The 300 000 years old way to discover the world…
Since the dawn of the humanity, the human being has explored the world in the same way. Simply by moving his body a little further and making a map of the discovered environment in his brain.
This inner map mechanism is deeply implemented in human nature. We do this every day, most time without even realizing it.
We can say that moving physically in a 3D environment is among the things that we do the best.
The comfort of the physical paths…
Because we are used to moving in a physical world, this makes it very comfortable for the brain to move this way between two places.
Of course, teleportation can be useful, but moving physically offers something more. When we do this, places are automatically linked in our inner map.
Going from a place A to a place B using a physical path generates a physical association between those two places while doing the same thing by teleportation would keep those two places as two separated items.
This physical association makes this comfortable for a human for at least two primitive reasons:
– Know the way back. (A vital information to return home)
– Know the path for the next exploration. (A useful information to find food.)
This is probably one of the reasons why contiguity is a so valuable element for people from virtual worlds like Second Life®. Because it appeals to our nature and the way we have evolved.
We just saw that interconnecting two places with something as closely as possible of a physical path or a door is deeply consistent with human nature. It’s also a more intuitive mechanism since we only have to walk immediately instead to navigate in any directory to initiate a teleportation.
It would make some sense to structure the metaverse to offer this possibility because it comes with all a layer of advantages for the visitors and for the creators:
– It eases the discovery with less hesitation to explore
– More fluid traffic between the places
– Additional way to get a world discovered
– It induces a geolocalized view of the metaverse
(which is natural for human)
Hubs and Destinations…
In Vircadia, it’s possible to host many places in the same domain. We can use “Zone” entities to compartment a domain using the “renderWithZones” properties on each entity. We can define a place as a specific area in a domain where an experience is present.
With multiple places, an interconnected model of the metaverse begins to make sense. It would be relatively easy to simply interconnect each place with the others. But it might be rapidly a problem if each place has to contain a path for every other location.
This is where the “hub” concept becomes interesting. A hub is a place with a specific purpose. In addition to offering an experience, it has for objective to serve physical paths or doors leading to other places. A hub is a place where you go to reach N destinations. Using a hub allows your places to have only one access while this place is still connected with all the others places through this point of junction that is the hub.
A hub has also another advantage. It can also have paths leading to other hubs. So the visitor can walk from hub to hub and from hub to destinations.
So the two core elements of this interconnected model are the hubs and the destinations. The hub prevents maintaining a high quantity of paths on every destination. Connected to other hubs, it reduces again the number of connections to stay connected with more metaverse locations.
A structure for a metaverse…
Interconnecting hubs can create a network to reach destinations. In a network of interconnected hubs, there is no need to have hundreds of connections for this to work. If a hub has up to 5 connections to other hubs, this would suffice to be efficient. The visitor will rapidly reach a significant amount of destinations. Maintaining physical paths between places can be demanding. It required a minimum of design and elaboration to establish and preserve the perception of a physical path. Also, a limited number of connections is a good thing because it helps to develop a certain level of quality in the interconnection. (Remember, that it needs to reinforce the geography of our inner map to be comfortable, and not simply be flat teleportation.)
A network of interconnected hubs is the key in the model to open over a vast ensemble of reachable destinations. Such a network will also induce a regionalization of the metaverse. This is a good thing as it generates traffic toward points of interest specific to these regions.
Having our own hub for the different destinations of our domain, and connecting it with other hubs, is a bit like having a storefront on a crowded road. Compare to a simple destination list of place names, this concept might be worth considering. (Note that the list of place names stays a valid and important feature that has its own advantages.)
You don’t need to own many places to justify a hub. The hub is itself a place, and to be attractive it can contain a point of interest in itself.
A hub can take different aspects. It can be built as a shopping center, any intermodal station, a commercial area in a large city, or anything you can imagine.
Large hubs with too many doors can be difficult to maintain. A connection can be broken and it needs to be maintained and inspected on a regular basis.
What’s a physical path and what is not…
In a system like Vircadia, teleportation is how people can go between two separated locations. Also when we talk about “physical path”, this means a simulation of this where at some point teleportation will happen. The simulation, to be inner-mapped as a physical path, must respect some basic requirements:
– The access point in each of the two locations must be identical, we need to feel in the same path on both sides.
– Each of the access points must be logically oriented, the entrance must be the exit on the second one.
– Some visual indication must be present on both sides to reinforce this association. (light, object, signs, sound)
– Ideally, we must avoid having the exit and the entrance visible from the point where the teleportation happens.
– The link must be bi-directional.
– The link must be persistent and always lead to the same locations. (No random teleportation, or multiple arrivals. We want those paths to be used by a group of people traveling together, so they must reach the same destination.)
These requirements are not laws, but they aim to support mental mapping which is the plus value of this model.
Example of physical paths:
– A ‘S’ shape corridor, where the user is teleported as he crosses the central section. The user doesn’t see the exit directly, neither the entrance, so when the teleportation happens, he gets in the same conditions on the other side.
– A fade transition effect, where the user is teleported as he reaches the maximum of a fog effect. The user doesn’t see the exit directly, neither the entrance, so when the teleportation happens, he gets in the same conditions on the other side.
Types of interconnections…
Different types of interconnection are possible, depending on whether you want a destination to be referenced exclusively from a specific hub or linked non exclusively from multiple hubs over the metaverse network.
A destination can be qualified as “Exclusive” when it has at least one door with a direct link to a specific hub. Each door is always leading to the same hub. It can have many exclusive doors but the purpose of the place is not to be specifically a hub. Interconnections between two hubs must be always exclusive.
The scripts to support this type of interconnections are simple to implement, each part triggers teleportation to one specific address on the other side.
A destination can be qualified as “Non-Exclusive” when it has only one path doing a Go Back. These places can be connected to multiple hubs, and when we exit, we are always returned to where we were coming from.
Example: You have built a popular café, you want it to be reachable from many hubs. You might have a door in a shopping center and one in a commercial street on two different domains, but both are linked to the same café. This way you get a more crowded café, and for your visitors, exiting the café leads to where they entered initially.
The scripts to support this type are a bit more complex.
On the hub side, the script must do:
– Rotate the avatar of 180 degrees and position it ready for when he will come back.
– Save a location history point.
– Teleport to the destination.
On the destination side, when the visitor exit, it simply calls a “Go Back“. This way, the visitor is returned to the last saved location that we previously saved with the avatar ready to exit.