Reaction Grid: Building Community, Nurturing Business, and Throwing Tomatoes

3-D Digital Aerator for Sewage LagoonBack in 2006, I decided to join and explore the Second Life community in order to find out how it could help me as an engineer. I was also interested in finding out how it could help promote our community. As I became more involved, I realized there was even more potential to virtual worlds than I had imagined. Over the years, I eventually saw more ideas and uses emerge.

However, the main community of Second Life is not there in order to develop engineering uses for this technology. And while there are some isolated examples of people using Second Life for serious business and there are many education-based communities, there still is not a large, organized community for developing engineering-related tools in-world.

Another challenge for me has been that Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, does not appear to be focused on the use of their technology for engineering-related work. Many have asked for the capability to import/export CAD drawings and have received little to no support. Linden Lab also seems to waver and change their terms of service a lot making it difficult for people to make commitments for its use as a design or operating platform.

I had hoped that all of this would eventually develop, but instead what seems to have happened is that a group has migrated from Second Life Reaction Grid Welcome Areaover to another “grid” or virtual world called Reaction Grid. I knew the members of this group were more focused on the use of virtual worlds for business and engineering so I visited. Now I am hopeful that I have finally found the grid I had been searching for to help me focus on the engineering and business aspects of virtual worlds.

Not only are most of the residents of this grid very intent on using virtual worlds to enhance business, but the people running the grid are interested and involved in the projects that their residents are developing and working on. They are also involved in helping all of us better understand the technology behind virtual worlds.

I think this involvement in community, which is somewhat opposite of the hands-off approach of the Second Life grid, is important for several reasons. First, if we are to leverage this technology for our work, we need to have a good understanding of how it works and its capabilities. I like that the people running the grid have invested in hosting events and classes to help us in this endeavor because I think the faster everyone learns the technology, the faster the grid will develop.

Second, what this does is encourage more residents to also get involved in helping to move development forward, not only with their own projects, but with the grid as a whole. I think the ThinkBalm Innovation Community site ThinkBalm Site on Reaction Gridon Reaction Grid is indicative of this commitment to community. This group, which is dedicated to advancement of the Immersive Internet, is based on the collaboration and sharing of ideas.

Next, some of us who are interested in using virtual worlds do not have all the skills necessary to completely develop our own projects. Working within a grid that promotes involvement makes it much easier to find others who might be willing to help.

I recently had an experience that illustrates this: In an effort to show others in my field the benefits of virtual worlds, I have been trying to set up a simple 3-D SCADA. I know it can be done, I am convinced that this is where our operating technology will soon be for our water and wastewater plants, and I know it is something to which everyone in my field could immediately relate. But trying to find a programmer in Second Life who understood what I was talking about and who was willing to do this was impossible.

3-D Fuel Facility in Reaction GridHowever, over on Reaction Grid, there were several who immediately knew what I was trying to accomplish. The owner even built a demonstration project on the grid showing how a fuel facility could monitor fuel levels and then notify operations when the tanks needed to be refilled. Now I finally feel there might be a chance I will one day help introduce virtual worlds to engineers and operators using a 3-D SCADA demonstration.

One other attraction for me has been the approach that Reaction Grid has taken to building a grid. Instead of buying land and paying tier (tax) as we do in Second Life, on Reaction Grid, you can pay to host a sim which reminds me much more of how Websites are hosted and set up. That seems like a much more viable and long-term business solution for the creation and hosting of virtual worlds. Particularly now that the hypergrid technology has been implemented. Second Life is now a walled garden that you cannot leave while these other grids allow you to move from grid to grid just like we do between Websites.

Aside from all this business, I do have to admit, there is also an element of fun to virtual worlds that increases their appeal. And attending interesting virtual events does help to further connections and community. I think Second Life has a lot to offer along these lines, and even though Reaction Grid is more focused on business, they also incorporate Fright Night on Reaction Gridinteresting builds and fun events. One of the most entertaining events on the grid has been Fright Night – an event that is set up like a drive-in movie theater where we watch great, old, creepy shows and throw tomatoes at the screen. I know that is where I will try to be every Saturday night. And whether you are interested in developing an engineering project or throwing tomatoes at a movie screen, Reaction Grid seems to be the place to be.


4 Replies to “Reaction Grid: Building Community, Nurturing Business, and Throwing Tomatoes”

  1. Thank you so much for such a wonderful review of ReactionGrid! You really have captured exactly what we are trying to achieve with the grid. We never set out to be an SL replacement, having talked for a long time before we launched the grid about how much more could be done to model and represent real world data, structures, discuss engineering concepts and develop ideas collaboratively in a virtual space.
    And we love having social gatherings, since it provides us the chance to meet up with other Gridizens, laugh at silly old films, while also testing out streaming media to multiple avatars, and balancing server load and stability under stress. We can then pinpoint any weaknesses and work on improvements for subsequent events.

    Thanks again!
    Chris Hart – ReactionGrid Developer & Co-owner

  2. Thanks for this very helpful description of Reaction Grid. I am slowly gaining a better understanding and appreciation of the nature of the “OpenSim ecosystem” (including the many different public grids as well as private grids build on OpenSim tech–including the fascinating work that Oliver Goh and his colleagues are doing with Shaspa), so your article on Reaction Grid and how it meets your more engineering interests, was great.

    I do have some questions that I would love to see you or others from the Reaction Grid comment on:

    — To what extent can various complex 3D models from 3ds max and similar programs be imported into Reaction Grid and other OpenSim grids?

    — If they cannot (yet) be imported (“as is”), how much work is required?

    — How do you see the capabilities and evolving features and functionalities of OpenSim/Reaction Grid compared to something like Stanford’s very interesting and emerging platform of Sirikata?



  3. Eilif
    From what I can tell, the developers of the initial Second Life software – which served as the foundation of the Open Sim software – must not have realized there would be a huge demand for the import/export of 3D models from CAD programs. So unfortunately they did not build in this capability nor did they make it easy for the software to be modified to allow for it.

    However, the good news is that Realxtend seems to be working on incorporating these capabilities into the Open Sim software. There are several people in Second Life who seem to have the most up to date news on these efforts, and I would point you over to their blogs as great resources:
    The Arch by Jon Brouchoud (Keystone Bouchard in Second Life)
    No there there by Peter Quirk

    I think you will find a wealth of information just by following these two blogs. As for Sirikata, I just recently introduced to this platform at the last Thinkbalm event I attended. It definitely looks interesting and seems to have a very realistic interface. My own belief is that the platform to be most widely adopted will most definitely be one that allows for easy and seamless integration of CAD objects. But the other requirement will be that it allows for simple hosting, installation, implementation, adaptation, and maintenance in a manner similar to how Web sites are now handled.

    Thanks for your post!

  4. Pam:
    Thanks for your response. I know the RealXtend guys (was on a panel in Finland in January with Antti Ilomaki of Admino Tech, one of the two companies behind RealXtend) and have also had some interactions with Peter who has become very involved with OpenSim. I should make a point of reading Peter’s blog more often, as he does a very nice job with it. I heard recently from Henrik Bennetsen that they have decided to hold MetaverseU at Stanford in late May and they will then most likely give a more indepth review of where Sirikata is at and what we will see coming up later this year and beyond.

    Thanks again.

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