Wetmachine Blog: workflow

integration of virtual worlds into external systems

Places, Everyone!

Related to the URL addressing concepts discussed here, there is the question of how to denote places within a 3D world. I really like having names for these.

A typically engineering way to map out locations in a model is with coordinates. There are a couple of problems with this.

Numbers are generally pretty meaningless to users. I hate dealing in part numbers or account numbers rather than product and account names. Numbers just aren’t as mnemonic as a single name, and in 3D it takes a lot of numbers (six numbers of several decimal positions each) to describe the position and orientation you need to be in so that you can see something of interest.

Worse, a position and orientation are only interesting because of the things you can see and do there. If those things change (e.g., move, rotate, or change size), the coordinates for you to work with them are then different. We’re also interested in doing things in cooperation with other people. While it is true that unlike the physical world, several avatars can be in the same place, it is often cognitively and socially nicer to position a group of people around some item of interest rather than stacked up on top of each other.

Our client architect Brad Fowlow has led the development of several ways to address this by interactively or automatically creating a rather sophisticated set of named places from within-world.

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Being There

We’ve all seen the cartoons of people sitting next to each other in silence and texting each other. I just picked up my daughter from a concert where she did exactly that.

At work, we meet for a few hours in-world at least twice a week. Usually at least one of us is in some other part of the world and a few at home, but sometimes we’re all in the same room with headphones on. It isn’t always better than being in the same room with someone, it isn’t always worse. It’s just different, although occasionally it isn’t even that.

For folks growing up with texting and ubiquitous computing, it seems working with others in a virtual world should not be an issue. But circumstances matter (context is king) in ways that I still don’t understand. I’m disappointed that even we are passing up some working relationships that are long distance even as we do others that are global.

Sometimes you text the person next to you and sometimes you have to get on a plane.

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A Great Miracle Happened There

One of the really great things about the WWW, as opposed to the Internet in general, is that the Web separates the concept of naming from everything else. A URL is bit of text that names a resource. You can type it. Except for some long URLs used by banks and in ecommerce, you can often even remember it. But most importantly, you can include the text in some other technology such as an email, an instant message, a calendar invite, a Web page, or even in a book or piece of paper. It can be sent and stored. The URL can be transmitted through this separate non-WWW media, and it still works on the other end.

When you name something, you have power over it. Like the dreidel mnemonic of the title, names help you to remember stuff. You can speak clearly about places and objects instead of just using misunderstood pronouns and long descriptions. And best of all, if you know something’s name, you can use it in casting a spell. (We call them programs.)

So a big part being able to work with virtual worlds, talk about them with other people, and use them in programs is to have a name – a URL that corresponds to each interesting thing about a virtual world.

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