If you have heard of Opensimulator and what it can do but want to know a little more then this article is for you. First let me outline what Opensimulator is which will be followed by an overview of the main features of Opensimulator and to complete the article I will give some concrete examples of how Opensimulator can be used.
OpenSimulator is an open source multi-platform, multi-user 3D application server. It can be used to create a virtual environment (or world) which can be accessed through a variety of clients, on multiple protocols. It also has an optional facility (the Hypergrid) to allow users to visit other OpenSimulator installations across the web from their ‘home’ OpenSimulator installation. In this way, it is the basis of a nascent distributed Metaverse.
OpenSimulator allows virtual world developers to customize their worlds using the technologies they feel work best – we’ve designed the framework to be easily extensible. OpenSimulator is written in C#, running both on Windows over the .NET Framework and on Unix-like machines over the Mono framework. The source code is released under a BSD License, a commercially friendly license to embed OpenSimulator in products. If you want to know about our development history, see History.
Out of the box, OpenSimulator can be used to simulate virtual environments similar to Second Life™, given that it supports the core of SL’s messaging protocol. As such, these virtual worlds can be accessed with the regular SL viewers. However, OpenSimulator does not aim to become a clone of the Second Life server platform. Rather, the project aims to enable innovative feature development for virtual environments and the Metaverse at large.
Opensimulator [source and to see the links removed from the text above]
To make this a little easier to understand the picture above is taken in a virtual environment created with Opensimulator. The formal definition is difficult to understand if it is unfamiliar to you, essentially what it means is that Opensimulator is a software/server program that when running creates a 3D environment, where people represented in this space using an avatar can communicate through text chat in public and private. It is similar to the more well known virtual world Second Life ® but there are differences worthy of note. For example, additional scripting languages can be used and there are different physics engines you can use.
Now that we know more about Opensimulator now for what you can do with it. The main features of Opensimulator are described on the Opensimulator website as follows:
- Supports online, multi-user 3D environments as small as 1 simulator or as large as thousands of simulators
- Supports 3D virtual spaces of variable size
- Supports multiple clients and protocols – access the same world at the same time via multiple protocols
- Supports realtime Physics Simulation, with multiple engine options
- Supports clients that create 3D content in real time
- Supports inworld scripting using LSL/OSSL
- Provides unlimited ability to customize virtual world applications through the use of scene plugin modules
- Full feature Matrix
For the purpose of this discussion, I will focus on OSSL scripting language, simulations and collocation, and collaboration. Below will be a brief example of each of these features of Opensimulator hopefully sparking your imagination to see how you could use Opensimulator in your own projects or practice.
OSSL Script Language
My first example is that Opensimulator has two scripting languages that you can use, LSL and OSSL commands. OSSL enables you to achieve things quicker than you can with LSL and as an example the OSSL functions that deal with NPC (Non Player Characters) with Opensimulator it can as simple or as complicated as you can imagine and not have to rely on the notion of a scripted agent with Second Life has to for bot creation. It can be as simple as clicking a prim twice. Once to create your appearance and the second creates or rezzes the NPC. The picture below shows this process using this script by Aine (here).
Learning and simulations
You can create very complex simulations using Opensimulator from health and safety simulation scenarios to threaded simulations that unfold depending on what the participants decide. Whilst complete my MA in Education in Virtual worlds I saw many examples of using Second Life and Opensimulator as a simulation environments that allow people to make mistakes and learn from them in a safe place/space that would be either to costly or dangerous to do in the real world.
Learning in Opensimulator has allot of potential and I hope to explore through research one such application, the use of virtual worlds in the training of therapists. The picture below shows a built environment that will be used to teach and research teaching and learning.
Colocation and collaboration
Imagine if you will logging into Opensimulator and having a meeting with someone who lives in the US, traditionally something like Skype or discord would be needed to bridge the gap between the participants. Opensimulator can do this too with a richer presence because of the avatars and a stronger feeling of being there with someone else. Collocation and collaboration are easier to maintain and develop when you are more present and focused on the task and individual, Opensimulator and similar worlds I feel do this better than webrtc based communication tools. We can build together, map out ideas visually as well as communicate in voice and chat.
As you can see Opensimulator has many applications and can be used for a range of learning, experiential and social purposes. It is a feature rich environment and has many tools and applications as the only limit is your own imagination and the limitations of Opensimulator.