Second Earth - MIT Technology Review
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Even the screen of a GPS-enabled camera phone could serve as a temporary window into the Metaverse. Carry it with you on your next house-hunting expedition, for example, and it could connect to real-estate databases containing 3-D floor plans and information on sale prices, property taxes, and the like for every house on every block. In fact, Second Life and Google Earth are likely to endure just as they are with the usual upgrades well into the Metaverse era.
Department of Defense and other first-responder agencies. People will enter this environment using PC-based software similar to the programs that already grant access to Second Life and Google Earth. The central commons itself could be designed as a mirror world or a virtual world or some interleaving of the two: But either way, partisans say, the full Metaverse will encompass thousands of individual virtual worlds and mirror worlds, each with its own special purpose.
The worlds of the Metaverse will be much more diverse but still bridgeable, Rolston predicts. But such environments may soon be as unavoidable as the Web itself: And if you take a few months to explore Second Life, as I have done recently, you may begin to understand why many people have begun to think of it as a true second home—and why 3-D worlds are a better medium for many types of communication than the old 2-D Internet.
To begin with, Second Life is beautiful—wholly unlike the Metaverse one might imagine from reading Snow Crash. Linden Lab thoughtfully arranges a gorgeous golden-orange sunset every four hours. Single-player puzzle worlds such as Myst provided riveting 3-D graphics as long ago as the early s, but these worlds were utterly lonely, leaving users with no reason to return after all the puzzles had been solved.
Second Life residents also communicate through the buildings and other objects they create. Using built-in 3-D modeling tools, any resident can create something simple, like a flowerpot or a crude hut.
Business has been so brisk that LaRoche now employs four other full-time modelers and 19 contractors. Her agency recently finished an entire island of oceanographic and meteorological exhibits for NOAA, including a glacier, a submarine tour of a tropical reef, and an airplane ride through a hurricane [ video ] [ SLurl ].
But other parts of Second Life are more businesslike. In March, for example, Coldwell Banker opened a Second Life real-estate brokerage where new residents can tour model virtual homes and make purchases at below-market rates [ video ] [ SLurl ]. InStarwood Hotels used Second Life as a virtual testing ground for a new chain of real-world hotels, called Aloft. The company constructed a prototype where visitors could walk the grounds, swim in the pool, relax in the lobby, and inspect the guest rooms [ video ] [ SLurl ].
Most structures in the Second Life universe, of course, lack any serious business purpose. A short teleport-hop away from virtual Dublin is virtual Amsterdam, where the canals, the houseboats, and even the alleyways of the red-light district have been textured with photographs from the real Amsterdam to lend authenticity [ video ] [ SLurl ].
According to Ondrejka, Linden Lab must purchase and install more than servers every week to keep up with all the new members pouring into Second Life, who increase the computational load by creating new objects and demanding their own slices of land.
This architecture is what makes it next to impossible to imagine re-creating a full-scale earth within Second Life, even at a low level of detail.
At one region per server, simulating just the As it turns out, simulations need not be convincing to be enveloping. By the spring ofless than two years after it was launched, Google Earth had already been downloaded more than million times.
Google Earth and its lesser-known imitator, Microsoft Virtual Earth, owe their existence to a convergence in the early s of several trends, including a drop in the price of satellite and aerial imagery, the more widespread availability of topographical and other geographical information collected by national governments around the world, the standardization of 3-D modeling technologies originally developed for video games, and the spread of consumer PCs with graphics cards capable of 3-D hardware acceleration.
The latest information on traffic jams, stock prices, or water quality would appear exactly where expected—overlaid on virtual roads and stock exchanges and water mains.
But just as important, mirror worlds would function as social spaces, where people seeking similar information would frequently cross paths and share ideas. There are superficial differences: Just as Web browsers depend on HTML to figure out how and where to display text and images on a Web page, Google Earth depends on a standard called KMLthe keyhole markup language, to tell it where geographic data should be placed on the underlying latitude-longitude grid.
This layering capability transforms Google Earth from a mere digital globe into something more like a 3-D Wikipedia of the planet. The results can be unexpectedly arresting. In one recent example, the U. The closest views reveal that house after house has been reduced to a crumbling wreck—roofs burned away, contents apparently looted.
Pop-up boxes contain testimony from survivors, statistics on the displaced populations, and dramatic, often grisly photographs taken in the field or at refugee camps [ Google Earth link ].
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This evidence of genocide is attached to the same digital earth where most U. Which is exactly what the Holocaust museum intends: The Sudanese themselves cannot download Google Earth, owing to U.
Just as anyone can create a new layer for Google Earth, anyone with basic 3-D modeling skills can add buildings, bridges, and other objects to it. Google Earth uses the open Collada 3-D modeling format, which was originally created by Sony as a way to speed the development of video-game worlds for the Playstation Portable and the Playstation 3.
Using a Google program called SketchUpamateur architects have built thousands of Collada models and uploaded them to the Google 3D Warehousea free library of signature buildings and other 3-D models. Larger organizations around the world now have terabytes of Collada-formatted virtual objects in storage and can easily transform them into data layers for Google Earth. The model is so finely detailed that a deft user of the Google Earth navigation controls can steer the camera through the front door of the newly renovated Reichstag and into the chambers of the German parliament.
As it turns out, KML also supports direct, real-time exchanges over the Internet using the hypertext transfer protocol HTTPthe basic communications protocol of the Web. One hypnotic example is the 3-D flight tracker developed by Fboweb. Download the KML layer for one of the eight major U. As time passes, each flight leaves a purple trail recording every ascent, turn, and descent, all the way down to the runway.
Other scientists, however, are already using Google Earth to monitor live sensor networks. And what better place to mine reality than in virtual space, where getting underneath, around, and inside data-rich representations of real-world objects is effortless?
In the field, technicians or soldiers may get 2-D slices of the most critical information through wireless handheld devices or heads-up displays; in operations centers, managers or military commanders will dive into full 3-D sensoriums to visualize their domains. I have a general feel for the world. This is what humans are built for, and this is the way they will want to deal with their computers. But for a true Metaverse to emerge, programmers must begin to weave together the technologies of social virtual worlds and mirror worlds.
That would be a simpler task if Google and Linden Labs would release the source code behind their respective platforms, or at least provide application programming interfaces APIs so that outside developers could tap into their deeper functions.
Ondrejka says the code for the core Second Life simulation software will follow. First, he says, the company needs to get that software working better—and figure out how to make money in a world where it may no longer control the expansion of the Second Life ecosystem. The real progress toward a fusion of Second Life and Google Earth is going on outside their home companies.
No one knows yet how to bring Second Life-like avatars directly into Google Earth, but researchers at Intel have demonstrated one possible approach. In latethey created a primitive video game, called Mars Sucksthat challenges Google Earth users to search out and destroy Martian invaders using clues to the locations of their spaceships.
The small-town—Missouri story—despite all the corpses, funerals and cremations—is not so much about death as about coping with grief. Her mother becomes an angry widow and lets Daralynn out of the house only to accompany her to work at her beauty parlor and her stylist job at Danielson Family Funeral Home. Before the Crash and A.
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When the mysterious Mr. Because he is intensely self-conscious, almost everything humiliates Charles past endurance, and in truth his classmates do tease him for being different.
Klise's previous books Regarding the Fountain, etc. Readers will hope for a sequel to this touching, funny book. Starring goofy but loveable Charles Harrisong, a boy from Normal, Ill.How to draw 3 Clues from "Meet Polka Dots!" & "Animals in our House?"
Just beneath these seemingly routine trappings, however, lurks a far more rewarding tale, for the Harrisongs are one of those uncommon at least, in literature species, a cohesive nuclear family whose members, for all their occasional fallings-out, love and respect each other to pieces.
Her depiction of crying animals strikes just the right tone: The horse's silly explanation helps keep the tone light: Little Rabbit returns home disappointed, only to discover that Mother Rabbit still cries too, sometimes even when she is happy. The warm acrylic illustrations have a retro quality and are full of humor and detail: Little Rabbit finds the cat at the fish market naturally ; the horse's new coiffure is a bit ridiculous; and the animals play pin the tail on the rabbit at the party.
A great choice for reading aloud or one-on-one sharing, this tale will prompt comments from children, who will relate to the characters and enjoy the rich artwork. Little Rabbit decides that "Crying is for babies. But his three best friends still cry, and they explain why.
When it turns out that even his mother cries--sometimes because she is happy--Little Rabbit changes his mind about crying and about inviting his party guests. Delicious acrylic paintings, in a subdued but springlike palette, depict a cozy home, full of enjoyable visual details, and Little Rabbit's journey to see his friends offers a host of animals for children to name as well as some touches of sweet humor.