Sunday, April 01, 2007

3D, Navigation and Browsing

Some of you know that I've managed to squeeze in a little Second Life time, looking for interesting things. As I mentioned earlier - SL is, at its core, an economical game. The cost of purchasing a suitable area for experimentation is prohibitive and nearly everything costs Lindens, which can be expensive. There are some jobs available, but for the most part these center around a very healthy virtual sex community. (Much has been writeen about this already, but it cracks me up that the "World's Oldest Profession" is also "SL's Oldest Profession").

At any rate, I thought I'd take a moment to discuss some of the interesting models of navigation that one encounters in SL. First, the default view is that of a camera suspended behind your Avatar (av for short) and slightly above.

It is possible to see the world from your av's point of view (called "mouselook". This can pose problems for new folks because the method of navigation changes from simply using the arrows to move to heading in whatever direction you look. I tend to use both depending on the situtation.

But one of the interesting aspects of SL (and many such virtual worlds, like WoW) is the ability to "pan and scan" your camera from its default position. If you see something interesting but don't want to walk over to it, or if it too high, you can zoom in or out quite a bit. Here are two examples, a close up and then a zoom out. These shots were taken from the same location as the one above (my latest favorite place to visit, Ethereal Teal (Ethereal Teal, Teal (127, 122, 30).

Closeup (forgive my moment of vanity):

Zoomed out (can you see me waving?):

The more I use this interface the more interested I become in this as the future of virtual 3D navigation. Imagine a browser in which you could "fly" around the links, or a news site in which related stories are positioned strategically around the story that you are reading...or better yet, art in which the viewer maintained some control over what they experienced.


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