Friday, July 31, 2009

More Blue Mars – The official roll-out dates (and some musings)

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

I don’t think anyone expects it to be a Second Life® killer – hundreds of thousands of avatars have too much invested there in friendships, land, content and businesses already - but Blue Mars is the first solid contender to enter the skirmish for dominance in the user-generated content category of virtual worlds. And yes, I did just say user-generated content, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Jim Sink, vice president of Hawaii-based Avatar Reality, the company that owns Blue Mars, shared with me last night that they plan on rolling out their first registrations to the “many, many thousands of players” on their waiting list on Monday, August 3, and open Beta for all is scheduled for August 31st. So this is it.

I reported on most known aspects of the coming free-to-play platform in depth three months ago but I’ve been giving it a great deal of thought since then. It has already won me over on several counts:

  • Gorgeous and photorealistic graphics thanks to the ultimate game engine available today: CryEngine 2.
  • Serious control over what enters your City. Three little words: No Flying Penises. Likewise unwanted scripts, “prims,” and inappropriately (or offensively) dressed avatars. These safety features and checks are boons to businesses, educators, event organizers, Role-Playing Games and advertisers.
  • Deep control over your content. Since every item that is imported into Blue Mars gets an encrypted and dated watermark, IP dangers to creators such as copybot dissipate dramatically.
  • Scalable to thousands of simultaneous users per region. - Can’t attend that Coldplay concert that’s taking place 3,000 miles away? Why not hear and see them stream live into Blue Mars?
  • Marketers will be keen on the fact that player activity can be tracked and reported on in real-time.
  • Using a CAD program plus Blue Mars’ import tool, you can bring in your 3D assets… an intriguing opportunity for anyone who wants to demo objects, large or small.
  • A simplified and easy-to-use interface in the universal language of symbols.

Musings and mumblings on USER GENERATED CONTENT

Blue Mars loses important points in areas that are critical to me, not the least of which is the fact that amateur content creators will have no place there. On the surface, quality control isn’t a bad thing, but when I consider that so many – MOST! - of the creators I most appreciate in Second Life came from non-artistic backgrounds only to discover that they could make marvelous things, I begin to mourn the loss of that particular magic. On the other hand, and to be fair, I wonder what professional artists will begin to work in virtual worlds (that I can inhabit) because of this environment.

And I’m unhappy that my Mac friends can’t join me there unless they are using Boot Camp, and I want to fly everywhere, thank you very much. No bloody waiting at virtual bus stops for me!

I’m “iffy” on what sounds like extreme homogenization. While the robust safety and marketing features appeal to me, the endless variety and idiosyncrasies that I mostly find charming in Second Life will have no place in Blue Mars. Or will they? The funny thing is, it turns out that what I dislike about Second Life is also what I like about it. The ugly content makes me value the beauty all the more. But you know what? I bet Blue Mars will have its share of yucky, or mundane and mediocre bleah stuff, too. After all, just cause it’s pro doesn’t make it pretty, does it?

And here is something I really want to share with you…

Jim spoke about user-generated content in Blue Mars last night in such a persuasive way. He asserted that ANYBODY can be a registered developer. He stressed that Blue Mars’ tools are free and so are 3D model creation tools like Blender and Google Sketchup.

Hmmm. Nowadays, many leading Second Life content creators are working off-world and importing their sculpties already. And what’s more, it’s been almost a year since I spoke with Aminom Marvin about the next big thing in virtual worlds that support content creation: 3D mesh objects. We’ve been speculating and hoping that Linden Lab will introduce them later this year. Well, it is almost “later this year” now. So how is all this different from people working off-world and importing their content into Blue Mars? And why would we moan and groan about an environment that actually protects creators’ intellectual property in ways that Second Life is technologically incapable of? I have so very much to think about.

I’m thinking… I just may have to have a foot in both worlds. THREE LIVES. Oh boy.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The many faces of Nur Moo

Posted by Bettina Tizzy
© All rights reserved on images by Nur Moo

Some people are just effortlessly cool, like that kid in grade school who got all A's or 100s in homework without ever studying. Nur Moo is a virtual chameleon in Second Life® who lives a colorful pixelated existence (and I'm not referring to the RGB scale), ranging from patron saint to artists, to hipster who's A list parties at her acclaimed Poetik Velvets are sumptuous experiments in fun, to photographer and legitimate artist in her own right who totally gets that we're not in Kansas anymore.

Nur is often the protagonist in her photography, and her self-portraits are both intimate and instant theater, employing the latest creations by Second Life's leading fashion and fantasy designers to tell a new story. We can't be sure if she is disguising herself or revealing all, but of one thing we are certain: We want to look.

"The experience of immersion into a virtual world is as individual as the person sitting at the computer. One may log in just to experience it - like a game, another to create a replica of their favourite places off the grid, another to step into the shoes of a character from a book they read. Poetik is not that kind of experience. Its creators and participants cover a spectrum of personalities, visions and motivations, but the overriding common thread is the desire to seek ways in which to express a sort of remix of the real world and the virtual. Second Life has its technological limitations, but it is of course far more malleable to the whims of the imaginations of its denizens." - Nur

"Poetik is an organic entity emerging from binary, strings of codes and rows of pixels that can be directly influenced by the artists who have created wordless, changeable, beautiful things for the enjoyment of all. Simply attending an event or going on your own to explore an immersive piece of art can be enough to stir the emotions and inspire the artist hidden within every living creature, reawakening the fearless expression we might not have felt since we were children." - Nur

In real life, Nur is a graphic and fashion designer living in Parma, Italy.

You can view more of Nur's images on her Flickr stream, or teleport to her galleries at Poetik Velvets from here.

Avatar designer workshop and focus group - Call for participation

Posted by Bettina Tizzy
© All rights reserved on images by Nur Moo

Jo-Anne Green, co-director of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. (NRPA), just alerted me to an intriguing project.

A graduate student at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada is studying avatar design in Second Life® and is looking for participants who would be willing and interested in contributing a small portion of their time to developing this academic research.

Interested participants would be involved in a small 2-4 hour workshop session one day and a follow-up focus group for 1-2 hours involving an avatar design critique session with peers.

Both sessions will take place on Odyssey in Second Life.

The researcher plans to watch participants create avatars based on established Modern Art design guidelines borrowed from Art-History to see if they still translate into interesting and useful avatar design. The research will be taking snapshots and video of the avatar creators during the building process so they can be critiqued during the peer review session.

At the end of this research, the researcher will write about the strengths and limitations of using Modernist guidelines to inform avatar design in Second Life and other next generation virtual worlds. All participants will own the rights to their own avatar creations being generated during this workshop.

The researcher will only document these designs in order to visually illustrate their relationship to the theoretical frame-work.

Any potential participants must meet this criteria:
  • Genuine interest in designing avatars – especially designing for themselves as well as for clients/friends/other people.
  • Some arts background (including arts produced exclusively in SL)
  • Relative fluency in navigating the building controls in Second Life.
  • Reasonable fluency in English (written) and/or ability to use an in-world translator effectively.
  • The willingness to allow their avatar designs made in this case-study session to be publicized, documented and researched by the author.
  • The willingness to participate for the duration of the research project.
  • Professes not to be a member of a captive population (inmate), psychiatric in-patient nor a youth under the age of 19.
  • The willingness to sign a consent form (over the age of 19).
If you are interested, reply with your name (SL name only is fine), background, contact information availability (including your local time zone) and specific design interests. Submit a notecard with your proposal to uuuuuuu Heliosense, or via email to Jeremy Owen Turner at Replies of interest must be received by August 10, 2009.

Potential participants will be notified of the status of their participation by August 13, 2009 for sessions happening on the following week.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Reveling in Real World art - One very right way to savor it in Second Life

The Hotel Dare Showcase dazzles with a tribute to Ray Caesar

Posted by Bettina Tizzy
© All rights reserved on images by Ray Caesar

I'm not saying there is only one way to enjoy art from the other side in Second Life®, but the new Hotel Dare Showcase which opens today allows the visitor to step right into it (in fact, you are sucked in) on a whole new level. The approach is not new to us. We already enjoy Frankie Rockett's Art Box and AM Radio's Death of Marat, among other installations, but never have we had the opportunity to become a part of Real Life art to this degree.

Gattina Dumpling has already curated three sessions of the Hotel Dare (not to be confused with the Showcase), a concept space she conceived that goes far beyond the typical gallery setting to feature the location-appropriate works of rotating Second Life artists who have been given a hotel "room" to do whatever they wish with it. The latest version resides on the Poetik sim (teleport directly from here).

Now Gattina has acquired half a sim - dubbed the Hotel Dare Showcase - which will be devoted to celebrating the works of Real Life artists. The inaugural show pays tribute to Ray Caesar, and includes the participation of Marie Lauridsen, Katat0nik Pidgeon, Autumn Hykova, and Leetah Moxie, as well as Daniel Luchador who created most of the rooms.

Complete avatars are for sale at the arrival point. Enter the "lobby" of the Hotel Dare, which this time around looks more like a grand salon, and admire/become the art. Hint: It helps to walk up the paintings.

Blackbird by Ray Caesar

Gattina was traveling yesterday but nevertheless responded to my email:

"This is very hard to do from an iPhone. I dropped out of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design before I graduated. And I started college at age 16. For fine arts. I haven't painted anything in about 14 years. I have had an interest in "lowbrow art" (see juxtapoz and hi fructose magazines) and artists like Ray Caesar, Mark Ryden, Camile Rose Garcia, and Sylvia Ji since I first visited the La Luz De Jesus gallery in L.A. about 11 years ago."

Wikipedia: Lowbrow, or lowbrow art, describes an underground visual art movement that arose in the Los Angeles, California, area in the late 1970s. Lowbrow is a widespread populist art movement with origins in the underground comix world, punk music, hot-rod street culture, and other subcultures. It is also often known by the name pop surrealism. Lowbrow art often has a sense of humor - sometimes the humor is gleeful, sometimes impish, and sometimes it's a sarcastic comment.

Ray Caesar's Blackbird, interpreted by Hotel Dare Showcase in Second Life

Gattina: I can remember the first time I saw Ray Caesar's art. It was a few years ago in Juxtapoz magazine and I can remember feeling that I wanted to ...

It wasn't just the feeling of wanting to own some of his art. It was more of the feeling "I want, I want, I want to.. BE that. I want to BE there.I want to GO IN THERE.

L'accord d'amour by Ray Caesar

Gattina: His work inspires an urgent sense of yearning. The viewer wants to crawl into these worlds he has created, to explore the dark nooks and crannies his subjects inhabit, to root around for secrets and open letters addressed to someone else and ... to find what they have lost. Ray Caesar owns all of our mysteries. He collects them and ensnares them in his art, he captures them in hidden drawers and hides them under beds and shadows them in corners of century-old rooms and in the murky depths of the sea.

His work depicts romantic landscapes, dreamy and lush, angelic inhabitants gaze upon the viewer, at times serene, at times accusatory. Porcelain- skinned girls sprout mechanical limbs and mile-long tentacles bloom from under delicate petticoats. There is something reflected in the mirror, hidden behind the drapery, lurking in the shadows. The observer is all too easily lost in these worlds. The viewer is the victim in his vampiric world, lulled into submission by his supernatural creations. Ray Caesar claims to have been born a dog. For a dog he is also a soothsayer, an architect, a magician. An analyst sitting behind a large wooden desk, taking snippets of our dreams, hopes and fears, moments of our childhoods and locking them away in the astounding worlds he has created.

Ray Caesar's L'accord d'amour, as interpreted by the Hotel Dare Showcase in Second Life

The most amazing realization occurs when it dawns on you that all of his art was created in Maya. His images are the very best of computer arts; the nuances and layers stagger and enthrall the imagination.

Images by Ray Caesar

Ray Caesar wrote: I color the models first in a very simple way, then each surface in the model is wrapped with a texture that may be painted digitally such as a flower petal or from a digital photograph such as a wood surface. I collect textures the way some people collect little silver spoons and I have a story about each texture in my collection…

As my work is printed I am often asked about my original, but it exists only in the computer in a dimensional world of depth, width and height. I am fascinated by the concept that this 3-dimensional space exists much as another reality and even though I turn the computer off, I am haunted by the fact that this space is still there existing in a mathematical probability, and the space that we live in now might not be all that different.

Descent by Ray Caesar

Gattina: I picked the team I did for the build because they are people I have worked with before and I knew they would be able to translate my vision for the build and make it a reality. Daniel is known as one of the most talented builders on SL, Katat0nik is an artist in her own right and has won the award for best fashion designer Japan Second life, Marie and I share the same aesthetics, love the same artists and she is an amazing skin artist, and Autumn and Leetah were happy and excited to do the hair.

Ray Caesar's Descent, as interpreted by Hotel Dare Showcase in Second Life

Teleport to the Hotel Dare Showcase directly from here.

Avatar poses by Helianthus Mesmer.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What *has* Nomasha Syaka been up to?

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

When it comes to virtual creations, I'm a snoopy gumshoe. I want to know what everyone's making, and especially a handful of people I keep track of at all times. For the past year I've been pinging "Anything new, Nom?" now and then, and not getting a straight answer. Just invoking the guy's name here with some news makes me happy, for Nomasha Syaka (rez: 9/13/2006) is the British creator of the poetic sculpted Icarus that I often rez at my own Chakryn, as well as the wacky blender where I take folks when we're up for a giggle. His in-world group I use my nose to type is worth joining for the name alone. He is also renown for his electric guitars, sculpted tigers and wolves, among other animals, but he has been suspiciously quiet for a long, long time.

So an IM from the owner of Blackwater Gallery Jurin Juran to say that she was dancing, and why, had the effect of a bottle of vintage champagne. It turns out that he has been making motion capture animations. Like a hundred of them! Fluid, fun, funny and lots of the oolala variety.

The first and most vital necessity was to dance... and obviously to speak with Nomasha.

Nomasha's sim, re-purposed and lovely

So... what have you been up to for the past year?

Nomasha Syaka: Getting these animations ready – they are very difficult to make and process. I made it my mission to produce better animations and I think for the greater part, I have. Most of the feedback I have received so far suggests this and I have been as obsessive about it as I was about making art objects in SL.

Did you have experience with mocap before?

Nomasha Syaka: None at all, nor with animation generally. Self taught. Though I use someone to process the data once it is recorded and he is a real expert.

How did you recruit your dancers? Did you dance, too?

Nomasha Syaka: Lol, my dancing would qualify for NPIRL. No, I use professional dancers always, recruited from London dance agencies.

Fruits and noobs and bears and all sorts of things zoom by and over the animation stands

How do you make mocap animations?

Nomasha Syaka: The dancer wears a special suit and multiple cameras record the dancer’s movement. These calculations are then transferred onto a computer character and a lot of processing has to be done by hand to ‘clean’ the information and make them suitable for Second Life®. The SL avatar skeleton is a freak, so you have to make a lot of adjustments for it.

You were among the first creators to provide Second Life's musicians with beautifully crafted guitars. Do you have music in your background? (There are over a dozen fabulous animations for guitar players, by the way). Why guitars?

Nomasha Syaka: No music background, at all. I learned the violin as a child for a couple of weeks, and then the teacher disappeared and was never seen again by anyone. Later on I learned the flute, but then the school's music building caught fire and burnt to the ground. Not a good history with music. I made the first guitar because I knew it would be difficult, as no one had made any decent ones at all.

I was relieved to discover that you've rezzed the Blender on the revamped sim. I would have been miserable if it had vanished.

Nomasha Syaka: My favorite build... never been sold.

Nomasha makes it possible for you to dance moving over and around a white tiger, via four different animations

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Are all your interests coming together with this new venture? Music, tigers, art, and now...

Nomasha Syaka: Time for some more sculptures, I hope!

Will there be a NPIRL category of dances?

Nomasha Syaka: When I record myself dancing – for sure.

You can teleport to Nomasha's Ministry of Motion from here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A statement from the Not Possible IRL group regarding Rezzable's BuilderBot

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

The members of the Not Possible IRL group held two meetings and shared many thoughtful notecards and IMs today expressly to discuss Rezzable's BuilderBot, and reach a consensus. The conclusions are as follows:
  • The overwhelming majority of those who participated in today’s two meetings agree that Rezzable’s BuilderBot appears to be a useful – even important - tool for serious/professional creators and contractors.
  • NPIRLers denounced the death threats expressed in comments on Rezzable’s blog and expressed concern about the sanity of the people posting them, as well as the safety of the Rezzable employees.
  • We were reminded that Second Life® residents have been asking for viewer-side back- up tools for years, and statements made by Philip Linden on April 16th during Rob Linden's Open Source Viewer office hours were recalled:
[14:30] Philip Linden: on assets... i definitely think we need explicit perms for off-grid to make it OK to move content to other grids.
[14:30] Philip Linden: NOT ok to copy stuff otherwise.
[14:30] Philip Linden: And I'd say we'll act as much as possible to protect folks rights in that.
[14:32] Philip Linden: full perms doesn't mean off-grid, because the creators may well not have understood the implications.
  • Members concurred that most content creators in Second Life are at little risk of having their creations ripped by BuilderBot, largely because it is much easier to use a CopyBot instead of devoting hours to ripping a sim, importing it to one’s OpenSim, and then using a CopyBot to put it back into Second Life.
  • Numerous members noted that Linden Lab did not anticipate or think through many of the issues we are dealing with today and that Second Life sits on and is as vulnerable as any digital content is on the Internet. It was remarked that even before the viewer went Open Source, it was not too difficult to hack the cache. Moreover, content is moving off of Linden servers and “joining the cloud.” How ownership is handled in the cloud needs to be determined now and the solutions to these issues, within the context of Second Life’s current infrastructure, are legal, not technical.
  • A number of members suggested that Rezzable should code in an ownership check, and that including a pay method and a license key associated with each copy of an item created by the tool might be a reasonable way to track copies. “If (Rezzable) could find a way, others will too, but at least they will have the legacy of doing the right thing.”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Attend Xeniversity in-world and learn Maya

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

On Saturday, artist and creator Hern Worsley logged into Second Life® and joined 7 others for an in-world class on Autodesk Maya that he deemed “really excellent.” It was to be the first of three sessions for which he paid a total of $L16,200.

Maya is a powerful and expensive ($4,995 US dollars for the Unlimited version) and - by most accounts – intimidating software package given its robust and multi-layered/complex nature. It is considered by most creators I know to be the rockstar program for creating and exporting sculpted objects.

Importantly, the courses are focused on developing content for Second Life. “It was my first real experience with education in SL and it is exactly what I needed,” explained Hern. “The prices are not terribly expensive but reassuringly not cheap, if you know what I mean,” he added.

The courses are provided by Xenius Revere who worked with metaverse developer Electric Sheep for 1 ½ years as their resident Maya expert and also taught Maya for 3 ½ years at the University of Buffalo, NY.

Xenius, photographed by Xenius

Xenius has founded Xeniversity (teleport directly to their headquarters from here).

A tree at Xeniversity

At this point, Xeniversity offers two courses: Maya 101- An introduction to Maya modelling for Second Life at $L5,400 per two-hour session and $L16,200 for the full course; and Maya 102 – An intro to Maya texturing for Second Life at $L10,800 per two-hour session and $L32,400 for the full course.

Xenius shared that he built a business model that supports his costs plus allows for expansion. Also in development, a course on scripting for Second Life artists. “If you pro-rate out the cost of taking a class in a state university, versus Xeniversity, you are getting an incredible deal. Plus, all sessions are geared directly for Second Life content creation,” he said and added, “Second Life is a messy aggregation of a whole bunch of tools.”

“I think it does help if you’ve had some experience already with Maya. It is about technique and seeing someone doing it makes everything much easier. It is so obvious when you see it done, but you’d never get there so quickly by trial and error, and it’s like getting access to all the secrets,” continued Hern. “I’m very cautious about new things. I kind of need my hand held.”

Classes are conducted in-world, in voice and via the 2.0 web.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Moonwalkin... Second Lifers REPRESENT

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

5:09pm UPDATE: And here it is: The chosen segment live and... moonwalkin!

In a marathon session yesterday, at least twenty Second Life® residents moonwalked around the Bogon Flux at the Odyssey under the direction of Mescaline Tammas and his cheerful partner in crime, four Yip. The goal is to submit a filmed segment to Eternal Moonwalk (click, click, click), an everlasting virtual tribute to the late, great rocker, Michael Jackson.

Kindly click through and vote on your favorite segment here.

Animations were provided by Iron Serpente. The lovely ducky Ravenelle Zugzwang made a "the making of" machinima, too! We are so serious in Second Life. :P

Real Life illustrator four Yip has already submitted her clip, and it's a wowzer, of course.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fabulous falsies

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

It was very late in my Second Life® when I discovered "false" eyelashes and now I want more. More styles and colors and by all means longer, crazier, hotter ones. Sure, they raise your ARC (Avatar Rendering Cost) a tad, but I'm willing to cut back in other areas if I can have some fantasy springing from my own peepers and basic lashes. Maybe we can persuade Jopsy Pendragon or Darek Deluca to make some with particle effects, or who knows what Cutea Benelli would attach to them... Dollar bills? Miniature scissors? Spiral Walcher would make them glow, of course. It's a pain to get them to fit properly in both lives, but worth it, I tell you, so very worth it.

D.W. Griffith came up with the idea for false eyelashes back in 1916 when he was directing the film Intolerance and wanted actress Seena Owen's lashes to "brush her cheeks."

I was chatting with virtual artist AM Radio who must have been simultaneously searching on the web, because he began to send me one link after another that led to the more than theatrical lashes that Japanese company Shu Uemura makes (check out their Tokyo Lash Bar). Perhaps this is an area where Real Life has trumped us on the fantastical plane and we need to catch up?

All photography via Shu Uemura

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Machine Poems and (virtual) sculpted storybook by Bryn Oh

Posted by Bettina Tizzy
Poetry by Bryn Oh
Photography by Dil Spitz "DilSpi" - ©All rights reserved

An acquaintance of mine has had several of her storybooks for children published with some success. In fact, she makes a decent living in Los Angeles in this manner and that is quite an accomplishment given that writers and illustrators with ideas for children's books are a dime a dozen. But there is an opportunity created by virtual worlds that intrigues me and I expect will pique the interest of book publishers, too. Eventually... One of these days now.... Seriously! I cannot, for the life of me, understand why they haven't capitalized on this platform already. Certainly animation studios and production houses are beginning to look at virtual world imagery as both a source and a resource (I can tell you that folks from Disney are frequent readers of this blog) and conceptually, I do believe that even a television commercial for a major brand may have been heavily inspired by content created in Second Life®.

Virtual artist Bryn Oh is already considered a master at delivering supremely immersive environments through the use of her sculptures coupled with original prose, poetry and even a play in which the attendees took part. There are simply thousands of us - virtual residents - who have attempted to explain to each other how moved we've felt by what we've experienced through her art via photographs, blogposts and machinima.

Her newest installation, curated by Tezcatlipoca Bisiani (aka Andrew Sempere) at one of the two IBM art sims in Second Life - Rabbicorn - is a second installment on her dark but moving Daughter of the Gears story. And it really is a story. Instead of turning the pages, we teleport to the next chapter. Instead of gazing upon the illustrations on a 2D page, we walk around the characters and situations. We hear the music, we move in and out of light and shadows. We are right there. But even if you never logged in to Second Life, the potential for the events to unfold in a traditional book is very much there through the use of well executed photography.

German photographer Dil Spitz "DilSpi," instantly agreed to capture some images of Rabbicorn for this blogpost when I approached her, given that she is already a fan of Bryn's work. Dil donates the proceeds of all sales of her images taken in Second Life to organizations that help stalking victims in Real Life. Keep in mind that Rabbicorn is a predominately dark build, so photography in this case was a challenge and Dil respectfully did not tweak the gamma or brightness.

The Machine Poems that follow on this page were written by Bryn for previous installations and not for Rabbicorn, but I thought I'd post them here to give you a taste of her storylines.


All my friends
Are charlatans
And Videonauts
In dark nights
With search lights
Broken hearts
Are useful parts
Carry me
From the street
And love me though
I'm obsolete

26 Tines

The laboratory is silent
The scientists gone
We have seven hours
Before the dawn
Come to me through the half-light
To my jar by the rack
Surrender your cord
To the adaptor on my back
26 tines
At the end of your cable
Connect you to me
So that we are able
To feel emotions drawn
Through the cables caress
And forget till the dawn
Our loneliness


All my dreams
Were programmed by you
So that they would
All come true
Fly on the wall
Then to the street
When obsolete
If I could only see you
One more time
Maybe you would
Change your mind
Resale hunters
With laser beams
Take all the parts but
My hardwired dreams

Teleport to Rabbicorn directly from here.

Here are just some of the blogposts we've done about Bryn and her work in Second Life:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The apogee of fandom: Kevlar Keen breathes life into Bryn Oh's art

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Kevlar poses for me at Immersiva

Kevlar Keen was so captivated by Bryn Oh's story and art for The Daughter of the Gears, that she created an avatar in tribute. Yes, friends, this is an avatar, and not Bryn's much admired virtual sculpture. It seems that Bryn approved, too.

Imagine how you would react if a piece of artwork at your local museum suddenly came to life and walked up to you. That is precisely how I felt when I glimpsed at Kevlar as the "Daughter" out of the corner of my virtual eye. The resemblance is perfect, right down to the beanpole legs and knobby knees, plus the "face" can be opened to reveal... ah, you will have to hunt Kevlar down to find out! This is a one-of-a-kind avatar, too. What must Bryn have thought when she saw it?!

Bryn developed both the character and the concept for the Daughter of the Gears when Rezzable Productions invited her to create an installation for the mysterious and poetic (and hallowed) Black Swan sim. I get a lump in my throat when I think of it, but we've learned that Black Swan will soon be erased from the grid. It seems it has less than one month left. However, you can now visit the piece on Bryn's own sim, Immersiva, by teleporting directly from here and looking for the tower.

Bryn Oh: It is a story about a mother who watches as her daughter becomes sick. And as her life begins to fail she transfers her daughter's soul into a vessel. A machine. When the townspeople find out what she has done they come to take the daughter. They see her as an abomination against all their beliefs and to all they hold true. But to take her daughter they must first get by her.

The mob climbs the tower and reaches the top. The mother fights them and wins. But is mortally wounded. And as she lays dying, she realizes that her daughter will now live forever alone and lonely. A girl in the body of a machine in a hostile world. So the daughter of gears goes into stand-by mode like a computer. And in stand-by she dreams of her mother for eternity.

As with every Bryn Oh creation, there is always a bit of poignant sadness, and also discovery. You can read the accompanying "machine" poems on Bryn's blog.

More coming soon on Bryn and her latest: the Rabbicorn Story.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Buckminster Fuller would have approved

On Werner Kurosawa, geodesic domes, and Green Phosphor’s novel work in Second Life

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Years ago, a friend of mine who owned a large manufacturing centre sought to enclose the entire building complex within a geodesic dome, modelled after architect and inventor Buckminster Fuller’s lattice shell structures. His goal was not merely an aesthetic one, for it is said that such domes maximize efficiency in energy use for both heating and cooling, while being structurally strong. Fuller’s maxim: “Doing more with less.” That was my first introduction to the futurist, and I’ve admired many of his ideas ever since. As an irrelevant but nonetheless fascinating aside, virtual world residents who find their schedules unbearably stretched may take an interest in the fact that Fuller practiced Polyphasic sleeping for two years: only two hours a day via very short naps at regular intervals.

Fuller and Shoji Sadao’s U.S. Pavilion at the ’67 Expo in Montreal – Image courtesy of David Gomez Rosado

Fuller and Shoji Sadao dreamed of placing a climate-controlled geodesic dome over Manhattan – Photo courtesy of NeutralSurface

Buckminster Fuller’s domes were the first thing I thought of when I rezzed at Green Phosphor’s new facility in Second Life®, which is surrounded by an immense – even by SL standards – webbed rotating sphere. The effect is both elegant and highly dramatic.

If you click to enlarge, you will see that the spec at approximately the middle of this image is me, standing on a platform above the dome

Werner Kurosawa, the virtual architect

Created by Belgian architect Werner Kurosawa (aka Werner van Dermeersch), Green Phosphor is among the most handsome and livable virtual corporate campuses that I know of.

It was so not a surprise then when I visited Werner’s website and discovered various videos on Buckminster Fuller and links to the organization that bear the maverick’s name.

“Of course it is a tribute to him because he surpasses the ordinary, which every architect should do to have the right to use the title of architect. On the other hand, it was for my friend and client Tom Barman – lead singer of the Belgian group Deus - who used the “image” of Bucky as a reference to me when he wrote the song “The Architect” in their latest CD (look for the tape recorder on the bottom right).

In addition to his architectural work, Werner creates art installations, “from big to small.” From time to time he collaborates with his friend and composer Serge Verstockt on contemporary classical music and he also teaches Master classes in Art in Antwerp.

His Second Life name, of course, alludes to two of the greatest film directors of all time. He described a scene in Werner Herzog’s latest film, where an upside down image of a waterfall is seen in a drop of rain clinging to a leaf. He loves all films by Akira Kurosawa, but “Ikuru holds a special place in my heart.”

When Werner gets real, his predilections range from the university that Kasua Sejima built in Lausanne, the Lemoine house in Bordeaux by Rem Koolhaas – there’s also a great video about it here, via Gizmodo - which he believes to have been a milestone at that time, and the pyramid of Cheops in Giza.

Given the environmental advantages to the Green Phosphor dome, I expected Werner to answer affirmatively when asked if he considered ecological issues when building virtually. I was mistaken. “I consider environmental issues in Real Life. We would have to stop using computers and the Internet if we were to consider environmental issues in Second Life,” he said.

Most of the people in his life - including his Real Life clients - think he’s wasting his time in Second Life, “but I believe there is a big future ahead for the 3D Internet.”

Certainly the Real Life company Green Phosphor thinks so. “We produce the leading tool for visualizing data within virtual worlds,” said Ben Lindquist, the company’s CEO. “While our tool works in Second Life, Sun's Wonderland, and soon in Forterra's OLIVE, we have only one headquarters - the virtual headquarters that Werner Kurosawa built for us in Second Life.”

In this video, Lindquist explains how the company is using patent-pending technology to implement a virtual laboratory that has the potential of reducing the time and cost spent on drug development by up to 50%.

“I met Ben Lindquist at Brooklyn is Watching. I saw him building his first Graphs there and found them intriguing. When Green Phosphor rented half of the sim and put a prefab house there, I proposed that I would make a unique workplace in exchange for knowledge and a steady place to experiment next to BiW,” explained Werner.

Lindquist seems pleased with the arrangement: “The space that Werner created for us makes me happy when I move around in it; its design is clean yet comfortable; curvy yet solid. He took into consideration how the water in Second Life interacts with surfaces; reflections play upon the virtual cement and the view out into the rest of the sim is always interesting, thanks to the phantom prim structure Werner created to rotate around the entire island.”

So successful, in my view, was Werner’s rendering of Green Phosphor’s look and brand in Second Life, that I asked him if he’d collaborated with the company’s advertising or PR agency to bring it about. “No, but Ben has a nice father, Mark Lindquist, a famous sculptor whom I sometimes meet in Second Life and we have a lot of fun!” replied Werner.

Werner Kurosawa

Still, the people in Werner’s Real Life have a hard time understanding what he finds so compelling about virtual worlds. “People aren’t used to navigating in 3D and run around like flatlanders. I have the same experience with my work in Real Life when the scale gets really big or something is out of the ordinary,” he mused.

And Werner has been known to work on a very grand scale.

In Second Life: Werner's Twisted Tetrahedron Tower - 3,500m high

In Real Life: Werner's Lightwall installation: 1,2 km across and 16km high. Photos courtesy of Werner Kurosawa

“They have difficulty grasping what is going on and it takes a long time for them to really see it. They aren’t used to flying around or even disconnecting what they are seeing from their bodies, especially when their view gets out of the XY plane. They get disoriented,” he continued.

Z Apartments at Saturn - Photos courtesy of Werner Kurosawa

Werner explained how, soon after he graduated, he created some installations with plans and models and televised video of those models. “While they couldn’t read the plans and most could not read the models, everyone accepted television as ”real” (which it wasn’t). Perspective drawings where read correctly even when they weren’t drawn right.”

He is primarily interested in perception and perspective: “You have to keep in mind that the view you see in Second Life is calculated as a projection on a 2D surface of a “3D” world based on the same perspective model that was once made 500 years ago with a steady horizon at 1.65m high seen with one static eye. And we know that it isn’t “reality” but until now our society and products are based on that. We have two eyes moving in a moving head on a moving body.”

Werner freely admits that he was disgusted with Second Life after one or two hours the day he rezzed back in January of 2007. Some of his students had recommended it saying that it would really be his thing. He explained: “It was ugly. It had a much lower resolution than the 3D game engines I had used a lot before to do performances. The first engine I hacked was Duke Nukem back in1993. You had to pay for everything, and most avatars didn’t make contact with each other and those who did weren’t interesting at all. I returned many months later and it was more the social community that kept me going and finally introduced it as a tool. I was using the Unreal Engine 3 at that time with a lot more possibilities for 3D rendering.”

Hyperbolic Space - Photos courtesy of Werner Kurosawa

“Then, by meeting some very interesting people from all over the globe, I found I had a reason to stay inside. People started to ask me to sell them things I had made, which was more trouble than it was worth, so I always give my creations away. To this day I haven’t spent a penny in SL. And when you are creative and curious, you can find enough tools to make things yourself or trade with others. I do try to script my own things. SL gave me the need to program, which is also a new evolution in architecture with all the generative architecture going on. I try to learn with a lot of trial and a lot of error, but I do a lot of copy and paste from existing pieces of code wandering on the net. I see it as a tool and my experience with programmers is that they can program but that doesn’t mean they have ideas on what to create.”

So what does Werner wish that he could do the most that he cannot? Turns out he’d like to fly in Real Life... just like he does in Second Life.

You can visit Green Phosphor by teleporting directly from here.