ScienceSim Land Grant Program Overview & FAQ

We’ve had requests to repeat the presentation about the ScienceSim land grant program.  Although most of the parcels have been assigned, there are a few left, so we’re providing this overview of the program for those who have been unable to attend our past presentations.

The ScienceSim land grant program is an opportunity for nonprofit entities to explore the use of the OpenSim platform for their educational, research, and scientific endeavors.  The program ends on June 30, 2010.  There is no cost for participation in the program.  Management oversight is provided by the Fashion Research Institute, and grid administration is handled by Intel Labs.   The ScienceSim grid is hosted by IEEE/ACM.

The ScienceSim grid originated as a part of an exhibit for the 3D Internet track for the Supercomputing 09 conference, held in November 2009.  The multidisciplinary collaborators on the ScienceSim grid worked closely to develop a wide array of engaging exhibits, some of which were shown as part of Intel CTO Justin Rattner’s keynote speech at Supercomputing 09.  As the conference approached, collaborators were concerned that the work they had accomplished in common, the research they had conducted, and the results they had achieved in common not be lost after the conference.  To that end, it was agreed by these collaborators that they would work to create a formal organization which would serve as the catcher not only of their common work, including the code, content, and best practices they had created, but would also work to develop a stable distribution of OpenSim for the use of educators, researchers, and scientists.  The distribution would include not just the code, but full documentation, best practices, and curated content.

In order to help raise awareness and attention about such an organization, the ScienceSim land grant program was developed and launched.  Those of us who work extensively in OpenSim already know how flexible and extensible the platform is.  It serves the needs of fashion design students as readily as it meets the requirements of scientists who want to show visualizations of large scale datasets and changes that occur to them over time.  The low cost and ability of the platform to scale to accommodate the needs of multidisciplinary users has been amply proven to us, both through our own programs or through collaborating with other groups.  Enabling other users to access this platform is, we feel, key to the evolution of the platform and its ecology of community, content, and user needs.

An active community of explorers and users will help us define the user needs for the platform, which in turn will help us define what a stable distribution should look like.  In other words, we are all collaborating together to help move OpenSim forward.

Like Second Life regions, OpenSim regions are also 256mx256m square.  We have divided our regions into 1/4 region parcels, with the edges around the parcels retained for use in ‘urban infrastructure’, eg, walkways and roads.  Recipients of parcels in the ScienceSim land grant program includes a 100mx100m parcel, with each parcel containing 8,000 primitives.  For those keeping score, yes, this means that the regions themselves can contain up to 35,000 primitives.  While the servers running these regions are capable of much more (for example, Shengri La Chamomile currently has 256,000 primitive objects in the region) what we have found is that user experience degrades over 35,000 objects. We are therefore artificially limiting the regions to a mere 8,000 prims per recipient, in order to help manage user experience for all users.

In addition to the basic parcel, Fashion Research Institute is providing professional management oversight of the program, including managing the land covenant and other agreements.  The program also includes access to premium, verified original content, licensed for use on the ScienceSim grid.  This library of content includes 170 prefab buildings, developed in 6 styles, in 6 colors per style, in an array of sizes per style; 80 texture packs, each containing 12-20 unique textures; an array of avatar customization content for both male and female avatars (skins, shapes, eyes, hair, clothing, shoes, accessories); landscaping and hardscaping; sculpted animals, and more.  The library also includes a collection of ‘basic’ scripting which has been written by the collaborators and donated to the scriptorium with the appropriate licenses. And, lastly, a proven orientation gateway system, courtesy of FRI,  for users to orient their new users. This gateway has been used to orient more than 65,000 new users and can be used by land grant recipients for orientation of their new users.

What the program does not include is any additional region, content, or program development; any backend integration to existing programs; or consulting.  Recipients must be able to handle their own development or they must have a budget to pay for any additional development they themselves cannot perform.  The ScienceSim land grant program cannot provide these services.

Entities which have heavy tech integration needs or which require 24/7 customer service support should consider a commercial alternative such as ReactionGrid, SimHost, or 3D Hosting.  The ScienceSim land grant is not a competitive alternative to a commercial hosting facility and should not be regarded as such.

The land grant program ends on June 30, 2010.  At that time, the servers being used to host the regions will be re-purposed.  They are not available to rent or hire and regions currently hosted on those servers must be migrated elsewhere.  The data, research, content, and context the parcel recipients have developed in their region will not, however, be lost.   Parcel recipients own their data.  And they will be provided with their data in the form of an OAR (OpenSim Archive Resource) file at the end of the term.  Depending on the size of the file, it will be emailed or placed on an FTP site where it can be picked up.

Either a full OAR file or a partial OAR file will be produced, depending on the future plans of the recipients. Participants who want to continue maintaining a presence on the ScienceSim grid after June 30, 2010, will need to make arrangements for their own hosting (either through internal resources or through commercial services).  Monthly hosting costs vary widely depending on the technical facilities an entity has internally or their need to purchase external monthly hosting.

While OpenSim, and OpenSim-based grids are often compared to the ‘Wild West’ of virtual worlds, ScienceSim itself could not be further from such a statement.  ScienceSim is hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM).  Weekly meetings are held during which representatives holding regions participate in the governance of the grid.  Future directions of the grid are discussed and agreed upon at these meetings. Systems administration is provided by Intel Labs.  There are weekly user meetings in which all users of the grid are welcome  to participate.  The ScienceSim land grant program itself is managed by FRI, and weekly governance meetings are held in the Homestead regions.  All parcel recipients are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Naturally, along with governance comes rules.  We too have rules with which we expect all recipients and their users to comply.  We expect recipients to use their real identities combined with their real organizations.  We expect our users to behave in accordance with the collaborative spirit of the community which has developed in ScienceSim, and to treat others with decency and respect.  We expect the users of the grid to obey our land covenant, and to observe the terms of use of our content licenses. Some of our users encourage their children and other family members to explore OpenSim on our grid.  We do not have any sort of content that encourages the ‘broader range of human expression’ beyond the bounds of expression that might be exhibited in a typical corporate or educational setting.  We expect our users to conform to the same sort of expression.

This program is limited to representatives from entities and entities which are educational, research, or scientific organizations.

Commercial entities are not eligible for this program.  If you already have a presence elsewhere on an OpenSim-based grid, you are not eligible.  If you are an individual who just wants to explore, you are not eligible.

If you do not have basic ‘build’ abilities, and the ability to manage your program or project on your own, you won’t be a good fit for this program.  Our collaborators are all busy with their own research, and while additional collaborations may well spring up as a result of proximity, you should not apply if you don’t have the basic skills you need to obtain one of our prefabs and get your parcel developed.  You cannot assume there will be resources to help you develop your project or program.

The grid is called the ScienceSim grid, but that is not an implication about the sorts of programs or disciplines which will be engaging in these parcels over the next six months.  Naturally, we have several Ed Tech programs which will be developing projects there, but we also have fashion design interns, legal interns, geology, game design, and even creative writing projects which will develop in these parcels.   What do you want to explore in this six month window?  You can use the space as teaching space, as lab space, as development space across an array of disciplines.

Sound like utopia? Almost, but of course, there’s always some fine print.  We like to think we’ve kept ours to a minimum, but we still have a little.  Fashion Research Institute holds a formal research agreement with Intel Labs.  We have completed the due diligence process and have signed the research contract that governs our engagement on the ScienceSim grid.  We have agreed to serve as the administrators of the ScienceSim land grant program.  What this means is that any parcel recipient must sign a legally binding agreement with FRI before a parcel can be awarded.  We have worked with our attorneys to create a short, 2-page agreement that is written in as close to plain English as we could get it.  The terms of the agreement are not negotiable.

Our lawyers tell us we cannot sign agreements with avatars.  Real identities, real organizations only, and you should assume basic due diligence will be conducted.  Requests from non-organizational e-mail addresses will be met with a standard form response to send us a request out of your official e-mail account.  We cannot engage with individuals who aren’t affiliated with the organization they purport to represent.

Want to apply for a parcel? It’s easy.  Send us your real identity, your real affiliation, and a brief 2-3 sentence (even a paragraph, we read fast) description out of your affiliation e-mail.  We review applications and turn them around within 24 hours.  If you do not hear from us within 24 hours, it means your request was caught in a spam filter.  Please resend in such cases.

The application e-mail address is: admin @ fashionresearchinstitute.com

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ScienceSim Land Grant Program Presentations Scheduled

Please join us on Saturday, January 9th or Sunday, January 10th for a presentation about the land grant program in ScienceSim.  Details about participation in this program will be presented and information about applying for a parcel with be provided.

The times and locations are as follows:

Saturday, January 9th, 7 am PT/10 am ET, Shengri La Hope 216, 37, 2001

Sunday, January 10th, 10 am PT/1 pm ET, Shengri La Hope 216, 37, 2001

Sunday, January 10th, 4 pm PT/7 pm ET, Shengri La Hope 216, 37, 2001

If you cannot make these events, you may visit our regions in ScienceSim or in Second Life (Shengri La Hope) for more information, or send a request through your organizational email to admin at fashionresearchinstitute dot com.  Please note we cannot respond to requests from noninstitutional addresses.

Assets for the Land Grant Program

Through our research collaboration with Intel Labs, Fashion Research Institute is overseeing the ScienceSim land grant program, as announced in this blog post.  A critical part of developing the program was the need to explain to users how they can use the grant and what our expectations are of users’ behavior. We opted for a combination of a legal agreement and a covenant.  The legal agreement is made with the principal holder of the grant and holds them responsible for their use of the grant.  The covenant explicitly defines a code of behavior by all users towards the ecology of the virtual environment and the other users.  The covenant  is based on best practices drawn from managing tens of thousands of user experiences on our islands in Second Life.

Part of the covenant deals with the body of rich content we’re providing for the users of ScienceSim.

“Selected content is provided for the use of land grant recipients, including premium avatar content, default avatars, textures, office equipment, and buildings.  This content is provided only for the use of residents of ScienceSim under various licenses, and may not be removed from Sciencesim or otherwise used to develop derivative works anywhere except in ScienceSim.  Users are encouraged to create their own content as well.  Pirated content will be removed immediately.”

This content was developed using our patent-pending Black Dress methodology and the provenance of each piece is known and has been tracked.   This is original content and has been created in situ in the ScienceSim grid as opposed to our own development platform.  We opted to develop in this way because it provides us with records of everything that was done to create the work on ScienceSim.  We have mixed licenses depending on how the content was developed, the creator’s intended permissions of the content, and how the copyright ownership is assigned.

Our content base includes more than 170 prefab buildings, in six styles, each style developed in six color options, with multiple sizes for each style.  We have extensive avatar customization content available for both male and female avatars. We have created a library of high-quality seamless tiling textures.  We provide landscaping content such as trees, shrubs, fountains, sculpted flowers, and bits of whimsy such as animated water, sun dapple and spider webs.  Our script resource includes scripts optimized for OpenSim.  We have sculpted animals, birds, and marine life.

All of this content is delivered through our special content management vendors, which track who accesses this content and when and puts that information in our usage database.

We also provide sandboxes where users can create their own work or change the content we’ve provided.

Our intent is to provide a rich nucleus of content for new users, who can take what we’ve provided and use it as a foundation for their projects and programs. It is a broad but by no means comprehensive resource.

As one of the grant recipients put it, “This is a very grown-up way you’re going about the program.”

We think it is important to be able to provide the users of the land grant program with content with a clean provenance and pedigree.  We equally think it is important that we set a functional standard for curating content into a significant body of work.  We set out to define standards for quality, for the development and for the management of a content collection.  We think the content of a virtual environment is critically important to the success of the programs conducted within them. To that end, we invested considerable time developing standards with which we comply in developing and curating content.

We are currently providing overview presentations through next week.  The program is filling rapidly.  We would encourage interested parties to attend one of the overview presentations and to get their applications in early.  We are accepting applications and assigning parcels on a firt-come, first-served basis. Our next presentation is Wednesday, January 6th at 3 pm PT/6 pm ET in our Second Life Shengri La Hope region.  We will be providing a formal tour of the land grant regions in ScienceSim on thursday, January 7th from 1-2 pm ET.

ScienceSim Land Program Usage Covenant

Through our research collaboration with Intel Labs, Fashion Research Institute is overseeing the ScienceSim land grant program, as announced in this blog post.  We’ve been provided with 18 regions, which have been divided into 1/4 region parcels.  Each parcel can contain about 8,000 prims.  The regions will be awarded for a six-month period to educators, scientists, and researchers who wish to explore using OpenSim for their work, but who have not yet managed to have a presence in OpenSim.  These regions will be provided for six months, with the program scheduled to end June 30, 2010. Users will sign a formal agreement with Fashion Research Institute for use of this land.

The following covenant has been developed from our experiences working with new users through our official Community Gateway in our Second life islands of Shengri La.  Over the last year, we have had more than 60,000 new users enter through our region.  In addition to those new users, we also host thousands of more experienced users who visit our regions for various events and shopping.  Handling this level of traffic has presented us with an opportunity to develop functional best practices for educational and professional use for virtual land management and users of our programs.

We have drawn from this body of work to develop the covenant that will govern the land grant program.  This covenant is based on facts and data. In our Second Life islands, we enforce our covenant stringently, which minimizes antisocial and unprofessional behavior.  Our data shows that enabling users to engage in antisocial behavior slows the immersion process because it creates a hostile  environment.  The intent of the land program covenant is to clarify what our expectations are for users of this program so that all users may experience a working environment free of unprofessional behavior.

Land Use Covenant

Thank you for your interest in the ScienceSim land grant program.  The virtual land provided through the land grant program is intended to help educators, scientists, and researchers evaluate the OpenSim platform for use in their extended programs.

This land is provided through June 30, 2010.

Land is assigned in 1/4 region parcels with up to 8,000 objects per parcel.  Land assignees have building privileges.  Terrain textures are applied which remain in common to all parcels in the land program.  Common access features such as paths and parks are included to enable visitors to freely move between parcels.

Assigned land must be built on within three weeks of assignment.  Land which is not improved within four weeks of assignment will be reclaimed, and any objects placed in the region will be returned to the land assignee.

Selected content is provided for the use of land grant recipients, including premium avatar content, default avatars, textures, office equipment, and buildings.  This content is provided only for the use of residents of ScienceSim under various licenses, and may not be removed from Sciencesim or otherwise used to develop derivative works anywhere except in ScienceSim.  Users are encouraged to create their own content as well.  Pirated content will be removed immediately.

A complete orientation gateway which has been successfully used with more than 50,000 new users is provided for the use of  land grant recipients and their program users.

Expected Code of Behavior:

ScienceSim serves a population of educators, researchers and scientists.  Land grant recipients are expected to register with their real names and to manage their programs appropriately.

All users are expected to behave with decorum and respect to others to support this collaborative, interdisciplinary working environment.  Services are provided in English only.  All users who enter and use this grid are expected to behave and dress in a manner appropriate to a corporate or academic setting.  All users are expected to respect others’ beliefs; no solicitation, proselytization, foul language or harassment of any sort is allowed here.  Clothing is mandatory – this means at minimum, shirt and trousers that meets typical community decency standards.

Land grants are provided with an expectation that users will have sufficient expertise to develop their own regions.  There are weekly user meetings at which user experiences can and should be reported, as well as a mailing list where feedback is encouraged.  Lastly, there is a weekly governance meeting at which any conflicts will be arbitrated.

Participation

To participate in this land grant program, please send e-mail with your name, your organization, and 2-3 sentence description of the project you’d like to explore in this collaborative environment.  If you have further questions about the program, we have several overview presentations scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, January 5th, 11 am PT/2 pm ET, Shengri La Hope 216, 37, 2001

Wednesday, January 6th, 3 pm PT/6 pm ET, Shengri La Hope 216, 37, 2001

On Thursday, January 7th, 10 am PT/ 1 am ET, we’ll be touring the land grant regions.  Please meet in the Newton welcome area in ScienceSim.

Sneak Preview of Settlement Land in ScienceSim

We’ve started preparing ScienceSim for the coming land program in support of our work to develop a formal organization for the use of OpenSim for education, science, research and data visualization.

Here are some shots of our team in developing the regions – we’ve added a special mall of base content, including an array of prefab buildings, seamless tiling textures, landscaping, and other useful things.  We show here the new mall space along with the bridge through the pace leading to the land program regions.  Kansas North and South (aptly named), Alaska North and South, Dakota North and South, and Oregon North and South have emerged and merely wait urban planning before we can enable settlement.

We’ll announce the details of the land program later this week, but the over view in brief is we’ve been asked to administrate the land program through our research collaboration with Intel Labs.  We’ve been provided with 18 regions, which have been divided into 1/4 region parcels.  Each parcel can contain about 8,000 prims.  The regions will be awarded for a six-month period to educators, scientists, and researchers who wish to explore using OpenSim for their work, but who have not yet managed to have a presence in OpenSim.  These regions will be provided for six months, with the program scheduled to end June 30, 2010.

The best part – there’s no charge for the parcels. The ‘catch’? We provide the land and a range of premium, original content; settlers need to provide their own sweat equity.

If you represent an organization which you’d like to bring in to try OpenSim out, please watch this space for announcements for presentations about the particulars of the program.

Fashion Research Institute Joins IBM’s v-Business Consortium

Fashion Research Institute is pleased to join IBM’s v-Business Consortium.

The Fashion Research Institute is at the fore-front of developing innovative design & merchandising solutions for the apparel industry.  We research and develop products and systems for the fashion industry that sweepingly address wasteful business and production practices.

FRI has developed a patent-pending design methodology and new technology infrastructure using virtual worlds as the user interface.  This infrastructure reduces related fashion industry production landfill wastes and by-products to up to 60% over traditional fashion production methods and cut time-to-market for products by as much as six weeks. This infrastructure is delivered both as an SaaS solution for small apparel design houses and as an enterprise installation for large design companies.

Our product design and development software provide innovative virtual merchandising solutions for apparel, which is the display for a related product, avatar customization content or “virtua“.  In addition to these offerings, we also provide related avatar customization content (virtua) and orientation solutions for new users. We use a proven design framework to develop avatar customization content, which can be delivered via fully-loaded OpenSim regions to OpenSim grids or through the Fashionable Grid™ federated asset server .  We have a well-defined licensing process with which all of our content creators must comply to ensure their content is original work.  This protects organizations licensing content through FRI against concerns about laundered content and copyright infringement.

We train designers to use this framework in our educational offerings provided on our OpenSim regions behind our firewall, using our textbook, Designing Dreams: The Art & Business of Avatar Apparel Design & Development, written especially for our courses.

Since 2008, we have provided more than 60,000 new users with orientation services in our entry portal in Second Life. We offer a fully developed orientation region which may be easily licensed and loaded into any OpenSim-based grid.  In addition to enabling new users to learn to use these immersive spaces, we also include avatar customization content including the default FRI avatars John and Jane.

FRI’s vision is to develop bio-renewable, sustainable, multi-channel production pipelines for the fashion industry, which will change the way the industry handles raw materials, processed materials, product design methodology, and product tracking technology.  FRI is an IBM business partner and research collaborator with Intel Labs.

FRI maintains a substantial virtual world presence, including twenty regions in the ScienceSim grid dedicated to education; a private development grid behind the FRI firewall dedicated to product design and development; an initial presence in IBM’s v-Business grid; and five islands in Second Life® dedicated to ongoing research in immersion and orientation of new users.  We have been a critical part of the OpenSimulator development pathway, both through providing performance testing and feedback and through our core developers on the OpenSim project.  And we even wrote the book: Shengri La Spirit: A Designer’s Perspective of the Making of OpenSim is now available on Amazon.com.

Shengri La Emergence Day Party April 4th

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The original Shengri La island emerged on March 25th, 2007.  As it was originally intended, it served as a utopian base for our science, art, and fashion collaborators.  Shortly after the first island emerged, the other four were added: Shengri La Hope, Shengri La Peace, Shengri La Joy, and Shengri La Love. 

The past two years have seen a wide array of changes to Second Life, and to the activities and work we conduct in our regions in Second Life.  We’ve seen Windlight, sculptured prims, and the rise and fall of void sims as a business model. Despite all the changes we’ve seen, some things have remained the same in Shengri La. We continue to develop visually compelling, deeply immersive islands where our collaborators can work and engage.  We also stay true to our original covenant of providing kind sheltering wings and a safe haven for wanderers, some of whom stay with us as collaborators, others of whom are transient visitors.  Our programs have changed and expanded, and we are currently in the process of graduating our class of emerging avatar apparel designers, and developing new programs designed to move this important work forward.

In our current incarnation, we are an officially sanctioned Community Gateway, where we provide orientation to new residents with a corporate & enterprise focus.  Our research areas include examining how users become immersed in virtual worlds, how enterprise becomes virtual, and virtual world enterprise applications.

We are pleased to invite you to visit our islands.  Please come and experience the wonder and peace which is Shengri La, and to celebrate with us as we begin our third year of collaboration and exploration. 

You are invited to help us celebrate with the activities that best express our unique focus on virtual worlds:

7-8 am  Fairy Fashion Installation
10 am SLT Ode Butterfly Hunt
1-2 pm Kyle Beltran plays live 
3-3:30 pm, Founders Re-dedication
5-7 pm SLT Fairy Rave with Qee Nishi, DJane

+ 3 special art exhibits by the ever talented and prolix Callipygian Christensen

Details of our events follow:

7-8 am SLT Fairy Fashion Installation, featuring the work of emerging avatar apparel designer, Misteria Loon.  Misty’s gowns are ethereal and fragile and perfectly suited for the static display of fashion in the lovely woods of Shengri La.  We will show 8 of her gowns as well as a complete color run of her Flower gown.  Our volunteer models who have graciously offered their time to support Misty’s first show  reflect a range of body types and skin tones, which breaks from the usual  attenuated runway model look.  We would like to thank Jen Shikami of Seven’s Selections for donating wings to the fairy models, and Ellie BearCat, Georgianna Blackburn, Patricia Anne Daviau, Anarya Elderslie, Ahuva Heliosense, larae Magic, IndiaRose Muircastle, Sequoia Nightfire, Prissy Price, Chestnut Rau, Oura Scribe, Jaydie Sapeur, Neva Seljan, Elizabeth Tinsley for graciously donating their time for Misty’s Emergence Show.

10 am SLT An Ode butterfly Hunt – Shengri La is renowned as an estate with a regular monthly Ode hunt.  Ode jewelry collectors spread across our five islands in search of elusive jewelry-containing butterflies.  The Ode hunts are a wonderful way for new residents to learn to engage with the SecondLife interface.   Older residents make new friends and love to collect the fragile Ode jewelry created by master jeweler Random Calliope.

1-2 pm SLT  Kyle Beltran plays live on the Shengri La sim.  Kyle has been a visitor to Shengri La almost since the beginning. We are pleased to have his talent gracing our celebration.

3-3:30 pm SLT Founder Shenlei Flasheart (Shenlei Winkler in real life) will talk (very briefly) about why Shengri La was created and future directions.

5-7:00 pm SLT Fairy Rave with our longstanding DJ of choice, Qee Nishi.  Qee has been creating Trance sets for us  since December 2007, when we first ‘discovered’ her at Dance Island.  Qee will again play for us at a Fairy Rave, so plan your best fairy outfit and join us for two hours of the best Trance music on the grid.

During the day, all of our art galleries will be open to the viewing public. 

The Small Gallery will host a retrospective of Callipygian Christensen’s Shengri La images from the beginning to its current incarnation. 

Calli’s work will also be features in the Fashion Research Institute’s Information Center in Shengri La Hope, with a series of images from the renowned FRI Shengri La Spirit build in OpenSim (41,000+ prims of decadence).  

Last, Calli will reopen her main Gallery (The Main Gallery at Shengri La) with a fresh new exhibition of her latest photography throughout Second Life.

Please join us for one or all of these events.  We look forward to seeing you there.