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Hardware hacking and the meaning of (Second) Life

Andrew Hendry | Feb. 13, 2008
<i>Computerworld</i> recently spoke to Oxer about how he is knocking down the boundaries between the real and virtual world.

What kind of applications could this communication between the real and virtual world have?

The interesting thing is that once these building blocks have been put in place, people start using them for all sorts of amazing things that you have never even thought of. One fairly well known example is the work that IBM has done over the last year or two with the virtual representation of the Wimbledon Centre Court inside Second Life. What they did was build a representation of Wimbledon Centre Court inside Second Life, and linked it up to a system that acquires data from Hawkeye and various other on-the-ground systems, and then have that data fed into Second Life to represent the actual physical event inside Second Life, so you can walk onto center court at Wimbledon inside Second Life and watch a representation of the event that is taking place in the real world. Another really interesting example: last year I was in the US doing a tutorial on hardware hacking inside Second Life, and one of the tutorial participants came up to me afterwards and explained to me that he was a mining safety engineer. His idea was to use Second Life to build a complete representation of the mine environment that he works in, and then acquire telemetry data such as positioning data from trucks, loaders and the various machinery inside the mine, and then feed that in real time back into the Second Life environment and have it as a real time representation of what is going on in the mine. So as a mine safety engineer he could pull up a virtual representation of the mine on his computer and walk through it, and as he is walking through it he will see representations of what is actually happening at that moment in time in the mine, so he could very quickly run through and see where all of the people are, and see exactly what is going on.

Why do you consider Second Life to be such a suitable platform to build on?

Second Life is interesting because it was specifically built as a platform, not as an end product. If you look at any three-dimensional environmental, like a game environment such as Quake or some of the newer 3D First Person Shooters, they are essentially virtual reality environments with lots of code running in the background. But what you are seeing is the end result of someone else putting everything in place - they have done the coding for you. It's not accessible; you are interacting with it on their terms. If they put an object in a place that is where it stays; you can't change it other than in a way that they have specified.


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