Content, Piracy, and OpenSim-based Grids

We recently picked up a link sent to us of an image shot in an OpenSim-based grid, that showed a 3D model used in the region that looked suspiciously familiar. Upon visiting the region, I discovered that lo, the model was in fact very familiar: it was a model created for our old Shengri La islands (closed in Summer 2010) by a very talented artist who we have supported since his early days in Second Life®.

We approached the owner of the region and let him know that he was harboring pirated content. While he did remove that model, his response made it abundantly clear that a lot more consciousness-raising must occur not only with content creators, but also with consumers. He seemed to think that pirated content was somehow a single creator issue, not a community issue, and we take issue with this point of view for a number of well-informed reasons.

What we did not say, but should have said, to this gentleman is what mothers everywhere tell their children when the kids pick up (and put in their mouth) something they found in the street: ‘Don’t pick that up.  Don’t put that in your mouth. You don’t know where it has been.  Now wash your hands.’

It’s the same thing with so-called ‘freebie content’.  As a consumer, there’s no way to know where that content has been.  Most of the ‘freebie content’ in the OpenSim universe has no provenance to speak of, much of it has been pirated, and the way it is dispersed and distributed creates some massive legal and security issues.

Currently these security issues relate more to DRM and legal considerations, but we can also foresee the day when some hacker decides to create a Trojan horse attached to some particularly attractive bit of content and release it into the ‘freebie pool’.

While we do not yet know of any tech exploits attached to content in this way, we assume it is merely a matter of time before it happens, and when it does, we anticipate that such an exploit will spread quickly given the dispersion rate of content in the OpenSim-based grids.

We will repeat again: there are many good reasons not to pick up content of questionable provenance. Odds are good it is pirated, which has moral, ethical, and legal implications.

But even more specifically for the average consumer, and why they should care, is that there is a very real risk of danger to their personal hardware/software.  We wouldn’t know the exact details of how a Trojan horse security exploit would be built in a virtual world, but we do know that it is something that could be done.  We surmise the average consumer would not be able to detect such an attached exploit until too late.  We also understand how disease vectors spread epidemics. Unconstrained freebie content that can move freely through hypergrid-enabled worlds with no real technical controls is a ticking time bomb that will explode.  We think it is merely a matter of time before it does.

We see the possibility of trouble ahead, so we are speaking up now to warn the community of content consumers that free content may end up not being quite so ‘free’ if the freebie collector ends up having to pay to have their hard drive scrubbed because the content itself was nothing more than a Trojan horse. Whether or not it is better for a consumer to protect themselves by only buying content licenses from known entities is something only the consumer can decide.  After all, ultimately, they are the ones who assume the risks in picking something up out of the gutter and putting it in their mouths.

Fashion Research Institute Office Hours in Second Life Friday, June 11

Fashion Research Institute will conduct office hours in its Second Life Shengri La region from 3-4 pm Eastern/noon to 1 pm Pacific, Friday, June 11, 2010.

Our office hours are come-as-you-are, informal opportunities to meet and discuss topics of interest with our thought leaders in design education, apparel industry development, virtual goods, the use of virtual worlds for product design and development, and related topics.

Thoughts on our mind this week are emerging designers, content creators, ‘The Pantie Problem’, and simulating the historic Gettysburg battlefield in OpenSim.

What’s on your mind?

FRI Office Hours in Second Life, Friday, June 4

Fashion Research Institute will conduct office hours in its Second Life Shengri La region from 3-4 pm Eastern/noon to 1 pm Pacific, Friday, June 4, 2010.

Our office hours are come-as-you-are, informal opportunities to meet and discuss topics of interest with our thought leaders in design education, apparel industry development, virtual goods, the use of virtual worlds for product design and development, and related topics. Thoughts on our mind this week are OpenSim performance, content licensing, and simulating historic Gettysburg.

What’s on your mind?

Fashion Research Institute Launches Virtual Runway™

Virtual Runway™ Helps Fashion Designers Accelerate Their Sales and Marketing

Fashion Research Institute launches immersive, interactive runway show for apparel industry

NEW YORK — April 9, 2010 — This month, fashion leaps forward at warp speed as Fashion Research Institute launches Virtual Runway™, a 24/7 on-demand 3D runway show service for fashion designers. For the first time ever, fashion designers can quickly and easily present their design concepts in an interactive 3D environment that allows designers to cut time to market, save sample costs, and showcase their work to both wholesale and retail buyers.

Virtual Runway™ recreates the look and feel of a live show with music, 360-degree views of fully-customizable virtual models and both immersive and video capabilities.  Designers can log into their private runway studio and iterate on their designs, then showcase their work in a fully choreographed runway show. They can invite buyers, media, colleagues, and production managers into their runway studio, where they can discuss the designs as the models move around the runway.   Or designers can simply make fast, easy videos, with file sizes small enough to be sent to any mobile device.

Unlike traditional runway shows and web-shows, the Virtual Runway™ models can also interact with the audience.

“Our model avatars have artificial intelligence,” said Shenlei Winkler, CEO, Fashion Research Institute.  “They will say exactly what you tell them to say, so you can have them talk about the designs they are wearing, the designer, the collection, and any other marketing information you want them to share. You don’t need to supervise them, and even though they are multi-tasking our Virtual Runway models never miss a step.”

Virtual Runway™ has more than 800 billion stock model options available to designers, who also have an additional 900 billion choices of accessories.  This wide range of options lets designers fully customize their models, selecting from choices that include everything from more than 2,500 hairstyles and hundreds of makeup options in up to 20 skin tones.  And once the models are dressed and ready to go, a designer simply chooses a choreographed runway set and adds her own label and branding to the set.

Both local and environmental lighting is built-in, and models can be highlighted, or the entire environment changed quickly and easily to reflect the mood the designer wants for her collection.  Once the models are moving on the catwalk, designers can invite others to join her in her Virtual Runway™ studio, or she can create video that is perfect for web or mobile.

“We’re very excited about this product.” Winkler said. “We are using it to present a mirror world event on behalf of two of our best student interns from Buffalo State University.  We have created their senior fashion show inside a Virtual Runway™ studio, and have filmed the collections in advance of their actual runway show.  Our video of their virtual collections and the actual physical collections will be concurrently presented on May 1, 2010.”

Virtual Runway™ runs on top of the OpenSim platform, and training for designers to learn to use the interface and the Runway software are available through short seminars and accredited college courses.

For more information about Virtual Runway™ , please contact Jeff Russell, Director of Sales, at (631) 880-8611 or via e-mail, jeff at


FRI Student Interns Take Manhattan: Day Four

The Train Station at Poughkeepsie

Farewell From The Train Station

The Fashion Research Institute interns from Buffalo State University, Missy & Britt, rounded out their visit on day four.  After a long day in the City the previous day, everyone was a little hard to rouse.  We put some mileage in, criss-crossing the rag district  and searching out the last nuanced trim and detail for their collections.

Packing up, we managed to get everyone into the car and to the train station with 15 minutes to spare – only to discover that the train was running 20 minutes late.

Hosting our interns was a delight.  We were very pleased to meet these two charming young women in person.  We are looking forward to their Spring break, when they will return for help with their final run-up to turning in their collection.

Our interns had the opportunity to learn first hand about New York, the fashion capital of the world and about how the apparel industry works;.  We had a chance to make sure they located everything they needed for their collections; and they had in-depth tutoring on developing their portfolio for future endeavors.

It was a great trip, and we were very sorry to wave good-bye at the train station.

Of course, now the fun (or hard) part begins: constructing the garments for the two versions of Runway 3.0 and developing the visual story for their portfolios.  Britt and Missy will be back in six weeks for their Spring Break, where we’ll help with the technical design of their collections.

Missy Doesn't Want to Go

FRI Student Interns Take Manhattan: Day Three!

The Sourcing List

Since the FRI interns had a long and grueling day the previous day, we got a later start on Friday.  No one seemed to be in a big hurry to finish up breakfast, served in the sun-drenched family room (a definite advantage in wintery New York).  Nevertheless, we finally got ourselves loaded into the car for our hour-long drive into the City.

The trip flew past as we talked the whole way about fashion and careers, interrupted occasionally to point out areas of interest.  As we crossed into Manhattan over the Harlem River, Britt and Missy became quite excited.  Mecca for fashion designers was at our fingertips!  Dropping the car at a convenient lot, we started our long day of sourcing and more.

First we visited the FIT campus, which is a block-long street of school buildings.  We dropped into the FIT Museum, which had three exhibits currently installed.   We did a whirlwind tour and made sure to pick up all the exhibit brochures.  Both interns found something to interest them in the American Beauty exhibit.  Missy was thrilled about the evening wear; Britt was fascinated by the use of furs and leathers.  Upstairs in the revolving exhibit space, both fell in love with the early fashions.  Britt was particularly enamored of the late Victorian style clothing on display, while Missy found a length of Luminex fabric on display which captivated her.

Departing FIT, we cut across on 29th Street and popped into a couple of the event planning/party stores to source some less common trims and textile substitutes.  Often just knowing things are available will change a designer’s vision, so we were trying to expose the interns to as wide an array of products as possible.

Heading up 6th Avenue, we took in the import district, with the wide array of costume jewelry, hair supply stores, and hosiery importers.  As we crossed into Herald Square, we stopped for the ‘perfect’ shot of the Empire State building framed by the buildings on either side of 34th Street.  then we tackled Macy’s.  We didn’t have a lot of time, so we quickly walked the windows and then cut in through the main cosmetics floor and did a whirlwind visit of the “Aisles of Beauty” followed by a quick visit to the accessories, handbags, and watches.  Both declined visiting the Louis-Vuitton boutique claiming it would be ‘dangerous to their wallets’.

Heading back to 6th Avenue, we headed north to M&J Trimmings and the other bead and trim stores on 6th Avenue.  Finished there, we walked up the Avenue to Bryant Park and the tents for Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week.  It was oddly quiet, with only a few ready wagons pulled in on 6th Avenue, and a remarkably small cluster of paparazzi and visitors.  The usual gaggle of ‘models waiting to be discovered’ were very much not apparent and there was a decided lack of black cars dueling it out to deliver their passengers to the red carpet.

We’re not sure if the lack of energy was due to the poor economy or simply because when a party is over in New York, it’s over, and every trendster knows it and refuses to get caught dead at a venue that’s outdated.  Perhaps the fact that the party is moving uptown in the Fall contributed to the poor turnout; all we can say is that at 2 pm on a Friday afternoon on a relatively clement winter day, there weren’t even the usual park goers hanging out to ogle the passers-by.

Departing the tents, we dove into the rag district for the real reason for the visit: sourcing!  First stop was Leather Impact, where Brit found two skins with minor blemishes (both goatskins, one with a lovely soft golden metallic spray finish, the other a very soft 1 ounce sueded half skin) at the ‘perfect’ price, which of course made the skins ‘perfect’.

Heading around the corner to 39th Street, we went to the ‘Fabric Store of Enormous Rats’.  There are many job lotters in the rag district, all of which seem to be named things like A&J, A&S, A&A, and so on.  It’s a bit tough to differentiate them; however, the Store of Enormous Rats’ has earned this distinction by virtue of the fact that at one point a few years earlier, we were sourcing for a theatrical event and digging through the basement.  We moved a bolt of fabric and a rat ran across our feet.  Rats are semi-common in New York, but this one seemed a tad put out that his home had been moved.  At any rate, the prices at the Store of Enormous Rats are really excellent and with only minor haggling everyone can usually walk away satisfied.  Except, perhaps, the rats.

In any event, the proprietor and staff got into the spirit of the hunt and were very helpful at moving bolts around for the ladies.  We soon found Missy’s single knit jersey, which she negotiated a very good price for.  Britt had a wider array of fabrics she was sourcing, but we soon found her changeable iridescent taffeta (black to silvery grey); her lace (better than expected); and silk crepe chiffon (it’s like buttah!).  Successfully concluding Britt’s purchases, Missy was almost overwhelmed by the display of sequined fabrics by the counter, but we were able to carefully disengage the bolts from her fingers and head west to Daytona Trims.

Daytona yielded up dye, inexpensive (ok, cheap!) zippers and buttons, strapping, and best of all, stretch rhinestone trim (three guesses who bought that?)  Missy was dissuaded from purchasing all the other wide rhinestone trims by being reminded that developing her own beading patterns would let her put them in her portfolio.  Tucking everything carefully away, we headed over to 7th Avenue for a glory shot by the Fashion District Information Center, home of the giant button and needle.  Then we headed south on 7th Avenue (aka Fashion Avenue) for a quick bite at Seven on 7th to wait out rush hour.

Heading out of the City and beating our way back through the traffic, we were well content with our day, even it was remarkably rat-free.  Missy and Britt had gotten their full suite of fabrics for their collections, as well as additional trims; we had taken in some exhibits, paid our respects to the Tents at Bryant Park, we’d had the ‘chi-chi NYC restaurant’ experience, and we had a chance to experience Rush Hour in New York.  Back home, we found a fire and martinis waiting for us, as well as some light snacks.   A perfect ending to a perfect sourcing day in New York.

The Museum at FIT

Macy's "Theater"Window

Britt Sources Trims

Missy Examines the Many Choices of Rhinestones

Photographers' Entrance to NY Fashion Week Tents

Britt Checking Out Lace Options


"You Aren't Supposed to Rip....It. Oh."

"It's like Buttah!"

"This is the PERFECT Taffeta"

Haggling About the Price

Perfect Fabric! Perfect Price! Yes, She Wants It!

Settling Up....O.M.G....Sequins!

The Giant Needle at the Fashion District Information Kiosk

FRI Student Interns Take Manhattan! Days 1 and 2

Britt & Missy: Seasoned commuters coming back from their event at NY Fashion Week.

Our student interns, Brittany and Melissa, arrived at Poughkeepsie station via Amtrak on Wednesday, February 10th for a four-day experiential.  Britt and Missy are students at Buffalo State University, interning with Fashion Research Institute.  They’ve been working with us since their Fashion CAD course in Spring 2009.  Their professor, Elaine Polvinen, has been instrumental in helping Britt and Missy get the days off from their regular classes to come to New York City and have the opportunity for first-hand apparel industry exposure.

We’re working on a special project with Britt and Missy this semester.  We are helping them take their real life, senior fashion collection, which we are helping them develop for their senior runway show (Runway 3.0).  We will then help them develop the same collection as virtual fashion in OpenSim where they will show it on programmed models in a special runway setting.  We invited them to New York to source for their real life collection.

We had a full line-up of activities planned for them, not just sourcing, and we also built in a bit of down time.  On Wednesday afternoon we worked on collection development for their senior runway show and drilled into their portfolio development.  After spending several hours sketching and planning, we were ready for a break: appetizers of baked brie, bacon-wrapped filet mignon, & scampi and raspberry martinis in front of the fireplace.

Thursday was a big (and long) day for them.  We had arranged for them to work at a New York Fashion Week event sponsored by Nolcha Fashion Business Services.  Kerry Bannigan, CEO of Nolcha was instrumental in helping us to arrange this for them.  It was a typically long fashion day: they had to leave our home in the lower Hudson Valley at 5:30 in order to be on site by 8 am; at the end of their day we picked them up at the station at 11:37 pm.

They were providing a range of services at Nolcha’s event, held at the Bo Concept Studio on West 18th Street: acting as a product spokesmodels, serving drinks, stuffing swag bags, and generally assisting the designers at the event to get set up and help display their work to the visitors at the event.

At the end of the day, they were very happy to come back to snacks and treats.  Lessons learned: how to commute (toasted bagels with a schmear of cream cheese, go-cups of coffee, have your ticket ready); how to navigate the subway system; Avenues run north and south, streets run east and west; traffic heads north on the even avenues, south on the odd; that the trains in New York leave on time and wait for no man, woman or intern; fashion seems very glamorous, but there are actually a lot of long hard hours involved.  All good lessons, some of which we would use on Day 3.  More about that later.  For now, pictures from the visit.



Not too tired to vogue!

Britt & Missy in the Fashion District on 7th Avenue