Monday, June 18, 2012

there's nothing wrong with just a taste of what you paid for

So, just what are knee pasties?

Also, Voyager I is now beyond the solar system--or at least, on the very outer edge of the heliosphere. Scientists say that its batteries may well last for another eight years, and even now, it's still able to send signals back by radio waves--even though they arrive sixteen hours after having been sent.

The Brainpickings blog has been around for several years now, but having recently discovered the curator behind that site has a Twitter account, I've been getting more than my daily dose. I don't mind in the least, because she's insightful, witty, and discovers an amazingly diverse array of daily links to toss out to us in various forms.

Things like the history of neophilia, the quotes of Charles Eames, an unquiet history of libraries, and the science of creativity are just a brief sojourn through her vast array of links and commentary. It's definitely a site to bookmark.

In the meantime, remember the Marketplace JIRA? No, things still aren't solved, but they've taken a very amusing turn:

(from the bizarre album, because this is just bizarre)

Now, I grant, tossing up a screenshot of the file 400 pixels wide, things are going to be a little difficult to make out. I'll help:

(from the bizarre album, because it's still bizarre)

This? This is not the description of the JIRA file. This has never been the description of the JIRA file. So how did it change, and why?

Just to add to the surreality, I ran across a mention of a L$10 pose pack on Twitter; while I decided I didn't want it, it did give me a chance (I thought) to explore what was on the Marketplace for poses.
Set on 96 items per page, and priced low to high (pretty much my standard defaults), I found the first thirty-one items are borked--wrong product picture, no price, clicking on any of them brings up the main Marketplace log-in page. How many months has the Marketplace been borked now?

Oh, right, it's been borked for over two years.

There's an interesting project ongoing for SL architecture: structure-based "ruin porn". I'll let Ms. Hall describe the concept further:
When an MMO loses its subscriber base, the servers get turned off pretty quickly. But not in Second Life - even as the user base for this open landscape, open format virtual world dwindles, things just keep going - sans people.

There's no 'going to seed' in the world of Second Life. No grass grows up through concrete, no plastic bags flutter against [the] fences, walls don't crumble.
And yet, these places are abandoned...or at least, largely untenanted, which brings to mind another question: how many people simply pay the fees for their sims in SL, and no longer bother logging in? To my way of thinking, that's baffling--if I'm not using it (even occasionally), why would I pay for it?

But people do this. Sometimes out of nostalgia, sometimes out of habit, or out of the need to support the estates of friends--there are more than a few sims on the grid who are maintained (roughly) but never interacted with.

Snickers Snook, meanwhile, has a great article about mesh advantages and drawbacks, including something few other blogs have touched on: the Uncanny Valley aspects of mesh. While I still haven't managed completely to get into a Petite without major problems, it's notable that the only other full-mesh avatar I wear is a ball-jointed doll. The doll has few problems with seeming unreal, because we know, as a doll, she isn't. But what about full-mesh avatars that are trying to imitate people--even if only pixie-sized people? I won't lie, the fact that many makers make their mesh avatars off the same templates, with only a few tweaks, means they all look roughly similar. This can be jarring, especially when we factor in that the bodies move, but the expressions really don't.

Now, granted, most faces in SL aren't that animated to begin with, but with proper use of mouth and eye sliders, expressions can be approximated. With facial animation HUDs, reactions can be seen. Even with animations that only move the body, our brains extrapolate what the face in those poses would be likely to do, and we react as if that expression is visible.

The things that bridge the gap scare us. Looking too much like us, but too immobile--or even worse, if we categorize something as clearly "not alive", which then moves and speaks--it's an instinctive rejection, a primal identification.

Miss Snook thinks that full-mesh avatars (at least, the ones designed to approximate people) hit that Uncanny Valley point. And she may not be wrong. The problem--at least to me--from that realization is--if we ever do develop facial animations specifically for mesh avatars, will that make the Uncanny Valley aspects disappear...or make them worse?

Finally, for anyone interested in the skin game, this is a wonderful video. It condenses to around four minutes what took the designer four hours to do--namely, texture a digital model (for which she had full, paid licensing rights to reuse) to match the parameters of the SL avatar. And that's just the face alone--turning out a full avatar runs her between forty and sixty hours, and that's per skin.

(By the way, if you want to find her in world, you can, because Ms. Wunderlich now has a skin store separate from her main branch.

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