Monday, May 14, 2007

Project Wonderland BOF (BOF-1306) @ JavaOne 2007

These are my notes which I took during the Project Wonderland BOF at JavaOne 2007. Enjoy.

Paul Byrne - Lead of Wonderland
What is project wonderland?
- A technology for an immersive collabroative environment
- Allows distributed teams to work together
- OSS server and client side environment
- Security model to set up secure server - this allows you to trust the environment

The space available when you startup is a cubic light year

Key differences from the alternatives (i.e. Second Life):
- It has audio: high (CD) quality streaming audio which is distance attenuated and in stereo. They also have IM but here you can talk.
- You can run apps - unmodified. Firefox for example. We can now work with other people. Others can take over your appication and collaborate. Windows applications can be available too off a RDP client. However you need a dedicated server fo this. For X it can be the desktop you are working on. They demo this by pulling back from the presentation to reveal that the slideshow is just hanging there in a virtual JavaOne pavillion. We are taken on a tour and see the co presenters.

There are 3 main components:
1. Project Darkstar - The game server. Back end infrastructure. This is persistent and scalable.
2. Project Wonderland - The client UI or "browser" as it was described. Allows streaming geometries, audio, and access to desktop apps
3. MPK20 - An investigation of how to apply this tech to Sun. How can we use this to work tohegher. "Collocated-like"

Project Darkstar
- Open Source, enterprise grade, scalable online game server
- The programming model hides complexity of multi threading and server replication
- It handles persistence and state recovery in case of failure. Fault tolerant. No "Shard failure" probs
- It provides plug in APIs for extensibility
- It is platform and fame agnostic

Nigel Simpson - Sun labs researcher
Sun have been investigating social issues in the workspace and distributed teams. This is "MPK20" - 19 buildings in Menlo Pk campus. "20" is first virtual building. What works to bring people closer together? This is a place to do work and business. It ensures that they are socially and emotionally connected. MPK20 brings the virtual and real worlds together. It is not an alternate reality, just a merged one. Before, remote citizens were often second class citizens. Now this is lessened / removed.

What is the motivation? - There are increasing distances of separation within teams. This remoteness decreases opportunities for trust building relationships. Brainstorming is too difficult. Social engagement is a key motivator for cetrtain personality types. There are also management challenges - remote management is hard. Current tech solutions fail to address these issues

Concepts of MPK20 - it is a virtual office space including public spaces, social spaces, team spaces (e.g. compiling wonderland inside of wonderland, extreme programming, stuff on the walls etc.), individual work spaces, notes and screenshots and discussions on the walls. People can leave annotations (graffiti).

They also have plans to be able to leave a virtual voicemail - to pick it up you go back in time to when the caller left the message.

Comment from the audience: This is very Similar to the open croquet project - which was primarily a smalltalk environent. This is Java. The other difference from croquet is that it aims to foster ad hoc, peer to peer groups. This is corporate infrastructure. You want to be able to control and scale your server farm. It was invented so a game company could run multiple users (thousands) in a single game. You will see a lot of people doing a lot of metaverses - how do we make them all talk to each other. How to talk across metaverses? We are looking at it.

Mixed reality - The aim is to provide ways for virtual and real worlds to interact. Overlay virtual and physical and blur the boundaries. Build physical spaces that incorporate virtual interactions. Porta Person is an example of this - it provides an audio / video portal between virtual and physical worlds - virtual sees physical and vice versa. It bridges VR and real world conference attendees.

The Voice bridge - this provides real time, multi channel, high fidelity stereo and audio mixing. It is 100% java. Mature tech, part of Sun labs meeting suite telephone conferencing application. There is an OSS release of this in progress. It allows you to generate a private mix for each individual member (thereby mixing out their own audio). It also provides natural decay and rise of audio as you approach and move away from the source.

Other thoughts: What about playing with time? You could leave ghosts of yourself so that conferences or interactions could take place across timezones.

- Can I run it in an applet? - you should be able to but for performance the geos of the world are cached on the client. This would need to be looked at. however, you could just use it for access to smaller areas such as conference suites etc. Yes, that would work.
- Can I get a 2D or reduced bandwidth version? - there is no reason why not
- Can I use this to reify my server environment so that I can see and hear my distributed application operating? - Yes, we have been thinking about this. We could use motion and colour as well as many other cues like audio to show you how your app is performing. This is not there now.
- Can I get a holo deck? - [laughter] Not as mad as it seems

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