Thales and Infinite Metaverse Alliance (IMA) team up to work together on the next generation collaborative and training tools.

 

Virtual Reality, increasing connectivity and connection speed are enabling people to work better together. We are on the verge of a next generation of collaborative and training tools where virtual reality will drive  working together to be no longer time and place dependent or restricted by visual boundaries.

Frank Rulof, Business Developer working for Thales in The Netherlands, : “Our engineers of today do not remember the world started to experiment with SecondLife two decades ago. Virtual Reality will in five years be the standard in working together in a global environment. Accessibility and security are key.  It will redefine how individuals work together, how much we travel, how we will teach and learn, and how we will spend our free time. ”

Both IMA and Thales have the ambition to create an OpenSimulator based virtual world environment that facilitates communication and working together in a corporate-, government-, educational- and industrial environment in addition to the opportunities for the general public.

We are developing an integrated virtual environment that can include a multitude of simultaneous open media from pictures, movies and powerpoints to complex 3D models, where teams of engineers can meet to discuss and develop that are continuously accessible anytime from any device. The integrated virtual environment will be accessible in the both the cloud as well as on stand-alone servers and complies with todays security standards for data exchange.

Quote IMA: “The products will have a clearly defined roadmap and the products are maintained and developed by industrial standards. By joining efforts, we will be able to do more in a shorter time and promote the usage better. The core OpenSimulator and viewer source code will stay and be open source. We hope developers will contribute to the growing community.”

OpenSimulator is an Opensource variant of the SecondLife application from Linden Labs in the US. The OpenSimulator Virtual World consists of a server side which controls the Virtual world and all its assets and a client side which encompasses a viewer which renders the virtual world based upon the VR Objects provided by the server in the scene the user is looking at.

More information will be made available as the projects move from private repositories to public repositories for community and developer participation.

About Thales

The people we all rely on to make the world go round – they rely on Thales.
Our customers come to us with big ambitions: to make life better, to keep us safer. Combining a unique diversity of expertise, talents and cultures, our architects design and deliver extraordinary high technology solutions. Solutions that make tomorrow possible, today.  From the bottom of the oceans to the depth of space and cyberspace, we help our customers think smarter and act faster - mastering ever greater complexity and every decisive moment along the way. With 65,000 employees in 56 countries, Thales reported sales of €15.8 billion in 2017.

About IMA

Infinite Metaverse Alliance (IMA) is a Research and Development Philanthropic Foundation formed in response to open source community needs for maximizing societal benefits. Our core mission is a focus on inclusive "design thinking" to advance virtual worlds, virtual reality, and synthetic environments. In IMA you have a champion to make the most of virtual worlds to meet your needs and to push the technology to meet the future as it unfolds.

 

Point of contact for Infinite Metaverse Alliance LLC is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Point of contact for the Thales Netherlands is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

A lot has been happening at IMA! So much so I have not had time to blog. :) So let's get started with an update!

 

Last year, IMA had a team of volunteers who worked to put together a community website for anyone in Open Simulator at https://infinitemetaverse.org. It was a great effort but unfortunately became unmanageable due to hacking attempts associated with a plugin that opened a security hole. Fortunately, the team had a backup strategy in place that allowed us to restore a prior backup after securing the site and reverting the plugin.

 

We decided to simplify administration by migrating the site to Joomla which is in progress. All that said, the original plan for the community site was to create a targeted social networking solution for Open Simulator users that would not be under control of any company but under control of the users. Users would have a central location to consolidate promotions, shares about their worlds, and even find volunteers or help.

 

After the announcement of G+ sunset in 2019 this past week, I decided we needed to revisit that goal and look for long term solutions that would be platform agnostic and could be customized to meet the changing needs of Hypergrid users. The week was spent collaborating with many others on G+ from end users to developers analyzing available options.

 

To get started on my end, I put together a list of criteria based on feedback and ideas from various IMA meetings. Sharing this publicly, it was then refined to include suggestions from the G+ community. Paraphrasing multiple inputs, there were three common questions for consideration:

 

1) Is there something out there we could use that no one could shut down like Google is doing?

2) Can we put together a team of developers to make something new that has the features we want?

3) Many of these private social networks require an account to see things people post. What options are out there where we can post things for anyone to see?

 

This sparked a collaborative search and discussion among G+ers with hundreds of thousands of followers of collections and communities. With different users looking for a new social media home, clearly, mass migration is going to be a challenge. There are a quite a few people in the G+ community working together to help everyone find new homes, address migration issues, and develop a long term approach to supporting the needs of a diverse community of users displaced by the sunset of consumer G+.

 

As mentioned before, my approach was to first list the criteria for review to answer questions 1, 2, and 3. Then, collaborating with others who were not necessarily virtual worlders, a lot of time was spent evaluating multiple solutions that exist comparing features and characteristics in a public spreadsheet. Thanks to inputs from a diverse community in G+, there are answers to these three questions! First let me share the aggregate criteria:

 

1) End to end encryption including in the databases (long term goal for Open Simulator as well)

2) Open sourced so it can be audited and made more secure as well as privacy focused (long term goal for the Hypergrid)

3) Fully integrated events, calendar, and network news feeds (events have been broken by Google for some time as well as its calendar)

4) Private features (better ways to private message and selectively share)

5) API's available to integrate with other applications (possibly a toolset or settings addons)

6) Industry standards compliance (for improved interoperability and accessibility)

7) Contact and/or data import from G+ (able to use G+ takeout JSON archives is an unknown at this point)

8) Established user base (starting from scratch is far more difficult)

9) Full moderation capabilities in communities or groups (this is broken in G+)

10) Full moderation capabilities for personal home streams (keep as much power as possible in the hands of the users)

 

While it was not likely all the above criteria would be met by any one solution, this is where we began our search for answers. All three of the above questions led to animated discussions about centralized social networks versus decentralized or federated social networks. In a nutshell, if a network is centralized like G+, Facebook, or any social website under a single authority, it can be shut down regardless of user needs.

 

A federated solution is like the Hypergrid with no single authority and is sometimes referred to as the Federation, Fediverse, federated social web, or the Free Social Network. It is not a new phenomenon - it began in 2010 and has been growing. So, the answer to question one is yes. We will get into that more after looking at the other two questions.

 

For question two, we needed to look at whether there was a need for a ground up build. First, a base of 3.5 million users are already looking for a new home and not likely to wait. Second, if a solution could be found that is open sourced, already works well, and is easy to integrate and customize because it meets industry standards, reinventing the wheel may not be necessary.

 

On question three, this was not as easy to answer because there is a diverse user base. Some prefer private social networks while others want a public presence, so anyone can see the content they share that is not exclusive to one particular network. Examples cited include: entertainment event promotion, education, meetings, graphic arts, poetry, writing, fundraising, and more.

 

These examples apply in the realm of virtual worlds even more so than the offline world using social media for promotion and sharing. No matter the use case, other than preferred private networks, social media was designed to be a vehicle for promotion and marketing in addition to viral sharing and community. Private networks are antithetical to most social media user needs as long as users are able to optionally moderate and control access to their content aka have privacy controls.

 

An amazing collaborative effort evolved in G+ this past week. A list of available alternatives to G+ was quickly compiled and a spreadsheet setup to compare these alternatives. IMA, along with others from the Open Simulator community, participated in this collaborative effort. Ultimately, we had to make some decisions about where we would go with our G+ communities, development efforts, and Open Simulator events we support.

 

We wanted to find a solution that would give the community a broader reach to grow the Open Simulator and web-based Virtual Worlds user base. Details are public in multiple communities focused on this effort in G+. Ultimately, after testing open source federated solutions, it was clear we could in fact have the best of both worlds.

 

Some technical aspects do still need addressing as noted in a recent publication and based on our criteria above. But, we believe this will be a great start. Anyone can host and interconnect with others immediately and the software is free. So let's talk more about why we are recommending a decentralized solution and how it works:

 

What does federated mean? The Federation (aka Fediverse aka federated social web) refers to a global social network composed of nodes that talk to each other. Each of them is an installation of software which supports one of the federated social web protocols. Federated social web protocols are part of W3C standards efforts. You can find links at the bottom of this article. Each network type, application, or app must be federated to interconnect but can provide different user experiences.

 

How many users exist? Currently, there are 2.18 million users according to an opt-in reporting site. This number could double as G+ers look for new social networking homes based on research that estimates current active G+ users are around 3.5 million. Over the past week alone, as a result of collaboration, admins report around 5500 new users from G+ have established accounts and are using the federated social web. Opt-in reports show the number is now around 10,000 new users on the federated social web within six days of the sunset announcement. (updated 10/14/18)

 

How much does it cost? Most solutions are 100% open source. Costs depend on whether you host a pod, instance, node, or channel yourself or if you have someone host it for you. One solution will run on a Raspberry PI! Estimated costs by technical G+ers is $0.025 per user for a typical server but that does not count potential development or labor involved to maintain it. Our recommended solution runs on a LAMP stack but at least one popular node is running nginx. So, there is some flexibility regarding implementation.

 

What is it like? There are many federated network types with the most common being Mastadon, Diaspora, Pleroma, Friendica, and Hubzilla. Mastadon is more like Twitter while Diaspora and Friendica are more like G+ or Facebook. User familiarity helps reduce learning curves and speed up onboarding.

 

Who controls it? There is no single authority or control. Users own and control all their own data and activities. Anyone can host approximately 1000-2000 users per typical server software installation. As noted in the collaborative effort, if 100,000 G+ers migrate, 50-100 new server installations (pods, instances, nodes, or channels) will be needed to accommodate a mass migration. The tech community among G+ers are already organizing to assist each other.

 

Do all the different solutions in the Federation work together? Some do some don't. Friendica, Diaspora, and Hubzilla users can connect and comment on each other's posts easily. However, Diaspora users at present cannot see likes on comments or edit posts. Development coming up may resolve those two issues. Friendica users can view Mastadon posts or follow Mastadon users and vice versa but posting to each other is always public. A lot depends on how each technology solution is implemented by whomever hosts them. But, it is proven possible to have full social interaction between different solutions on the federated social web.

 

This is like different software installations of Open Simulator grids connected to the Hypergrid allowing avatar travel between grids and communication between users of different grids. Very few grids run the exact same version of Open Simulator with the exception of the Dreamgrid project by design. Most of the larger grids have unique backend implementations.

 

After evaluating all the federated solutions, we found that Friendica met most of the criteria out of the box and has mechanisms in place to replace functions of G+ in a manner most people on the Hypergrid use. You create a user for each collection or community then go to advanced user types to make them soapbox, news, or community forums for users to follow. Hashtags are also supported, and friends are easily found using a variety of search options available by name or interest.

 

There are also bonus usability features in Friendica. The user interface itself has several themes and users have the ability to create more. These are like skins in the viewers used to access Open Simulator. In addition, you can alter the content layout to suit your preferences. We are experimenting with addons to connect to Blogger, Twitter, G+, WordPress, Jabber and more. You can also selectively view local community posts or global community posts in addition to your friends' posts.

 

Hyacinth Landry of HGLuv grid is hosting a temporary Friendica node for development of features for Open Simulator users where you can go to create a test account to be transferred later to a permanent node. I will host at least one permanent node and HGLuv will also have a permanent node when initial configuration testing is complete.

 

The good thing is, anyone can host a node. There is even a VirtualBox image available, but Hyacinth might make us something better if we help her out! If we had at least one node per grid and per large group project like Dreamgrid, that would be a great start!

 

We have an opportunity here as a community to shape our part of the federated social web to meet the needs of Hypergrid users and web-based virtual worlders! Hyacinth's HG search engine has been added to the UI on her development node already. There is no reason owners of Web-Worldz and Cybalounge cannot do the same for their sites. Every Friendica node will function independently. IMA will ultimately host a permanent node as well and map it to a subdomain of infinitemetaverse.org for general community use.

 

How can you check it out for yourself and join the effort to build a long-term social network solution for Open Simulator?

Create a free account at https://hey.lookits.me

 

Here are some links to learn more about Friendica:

https://hey.lookits.me/newmember

https://hey.lookits.me/community/global

https://hey.lookits.me/community

https://github.com/friendica/friendica/releases

 

Here are two collaborative sheets that evolved from the effort:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12F7BjC3ibi8qKGt8jJa5XBwfdmf7bskYNHyof_VXvuI/edit?usp=sharing

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GYSUTGpmz-2trxhvNyEv_rnNF1GvEf4OW0Lct7KxEiY/edit#gid=2109135294

 

Finally, here are some informative sources

http://opensym.lero.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/a8-silva.pdf

https://medium.com/we-distribute/a-quick-guide-to-the-free-network-c069309f334

https://www.w3.org/2005/Incubator/federatedsocialweb/wiki/Protocols

https://www.w3.org/TR/social-web-protocols/

https://the-federation.info/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_software_and_protocols_for_distributed_social_networking

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google%2B#Features_and_functions

https://github.com/friendica/friendica/issues/2894

 

and a place to help with the mass migration.

https://social.antefriguserat.de/index.php/What%27s_Needed

 

Any questions or comments are welcome! You can find me on G+, in the federated web space, or in world as Shelenn Ayres. Feel free to get in touch!

What is Infinite Metaverse Alliance (IMA) all about? IMA brings people together, from developers to end users, to get things done!

We do this by providing resources and opportunities for everyone in the virtual world community to help advance technologies we all love. Congratulations to the development teams for their recent activities and releases! We see some ways we can all work together. Let's expand the conversation!

Currently, we have 49 Public Working Groups. Of those, sixteen are active, fourteen are forming, and eighteen are planned that may form when other working group projects are completed. To reduce complexity for each group, most have a narrow focus but have intersections with other working groups. Using our Project Management site helps us get things done while archiving the work by design.

Overall, there are intersections, shown in the image below, within virtual world activities via Science, Technology, and Innovation that are all centered around community. So we formed three branches that reflect the very same focus. The largest of these branches will be the Working Group (WG) Branch supported by the R&D Branches. Now that many of the resources working groups need are in place, we are putting out a general call for participation!

 

Starting this week 9/27/17:
 
430pm ET every Wednesday, Open Door Hour at
https://infinitemetaverse.org/join-us/on-the-grid-ima-outpost-alpha
(Browser based web-worldz containing the opensim export of the IMA Outpost Alpha cabin optimized for Google Chrome but works also with Mozilla Firefox - follow instructions on the page please) Stop by for a chat or a voice conversation with the M&M's! No need for a viewer. you can try it below anytime.
 
6 pm ET 3rd Wednesday of each month, IMA Monthly Status meeting open to the public at
hypergrid.org:8002:IMA Outpost Beta
 
Three Weekly Q&A Meetings in the same rotation every Friday
(See calendar below for details on HG locations)
930 am ET
1 pm ET
830 pm ET
This is being done to provide an opportunity for anyone to attend the weekly meetings regardless of shift worked or time zone.
 
2 pm ET every Friday, IMA Test Hour at
hypergrid.org:8002:IMA Outpost Alpha
(We may travel to other locations for testing. If you have something you want on the test schedule, let us know!)
 
If you subscribe to the Google IMA Events Calendar, it will convert the time zones for you and optionally send you reminders.
https://calendar.google.com/calendar/embed?src=This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.&ctz=America/New_York&pli=1
 

We are midway through 2017 with growing interest in IMA! Thank you to all those participating and to those joining us in our mission to help advance the virtual world technology we all love. We created the IMA Google calendar because it is easy for the general community to use and so working group leaders can add their meetings to the same calendar. If you need access as a working group leader, please send email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get added.