Software ahead of the curve: Verse Protocol

So I've been checking out the project Verse for a while now but kept it kind of quiet for the longest time. Today I broke my silence and gave a presentation at Social Media Cafe Manchester (#smc_mcr) along side other open source software. The problem with verse is its so big (jokes about the universe stand). There's a lot going on in the uni-verse, but lets get back to basics. So what is it?

Our goal is to create an open source Internet platform for multi-user, interactive, distributed, high-quality 3D graphics and audio for home, public and personal use. The platform will support high-quality 3D-graphics as well as high-quality 3D-audio and acoustic simulation.

The foundation of the platform is “Verse”, a lightweight, low latency, general-purpose network protocol for 3D data, which lets multiple applications act together as one large system by sharing data over the network.

Someone called it Google wave for 3D objects and scenes at SMC_MCR and in actually fact their not far wrong. Its not like Second Life because its very open and the client/server setup is trivial. Ok so there's no Federation but I can't even really imagine how that would work if there was. Anyway diving straight in, we have many components to verse. You have the actual protocol which makes everything work then you. One of the founers Eskil Steenberg has created many things on top of that protocol.

Love – Love is alpha game where up to 200 players cooperatively attack a connected city. The game is freely downloadable and only cost 5-10 euros a year to cover the cost of the server load. It recently was on Coop show and theres screenshots on the pages. Another reason why its worth starting with Love, is that Love is the first full implementation of the Verse for public use. Its a stunning game going by the alpha and its videos. Instead of going for super sharp edges Eskil has gone for super soft shading using some custom filters which portray a foggy landscape and steaming summers. I think the game will do well in some circles but don't get me wrong its super impressive what one guy has some up with but what excites me about Verse isn't Love but instead all the other tools Eskil built to support building Love

Quelsolaar – Eskil, cleverly built this render to make Love, Quel Solaar which is a

real time 3D engine designed to take advantage of the Verse networking protocol. It is fully dynamic and requires no pre-processing of data. It has been designed to be used for any application demanding high quality real time visuals, such as games, simulation, visualization, education and social activities. The main difference from other engines is that Quel Solaar is designed to be fully networked. This means that all data visualized in the engine comes from a Verse server and that any part of the scene can be changed at any time. This makes it ideal for collaboration and an array of new applications. For instance, in a game designed with the Verse architecture the game designers can alter the world appearance in any way while players are in the game. You can also allow the players themselves to have the ability to change the game environment.

Loq Ariou is next up which is a 3D modeler that works like a sketch pad if you have a 3 button mouse. I've actually found it almost impossible to use till recently playing with it and following the Manual and videos which explain it better. The interface is puzzling but once you get it strangely natural to use.

The last one is Co On a schematic verse scene viewer and editor.

In Co On you can inspect your data and edit it. Co On includes a curve editor and a material editor with raytraced rendering previews. Co On is the perfect tool for creating and destroying layers, methods, tags and nodes. It lets you edit and keep track over how the data is represented in the verse server format. I've not personally played too much with this yet but its pretty powerful an I love the way everything is hooked together like a semantic diagram. Funny enough, once you get over the control system, the rest seems to get a lot clearer.

Another aspect of verse outside Eskil's influence theres a number of attempts to add verse support to well known and used applications like Blender 3D, 3D Studio Max, Gimp, and many others. One of the most interesting places Verse is showing up in python.

Software well ahead of its curve I think you have to agree? I'm sure there will be more blog posts about aspects of verse in the near future.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.