Sep 15 2008

Second Life, OpenSim, and Civic Mirror Worlds

Published by at 0011h under OpenSim,SL In General

From here on the west coast of the USA, the world has seemed a bit tumultuous in the past four weeks. In a more compact and local way, this has been a time of review and reflection for me. This week I drafted an article for a local GIS Journal to review some of the explorations I’ve made since 2006 of how to create a civic-scale Mirror World. The deadline for the article has motivated me toward a bit more recapitulation on this topic than I’d expected.

My interest in the topic was first kicked off by media attention given to Linden Lab around the registration of the one-millionth resident for Second Life. I checked it out, made a rapid getaway from Orientation Island in around 30 minutes, and within a week or so the broad outlines of some intersections between GIS data and Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVE) were taking shape in my thoughts. By Summer 2007, I’d made a fairly complex build on the mainland of the Berkeley BART station, and realized how hard it would be to justify the tier for 500 regions to host, much less build out, the entire city. But by October, I’d learned how OpenSim would solve the issue of tier, if only it were possible to make a build efficiently.

Then meshes arrived in the form of sculptie prims, and when an opportunity arose to collaborate with IBM on a multi-region terrain, I devised a way to drape orthoimagery over the region terrain. This Summer 2008 I was able to do that with LiDAR data that draped orthoimagery over terrain, buildings, and trees. The past year has been very much focused on OpenSim for me with this activity.

But behind the week-to-week excitement of OpenSim growth, and even before that, there has been a steady stream of good new stuff from Linden Lab–a stream that I haven’t reflected on so much. First off, the confluence of LibSL’s stabilization by the end of 2006, the open sourcing of the Second Life client in early 2007, and the initiation of OpenSim shortly afterward, together made possible the environment that I’m, if not taking for granted, really expecting to be there for awhile. Meanwhile, back in Second Life, there’s been integration of VoIP, new HAVOK physics, way cool Windlight enhancements to the SL client, a growth in land area that just keeps on going, plus new Openspace regions.

For reasons unrelated to my journal-article recapitulation, today I enjoyed a pleasant visit with a Linden person. It was more time to chat about civic Mirror World applications with a Linden than I’d ever had before, either in-world or real-world. In the course of our conversation, seeing the eyes of someone who is among those directly and personally impacted by OpenSim in the sense of unrealized revenue growth for Linden Lab, I gained an awareness of what is perhaps the largest contribution of Linden Lab to the OpenSim community. That would be Linden forbearance.

It’s growing late this evening for me to write much more on this right now. And as I noted, this feels like a tumultuous time for the world as viewed from west-coast USA, so I need my rest for what might be a tough week ahead. But I’ve felt a shift in perspective today, and wonder anew what the future of an operational civic Mirror World will really look like.

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