Saturday, October 21, 2006

Virtual Worlds with ABNet

I've been looking at the products available for real-time 3D chat worlds. While Blaxxun continues to be the commercially licensed leader, other vendors are stepping up to provide communications servers and hosting. Today I am looking at ABNet from Kimball Software. The main man at this company is Rick Kimball. You can click on this blog title to go to the VRMLWorld site and play with some sample worlds in their chat windows. It requires an Active-X control and as usual, thanks to our dear friends at EOLAS (#@#@$), you have to accept the control using IE.

I'm running on a 56k dial-up here (yes, Virginia, some of us still do), and had no problem running these worlds. However, I was the only one in there so this is not a very good test. For those who want a low-cost/no-cost approach to building 3D chat worlds, ABNet is a good place to start and may prove to be a commercial survivor. The site describes the software thusly:

ABNet is a communication framework that happens to let you create 3D multi-user chat worlds. It isn't limited to this application but 3D chat shows its flexibility. The communication framework of ABNet provides an asynchronous low-latency publish and subscribe environment using XML messages.

The communication server of ABNet is written in Java allowing for deployment on any platform running a Java VM. The client side of ABNet uses Javascript on an HTML page to turn a single-user VRML or X3D world into a Multi-user Virtual World environment. 3D Avatars can interact and use shared events to provide a virtual experience much like the old blaxxun community platform. ABNet is the software that powers http://vrmlworld.net

ABNet can be used to build your own chat site that uses very little bandwidth. It is feasible to run a 3D chat site from your personal computer.


The software supports both the Contact 6.1 and MediaMachines browsers.

Some useful URLS:

Forums:
http://vrmlworld.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=118

Setup the Software

http://vrmlworld.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=105

Download the current ABNet 2 ActiveX client from here:
http://kimballsoftware.com/abnet/abnetclient2_002.exe

Download both the client and java server from here:
http://kimballsoftware.com/abnet/abnetserver2_002.exe

4 comments:

Peter 'griff' Griffith said...

Well Len there is a cost --- the Contact 6.1 has a wandering logo and you either have to pay to get a version that effectively removes it OR the creator of the 3D content must pay a licence fee so people can participate.

As a content creator kind of irked by this.

Early versions of Contact 6.1 with a n0n-wandering logo in right corner of the screen don't work :(

len said...

Yes, although they are working on Flux (MediaMachines) support too.

I can't complain. If guys like me would find more money gigs, everyone's boat could float a little higher. Given all the time Rick, Tony, etc. put into this code, I can't rant about a floating logo if it works.

As I keep saying: we have lots of stuff; we need more 'natch. So it is up to us to find the paying gigs because right now we are like blues players begging Peavy for free gear, and that ain't right.

Peter 'griff' Griffith said...

Trouble with Flux ... a memory leak! Can be fixed ...yes ... but why are they not doing it?

As for the business model ... both Bitmanagement and Parallelgraphics seem to think that the only future is corporate. There are otherways of making money ... perhaps with unconventional ideas.

'griff'

len said...

Yes, and Tony says they need to fix it. Delays? I don't know. It's tough to go after something day in and out without the money or just breaking even. I've done it for years in music and only habit and passion keeps me going.

There are unconventional ideas and there are ideas that have already been tried and didn't hit the mark. Trouble is, the mark keeps moving. Virtual communities were tried again and again until Rosedale hit with SecondLife. Now everything old is new and you'd think that SecondLife was something new. SGML was scoffed at for two decades until XML burgled ISO's house, and now it is the syntax we all use.

So maybe the unconventional idea is something everyone has already trashed. Virtual conferences didn't impress me until I tried it and discovered that chat + presence + drag and drop powerpoints actually work well for keeping the online conversation on track. Between SL's momentum, the ever increasing stack of technical goodies, and RFPs I saw in the public safety sector, it seems to me that real-time 3D is sneaking in the backdoor and one day, the market is just there for those who learned along the way.

So we keep wrling. I don't know who will get the hit. The top country song in the nation is being sung by a band from my hometown who were playing a local nightclub and working day gigs six months ago. The guy that wrote the song is someone I've known for over two decades. Sometimes, it pays to stay at it I guess, and sometimes others just get the timing right and get lucky.

But one way or another, the 3D stuff and music are still more fun than anything else I've done with the Internet toys, so we keep wrling.

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