October 9, 2007 12:01 AM PDT

Google tools to power virtual worlds

Google tools to power virtual worlds
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Get ready for online games set in your favorite Google Earth locations.

Virtual-worlds platform developer Multiverse Network is set to announce a partnership Tuesday that will allow anyone to create a new online interactive 3D environment with just about any model from Google's online repository of 3D models, its 3D Warehouse, as well as terrain from Google Earth.

The idea is simple: Multiverse's technology--which gives game developers tools to design custom virtual worlds--will let those designers pick and choose from most of the millions of 3D models created using Google's 3D software tool SketchUp, and to import pieces of terrain, as defined by entering specific longitude and latitude data, from Google Earth.

If you want to build a virtual world centered on, say, downtown San Francisco, you could use the new technology to create the area itself and populate it with the digital versions of real-world buildings that have been created and uploaded to the 3D Warehouse.

Virtual world images

"The goal is to grab things from the 3D Warehouse when looking at things in Google Earth and then make an instant multiverse world," said Multiverse co-founder Corey Bridges. "What we've done is provide a more streamlined interface for using (Google's technology) as a virtual-world production tool."

Until now, incorporating this kind of information from Google has mostly been the province of fantasy. For some time, Multiverse has made it possible to upload some SketchUp models into a virtual world created using its platform. But the technology the company plans to announce Tuesday, informally called "Architectural Wonders," brings the concept to much more well-rounded fruition, and answers what some people have been crying out for as obvious and necessary technology integration.

"Google's mission statement is to make all the world's information universally available and useful," said Jerry Paffendorf, co-author of the Metaverse Roadmap and co-founder of a stealth start-up called Wello Horld. "So I would say this (is about) making all the world universally available and useful, and that's why this is so fascinating."

For Paffendorf, one of the most vocal proponents of a 3D massively multiplayer environment based on Google Earth and SketchUp information, Multiverse's innovation is nothing short of groundbreaking.

He said he's particularly excited and hopeful that the Architectural Wonders project will allow virtual-world designers to incorporate not just models and terrain from Google Earth, but also much of the metadata that makes it so powerful: the personal notations and photographs that millions of users have added to it.

Of course, Multiverse's project is not the only one that has sprung up to make use of this data. Google is rumored to be working on a prototype virtual world, a beta test of which may or may not be under way at Arizona State University.

Another project is SceneCaster, a new technology unveiled at last week's Demo conference that allows anyone to make 3D "scenes" incorporating models from the 3D Warehouse that can then be attached to blogs or Facebook pages or even to Flickr.

Both SceneCaster and Multiverse's Architectural Wonders projects will be shown at the Virtual Worlds conference, which starts Wednesday in San Jose, Calif.

But because not much is known about Google's stealth project and since SceneCaster does not appear to be a massively multiplayer experience, Multiverse's Architectural Wonders efforts may well prove to be the first publicly available attempt to bring vast amounts of data and models Google is making freely accessible into a working virtual world.

For now, the technology is in its very early iterations. A demonstration seen exclusively last week by CNET News.com revealed what is still fairly rudimentary technology, featuring a single avatar wandering around a largely barren terrain. However, as the avatar moved, it eventually arrived in an area where it was able to move easily among models of structures like the Empire State Building, the St. Louis arch and Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Twin Towers.

Multiverse also showed News.com its tool for selecting terrain grabbed from Google Earth. It appears to be a simple design that will make it easy for designers creating virtual worlds using Multiverse's platform to quickly enter geographic data and then to import whatever territory is defined directly into their new 3D environment.

Multiverse's technology has reached the point where it can support as many as 1,000 users per server, meaning any virtual world built using its platform and incorporating the Google Earth and 3D Warehouse models could see hundreds or even thousands of users running around inside it.

And while some might wonder why anyone would want to spend time in a virtual New York when they could be in the real place, Paffendorf, who lives in Brooklyn, has an answer.

"Simply put, if you're not there, you don't have that option," he said. "I would go exploring Brooklyn like that, for sure, to see what I'm missing."

See more CNET content tagged:
virtual worlds, Google Earth, terrain, Google Inc., 3D


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More reality needed in Virtual Worlds.;)
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.mediamachines.com/KML2X3D/" target="_newWindow">http://www.mediamachines.com/KML2X3D/</a>

Cube3.com and Mediamachines produced these multiuser open x3d demos last year. They are exactly what you're describing as "new" and "first" now...and they were based on already ISO approved open standards back then. I suggest some googling and fact checking.

As to how and whom this new 3d media may benefit:

Interestingly, a few months before we were asked to "contribute" to the google wherehouse model databank hours of work for "free" with no "considerations" offered. We asked for a professional rate or a " profesional credit" from the multibillion dollar Google Companies representative who emailed. They never quite did get back to us:) and within 3 weeks we saw the work requested was now on the website. Done by "a student" from an unamed school very east of Wall Street.;)

It's a shame that after 10 years of virtual worlds evangelizing/reporting/lecturing/writings and design I see very little reality in the level of virtual worlds "stories" reported, and very little value of this as "journalism" while a new set of "self declared leading" companies repeat the same or similar actions of those "now forgotten" from a decade and less, ago.

enjoy the show.

Posted by cube3 (190 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sharecropping for Seeds
The virtual worlds standards story is now a mess of collossal proportions.

Every day another company announces a prototype technology, says it will release its technology to the openSphere and fails to say what about their technology has any particular IP relevance that would require its release before anyone else can implement it. Then they go on to attempt to get numbers of registrants and claim huge subscriber bases without showing in-world persistence. Other major vendors continue to release technology for free use but with terms that make the content created with them theirs to use to create spin-off companies without paying the artists.

This is a mess because there is now a One Billion Dollar Weasel about to go Pop when these worlds don't return profits. It is a sharecropper contract with artificial economies inside the farm and private watermelon patches to give them the illusion that next year will bring better times from over-seeded fruity concotions ignoring that every sharecropper has their own patch and not many travelers are buying. They are taking a sample and moving to the next shack.

Someone better come up with a plan to pay off the stockholders with something better than watermelon seeds.

With X3D/VRML, when we release a world, vendors compete to make it run on their browser. That gives a content author power to influence the direction of the market and the technology, and that gives the content value to the customer who knows that a) the content will stand up to the lifecycle for long enough to have value to the company that buys it and b) if one vendor goes under, another will available at a reasonable price to play that content and preserve the investment.

Doing business in artificial economies with proprietary browser/farm systems is like living in Sunnydale and not noticing it sits on a hellmouth.
Posted by Len Bullard (454 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another Virtual Worlds Investment
Also worth noting is that last week, In-Q-Tel, the vc fund from the CIA invested in a "virtual world" tech from a company named Forterra Systems.

See: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.resourceshelf.com/2007/09/28/in-q-tel-cias-venture-cap-org-invests-in-virtual-world-technology/" target="_newWindow">http://www.resourceshelf.com/2007/09/28/in-q-tel-cias-venture-cap-org-invests-in-virtual-world-technology/</a>


<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.forterrainc.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.forterrainc.com/</a>
Posted by garyresourceshelf (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's What They Do
The CIA needs a company to be in their pocket. This is their standard approach and it works better for them when positioning their own assets inside the company. Also, in other areas such as Homeland Security, the VR companies doing the most have been European companies that have a wide lead in building fast small footprint clients such as Bit Management's BS Contact or ParallelGraphics Cortona. Shopping in Europe for intel systems is generally frowned on. Note that they don't really run on the Internet. They use the technologies but have their own networks.

It also means that despite all the talk of government procurements favoring open systems and open standards, the intelligence community is still picking and choosing while financing the favored companies and using DARPA to steer research. For Forterra, it may not be such a good deal unless they plan to service an exclusive but non-interoperable customer base.

It is business as usual for the spooks. For the rest of us, we still have to face up to the reality that the much talked about 3D web is a bunch of very expensive islands of 3D automation without much hope for interoperating in a seamless next generation web anytime soon. I expect that to happen as a result of the work going on at the Web3DC and Croquet where there are real incentives to do it beyond using the prospect as VC bait.
Posted by Len Bullard (454 comments )
Link Flag
reality check again- cliff notes
Forterra was the "spin off" "realignament" created in 2003-5? as THERE.com failed to gain any users interest after spendings its first "vc millions raised". Forterra was assembled to offer the military and the "deep" pockets of homeland security it had after 9/11 a place to get funky with VR "cyber" presentations.

As to THERE and its failed business, Its leader moved onto found IMVU and continue to gain more PRESS than sales or customers, while There itself has continued only minor growth while trying to be more like Lindens more popularly adopted system.
Love to see web3d business have more success, but so far these press release companies continue to work under the assumptions that they will "own" the vr worlds media and that we should all work for them for free. Not exactly any "news" in those business models and the people creating them.

CIA..funny.. i keep hearing that the VC group they created in the late 1990s was a principle of the GOOGLE VC funding "makings"....If true it we'll never know as investigative journalism has been replaced by bloggers and "cnet" jounalists and editors.

This week "hosted" by another "new" vrworlds expert group, they all meet in San Jose and repeat the past. But sadly having little idea they do so.

Posted by cube3 (190 comments )
Link Flag
Google Worlds
I think that Google has positioned themselves nicely with Google Sketchup, Google Street View and Google Earth. I think Google Earth will become the client for Google Virtual World with the Street View Imagery superimposed on the Google Sketchup data. Can't wait to see! In the meantime, I'll enjoy the fun found using Google Street View:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.laudontech.com/google-street-view/google-street-view.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.laudontech.com/google-street-view/google-street-view.html</a>
Posted by Mapper99 (73 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A Finger To The Sky
I'm planning a new startup to take advantage of the ubiquity of Google StreetView and Google Earth. The product is a 99 cent polyurethane roof cover with a 20x20 foot picture of a hand with a raised finger (TM). It salutes Google's relentless efforts to bring all the information all the time in all kinds of weather to all kinds of people.

I expect to make billions but first I need the VC financing to get this to the next stage of development: paying an artist to draw the hand. It should be on the market by Christmas in time for the next pass over my town by the satellites.
Posted by Len Bullard (454 comments )
Link Flag
More Fun with Virtual Worlds Experts ....
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.secretlair.com/index.php?/clickableculture/entry/shakespearean_virtual_world_to_be_or_not/" target="_newWindow">http://www.secretlair.com/index.php?/clickableculture/entry/shakespearean_virtual_world_to_be_or_not/</a>


for those of you again looking for reality not fantasy, there WAS a web3d VRML- ISO open standards performance of Shakespear done a decade ago.

when did cnet become a wiki?...all stories now are to be edited by the public-- free user generated content ..hmm. Im sending cnet an invoice.

Posted by cube3 (190 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yep. See "Bottom Thou Art Translated"
True. That was the Midsummer Nights Dream project with Bernie Roehl and Stephen Matsuba as the technical leads and online contributors. It was just a step ahead of its time, so the actual performance was a mixed success. The IrishSpace project preceded that (90 minute VR epic) was more complex in the 3D aspects but remained a client-side project given the limits of the machines at that time. Also, it was not MU.
Posted by Len Bullard (454 comments )
Link Flag
Not New? But Of Course It's New. I Just Heard About It!
I'm waiting for the rash of announcements of new initiatives from those meetings.

At least things are breaking along predictable fault lines. The pioneers are face down in the mud with arrows in their backs once again.

There is a lot to be said survival-wise for the Apple model that says "close it, keep it closed, and keep the customers closer". They say one can fight the web but one can sure fight their nearest neighbors on it.
Posted by Len Bullard (454 comments )
Reply Link Flag
apple..well for a walkman company theyre fine...
and now we are asked to forget the 17lb laptop and the newton....

Not all the pioneers are in the mud, we released 3 virtual worlds products in the last week and are doing fine "actually" marketing and selling in the immersive 3d media worlds that are populated and open to others to do business freely.In fact weve been making, not losing money selling Virtual Objects for years.

Remember todays panel "experts" at conferences for the most part arent those "who do or did" but those who mainly "blog" about others who do, and then convince a publisher to back and hype their book of the moment.

case in point, the project Arden today and many more in 9 months.
Posted by cube3 (190 comments )
Link Flag
"UNIVERSAL AVATARS"- so 1997 is here again!
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2007/10/ibm-and-linde-1.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2007/10/ibm-and-linde-1.html</a>

here ya go len... hit this one out of the park..;)
and dont forget to tell them all to "research" the amazing results of INTELS and ADOBES U3D( universal 3d) press release driven drivel from the ancient world of 2003.

tell me about the rabbits , george.
Posted by cube3 (190 comments )
Link Flag
you mean like this one:)...
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.news.com/8301-13772_3-9793643-52.html?tag=bl" target="_newWindow">http://www.news.com/8301-13772_3-9793643-52.html?tag=bl</a>

looks like google owns our virtual herman miller seated *****, the soothsayers have pronounced it...

twice in one day.
its like "virtually real"

sit ubu sit.

Posted by cube3 (190 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No Wonder over at SECOND LIFE things things have been going crazy! Looks the near end for those paying and cheating on sl...........
Posted by play7 (926 comments )
Reply Link Flag
i have not been on yet but i hope i will enjoy it
Posted by louisk2 (1 comment )
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