Making the Most of Meeting in the Physical World: Evocative Artifacts

MIT’s Technology Review recently published an article on how CardCloud Spells the End of Physical Business Cards.

As someone who spends most of their professional life immersed in the online world, I tend to agree that physical business cards are not an ideal tool for information exchange in the physical world.

But I have a slightly different idea about why I feel that’s the case.

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How to create a “flying camera tour” in Jibe and Unity3d

Here at ReactionGrid, we love it when people ask us questions about Jibe (our multiuser virtual world platform based on Unity3d).  Jibe is a rapidly evolving platform, and the most innovative ideas for both using and improving Jibe always come directly from our users.  Which is why we encourage everyone to submit questions and new feature ideas via the ticket system on our support portal.

Today I saw a ticket from a new Jibe user asking if it was possible to create a flying camera tour in their Jibe world. They wanted people to be able to click something and have their avatar’s camera fly around on a predefined tour path through their Jibe world.

We include in our Jibe platform a Presentation Screen System that lets people automatically set their camera view when they sit down to watch a slideshow or video presentation.  And with a few tweaks, you can use the scripts from this system to easily create a flying camera tour experience.

Here’s how to do it.

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The Riddle of the Sphinx: Using Google Warehouse models in Jibe and Unity3d

Google Warehouse is a fantastic resource for free 3d models.  And it’s especially fun to hunt for models of beautiful historical landmarks that you can pull into your own multiuser virtual world.

Today we’re going to bring a model of the Great Sphinx of Giza from Google Warehouse into a multiuser Jibe world using Unity3d.  And we’ll script the Sphinx so it asks a riddle when any avatar walks up to it.

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Interactivity in Virtual Worlds: Using Triggers in Jibe and Unity3d

The physical world around us is responsive to our presence.

The same experience can be recreated in virtual worlds.

You just have to learn a few new tricks.

Those of us designing virtual worlds want to make them as engaging and interesting as possible.  There are many different ways to accomplish this goal.  You can start by creating a visually interesting space.  Make it beautiful to look at.  Fill it with things that move and look alive.  Encourage exploration by rewarding people with fun things to discover.  And never forget the power of sounds.

All of these methods will help you design a virtual space that is engaging to visitors.  But at some point you’ll realize that you want to build a world that is responsive to the people who are exploring it.

Looking and listening is fun.  Interactivity is even better.

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Hypergrid Adventurers Club – Visiting a recreation of the astronomical observatory at Pic du Midi de Bigorre

Our Hypergrid Adventurers Club visited a virtual recreation of Pic du Midi de Bigorre in NewWorldGrid this past Sunday.  Follow in our footsteps and check it out for yourself!

Pic du Midi de Biogorre is a mountain in the French Pyrenees famous for its astronomical observatory.

Aime Socrates (who has also built some amazing recreations of nuclear research facilities at CERN and physics education spaces) is building the mountain out as a learning space for students interested in astronomy.

Here are some photos from our journey.

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Jibe 1.1: Test our new camera controls at my chicken testing facility.

Jibe 1.1 is now being rolled out!  Here’s more info on what’s new.

We’re very excited about the update.  In addition to some other new features and lots of bugfixes, we’ve expanded how the camera works in Jibe.

To try out our new camera controls, just visit my Jibe world and look for the big sign and big chickens set up near the default landing area.

No chickens are being harmed in this test. I swear.

The chickens are all making chickeny sounds, and you’ll be able to hear them more clearly as you zoom your camera in on them (your “ears” are attached to your camera).

Please send us a ticket if you have any feedback or notice any bugs.  And for more info about camera controls, be sure to read this page on our wiki.

Thanks, and have fun!

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Collaborating using web-based tools with Jibe: Animations and iTween

I recently wrote about some of the affordances of having a multiuser virtual world displayed in a webpage.  To illustrate this, here’s an example:

Left to Right: Twitter + Jibe + Dabbleboard

A multiuser Jibe world can be embedded in any webpage.  So what you see in the above screenshot is a webpage that has a Twitter widget on the left, my Jibe world in the middle, and a shared Dabbleboard on the right.  If you’re wondering how I did this, you can simply visit my Jibe page and take a peek at the HTML source.  Pretty simple stuff.

I’ve just started learning how to use a great tool called iTween.  It’s a powerful and easy to use animation system for Unity created by Bob Berkebile, and you can pick it up for free in the Unity Asset Store.  I’ve also been using another free Unity tool called the iTween Visual Editor, created by David Koontz.

These tools allow you to animate and move anything in the Unity editor, which can then be uploaded into a multiuser Jibe world. You create waypoints in the virtual environment and can see lines connecting each waypoint so you can easily visualize the exact path that an object will move along.

I’m a total newbie at all of this, so I love meeting people to discuss ideas and brainstorm.  Recently, I was in my Jibe world and wanted to show someone else my ideas for different pathways I was planning to lay out for my flying dragons.  We walked around my Jibe world together, checking out what I had already set up while talking on voice.

Then I had an idea.  I pulled up an aerial screenshot of my Jibe world’s terrain.  Dropped it into the Dabbleboard.  Drew some lines on it to show my plans for some new pathways.  The person I was meeting with then added some lines and waypoints of their own to the Dabbleboard to illustrate their own ideas.  You can see some of the results in the above screenshot.

Bingo.  Collaboration.

It was a great experience for me to be able to walk and talk with someone while we explored my Jibe world and simultaneously sketched out new ideas.  Really simple, and really powerful.  And a fun way to learn, too.

If you know of any other web-based tools that might integrate nicely on a webpage with Jibe, please let me know in the blog comments or join our conversations in our Jibe-Unity3d Google Group.  Thanks for sharing your ideas!

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Hypergrid Adventurers Club – Visiting China Town in Francogrid

Our Hypergrid Adventurers Club visited a beautiful region called China Town in Francogrid this past Sunday.  Follow in our footsteps and check it out for yourself!

China Town is under construction and being built by Vinc Sonic, but he’s already done a fantastic job of creating a very atmospheric cityspace with lots of detail.

Here are some photos of our journey.

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Why a Virtual World on a Webpage is Awesome

Is running a virtual world in a web browser really that big a deal?  If you have to download a browser plugin, then why not just download a standalone application?  What’s the point of having a virtual world sitting in a webpage?  Does it really make any difference?

I hear these questions a lot.  So let me share a few of my recent experiences with Jibe and setting up my own web-based Jibe world.

I need to get folks into my Jibe world quickly.
Ah right, it’s just a URL.

I can’t overstate how powerful it is to be able to give out a URL and tell folks “just click on it and you’ll be in my virtual world.”  And even though they have to download a Unity plugin to make it work, the whole process still happens within the web browser itself.

Think about how much time you spend each day in front of your web browser.  If you’re like most folks, a web browser is probably always open on your computer.  Which means that anything happening in your web browser is always right at hand.

And since my Jibe world is just a URL, I can make it something short and easy for me to remember.  Easy for me to quickly jot down on a piece of paper, too.  I just write or type and that’s it.

I need to add links to useful info for people visiting my my Jibe world.
Oh wait, I can just add that as HTML inside the webpage where Jibe lives.

Since my Jibe world lives on a plain old webpage, I can easily add additional text and hyperlinks that appear around the Jibe world on the page.  Tweaking a web page like that is a snap, even for a web-wrangler like myself who uses a pretty basic HTML editor.

I want to use Google Moderator and Dabbleboard with people in Jibe.
Hold on, I can just embed them next to the Jibe world on the webpage.

Again, my Jibe world lives on a plain old webpage.  Which means I can use iframes to embed a useful web-based application and have everyone see it while they are inside my virtual world.  And there are a lot of great web-based collaborative tools out there.

Standing around in a 3d environment looking at 2d documents hanging on virtual walls has always left me scratching my head a bit.  Especially when those 2d documents need to be dynamic and collaborative.  Why not use the right tool for the right job?  Have the 2d content live on the webpage, and have the engaging 3d content in the 3d window.  That gives you the best of both worlds, and both can exist on the same webpage.

I need to track visitors to my Jibe world.  How do I script that inworld?
Oh duh.  I can just add Google Analytics to the webpage where Jibe lives.

Took me about an hour mulling things over before I suddenly realized this one.  A quick copy/paste of the Google Analytics javascript code into my web page, and I was done.

For those of us used to using virtual worlds as standalone applications, you can see how realizing the real power of a virtual world in a webpage requires unlearning some things.  You don’t need to do everything inside the 3d world itself.  You have the power of other web-based applications right there on the same page.

And I haven’t even touched on the more complex affordances of Jibe and the web.  Like being able to tie in preexisting web-based registration systems on the backend.  Or being able to integrate Jibe with a preexisting web-based content or learning management systems.

A virtual world on a webpage is awesome simply because the web is full of awesome tools.

And they can all work together.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester