Current Events:  Multi-user, Flocking, Death and Taxes

Dateline: 4/20/98

VNet a freely available multi-user system available with source, created by Stephen White and Jeff Sonstein is starting to appear all over. The number of multi-user worlds based on VNet is rapidly rising. The Digital Garden by Mirko Ross is the latest. ElectraCity the much anticipated (how's that for pressure) multi-user world led by Miriam English (Aussie geek girl) is also based on VNet. The really great thing about VNet is that is doesn't require any special browser or additional plug-ins. If you can do VRML you can do VNet. Why just this week I wandered into a room and bumped into a lad from the land down under. It's still a very compelling feeling to be virtually standing next to someone who happens to be half-way around the world.

The Matrix System  from the Geometrek folks is another serious multi-user client/server system. According to Michael Wagner (also known as Dr. Quaternion) one of the Gemetrek people: "The system is aimed to support easy vrml multiuser game development without the hassle of additional client software. Similar to the VNET system, Matrix will be distributed as client/server pair for content development."

There were some questions and discussions about flocking this week. Flocking are animations that behave, at least in appearance the way birds and school fish do. These effects are like way cool and would be an awesome behavior to encapsulate in a PROTO (any volunteers?). Miriam English posted such an information filled response I've decided to just duplicate it here (thanks! Miriam):

<In response to flocking rules question>

A momentous event for a couple of VRML's main men (no sexism intended geek girls), Gavin Bell and Rikk Carey have completed the release of SkyPaint. SkyPaint is a truly unique product that let's you paint directly onto panoramic textures intended for use as backgrounds for a variety of technologies such as QuickTimeVR, LivePicture, and surprise surprise, VRML. SkyPaint allows world builders to combine the compelling visual qualities of photographs and carefully rendered images with the polygonal freedom of movement offered in a VRML world. Check it out at
On a sad note this week, the very untimely passing of Bob Rockwell a pioneer and leader of the VRML community. Bob was the Chief Technical Officer of blaxxun the leading vendor of multi-user worlds. I met Bob once but was aware of his many contributions. Bob's work helped, in quite direct ways, move the dreams of cyberspace as a community of careing visionary people, closer to reality. Franz Buchenberger President and CEO of blaxxun posted the following message to the www-vrml list which bears repeating:

Bob Rockwell

I received quite a lot of emails that expressed sympathies and mourning for Bob Rockwell. I'd like to thank you all and mentioned the messages to Bob's wife and daughter. They also asked me to thank you.

Bob's death was completely unexpected for all of us. He seemed to be in best health as his regular health checks didn't give any indication for a heart problem. He was in his typical positive mood when he was at work last Wesnesday. At the evening, he called his wife to pick him up at the underground station close to home, walked with a colleague to the subway, and had a heart attack when he entered the train. He was immediately dead. The funerall will take place coming Wednesday in Munich.

Bob Rockwell was a very exceptional and unique man. Bob was always prepared to put his own interests back when somebody needed help. I can't think of anybody who wouldn't respect and like Bob for his competence and outgoing personality. In all the years I knew Bob, I saw him mostly in positive and constructive mood. As everybody, he was sometimes frustrated. But he was never aggressive or unfair. He always tried to understand the point of view of others and did a wonderful job as mediator. His ethical standards were extremely high and that was the only area where he was not willing to make any compromises.

While Bob had many and unusual talents, he will always stay in our minds for his humanity and ethics. We lose a very good friend of the rare kind that is always available, always believable, always comforting, and always helpful. Bob's preferred virtual identity was "preacher". This was his mission in life: to spread knowledge and to mediate between different views. Bob had always an infinite desire to learn about facts and opinions. I very much hope he's now at a place where this desire can be fulfilled better than in this world.

Bob, we'll miss you a lot and will never forget you.

Blaxxun have established a site where people can post their memories of Bob Rockwell:

In the U.S. April 15 is TAX day. Time to pay up this week. It's completely irrelevant to VRML but hey how else could I get that cute title 

Got any burning issues, post it on the board.

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