Cred on “The Street”

Yesterday Lockheed announced that it had bought Croquet simulations learning company 3D Solve. (3D Solve’s founding CTO is David Smith, who is Chief System Architect for the Croquet Consortium, and CTO of Qwaq. Consortium point-man Julian Lombardi is an advisor.) Being Lockheed, the news was carried by financial folks like CNN and Merrill Lynch, but I’m most excited by the release carried by Gamasutra and Serious Games Source, which is all about Croquet.

This comes on the heels this week of Cisco blogs about Qwaq.

I’m old enough to know that all of this should be taken with a grain of salt. But it certainly ain’t bad news, and it gives a lot of credibility to the Croquet platform. I hope that Croquet folks around the world are able to make good use of this news in setting up their own projects.

This week I had posted links to some cool new Croquet project movies, but I missed this somewhat cold one from 3D Solve.


As lots of Croqueteers already know, we have FINALLY released version 1.0 (Beta) of the Croquet Software Developer’s Kit. (The Web site is new, too.) This is the first released version of the Croquet innards that does all the stuff that Croquet is supposed to do: shared simulations in spatial environments in order to achieve a collaborative build/use environment with social presence.

Being open source with a very liberal license, we expect a lot of stuff to be built in, around, and on the SDK. In particular, there’s still room for folks to define an APPLICATION that Joe-Random-User can just pick up and USE. There are plenty of working demos in this new release: they’ll be particularly meaningful to developers who play with them and the code a bit. More to come…

TeaTime in a Nutshell, by My Daughter

My oldest daughter (age 13) just “independently” invented Croquet. Or more specifically, she’s reinvented the underlying computation model called TeaTime. She’s been playing a computer game called “Sims”, in which a single player can create a simulated world, populated with characters that she has configured. These character interact with each other based on their “personalities.”

The version of Sims she uses is not collaborative: each game is independent of anyone else playing the game. But my daughter has a friend (born within a few hours of her, from two parents that lived in the same dorm as my wife and I). Her friend also has Sims, and being 13 year old girls, they play their own games while they talk on the phone with each other. “Let’s make a character called ‘Howard.” Let’s have him do such-and-such. Let’s do this. Let’s do that.“

They’re each using the telephone to coordinate the ”commands” to their respective simulations. Then the games play, producing the same results, even though the game isn’t designed to be networked. That’s exactly how Croquet works.

Now, there are other issues in the Sims, and these girls are as interested in the differences as in keeping things in synch. Pretty cool.

What Is It About Immersive 3D?

When something new comes along, we tend to describe what it is. If it’s something important, it takes a while to figure out why it’s important – what it is that is really different. The description of what something is tends to be somewhat dry and technical and it misses the point. For example, a telegraph is an encoder and a decoder in an electric circuit. But couriers and semaphores involve coders and decoders, and other stuff has had electric circuits. What was important about the telegraph was that it provided instantaneous long-distance communication. This is also what was important about its successors like the telephone and radio, even though the descriptions of what each is are quite different than that of the telegraph. It’s not as simple as describing what a new invention does for people. Quite often we don’t know how it will be used.

Since I first heard about Croquet, I’ve been trying to figure out what is really important about the immersive 3D that everyone first notices about it. I think I now have an idea. It turns out that the “immersive” part is key.

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Inventing the Future: enchancing performance

Like many people I’ve talked to, I tend to imagine using Croquet for automation. We envision physics and molecular chemistry simulations running on their own, while the people in the collaboration walk around among the ball and stick model forest and observe. Maybe we reach up and grab an atom or two and pull on it to see how that changes the path of the simulation. That’s my nature. I’m an engineer and I want to automate stuff so I don’t have to work so hard, even in visualization. I’m so lazy I even want to automate my imagination.

I worked for more than a dozen years creating some kind of automation or another. The biggest misconception I had to clear up with my clients was that you can’t automate what you don’t understand. You have to tell the computer exactly what to do. I learned this lesson in high school when we had a model bridge-building contest in physics class. Everyone assumed that I would design my bridge on a computer, and I sat down to try it.

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