Thursday, 18 January 2007

Working in a 3D World

I've just been eavesdropping on an interesting conversation about a building project in SL. The plan was to investigate re-modelling a meeting room. The flexibility of a virtual environment soon became apparent.....

First off, how do you compare the new room with the orignial?

Simple - take a copy of the room before you start! Then if the modifications go pear-shaped, you just reinstate the original.

Then, where do you do the work.... the plan was to involve a number of people in a collaboration exercise.... but how to stop them from trashing the rest of the building?

Again, relatively simple.... put the copy of the room in a sandbox away from the original building.

But then came the further leap of the imagination, as it was suggested that the sandbox area should be created in a box 300 ft up in the air! Now OK, this is a routine technique in SL, but for the un-initiated person still immersed in Real Life, it is another of the radical differences between SL and RL. And remember, something that YOU consider to be blindingly obvious is often seen as something REALLY clever and imaginative by someone else!

As well as considering vertical space (for a "private" venue) the vertical also proivdes a way of utilising a plot of land to the full.... but whereas in RL, you need foundations and supports, in SL objects can be suspended in mid-air just by "Art" *

Other concepts to consider when building are templates or grids to aid in layout.... again, in RL you can use something similar, but in SL you have the advantage that a whole layout grid can be put in place or deleted at the click of a mouse.

Finally, from another security perspective, the map function in SL provides an instant areal view of any new island or parcel of land..... so even if you have access controls and a virtual fence to keep intruders out, anyone can bring up the map view and zoom in to see what you are up to. Anyone wishing to keep their building works a secret, must remember to put a giant virtual dust-sheet over the whole operation to keep out prying eyes!

So, once again, we have SL mirroring RL, but then going beyond our normal boundaries and requiring a much broader mind-set to take full advantage of the (virtual) environment.

* Suspending objects in space using "Art" - a concept developed by Douglas Adams in the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Used to suspend a plastic cup in mid-air as part of a 3-mile high statue of Arthur Dent throwing his cup at a Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser.

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