Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Reaction Grid Out. Opensim HG2 & WebGL on Horizon!

Heritage Key on iPad
Reaction Grid has decided to go all out for their Unity3D web platform just when webGL is making it's debut going one better for it needs no plugin as Unity dose and it could stream Opensim regions right into a web page as demonstrated by Cloud Party without the conversation that is needed to put a region in Unity.

I'm not surprised though that Reaction Grid decided to abandon Opensim in favor of their Unity-based Jibe platform because it must be a lot of work maintaining two platforms, doing all the conversations and if the CEO has his heart in one and not the other then this is to be expected. RG has not been upgrading and keeping up with Opensim anyway so it was almost certainly going to happen eventually.

Gaga visiting the British Museum in Heritage Key grid during last year

Last year we saw Heritage key go the same way after putting more and more effort into Mesh for Unity. Originally, Heritage Key ( formerly the Rezable Greenies when they left Second Life) used Unity to put a showcase platform in a web page to draw visitor's attention to their Opensim grid which amounted to a living History Museum. I found HK after visiting their web site where I registered. I remember at the time though I still had to install the unity plugin.

Heritage Key was a pretty good virtual place with many exhibits ranging from Stonehenge to the Terra cotta Army of ancient China. I can't help thinking if they had stuck with Opensim then NPC bots could have been adapted to add even more life to their living exhibits.

The way in which HG set out to use Unity remains a valid objective for Opensim users regardless and the SpotON3D application - an invention taken from the open source and patented much to the disgust of the wider Opensim community (see this) - that streams a background viewer in a web page dose a similar job although you still have to have the SO3D viewer and application downloaded and installed. Ideally this is not the best way to do things though since there is a heavy download initially which, of course, is the put-off to mass adoption. The objective was always to have a basic first look at an Opensim world in a web page with no more than a light plugin application or, better still, nothing to download at all.

SpotON3D Opensim forked clone on a web page

Recently, we have seen the all new Cloud Party utilizing webGL to open a viewer in a web page. The speed with which it has been developed holds out the promise others will develop a similar webGL application for Opensim although webGL is still only supported by Firefox, Google Chrome, etc. Internet Explorer doesn't support it because Microsoft has stated the application is not secure enough yet.

There has been a call to crowd fund the development of a webGL application published on Hypergrid Business which, if anything comes of it, should encourage interested developers to  give it a go. I, personally, would certainly be willing in contributing money but, anyway,  Ludocraft, the developers of RealXtend - who have considerable experience of Opensim - has included a web application in their RealXtend/Tundra Road Map 2012/13 which aims to put work into the project this fall. Here is a quote from it... 

Bring Tundra to web via a NPAPI plugin - June-September 2012, 1-2 man months Compared to alternative ways to target the web, the NPAPI plugin route is relatively easy and feasible to implement. Some limitations have been identified (due to Qt and Ogre), but the code can be adapted to take these into account.

Their aim is to support their own flavor of Opensim of course which is the RealXstend platform and they are also aiming at the smart phone market but it remains to be seen if their work can be adapted for Opensim in general or even if they will do the work needed. Certainly, webGL dose hold out a lot of promise and there is a good chance that Opensim regions will make an appearance in a web page before too long and when it does I am confident it will boost traffic to the Opensim Metaverse.

Second Life look-alike, Cloud Party webGL viewer

Ideally, I think a webGL application need not be too heavy and I see no need for building tools or the many, many features available in a full viewer. It really doesn't need to offer anything more than the ability to render the scene reasonably well, allow avatar movement and a chat window - perhaps some limited view of a choice of complete outfit changes to view and wear all with a click. A decent AO built in for either gender goes without saying but the visitor should not have to learn too much. We want them to see the world and interact with it and even Hypergrid Teleport around. Once they are familiar and sufficiently immersed they will get a viewer to be able to do more and, in deed, use the grid search function to find more grids to visit. This is my vision how it should all work.

Hypergrid 2

Back in April, Diva Canto (Christa Lopes), joint developer of Hypergrid with Melanie Thielker of Avination Grid, said she expected to be releasing HG2 by the end of the summer so this month of August could be it. It's going to be an interesting experience and I for one am mightily curious how it is going to work.

What we are expecting, apart from a more secure inventory structure, is for content creators to be given the choice whether the content they make, give away or sell can leave their grid or not. Once objects are allowed to leave a grid then their is a high chance they will be copied and possibly redistributed or even sold in breach of the creator's copyright. However, with HG2 putting the decision in the hands of the creator rather than leaving it to a blanket decision for the whole grid dose offer a much more flexible system.

People who distribute Freebies like Linda Kellie who is willing to give her stuff away with no copyright restrictions at all can allow stuff to leave the grid. Other content makers and vendors can disallow it which has the effect of making all grids semi-walled gardens. However, how vendors choose to do business will be the acid test of the system really. Some may offer to deliver goods to other grids they trust while restricting the immediate sale to the home grid in which it was sold. The vendor will have to make it clear what they are prepared to do at point of sale which will probably mean offering some sort of list of grids they will supply too. This is not unlike Total Avatar Shop really as Sunny Whitfield, the owner, is willing to supply on many grids if you buy from her web site and, as far as I know, this has worked out fine.

Vendors might have to work a little harder in Opensim but at least the security will be improved and more options available and that will help build the Opensim Metaverse a lot quicker as new content makers come over to take advantage of this expanding market.