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Travels through OZ

Exploring the OZONE

OZ has created some of the best-looking worlds ever built using VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language). OZ artists are real masters in light, texture, and mood. High-quality sound and music also fills OZ worlds. The OZONE is the best OZ world yet, and it is the world you enter first when you start OZ Virtual. Earlier in this chapter, in the section, ìDocking at the Dark Star,î I began to explore the OZONE. In this section, I will tell you a little more about this large, futuristic virtual world.

What can you do in the OZONE? This world features virtual reality music concerts, nightclubs, multi-user games, and music listening areas. OZ will be hosting live music and performance avatar events in the OZONE, so watch for announcements on their home page at

OZONE is a spaceship floating in 3D cyberspace with the following virtual entertainment areas to explore:

The Centrum is the public commons of the community, and is a meeting place for people (or their avatars) on their way to music events, games, or nightclubs in other parts of world.

The Club features events such as motion-captured concerts presented by OZ, and other entertainment providers. The performer appears in real-time as an avatar on the Club stage, while the concerts are broadcast using streaming audio.

The Arcade is a VRML game room created by OZ, featuring multi-user games such as chess, Reversi, and backgammon. More games will be provided in this space soon including action multi-player adventures.

The Soundroom is an environment filled with spatialized (sound cast into space) sound surprises and vocal delights. As the Soundroom is empty of all visual stimuli, it's a cool place for visitors to hang out and rest their eyes while exploring with their ears.

Other OZ Worlds

OZONE is not the only OZ world out there. There are many others, each with different themes. You can visit these OZ worlds by following the instructions in the section, ìHot OZ Worlds,î later in this chapter.

Figure: 13.12 oz3e.jpg
Docking with Sputnik Space Station in OZ

OZ has created space stations like Sputnik and Orion. I navigated my avatar into Sputnik (see the preceding figure), and then went on to explore Orion, where I met my date (a guide from OZ) to go dancing in the disco. Disco did not die in Iceland, so it is reborn in the virtual worlds, complete with real avatar dancing moves and CD quality sound. The following figure shows me on the disco floor with my date…move that avatar!

Figure: 13.13 oz3b.jpg
See me boogie in the Orion Station Disco.

My date then took me to the bright and cheery Kidscape world which features a Farmer John type of setting. When you get close to the cows in this world they start mooing, Ditto for the farmhouse cat. The cat is a type of automatic avatar in a virtual world I like to call a biot, that is, it is like a robot trying to be like something from biology. Biots, like bots (faithful agents at your service), pay attention to you. Another class of thing in virtual worlds I term biota are one more step removed; they are artificial life forms in virtual worlds which may or may not pay any heed to you. Farmer John needs a nice tall crop of biota corn in his fields!

Figure: 13.14 Oz2g.jpg
I Explore the Kidscape world with my date.

The community

As OZ is a brand new world, at the time I wrote this chapter, there was no strongly developed community. I did meet some interesting characters on The Street, one of the oldest OZ worlds. By the time you read this book, there should be many more people in the world.

Figure: 13.15 Oz2b.jpg
Greeting avvies in the OZ Virtual street.

Meeting and chatting with the natives

Figure: 13.16 Oz4k.jpg
The OZ chat manager window.

In order to chat, you must start the chat manager from the Communication menu. If the chat manager is able to connect to a chat server (it sometimes cannot, so keep retrying), then it should come up with a window like the one in the preceding figure. As you can see, there are two groups of people present; all (including everyone in this OZ world at the time), and a separate chat group called, ëhello, please join.í You can create your own chat groups and name them anything you like.

The following figure shows the live chat for the group called ëhello….î

Figure: 13.17 Oz4l.jpg
The OZ chat interface.

The chat interface is pretty simple, with the nicknames of the people listed in front of the chat they type in the Submit area. You must press the Submit button or Enter on your keyboard to send chat into the chat stream.

Private chat

To request a private chat session with another user, select the icon for the person in the chat manager window, press the right mouse button, and select Request Private Chat from the pop-up menu.

When you request a private chat, the other user will be notified of the request for chat. To accept the chat request and establish a chat session, the other person must double-click on your icon or right-click and select Answer Chat Request in the pop-up menu.

Group chat

To use group chat, you can either join an existing group, or create a new one. To create a chat group, simple right-click in the chat manager window (not on a user), and select New Group from the pop-up menu. You will then be prompted to enter the name of the group, and if the name is accepted, a group chat window will open, with you as the only group member. Other people can join the group, by right-clicking on the group icon in the chat manager and selecting Join Group. To leave a group text chat, just close the chat window.

More about chat: who is in my space?

If you turn off Auto Answer Chat in the Multi-user menu on the OZ Virtual dashboard, you can force another user to specifically get your approval to open a private chat. If you are being bothered by someone, you can right click on their avatar and ignore them, which will thereafter screen out all their chat.

Another tip: you can launch a chat session in a separate window by selecting Tear Off from the Split menu in the chat manager.

Audio chat

OZ Virtual supports audio chat (which you can use only if your PC has a sound card, speakers, and a microphone). Microsoft DirectSound 3.0 has to be installed in order to have the full-duplex audio chat functionality. The DirectSound 3.0 drivers for full-duplex are only available for Windows 95, and can be found on the Microsoft Web site at If the person with whom you want to audio chat has an older version of DirectSound, you will not hear their voice. They could hear your voice if you have DirectSound 3.0 installed.

To request an audio chat with another user, select the icon for the person in the chat manager, press the right mouse button and select Request Audio Chat in the pop-up menu. When you request an audio chat, the icon for the person will get a phone hook (shown in the chat manager window) and the other user will be notified of your request. To accept an audio chat request and establish an audio session, the user must select the icon for the person requesting the chat, press the right mouse button, and select Answer Audio Chat in the pop-up menu. When an audio chat session has been established, a pop-up window appears with a volume control for the audio session.

To end an audio chat, either close the dialogue, or select the icon for the person with whom you are chatting, press the right mouse button, and select Close Audio Chat in the right button pop-up menu.

Buttons and controls

Figure: 13.18 Oz4zh.jpg
The OZ Virtual window controls.

In the top right corner of the OZ Virtual window there are several buttons. This section describes what these buttons do. Most controls on the main window have a tool-tip (a short help description which pops up beside the control when you leave your mouse over it for a second).

Window control buttons

The button in the top left corner of the main window (not shown in the preceding figure), blacks out the background and removes any distracting items. Clicking it again brings the background back. The remaining buttons perform the same actions as the window controls in your computerís operating system: to minimize or maximize the window, and close the application.

News of the world

The first button will launch a Web page (inside OZ Virtual if you have Internet Explorer 3.0, outside in your Web browser if not) with the latest news of the world.

Moving quickly between worlds or scenes

The next four buttons control scene loading. These are like the forward and backward buttons in your Web browser. The first button moves back a scene (the last world you loaded). The second button moves forward to the next scene you had previously loaded. The last two buttons on the right will stop loading a world or reload a world.

© Copyright Bruce Damer, 1997, All rights reserved.