Thursday, November 15, 2007

Life 1.5?

Check this out. A great article on SL/RL bidirectional causality. It describes how SL is effecting RL events and practices. Look at the bit about the plumbing wiki. Very cool.
I also talk about some of this on the Sonar website. It seems that SL is morphing into something beyond the virtual into a singular physical/virtual surface. Life 1.5? The idea of hybrid space is not new, but it hasn't had its go with Second Life yet. I think it's only a matter of short time before we begin seeing programs which allow events in Sl to directly effect events in RL. Hit a button in SL and a window opens on a building in RL.. Turn off the lights in your SL house and the RL lights go out. TransArchitecture is here and its just the beginning.

SONAR Trial Video

A first sample video of S.O.N.A.R at work..


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Project S.O.N.A.R Website Released

Greetings All,
I have released the first iteration of the Project S.O.N.A.R website for further information and group sign up. While I am still working out a few kinks, we all have to start somewhere. The website is located at the following link..

So have a read, sign up for the group, and I'll be releasing the actual Sonar form as soon as it's developed enough for proper use (should be sometime later this month). If you have any difficulty signing up for the group, just email me at my address and I'll note you down for the first participation once we settle on a date.

Also, I have been viewing and cataloging many other interactive projects in Second Life that have made their debut lately. These will appear on the blog shortly once I organized my photos and video recordings. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Project S.O.N.A.R

Project S.O.N.A.R
Self-Organizing Nebulous Architectural Response

It looks like the swarm prototype mentioned in my earlier blog post "Emergent Forms - self organizing structures" is nearly complete. I will spend the next two weeks touching up version 1.2 and we can begin to conduct time trials soon thereafter. I have created a new website dedicated soley to the project and its evolution over the coming months. This site will provide detailed information about the experiment along with a group signup to recruit people for participation in the initial demonstration. Thanks for checking in and more info to come soon!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Virtual Studio Tour - Reactive/Reflexive Elements

Virtual Studio Tour (test machinima)

Video can be seen at the following link..

This is my first machinima so I apologize for the low res quality. This video demonstrates two kinetic/reactive elements incorporated into the latest version of my online studio. These scripts were pulled from the grouping published by keystone Bouchard for his Reflexive Architecture Gallery.

I am in the process of including additional kinetic elements that will respond to both avatar behavior and presence. These kinetic elements have an aesthetic value and must work with the form as to retain their logic within the overall architectural system. This particular virtual studio examines the use of kinetic elements as an extension to the base (fixed) architectural structure. The translucent texture and character of the block suggest a primitive curtain wall or glazed entryway of some type. Its kinetic properties further push this distinction.

In this case the wall pulls apart to form 'flex columns' which frame the entryway to the studio. When the avatars stands in the middle of this liquid curtain wall, the frame splits upward echoing a classic Gothic arch. This is due to the spacing of the kinetic elements as well as the sphere of influence (located around the avatar) which activates the scripts within the translucent blocks. These same columns produce inverted Gothic arches as the avatar inhabits the platform above the entryway (utilizing the same properties of placement and sphere of influence.

I will post more machinima as the design progresses.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Object to Field

Over the past few months I have suggested in various discussion groups the need for a more qualitative and quantitative investigation of reactive/reflexive scripts within SL. Avatar Keystone Bouchard (John Brouchoud) has accomplished this and has managed to package it beautifully in his Gallery of Reflexive Architecture.
The gallery explores the flexibility and variability of one or two simple scripts integrated into various forms and formations. This is most accurately a study on the ability for a single script to show vastly different expression through only minor variations in its behavior and in the form encompassed by it. The gallery goes on to identify multiple conditions of the proximity script including..

Carvable Architecture - each time an avatar approaches, these units move out slightly. Over time, the movement of avatars essentially 'carves' the architecture and high traffic areas become larger over time.

Prim Decay - prims decay as avatars pass by, leaving a visual trace of avatar paths during the course of 3 hours

Architecture On Demand – As titled

Architectural Jazz – Covered in earlier post

Traffic Graph - prims move down slightly every time an avatar approaches, creating a visual representation of traffic density

Elevated Plane – As titled

Sudden Space – More on this later

Door Wall – More on this later

This is a great example of visual complexity generated through the accumulation of basic responsive elements. The scripts themselves are fairly simple and, in most cases, are repeated among each of the individual elements. For example, the Architecture On Demand build utilizes a single block programmed to grow and diminish in scale as an avatar approaches. As a single unit, this block remains an object and is not very successful as an architectural element - but place many together in close proximity and the collection becomes a field condition. The individual blocks act in unison to create a field effect which gives the impression of a single membrane reacting as a singular surface. The resultant undulating surface is both elegant and visually complex and contains many more architectural applications as wall surface, floor surface, or spatial element.

This particular example further underscores the ability for virtual space to act as a test bed for RL interactive/responsive works. I spent some time developing a project along similar lines looking at deployable floor elements that would rise to furniture and table heights in response to user behavior and movement.

This project was never developed due to time and monetary constraints, but in virtual space we are able to study the visual and behavioral effects of such works. The falling price of processors, video processing technologies, and tracking devices such as RFID will enable us to integrate intelligent environments into standard architectures on a broad scale in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, we must find the most efficient, flexible, and robust means to test and develop the relationship between individual/group behaviors and environments. Currently virtual worlds such as Second Life are the perfect platform to experiment and develop such scenario-based thought processes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Example: Reflexive/Reactive Build

This build on Architecture Island (by avatar Theory Shaw) has utilized both scale and color shifting reactions to reflect avatar presence and proximity. This is more than simply a virtual structural reflex as he has managed to identify a functional purpose for this script as well.

The colored leaf panels become dynamic elements as they signal their function through both color and scalar differentiation. The leaf panels utilize two scripts which allow them to change in both scale and color based upon avatar proximity. As an avatar approaches a panel, the panel expands slightly and subtly shifts its color. These panels hang suspended in space more as screening devices than wall elements; another visual signal of their departure from traditional static architectures.

The dynamic nature of this structure becomes an active reflection of inhabited virtual space. These leaf panels also relate to the aesthetic concept of concealing and revealing. They are opaque to the degree that they offer 'privacy' to avatars in conversation but their reflexive/reactive nature also reveals both the presence and location of avatars within the structure.

While not necessarily falling into the category of interactivity, Theory has successfully integrated this reflexive/reactive element into an overall architectural device, that becomes functional as well as aesthetic.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Emergent Forms - self organizing structures

Kas Oosterhuis introduces the idea of 'Swarm Architecture' in the publication GameSetandMatch II (a series of proposals, experiments, and publications on Computer Games, Advanced Geometries, and Digital Technologies). He describes Swarm Architecture as..

"..based on my postulation that every member of an architectural construct is, in essence, based on a computed behavior of discrete quanta. These quanta can represent anything from the smalles building component to the largest building blocks of a metropolis, anything from one single perosn to multinational institutions, as long as they behave in real time, and as long as their behavior can be computed real time."

Kas goes on to describe qualities of 'uncertainty' and 'unpredictability' as the swarm operates through a bottom-up process of independently operating units. With this in mind I began to think about how this concept might take advantage of the unique properties of the virtual.

Architects such as Tobi Schneidler and institutions such as the TU Delft have done some experimentation with swarm behaviors. Usually these projects consist of a physical space 'entangled' with a virtual space inhabited by virtual agents of some type. Entanglement is a word used by the IVM group (InfiniteVisionMedia) to describe virtual/physical spaces connected through custom software and MIDI components. As individuals move throughout the physical spaces, they are interacting with invisible 'agents' which are programmed with simple and predictable behaviors. Sensor devices locate the movements within the physical space and the virtual agents react in real time to these behaviors. This is accomplished through real-time communication between the two spaces (virtual and physical) Generally, the movements of the virtual agents are translated back into kinetic movement within the space (through objects or actuated devices) which allows the physical inhabitants and the virtual agents to communicate in a continuous feedback loop.

While this can result in extremely complex and unpredictable behavior patterns, the individual virtual agents actually run off simple programs. I will publish some examples of this in a future blog. These complex and unpredictable patterns are known as emergent behaviors.

Based upon this info, I started thinking about how we could take advantage of the unique environmental characteristics of SL to create a self-organizing emergent structure. This structure might consist of numerous units that emerge from the landscape or objects within the landscape. These objects may be released when the avatar approaches an object or a specific place within the environment.

(click on pictures to enlarge)

As these objects/agents/bots emerge, they approach and orbit the avatar(s). That is to say each object is scripted to approach and rotate around an avatar in an orbit of a certian diameter. Over time and within a certain distance of an avatar, these objects begin to grow an outer layer much like a seed begins to grow fruit.

The objects are scripted so when a collision occurs, the translucent outer layers 'stick' together and become frozen in space. This can occur with objects of different 'stages' of growth resulting in an asymmetrical evolving form.

As these objects continually collide and 'gel' they begin to form a crystalized architecture around the inhabitants of the environment. The objects might also contain a script which allows them to unstick after a given amount of time. This would allow the form to continually move and reshape itself as the inhabitants move and inhabit different areas within the landscape. The swarm may also adopt properties that attract an avater resulting in a more 'pro-active' architecture that does not simply respond and evolve to user behavior, but actually encourages group behaviors or movements.

So the result is we get a continually moving and evolving liquid/crystalized architectural body who's form is derived from avatar movement and inhabitation. If we wanted to include a social aspect, we might say that the objects only deploy or rotate when a certain number of avatars are within a given proximity of each other. The point is that when we work with bottom-up behaviors, we can create a whole new set of properties by just tweaking a small amount of code within an object.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Game

Ultimately, Games are devices for communication. When we engage in a game with another player we are, in effect, having a conversation. The language varies, but through this language we may express such traits as reciprocity, dominance, cooperation, competitiveness, coercion, commitment, focus, intellectual engagement, and occasionally physical exercise. The brilliant thing about games is that communication can take place at a very basic level only having learned the language of the game in a very short amount of time. A game may be based on a very simple set of rules such as hitting a ball with a stick until it gets into a specific hole. Like etiquette, game rules construct a defining framework through which people find the proper means to interact. While the rules for the game might be simple, people use this as groundwork for communication which ultimately develops into a highly complex interaction between the players. Thus, the game becomes a construct or framework which allows for communication to take place at a very basic level between people.

The game also serves to level the playing field for the players to communicate with each other. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences, and the game is a device which allows us to transcend our individual perspectives and work toward or against a common goal.
The winner of the game is the person who walks away with something more than they entered the game with. That may be knowledge, experience, or simply a new way to think about their interactions with people. The idea is to affect peoples everyday perceptions of their normal interactions that they may begin to both question those normal conventions, and begin to explore new avenues of communication.

Games become a very important component of interactive architectural works. Recent publications such as 4D Space, Responsive Environments, ia#1, and GameSetandMatch II have set out to define these unique interactions between people and interactive objects and virtual spaces. Games both inspire play and allow the user to engage architecture at a different level than simple occupation. The occupant becomes the participant as they engage and converse with the interactive game space.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Interface - The Future 1 Island

One question that always seems to arise with any interactive work is the form of its interface. Anytime we develop an environment that can analyze and respond to human/avatar behavior, there is an interface that allows the system to 'sense' or read this behavior. In some cases, the interface is distributed throughout the interactive environment, and in some cases, it is centralized into a single device.

I found this unit at 'The Future 1' island in Second Life. it seems to track and locate avatars when they are located within the islands boundaries. The avatar is displayed as a dot in a scaled down model display of the island. While this device does not display any kinetic interactivity per se, its ability

Out of the 4 categories (passive, active, reactive, interactive) I'm classifying this project as an Active work because it simply monitors and displays the location of its inhabitants as opposed to actively engaging the user (a reactive project). Say, for example, the user was able to manipulate parts of the island by directly manipulating the scaled-down model in front of them. They might be able to locate avatars in the model and shift landscapes to create an experience for other users on the island. They might be able to touch the dot representation of the avatar which would automatically set up an IM channel and allow the two to communicate. While not necessarily built for this purpose, I'm presenting these examples to suggest how this system might adopt and interactive element to its use.

It is interesting to note that the tracking device is a representation within a representation. While this holds significance for its parasitic virtual relationship to its host (the island) I prefer to consider its signifigance as an interface. By creating a scaled down 'Active' model of the island, the avatar is able to engage the island in a different manner. More to come on this...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Form Follows Movement - Crooked House

Seifert Surface 'The Crooked House'

This project is over a year old but I feel the need to mention it due to its truly innovative kinetic characteristics. The concept of this house was based upon a mathmatical formula reminiscint of a mobius strip.

The dominant feature of the Mobius Strip is it's singular surface. As the story goes, if you walk an ant along the surface, it would cover the entire surface in its journey. There is no inside or outside to the strip, it is considered one surface formed by cutting a loop and twisting it once before reattaching. This is possible only because the 2D surface has been pulled into a 3D space which allows the surface to deform into the 3rd dimension.

Back to the house.. The Crooked House is divided into a series of rooms; each with 6 entry points. As the visiting avatar activates the house and moves from one room to another, the house reconfigures itself real-time to the path of the avatar. In other words, as you open a door to another room, the house rotates another room to the other side of the door the avatar will pass through. The result is that as the avatar walks in a straight line in one direction, they actually keep walking through the same rooms of the house again and again. This invokes the idea of the Mobius Strip because the avatar can walk in one direction and cover the same ground over and over. Like the 3rd dimension enables the 2D ring to become the mobius strip, so the 4th dimension allows the 3D house to take on these conceptual kinetic properties.

As it currently functions, I think the house only responds to a single avatar's movement. Because the house must move one room at a time, there is no function that allows multiple avatars to be able to manipulate the environment. In some sense the project exhibits characteristics of Emergence, but this is hampered by the inability for more than one avatar to engage the system at one time. For example, if we were able to track the shifting form of the building over time, we might be able to find patterns that develop as multiple users engage with and constantly reform the environment. This may also be the case for a single avatar (as form follows movement) but this would be greatly heightened by the house's engagement with multiple avatars.

I would classify this project as a 'Reactive' design becuase of its lack of proactive engagement with the avatar. The house responds to movement, but does not necessarily encourage or discourage behavior of a certain kind. This does not at all detract from the project and I think the addition of this feature might overcomplicate it. The final 4D form is both a combination of the mathematical concept driving the building's kinetic response as well as the intentions of the user. The resultant shifting form of the building is a comination of the purity of mathmatical formula combined with the messy territory of human choice and free will. Truly an exeptional idea and execution of that idea.

There is a great write-up and videos of this project at the following link..

As you can see here, the orientation of the room also shifts with the placement of that room. The result produces some interesting new perspectives on traditional spatial relationships.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Emergence - Architectural Jazz

Architectural Jazz
crtlshift07 competition entry by Jon Brouchoud (Keystone Bouchard)
One of the first projects I would like to point out is Jon's recent entry on Lebenswelt Island in Second Life. The floating piano keys emit notes as the avatar approaches each individual key. The resultant effect is an architecture which becomes a public instrument played through the movement and behaviors of its inhabitants.

This is an excellent demonstration of the idea of interactive emergence. Emergence within an interactive architectural context is loosely defined as unpredictable properties which emerge through the discreet interaction of individuals within a responsive environment. A characteristic of emergent properties is the inability to predict the outcome or patterns that emerge from those interactions. Individuals act as the autonoma operating under their own individual behaviors. Stephan Wolfram describes this in his work with digital cellular autonoma.

With regard to the virtual piano, the resultant musical piece created by the group cannot be predicted although general rule sets may be observed. For example, we might see that a smaller percentage of people are willing to fly to the top of the piece which might limit a set of notes that might be played. Emergent patterns may best be thought of as visualized or manifested probabilities of the behavior of the participants.

Jon has also engaged another important aspect of interactive works which comes in the form of The Game. A recent GameSetandMatch II conference (hosted by Kas Oosterhuis) recently accepted and published tens of interactive architectural projects that focused on architecture as a 'game' where occupants become participants in the architecture forming a behavioral dynamic between the two. This is generally enabled by digital technologies and through ubiquitous computing practices, but Second Life provides the benefit of being able to script directly into objects. By allowing the participants to freely explore the piano, they can begin to form their own rules for the game based upon their growing experience with the environment. For example, one avatar might concentrate on a favorite note as their personal contribution to the overall orchestration. As the game advances and the players' skill level increases, the game becomes more complex enabled by the growing experience of the participants.