Re: VRML MUD's & Interaction

Kenneth C. Jenks (
Mon, 24 Oct 94 11:11:22 -0600

Linas wrote to us all:

>(1) The room couldn't contain 10000 virtual people because you

> couldn't see anything because of the overcrowding. Unless they

> were the size of fleas. (Ha, can you imagine 10000 fleas yelling

> at you if you accidnetally walked in full-sized? "Hey you,

> siddown")

That brings up the need for scaling each virtual representation to fit
the social situation. Two virtual whales could meet and converse
easily (?). They'd have a hard time meeting up with a virtual cat.
(Maybe they wouldn't care.) When the virtual achitect designs the
virtual room, he assigns a size to it. The virtual personnae of
visitors to that room must be scaled appropriately. (The whale might
not fit. Would he rescale himself automatically? That's not the
virtual architect's problem; it's the whale's problem. He chose to be
a whale.)

>(2) Soo -- two possibilities:
> (a) Create 1000 "parallel universes", each with no more than 10

> participants. Somehow, you want to have these copies not all

> run on the same machine. For this to happen automatically,

> you need a mudserver-to-mudserver protocol where one mudserver

> says to the other:
> "here is my empty-room (master) URL. Please copy it. I will

> tell client Gzwyzzyx to go to you (by sending him the URL of

> your copy)."

The arbitrary limit on number of participants may be required,
depending on the artistic intent of the virtual architect and
computational limitations. In realspace, public meeting places have
population limits, frequently self-imposing ones, depending on
architecture and social interactions. 10,000 rock concert fans take up
less room than 10,000 participants at a yo-yo convention. (Or 10,000
Catholics in a virtual cathedral -- talk about Mass communication!)

In realspace, we have very complex interactions required for
person-to-person communication -- all parties need to be physically
co-located or linked electronically, all parties must be able to hear
and/or see each other well enough to allow individual identification
(except in lectures, concerts, etc., which are basically one-way comm,
with some two-way feedback via applause, jeers, waves, lighters,
molatov cocktails, etc.). For private communication, both parties need
ID, proximity, sight/hearing, and privacy. In a crowded realspace
meeting hall, you can achieve that privacy by lowering your voice in
close physical proximity. How will this work in a virtual meeting

There will be a need for load sharing between computers in virtual
space because of the computational requirements, but it won't be as
simple as Linas describes it. (Of course, he knows that; he was

> (b) Allow 10000 flea-sized people in one room. Since they are

> flea-sized, you can't see them, so position updates and shape

> changes do not need to be broadcast.

There are many other possibilities. For example, in addition to your
fully-rendered, in-your-face virtual persona (the one with the bitmap
image or 3-D model of your face, animated dee-lee-bobbers, your
animated company logo on your name tag, and your alma mater's football
fight song playing quietly in the background), you could have a
flea-sized rendering of just a few voxils (flashing neon green for
some; dull black for others; invisible for others) which could easily
be incorporated in a crowded virtual space such as WebWorld,

You could also have an intermediate virtual appearance, say a silent,
static, postage-stamp-sized, 2-D projection of your 3-D persona, which
tells other users your ID if selected.

These pre-scaling concepts are really a crutch for lack of computation
power. If you had enough computer power, you could do these things on
the fly. If not, scale them ahead of time and store them in an easily
accessible place, like

Large, mis-scaled, computation-intensive or elaborate virtual personae
would take on the same pariah status that lengthy .sigs have today in
USENET newsgroups. People using them in large groups would be
chastised for wasting computer resources. When you are interacting
one-on-one (or in a small group), you could use your fully-rendered
personna. When you are interacting with someone with limited computer
resources (for cost or whatever) you would use a smaller form. (Like
now, when I limit the length of e-mail I send to my brother on
CompuServe because he pays by the byte, I don't use a long .sig.)

What would you want to look like in virtual space? I might be a
Cessna, constantly flying around your virtual space, with my face
visible inside the cockpit, and my e-mail (v-mail?) address as the
airplane's tail number. I'd have a spinning prop and an engine sound.
I might leave a trail of colored smoke rings indicating where I'd been,
which would fade like fog after I pass.

-- Ken Jenks, NASA/JSC/SD561, Space Biomedical Research Institute (713) 483-4368

"Cyberspace is the Shadow Land of human technos; at the end
of our striving we will find the perfect, still mirror in
which we see only ourselves."
-- Mark Pesce,, 14 Oct 1994