PlaceWorld is the result of collaboration between artists, social and computer scientists undertaken as part of the eSCAPE Project (ESPRIT 25377, 1997-2000), the aim of which was to inform the development of future large scale shared and social virtual environments. Realized as a distributed multi-user VE capable of running over wide-area networks, PlaceWorld has three goals: first, to act as a coherent metaphor for browsing and experiencing disparate electronic art installations and virtual artefacts; second to be an evolving social environment in its own right; and third to provide a persistent software architecture in which non-trivial virtual artefacts may be dynamically created and integrated.
Borrowing from previous multimedia installations "Place - a user's manual" and "The Virtual Museum", PlaceWorld combines a familiar planar city-like layout with unusual virtual content.
The various features and artifacts of PlaceWorld are described below.
The PlaceWorld environment gradually evolves a structure based on its usage by its inhabitants. Artefacts and areas of interest slowly become larger, drawing attention to their popularity.
Users each leave behind glowing translucent trails as they pass through the environment:
These trials can be utilised by other inhabitants to chart the movement of companions.
The trials also contribute automatically to the network of pathways that connect areas in the worlds. User trails following similar routes reinforce one another to become concrete 'highways' allowing rapid transport from region to region, whilst trails leading to unpopular areas of the world fade over time.
A user's personal trial can be used as a transport mechanism allowing multiple users to gather and interact through a text-based chat facility. Users can talk to one another privately or broadcast their words for all to see.
Located in PlaceWorld are a number of Cylindrical 'buildings' which act as portals leading to more extensive electronic art works.
These four works (shown below) were pre-existing stand alone
single-user applications that had been developed independently on
The data structures and rendering techniques required to efficiently store and display each of these work are radically different. The AIG's Maverik system was used to unite these disparate works. Maverik employs a callback mechanism to encapsulate the data structures and rendering techniques specific to each work. This common interface to the works allows them to coexist within a single virtual environment.
The Deva system, also developed within the group, provided the distribution layer on top of Maverik that was used to implement PlaceWorld. Deva utilizes a client-server architecture with a customisable high-level language to describe schemes for synchronization. Furthermore, customisable smoothing techniques are employed to reduce the effect of network lag.
Users are encouraged to personalize and contribute to the environment.
Generators in the world create new objects:
These objects can be personalized:
Objects can be moved around the environment to mark territory. Advanced users can create new art pieces.
Links, visualized as pathways in the sky, can be created by users allowing fast transportation to favourite areas.
The PlaceWorld architecture, contents, and a purpose built walk-in panoramic navigation display device with cylindrical projection screen and touch sensitive display were publicly exhibited at the ESPRIT i3NET conference in Jonkoping, Sweden, and at The Doors of Perception conference, Amsterdam, both in Q4 2000.