Category Archives: Brainstorm

Linné Lab? Carl Linden?

Here’s something I didn’t know before that is somehow relevant to Second Life geeks. From the Wikipedia article on Carl Linnaeus, aka Carl Linné:

When Linnaeus’ father went to the University of Lund, he coined himself a Latin surname: Linnaeus, referring to a large linden (lime) tree, the warden tree of the family property Linnagård (linn being an archaic form of Swedish lind, the linden). Nils Ingemarsson Linnaeus gave his son the name Carl. So the Swedish name of the boy was Carl Linnaeus.

In other words, had Linden Lab (the makers of Second Life) been founded in Sweden, they’d likely have been called Linné Lab; or conversely, Carl would have been called Carl Linden.

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Test broadcast

This is what we’re playing with right now:

test broadcastClick to enlarge

Nevermind the mugshot quality of the mug on that image:-) On the left, the computer is encoding the built-in iSight camera’s video stream in real time using Wirecast, and sending it on to a server hosted by Qbrick, where it is broadcast to the internet, including to the screen at the Second House of Sweden’s auditorium, seen on the right.

All that’s different between the two video screens is 12 seconds of lag, because the QuickTime technology likes to buffer. Second Life, then, is just 12 seconds behind real life:-)

The upshot? We’ll be able to do live broadcasts of Swedish jazz concerts, DJ sessions and debates straight to Second Life, as well as to the web (which is the usual way to broadcast). Why is the Second Life stream much more fun and groundbreaking? Because it can be viewed socially; comments can be made among the audience, questions can be sent to the real-life event, or — just as likely — spontaneous dancing can erupt.

There are plenty more other things we’ll likely be able to do with this cool setup, but first, we need to test a bit more. Watch this space.

The implications of voice in Second Life

I’ve now played with the new voice feature in Second Life’s Voice First Look Viewer, available since mid-June. Download it and take it for a test drive; it has clear sound and no apparent scalability issues, and gives you a sneak preview of what Second Life will soon feel like.

Integrated voice chat is going to completely change the dynamic of Second Life, benefitting those who see this virtual world as a immersive communications tool, though perhaps at the expense of those who see themselves as inhabiting an alternate virtual world.

The reasons for this shift is twofold:

  • First, when your avatar uses voice chat, you can no longer lie about your gender. Avatars who always refuse to use voice chat, meanwhile, will be suspected of “lying” about their “real” gender. SL etiquette may well find a way to accomodate voiceless avatars, though they could become a class apart. (Also possible is that those who invest the most time in SL and its role-playing possibilities may not take to voice chat at all.)
  • Second, the use of SL as a virtual conferencing tool will become much more natural. Yes, you can currently set up a text chat room on the web, send out a URL and wait for interested people to show up at the appointed hour, but such a solution lacks immersion — you can’t all watch the a movie synchronously, for example, or listen to a music performance, or get feedback about who is actively present and paying attention. You can do all this currently in Second Life with public text chat. Adding voice, however, turns this into a much more fluid, realistic experience.

Imagine, for example, that you invite the director of a short film to present her work in Second Life in front of a group of interested people. The film can be shown “live” via Quicktime Streaming Server in such a way that everyone sees the movie synchronously, while the director does a play-by-play voiceover, just like the commentary track on a DVD. You can say a lot more if you say it rather than type it — and meanwhile you can concentrate on watching the film, instead of on spelling.

But the arrival of voice chat won’t cannibalize text chat, for the same reason that we send SMS messages on our mobile phone or text chat with Skype or iChat. That’s because text chat in SL, especially when sending private messages, does not require the immediate attention or response of the recipient — just as with SMS.

And of course, voice chat doesn’t leave you with a text log of what was said… so you have to take notes, just like in the real world. But voice-based conferencing of the type that will now be possible in Second Life will be so compelling in terms of ease of use and that I think it will turn an experimental use of Second Life into a mainstream one.

Connecting Second Life, Real life, and the web via tags

Sloog logo Tagzania logo Del.icio.us logo

Last week Mark Wallace at 3PointD blogged Sloog, a new place tagging system native to Second Life developed by the sleek-looking Mosi-Mosi company in Barcelona. Their approach made me very happy, and I plied them with feedback. A tagging system like this is a far superior way of maintaining an inventory of interesting places in Second Life than, well, my avatar’s Landmarks folder in the inventory.

Mosi-Mosi has now added support for RSS, which allows me to highlight my most recent locations in the sidebar of this blog. I’d love to also be able to alter the title and add a description, but I think some of these features are on their way.

What’s interesting is that the original del.icio.us method, so effective for tagging and sharing places on the web, has also been applied to places in the real world. Tagzania lets you tag specific real-world locations via Google Maps and then provides feeds of your tagged locations, both as RSS and as KML (the file format native to Google Earth).

So now we have three tagging systems, one each for the three separate coordinate systems that we use to navigate — in the real world (latitude and longitude), the web (URLs), and Second Life (x/y/z coordinates, parcel name and region name). What’s next?

I’m hoping for mashups that connect all three of these spaces — meta-mashups, if you will. Take the House of Sweden: It has a physical location in Washington DC; it has a website associated with it; and the Swedish Institute will soon have a simulacrum of it at a specific spot in Second Life. These three places are obviously linked, but there is as yet no way of making that connection visible. Or another example: Harvard Law’s Austin Hall in the real world, on the web, and in Second Life.

In database-speak, it would be great to join the lookup tables of these three different tagging databases so that if you find one location, you automatically come across the others.

How to do this? Getting it mostly right may be possible just by comparing supplied tags in all three coordinate systems and joining the most similar ones. Otherwise, it’d have to be a collaborative effort, letting organizations themselves supply the requisite metadata.