Google in a day

Talk about taking over the (virtual) world…Google has acquired Jaiku and is working with Multiverse and both were announced in a day. The Jaiku purchase is a curiosity as they could have created their own version of the project from a few of the services they already have in house, though they wouldn’t have captured the existing users of Jaiku. BTW I think that Jaiku has more staying power than Twitter since it allows you blend RSS feeds including your Twitter feed, and it just has a cooler name.

More importantly to us though is the partnership with Multiverse, which Frank and I have planned to use for a while…you know when we get a few months free to build that virtual world. Well now with this partnership which includes using SketchUp models directly in Multiverse and being able to pull real world data such as terrain in from Google Earth it will make creating virtual worlds based on the real world much easier. I haven’t read the posts closely enough to see if KML will also be supported, but if it is then you can then link your data from your ArcGIS Server through KML into the Muliverse client. TELL ME THAT ISN’T COOL. When you have been working on projects that are trying to do similar things it is somewhat heart breaking to see it all come together, but at the same time you can spend less time on the backend and start putting your content together. You can bet we are going to get Sue’s Virtual Morgantown in there as soon as we get some free time. If anyone gets a world set up in Multiverse using the Google tools send us an invite so we can visit your world.

$1 billion invested in virtual worlds

Virtual Worlds Management, the organizers of the Virtual Worlds Conference this past March in New York and the Virtual Worlds Fall Conference next week in San Jose, CA, recently conducted market research on virtual worlds, and estimate that about $1 billion has been invested in 35 virtual world projects within the last 12 months, with much of that accounted for by Club Penguin (acquired by Disney for $700,000,000) and Havok (acquired by Intel for $110,000,000). With the debates about how broad the participation in virtual world applications really is, I’ll be curious to see what will be coming out of some of the conferences this fall and whether investment will continue to grow in 2008.

Leica updates Titan

ltLeica is rolling out the updates to Titan fairly regularly including today’s release which includes Terrain support, a custom drawing toolbar that includes KML export, and a navigational compass. I have to say that I was surprised that terrain support was on the bottom of the list in the announcement email as this is a fairly significant bit for the geoviz part of Titan and is definitely a type of data that people are interested in sharing (or at least using what is shared). Either way, the new update means I need to log on to my Windows box that is sitting neglected in the corner to look at the new goodies.

Zula Patrol kids’ show to get its own virtual world

The creators of the kids’ show Zula Patrol, which airs on PBS stations, are partnering with IBM to create an online immersive virtual world. Called Zulaworld, it will be targeted toward 4-8 year olds, and will be aimed at both home users and schools. According to the press release: “The large site will have multiple points of entry and layered content to correspond with the needs of kids at different stages of development. At the same time, educators and teachers will have access to a virtual world that supports lesson planning and global communication, while parents can access a host of different website controls.”

Not much detail is available right now, but it will be interesting to see how the IBM partnership helps shape the development of Zulaworld and whether it sees significant use in the classroom.

What Sue did the summer of 2006

So after we met some of the SketchUp guys at the geoblogger meet-up at the ESRI UC, Sue showed off her presentation that she had given earlier that day on her Virtual Morgantown project. Apparently the SketchUp guys liked the ArcScene/SketchUp project and after they got back from their summer round of conferences they posted Sue’s project on their blog today. Thanks to SketchUp for the recognition and a big thanks to Lucy, Zach, Kate, Samuel, and Ron for their help making the models. The downside is that I need to actually get the lab website up to speed since there will probably be more traffic.

Official Google SketchUp Blog: 3D time warp in West Virginia

Epidemiologists Turn to Video Game For Help

Ars Technica (an excellent tech news site, by the way) has an interesting article concerning epidemiologists turning to the game developer Blizzard for help. Blizzard is the developer and publisher of the wildly successful massively multiplayer online role-playing game, World of Warcraft (WoW for short). So why are epidemiologists so suddenly interested in games? Turns out virtual worlds with varied populations like WoW are just little social petri dishes for human behavior. This is evidenced by an event that happened a couple of years ago within the game. The developers initially created a virus for high level player areas, which is a very small population, for those unaware of the game. Then the unthinkable happened – it hit the cities where, fairly predictably, all hell broke loose. Oddly enough, this accident confirmed a great many models of disease spread created by epidemiologists. Now they want to take the show in the road, as it were, and test lots and lots of different scenarios and models using the game.

I remember the incident in game as I was on when it struck. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen real panic en mass. I sure don’t want to see the real thing… ever!

Are We Living in The Matrix…?

Ok, I’ll grant you this is a bit of a stretch for a Spatial post. However, it does have something to do with Virtual Worlds. Kinda. Sorta. And Metaphysics. Anyway, an article in the science section of the NY Times hypothesizes we might all be living in an “ancestor simulator” that people from the future might have built to see how the past worked. The notion is based upon the belief that it is technologically possible to develop processors so powerful they can mimic human brains and nervous systems perfectly. From a philosophical point of view, I can see where the idea has some merit. From a programmer point of view, I can’t fathom how these hypothetical “posthumans” avoid system crashes…. because EVERY system crashes eventually. Either way, how can you ensure your survival in this sim? According to economist Robin Hansen, it’s pretty simple – “you should try to be as interesting as possible, on the theory that the designer is more likely to keep you around for the next simulation.” That really needs to be a T-Shirt.

CyArk 3D Heritage Archive

Although this actually launched a couple of months ago, I wanted to point out the CyArk 3D Heritage Archive, which has a great story behind it and touches on some of the research we do in the area of representing landscapes, especially past landscapes, through geospatial technologies and virtual reconstructions. The CyArk 3D Heritage Archive is a collection of 3D models of cultural heritage sites, which are available freely from the CyArk website, which is part of the larger CyArk 3D Heritage Network. There are some amazing scans, like the ones for ancient Thebes or Mesa Verde, and some of the site have other documentation such as 3D CAD drawings, maps and photographs. There are currently 60 scans available, and there is a Java-based 3D point cloud viewer for viewing them in 3D. The hope is to use the models to do what we are working on in our own research, which is recreate past worlds in a virtual environment.

Also check out this San Francisco Chronicle article that talks about the founder of the CyArk project, Ben Kacyra, whose work on developing a 3D laser scanning tool led him to found the Kacyra Foundation to help archaeologists and other researchers scan historic sites.

Technology Review talks Second Earth

The online version of the latest issue (July/August 2007) of Technology Review has a fairly comprehensive article by Wade Roush about Second Life, virtual globes, social mapping, and the prospects for merging geospatial technologies and virtual world to create a Second Earth. None of the topics is especially new, but Roush does a good job of providing an overview of the various technologies and players. The main focus of the article, though, is to discuss the possibility of a Second Earth or metaverse and how that might come about. Roush starts off with the most obvious possibility, combining Second Life and Google Earth, but notes that both Google Earth and Linden Labs deny they are working on it. All in all, the article offers a nice synthesis of what’s going on in relation to the development of the metaverse and the convergence with geospatial technologies, and some intriguing possibilities for the next step.