Thursday, August 20, 2015

Linden Lab Aims to Build the WordPress of Virtual Reality

Second Life creator Linden Lab has announced that it has begun inviting creative people to test its new virtual reality world, code-named Project Sansar. Project Sansar is scheduled to open to the public in 2016, and its aim is to democratize virtual reality. Much like Second Life, the platform aims to empower people to easily create, share, and monetize their own multi-user, interactive virtual experiences, without requiring engineering resources. Linden Lab said the platform will enable professional-level quality and performance with “exceptional visual fidelity, 3D audio, and physics simulation.”

Project Sansar will be optimized for VR headsets, but also accessible via PCs and mobile devices. “We want to lower the barrier of entry for VR experience creation,” said Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg in a statement. “Project Sansar will do for virtual experiences what WordPress has done for the web: empower a broad range of people to create with professional quality and reach global audiences. “By greatly expanding who can create virtual experiences, Project Sansar will also extend the value of VR to a wide variety of use-cases – from gaming and entertainment to education, architecture, art, community-building, business meetings, healthcare, conferences, training, and more.”

Linden Labs has learned from Second Life it seems that creatives want to use their own tools for creating content and those that are invited to help test Project Sansar will create 3D content using Autodesk’s Maya software. At the consumer launch next year, Project Sansar will support a variety of third-party creation tools as well as native building options.

I look forward to seeing what the Linden Lab folks are going to release and what my friends that are avid Second Life users think of this new VR platform from the masters of virtual worlds. With making VR world creation 'Wordpress simple', we shall see if Sansar becomes our first choice and a second life in virtual reality.

Friday, August 7, 2015

TIME to make Virtual Reality look stupid

 TIME magazine just released its latest cover featuring Palmer Lucky, the creator of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, in probably one of the dumbest poses imaginable. Sure those in a headset can feel like a rock star, but they look like a dork in the process and this cover definitely doesn't help this image.

Of course it did not take long for the Internet to respond accordingly.

Thanks TIME! *sigh #facepalmer

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Autodesk's Stingray gets into the Game

 With their initial announcement of stepping into the game development arena made back in March, Autodesk finally launched their Stingray game engine this past week. Autodesk is going after small to mid-sized studios that don't have large programming teams so ease of use and simplicity to create content is a must if Stingray wants to compete against game engines like Unreal 4 and Unity 5. Built around the Bitsquid engine it bought last year, it has equipped the engine with node-based scripting tools to make coding a drag-and-drop affair.

One advantage to Stingray is that Autodesk product users (Maya, 3DS Max, MayaT) will benefit from extra integration over these other engines. Autodesk will also be offering Stingray's C++ source code (for a fee) to companies that want deeper customization. "Live Link" is a Stingray feature for multi-platform testing. With Live Link, you can tweak a model inside Maya LT and see the changes in Stingray on a given platform in real time. You can also see live camera level fly-throughs, animations and other content.

Stingray also offers particle and other visual effects options, along with post-processing effects like depth-of-field, lens blur and motion blur effects. It can use NVIDIA's PhysX physics system and works with Autodesk gameware tools like Beast for global illumination, HumanIK "ragdoll" physics, and Scaleform.

On top of gaming, the company sees the tech as being useful for architectural and design visualization and I expect we will see more of Stingray at upcoming AEC Hackathons. Stingray arrives to Windows via subscription starting on August 19th. Separately, Maya LT will include a free copy of Stingray for $30 per month as well a bit later this summer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Uniting Kingdoms - AEC Hackathon goes to London

The AEC Hackathon 2.4 was this past weekend in London. Held at Future Cities Catapult's Urban Innovation Centre, the weekend long event brought together technology developers with professionals from the built environment to create technology solutions to industry problems. While I was unable to physically attend due to my work schedule, I was still able to remote MC on the big screen and keep things going thanks to great Internet connection.

 The really exciting things about this AEC Hackathon for me are it was the first one outside of the United States and the first one supported and locally organized by a government entity. The local lead organizer was Simon Hart from Innovate UK. Innovate UK is the UK's innovation agency that works with people, companies and partner organizations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy.

Simon and team did an amazing job with the help of AEC Hackathon board member Paul Doherty that was onsite in the UK. The challenges ranged from the usual AEC hack categories to those that used London city data. One team even created an application that worked with a hologram system. 

To be expected, the teams developed some pretty amazing hacks.

Best Overall Project: Team Ghost BIM Squad
Best Open Source Project: Team Optioneers
Innovate UK Hack Challenge - Mind the Gap: Team Gapathon
Autodesk Challenge: Team Ghost BIM Squad
National BIM Service Challenge: Team Massive
Future Cities Catapult Challenge: Team Gapathon
Energy Savings Trust Challenge: Team Gapathon  

Additional information about the event can be read at these blogs:
News Innovate UK Simon Hart's Blog: WTH just happened Pt 1
Autodesk Developer Network Blog: London #AECHackathon, Revit 2016 API Leader Attachment
Logical Errors Blog: AEC Hackathon – A participants perspective

Way to go UK AEC Hackers in making the first event overseas a smashing success. There will be another one next summer planned in London so get ready now!

Monday, June 29, 2015

AEC Hackathon 2.3 Southern California

The AEC Hackathon 2.3 in Southern California was this past weekend in Los Angeles. Held at UCLA's Department of Architecture and Urban Design, the weekend long event brought together technology developers with professionals from the built environment to create technology solutions to industry problems.

This AEC Hackathon set new records. While we always have folks at the events from all around the country and in some cases the world, 70% of the people in attendance were not from the SoCal area. A decent amount of us came down from the SF/Bay area and some from as far as the East Coast. We also had the highest ratio of tech engineer to industry personal with over 75% of the folks there having a technical background. 

To be expected, the teams developed some pretty amazing hacks. Watch the team presentations in the video below.

Best Overall Project: Team Rhumbix
Best Open Source: Team Holy Donut
Best Use of Experimental Tech: Team Cloud Tango & Team VRML (Virtual Review Management Loop)  
Genesis Award (sponsored by 2.2 Winner Team iPower): Team Agua Fresca  
BIMstorm Hack:
- Most Innovative Owner: Max, SPAWAR, DoD, Veteran Affairs
- Most Innovative Dev: Aditazz
- Best SEPS Design: Design Atlantic & Scarmack
- Best Connection: Attainia
- Best Hack of SEPS Data: 4D Pipeline  

Additional coverage of the event can be read here:
Brok Howard's Blog - SoCal AEC Hackathon
BuiltWorld's Blog - UCLA Hackathon Much More than Holy Donuts

Thanks to all that attended and thanks to Greg Howes, Willard Williams, the sponsors, and the folks at UCLA for a successful event.

Now off to London for AEC Hackathon 2.4!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

An Epic day of Unity with the Seattle VR scene

I just had an unforgettable day of VR here in the Seattle area. It started off at Envelop VR's office to discuss an upcoming VR event they organize called SEA VR and then my buddy Greg and I got to visit both Unity and Epic's local offices. I can't thank Nick and Pete enough for letting us see their VR rigs and try out their VR demos.


I had a great chat with Pete at Unity's office where I got a chance to see their setup and try out the HTC Vive unit. So far, this headset is by far my favorite HMD.

Next up was a visit to Epic Games' office just a few blocks away. While I am not a game developer, I am a big Epic fan. Epic's Unreal Engine is responsible for a variety of games I have loved playing over the years so this was a fan boy dream come true.

I also got a chance to see the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay demos that I never stand in line at conferences to see. First up was the super cool demo 'Showdown' that takes the user on slow motion trip through a street battle between futuristic cops and a giant robot (see the video below).

While this was among the best demos in VR I have seen to date, nothing has prepared me for what I experienced next. I got the opportunity to see a VR demo Epic did with Weta Studios, the company behind all the special effects for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.

The experience started with me in the mountain chamber of gold from the Hobbit movies. This alone was a 'WTF' experience as the scene looked exactly like it did in the movies. It looked so real and truly 'epic', that I was screaming into my hands to mute the sound of how awesome the experience was.

 The demo features the dragon Smaug swimming through mountains of gold looking for the thief (my character) it senses. Voiced by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Smaug speaks directly to the user with his daunting size on full display; 500 feet of red-scaled dragon. This demo is the kind of VR that I can put anyone in and they will automatically get why virtual reality is going to be a whole new level of media experience. Hands down this demo is the best I have ever seen so far.

I am so grateful to the guys at Epic and Unity for the truly fun day and I look forward to future visits to the Pacific Northwest to get my VR on.