Pixieviewer Updated

Thomas Buchauer continues to work on Pixieviewer the in-browser viewer he’s developing for OpenSim use. The new release still sees the viewer restricted to his own Pixiegrid environment – which has also been updated – and brings with it changes to the UI and promises of things to come.

The new version surfaced at the end of March, together with a blog post from Thomas outlining the updates and looking ahead to what he’s planning to add to the viewer. The latter items Thomas lists as:

  • Private Messages and  User Profiles
  • Media Tools which will allow the display any Document (ppt, pdf, doc, xls etc) or any Image directly in-world without converting them first, and which will also will support video streaming
  • Guest Logins which will allow logins directly from a link without any questions and registration – clicking the link will open Pixieviewer and deliver a user to the desired destination.

Updated UI

Logging-in to Pixieviewer remains unchanged. However, once in-world the updates to the UI are immediately clear. The somewhat bland UI I critiqued in terms of viewability in my original look at Pixieviewer has been replaced by a series of coloured buttons which do much to improve using  the viewer when using it on smaller screens.

The updated Pixieviewer UI
The updated Pixieviewer UI

The buttons at the foot of the window are divided into three groups – what I’ve mentally labelled “personal”, “tools”, and “system”.

  • On the left are the “personal” buttons:
    • A “Home” button for teleporting you home (which currently returns you to the default Welcome area of Pixiegrid
    • A “User Profile” button – which will eventually provide access to … user profiles
  • In the centre are the “tool” buttons:
    • Chat
    • IM
    • Find Places – list and visit other locations
    • Media tool – not yet active
    • Build – the in-world building tools
  • On the right are the “system” buttons:
    • File a bug report / suggestion
    • Open the Pixieviewer blog (in a separate browser tab)
    • View statistics on the current scene
    • Log-out of Pixieviewer

There is one additional button, located in top left corner of the screen. the Audio / Video Conferencing button. According to the blog entry for the update: “If a Place has Conferencing enabled, you will see a blue conference icon that allows you to join or create a realtime Audio Video conference with unlimited number of users.”

The initial Audio / Video Conference window and activating camera / nictrophone access
The initial Audio / Video Conference window and activating camera / microphone access

The option is currently being tested, and the Welcome Area has conferencing enabled. Clicking on the button opens a window which includes a an option to allow Pixieviewer to grab control of your microphone / camera, together with options for accessing camera and microphone set-up. There are also buttons to log-out of a conference and hide the conference window (handy if you are engaged in voice-only conferencing while doing things). It currently appears as if anyone clicking on the Audio / Video Conferencing button will join an existing conference.

All of the buttons are labelled with icons, but rolling the mouse pointer over them displays easy-to-read hovertips.

Places

PixA2-3The Places button allows users to teleport elsewhere on a grid. Clicking it opens a floater listing the available places, complete with an image of each. Clicking on the blue arrow iconed button to the right of a place in the list will teleport you there.

Currently, Pixie grid has three available areas: Welcome Area (to which you can also return by clicking the Home button on the bottom left of the screen), a sandbox and a “Mirror Island” region.

The sandbox region is obviously an area designed to encourage people to try-out Pixieviewer’s build tools (which remain unchanged in this release), although all three regions are at present all build enabled. Given the sandbox is available, people are encouraged to us it when trying the viewer, rather than cluttering-up the Welcome area.

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Playing with Pixieviewer

Thomas Buchauer has been working on developing a virtual world viewer-in-a-browser. The work is still very much in its alpha stages, but already shows sign of promise for those who are OpenSim-based.

Pixieviewer is available now as a special “first look” release, with access restricted to a special test grid called, appropriately enough, Pixiegrid. It is also in non-public testing with two OpenSim grids, and the aim appears to be to make it generally available as a browser-based means of access OpenSim environments at some point in the future. The viewer utilises HTML 5 (and so runs of Firefox, Chrome, etc.), and runs on any portable / mobile device capable of running WebGL.

PixieViewer: accessing OpenSim through a web browser
Pixieviewer: accessing OpenSim through a web browser

As an initial “first look” release, functionality is obviously limited – although already offering enough to get people playing with things and see the potential. Capabilities currently included in the viewer comprise chat, building both using primitive (“basic”) shapes and pre-set 3D models (mesh is supported although uploads are currently not enabled), and the ability to send content to a file suitable for 3D printing on your own (data exported as an STL file), or have the data sent to http://i.materialise.com, where you can preview and order 3D prints. Some basic object interaction is also possible as well – such as sitting on objects or clicking them to display pop-up with further information.

You’ll need to create a log-in account to the Pixiegrid in order to try-out the viewer, and you can do so directly through the viewer’s log-in page.

General Looks

The preview version loads fast – once you’ve registered an account, you can fire-up the viewer and are immediately delivered to the Pixiegrid preview area, where you can wander, try out various options (including the 3D printing), chat with others and explore what is already available.

3D printing from within PixieViewer
3D printing from within PixieViewer

Avatars come in default male and female forms and are non-customisable at present – although you might find your hair colour changes between log-ins; I’ve tended to find I’m either a blonde or a red-head when using the viewer. Movement  – both avatar and camera – is fairly basic, but more than adequate for getting around and seeing things; those who have followed Lumiya’s development will be aware how rapidly things like this improved, so it’s reasonable to expect PixieViewer will add further refinements as time and the technology allows.

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