Taking Back My Domain…What a Concept!

For the past few years, I’ve associated my domain name, shenlei.com, with my company, Fashion Research Institute. The time has come though, to reclaim that landscape.

There’s quite a lot going on that I want to talk about – the development of new materials and techniques, new technologies, some of the projects FRI is working on, and dare I say it, even my own projects including my textile collections available to sell through Spoonflower.

Sliding back into my domain is like sliding into a favorite pair of jeans, and it’s a perfect time the changing of the seasons at the Autumn Equinox.

Fashion Research Institute Announces Science Sim Land Grant Program Awardees

New York, NY November 1, 2011 – Fashion Research Institute Announces Science Sim Land Grant Program Awardees

Fashion Research Institute has been collaborating with Intel Labs since 2009, helping to push the limits of content development, and overseeing the Science Sim Land Grant Program. The program consists of awards of campuses of four ‘supersized’ 3D volumes called regions, which can support 100,000 primitive units. These campuses are awarded for a six-month period to educators, scientists, and researchers who wish to explore using OpenSim for their work, and who need the power and control of their projects that a campus provides them.  The campuses are provided for nine months beginning September 1, 2011 and ending June 30, 2012.

We are pleased to share the 2011-2012 awardees, in alphabetical order.

The Abyss Observatory (http://chikyu-to-umi.com/abyss/) The Abyss Observatory is a museum of earth science, undersea technology and also Sense of Wonder for the mysteries of Earth & Life in 3D virtual world, established mainly by Japan and US volunteers, supported by SciLands, NOAA, JAMSTEC, Open University UK and Science Circle.

“Earth system science research fields are spread world-wide and far from human habitation.  To gain a better understanding of global issues, visualization in immersive virtual world is powerful tool.  Our students can develop observation methods of virtual environment phenomena or law of physics easily, cost-effectively and safely,”says Hajime Nishimura (JAMSTEC, http://www.jamstec.go.jp/).

The Cyprus University of Technology Chrysanthos Voutounos is a doctoral student at the Department of Multimedia and Graphic Arts in Cyprus. His research work negotiates the design of serious virtual and multimedia applications that deal with the presentation and preservation of Byzantine heritage. The Byzantine heritage of Cyprus is globally known and many monuments on the island are included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, like the monastery and the museum of St. John Lampadistis which Chrysanthos aims to design in ScienceSim as part of his research.

My main research objective is to design and evaluate a virtual museum of Byzantine art applying methods that will enable a cross-cultural and cross-aesthetic mediation of Byzantine Aesthetics; providing a meaningful mediation of Byzantine artifacts and a spiritual experience to users.” Said Chrysanthos Voutounos.  “The opportunity given to implement this work on ScienceSim ensures the serious concept of a virtual heritage project; ScienceSim platform hosts a unique of its kind research on virtual worlds (1000 avatars on a region, security of digital content and other achievements). Many thanks to Intel Labs and the Fashion Research Institute for their support!

The EdLab Group Foundation (http://edlabgroup.org ) Hypatia World is supporting and expanding the reach of the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) in a 3D virtual environment. Hypatia World provides a safe space for the 5.3 million girls in the NGCP network to access online activities and participate in collaborative projects. The NGCP is committed to informing and motivating girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). NGCP currently supports 21 Collaboratives, serving 31 states to provide support and local resources to STEM practitioners. Hypatia World will host the first 3D virtual Collaborative, providing an online place for the girls and their mentors to interact and participate in STEM activities and events. Through collaborative relationships with partners such as NASA, quality content will assured.

Project Manager, Lindy Orwin, explained, “Hypatia World will provide opportunities for girls to access online mentors and 3D content expanding the opportunities for networking and support for girls interested in STEM and keeping them interested in STEM.”

The Honor Engine (http://www.honorengine.com/) The Honor Engine has created a customizable set of tools built for quest based learning and game development into the virtual world.  The Honor Engine Toolset allows educators, content developers and game designers complete control over their content . The goals of The Honor Engine are to explore the potential uses of quest based learning in education for children and for the workforce. Already well established in SL as the HONOR Roleplay System, the Honor Engine is now expanding their toolset into OpenSim virtual worlds.

Our key focus in moving The Honor Engine into the ScienceSim is to provide a toolset for educators and other creators to scale their interactive content with simple interfaces, quick content creation and adaptation and easy to access metrics to help them define success.”   Bill Jobes, owner and creator of The Honor Engine.  “Quest-based learning that is teacher planned and driven is what the Honor Engine provides. Teachers will be completely free to set up learning scenarios to suit their students  needs. The students play to learn and learn as they play. Classrooms full of students can work together in the virtual world increasing their content knowledge, their literacy skills, and their 21st century skills, all of which will be vital to their success throughout the rest of their lives.

The Oregon L5 Society( http://www.oregonl5.org/) Oregon L5 Society ( ORL5) is using some of their 25 years of research into using planetary caves as centers of human activity on the other worlds of the Solar System as models in virtual worlds. These concepts can be explored in ScienceSim, where ORL5 is creating VW lunar lavatube cave bases and settlements, and similar asteroidal and Mars bases.

These are conceptual models of how such human activity can settle the Solar System in real life.

We use these virtual world projects to contact other researchers, educate the public about how human spaceflight can become more widely affordable, and model specific projects we can then promote to the Space Research community more effectively.” says Tom Billings (Oregon L5 Society Representative).

Meta-Institute for Computational Astrophysics (MICA) Meta-Institute for Computational Astrophysics (MICA) (http://mica-vw.org/) is the first professional scientific organization based in virtual worlds.  The goals of MICA are to explore the potential uses of immersive VR as a scientific and scholarly platform.  Already well established in SL, MICA is now expanding their activities into OpenSim worlds.

Our key research goal is to develop novel techniques and applications for immersive, collaborative data visualization,” says the MICA Director George Djorgovski, a professor at Caltech.  “Scalability is important for massive data sets, and that is one of the main reasons we are in ScienceSim.”  He adds, “Effective visualization of complex, multi- dimensional data is emerging as one of the key challenges for the data- driven science in the 21st century.  As we continue to move our work and collaborations into cyberspace, immersive VR may become a fundamental platform for scientific research.

Preferred Family Healthcare (http://www.pfh.org) Preferred Family Healthcare has been delivering counseling services in virtual worldspace for the past three years and it is on the forward edge of organizations using OpenSim and Jibe/Unity for these purposes. PFH will continue to explore the potential for delivering mental health and substance use disorder services to clients who experience accessibility challenges due to distance, time, travel, physical handicap, social phobias and other complications.

PFH intends to continue to be a leading innovator of technology utilization to make accessible behavioral health interventions available to all who need them,” notes Dick Dillon, Senior VP at Preferred Family Healthcare. “Challenges which have existed for decades are being resolved by the smart application of global connectivity tools. We believe in the potential of virtual world-based service delivery systems, and several pilot projects are already showing excellent results for client retention and participation, with treatment outcomes as good or better than traditional methods.”

Science Circle. The Science Circle is an alliance of Scientists from various disciplines dedicated to connect scientist and students worldwide. We use digital mediums like Second Life® to hold seminars and we are starting in 2011 with various courses for our student group.

“The Science Circle wants to offer our members the possibility to discover OpenSim. Like MICA we are convinced that 3d platforms based on OpenSim are a great tool to offer education. The Science Sim Land Grant program is a great initiative that enables us to do that,” says Agustin Martin on behalf of the Science Circle.

BIO-SE project (Biological Interactive Objects for Science Education)The goal of the BIO-SE Project is to create interactive learning modules targeted to the high school or college freshman biology curriculum. Its primary aim is to have its learning modules be instructive but also designed for first-time users of virtual worlds. Lesson planning and instructor resources will be created as well but do not necessarily require faculty to be conversant with using virtual worlds. The core lessons all come from biologists who have multiple years of experience teaching in Second Life and developing course content there.

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About Fashion Research Institute, Inc.: FRI is at the forefront of developing innovative design & merchandising solutions for the apparel industry.  They research and develop products and systems for the fashion industry that sweepingly address wasteful business and production practices.

Science Sim is part of an evolution toward online 3D experiences that look, act and feel real. Sometimes dubbed the “3D internet,” Intel Labs refers to this technology trend as immersive connected experiences, or ICE. ScienceSim is differentiated from most virtual world environments by its open source architecture. ScienceSim leverages open source building blocks (installation utilities, management tools, client viewers, etc.) based on OpenSimulator (OpenSim) software.

Fashion Research Institute Oversees a Third Round of the Science Sim Land Grant Program with Intel Labs

New York, NY August 8, 2011 – Fashion Research Institute Oversees a Third Round of the Science Sim Land Grant Program with Intel Labs

Fashion Research Institute is pleased to announce the third round of OpenSim region grants in the ScienceSim grid. We will administrate the land program through our research collaboration with Intel Labs.

We’ve been provided with a set of regions running on hardware that can support 45,000-100,000  primitive objects with up to 1,000 concurrent users per region.  The regions will be awarded for a nine-month period beginning September 1, 2011 and running to June 30, 2012 to educators, scientists, and researchers who wish to bring their programs into an immersive collaborative environment.

There are no hidden charges or costs to this program other than what a selected organization is expected to need for the transfer and development of their programs, and which they negotiate with their service providers.  There is no financial assistance available for this process.  We can accept and transfer existing OAR files into ScienceSim.

Commercial organizations and consultants are not eligible to apply for these regions. Recipients must sign a formal legal agreement with Fashion Research Institute for use of these OpenSim regions. This agreement includes clauses stating that the recipient organization will respect the  existing Term of Service, End User licensing Agreement, Region Covenant, and Content Licenses of the ScienceSim grid.

The Fine Print

Each accepted organization will receive a 4-region, 2×2 ‘campus’ from September 1, 2011-June 30, 2012. Organizations must appoint a single user, who will receive estate manager privileges on this campus.

Campus assignees have full land right privileges.  Regions must remain open to common access to enable visitors to freely move around and visit.

Assigned campuses 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.

A content library of premium content is provided to all participants on ScienceSim.  Additional content is provided as well.  This content may not be removed from ScienceSim. Suspect pirated content brought into ScienceSim will be removed immediately. All content provided for ScienceSim users is PG-rated.

A complete OpenSim orientation gateway which has been successfully used with more than 65,000 new users is provided for the use of land grant recipients and their program users. A scripting lab is provided for recipients to learn how to develop OS scripts. Additionally, there are meeting, classroom, and sandbox spaces provided throughout the common space of the grid in the physics and math plazas which land grant recipients may freely use.

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 to admin@fashionresearchinstitute.com with your name, your organization, and 2-3 sentence description of the project you’d like to explore in this collaborative environment.  The program has rolling admissions and we will accept applications until we have assigned all campuses.

Past Awardees

Previous awardees are eligible to apply for this program.  Previous recipients have included the Abyss Observatory, the IDIA Lab, ScienceCircle, Meta-Institute for Computational Astrophysics, and Utah State University.

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About Fashion Research Institute, Inc.: FRI is at the forefront of developing innovative design & merchandising solutions for the apparel industry.  They research and develop products and systems for the fashion industry that sweepingly address wasteful business and production practices.

Science Sim is part of an evolution toward online 3D experiences that look, act and feel real. Sometimes dubbed the “3D internet,” Intel Labs refers to this technology trend as immersive connected experiences, or ICE. ScienceSim is differentiated from most virtual world environments by its open source architecture. ScienceSim leverages open source building blocks (installation utilities, management tools, client viewers, etc.) based on OpenSimulator (OpenSim) software.

Fashion Research Institute announces publication of Portfolio Design for Accessories Designers by Shenlei E. Winkler

Portfolio Design for the Accessories Designer

A good portfolio is critical to obtaining a job as a designer in the fashion industry.  But after working with student interns, author Shenlei Winkler realized that the step-by-step process of putting together a solid job-winning portfolio is not something that most portfolio classes cover.   Now more than ever, a good design portfolio is critical to getting that important first job. Young designers need a solid design portfolio, but knowing how to put that important document together may seem overwhelming.

Enter  Portfolio Design for Accessories Designers.   This new book provides insights and expertise of an industry insider to help the recent or soon-to-be-graduated designer develop their oh-so-important design portfolio.  Portfolio Design for Accessories Designers is specifically written for accessories designers, who have different needs in developing their portfolios than do apparel designers.

The only book of its kind, Portfolio Design for the Accessories Designer has been in development for more than 6 years.  While written for the senior design student and the new design graduate, fashion design school applicants will also find the advice in this book helpful in creating their design application portfolio.

Portfolio Design for the Accessories Designer incorporates industry know-how and technical expertise in a simple, easy-to-read format.  Using examples drawn from a successful accessory designer’s portfolio, this book explains comprehensively what it takes to have a professional, job-winning portfolio. The process of developing collections and visual stories for inclusion in a good portfolio is exhaustively covered.

Lavishly illustrated with actual accessories collections, the author explains why each collection works (or doesn’t work) in a successful portfolio.  These ‘insider secrets’ are exactly the things you need to successfully develop and show your design portfolio to potential employers and design schools, and any place you need to be able to demonstrate your design skills to maximum effect.

Portfolio Design for the Accessories Designer is 230 pages long and includes 12 full-color accessories design collections, along with technical specification, orthogonal sketches, trim and print examples.  Available on Amazon, Portfolio Design for the Accessories Designer will teach the reader how to create knock-their-socks-off accessories design portfolios that help win jobs, awards, and much more.

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About Fashion Research Institute, Inc.: The Fashion Research Institute is at the forefront of developing innovative design & merchandising solutions for the apparel industry.  They research and develop products and systems for the fashion industry that sweepingly address wasteful business and production practices. Shenlei Winkler’s work spans both couture and mass-market design and development for the real life apparel industry. A successful designer, her lifetime sales of her real life apparel designs have now reached more than $70 million USD, with more than 25 million-dollar styles in her portfolio. Her couture work has appeared extensively on stage and movie screen.

Content, Copyright, and Fashionably Dressed (?) Cartoon Animals

This article in the NY Times was a nice segue into editing what we hope is the last draft of the Legal Primer for Content Creators in Virtual Worlds.

Google has an interesting approach to copyright offenders: they make them ‘go to school’.  We would question, though, whether a 4 1/2 minute video and 4-question multiple choice (guess) quiz will really deter offenders.  We appreciate the fact that it may, perhaps, be possible that someone somewhere may not realize that if they didn’t make the cool content they want to share they are probably infringing someone’s copyright. But that seems unlikely in today’s interconnected world of sophisticated content consumers.

It is interesting that Google has decided to soft pedal their enforcement efforts by giving offenders what amounts to a one-time wrist slap for the ignorant.

When we were drafting, and then reviewing, the Legal Primer, we had a fair bit of discussion about how to deliver the information at the right level.  We’re still discussing whether or not it is as accessible as it should be for an audience of visual thinkers.  The term accessible, for uninitiated, can often mean dumbed down.

Since we’re writing about what is inherently a complicated topic, and a topic which is usually discussed in a great deal of dry, boring, legal jargon, we’ve been challenged to somehow deliver this information in a way that we hope won’t make our readership bleed from the ears, but without diluting the value of the information by dumbing it down.

As the primary drafter of this document, we are taking the approach that our audience deserves a more intelligent document than YouTube’s Copyright School, because we think our audience is smart enough to manage to read a document that is short on cute cartoon animals and long on words and weighty concepts.  There isn’t a video (and no plans for one) and the text is a heck of a lot longer than a single above-the-fold web questionnaire.

Of course, given that the focus is content in OpenSim and SecondLife, perhaps we could illustrate it with an adorable tiny avatar.

Thinks for a minute…

Nah.

Fashion, Technology…and Lace!?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the resurgence of lace being used on the runways again sparked a thought about how lace has been influential in so many ways.  It’s astonishing really, when you think about it, since lace is the ultimate luxury fabric: too light and ephemeral to lend warmth or protection to the wearer, easily damaged, and the good stuff is quite expensive.

The production of lace was actually something that drove the development of a new technology that ultimately proved to have far-reaching consequences not just for fashion and the textile industry, but also for computing and technology.

Despite the apparel industry’s relatively laggard uptake of new technologies, fashion has actually had a long history of moving forward and being moved forward by emerging new technologies.  In fact, one of the earliest inventions that helped define computer science and computers in general was a machine designed for  the textile sector of the fashion industry, the Jacquard loom.

Invented by Joseph Jacquard in 1804-05, the Jacquard loom was a pivotal invention for both fashion and computing.   It proved to be the impetus for the tech revolution of the textile industry and an important step in the history of computing.  The Jacquard loom (which is actually a misnomer, as this invention is actually not a loom, but rather a head or an attachment that can be used with a range of different looms) was the first machine which used punch cards as a control mechanism.

After the ‘hanging chad’ incident in Florida during the 2000 presidential elections, we all know what punch cards are: pieces of wood or paper with holes punched in them, where the precise pattern of the holes contain data when read through a machine capable of reading them.  They are a form of data storage and have been used to store computer programs.

Like the voter ballots, the Jacquard loom also used punch cards that contained information, or data, about different lace patterns.  Each hole controlled a needle, threaded with up to 4 warp ends (or threads).  A set of punch cards might control as many as 400 needles, for a total of 1600 warp ends in a given textile, and the machine could make up to 4 repeats of the pattern across the weft.

By changing out the punch cards, a loom operator could change the lace pattern which the loom could produce.  This meant that looms suddenly had the ability to create many different patterns on the same loom, simply by changing out the punch cards.

This was an important advance for fashion, since in the past lace had been made primarily by intensive hand methods. With the Jacquard loom, instead of a lace maker creating only a few inches of lace a day, he could now create feet and even yards of it, in some fairly complicated patterns.

This was also an important advance for computing hardware.  The Jacquard loom had the ability to have its program of lace pattern changed by simply swapping out the punch card sets.  While the Jacquard loom machine did not perform computation using its punch cards, this is still considered an important precursor to what would eventually become the field of computer programming.

The invention of the Jacquard loom had a far-reaching impact on the use of lace in fashion, as it was suddenly more affordable.   There was a renewed interest of lace as a trim by the fashionable elite, and a greater number of people could wear the new machine-lace because it was less expensive than the handmade needle laces.

Fashion, Tech, Innovation: Using Avatars to Design Video Garment Imagery

Armed with our initial vision of a base garment that could essentially play videos or images on its surface, we’ve looked at some of the challenges that need to be addressed before this could become reality.

Last time we looked at how a video playback garment might be actually work. Now let’s wrap this up by talking a little about how designers would go about actually designing images and video that would play on the garment’s surface.

As we mentioned before, the human body is a solid 3-D object that we are trying to wrap a planar (flat) sheet around.  This is no different from our fashion classes, where we are given a few yards of muslin and told to drape a mannequin (flat, almost 2-D textile sheet, 3D mannequin object).  In moving from designing physical fashion to designing flat images to play on the video garment, we are doing much the same thing, except we are doing all of our draping on the image, not with the cloth.  This requires a slight change in how we go about draping, since what we will actually be draping on is the base video garment, and what we will be draping with are 2-d images.

And this is where the avatar comes in, since the process of draping a digital image onto a solid body requires a mannequin, in this case, an avatar.  At its simplest level, an avatar is nothing more than a digital representation of a human body.  We already know how to go about putting clothing onto human bodies, or at least we should have learned that at design school.

Taking our knowledge about draping onto the human body a step further, we simply need to substitute our expertise with Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator rather than pins, needles and scissors to drape the avatar not with textile, but with imagery.

Of course, like any new skill, it takes time and experience to get video garment images right, but a really nice aspect of designing for video garments is that the designer can create as many styles as she wishes, and she can ‘show off’ her design concepts using something like Black Dress Technology’s Virtual Runway™ service.  Unlike draping with textiles, draping pixels on an avatar mannequin does not require the production of costly physical samples.  You just design, upload it, watch the new style move on Virtual Runway, and then when the concept is approved, upload the design onto the base garment for approval.

Once the design is approved, it can be made available for licensing on any of a number of web sites or even via mobile apps! Think about it – you can really share your fashion sense with your besties simply by sending them a link.  Some designers may decide to open source their ‘basic’ video garment images and encourage their followers to customize their own designs.

Of course, it will be an interesting question whether or not the maker of such a video garment will try to use a proprietary file format instead of standard ones like jpg or png files.  Also, will the video garment be an open format, or closed format like the Kindle e-book reader? Amazon would no doubt love to get in the fashion game (everyone seems to want to be there, these days), and it would be entirely possible for them to come up with some version of a proprietary video garment, where they could sell the garment imagery just like they do e-books.

We would anticipate that the early video garments wouldn’t have the data or battery capacity to actually play video, but as the base technology improved and progressed, it would not be out of the question at all to eventually truly have video garments that play moving images over the surface. Imagine the possibilities: a formal gown that plays back images of moving sunlight and shadow dapple over a forest floor, or waves crashing eternally downward to froth and foam (virtually) at the wearer’s feet.   Think of the fun accessories designers could have developing product to complement such designs! Perhaps small scent pomanders contained in earrings or brooches, or tiny sound transistors with short loops of water waves or bird sound for a completely immersive experience, allowing the wearer to carry their own little environment with them.

The possibilities are endless.  All we need is for the materials sciences folks and the technology folks to catch up and give us the technology to do this.  Then we fashionable folk can take it from there.