Thursday, 6 August 2009

Virtual Crime Scene

There has been some discussion at work about using SL as a tool for a forensics course; and having some free time I thought I'd look into it. The biggest initial surprise when working with the latest edition of OpenSim (with the Meerkat viewer) is that the maximum size limit for prims has been increased; which makes things considerably easier.

The first benefit is being able to lay out a whole floor plan in one piece (apparently produced in some software called SmartDraw).

The creation of buildings is also a lot simpler, since you're no longer restricted to 10m panels.

The scene is at the moment fairly basic, but will allow me to start investigating potential tools and issues. The first concern is the camera angle. In the field of computer games, if a third-person view is used then camera positioning is massively important, and a lot of effort is put into getting it right - with various algorithms used to reposition it so that the view of the main character is never obscured. In tightly enclosed environments a first person view is often chosen instead. In contrast SL's 3rd person camera is fixed behind the avatar, which in enclosed spaces means that the view is often obscured by walls. A 1st person view is included, but removes the possibility of interacting with a HUD. The enclosed architectural spaces appropriate for a forensic simulation may cause some design problems.

Next step is to look at some tools (see below for a sneak preview):

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