Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ISTE10 Denver Conference Take-Aways

Without even leaving my desk I had a surprisingly fun and rewarding time at the ISTE conference this year. That's because I focused on virtual world presentations, many of which were presented on ISTE Island in Second Life.

Aside from my crazy virtual bike ride, here are some of my take aways:

  • The mixture of hyper- and multi-media made my head spin. I was forced to upgrade to SL Viewer 2 which I don't particularly like but it did allow for some amazing new options, like HTTP on a prim. The result was experiencing multiple simultaneous realities as presenters stood in the physical Virtual Environments area in Denver talking to a real audience WHILE projecting their avatars in Second Life to that audience WHILE directing their avatars in the Red Rocks presentation stage in SL to an audience of virtual attendees in-world, WHILE the attendees also watched the ustream broadcast of the real life presenter in the physical space on a dynamic HTTP surface behind the presenter's avatar. It gets complicated, right? You can imagine the complications of setting up the audio feeds.
  • There were more than a few tech issues for myself and others, but it was gratifying to see how calm and helpful everyone was. Somehow, the show always went on.
  • JB Hancroft gave an exciting presentation on the possibilities of scripting and media sharing with Viewer 2.0 and in a way what was most interesting was that for a while his examples didn't work and as he grew more apologetic and despondent we kept plugging away at figuring out how to interact with his prims to make his effects visible and finally got it. It was a mixture of JavaScript and lsl that gave you a button on the prim surface you could click to reveal a text message and hide it again. Really amazing. I was so impressed by the breadth of his innovations and the support coming from the audience reminding him it's all a work in progress and really great that he was trying this stuff.
  • I caught enough of Kyle Gomboy's presentation about Reaction Grid to know that I have to set something up there. As much as I enjoy OS Grid I think it's focus on software development and innovation makes it a hard place to set up a dependable educational region. I always crash when I go there for whatever reason. Taking a quick look at some of the regions in RG convinced me that's the place to take students and start working out some collaborative possibilities between schools. Having our standalone in our school has been great and of course we'll continue using it but the ability to share things with a wider audience is an important ultimate goal.
  • Bernajean Porter and Peggy Sheehy: "Get away from museum mode, move into narrative."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mars Simulation for distribution

This is the quick-and-dirty version of this tutorial for creating a 3D simulation of the Mars crater Tharsis Tholus from scratch. Actually it's really long, but this is a big project, at least an hour's worth if all goes well. I'll do something more extensive soon in some form, but I just finished making the distributables (OAR and IAR files) so I wanted to get it out there. No previous OpenSimulator experience is required, but some command line stuff will be necessary and there are many opportunities for getting stuck, which I may or may not be able to help with.
This is a standalone 2x2 sim run on Windows XP SP2 that one would connect with using a client viewer like Second Life that is configured to connect over a wired LAN to the IP address of the computer running the sim. All this is detailed below, but there are many other configurations you could have, so I just wanna make that clear. One thing, for the client computers using the viewer app, you MUST use computers with high end video cards. Desktop PCs will tend to have them, as will all (in my experience) newer Macs, from MacBook Pros to iMacs. If you don't have a good video card, the orange sky effect created in step 26 just won't happen, which almost makes it not worth it in my opinion. The space station is set up for 7 astronauts, or a class of 14 students working in pairs to direct the avatars. The lesson I've implemented is documented here. So let's go!
Permissions: "One or more textures on this 3D model have been created with images from These images may not be redistributed by default, please visit for more information."
  1. Choose a host computer for the sim. Preferably a desktop, definitely wired to your LAN. Assign--or have your network administrator assign--a static IP to that computer.
  2. Download .NET framework 3.5. OpenSimulator requires this on a PC to compile and run. Install it (takes a while, requires a restart). If you're running this on Windows 7 skip this step as .NET 3.5 is included in the OS.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cool Tool

Paraphrasing, The most important tool of industrial designers is the factory.
-Masamichi Udagawa of Antenna Design

Thursday, June 03, 2010

OpenSim Virtual Acting/Machinema

8th grade drama project, best on full screen:

Machinema with Students in OpenSim

Our virtual drama project is wrapping up. Towards the end I need to make machinema recordings of the students' rehearsals of their 2- and 3-person scenes that they watch and use to improve their in-world performances and in the final class I make recordings of their performances. It's taken me a year, but I finally have an optimal recipe for making the machinema recordings:

  • Voice: Rehearse with 3rd party voice app and final performance with onboard voice. Teamspeak was the best option for students to rehearse simultaneously in their own groups as it offers spatial voice by virtue of separate channels. For the final performances we drop that and use the FreeSWITCH module because the rest of the students are being audience members and need to hear the actors.
  • Hide the UI: It takes practice and seems to work better on a PC than a Mac, but looks so much better. Elsewhere on this link there are some other great tips, worthy of another year of practice, but this is the most important.
  • Drop the SLViewer, get Imprudence: Hiding the UI in the Second Life Viewer has the unfortunate effect of filling the space around avatars with swirlies, a problem documented here. Linden Labs has let this annoying feature persist despite its being outdated. Imprudence lets the swirlies decay quickly and has a host of other improvements that I've only begun to discover. The beta installers are here, but it's reported that the weekly updates are actually more stable and my experience bears that out, with the beta 1.3.0 beta 4 crashing pretty frequently for no reason I can see.
  • Getting FreeSWITCH voice in Imprudence: Imprudence can't be distributed with the proprietary SLVoice app so you'll have to drop it in yourself. Fortunately, it's an easy fix.
  • Finally, the setup is complete! But wait, you need something to record it. Fraps is the standard on PC.  Fraps is excellent as long as you have a good enough sound card to get the "Stereo Mix" or "What U Hear" settings and don't use a USB headset as there is a little documented but known issue with them. I haven't found anything for Mac that successfully records the voice when using a separate app, like the Teamspeak/Imprudence combo for rehearsals.