Thursday, December 11, 2008

Collaborative CAD in Cobalt!

Thanks again to the work of Aik-Siong Koh and his team, Cobalt now makes it possible for users to work in a deeply collaborative CAD environment. This video shows how two Cobalt users on separate computers can work with relatively sophisticated CAD capabilities over a LAN. This newly-implemented collaborative CAD capability in Cobalt opens up a wide range of possibilities for engineers and others at a distance to develop sophisticated simulations and architectures in Cobalt worlds. The ability to develop animated content within a full-featured virtual world CAD environment sets Cobalt apart from other virtual world technologies in a very significant way.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

VNC in Cobalt!

Rajeev Lochan has just been successful in getting VNC to work within a shared Cobalt space! VNC is a graphical desktop sharing system which uses the RFB protocol to remotely control another computer. This is a big breakthrough for our open project. It means that a Cobalt-based VNC client can connect to a VNC server on any other operating system. Cobalt users will soon be able to view and interact with remote applications (including full featured web browsers) or even collaboratively access remote desktops within the Cobalt application. Because the VNC protocol can use a lot of bandwidth, we still have some optimization to deal with - but this progress is great to see. Thank you Rajeev!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Immersive Workspaces

Linden Lab has announced that its now going to be moving into the enterprise 3D collaboration space. It recently announced a new product called "Immersive Workspaces" which is basically an area in Second Life set aside for corporate meetings. That more secure area represents "a completely exclusive and secure experience, with no connectivity to the Second Life mainland." Their intent is to develop a complete collaboration experience for the enterprise. I guess that is Linden Lab's attempt to try and ensure that business meetings are not disrupted by griefers or by unwelcome barrages of flying penises. Looks like the enterprise virtual worlds space is getting a bit more crowded. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Another KMZ Import

Another test of the new KMZ importer from Aik-Siong Koh. Note that the textures are mapping nicely onto the relatively complex model! Soon we will be able to import lots of content from Google's 3D Warehouse into Cobalt. That will be nice...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Strangely Attractive

Matthew Chadwick has been exploring the creation of GPU-computed chaotic attractors of dynamical systems using the Croquet SDK. The code he is using is based on David Faught's procedural textures code. In this implementation, the cube to the left defines a parameter space for controlling the system. Matthew says that the same code he is developing could also be used for other things like in-world physics simulations. Matthew will make all of this available for public release once the code is ready.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Better Avatars!

Better avatars for Cobalt are almost ready! Here is a video showing an early test implementation of a motion-cycle enhanced avatar in Cobalt. Peter Moore has been doing a wonderful job with this and in getting the Ogre3D XML importer to work with models developed in Maya or exported from Blender. That means that we will all soon have at least two art paths for getting avatars and other animated meshes into Cobalt worlds. It'll also be great to finally retire the stilted Alice and Rabbit avatars. This particular video also provides a sneak peak at some of the texture and environmental/directional lighting work that I hope to have make its way into the next update of the Cobalt code-base.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Croquet Simulation Work

This new video by Willi Griephan of Bremen, Germany shows the operation of two Croquet simulation spaces that he created using the Croquet SDK. The first is a falling "Domino" simulation that leverages the Open Dynamics Engine for its physics. The second scene depicts swarm behavior in an aquarium simulation where two members of a swarm can pair, and by doing so, spawn new offspring. The Swarm algorithm that Willi used is described here by Craig W. Reynolds.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


I've just been awarded an NSF Small Grant for Exploratory Research (SGER) to advance exploratory work towards a more complete open source Croquet-based browser application and toolset that can support the large scale needs of the scientific community.  With this support, we will be helping to advance the Cobalt effort by 1) making general improvements to the user interface which includes the more complete buildout of Cobalt's menus as well as improvements to basic navigational control, 2) fully implementing and testing of the ability for end-users to tag and electronically store their Cobalt-created worlds to online directories, 3) designing and implementing methods for finding and contacting other users of Croquet spaces by leveraging XMPP/Jabber as a presence registration and rendezvous mechanism, and 4) designing and implementing of methods that enable Cobalt users to browse a directory of all registered and active Cobalt spaces and to make it possible for users to contact current participants of those spaces by leveraging XMPP/Jabber and institutional IAA infrastructures as a means of defining user permissions by group affiliations.  At the end of this, we hope to have a full Beta of the Cobalt application available for download to all.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Nicholas Negroponte just posted the following announcement:

"One Laptop per Child is announcing an agreement with Microsoft
to make a dual boot, Linux/Windows, version of the XO laptop. In addition, our intention is to engage one or more third parties to port Sugar to run on Windows in order to reach a wider installed base of laptops. In the meanwhile, OLPC remains fully committed to our goal: a completely free and open learning platform for the world's children. The mission statement of OLPC has not changed in three years.

Sugar is the first user interface specifically designed for children and teachers to learn and collaborate, and remains central to our strategy. Broadening Sugar's reach to as many children as possible remains key to OLPC's mission.

To enable the Sugar environment to reach as many children as possible, particularly in the poorest areas of the world, OLPC must be able to bid on educational technology contracts, some of which require that Microsoft Windows be able to run on our hardware. The increased volumes will lower the XO-1's price, already lowest in the industry with capabilities no other laptop shares.

OLPC is substantially increasing its engineering resources and all software development continues entirely on GNU/Linux. We will continue to work to make Sugar on Linux the best possible platform for education and to invest in our expanding Linux deployments in Peru, Uruguay, Mexico and elsewhere.

No OLPC resources are going to porting Sugar to Microsoft Windows, although as a free software project, we encourage others to do so. The Sugar user interface is already available for Fedora, Debian and Ubuntu Linux distributions, greatly broadening Sugar's reach to the millions of existing Linux systems. We continue to solicit help from the free software community in these efforts. Additionally, the Fedora, Debian and Ubuntu software environments run on the XO-1, adding support for tens of thousands of free software applications.

Open Firmware V2, the free and open source BIOS, is now capable of running Linux, Microsoft Windows XP and other operating systems, and was developed by Firmworks with support from OLPC. This will enable dual boot of OLPC XO laptops with Microsoft Windows XP in addition to the existing Fedora-based system and will become the standard BIOS/bootloader for all XO systems when completed. With this "free BIOS," the XO-1 continues to be the most open laptop hardware currently

For more information, see

Friday, April 25, 2008

Another Digital Rainout

Today, for the second time in as many weeks, Second Life became unavailable for the same reasons that 3rd party large-scale server-based architectures should not be relied on to support mission-critical virtual worlds in any serious way. The outage happened, once again, just at the time that Aaron Walsh of the Media Grid Immersive Education Initiative was trying to host a Second Life in-world meeting. Here is what Linden Lab had to say: Logins have temporarily been restricted to staff-only as Operations addresses a slowdown in the asset system. We’ve also broadcast a request in world for residents who are currently logged in to refrain from manipulating or transferring assets. We’ll have more info ASAP. Obviously, this company is in real trouble given the frequency of these problems in a system that so many have come to rely on....

Monday, March 17, 2008

Saving and Loading Spaces

A new build of Cobalt has just been made available download. Added functionality includes the ability to save and load spaces from web or local directories. This means that you can now make your custom Cobalt spaces available to others as a kind of template virtual world over the web!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Cobalt Released

Cobalt is an emerging open source and multi-platform metaverse browser and toolkit application being built using the open source Croquet SDK. A pre-alpha build of the Cobalt application is being made freely available to the emerging virtual worlds community by Duke University and its partners under the Croquet license. We hope that by doing so, we will foster a viable community-based software development effort leading to open virtual world technologies supporting the needs of education and research.

The current build of Cobalt is located here.

The Monticello source code repository for Cobalt is located here.

The Cobalt-specific Mantis bug tracker is located here.

Software testing and bug reporting is a very important contribution to the effort. Doing so will help the Cobalt development community to identify areas in need of programming and re-engineering. Well-written bug reports can be an especially useful contribution by non-developers who are interested in advancing this effort during these early stages of Cobalt development. We hope that many of the community's software developers will consider taking on bug fixes.

Mark McCahill will be coordinating updates and code contributions to Cobalt to ensure compatibility with the base classes within the present Croquet SDK. In this way we can ensure that Cobalt development does not create a fork from the Croquet SDK. The goal here is to build a Croquet-based application that end-users can really use and then to contribute the application back to the Croquet Consortium for distribution as part of a future Croquet release. We hope that by making the pre-alpha available we can tap into the creative potential of the broader community as a way of advancing something that all of us can freely use to create deeply collaborative, greatly featured, and widely interlinked virtual environments on a very large scale. Lets do it!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Server Dilemma

The following quote from the article Second Earth (MIT Technology Review, July-August 2007) provides some interesting numbers around the server dilemma associated with server hosted virtual worlds such as Second Life:

This reimagining of the real world can go only so far, given current limitations on the growth of Linden Lab's server farm, the amount of bandwidth available to stream data to users, and the power of the graphics card in the average PC.

According to
[Cory] Ondrejka [Linden Lab's now former CTO], Linden Lab must purchase and install more than 120 servers every week to keep up with all the new members pouring into Second Life, who increase the computational load by creating new objects and demanding their own slices of land. Each server at Linden Lab supports one to four "regions," 65,536-square-meter chunks of the Second Life environment--establishing the base topography, storing and rendering all inanimate objects, animating avatars, running scripts, and the like. This architecture is what makes it next to impossible to imagine re-creating a full-scale earth within Second Life, even at a low level of detail. At one region per server, simulating just the 29.2 percent of the planet's surface that's dry land would require 2.3 billion servers and 150 dedicated nuclear power plants to keep them running. It's the kind of system that "doesn't scale well," to use the jargon of information technology.

But then, Linden Lab's engineers never designed Second Life's back end to scale that way. Says Ondrejka, "We're not interested in 100 percent veracity or a true representation of static reality."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Croquet Skeletal Animation Part 2

Another example video of skeletal animation in Croquet.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Wii-mote Possibilities

Here is a clever video from Johnny Lee at Carnegie Mellon University showing how you can use a Nintendo Wii-mote and home-made infrared LED light pens to create a low cost multi-touch interactive whiteboard system.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why Second Life Won't Get a Third

Max Borders opines on what he views as the key differences between Second Life and Croquet. Another piece comparing the two technologies can be found here.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Croquet Selected!

This past weekend, it was announced at The Boston Media-Grid Summit that the Immersive Education Initiative (see article on the initiative's goals) has selected Croquet as one of three official "next generation" immersive education platforms. The Immersive Education Initiative is an international collaboration of universities, colleges, research institutes, consortia companies, and foundations that are working together to define and develop open standards, best practices, platforms, and communities of support for virtual reality and game-based learning and training systems. The other two immersive education platforms selected were Sun's open source Project Wonderland client and the now open source Second Life client.

What this all means is that the open source Croquet platform's value will become better known and that the Immersive Education Initiative will now direct both funding and programming resources towards the development and deployment of open source Croquet technologies and open source Croquet-based educational applications. Selection criteria for this important honor included the following: 1) support for the Windows and Macintosh operating systems; 2) availability as open source code; 3) vendor-neutral client and server architectures (no vendor lock-in); 4) stable and reliable runtime implementations; 5) integrated text chat and voice chat; 6) high resolution graphics; 7) multi-user support for collaboration; 8) highly customizable avatars that support high resolution graphics and body animation (gestures); and 9) support for user-created content.

The event in Boston was an invitation-only affair hosted and sponsored by the Grid Institute, the Woods College of Advancing Studies at Boston College, and the City of Boston with participation from the Federation of American Scientists and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Croquet Spoof

Recently posted by David Faught. Happy New Year!