Hive7: Interactive NetSpace


Via GigaOM I spent some time exploring Hive7 – a net-based, interactive space (Link). It’s an interesting effort with some intriguing possibilities right out of the gate. From GigaOM’s post (Link):

Robert Scoble made the argument that Second Life is an OS, while others nodded their head in agreement. That might be the case, but increasingly, I believe that this will give way to a more web-based virtual world.

Web is the ultimate platform, and I think in the end it wins. Hive 7 is just the first example of the next generation web possibilities.

He put together a virtual universe which has rooms where folks can meet, meet, chat, exchange resources and items. What got me excited about Hive7 was that it allows anyone to customize the whole experience. You can take the code, and tweak it.

Looking at what Hive7 has built, I have just realized that the web has now gone 3D.

Check out the one where Max and I are doing collaborative browsing. A browser inside a browser – now that’s cool!

Well, as much as I like what’s been done, I have to be honest … there are portions of this write-up that aren’t quite accurate.

The first is that the web hasn’t “gone 3D” by virtue of Hive 7. It’s a 2D interface. So while it’s nice, it’s not 3D. For that sort of thing, I’ve been following the efforts of people like Kerry Bonin, who has been working diligently in the background on a modified version of the x3d standard which he calls “vml”. I recently retrieved the link to his site from another PC, and am happy to be able to share it here – Vscape (Link). Maybe a little traffic will dislodge that demo.

The second is that Hive 7 doesn’t truly have “collaborative browsing” in the sense that it’s comparable to two people using the same monitor; more like “pseudo” (the term used by avatar “Hive 7 (AS)” … whoever that is). Specifically, if I click on a link on one of the Hive 7 virtual browsers, it’ll show on my screen, but no one else’s. Users are forced to use a URL toolbar at the top of the shared browser window.

That said, I’m impressed. A collaborative space using a browser is still powerful stuff. In one room there are 2D chess sets. Now imagine someone creating their own game – perhaps a prototype for a real life board game. They could test their game online in “private” virtual rooms (Hive 7 allows for that option). Similarly, imagine uploading your own landscape and filling this space with custom objects and then using that for virtual training. For example, you could have a garden landscape, tools and bulbs for planting, and a URL to a set of instructions. Or maybe it’s a biology lab and you have to re-assemble a human skeleton. Or it’s chemistry class and students have to create molecular chains.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing how Hive 7 matures. The individual with whom I was chatting mentioned that what they really needed were the features expected in forthcoming browsers. Among the things I’m expecting from next-generation browsers is built-in support for x3d. That may not be quite as nice as Bonin’s vml format, but it’d be a start. And then we’d have a 3D internet.

(By the way, I’m the floating blue head in the image above.)

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