Sunday, September 18, 2005

Building the Metaverse @ AC2005

I am intrigued by the growth of 3D virtual worlds, and this session is one that I have been looking forward to. David Smith of the Croquet Project started off in his demonstration of Croquet. Alan Kay and his Squeak project are both contributors to this work.

Croquet is a peer to peer collaborative 3D world. Avatars within the Croquet world can interact with objects, and the lower level messages are replicated within the peer group. He demonstrated this by manipulating some windows in the world, along with more complex objects. He also demonstrated stepping through a window ... a portal ... into a moon/mars scape. Moving through these portals allows the avatars to enter into alternative worlds. They both went through a portal into a "water world" and immediately transformed into fish. As they swam around they came across a "text editor" white board thing ... and edited the text on it.

Ok ... he just opened a paint panel and drew a fish, colored it, and then inflated the 2D fish as he dropped it into the world. Now both of them were able to manipulate and move the new fish around. He entered another portal and showed a interactive spreadsheet, with the inherent ability to graph the values contained in the chart. He also demonstrated using windows as filters to show a filtered view of anything behind it. He was able to move it around showing the wire-frame models beneath the textures mapped onto objects.

All of this is written in Smalltalk, and uses Squeak ... completely cross-platform to Windows, Mac, and Linux. He indicated that they will have a Python, Ruby, and other language support soon.

Expanding on his filter demo, he showed how he can open a new window and use it as a portal to create new objects in the virtual world through the new window. So the window become a palette through which you are able to create even more content. Of course, as a development environment, he is also able to add code that will add behaviors to the objects. I'm downloading it!


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