Inventing the Future

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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Inventing the Future

3D vs 2D for Legacy Applications

When Alan Kay’s team at Xerox created the overlapping window user interface, they were working for a document company. Everything was organized around documents mimicking paper, sitting in folders except when being operated on by one application or another.

We don’t need the paper metaphor anymore, but we sure have a lot of 2D paper-oriented legacy stuff laying around. While 3D is pretty clearly winning for new applications in which people work together(*), it hasn’t yet demonstrated something so much better with which to replace all the existing 2D docs and their applications.

The state of user-interface design has provided two ways to deal with this: virtual computer displays embedded into the 3D world, and floating 2D windows. Both are pretty good and have their place.

Intensive Care Unit
One avatar is operating an in-world bio-signs display, which is also being shown in the lower left as a 2D panel floating over the view of the virtual room. The text chat is a 2D floating panel in the upper left, while the procedure timer and other applications are in-world.


(*)Without people, there is no realtime collaboration. 2D includes people only as second class abstractions rather than reifing them as first class objects in the communications model. For teaching, training, and working meetings (as opposed to mostly unidirectional sales presentation meeting and lectures), 3D has emerged as the most natural way to show individual presence, and the simplest way to provide enough immersion to give a sense of shared presence.

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Inventing the Future

Five for Talking

Travel for meetings is so last year. This management article in silicon.com describes five alternatives technologies to meetings: instant messaging, virtual worlds, telepresence, Wikis, and social networking. But do these really have to be separate? Let’s take a look at what each of these offers, and what it means for 3D virtual worlds to incorporate the other alternative meeting technologies.

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Inventing the Future

The Collaborative For Croquet

We’ve got a bunch of Croquet stuff going on. We have the KidsFirst project in early education. There are a few folks who would like to work with the KidsFirst project as educators, academics, etc., but who need an entity to work with. We also have a fairly traditional open-source development project for the software used by KidsFirst, called the KAT: KidsFirst Application Toolkit.

And we REALY, REALLY, REALLY want a place that people can just connect to and try Croquet. To interact with others through Croquet. To come back another day and have some hope of finding the same 3d world, evolved though it may be, but still maybe having some of the same things that had been put there in the previous visit. A little open-source 3D-direction-manipulation real-time collaborative place on the Internet.

And so we have formed “The Collaborative For Croquet”.

Check it out at: CroquetCollaborative.org.

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Inventing the Future

intregration with document-oriented applications

How do we integrate Croquet with the Web? How do we integrate with legacy applications in general?

We interact with computers now in a document model developed by Alan Kay’s Xerox PARC team a long time ago. (Xerox: The Document Company.) It is as is if we have our head bent over our desktop, looking at a piece of paper. We slide other pieces of paper in and out below the face of our bowed head. In Croquet, Kay’s team today lets us lift our head up off the desk and look up at the world around us, including our coworkers. But just as the 3D world has paper within it, shouldn’t the Croquet world have document-based software within it? Yes!

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Posted in Inventing the Future, metaphysics | Also tagged , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)
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