sansar’s approach to monetisation, it also neatly folds back into the idea that “creator” in Sansar encompasses a broader cross-section of users than perhaps we consider to be the case in Second Life – as I mentioned in covering Ed Baig’s USA Today piece.

Alice Bonasio: looking at Sansar and VR for THE

Alice Bonasio: looking at Sansar and VR for THE

One of the several target markets the Lab is looking towards for Sansar is that of education, and it is from this perspective that Alice Bonasio, writing for Times Higher Education, considered Project Sansar back at the start of July 2016.

Starting with a look at the success Second Life has enjoyed within education, Virtual reality really is heading to a university near you more generically considers the role of VR in education, and the manner in which Sansar might be a part of an education revolution – not just in terms of providing immersive teaching environments, but in the ability for universities and colleges, etc., to potentially monetise their environments.

It’s an interesting line to take, but what is perhaps of greater interest, in terms of gaining further understanding as to why Linden Lab felt they needed to push ahead with Project Sansar, is in the vision for education presented through the piece. In this, Alice Bonasio doesn’t just examine the Lab’s hopes for Sansar, she frames them in terms of experiments conducted by Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. These experiments demonstrated some very real benefits of using VR / augmented capabilities can bring to the basic  tutor / student relationship, quite aside from all the deeply immersive potential offer by the technology.

Again, neither article offers anything specifically “new” in terms of how Sansar will look when the door opens or what the baseline capabilities will be when that happens in early 2017. However, they do both provide individual insights into the platform which make them both a worthwhile read, with Techcrunch’s Matney in particular ending with further food for thought, noting that while Sansar might not  require a huge audience from the get-go, it does nevertheless need to succeed in its central aim of providing a platform for “social VR” – and that’s no easy thing, because “social VR” isn’t really an understood medium right now (we can only guess at what it might be like and – equally importantly – how people might react to it). But as he notes in closing:

The early beta shows great promise and while a wide release of its desktop and VR versions is still likely months away, it’s clear that Linden Lab understands the daunting magnitude of both Project Sansar’s challenges and its potential.

Preiddeu Annwn: immersive education in Second Life

Preiddeu Annwn: "Three fullnesses of Prydwen / we went on the sea."

Preiddeu Annwn: “Three fullnesses of Prydwen / we went on the sea.”

Preiddeu Annwn (or Preiddeu Annwfn, “The Spoils of Annwfn“), is one of the most famous gnomic / philosophical poems to be found in the Middle Welsh Book of Taliesin. In just eight irregularly versed stanzas, it records a journey the poet (possibly intended to be the 6th Century poet Taliesin, although the poem itself dates from around the 14th Century), made with King Arthur to the Otherworld (the Annwfn of the title)  – a place of eternal youth and delights, which is common to Welsh mythology (appearing in, for example, the Four Branches of the Mabinogi).

It is also now the subject of an immersive environment itself entitled Preiddeu Annwn, designed by Hypatia Pickens, a professor of English at the University of Rochester,  New York, and her students. It’s function is to provide an interactive means by which the poem and its themes can be explored and better understood, both within itself and with regards to broader medieval Welsh mythology and medieval literature. It is also an extraordinary piece of scholarly art.

Preiddeu Annwn: "The cauldron of the chief of Annwfyn: / what is its fashion? / A dark ridge around its border / and pearls.

Preiddeu Annwn: “The cauldron of the chief of Annwfyn: / what is its fashion? / A dark ridge around its border / and pearls.

The arrival point offers a series of notes to visitors, including how to best experience the environment. It is more that worth the time to read these in order to make sure you enjoy the installation fully. Once you have done so, keep the instruction “follow the white dogs to where the boats are going [and] sit when you are asked to sit”, and then touch the teleport disc.

This delivers you to ground level, where waters ebb and flow over the eight stanzas of the poem beneath a beautiful sky, representing the start of Arthur’s expedition, and far on the horizon stand his three ships, white dogs pointing the way to them. In turn, the ships stand over the entrance to the Otherworld, on which your are to sit.

Preiddeu Annwn: They do not know the brindled ox, / thick his headband. / Seven score links / on his collar.

Preiddeu Annwn: They do not know the brindled ox, / thick his headband. / Seven score links / on his collar.

Doing so will deliver you to the Otherworld, in which the stanzas of the poem are presented through words and vignettes as an endless cycle, requiring considered exploration (the order in which you do so is yours to choose). As well as the poem, broader aspects of Welsh mythology are touched upon, such as the aforementioned Mabinogi. Do make sure you have media enabled (again, via the movie camera icon, top right of the viewer) to enjoy a reading of the poem by  Blake Harriman, set to music and vocals by Hypatia herself.

Eventually, however, you must make your way to Yyns Wair (“Gwair’s Island”, referred to in the poem as Cair Sidi – the Glass Fortress / “Fortress of Four-Peaks” encountered by Arthur and his men -, and believed to be modern-day Lundy in the Bristol Channel), in order to free Gwair / Gwier. This involves passing through the Door of Hell to explore the tower of Gwair’s imprisonment. which in turn gives you the opportunity to collect the poem, hear it recited in the original Middle Welsh by Hypathia herself, and read the thoughts of her students about the use of virtual environments in study.

Preiddeu Annwn: "into the heavy blue/gray chain; / a faithful servant it held"

Preiddeu Annwn: “into the heavy blue/gray chain; / a faithful servant it held”

Preiddeu Annwn has been made possible through the support of the Russell Hope Robbins Library at the University of Rochester. A medieval studies library containing holding in all aspects of medieval literature, history, art and theology, the Library is also represented in Second Life, and can be visited directly, or by “following the waves” once you have reached Yyns Wair within the Preiddeu Annwn installation.

All told, this is an extraordinary demonstration of the power of virtual spaces as a tool for education and the exploration of art, history, mythology and language, with the virtual Russell Hope Robbins Library equally so. I spent in excess of four hours in exploration and contemplation of both; anyone with any interest in medieval literature, Arthurian mythology, Middle Welsh or medieval history in general cannot help but be enthralled by both.

Preiddeu Annwn: "Monks pack together / like young wolves"

Preiddeu Annwn: “Monks pack together / like young wolves”

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Windlight Feed A Smile fund-raiser: 180 meals for Kenyan children

via Winfdlight Magazine / Feed A Smile / Brique Topaz

via Windlight Magazine / Feed A Smile / LLK

In July 2016, Windlight Magazine ran a hunt in aid of Feed A Smile, the a programme run by Live and Learn in Kenya (LLK) to provide nutritious warm lunches for over 400 children in Kenya every day, paid for entirely from donations to the project.

The hunt featured Prism Designs, Miss Darcy, FLOOD, Bindu Gallery, % Percent Furniture and Lighting, The Edge Gallery, CKB Gallery, Kaerri, Maven Homes, Windlight Workz, and Windlight Magazine. In organising it, Windlight Magazine pledged to match all donations made through the hunt, and to make a large donation at the end.

Enjoying the mael: 180 happy faces (via: Windlight Magazine / Feed A Smile / Brique Topaz)

Enjoying the meal: 180 happy faces (via: Windlight Magazine / Feed A Smile / LLK)

On July 27th, writing on behalf of Windlight Magazine John Brianna (Johannes1977 Resident) published a blog post on the results of the effort: funds to cover 180 meals for children in the Feed A Smile programme, who enjoyed their meal on Wednesday, July 26th.

Commenting on the effort, John said:

Putting this all into perspective, this is what  Second Life should be about, coming together to help others. We have seen it time and time again, with the recent Pulse fund-raisers, to the various charity organizations in Second Life (Rock Your Rack, Creations For Parkinson’s, Autism Speaks, Team Diabetes of Second Life, Homes For Our Troops), that the charitable spirit is alive and well in people.

The children themselves sent a special message of thanks to both Windlight Magazine and the residents of Second Life who supported the fund-raiser, which can be seen at the top of this piece.

Kudos to all involved!

About Feed A Smile

Feed A Smile is a programme run by LLK to provide nutritious warm lunches for over 400 children every day, paid for entirely from donations to the project. Over a third of the money directed at the programme comes from donations received through Feed a Smile in Second Life – and that’s a remarkable figure.

Feed A Smile in Second Life - in the foreground is a model (by RAG Randt) of the school in Nakuru, Kenya, Live and Learn Kenya (LLK) are building

Feed A Smile in Second Life – in the foreground is a model (by RAG Randt) of the school in Nakuru, Kenya, Live and Learn Kenya (LLK) are building

The money is raised through fund raisers like this, and through live music played at the Feed A Smile Region, which stages around 5 or 6 events weekly. At these music events, musicians donate their tips, and visitors are asked to donate just L$100 ($0.30), which is enough to purchase a filling meal for a child in Kenya, a fact that within itself is also quite mind-boggling!

If you would like to offer support to Feed A Smile through fund-raising, etc., please contact Brique Topaz in-world.