Filed under: architectural resources, archvirtual, community, engineering, machinima, real estate, rl architecture, Unity3d, virtual architecture | Tags: architecture, archvirtual, city, downtown, dubuque, funding, game, iowa, kickstarter, main street, MMO, multi-player, multi-user, real, realtime, Unity3d, urban
We’re raising funds to launch Main Street MMO, and we need YOUR help as a founding supporter!
There are so many incredible sci-fi, war games and medieval adventures available today, with amazing complexity, detail and realism.
Main Street MMO seeks to combine the fun and interactivity of video games with real cities to promote local businesses, showcase city initiatives, visualize architectural designs, and a lot more.
We need your help!
Here’s a link to our Kickstarter page where you can pledge your support for our project:
As a founding supporter of Main Street MMO, we will engrave your name in a cornerstone, add your name to the credits, name an NPC after you, or even kickstart an MMO of your city (other creative award ideas are welcome! =)
Even if you can’t afford to back the project financially, please consider sharing this within your network to help raise awareness! Your tweets, facebook updates, and blog posts are the stuff a successful Kickstarter project is made of, so please help us spread the word!
We’re just getting started! For the past year, we’ve been partnering directly with local businesses in our premiere city of Dubuque, Iowa to determine which features they feel would be most useful in a technology like this, and have compiled a list of features and functionality we believe will take this project to a new level, but we need your help!
Please consider backing Main Street MMO! Your support is very much appreciated. If you think your city would be interested in something like this, or if you have ideas for new features we should add, please get in touch with us!
Filed under: second life, virtual architecture, rl architecture, architectural resources | Tags: second life, architecture days, orange island
“In our discovery of the aspects that influence the most the residents life, we decided to focus on a topic that is at heart of the our experience in Second Life: Architecture.
From Monday 17th to Wednesday 21st, join us on the Orange Island for the Architecture Days. We will have promising panels dotted with talk-show, show&tell, class and demo.”
Count me in! Learn more here: http://www.orange-island.com/?p=1114
Filed under: virtual architecture | Tags: collaborate, immersive workspaces, jon brouchoud, keystone bouchard, machinima, manifesto, modify, opensim, podcast, second life, virtual workplace, we shape our buildings
In this podcast, I review some of the reasons I remain so optimistic about the future of virtual worlds, and describe the fundamental characteristics I believe make user-generated 3D worlds a game changing new standard every organization should be exploring – with or without a budget.
I also touch on another point I intend to write more about, which is the failing premise of expensive, polished, static and exclusive content creation handed down by professional developers as the only means for organizations to build a presence in Second Life. If you want strictly developer-controlled content, buy an X-Box. I think we need to focus more on enabling the community of people we hope will actually use these places in a more participatory, dynamic and ongoing design development process. It’s about being less fearful of change, and more about creating architecture that is dynamic and reflexive, in a sense, to the community or organization’s ever-evolving needs. It’s a tremendous opportunity we have yet to fully explore.
I’ll admit to the hypocrisy of that challenge, given that I’m a content developer myself, and frequently take on assignments to do the same. For the most part, we haven’t seen a clear alternative (yet). But I think there are emerging opportunities on the horizon, and I think we need to move away from this familiar tune:
- build it once (pay a developer big bucks – build something way too big, on way too much land)
- hope like hell that it works and people visit (calculating success using archaic ROI models)
- stand idly by as it stagnates (because the money’s gone…)
- shut it down or let it sit vacant, then blame the platform (or even the community) for that failure
This is a mentality we’re naturally dragging into virtual worlds from physical reality, where we have no choice but to be shaped by our buildings, simply because they’re too expensive to modify. In sum, I think developer-centric practices ignore the fundamental paradigm-shift that user generated virtual worlds afford, and could stand to be re-considered, again and again until we finally do scratch the surface.
Allow me to digress further still, but I think the single, most significant difference between Second Life and other emerging platforms really isn’t all the stuff we hear about daily – I don’t think it will be things like ‘Nautilus‘ or Immersive Workspaces, imho, for lots of reasons, though I do certainly respect those efforts. It isn’t even just the idea of ‘user generated content’ – it goes deeper than that. I think the killer app for Second Life and OpenSIM is lying in wait beneath that deceptively simply little ‘Modify’ button we so often take for granted.
You won’t find a button that works quite like this one in any other immersive, virtual world platform, and it is a significant point of differentiation that needs more attention. This button is what keeps me from working in any of the competing platforms, and is certainly where the lion’s share of my future involvement with virtual worlds lies.
I hope to follow up on this meandering post and podcast with more fine-tuned thoughts, but wanted to put this out there as food for thought. If you want to talk more about what I think this all means, how I think it can be done, or why you think I’ve got it all wrong, lets chat it up. Leave a comment, send me an email (jbrouchoud at gmail) or meet me in-world (Keystone Bouchard).
Here is a summary of the podcast:
- In real life, as Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings and afterwards, our buildings shape us” but does that remain true in a virtual environment where the community of people who actually use the buildings are able to modify them at will?
- Second Life is the single, largest collective expression of creativity in a single location the world has ever seen – a cultural renaissance (three times the size of Boston? five times the size of San Francisco? four times the size of Seoul?)
- Realtime object creation, modification and sharing as a game changer – bigger than we can imagine now
- Prototype just about anything you can imagine
- Share those ideas with others, and see what the community thinks about it.
- Barriers to cross disciplinary sharing and innovation eroding
- Social component= glue transforming the creativity component from a solo experience into collaborative
- Inverting the traditional top-down hierarchy of design development – engaging (empowering?) community – employees, or your customers, students, etc.
- Collaborating in virtual space around 2D documents is overrated
- 3D-Wiki technology, build the tools that will help take collaborative innovation to the next level
- VW as arena where Wikinomics and Wisdom of the Crowds principles play out into 3D
- Replicate physical buildings only if they have iconic value, or if you’re building it for training and orientation. Different norms and expectations
- Still need to build on familiar patterns and visual cues – not just floating in space unreferenced (read: ‘On Physical Replication…‘)
- Virtual environments are more like a liquid than a solid artifact (See ‘We Shape our Virtual Buildings…’
- Heavy up-front investment with no community input or subsequent updating leads to failure – don’t blame the platform or the community!
- Lessons and opportunities from web 2.0 being lost in translation from 2D into 3D
- VW feels more like architecture – habit of thinking it’s permanent, inflexible, expensive
- Don’t drag that limitation into virtual worlds. In Second Life, we can shape our virtual buildings and afterwards, we can keep shaping them.
- We’re only dimly aware we are of the potential virtual worlds hold both now and into the future.
- We’re just getting started…
Filed under: rl architecture, second life, virtual architecture | Tags: bartlett school of architecture, hybrid machinima, UCL, unit 13
This video is now officially my favorite Second Life machinima of all time (not just because they mention Wikitecture Their use of hybrid machinima is incredibly well done, and the way they portray the architectural possibilities of virtual space is very inspiring; emphasizing a kind of virtual architecture not exclusively tethered to physical replication, yet navigationally familiar enough to prevent disorientation.
“UNIT 13 is an informal unit of the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. It was organized to explore the capabilities of virtual worlds for architectural practice. Unit 13 is currently operated within Second Life.”
Outstanding work, Unit 13! We can’t wait to see what you guys do next!
Thanks to Dusan Writer for the heads up!
Filed under: rl architecture, second life, virtual architecture | Tags: abstract, architecture, dreamland, lebbeus woods, moma, theory
Here we have Lebbeus Woods, who “continues to work at a small drafting table in a corner of his apartment here, a solitary, monklike figure churning out increasingly abstract architectural fantasies…”
Would someone please get this man a Second Life account?
He even has a show running at MoMA called ‘Dreamland’ (not to be confused with Anshe Chung’s virtual ‘Dreamland‘ empire in Second Life).
If ever there was an architect who’s work would benefit from virtual immersion, it is Lebbeus Woods. His sketches are brilliant, and will always hold an important post in architectural expression, but they are just so many static portals into his imagination. Wouldn’t it be better if the rest of the world could walk inside living, breathing, holistic creations in a virtual environment instead of traveling to MoMA to see sketches?
We have seen several projects within Second Life that have this kind of ‘shake-up’ potential to challenge the status quo, and even some outward facing projects that challenge real life architectural norms. But they’re still essentially off the industry radar, with very little uptake in mainstream discussion or education. There is no doubt in my mind that native architectural talent already immersed in Second Life has the skill and wherewithal to achieve such great heights, but how and when will their work be counted amongst the industry’s FIC? Will it ever be? Should it be?
In my humble opinion, the vast, amorphous, virtual fabric of the Second Life grid itself is already worthy of inclusion and consideration as one of the most significant architectural achievements of our time. The profound, the abstract, the literal, the silly, the corporate, the preposterous, the serious…the whole thing, every prim of it, ought to be considered a magnificent architectural manifestation on par with even the most recognized theoretical inventions. To be sure, Second Life is the greatest singular manifestation of free, creative architectural expression the world has ever seen. Yet it remains all but ignored by our profession.
When will architectural giants of theory see the low hanging fruit of virtual environments as a tool for enabling people from around the world to more fully experience their ideas in an immersive and holistic fashion than sketches and illustrations offer? Will they ever? Or will it have to be born from within? It seems increasingly clear to me that the architectural greats of tomorrow’s serious theory might not come from hallowed halls, but from avatars, and communities of avatars operating in virtual environments- not starchitects or solitary monklike figures.
Here are some other ‘food-for-thought’ quotes from this article about Lebbeus that I find very applicable to our collective work on the virtual frontier of architecture industry.
“During the 1960s firms like Superstudio in Florence, Italy, and Archigram in London were designing urban visions intended to shake up the status quo. These projects – walking, mechanized cities and mirrored megastructures that extended over mountain ranges and across deserts – were stinging attacks on a professional mainstream that avant-garde architects believed lacked imaginative energy.”
“By abandoning fantasy for the more pragmatic aspects of building, the profession has lost some of its capacity for self-criticism, not to mention one of its most valuable imaginative tools.”
And finally, a quote directly from Woods, “what interests me is what the world would be like if we were free of conventional limits. Maybe I can show what could happen if we lived by a different set of rules.”
Welcome to Second Life, Mr. Woods!
Quotes from “Lebbeus Woods: An architect who still explores the fringes of reality” in the International Herald Tribune. Full article HERE.
Filed under: architecture, rl architecture, virtual architecture | Tags: checkinarchitecture, fabio falzone, jacopo fontana, mario gerosa, virtual architecture
Check out Mario Gerosa’s interview, part of a Mission completed in the CheckinArchitecture project, submitted by Fabio Falzone and Jacopo Fontana. From their YouTube description:
“But what about traveling in the virtual worlds today? During the 80s, it was a trend to refer to traveling in virtual reality like a physical voyage, where the use of a head-mounted display was inseparable from the trip itself. Today, it is more about eyesight than body experience: we stand in front of the monitor without moving. It is a non-linear trip, similar to an expedition through a Borges tale, 2.0. Nevertheless, there’s lack of “tourist” guides and research engines among virtual worlds. Are virtual travels still an elite form of tourism and knowledge or will they, in their cheapness, become the mode of vacation for those who simply can’t afford the real thing?”
Read more about their mission HERE. Nice work!
Filed under: second life, virtual architecture, rl architecture, architectural resources, week in review | Tags: lotja loon, lucien herve, bennet Dynamo, Hidenori Watanave, atelier ten architects, Martin Purnell, Full Circle Architects, towervision, Theory Shaw, future green chatham
We had an outstanding range of community-submitted resources this week! Thanks so much for sharing the inside scoop on these projects, and keep it up!
It all started with Lotja Loon telling us about ‘Architecture and Design Classes: Bauhaus, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Hundertwasser
Then we had a tour of the excellent TowerVision project, followed by my enthusiastic review, “Raising the Bar for Architectural Visualization in Second Life“
Theory Shaw forwarded a jira issue related to 3D Model Interoperability, and the group responded! There is still time to cast your vote! See “3D Model Interoperability in Second Life”
Then Bennet Dynamo shared an invitation to the Lucien Herve exhibit opening held over the weekend. It is a great exhibit, and worth checking out, see “Lucien Hervé Exhibit Opening July 12, 1pm PDT“
Hidenori Watanave submitted information about Atelier Ten Architects and their new project in Second Life, read more here: “Atelier Ten Architects, “Real” Architects that are now “Virtual” Architects in Second Life“
Finally, Martin Purnell informed me of an upcoming Grand Opening of the Future Green Chatham project in Chicago, Illionois which has been replicated in Second Life, “Virtual Model of the Future Green Chatham Home, Grand Opening July 18-20, 2008“
Filed under: second life, architecture, virtual architecture, keystone bouchard, rl architecture, architectural resources, jon brouchoud, reflexive architecture, virtual workplace | Tags: collaboration, architecture, second life, architect, virtual world, virtual reality, virtual workplace, bedouin, web worker, remote work, workplace, office, facility planning, telework, jon brouchoud, keystone bouchard, crescendo design, commute, remote office, home office, telecommute
Assuming I have established a viable case for the 3D virtual workplace in post 1 and 2, what about the actual planning, design and virtual architecture required to support it? What are the new characteristics of this environment that deserve consideration when developing a virtual workplace? There is a lot to cover here, but I’ll do my best to include the main areas I think deserve the most attention.
First of all, the entire concept of user-generated content adds a unique twist to the virtual workplace. The ability for employees to build and customize their own spaces presents a whole new opportunity not possible (to this extent) in the physical workplace. The visual metaphors workers can evoke with 3D content can be quite illuminating. Erica Driver posted some excellent insight about this in a post back in February that I didn’t see until just last night – well worth a read. Every individual and team can customize their spaces to reflect their interests and status. Ultimately, there is no limit to the amount of creativity people will exhibit when given the opportunity and the tools to create anything they can think of. What they choose to do with those tools can convey a lot about who they are, and what is important to them – valuable currency in any kind of team-based collaboration.
Synchronous presence is also an obvious benefit to working virtually, but what about asynchronous presence? In a previous virtual workplace project I worked on, we employed a kind of ‘totem’ system whereby each employee had their own totem to rez wherever they wanted to suggest their interest or presence. The idea was that, if each project in a company had several employees working on it, they could each rez a totem nearby, so anyone could assess at a glance who was involved with which project . In workplaces that are more self-organizing, this can be an informal yet highly effective way for employees to suggest their interest in joining a particular team or working on a specific project. Taking it a step further, the totem can be programmed to communicate with a back-end database storing additional information pertinent to that employee’s status – such as on or offline, a list of projects they’re currently working on, their daily schedule, and more.
Virtual interaction also brings a lot of new opportunity for improved methods of communication and collaboration that are native to virtual environments and not easily achieved in physical reality. Obviously a personal favorite of mine is Wikitecture, which I think could also be a very useful tool in virtual workplace development, but there are quite a few new tools being developed, such as MIT’s virtual conference rooms that have the potential to make virtual meetings even more effective than real life ones. I think it will be interesting to see what Peter Quirk comes up with in this area as well. His most recent post (found here ) has some interesting thoughts on the topic, especially observing the immediate realities of Second Life interface, and what can be done to improve it for virtual work. The 3D cameras Mitch Kapor recently demonstrated will certainly improve the capacity to more naturally communicate in a virtual world. We have only scratched the surface of what a 3D interface can do to enhance collaboration, conferencing and communication.
In terms of actual deployment, it isn’t enough to simply buy an island and let employees build whatever and wherever they please, imho. It might be a useful temporary exercise in helping employees experiment and explore, and perhaps strong communication between employees might result in a coherent and useful workplace infrastructure, but chances are, it will result in a hodge-podge of stuff without any coherent order (see our first experiments with Wikitecture illustrates the outcome). This might be OK if it is always the same group working together on the same projects consistently, but it can quickly become challenging or impossible for new employees to understand and navigate, and does nothing to communicate the company’s core values, goals or vision. It becomes an exclusive function of individual expression, with no sense of direction.
On the other hand, a highly structured and polished workplace isn’t necessarily the right approach either. Without some degree of flexibility or room for employee expression, the place will remain sterile and lifeless. It is best to find a balance between the two extremes. There are lots of ways to approach this, but one of my favorites is what I think of as ‘bone and muscle’ approach. With this concept, you establish a coherent structure or backbone that organizes teams, departments or shared group workspace elements of the workplace, then encourage the individuals and teams to customize their spaces with their own content and design. In this way, the organization is able to establish a common visual language and wayfinding strategy for the shared infrastructure, yet employees are able to enjoy the freedom and expression of their own interests and abilities. It is not unlike a city infrastructure – starting with roads, sidewalks, public plazas and land parcels (the backbone), with independent architectural creations (the muscle) completing the urban fabric. I employed that technique on this project, and used a similar strategy for Architecture Islands infrastucture, for the arcspace build and, to some extend on Clear Ink Island. In each case, I learned something different about the various ingredients that need to compliment the architecture in order for community and productivity to thrive so it doesn’t whither on the vine, but that will be the topic of another post.
The jury is still out on this debate, but there is certainly a question of whether an organization should simply replicate its physical architecture exactly as it is in real life, and use it as their virtual workplace. My personal feeling is that fresh virtual context brings new opportunities and deserves fresh ways of rethinking the architecture. Having said that, I still think there is distinct value in replicating a building, but only if it is a signature piece that has some value or is easily recognizable and reinforces the organizations identity or history. In this way, the building serves as a kind of logo for the organization. However, I don’t think it is appropriate to replicate the entire building exactly as it is built in real life, unless it is to be used as a tool for training and orientation. Not only will it feel strange to the avatar scale, but it will also feel too enclosed and uncomfortable. Perhaps the replicated architecture can serve as a kind of backbone structure upon and around which a more free-form level of customized environment can emerge. However, in the end, it is impractical to expect that a building will function the same way it does in real-life when replicated in Second Life.
In cases where no signature (or singular) building exists, perhaps the virtual architecture can achieve that identity in ways the real-life architecture could not accomplish. In a project I recently worked on, the company CEO suggested that one of the primary goals of the project was to give the employees the sense that they are still all working together under one roof. Early in the company’s history, all of their employees worked together in the same space and shared a sense that they were all working together in the same space. As they grew, and opened other offices around the world, they lost the sense that they were all working together. In this case, the goal for the virtual workplace was to serve as a functional and visual metaphor that the employees could still, in a sense, come together and work in the same shared virtual space. In this way, the virtual architecture can serve as a powerful visual metaphor, helping to solve a core challenge the company is facing in a way that physical architecture could never achieve.
In physical reality, the expressiveness of architectural form is necessarily limited by forces such as resale value, and regional context, not to mention laws of gravity and protecting inhabitants from the elements. For the most part, a virtual workplace is free from such limiting factors, allowing for a far more referential expression of a company’s organizational structure, core values and vision. Where virtual workplaces lack, they more than compensate for in opportunities and advantages not possible in real life.
For these reasons and more, the time is absolutely right for any company, large or small, to start exploring the potential of a 3D virtual workplace.