Wish list for a Web viewer

With PixieViewer, we’re closer to the dream of a Web-based viewer for OpenSim than we’ve ever been before.

This particular viewer, which is built using HTML 5 technology, solves the biggest usability problem that OpenSim has. It requires no download — no plugins, no Java, no configuration, nothing. You go to the webpage, type in your avatar name and password, and you’re in the world. (Try it out here.)

PixieViewer currently allows you to create new user accounts, log in, walk on objects, sit, build, and text chat.

Neither the viewer nor the OpenSim module that goes with are finished yet, but I can already see some use case for the current version of the viewer:

  • 3D Walk-throughs: User can walk through 3D museums, art galleries, tour college campuses, walk around models of proposed new buildings, check out layouts of new stores or offices. Yes, you can do that now with Unity 3D, but that requires professional development — and users have to install the Unity plugin. With PixelViewer, the back end is a standard OpenSim grid, which means that instead of having to hire professional designers, you can build with regular OpenSim tools, or buy low-cost content from the many OpenSim marketplaces.
  • Chat-based meetings: PixelViewer doesn’t yet support voice. But text chat, which is already implemented, is good enough for plenty of uses. Support groups where privacy is important and meetings that involve people who speak different languages are two of the examples.
  • Collaborative 3D design: PixelViewer already supports basic building tools. Users can meet in-world to, say, design the layout of their new offices, to lay out a new park, or to plan the layout of a tradeshow exhibit floor.

Here are some features that I think would help improve usability even further:

  • Click-to-wear: Learning how to use the inventory is a big hassle for new users — but so is looking like the default avatar. One solution would be a clothing display with a “click to wear” button. You click and the clothing automatically goes into your inventory, and replaces the outfit you have on. From what I understand from developers, this is a feature that needs to be implemented in the viewer. I can see new users walking through a freebie store where they can pick their body, their hairstyle, and their clothes all by clicking, without having to look for the clothes in their inventories.
  • Mirrors: Sure, you can see what your avatar looks like by zooming around with a camera. That’s not an option in PixieViewer right now, but I assume camera controls are coming soon. There are two problems with camera controls, however. First, newbies can’t use them. And, second, we’re rapidly entering the age of immersive virtual reality. If you’re wearing virtual reality goggles, camming around isn’t really a viable option.
  • Media-on-a-prim: I know it sounds weird that I want to look at a browser — inside a viewer that runs inside a browser.  And I really hate in-world events where people just sit around and watch a PowerPoint presentation. Why bother? But there are some great uses for in-world media, such as interactive displays, multiple live screens in control centers, signs that can be automatically updated just by changing a Web page. You can also use in-world media for collaboration — Google documents and spreadsheets, for example, are tailor-made for working together.
  • Hypergrid support: In order for PixelViewer users to visit an OpenSim grid, that grid needs to be running a special module. When users try to teleport to a grid that doesn’t have that, users should get a message explaining the problem — and will be in a position to lobby that grid to add PixelViewer support. Otherwise, hypergrid teleports can fail for a bajillion different reasons. And, speaking of hypergrid fails, please fix the 4,096 bug!
  • Voice: I know this is on the agenda already, but voice is a must-have for school and business groups. In particular, I’d like to see support not just for Vivox, which is the standard these days on most grids, but also for Whisper/Mumble, the highest-quality open source alternative. Right now, grids don’t use Whisper for two reasons — first, Vivox is free for most grids, and, second, existing viewers don’t support it. Vivox is the voice system that’s used in Second Life, so all viewers support it by default. But some grids might want to use Whisper, especially large commercial grids or corporate grids who don’t want to use an outside voice provider for security reasons.
  • A marketplace: The biggest complaint of OpenSim users? Lack of content. The biggest complaints of merchants? Lack of security for their content and a target audience that’s scattered over more than 200 different grids. A viewer-based marketplace, especially one attached to a popular viewer, would solve the fragmentation problem. And the PixieViewer folks could strike a deal with merchants where, in return for exclusive listings, copybotted versions of those items would not be able to be worn or rezzed.


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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

9 Responses

  1. pablo@lansing.com' Paul E. Emery says:

    If they get the opensim connection working for general consumption it will make it possible for any web site to have a direct door to its 3d sim extension. I don’t know how much they will want to charge for commercial use but i for one would pay quite a bit because the clients i design web sites for would happily let me pass it through. Congrats to the folks at pixieviewer.

  2. grenvillejameson@gmail.com' Gren says:

    PixieViewer sounds great, the creators should be congratulated more for what they have done in my opionion.

    A feature I would like to see added to OpenSim is decent lighting. Currently either people don’t bother to use Windlight Settings or are using different Windlights from each other. Decent lighting by default would also make void those annoying vanity face and body lights.

    Have to see seeing my avatar in a mirror is not a priority to me. Media on a prim is a Privacy and security risk, but then so is Javascript etc…

    Hypergrid, I am very anti Hypergrid, I don’t want to travel to other peoples Grids and don’t want people coming to mine unless they are a registered inmate and don’t want my users possibly being enticed away to leave my lovely Dictaorship.

    Voice uses up resources… ideally needs it’s own server too.

    Very important I think is a secure currency system, with opportunities to purchase currency and pay for it using provides other than PayPal. In particular I have interest in seeing UKash implemented which is also available in other European countries.

    I would like Aircraft to be enabled to fly but not humans, furrys to be banned, nekos too, infact only humans allowed. A transport system people have to pay to use instead would be good, else they can walk.

    Megaregions, I like this idea but the implementation is not ideal, Aurora uses a better system, perhaps that should be added to Opensim?

    • Gren — Any grid owner already has the ability to turn off hypergrid, voice, megaregions, ban furries and nekos, and turn off flying.

      And many grids do turn off some or all of those features, to fit their needs and business models — the viewer doesn’t actually play much of a role in turning functionality off, that’s on the OpenSim back end. So, for example, whether a viewer supports hypergrid or not, you can still have it disabled.

      Good lighting does sound like a good request, though, and I keep hearing about it from lots of folks. Maybe I’m not as visual as some people — all I care about is whether its day or night. 🙂

      But whatever features people want, or the PixieViewer folks decide to add, I hope they don’t wait until everything is finished and 100 perfect before they roll it out. Nothing is ever finished, nothing is perfect. A good basic set of usable features is plenty to get started with.

      And, from what I’ve seen so far, there are already applications where I can see PixieViewer being used — just as it is now, before all the other goodies are added.

      • grenvillejameson@gmail.com' Gren says:

        Yes… I know the server side can be configured to do most of those things, also in region.

        I visited PixieViewer it has a lot potential, buggy at the moment of course, I guess we will see how it progresses.

    • vr@shadowypools.co.uk' KeithSelmes says:

      Hypergrid – definitely needed, but I suppose we can switch off whenever
      Voice – yes needs it’s own server, or service like Vivox
      Currency – vital. Looking up UKash now.
      Flying – I might set no fly, if it conflicts with aircraft, but that’s a personal choice.
      Megaregions – ugh need something better

  3. Back in 2005 there was a mirror in sl that you just clicked on and you could see yourself. It was a script that just turned your camera around to show your face. I don’t know about having it in viewers but don’t some of the viewers now have the little icons so that you can click and see yourself from behind or front front view etc?

    • I have seen those icons, but what I’m getting at here is that in-world mirrors require zero learning on the part of the user. They already know how to use a mirror. You just stand in front of it. No pose stands, no figuring out which icon is what.

      I have a dream of walking into a store, clicking on clothes to try them on, then standing in front of one of those three-part mirrors where I can see myself from all sides.

      And I also want to have this for my closet at home. I’m tired of trying to find things to wear in my inventory. I want everything arranged on shelves. Organized by color. No, occasion. No, color. Best of all — nothing will ever be stained, or needing mending or too fat or too thin for my current weight!

      Anyway… ah, yes, maximum usability. Assuming that we’re losing people because they hit some little snag and then decide that it’s not worth bothering with, the more of these snags we can eliminate, the better.

  4. vr@shadowypools.co.uk' KeithSelmes says:

    Pixie looks interesting. I got in OK with my desktop PC and old laptop, and just made it in by tablet before it crashed. But WEBGL on my tab is experimental still. (A feature in Chrome that you have to turn on, and it says it may bite you (!) ) The link to 3D printing is a move I was looking for.