MuseWeb: utilising Second Life in support of a global conference

MuseWeb 2020 in Second Life.

MuseWeb is a global organisation offering members a range of professional learning opportunities – plenary sessions, conference sessions, informal networking, debates, how-to sessions, lightning talks, etc., – together with multiple practical activities such as demonstrations, exhibitions, and so on, which can be applicable across a range of professional sectors and disciplines.

The organisation has, since 1997, held an annual conference in North America or Asia, featuring speakers, workshops, demonstrations, social events and more. Theses conferences have produced 1,350 papers and videos which are made available to MuseWeb members on-line, offering “an unparalleled resource” for museum workers, technologists, students and researchers that grows every year. Attendees at the conference / conference sessions include educators, curators, librarians, designers, senior staff (CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, CMOs, directors, etc.) of businesses an organisations, scholars, consultants, IT programmers and analysts, publishers and developers from museums, galleries, libraries, science centres, etc.

This year, the MuseWeb 2020 conference – MW20 – had been scheduled to take place in Los Angeles, California, between March 31st and April 4th, with the core programme of presentations and keynotes taking place between Thursday, April 2nd and Saturday, April 4th 2020.

However, due to the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic, the conference has shifted entirely on-line – and thanks to Linden Lab and Virtual Ability Inc, both of whom are acting as conference partners, the MuseWeb organisers are utilising Second Life for the social aspects of the conference, as well as several sessions.

MuseWeb 2020 Auditorium.

To achieve this, MuseWeb has been provisioned with a 4-region location in-world that is based on one of the seven turnkey region solutions Linden Lab has developed for businesses and conferences. The auditorium can cater for up to 350 avatars – although the core of the conference sessions are being presented on-line through Microsoft Teams – Microsoft being the conference’s global sponsor, with Google Arts and Culture also a notable sponsor – although I have been given to understand some sessions from Thursday through Saturday will also be shown in the in-world auditorium.

Aspects that have, and will, involve Second Life include:

  • In-world tours of Virtual Ability, Health Info Island and a range of SL museums, coordinated and hosted by Virtual Ability Inc.
  • “Linden Lunches” with representatives from the Lab, Virtual Ability, etc.
  • Closing plenary session.

The MuseWeb regions are publicly accessible to Second Life users, although sessions that are not relayed in-world require a log-in through the conference web pages. You can view the full schedule here, and the web pages include membership fees for interested professionals.

Dr Nettrice Gaskins: algorithmic art using Deep Dream, on display at MuseWeb 2020 in Second Life.

An important aspect of the conference’s in-world presence is an exhibition of art by Dr. Nettrice Gaskins, who is also presenting the conference’s keynote address alongside of Cory Doctorow.

Dr. Gaskins has taught multimedia, computational media, visual art, and advanced placement computer science principles, and has earned a BFA in Computer Graphics with Honours and an MFA in Art and Technology, and she received a doctorate in Digital Media from Georgia Tech in 2014. As an artist, she explore the use of technology in art, and the pieces offered for display at the MuseWeb auditorium is a unique exploration in using the Deep Dream neural network AI, a convolutional neural network to find and enhance patterns in images to produce over-processed, dream-like (almost hallucinogenic) finished images that are utterly startling in their complexity and depth.

Dr Nettrice Gaskins: algorithmic art using Deep Dream, on display at MuseWeb 2020 in Second Life.

Just how stunning these images are can be seen on the inner walls of the auditorium, where a total of 12 of her pieces are offered for appreciation – marking the first time Dr. Gaskins has exhibited in Second Life since 2010. Certainly, they make a visit a visit to the MuseWeb island.

More to the point, shifting the conference – apparently at short notice –  to leverage on-line communications and presentation means and o make use of Second Life to help maintain the more social aspects of such an event, potentially demonstrates the benefits of 3D and virtual environments to a global audience. Kudos to Linden Lab and Virtual Ability Inc., – who are also fielding greeters and conference assistance in–world, as well as helping with the facilities – for enabling the conference to have a presence in Second Life.

Adventures in strange worlds with Seanchai Library in Second Life

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, March 30th 19:00: The Ugly Little Boy

Gyro Muggins reads a tale that started life as a short story by Isaac Asimov, and was later expanded into a full length novel by Asimov writing in collaboration with Robert Silverberg.

A 21st century time travel experiment results in a Neanderthal boy being pulled from his time. The intention is to study the boy and understand how his kind lived. However because of the potential for time paradoxes, the boy must be kept in a within a stasis module, a place physically separated from modern time; but he must still be cared for. So the company behind the experiment hires a children’s nurse, Edith Fellowes, to look after him

Initially horrified by the child, Edith comes to forms a bond with him, discovering he is intelligent and capable of both learning and love. However, to Stasis – the company behind the experiment – the boy is little more than a commodity to be observed and with a story to be sold to the media. As such, he is only of value for as long as there is public interest in his story. When that fades, the company determines the child must be returned to his own time, his place to be taken by a subject from another era. But Edith knows that, thanks to all she has taught him, his own time is no longer a place he is equipped to survive within, and determines she must take action to protect him.

Tuesday, March 31st 19:00: Dream in the Sand

With Ktadhn Vesuvino.

Wednesday, April 1st, 19:00: The Phantom Tollbooth

Finn Zeddmore reads Norton Juster’s fantasy adventure for younger readers.

For Milo, everything is a bore and all activities little more than a waste of time. Then one day he arrives home in his usual state of disinterest, only to find a package waiting for him. He has no idea where it has come from or who might have sent it, but is clearly intended for him, given the label. Opening it, he discovers a small tollbooth and a map of “the Lands Beyond,” illustrating the Kingdom of Wisdom.

Reading the limited instructions – that warn him to have a destination from the map in mind – and thinking the package to be some kind of game, he sets the tollbooth up, decides Dictionopolis should be his destination, and propels the accompanying little car through the tollbooth.

Immediately he finds himself driving an actual car through a city that is clearly not his own. Here he discovers he must remain focused, lest his thoughts wander, and his journey wanders as well; a lesson he only discovers when he does daydream and finds himself in the Doldrums.

Also as he travels and meets new friends, so he also realises something else: life is far from boring or dull; it actually offers much to be discovered.

Thursday, April 2nd: Real Challenge

Shandon Loring reads USA Today’s best-selling author Anthea Sharp‘s 2019 short story set within her science fiction / fantasy Feyland series that has been described as “Ready Player One with faeries.”

Spark Jaxley may appear to have the life of a superstar gamer, but she’s actually among an elite group of guardians who carry a secret and a burden as they engage in an unseen confrontation unseen and unknown to the world at large. The Realm of Faerie exists, and its dark magic is desperate for a foothold in our mortal realm.

In Real Challenge, first published in 2019 as a part of the the anthology of gaming stories Game On: A Gamelit Anthology, Spark has made it to the gaming world championships, ready to give her all in a competition where the stakes are high  and the gaming fierce.

But sometimes the true challenge isn’t what you think; for Spark, it means her entire future is riding on the outcome – will she make the right choice?

Also in Kitely – grid.kitely.com:8002:SEANCHAI).

SL17B performer applications

via and © Linden Lab

On Friday, March 27th, 2020, Linden Lab opened applications for those wishing to perform at the upcoming 17th anniversary of Second Life.

SL17B will run from Friday, June 19th through until Friday, July 10th, with the core entertainments for the celebrations taking place between June 19th and Sunday, June 28th. This year the theme is road trips and vacations.

The official blog post announcing applications from performers reads in part:

Calling all performers! Second Life is seeking talent for our upcoming 17th annual Second Life birthday celebration (SL17B), held June 19-July 10. Get ready for a fun-filled week of live music and deejay performances, shopping exclusives, and amazing community exhibits.

One of the things that makes Second Life so vibrant and exciting is the wide range of Performers who share their talent with our Residents. Are you a DJ who can spin up a great party set? Maybe you’re a Live Musician who plays an instrument or sings! You might be one of the grid’s amazing Dance companies, or perhaps you’re a Particle Performer! Whatever your medium, we would love to hear from you.

Note that this call is not related to the SL Music Fest, which will take place over the opening days of SL17B, but is for those who wish to perform as a part of the event’s full week of activities and celebrations. As such, applications are open to DJs, live performers, dance troupes, particle performers, etc.

Those interested in providing their services should complete and submit the official performer application form no later than Monday, May 18th. Successful applicants will be contacted by SL17B Event Staff Leaders in de course.

SL17B Applications In Full

Follow the links below for:

Keep Up To Date and Early Access

Updates on SL17B preparations will be made via official blog posts and through the Second Life Birthday in-world group, membership of which will give members early access to the celebration regions.

Related Links

VWBPE 2020: Above the Book with Ebbe and Patch – summary

via vwbpe.org

The following is a summary of the VWBPE Above the Book session held on Thursday, March 26th. The session featured as guests, Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab and Patch Linden, Vice President, Product Operations and a member of the Lab’s management team.

The video of the session is available on You Tube and is embedded at the end of this article, while the following is a summary of the discussion’s key points, with time stamps to the relevant points in the video for reference.

Notes:

  • Ebbe Altberg had a significant viewer issue that precluded his participation in the first half of the discussion, as such the majority of the summary points below are based on Patch Linden’s responses to questions etc. Where they are based on a reply or comment made by Ebbe, they are preceded by “[EA]”.
  • Time stamps commence at the 18-minute mark because there is a significant blank lead-in to the video.

Educational Discount and Work Opportunities in SL

Educational Discount

[18:48-19:45]

  • On March 13th, 2020 linden Lab introduced a limited time offer for education and non-profit organisations to to obtain full regions in Second Life / reduce their current full region tier to US $99.00 per month.
  • Once granted the fee reduction will remain applicable “as long as their [the organisation’s  / individual’s] invoicing is current.”
  • The reduction is something that had been under consideration by the Lab prior to the SARS-Cov-2 / Covid-19 situation, but it seemed that given the situation with learning centres around the globe being closed around the world, now was the time to introduce the offer in order to help organisations find a place where they can continue to offer lessons / services alongside of other options they might be exploring.

Business / Work Opportunities

[20:14-24:17]

  • Alongside of the educational / non-profit discount, Linden Lab also created a micro-website and an accompanying updated FAQ promoting Second life as a working environment.
  • This is designed to appeal / apply to to broad range of potential use-cases: educational, business, etc.
  • It is being actively used by LL to coordinate responses to the needs of those making enquiries and correspond with applicants / interested parties.
  • Connected to this work, the Lab has offered a set of seven turn-key solutions for interested parties.
    • Comprising single and multi-region facilities, which see a clever re-purposing of existing designs (e.g, the Horizons hub area, the Bellisseria Campwich lodge, the SL16B auditorium, part of the Paleoquest regions), as well as the 4-region Linden Town Hall facilities.
  • The single region facilities have been intentionally optimised such that they can comfortably and consistently handle 75 avatars apiece without becoming stressed.

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The seven new pre-fabricated business/ meeting environments provided by Linden Lab.

  • There has also been some marketing work alongside of this to help raise awareness of SL’s continued presence as a platform (the UK’s Daily Telegraph ran a paywalled article on SL and remote working on March 26th, for example).

SL and Technology Related Questions

  • [24:24-25:33] Cloud Uplift: will sharding / instancing of regions be possible?
    • Potentially, but much further down the road.
    • The focus at the moment is on transitioning the SL infrastructure and getting it to a point where regions can be operated via the cloud.
    • Opportunities for product offerings, etc, will be considered some time after the uplift has been completed and costs, etc., better known.
  • [32:07-34:34] Despite all the talk of VR headsets and immersivity being ” the future”, the fact is virtual worlds already provide a 3D, immersive experience, even if viewed via a 2D screen. Given high frame-rate VR systems are still outside of most people’s pockets / interest, don’t you think worlds like SL are due a renaissance?
    • VR is a fully immersive experience that cannot be matched for its sense of presence.
    • SL has some significant challenges when it comes to that kind of immersive experience it will need to rise to [FPS, optimised content / content management], and / or the VR hardware requirements will need to come down to make VR is SL acceptable. They will likely draw together in time, but that’s not something for SL’s current roadmap.
  • [40:17-42:25] Has the more widespread availability of bandwidth and higher speed connectivity made it easier for people to connect to Second Life?
    • Yes. The ability for ISPs to provide faster connectivity, particularly now with fibre, has helped with SL’s global reach and accessibility.
    • 16-17 years ago, cable DSL was just coming in, and people without it, particularly if far away from the SL data centres, could experience issues with connecting. Over the last decade, the reported incidence of these kinds of issues has decreased to a point where they seem to be rarely heard.
  • [1:10:55-1:11:41] Given the current pandemic and the situation with the Second Norway / Sailors Cove East estates (see Second Norway & Sailor’s Cove East: rumours & statements), is LL considering providing region holder who are facing financial issues / lack of income due to SARS-Cov-2 some form of relief?
    • Region owners facing such issues are encouraged to approach the Second Life support team.
    • As it is, LL is working specific with Ey Ren, the estate owner for Second Norway / Sailor’s Cove East to try to resolve that situation.

Second Life and the Future

  • [1:02.07-1:07:38] As LL is again a single-product company, what is the vision, looking forward?
    • As already mentioned, the cloud uplift to AWS and Google is a major focus, and will take up most of the Lab’s time and effort throughout 2020, with the goal of completing the work in 2020.
    • It is hoped that the basic transitioning to the cloud will produce meaningful performance improvements.
    • There will not be a significant number of features coming on top of this work outside of those committed to (e.g. EEP, Name Changes, Premium Plus).
    • However, the uplift should position LL / SL for a long-term future, and should be seen as a commitment on LL’s part to the continuance of SL – the investment required in the shift would not have been made if there was a lack of confidence about the platform’s future.
    • LL itself is in a very comfortable position and profitable.
    • Further, the company’s organisational set-up means that it has not been overly impacted by the current pandemic crisis.
    • Second Life is seeing rising engagement and concurrency at present.
    • Overall the company has a very positive view of the future for SL, and very pleased with where they are in terms of the SL product offering.
    • Those interested in learning more about the technical side of SL can tune-in to the April 3rd edition of Lab Gab, which will feature Oz Linden, VP of Engineering and members of his teams.
    • Ebbe himself is now “100% devoted” to Second Life and Tilia.

Education Related Questions

  • [25:45-26:47] Will SL be able to connect to Canvas LMS? A lot of this can be supported through the in-viewer browser and via the viewer’s implementation of Chrome Embedded Framework (CEF).
    • Improvements to media  / web handling in the viewer are being made (notably media and CEF), and there should hopefully be more news on this Soon™.
  • [27:39-28:29] Can more be done to allow people to bring in their “traditional” and familiar 2D means of presentation (e.g. PowerPoint, etc), into SL beyond having to use use things like Media On A Prim (MOAP), etc?
    • The coming updates to media / web handling might have a lot to do with this, particularly in displaying 2D information formats. Essentially, if it is web-based, then you should be able to display it in-world.
    • [EA – 52:49-54:29] SL is perfect for iterative, interactive classroom activities and allowing students to contribute content to the classroom and in experiential education (field trips, learning through directed activities / simulation / training). However, more could be done to make the more traditional teaching tools – blackboards, whiteboards, video presentation, etc., – available / easier to utilise with Second Life.
  • [37:57-38:55] What about screen sharing / desktop sharing with SL?
    • Would be challenging to provide through Second Life, but obviously there are applications that will allow Second Life itself to be shared between screens / desktops.
    • It’s unclear as to what form any path to providing screen / desktop sharing within SL / the viewer might take.
  • [55:25-57:40] Can teaching environments be locked down to only allow students and staff access, and to prevent students teleporting away?
    • Regions do allow levels of privacy (access by group, access list, region / estate-level access blocking, etc.). It is also possible to bring users directly into a specific region / estate, and created accounts can be locked to a specific region / estate.
    • The siloing capability is available in Second Life, and it is made available to educators to use, and are available as a part of the educational / non-profit region fee.
    • [EA – 59:10-1:01:55]:
      • While it is not being considered by the Lab at present, it might be possible, post cloud uplift, to enable separate Second Life grids to be spun-up with completely different user name / account spaces associated with them.
      • If there are specific use cases for access control that aren’t provided by the Lab, or ways in which LL might provision specific market silo support, educators / physical world business users are encouraged to contact Patch and his team to discuss them or send ideas to business-at-lindenlab.com.
  • [1:07:53-1:10:54] Could a controlled space be provided where educators could collaborate to produce material in-world for students?
    • Can already be done.
    • A portal style space showing what is available for education in SL might be possible. One used to be provided, and LL might be interested in partnering with educationals to again provide one. Ideas can again be passed via business-at-lindenlab.com.

Sansar Related Discussion

  • [43:05-49:54] Second Life (and OpenSim) has always offered the ability for real-time content creation, which has been seen as one of the major attractions for it, and it was something lacking in Sansar that may have contributed to its lack of appeal. Do you think there is a long future for Second Life with its ease-of-creation?
    •  Yes.
    • [EA] Nowadays original content creation within SL is rare; most users are more customisers that original asset creators; they purchase items and then lay them out. Clearly, content creation & collaborative design are required in a virtual space, but do they need to be in the run-time environment?
    • [EA] Sansar took the route of separating the design process from the run-time environment to allow the latter to be a more performant environment, allowing everything placed in the design environment to be properly optimised [“baked”] to provide a good run-time experience.
    • [EA] Sadly, LL never got to the point of implementing collaborative design in the editor, or in really giving power to users to design their space without having to have a lot of expertise.
  • [49:55-51:47] On the sale of Sansar  [EA]:
    • Decision was made to sell Sansar and give the team that had been working on it to go and raise funds to try to go it alone with Sansar.
    • Was felt that it was easier for them to raise money as a separate entity from LL, given that Second Life is an established brand and Sansar was effectively a start-up brans within the environment responsible for Second Life.
    • As it is all of the staff who worked on Sansar are getting employment offers from Wookey project Corp., the new owners.
    • Linden Lab remain something of a partner to Sansar, as the platform will continue to use Tilia Inc, the Lab’s micro-payments  / virtual world tokens subsidiary to manage Sansar Dollar payments and payouts. Tilia itself will be growing its customer base with more clients lined-up to join it.

VWBPE 2020: a Stellar educational event, March 26th-28th

via vwbpe.org

The 2020  Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference takes place between Thursday, March 26th and Saturday March 28th, 2019 inclusive. A grass-roots community event focusing on education in immersive virtual environments, VWBPE attracts 2200-3500 educational professionals from around the world each year.

Carrying the theme of Stellar, the conference will, as usual, take place in a group of dedicated regions, and will comprise its usual engaging programme of events and activities.

VWBPE 2020 Gateway

Programme

As with previous VWBPE conferences, this one offers an engaging and broad-based programme, including keynote speakers, workshops, presentations, social events and more. The best way to find out what is going on over the three days of the conference is through the VWBPE programme page,  However, here are some of the highlights all times SLT):

  • Thursday, March 26th
    • 08:00: Kick Off and Ribbon CuttingVWBPE 2020 Gateway: the official opening of the conference during which the Conference Executive and Organization Committees will share a few of the upcoming highlights.
    • 09:30: Keynote – Are you future ready? Steps to build your stairway to the future, Dr. L.Robert Furman – VWBPE Auditorium.
    • 14:00: Above the Book: What’s up at the Lab? – Ebbe Altberg and Patch Linden – VWBPE Auditorium.
  • Friday, March 27th
    • 08:00:Keynote – Virtual Worlds and Social Justice: An Impact and Civic Engagement Agenda, Dr. Michael Thomas – VWBPE Auditorium.
  • Saturday, March 28th

    • 11:00: Keynote: Lessons Learned from the 2020 Educators in VR Conference, Lorelle VanFossen – VWBPE Auditorium.

VWBPE 2020: Lecture A

Conference Facilities

As with previous years, the 2020 VWBPE conference is a multi-region affair. However, unlike recent conferences, it offers facilities designed to match its stellar theme – the majority of which are located in the air (or rather in space) over the regions. The following is a quick run-down of some of core facilities.

  • The VWBPE Gateway: located on the ground level, the Gateway offers a main landing point for in-coming visitors, complete with a teleport HUD giver. The latter offers the easiest means of getting around the various facilities and locations, and is explained in more detail below.
  • The VWBPE Auditorium: with three access points, the auditorium is a asteroid that has a cloud of debris floating before it – just click one of the little rocks and take a seat!
  • The VWBPE Social Spaceport: the spaceport is the main entertainment centre for the conference, and offers rides and freebies and opportunities to relax.

The conference also include lecture and workshop spaces and locations for presentations, all of which can be access via the teleport HUD.

The Teleport HUD

As noted above, the VWBPE teleport HUD is the best way of getting around the facilities. It can be obtained via the HUD giver at the VWBPE Gateway and is delivered to inventory in a folder. Open the fold and right-click → ADD the HUD. Note that you will need to grant teleport permissions for it to work.

The VWBPE 2020 teleport HUD

By default, the teleport HUD attaches to the bottom of the viewer window. Click the Show button to reveal / hide it. When displayed, it will show the main buttons to the left:

  • Stations: displays buttons for all of the conference facilities except the main auditorium. click one of the buttons to be teleported to the named location.
  • Exhibits: displays a directory of exhibits, each numbered, and a corresponding set of numbered buttons. Again, click a button to go to the desired exhibition.
  • Sponsors: displays a directory of sponsors, each numbered, and a corresponding set of numbered buttons. Click a numbered button to visit the listed sponsor’s exhibit.
  • Special: offers a teleport button to the VWBPE Luminaria centre.
  • Auditorium: displays three buttons corresponding to the three landing points for the VWBPE Auditorium.

VWBPE 2020: Social Spaceport

To keep up-to date with the conference, be sure to check the VWBPE website daily.

About VWBPE

VWBPE is a global grass-roots community event focusing on education in immersive virtual environments which attracts over 2,000  educational professionals from around the world each year, who participate in 150-200 online presentations including theoretical research, application of best practices, virtual world tours, hands-on workshops, discussion panels, machinima presentations, and poster exhibits.

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.

Read more here.

Additional Links

Fantasy Faire 2020: calling all bloggers

via Fantasy Faire

Fantasy Faire, the largest fantasy-related event to take place in Second Life, will take place in 2020 from Thursday, April 23rd, through Sunday May 10th, 2020 inclusive, with the scheduled activities programme running between April 23rd and Monday, May 4th.

Thus far, merchant applications opened on February 12th (see Fantasy Faire 2020: dates announced and merchant applications open) – and notifications have started to go out, with the news that the region will be open for merchants to set-up from Friday, April 17th.

Dollowing this, on February 16th, DJ applications  and Host applications opened for submissions, while on February 18th, and for the first time in the event’s history, Fantasy Faire issued an invitation to region designers to be a part of this year’s event (although applications have now closed for this aspect of the Faire) – see Fantasy Faire 2020: calling DJs, hosts and – world builders!).

Now, and as promised, on Monday, March 23rd, Fantasy Faire announced the opening of the 2020 blogger applications.

We are looking for bloggers that genuinely love the Faire and cherish the fleeting time the Fairelands visit our realm. Since the application is mostly about getting into the early access, we are focusing on bloggers who take pictures in the regions, or of the regions. Studio-work is not dependent on if the regions are laggy or not, after all. We are also searching for bloggers with strong ties to RFL, who are passionate about the Relay and willing to write about it. I am also always, always looking for and favoring good writers and storytellers.

 – from the Fantasy Faire blogger info page

Full details concerning applying to be a Fantasy Faire blogger can be found on the official blogger info page, which includes links to the optional blogger challenges and to information on writing for the official Fantasy Faire website. And, of course, there is the link to the blogger application form itself.

Additional Links