In Second Life, everything is made from primitives – cubes, cylinders, prisms and so forth that you can place together to create pretty much anything. There’s a size limit of 10x10x10 metres that’s sometimes a real pain in the arse.

I’d heard of something called megaprims that allow you to make much larger blocks (for walls and the like) and, wondering how they worked, I found out why they’re banned.

Kuula buried under Megaprim – in which, on Jan 11, 2007, Kuula and nine other regions (about 50 hectares in total) were struck by disaster – a massive sheet of 5m thick virtual plywood plummeting from the sky. Those underneath were not crushed, but caught inside the prim, causing bizarre and erratic behaviour

It’s not quite the alien attacks of Sim City, but as far as virtual disasters go, pretty awesome

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While waiting for pizza this evening, I read an article by David Allan Grier in IEEE Computer about the ways in which technology has changed entertainment, particularly the theatre, over the last 40 years or so.

In particular, he discusses how automated lighting, sound and so forth can afford a stage manager the opportunity to calibrate the response of the audience by controlling the timing of cues much more closely, much in the same way a live television producer does the same. What this has meant is that show production, in addition to be a massive organizational exercise, is now a performance unto itself.

Later, he goes on to talk about ways in which producers of other media gauge audience reaction and adapt accordingly – focus groups for TV and movies, golden ears for music, and now, with technology, learning systems based on customer profiling and crowd-sourcing, that can supplement socially driven recommendations such as friends or local record store owners – being a prominent example.

So inspired, here’s an interesting extension that occurred to me:

What if specialized AI, running locally, could be injected into traditionally mass-produced media like music, TV, or movies to act as a kind of virtual stage manager? It could observe you, the audience, a focus group of one, then tweak the timing, the content, the tone, and even the script of media to better suit your current mood, your tastes, to stimulate you in ways to which you are more sensitive, or even to better fit your available time.

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I’ve been using the chat client Digsby for a while now, and it’s pretty awesome. It’s comparatively new (less than a year), but quite stable, feature complete, and adds a bunch of new features that simplify things substantially.

  • Cleanly integrates with all the traditional instant messenging systems, adding gtalk, facebook chat, and twitter.
  • Integrates mail and event notifications from almost any mail source, as well as facebook and myspace’s event feeds
  • Free!
  • Almost cross platform – the initial release is Windows only, but they’re releasing OS X and Linux versions soon
  • Lets you neatly merge multiple accounts on different services belonging to the same person. Then, just tells you if they’re online on any service, and intelligently uses that one to communicate with them.

Given the proliferation of social networks and messaging networks, it’s quite nice to have one tool that bridges them. I don’t have to deal with the fact that not everyone uses the same tools – Digsby gives me a list of everyone, and when I want to talk with them, it just works.

I love tools that hide complexity without being simplistic.

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