Put Yourself On the Map, Build a Virtual House: Seven Projects to Stretch Your Digital Wings, Part Three

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move and rotate it within the world, stretch it along different axes, remove slices from it, and apply various “textures” or surface patterns, all using your mouse pointer and some basic dialog boxes.

To build the floor of a house, for example, you’d rez a cube, flatten it, and stretch it out horizontally. To add the first wall, you’d rez another cube, flatten that vertically, and then move it into position against the floor. And so forth. From these primitive beginnings, Second Life users have built entire castles and spaceships, casinos and cathedrals, Zen temples and shopping malls.

Wade's Second Life House 1
Wade's Second Life House 2
Wade's Second Life House 3
Wade's Second Life House 4
Wade's Second Life House 5

After a few weeks of fiddling with the tools and building a little shoebox of a house for my own Second Life avatar, I got serious and decided to build my virtual dream home, a two-story affair with lots of glass, stone, and balconies. (I thought of it as a sort of cross between the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley and the Vandamm House in North by Northwest.) It doesn’t exist inside Second Life anymore—I got tired of paying the land use fees—but in the pictures at left you can see what it looked like at various phases of construction. Everything you see was made from the basic prims, mostly cubes, cylinders, and cones.

Building the house, for me, was the fun part. I didn’t spend much time in the finished structure, except when I was having guests over. And once my Technology Review article was finished, I pretty much left my Second Life behind and moved on to exploring other technologies. But for many, Second Life is a canvas for serious art. To get a sense of what a really ambitious user can achieve in the realm of Second Life architecture, check out the in-world Frank Lloyd Wright Museum, which includes a full-scale reproduction of the Robie House in Chicago. I’ve been to the real Robie House, and the virtual version is uncannily accurate.

So, that’s my tour of seven digital-media projects that anyone with a laptop, a smartphone, and an Internet connection can try out for himself—moving from some of the simplest and most familiar art forms, like finger painting, to some of the newest and most immersive, like 3-D design. I hope you’ll try some of these tools yourself, and report back (in the comment section) on what you created.

For a full list of my columns, check out the World Wide Wade Archive. You can also subscribe to the column via RSS or e-mail.

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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  • We’ve been using Platial for over a year and really love it’s usefulness for displaying our viewers all over the world.

    However, the site has been down for several days now and our Platial map embedded on our website no long displays.


    Any idea what’s going on? I hope it didn’t go bye-bye…it would be a real pain to have to start a replacement map service as we had nearly 100 people pinned on our map collected over a period of a year!


  • Wade Roush

    @big3news: I’ve noticed that Platial is down too. I will try to find out what’s happening and report back.

  • @big3news: Platial is back up now. I checked with Platial founder Di-Ann Eisnor over the weekend, and she said the company was having an issue with its server colocation company.