Ai Austin is the virtual worlds avatar of Prof. Austin Tate at the University of Edinburgh. He is a researcher in Artificial Intelligence with an emphasis on distributed teamwork and collaboration, especially in emergency response. He is involved in distance education and teaches a MOOC on AI planning. He has been exploring the use of “I-Rooms” – “virtual spaces for intelligent interaction” for some time and this has included experimentation with virtual worlds and multi-user persistent collaborative instrumented meeting spaces. See http://openvce.net/iroom.
He is the Coordinator for the “Virtual University of Edinburgh” – Vue – see http://vue.ed.ac.uk – which supports staff and students at the University of Edinburgh in using virtual worlds such as Second Life, OpenSim and others for teaching, research and outreach.
HiFi Alpha Testing
He has been involved as a HiFi alpha tester since May 2014, with early trials on the shared sandbox.highfidelity.io and alpha.highfidelity.io domains, and as soon as the Windows version of the Domain manager/Stack Manager/Assignment Client was available has been providing an openly accessible domain running on server in Edinburgh at hifi://hifi.aiai.ed.ac.uk
He has been creating a blog (currently not available publicly as at 10-Sep-2014 due to HiFi alpha tester promises) of his experience as HiFi has been developing, and to track his experimentation and keep a record of screen snapshots in the early development phases of HiFi. These posts will be made public (http://blog.inf.ed.ac.uk/atate/?s=hifi) when High Fidelity approve this.
Collaboration and Communication Tests
Ai Austin and Be Austin alpha tester HiFi avatars are used in testing to see how well collaboration, avatar communication and social aspects work. Friendly interaction with other alpha testers, especially @Judas and @Richardus, has continued throughout the alpha test period.
Throughout the alpha test period, several large test meshes have been imported to HiFi to test mesh handling for complex 3D objects. These are meshes that been used in the last 20 years for a range of tests of 3D immersive and virtual worlds environments have been used during HiFi alpha testing. Conversions between the original 3D model formats, Collada (.dae) and AutoCAD FBX (.fbx) formats have been done as necessary. These include
- A scifi vehicle – Gerry Anderson’s Supercar – originally modelled in a professional 3D modelling package – with 575K vertices and 200K faces
- An oil rig created by RGU imported from the OSGrid Vue-Rig region in OpenSim – with 350K vertices and 275K faces
- A 3D model of the International Space Station – created by NASA
Meshes can be selected to edit (using the “`” back quote key) and a dialogue box appears to allow for position, scale, rotation and a range of animation properties to be changed. his allows for precise positing and allows the meshes to be enlarged…e.g. to the 1800m sphere used as a “skydome” visual backdrop on the Vue domain.
In current builds of the Interface (as at mid September) to select a mesh the viewpoint has to be sufficiently far from the camera (as in the image above showing the 1800m across skydome from a distance of 3600m ) so that the object does not occupy more than a proportion of the screen. This can be problematic with large objects and mean the avatar has to move well out (a named “far” away location I the domain has been set for convenience).
I-Room and Open Virtual Collaboration Environment
During HiFi alpha testing, objects related to the research and use of an I-Room and the Open Virtual Collaboration Environment (OpenVCE) are tested as facilities become available. Scripting related to NPCs and software bots is of particular interest to provide inworld assistants and role play simulation participants. But its early days for that.
Experimentation with export of objects from OpenSim via Collada (.dae) through the AutoCAD FBX Converter to allow for import to HiFi have also taken place… e.g. for the OpenVCE and I-Room collaboration space builds.
Some partial transparency on a dome seems to be working. The clear section is the entrance and is intended…
Oculus Rift DK2
Some tests have also taken place with the Oculus Rift DK2, but its early days for that as the more usable Direct Mode for the Rift display is not yet supported by HiFi and the Oculus SDK.
Overall Aim for Experimentation in HiFi
See Tate et al. (2010) figure 1 and the three case studies presented later in that paper to see one of my aims for HiFi… and an example of what I HOPE we will achieve and surpass with a more distributed and scaleable model along with a much larger community using a metaverse of linked open virtual worlds platforms.
Tate, A., Chen-Burger, Y-H., Dalton, J., Potter, S., Richardson, D., Stader, J., Wickler, G., Bankier, I., Walton, C. and Williams, P.G. (2010) I-Room: A Virtual Space for Intelligent Interaction, IEEE Intelligent Systems, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp 62-71, July-August 2010, IEEE Computer Society. [PDF Format]
Some of my hopes for a Next Generation Virtual Worlds are in this blog post.
My thoughts on a likely VR Headset in 2015/2016 are in this blog post.