Development version / under construction

Demedusator is a shared virtual world developed by the visitors. The system enables the users to add their parts to the VRML scene. The uploaded files are appearing in form of encrypted sculptures to the observers, the original media can be descrypted(viewed) by touching the silent objects. The system of the encryption creates an interface for the users to explore the world without having to download all the multimedia-files.

The utopia of the global community was born much earlier than computer-networks - the idea of virtual worlds is not necessary related to cybernetic machinery. Despite of this in our information-age the phrase “global” is directly associated to the internet-village, just like “virtual” to 3D worlds.

The vision decribed in the most famous science fictions of the last decades - e.g. William Gibson’s Neuromancer or in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, just to mention the two most frequently quoted ones - is outlining a world in which the digital networks are not only parts of the commerce culture, but fill a part in the most primitive tasks of the everyday life. By envisioning such a - from some points sof view - ideal reality the forecoming problem is the form of the data-container, the context-generating frame in which the broad range of various content will be displayed. By considering the history of the World Wide Web - which became so popular because of its ability to handle and serve multimedia - as an analogous example it’s quite obvious that where the heterahchical system is not able to draw borders the growing community cannot protrect the construction of the missing guidelines too long. The rules created by the heterarchical society will govern not only the culture, but the entire life.

Instead of supporting - via plug-ins - the various data-types, VRML as a rising new standard aims to immerse any kind of media indeed: a suitable medium to test practically the envisioned immaterial world which is forming a broad community’s sub-culture through the development done by its inhabitants.

Demedusator is a shared virtual world which is developed by its visitors. Instead of focusing on the real time communication, we tried to create a “container” which enables the inhabitants to create, posess, and adjust their objects, to build up their common world.

There are a couple of art-projects dealing with virtual reality, and some of them focus on the interactive possibilities of a world built by its users, but by an absolutely different approach. We preferred the creative aspects of the virtual world, and - in the first version - gave less attention to the “real-time communication”. In other words this version of the project is an “interactive world”, which is “multi-user”, but not in the sense that users can see each other, rather they can see and reflect to the creatures of others’.

But there are further open questions around “creative and interactive” pieces: the usual and obvious artistic approach to "interactive worlds" is to create an easthetic environment by providing a predefined set of materials (objects, sounds, images...) what can be freely manipulated/assembled/built into a newborn artistic creature, created by the visitors. Our approach is the opposite of that: we don’t want to provide any materials or creative toys: our aim is to make creative participants to share their creatures easily by placing them in a 3D world, that can be explored by anyone. In this case our job is to construct a system which is capable to receive and show/interpret any kind of data in an organized and receptible way: the interface is the only thing which uses an artistic interpretation-system - but only to serve the users.

The evident problem that a “container” which lets anybody to publish anything can easily produce a chaotic mess of the data, which makes it nearly impossible to find, handle. observe anything. The problem is excalated from the technical site: multimedia means huge files which are slowing down the observer’s machine making impossible to watch the content. With DEMEDUSATOR we tried to solve the problem from both sides by creating an interface based on the Cryptogram encryption system ( any data is encrypted to a three dimensional sculpture appearing in the 3D world - visitors can “decode” and explore the original uploaded multimedia data by touching the encrypted sculptures.

The main aim of our project is focusing on the context/interest catalizing capabilities of the interactive virtual reality: any sound/image/object/video can have a significant meaning in the explorable 3D world: the perceivable collage of the various media-elements is assembled by the user by selecting his/her viewpoint, generating unique meanings regardless to the value of the segments (the significance of the uploaded files).

In DEMEDUSATOR any visitor - potential participant - can be "creative": the system enables the users to add their - either pre-designed or draft - creatures to the world, let it be a complete virtual world or simply a sound/movie or picture file. For the observer all the contents are appearing in form of a “virtual sculpture”, which is created by the Cryptogram system, containing the encrypted version of the first few hundred bytes of the file. To explore the “original” content the visitor has to touch the Cryptogram: the original content is immediately decoded and shown instead of the encrypted sculpture. To place a new existence into the world, the creator only has to click on one of the “UPLOAD” buttons, and select the desired file, which will be uploaded automatically: the encrypted sculpture of the file is automatically generated and placed in the world. The object is placed at the location the creator is standing at the time of uploading. (If that location is already occupied by another object, the nearest position will be used: if there are multiple choices of locations, the creator can choose.

For example to upload a sound file, the creator should “fly” to the desired position of the sound file, then by clicking the UPLOAD SOUND button the file can be chosen from a file selector. The upload, encrypt and database-registering processes will automatically create all the necessary data: as the result all the users will see the file’s Cryptogram in their browsers.

All the other "visitors" of the virtual world will perceive the avatar of the "new creature" in their browser in some seconds, so they can respond to it either by uploading a new existence or by modifying the existing ones. The visitors can interact with each other: in the final version visitors will have the oppurtunity to use their uploaded multimedia files as their own avatars. Draft technical description

The system is based on a database, which keeps track over the uploaded files, their locations, and attributes: the VRML file received by the visitors is generated from this well-organized data. To participate - or simply browse - the users will need a JAVA compilant HTML browser with a VRML 2.0 plugin (we recommend Netscape 4.0 with the JDK 1.1 patch, downloadable from the Netscape website, or Microsoft Internet Explorer with CosmoPlayer).

The main interface is a website containing an embedded VRML file besides controls for the upload, refresh etc. functions. The visitor can browse in the VRML world, exploring the existing creatures, and if desired so can upload any image/sound/video or VRML file. The uploaded file is located at the location the "author is standing" in the world at the moment of clicking the "upload" button. (This helps to avoid the "interference" of objects besides the odd "security-system", namely that the objects can only be placed on a virtual grid.)

The uploaded file is parsed by a CGI-program, which first checks the files for errors, then generates an "avatar" of the file in VRML format using our Cryptogram system: the various mediums will be enciphered using different key-objects(practically primitives to make the various file-types recognizable). Then both the "cryptogram" of the file (practically using only the first twohundreds bytes of it), both the file with all its necessary data will be placed in the database. Finally the cryptogram of the file will be placed in the VRML world explored by all the visitors of the site, at the 3D location of the "uploader-user".

Users can explore the contents of the Cryptograms by clicking on the objects: then the "original"decoded” file will be placed in the VRML scene: for example by clicking on a cryptogram of a soundfile, the (spatial-) sound will start (and remain) playing at the location of its Cryptogram-avatar. This way the visitors need to discover the encrypted world to turn the silent and static world of cryptograms to a living scene.

The available information about other participants, decipherable files etc is shown under the VRML scene on the web-site. To avoid slowing down the VRML browser by too many VRML data, the currently loaded objects are calculated by a space-partitioning system: only that parts of the entire world are downloaded which are visible for the user. The local applet keeps track over the position of the viewer to request the necessary additional objects as the user approaches them, the same time the unnecesarry objects are unloaded.

In a future version the system will turn into a real multi-user system by showing the avatars of the visitors in the virtual space. Visitors will have the opportunity to form their individual avatars by assembling it from a series of multimedia files.

To have a starting point we created some content to be discovered: some sound/image/video files, which appear as silent and static sculptures (Cryptograms of the files). As the participants are browsing in the 3D space of DEMEDUSATOR, they can (have to) discover the encrypted world by clicking the sculptures: the response will be that the "content" of the touched sculpture is decoded, the image/sound/video file will appear (and stay) in the VRML world. When the participant decides to add something to the world, he/she has to only click the upload-button, select the file to be uploaded, and click the OK button. The uploaded file is parsed by the CGI applications, it will be placed in the database, and a Cryptogram-avatar is generated and placed in the VRML scene shown on all the participant’s terminals. From now on, the new existence is waiting to be decoded by someone touching it’s Cryptogram-avatar.

DEMEDUSATOR can be considered as a kind of virtual-gallery: the system of showing Cryptograms of the files eliminates the problem of a huge VRML file containing a huge amount of multimedia data, which makes it impossible to explore the content on a regular PC. As the world being filled up with newcoming data a virtual city-like world will be built, a kind of encrypted "Metaverse", which has to be discovered and enriched by its citizens to turn the silent and static world of cryptograms to a living scene.