Friday, June 4, 2010

Why Rezzable's Use of Unity Matters

Heritage Key: Unity Test Shot ...
Location: Rezzable Unity Test Site

I've been hollering for some time that the UIs for virtual worlds are not intuitive enough to get faculty to try them. That's why I jumped at the chance, recently, to preview Rezzable's implementation of the Unity Web Player.

The screen shots here show me, avatar-less, wandering about some of Rezzable's Heritage Key content and visiting "Tropical Paradise," a demo at Unity's Web site.
Unity Viewer #2

I've tested Rezzable's implementation of Unity Twice, and I'm only seeing a preview. Based on these two visits, it seems that Unity, for now, serves to give a hint of what lies in wait for those who create avatars and then venture into Heritage Key. In time it may do a lot more and, just maybe, obviate a stand-alone client.

Some of the shots at Rezzable's blog show a "basic avatar" who looks like a clay figure exploring. As Rezzable's blog notes:

The first objective was to present existing OpenSim content in some useful way inside the browser. The graphics are quite close to what we get via the SL 1.23 viewer. As the physic[s] are on the Unity client, the performance over the web is very snappy by comparison.

Based on a site called my trips to Heritage Key and Tropical Paradise, educators should take note of this technology and keep an eye on further development for a few reasons:
  • No special client needed
  • No customizing the avatar needed (yet)
  • Ability to run virtual worlds on portable devices such as iPhones.
Educators would love to see the following:
  • Ability to interact with those using avatars
  • Ability to manipulate content in-world (clicking, answering questions part of a quest or game).
The unknowns:
  • How soon can full avatars with inventory be driven through Heritage Key using Unity?
  • Could Unity permit out-of-world inventory storage so we could take avatars from world to world?
If the answers to both of the last questions are "yes," Unity could change how we all interact with virtual worlds. Then someone could get very rich by hosting content creators for out-of-world inventory that we hypergridders would use.

The Rezzable blog indicates that, at least, avatars are coming:

Our prototype/test covered the presentation of prims and sculpted prims and results looks good. Our next wave will work on things like: Avatars, scripted interactions, pushing into Unity strengths, improving lighting as well as connecting up things like chat, IM, user log-ins.
One of the big opportunities is to be able to use mesh objects directly with Unity. From a content creation side this is a huge lift in productivity and photo-realism capability.

Jon Himoff has a five minute video about the project on YouTube. It's worth a look.

So far, for Rezzable's preview, movement is limited to the four arrow keys; in Tropical Paradise the mouse allows up and down and side to side views, like the point of view in a combat-oriented game.

I also saw a flock of birds that moved realistically as I explored, though of course they were looped. I would love to explore landscapes that look this realistic in Second Life or Open Sim:
Unity Viewer #1
Back at Rezzable,clicking the signs in the preview area, for now, did nothing, but it seems that sort of interactivity is not far away. Then Unity will be more than a gateway experience into Heritage Key, but a way to explore all of the content. It will become how many of us connect to virtual worlds.
Heritage Key: Unity Test Shot ...

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