Posted by: Peter Quirk | May 5, 2008

realXtend and the virtual workplace

realXtend is a partnership of two Finnish companies, ADMINO technologies and LudoCraft. The team is extending the open source OpenSim server in a highly focused way to deliver a reliable platform for both business applications and games. The heavily revamped realXtend website went live today, so it’s worth taking some time to see how realXtend intends to support my quest for a virtual world for real work.

Web page textured onto a surface in realXtend

realXtend delivered web page textures on prims before Second Life did

The following is lifted more or less verbatim from the site. I’ve underlined the elements that I find particularly relevant to work in virtual worlds.

There are several short term goals for 2008.

  • Right now the realXtend team is focusing on enhancing the realXtend avatar. This project phase is scheduled to be finished in June 2008.
  • After that, we intend to turn our attention to server stability and scalability until November and are creating a showcase multiplayer game towards the second half of this year.
  • During Autumn 2008, we will be shifting our focus to office tools, by integrating different file formats and enabling collaborative workspaces.

Present features:

  • OGRE rendering
  • Particle effects
  • 3D objects, lights and shadows
  • Integrating web pages within virtual worlds
  • Desktop application sharing (VNC) to share your applications with other users
  • Voice chat
  • Scriptable teleports between worlds
  • Second life compatibility mode for use in SL and Opensim worlds
  • Sprites
  • Address field in client login screen to select world
  • Python scripting to make your own applications
  • Free-form non-humanoid avatars
  • Avatar generator to import your own avatar design and modify your appearance
  • Avatar attachment tool to help set objects to your avatar
  • Unlimited amount of attachments
  • Teleports between realXtend and SecondLife
  • Media library for world builders

Roadmapped features:

  • Direct3D rendering for better performance
  • Support for OGG Vorbis
  • Support for video (other than quicktime)
  • Avatar generator and attachment tool integration to rexViewer
  • OGRE materials support
  • Improvements to in-world building tools
  • Weather support
  • Integration with skype/google spreadsheets/openoffice
  • Avatar face/head animation based on live video camera data
  • Lip synch for VOIP
  • Clothing physics
  • Vehicles support

On the applications page we find this:

Top 5 applications for realXtend (in our own opinion):

 

  • Virtual meeting tools
    Reduce travel costs and enhance quality over traditional telephone and video conferences
  • Collaboration and social interaction
    Imagine your team members sharing applications and thoughts while they are geographically distributed, but virtually co-located.
  • Advanced user interface
    Complex applications, such as home automation control, are easier to understand and use when they are presented in 3D applications.
  • Collaborative Games
    realXtend is an ideal platform to make novel multiplayer game titles. It features many aspects that do not exist anywhere else. Collaboration, co-building and dynamic worlds offer rich possibilities for entirely new kinds of games.
  • Visualisation technologies
    Visualize enormous amounts of data and make it comprehensible for the end user. For example, building information models and architect’s drawings can be presented as a 3D world, where users can walk around and visualize how things are going to look. 

Tish Shute did an extensive interview on the Ugotrade blog with Juha Hulkko of realXtend. In the interview he elaborates on his vision of multiple virtual worlds with a unified avatar storage system to enable the presentation of a consistent avatar image across all of them. He also discusses the remote controlled shortwave radio station on Arkala Island in Second Life and how it has influenced his thoughts about connecting virtual worlds to the real world. (realXtend already includes a working X10 interface that allows you to control your lights or appliances by clicking on representations of them in the realXtend world. See below for an example of mapping an object to an X10 controller.)

 Mapping an object to an X10 controller

The realXtend team held a getting-to-know-you meeting in Second Life recently. After a short presentation on the vision and the roadmap, the floor was thrown open to questions. You can read the transcript of the meeting or listen to the audio here.

The realXtend version of OpenSim is being merged with the main trunk of OpenSim, so in time most of the distinctions between them will disappear. The platform is easy to use, looks great, and has some really useful features. For my money, the server-side Python scripting is the killer feature. With this you can integrate directly with web services, databases, Microsoft Office objects or anything else accessible from Python like SMS or VoIP. Imagine interfacing to RFID or Zigbee devices and using server-side code to indicate the state and location of those devices. The other killer feature is real meshes instead of those strange sculpties in Second Life. Admittedly, the process for creating them outside of realXtend is messy at present, but the whole concept is so much cleaner.

The realXtend client is also fascinating in that it can connect to Second Life, OpenSim and realXtend servers. I have successfully logged into Second Life, OpenLifeGrid.com and my local realXtend server. I highly recommend that you try it out. (The banner on my blog shows my avatar hovering over one of the houses in the out-of-the-box realXtend instance.)

realXtend will be central to my solutions for integrating the virtual workplace into the enterprise.

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