sansar is here & finally i blog!

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sansar is here & finally i blog!

[Carl Fravel from the closed Sansar creator preview group asked me to write a foreword to his Sansar Creator Guide.

The following is the full text which may appear abridged in the Kindle/Paperback edition of the book]

going into the office to think about sansar. lavender modeled by cube republic. house made by ria in blender and ceiling fan script by wade665...

going into the office to think about sansar. lavender modeled by cube republic. house made by ria in blender and ceiling fan script by wade665...

Once a upon a time, in the year 2003 to be exact, a virtual world was born that enabled ordinary people from all walks of life - and now I can’t quite recall this quote from Linden Lab co-founder Philip Rosedale so I paraphrase -  to “exercise that forgotten muscle of creativity”.

second life in 2002 [from the sl wikipage]

second life in 2002 [from the sl wikipage]

14 years later Second Life has survived countless clones and even now - in the age of neo VR - I’d argue SL is as vibrant as ever if not more so.

But of course public perception - regurgitated by countless superficial news reports - is mostly the exact opposite: in casual conversation friends, family and “experts” would usually state that SL occupies only a marginal niche of no consequence in the history of digital culture.

a moog synth made of prims in second life by nnoiz papp

a moog synth made of prims in second life by nnoiz papp

sl14b featuring a clay person made by loki eliot in rl and imported and animated in sl ...

sl14b featuring a clay person made by loki eliot in rl and imported and animated in sl ...

historic recreations made in sl

historic recreations made in sl

Will the advent of Sansar - a Linden Lab made world building platform now in public beta and compatible with current display tech as well as various emerging tracking devices - propel the user centric virtual world segment to new heights?

To mass adoption even? 

Is Linden Lab granted a stab at …. Third Life?

ryan schultz at the nasa apollo museum in sansar

ryan schultz at the nasa apollo museum in sansar

sorry bad German humor….

Well let’s put it this way: the verdict if hundreds of millions adopt this concept right away is out and I am in the privileged position that I can say it is not my primary concern!

anrick from unit9 working on a lush green garden in sansar

anrick from unit9 working on a lush green garden in sansar

“What?” says the reader undoubtedly now: “...has Draxtor lost his VW-enthusiast energizer bunny marbles?”

To be clear: that I don’t care about mass adoption does not mean that I don’t wish huge reach, an immediate explosion of creator/user sign-ups and gigantic concurrency to Linden Lab, us elitist artistes, creative professionals and the people who simply want to build their own little corner in the Metaverse and enjoy it with their community! 

christian from loot interactive building...

christian from loot interactive building...

It would be wonderful to see everyone [and their mom?] embrace user-created content of varying sophistication and thereby enriching the plethora of cultural offerings in digiland which arguably are currently dominated by polished yet fairly cookie-cutter content and the powerful parties occupying every seat at the table are mostly big entities pushing down streamlined and focus-group tested content so we can be entertained 24/7. 

drax eyeing the future of vr back at the 2001 namm show [how the heck....]

drax eyeing the future of vr back at the 2001 namm show [how the heck....]

“What?” repeats the reader: “... does Draxtor not realize Linden Lab is partnering with Turbosquid aka the evil Walmart of 3D content and thereby paving the way to Sansar becoming Disney-fied from the get-go and destroying hobbyists’ chance for a place at that very table?” 

a teenager playing sansar experience made entirely without turbosquid

a teenager playing sansar experience made entirely without turbosquid

Well, Turbosquid is at the table and like it or not but so is the entire internet which is - news flash - chock-full of 3D content, good, bad and ugly.

screengrab from livestream of theanine's "valencia"

screengrab from livestream of theanine's "valencia"

And as individual specialists competing globally we have to deal with this scenario somehow and it is not a simple matter: it has to do with fair compensation and solidarity among us digital workers but I do believe that we have an ally  in Linden Lab - an experienced platform provider and thereby regulator with deep expertise in gently leveling the playing field.

a user made tribute to second life scifi author elinor caiman sands

a user made tribute to second life scifi author elinor caiman sands

Why?

Because Linden Lab needs us to grow the platform! They will not kill the goose which lays those golden you know what and that goose’s name is not Turbosquid but …. well let’s reveal it right here: it is Maxwell Graf.  

interviewing maxwell graf about 3d maker unions in socialist america....

interviewing maxwell graf about 3d maker unions in socialist america....

And 4 others - of course…. 

Sorry there is that bad humor again! 

Point is: I am confident that Linden is fully aware what one of the secrets behind SL’s longevity is that engaging residents via empowering creators by giving those creators the ability to freely monetize their ingenuity, be it 3D visual content, audio or virtual services of all kinds. 

In any event going back to virtual world domination which I really think is not even necessary for Sansar to succeed.

I personally would be very very  happy if Linden Lab generates enough revenue to be able to keep the lights on and the engine churning comfortably. 

In Second Life and in Sansar! 

Sansar does not need to dominate the Metaverse eco-system but Sansar could simply earn a reputation as the very best and the most diverse world building platform out there. 

an early closed beta office hours with dragons...

an early closed beta office hours with dragons...

And that can be accomplished if WE [the people?] build build build and build some more! 

second life 360 video displayed in sansar

second life 360 video displayed in sansar

My favorite restaurant, my favorite movie, my favorite record, my favorite book, heck: my favorite opera [oh yeah I am an elitist condescending European alright!!!] - none of these offerings went number #1 upon first publication, some went cult over time and a few are cornerstones in cultural history, having paved the way forward for others but are virtually unknown.  

hands down the coolest sansar world coz well draxbrau???

hands down the coolest sansar world coz well draxbrau???

I won’t bore you with titles of my faves and before I completely digress into an endless rant against consumer culture because I want you to start reading Carl Fravel’s wonderful guide to creating stuff in Sansar and prove me right: that we can make these worlds that matter, that we can make the diverse culture that transforms us, that we can dream up wondrous inclusive experiences. 

114 harvest which is arguably the best experience ever made in the history of digital worlds! am i biased? noooooooo

114 harvest which is arguably the best experience ever made in the history of digital worlds! am i biased? noooooooo

So go forth and be assured: I am psyched to see what y’all are going to build! 

And to my Linden Labbers, worker-bees as well as execs: congratulations to an amazing launch and thank you for providing us with yet another gigantic sandbox to keep playing until we hit the bucket. 

special shout out to jenn, head of community, for enduring some long long hours and contentious debate in the private channels...

sl never say die!!!

sl never say die!!!

I shall remain your eternal wide-eyed goofy obsessed Draxtor and won’t neglect to roam Second Life with my microphone and camera but if I get a story scoop from Sansar I will come over right away. 

there is a note on the fridge at #114harvest

there is a note on the fridge at #114harvest

PS: if you like to discuss my favorite movies/books/classical music pieces = visit me at 114 Harvest and join us for Atlas Hopping?

PPS: if you create in sansar do not forget how important audio is [a message from torley who designed all the sounds in the world and helped with the final flufee episode back in the day...]

torley calling flufee while working on sansar audio...

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sansar is coming this summer...

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sansar is coming this summer...

...and a new video hit the official youtube channels today - a little profile i made a while ago about croatian content creator ria who resides somewhere in austria [if i recall correctly!]

ria in her element filmed by a hairy dude...

ria in her element filmed by a hairy dude...

it was a really inspiring day meeting her for the first time, talking our passion about second life and filming with her and her husband.

the video depicts ria's "little giant" experience, showing a tiny glimpse of what is possible today with sansar.

i think that ria - although she is a professional in the sense that she makes a living via 3d content - is a good example of what sansar can help hobbyists and pretty much everybody else accomplish: the dream of putting together your very own immersive social vr experience is becoming real reality.

let us not kid ourselves: at the moment the vr business is a bit of an elitist's game. yes, the hardware is pricey too but frankly that is not what  the core issue is, at least in my mind: in order to produce a visually and narratively compelling vr experience today you need to have acquired a lot of different digital skills.

yes, you can learn unity but you need time and many people don't have that luxury.

yes, you can install your own server and run your own universe from a spare machine at home but is it really that easy to install your own server? where is customer support if you just want to come home from work and have 1 hour to build something and enjoy it with others?

everything else out there in emerging social vr land is ambitious yes, but often buggy and in some cases just a tiny little isolated sandbox, not really a world let alone a universe!

sansar already in closed beta has a functioning marketplace where transactions are are super simple. the concurrency of avatars, the realism in visual and aural rendering is crazy good. the editing ui is solid and plug and play. the performance is spectacular.

no: i am not getting paid to say all this [as is alleged by a certain sl centric tabloid blog out there...]

i was skeptical in the very beginning of my own testing phase but i just completed my own experience [with loads of help from a special new friend!] and by doing this hands on for a month i can tell you: i might love sansar even more than my other main workhorse: pro tools. both don't disrupt the creative workflow. they are just there to serve!

and just like second life i am convinced that over time linden lab with sansar has the potential to level the playing field in the arena of world building like they did 14 years ago already. ultimately though it will depend on the people making those worlds and those people are out there waiting to be told "yes, you can!" ...

the drax files team in 360 behind the scenes

the drax files team in 360 behind the scenes

so in closing: i am very excited about tackling a few projects myself that have to do with family history, something where the past comes alive and my relatives would enjoy. i will involve some relatives in hands on building and they are well into their 80ties age wise. i believe they can be equal building partners given the simplicity of the process!

ria in her world...

ria in her world...

 

exciting days are ahead.

ria against the wall

ria against the wall

 

btw for the record: i am not abandoning the rich and vibrant universe of second life at all because of my new girl sansar - matter of fact: i am working hard on my most ambitious mini documentary yet about a national science foundation grant that explores embodiment issues in vws.

hello lily!

hello lily!

addendum: a few more videos have come out since ria's story.

they are depicting various creators and their personal take on what sansar is for them.  i will be updating the playlist below as they come in. disclaimer: the official promo video at the start of the playlist is NOT made by me. enjoy!

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edu vs edu

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edu vs edu

shortly after publishing my latest drax files world makers episode about istanbul university and how this particular institution uses second life to teach local and remote students, a debate ensued in the youtube comment section that i find quite important, however it is being conducted in a bit of a black-and-white/broad-brush type manner.

check out the video below and read some of the comments if you will:

 

having documented the efforts of individual educators, large educational institutions and smaller globally distributed non-profits who experiment with virtual worlds in various ways, i was well aware of the controversy surrounding the approach of replicating "reality" aka the classroom in sl as a center point of online instruction.

below: a example of a trans-media project i was involved with that does in fact replicate a lot of stuff: in this case the gruesome past of lynching of african-americans in the in the jim crow south...

there are many passionate voices who say replicating a classroom and/or a campus in second life is a bad bad idea because a) it does not take advantage of the imaginative powers of a world where everything is possible and b) [which is kind of the result of a)], students will be even less engaged than in the physical classroom because they already reject those limitations there & in second life they find themselves basically having a powerful space dominated [neutered?] by a institution/teacher/someone who does not get it.

irfan to student: "i know you think i don't get video games but i do!"

irfan to student: "i know you think i don't get video games but i do!"

and then among those voices there are even educators who say the entire experiment of using virtual worlds in the classroom has failed precisely because of that group of colleagues who "lacked the imagination"/understanding of sl and simply saw it as a digital mirror.

hmds in second life: nothing but smoke and mirrors?

hmds in second life: nothing but smoke and mirrors?

and for the above crowd my video seems to be proof that even the most passionate defenders of sl [evangelists like me] are still not getting it, dabbling on the surface and perpetuating the misperception that sl is nothing more than a 3d chatroom.

what can i - the naughty boy set out to destroy sl in edu by regurgitating clichés - say, that clarifies my stance without sounding defensive?

it was a different time...it was a different world///

it was a different time...it was a different world///

well first of all, i am really  saddened that a lot of people seem to perceive the entire video and the angle i chose to be promoting the "replication of reality model".

i thought it was pretty clear, that professors tuncer can and irfan simsek - who are profiled in the video - do not stop at the use of the replicated classroom [which as they clearly state serves primarily as a successful on-boarding mechanism because of its familiarity to skeptical students] but expand the educational possibilities by making proof of concept games for different grades, presenting solid informational spaces for foreign students and showing students how to make machinima, which enables them to use the entire world as their imaginative sandbox/playground, a gigantic hollywood studio if you will - at their fingertips.

did i say fingertips?

did i say fingertips?

mmmhhhh scifi roleplay.....

mmmhhhh scifi roleplay.....

nothing in my mind could be more creative than letting future english teachers imagine how to visualize specific grammatical problems in a storytelling context or let folks get their feet wet with linden scripting language and gain confidence in coding their own experiences.

below a user-created beauty, experienced with the oculus rift:

anyways: this short blog post is certainly not intended to serve as a statement in defense of my decisions as a documentarian on this or previous videos. i really just want these communities to have a more constructive dialogue about the issues as we enter the neo vr era.

this is the future....or the past...or the present...or all of the above?

this is the future....or the past...or the present...or all of the above?

these approaches have to be rethought and renegotiated have to be those spaces! nobody who is enthusiastic about virtual reality in the classroom is served by the cynicism and sometimes even vitriol expressed in some of the comments [and by that i am not referring to james o'reilly, that well known troll, who spammed the channel with a bunch of comments as well].

the o'reilly factor at play....

the o'reilly factor at play....

i think many of the educators critical of the "realism" approach to vws are much better served in looking at their own contributions to the space critically: have they really [as some claim] used sl in imaginative ways? have they really pushed the envelope?

below: pushing the second life envelope in artistic and interactive ways = madpea [since 2008]

because frankly: in 10 years i  have NOT seen much that is utilizing all the magnificent possibilities linden lab has offered residents: features like the advanced lighting system, experience keys, support of complex mesh models, the brand-new bento skeleton for avatars and the list goes on and on and on. below = project bento is happening:

perhaps the folks complaining should ask themselves that the lack of acceptance for second life aided instruction among their student body, the lack of success among administrators and colleagues has to do with the fact that they are using a really outdated visual approach.

from the outside it kind of looks like  that are somehow locked in the 2006/2007 era of sl?

maybe - as a starting point - they get more student engagement if they would update their own avatar and show the game-savvy kids that second life can be super cool?

how about a virtual field trip to the best sl has to offer by checking out the blogs of inara pey and ziki questi, how about loki eliot's blog and his musings on game design in sl?

how about attending immersive roleplaying events but only after getting a bit of an avatar make over?

i am sorry,  but educators who use the default duck walk and do not know how to enable dynamic shadows in the viewer, who have a region in sl that has no materials enabled should not be surprised that their young and spoiled [and i mean this in the best sense of the word] clientele roll their eyes at the digital offerings.

they should also not be surprised that the neo vr crowd dismisses second life as a playground for amateurs who do not know where the digital train is headed...

it is not the replicated classroom that symbolizes being stuck in the past perhaps, it may just be the shabby default hair/clothes from 2006. or perhaps the arrogant dismissal of fashionista type endeavors in sl as "escapist"?

 

 

 

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first look at sansar [and yes: the marketplace is already here!]

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first look at sansar [and yes: the marketplace is already here!]

did someone say we must create a vr world where users like you and me [not only big game companies and experienced devs] can monetize their imagination?

just another meet-up in sansar

just another meet-up in sansar

something as freeing and economically empowering as second life, only with consistent framerates, higher visual fidelity and compatible with current vr headsets as well as mobile?

indeed someone did and i suppose that someone was a decision maker at linden lab sometime in the past - 2 or 3 years ago? -  and that goal was pursued, under the radar, quietly, thoroughly, ndas have been signed by content makers but now finally we can see a little glimpse of what is the start of possibly the impossible...

i shall now stop rambling onward in this semi-coherent flowery language and bring you a video that is 93 seconds long and may be followed by many others as the weeks move on:

make sure to check out sansar's website and sign up for creator preview will you? we need you and we need diversity and we need.....well: we need to calm down about the exciting future i suppose....

[thx so much to loz hyde and the little drax for letting me bug them with ye olde camera...]

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second life soon in 360?

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second life soon in 360?

What if there were a gigantic user-created virtual world where one could put down a virtual 6-camera rig and film action in real time for virtual sequences to complement RL 360 video?

filming myself saves costs for actors!

filming myself saves costs for actors!

As opposed to painstakingly construct CGI worlds, rig characters, code camera paths etc etc etc to achieve such sequences? And have fun to boot cause after all: avatars in SL represent real people who for the most part have fabulous acting skills!

The above thought prompted me to assemble a team and investigate the possibilities of getting decent resolution 360 Machinima from Second Life. 

And may I say that first tests have proven to be very very exhilarating!

Now: we are all pretty realistic folk: Arduenn Schwartzmann who created the simulated GoPro Rig in-world and the sync mechanism and Phil Thoma who is working on post production, trying to get a template going to cut down time for the painful stitching process [which is no fun in RL either btw!] however given the fact that Second Life with its beautiful diversity and breadth of content and activities is right there [in a persistent way if you will], the prospect of 360 videos to flood the YouTubes and show the vibrancy of SL in even modest resolution is very enticing.

I'd stipulate that what we have now is very competitive in visual fidelity to hobbyist footage coming from Ricoh Theta and Samsung Gear 360, so our SL stuff is nothing to be ashamed of.

Also, a notable side effect of our experiments: the mainstream tech press - which has been chasing the shiny new squirrel of VR all the while neglecting [unsurprisingly so] existing successful examples of empowering digital platforms that have not lost their validity - has picked up the story, possibly due to our pal James T. Reichert watching our 1920s Berlin test through Hololens!

In any event: onward and hopefully some kind of usable workflow or commercial service will come out of these experiments soon[ish]. 

Let's film and see!

 

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i don't blog enough but metube2 demands i do it now!

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i don't blog enough but metube2 demands i do it now!

i am aware that the lamest title anyone could use on their blog is something to the effect of "sorry i been away for a year/we had to raise 3 children/my internet was cut off because comcast hates me/i will vow to blog daily now unless my mom demands that i clean my room"...

in lieu of some such apologies i give you guys a gift instead: the online premiere of metube2 happened last weekend in vienna and now everyone can see this little gem - everyone on the planet with an internet connection, not just those elitist snobs from sundance.

staff pick on vimeo = not so shabby elfie....

staff pick on vimeo = not so shabby elfie....

the credit list is huge on this one, especially in the post departments and the emphasis of the film is of course on real wacky visual.

people in sport shorts cutting the official metube cake

people in sport shorts cutting the official metube cake

but you know what they say? "in a music video the music is actually more than 50% of the success" or something similar, i forgot the exact quote...or did i just make this up? mmhhhh...

in any event, frank zappa would have rolled his eyes at the prevalence of music videos as a means to sell artists in a crowded marketplace but metube is obviously a lot more than a promotional vehicle: it is the depiction - in an almost jodorowsky-type fashion of the life and times of the fictional character august and his mother elfie, the ongoing saga of a man-child if you will.

cheerleaders confuse the robo-cam as raoul looks on with utter calmness of a pro...

cheerleaders confuse the robo-cam as raoul looks on with utter calmness of a pro...

whatever people say: this is an actual artistic short film with orff's carmina burana functioning as but one protagonist in a multitude of crazy protagonists.

august loves the green - in all worlds....

august loves the green - in all worlds....

conductor oksana lyniv says "not like this my dear bavarians..." during recording session of "carmina burana" in munich

conductor oksana lyniv says "not like this my dear bavarians..." during recording session of "carmina burana" in munich

the orchestral performance is superb as expected from the bavarian state opera but the musicians and singers just as much as i producing the score had to blend in with the story to make it a integrated experience.

pianist thinks to himself: "why did i not become a nurse practitioner or a bus driver..."

pianist thinks to himself: "why did i not become a nurse practitioner or a bus driver..."

 

i am proud to have been given the opportunity to collaborate with this fine team, especially my partner in sound philip preuss, whose remix is simply rockin'!

it was extremely cool to hang with the team in vienna at tischtennis center and see them in person for the first time. check out actor raoul and his mad ping-pong skills beating nadja hluchovsky from the make-up department:

 

but now = watch metube2, enjoy, comment and share!

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we are going to sundance...again!

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we are going to sundance...again!

well, it is pretty darn crazy but it is also true: we are nominated for "best foreign short" again at this year's sundance film festival in park city utah.

out of some 10k submissions they chose our wacky interpretation of carl orff's "carmina burana".

elfie - star of metube 1 - again in a starring role...

elfie - star of metube 1 - again in a starring role...

maybe it helped that i went to carl-orff high school in the early 80ties? we shall never know because robert redford don't talk 'bout those things...

this logo was made in 1981 by students and they never changed it...

this logo was made in 1981 by students and they never changed it...

anyhow: i will be flying out there for 5 days and participate in panels surrounding our film "metube2" but also hope to see some mind boggling vr related content, because you guessed it: vr is a big buzz word at sundance this year just like everywhere else [nonny dela pena will be there as well]

scary just to think about it... can't wait to try though....

scary just to think about it... can't wait to try though....

i will report back on the drax files radio hour, collecting audio from all the major players as i go along...

another project by nonny together with bavc alumnus brad lichtenstein = to be showcased at "new frontier" @ sundance

another project by nonny together with bavc alumnus brad lichtenstein = to be showcased at "new frontier" @ sundance

 ...we will also all find out if palmer luckey wears flip-flops in the snow won't we? and khakis...or maybe something else....

ballet shoes? really?  

ballet shoes? really?

 

either way: i shall remind folks of a wonderful little giant virtual world that was once the hype at sundance as well [believe me i know because i was there on a sl-related panel in '08, talking virtual Gitmo, see video below, thumbnail featuring susana ruiz to my left]

...and so i shall talk people's ears off on that subject. wish me luck! i printed new business cards for the occasion [naturally!].

mmmmhhhh moo cards - they rock!

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halloween is over - so what?

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halloween is over - so what?

Second Life polymath [this moniker given by himself] Loki Eliot created a masterful creepy game within our vast virtual world and my completely biased opinion is that THE WELL: INFIRMOS proves that SL is a marvelous place to design and deploy immersive adventure games.

So yeah: the kids are done trick/treating but THE WELL is still around for you to play in SL right now. It took me about 2 hours of scares and fun to complete the game and get my little gift.

I streamed it too on YouTube Gaming and yes = did have some help from friends.

Enjoy:

Full disclosure: I did a bit of voice over for the game - won't tell you what character because that would be a bad spoiler. Also: a little boy who appears in the story has a voice that sounds soooo familiar to me....

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vr and kids

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vr and kids

On a recent podcast I had the opportunity to interview Rj Sampson and Reggie Millsaps from VR Kids, group of VR enthusiasts out of Las Vegas, who are bringing virtual reality experiences to children who are [often severely] impaired in terms of their mobility.

Think of VR what you will - an empathy machine & experiential learning accelerator or the end of all culture/face-to-face interaction, turning us all into passive escapists on a dying planet - RJ, Reggie and team do fabulous work for an underserved community of kids and their parents.

Take a listen and "see" for yourself what "therapeutic VR for kids" is all about:


 

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just such a fan of nonny...

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just such a fan of nonny...

It has to be said: we are big fans!

nonny dela pena = the godmother of immersive journalism

nonny dela pena = the godmother of immersive journalism

Nonny dela Pena who started dabbling with VR in Second Life with the "Virtual Guantanamo" Project back in 2007 is all over the media today and deservedly so as she is proving that immersive journalism will be here to stay. We worked on several projects with her including the "Cap & Trade" game among many others but "Gone Gitmo" still stands out as a project where immersion happens instantly, even without an HMD:

At last weekend's VRLA expo her Emblematic Group demoed the Trayvon Martin piece "One Dark Night" that puts you into the role of a witness of that tragic encounter between a black teenager and a [overzealous to say the least] neighborhood watch guy who ends up killing the young man, citing Florida's "stand your ground" law.

Listen back to our in depth interview with Nonny on the podcast and make sure to catch her work or possibly her physical self should you go to any number of international VR/AR conferences: she most surely will represent.

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