Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mobile AJAX, then some really cool SL stuff

I read this blog posting about mobile AJAX with some interest. The main premise was that, due to the difficulty in porting to so many mobiles, even with the efforts of the J2ME specification, large-scale deployments remain prohibitive. The blog concludes:

AJAX offers a potentially better solution in comparison to the incumbents (J2ME and XHTML) due to a combination of fewer potential choke points because of its distribution mechanism. The economic models do not favour J2ME and AJAX offers a superior user experience to XHTML. It has the support of the developer community.

I think the idea is cool, but the one fly in the ointment is the fact that mobile connectivity is still so sketchy, and applications need to really support a 'sometimes connected', or event 'mostly connected' environment, as well as the ability to receive pushed-in data. I suppose there are all sorts of creative ways around this, but for the foreseeable future, web browsing on mobiles still sucks.

To other things, we're working on a really cool idea for physical/virtual mash-ups. Imagine a physical space embedded within a virtual space, where real people can see and interact with avatars, and vice versa. In this environment, the virtual avatars can 'reach in' and alter the physical environment, and real life individuals that inhabit this space can use physical 'things' to alter the virtual environment. Sort of a twilight-zone between two parallel universes!

The pic below shows me standing in the virtual room that surrounds the physical room. Imagine that the virtual walls are projected on the physical walls that surround the room occupants. On the walls are windows that avatars may approach. The avatars themselves see real-time streams of audio and video, so from their perspective they are looking into the real room. This sort of thing has been done before, but I think the context is unique. It'll be a cool place to explore the merging of the physical world and the virtual world. This is being tested right now by pushing a custom Second Life client through four monitors arranged as the walls of the room, and will eventually be projected on the actual walls of the real room. (I didn't write the client!)

It's just the start, a fascinating range of possibilities opens up from here. One SL friend, Uskala, mentioned the idea that the walls of the room could change from a meeting space to an auditorium, so that's something that I just implemented, where the walls reconfigure to reveal an auditorium space, and seating rises from the floor. Imagine giving a SL presentation by standing at a podium, looking out onto an audience of avatars. If time permits, I'd like to program these room alterations into the room control system, so a physical knob or button could select different room configurations. This is really cool stuff! More later as it develops, but the first tries today look promising.

No comments: