Workshop at Stanford - January 29th 2009

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This early workshop was for intended for the Sirikata stakeholders at Stanford

Attendees

Henry Lowood, Henrik Bennetsen, Gordon Knox, Susan Rojo, Helena Patricia Nordtorp Joergensen, Daniel Horn, Ewen Cheslack-Potava, Patrick Horn, Chris Platz, Jeffery Schnapp, James Neal

Intro

Henrik Bennetsen

  • Dev and community mailing lists are up
  • sirikata.com is started. Efforts will aim at building technology and community.
  • other universities, ex-linden people, intel showing interest
  • Delivery platform for the next second life (rather than the next SL), MMOGs, etc...
  • Sirikata will be published under BSD license (wikipedia). (Second Life (SL) is out under GPL license (wikipedia); hence devs on projects like OpenSim cannot look at SL viewer. Sun's Project Darkstar is also out under GPL.)
  • Being as open as possible to make Sirikata as useful as possible - the pragmatic approach
  • “alpha in some months”
  • We need to be more than just the pitch that doesn't actually use it
  • By having people interested in actually using it should lead to success.

Sirikata Architecture

There is a video of this presentation on Vimeo.

Daniel Horn (Stanford dev team, programmers) Architecture of the project. Guiding principles:

  • scalability - use as thesis? Support lots and lots of users and objects
  • security - secure exchanges, proper ownership, access control, circumventing security is a sport we will work to prevent
  • federation - networking networked worlds, multiple entities managing the world vs just a linden, e.g., the internet - not only one company running the internet or web
  • extensibility - allow users to add content, scripts, plug-ins
  • flexibility - different types of things can be built on top of it, games, academic, museums, wide range of things
  • standardize protocols - interoperability, needed for federation, cooperation

Design decision (100K view): (split project into three aspects):

  • space simulation (physics, collision detection ... on one set of computers)
  • object simulation (scripts ... objects on another set of computers - "simulated elsewhere" - behavior of objects separate from storage)
  • storage - split out variable storage from static storage (CDN). Saved with different time resolutions and technologies. Variable storage involves things that change a lot (location of objects, e.g.) and static storage involves the long-lived objects that change infrequently. Static storage is the solved problem, e.g. S3 from Amazon (leveraging existing work).

Geometric segmentation and object segmentation -- how are the entities distributed among the servers?

Scripting language that makes it easy to create content is very difficult to write. Problem for SL, but also a more general problem.

Question: Problem of authentication locking out content. Can this be solved for archiving? No easy answer


Ewen Cheslack-Postava Arch details (10K view): Specific problems that need to be solved at a lower level of development work.

  • Space – multiple servers, geometric segmentation, object segmentation, location, proximity – taking messages from one object host and send it to another object host
  • Object host – accept messages from space and deliver them, utilities, download content and messages, different languages could be used
  • Persistent storage – not much done here yet

No clients – clients aren't that special (often considered first class citizens) just treating as an object for Sirikata.

Will use this slide (link to slide needed) to introduce developers to the project

Interested in better languages - Writing in second life isn't easy...not linden's fault

Future areas of concentration:

  • Admin tools
  • Inter-space services – world of worlds? Naming, ownership
  • Federated space hosting - objects
  • Convenient object hosting – languages, nicer prims,
  • Interoperability – want to link with current and future existing worlds, gateways to sirikata


Q&A Multiple entities to run a world together? Handoffs is an open research question. Solved socially rather than technically – sharing the load...I won't mess with you if you don't mess with me.

Points of access – (SL is gated...you can't come in via a browser) how is the world entered... Well defined protocols will allow anyone to write a way to enter. Want to connect from iphone eventually.

Authentication – for the long term, like copyright...after a certain amount of time the copyright is over. Can we design something that allows for opening the “time-based cryptographic controls.” Code is law issue. Copyright worked better when it was harder to copy. =)


Patrick Horn

There is a video of this presentation on Vimeo.

The Code (1K view) what we have in the system Plugin based, multiple languages,

  • pluggable -
  • portable – works on any machine and serve
  • compatible with other architecture like meru developed at stanford

event system – listen for and send events (security issues) plugin architecture – c++ object host system – some code at stanford could be used, link to a binary to existing system scheduler – internals, events, loading things in the background cdn – lower level stuff is done, basic caching is done, but need name lookup webserver to host objects - using hash – filename to encryption hash for security: sirikata//object// dependency loader – world > room > people …. coming back to say x has loaded static vs dynamic objects space server – physics...any object can do whatever, loading meshes, object host system – not yet started, graphics system – need gui, using ochre

dependencies for the mesh loading

Open Source Virtual World Overview

James Neal - Open Metaverse Foundation

review of different projects. Problem of incompatibilities between OpenSim, Darkstar, Croquet.

Question: Separation of assets and game engine -- historically solved problem of having to hack code to make changes.

veteran of the space baba yamamato in SL; has grown out of that space and moving in new direction, Open Metaverse Foundation (OMF) president

OMF goal – solving virtual world design issues that cause users to cluster up. Eg, hard for sl person to go to opensim

opensim eclectically developed so many things going wrong like multiple databases being built to mirror SL Some efforts like real extend that loads meshes but not enough Simian – customizable to allow developers to test things using sl protocol easily test different methods Viewer projects using opensource viewer in addition to sl viewer which is only usable by sl Extend viewer to load custom meshes – rendering engine Viewers that fix sl bugs Meerkat viewer designed by OMF – took core code and forked it to redesign login process and main loop of the session to reconnect...transport between various worlds Scripting is handled server side, uploaded to servers and executed there. No scripting on clients. Problem to get clients to do interesting things...source code recompiling

Open source projects:

  • Croquet – sdk for developing virtual worlds – peer to peer streaming, highly programmable, problem is it is written in Small Talk which no one uses.
  • Sun – wonderland and project dark star - dev environment for games, servers designed to scale horizontally...just add more servers, written in java. Can access servers using c++

All these are using incompatible protocols which is a problem. Need to find one that works for everyone so people only have to download one client rather than many for each different world.

People are clustering in one world since it is hard to move between worlds. WoW, SL, dark star have it easy since they are bigger. Smaller communities are at a disadvantage because people don't want to use something that is a struggle to get to.

Familiarity is the deal breaker in many cases. Moving between worlds Can be solved by standard protocols. (browsers do this...IE, firefox, etc.. they all use the protocol similarly)

Focus on the client needs

Q&A How do you view client side physics – client might be needed to replicate things for smooth view A: It is a nice to have but not required. But does lessen the load on the server communication.

Stanford Humanities Lab themes and content-oriented issues

Jeffrey Schnapp - Lab founder and co-director

  • Driven by content delivery
  • collaborative authoring and content producers -- struggle with limitations of SL.
  • how to extend practices in education and scholarly institutions that involve virtual worlds, e.g., museums and universities.
  • What does knowledge and scholarship look like in a virtual world?
  • Stanford Humanities Lab started in 2000 - humanities lab like a technology lab but driven by humanities and arts agendas
  • archives, the past, records, history -- core to concerns of SHL
  • animating archives
  • how can we use virtual worlds to create records of events, either time-based or space-based, that allows them to be recorded and observed for future use. Example: Museums. Much is assumed based on the paper model but is being turned on axis by technology, libraries have been driving issues of preservation and conservation. Virtual worlds could be a method for delivering the installed exhibition experience to the future. Perhaps change the contents. Many obstacles to this -- e.g., content creation tools that are available in a world like SL. Aim is to capture content that is not easy to capture.
  • Model of experience of archives will fundamentally change (model has been about keeping grubby hands off)
  • When a show is done at a museum they are preserved in paper...a book/catalog...they lose the feel of the space and the path the user walks to experience the exhibit. Not richly preserved by paper or even video.
  • conservation objective is to preserve digital materials, e.g., virtual worlds, indefinitely.
  • also interested in virtual worlds that are different from historical worlds; exploration of fantastic worlds. Animation studio.
  • animating and creating something experiential...spacial experience.
  • Going from inside a display case...limited experience...
  • In the future we want to go beyond materiality of object, read or interact with it without needing to be a specialist.
  • Allow the curious and not just experts to experience
  • Import-ability of experiential record, reuse the CAD from previous exhibits
  • Content creativity – have to really hack at it in sl to get it to work using their toolkit
  • Want to preserve forever – can that be done in a virtual world?
  • Creative side – a virtual world is becoming a communication vehicle. A distinctive media.
  • LH exhibit in SL is the *interpretation* of the actual world work - Took work from 70s to current physical exhibit and then to a virtual world exhibit
  • Virtual worlds become a laboratory that does not mirror the actual world
  • Committed and interested in modes of imagining - the imaginative possibilities
  • Accessing a virtual world via the physical is an interesting proposition
  • Social s/w and collaborative authoring tools
  • Experience capture and enhancement in classrooms and museums
  • Vision of a hand held device that is a combo of Michelin guide and history library

Preserving Virtual Worlds

Henry Lowood Curator and SHL cofounder, PVW, HTGG, etc...

Interested in Virtual world 1. History of Vws – when were they first talked about 2. Machinima – archives and early history, VW as a medium, realtime animated movie making, we should engage this community 3. Legal issues around virtual worlds...user created content, machinima created by assets created by others, legal protocol rules for machinima proposed, authentication issues (vs preservation) 4. Problem of preserving what happens in virtual worlds

Virtual worlds die – closed worlds: EA-land, google lively, etc...

Captured the actual end of the world (EA-Land)

  • had to create a new account but couldn't since the world was closing so had to find someone who had an account
  • video capture like being on the bridge of the titanic
  • ends with an error message

People form attachments – how to we capture that so people in the future can understand? How do we handle the software preservation and preserving events in a given world

Everything that happens there is just 0s and 1s....you could have perfect capture of the world if you had every version of the software and database but is this feasible?

History of unusual or defining moments in the world

  • anti-front national protests in Jan 2007....it was a protest and griefing that just disappeared from the vw within 24 hours (maybe less)
  • WoW funeral where attack took place in world on disarmed avatars

VW as exhibit space

  • level of Doom and its geometry in world...bring in bits?
  • preservation of this (and other) historical artifact
  • exhibit a speed run at the speed run exhibit in world

Historical repository within sirikata

  • Lynn Hirshman exhibit from sl as example

Preserving Virtual Worlds - NDIIPP grant

  • moving beyond the easy articles such as books and papers
  • scoping and background research
  • schema development
  • implementation (archiving of test cases) and wrap up

If we can solve the issues around preserving virtual worlds then all other digital preservation issues will be solved.

Repositories: Stanford, UICU and Internet Archive and maybe LoC

An Artist's perspective

Chris Platz - art lead for Sirikata

There is a video of this presentation on Vimeo.

From gaming industry, teacher at Art Institute of CA, Academy of Art U (Interior design), supplier of interns, deep in to using VW for art (1.5 years), Digital Media Academy at Stanford, Terrified of Tech Artist but enjoying the possibilities offered by new tools

Lessons learned:

  • Even at Stanford: getting quality contributors is difficult
  • rapid prototyping: allow high-level content import early
  • real-time design environment is quite a rush. Very appealing aspect of working in these spaces
  • technology in development is very difficult to work with glorified game tester is essential
  • goal-oriented approach -- deadlines are needed

Chris brought in about ten students to work on the project.

This is a project between Science, Humanities, and ARTS (arts being anything that is built which would be a great tool) Design takes a back seat often and that is a detriment. Design of UI shouldn't just take from what is out there today...rather, focus on what would be the best for the designers The potential of using the VW in real time to design and teach is huge and exciting

Snapshot into virtual world design. "scary slide" Captures all the work that had to be done to create assets and graphics.

Art Center attitude – fear of the digital technology. A hurdle to overcome (similar to Libraries)

  • zbrush – took 6 months to learn the technology, too many dialog boxes, too complex to learn
  • zbrush central.com
  • maya
  • 3dmax

Most tools available are far too complicated. So what is needed in a simple tool?

  • education design that can be used for teaching
  • collaborative runtime environment
  • an elegant interface that is easy to use

Lots of creative outlets could benefit: film, painting, graphic design, UI, sculpting, architecture, industrial design, costume and fashion, motion graphics, etc....

Simple yet robust virtual design space Goals:

  • real-time collaborative importing and manipulation of 3d objects
  • real-time collaborative vertex editing
  • real-time collaborative digital painting
  • sharing and connecting to other virtual spaces and worlds

Interactive 3d web interface how could things we do today be ported in to VW Convergence of theater, games, and movies....interactive, real time, online thespians, virtual sets, be a part of it...way better than reality TV.

Self expression on a global level Digital creative revolution – WWDD? what would davinci do? Design education and online learning Bringing art back in to our lives!

Funding Opportunities

Gordon Knox

Has a great network of contacts, started in art world; He works on brick and mortar projects

Projects:

  • RES project (Puglia, Italy) and others
  • Talked about fund-raising for projects that could be mounted in a virtual world

Providing funding – educational , social justice, corp, institution building Human structures needed to build an ongoing program hewlett, rockefeller, scholl – open access to break the digital divide

Opportunity platform of information sharing. Use cases are key to development of the tool. Real projects with real money coming together. What is already being funded that we could make use of? And there are a series of problems we could work on and get funding. Interface between art funding and how art is produced.

  • Competitions – top end film makers, artists who compete using our tool.
  • Corporations could plug in – map a trail then search for people based on gps in phone.
  • Find a dozen corporations that might want their environment digitized.

Connecting to the real world from him to the engineers – money man.

Wrap Up

Henrik

Games matter and people know it so now let's show serious applications of games. We can have a profound impact using the forces in this room. These are early days but early days and early decisions can make big impact.

We have deliverables we are driving towards in (November 2009)

Compelling use cases are key (unlike croquet which had great engrs)