Austin Tate's Blog

Subscribe to Austin Tate's Blog feed Austin Tate's Blog
Individual Blog Entries
Updated: 33 min 23 sec ago

Seven Dales Heritage Run 2018

Sun, 06/03/2018 - 18:00

The De Lacy Motor Club (D.L.M.C) in Yorkshire has been running rallies, car trials and driving tests for over 50 years as noted in my previous blog post. My wife Margaret and myself joined some other family members and entered the Seven Dales Heritage Run again this year for a nice run through the Yorkshire Dales…

GDPR for Vue

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 19:48

Vue is a virtual educational and research institute bringing together all those interested in the use of virtual worlds for teaching, research and outreach related to the University of Edinburgh.

The Vue web site is at More information on the use of virtual worlds in the University of Edinburgh is available at

The OpenSimulator-based Openvue grid has only a few local avatars who have regions and creator roles. Most use is as an openly accessible Hypergrid destination to allow users with avatars on other OpenSimulator grids to visit.

All local (creator) users for both Openvue have been notified and given contact information for the grid manager (Austin Tate). A section has been added to the Openvue Terms of Service (ToS) to give the grid manager contact details and to explain what is logged and for how long this is retained. is a mailing list used to communicate occasionally between those interested in the Virtual University of Edinburgh (Vue). This list is normally internal to members of the University of Edinburgh and members are added manually (by Austin Tate on request) and each message allows for unsubscription. Austin Tate can also handle manual unsubscription for anyone requesting it. The mailing list is moderated for posts and non-member posts are removed before being sent to members to keep the number of posts low and encourage people to stay on the list while it may be useful to them.

Virtual Worlds Technology for University of Edinburgh

Fri, 04/27/2018 - 16:47

This post summarises some of the virtual worlds technology that is in use within the Virtual University of Edinburgh (Vue) community. It is provides as a single post to bring together some of the notes and blog posts for the convenience of the School of Informatics Educational Technology team.


  • Second Life – a commercial grid run by Linden Lab in California. Vue regions have been in place since 2007. From 2018 no paid-for regions have been retained but alternative educational spaces are available. See this blog post for advice.
  • OpenSimulator (or OpenSim) – an open source community platform. There are Vue regions on grids run by the pen source community for testing and educational uses (OSGrid) and within the University of Edinburgh on servers maintained currently by Austin Tate (Openvue)
  • Sinespace – a new platform with VR headset, desktop and mobile clients. Vue regions are maintained on this platform having been converted from the Second Life/OpenSim content via the OAR Converter tool into the Unity3D development environment for delivery in Sinespace.
  • Other platforms: Vue has used a range of platforms from “There” some 12 years ago to more recent newer technology platforms such as High Fidelity, Sansar, etc.

Meetups in Virtual Worlds

Meetups can take place in facilities such as The Venue@Vue, the OpenVCE amphitheatre, and various I-Rooms (Virtual Spaces for Intelligent Interaction).

Class meetups, mixed reality workshops and conferences, seminars, etc are run in Second Life, OpenSim and on other platforms…

Virtual Graduations

Graduates (especially those achieving distance education degrees) who cannot attend physical graduations in Edinburgh can in some schools take an active part in the ceremony via participation in a virtual ceremony linked via two way video links to the McEwan hall graduations. See for more details, sample images and other information.

YouTube Video (6 Minutes)
[MPEG-4 Download 720p 62MB]


Thu, 04/12/2018 - 17:44

Orcrist is an elf created sword found during the journey of Thoren Oakenshield, a dwarf, in Middle Earth… and features in the Hobbit movies. I handled the Orcrist prop used for the movie while on a visit to Weta Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand and saw one of the limited edition weapons-grade replicas at The Armouries in Leeds, Yorkshire, UK. For a while my Second Life avatar has had an orcrist sword purchased from the Second Life Marketplace.

3D Model Import to OpenSim

I made use of a Blender model by VoltaJack_ from Sketchfab which is licenced CC-BY.

Orcrist – LOTR
License: Creative Commons Attribution CC-BY-4.0
Author must be credited. Commercial use is allowed.
Model: .blend

Poly reduction and tidy up for OpenSim was done by Fred K. Beckhusen (Ferd Frederix) of Micro Technology Services, Inc. and I did the final texturing, adjustment of scale and wearable positioning and packaging.

The mesh reduction method as described by Fred is as follows.

  1. Starts at 236K triangles – about 10 X the limit. I applied a Decimate Modifier at 0.1 ratio (90% reduce) and it went to about 25K tris. Still over 4 avatars worth of triangles and more than the 21K limit. Did a 10X again (a total of 100X reduction) and it came in at 3,440 tris, looks acceptable, still a lot more than a custom build from scratch, but that what you get when you start with a high poly model.
  2. Then select all the vertexes in Edit mode with ‘a’, and do a Vertex (Ctrl-V)->Remove doubles. This drops extra vertexes.
  3. The other wise thing to always do is Mesh-Cleanup Delete-Loose to get rid of any lines or points. Opensim/Sl hates them ( there are none)
  4. Last one is Mesh->Cleanup->Limited Dissolve. This gets rid of extra dots and lines by collapsing them away.
  5. Added a smooth shader and an edge split modifier to get the blade smooth but with a sharp edge. Adds geometry, but it looks much better.
  6. Final is 3,5k tris, versus 236K =. I can get it to 1.5K, but it would need more manual cleanup. I did clean up some few tris the distorted in it.
  7. Separated the end of the sword so you can add a texture.

The Blade normal map was produced using

Other Swords

Swords for Download:

KangaroOz 3D
Sting Sword Lowpoly
License: Creative Commons Attribution CC-BY-4.0
Author must be credited. Commercial use is allowed.
Model: .fbx converted to Collada .dae via Blender 2.78

Jason Brenton
Orcrist Sword – Lord of the Rings
License: Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial CC-BY-NC-4.0
Author must be credited. Commercial use is allowed.
Model: .fbx converted to Collada .dae via Blender 2.78

Orcrist in OpenSim

Sansar Sit

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 10:28

At long last avatars can be made to sit down in Sansar… see this blog post for details. Currently just cross-legged on the ground. Sitting can be initiated using “/sit” typed into local chat tool in desktop mode. A very nice lead in and return to standing animation is used that looks very natural.

The full list of “/emote” commands are given in You can exit sitting (and other animations that play indefinitely) by using a motion control to move your avatar.

Its not currently possible still to sit on chairs, sofas, vehicles, etc. There is a good discussion in Inara Pey’s blog post on 31-Mar-2018 relating to the technicalities behind this.

Somnium Space

Sun, 04/08/2018 - 16:00

Somnium Space (“Dream” or “Fantasy” from the Latin “somnus” for “sleep”) is a new virtual world from developers in Berlin aimed at virtual reality headsets.

Bank of High Fidelity

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 21:00

High Fidelity now has a cryptocurrency “Wallet” in which High Fidelity Coins” can be deposited, paid out and transferred to other avatars. To seed the currency early alpha tester users can obtain a starter amount of coins by visiting the “Bank of High Fidelity” during certain times when a banker is present…

Second Life – Isle of May

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 14:14

The “Isle of May” created by Serene Footman is on the “Weed” region in Second Life and can be accessed via this SLurl:

Anchored on the Firth of Forth in Scotland, the Isle of May is a magical mix of sea birds (cormorants, guillemot, puffins, etc) and sea animals such as orcas and dolphins. The island is a perfect home to artists and photographers. See

The creation is by and the region has wonderful “Windlight” environmental and lighting settings. Off region cliffs, sea stacks and waves created by Antreas Alter of Real Waves make the region appear much larger and more dynamic.

Images captured with the Second Life 360° snapshot project viewer (click on thumbnail to view via Flickr in a suitable browser)…

Magic Leap – First Leap

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 21:50

Magic Leap opened its web site for creators on 18th March 2018. This blog post bring together some resources, links and screenshots from a first “leap”…

Sansar – Space Experiences

Sun, 03/04/2018 - 16:10

Linden Lab’s Sansar has two featured experiences related to the Apollo Moon Missions..

Some free space suits are available to customise your avatar (need to select a male base at present)…

Pandora in the Real World

Sat, 03/03/2018 - 17:37

Pandora now exists “for real” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom… and you can travel there with Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE)…

It looks like two people came with Alpha Centuari Expeditions (ACE) to visit from earth.

Pandora in the Virtual World

Sat, 03/03/2018 - 16:56

I have blogged before about the Pegase region for the Pandora Universe group in Second Life which offers role play based on the “Avatar” film directed by James Cameron and based on Pandora, a moon of Alpha Centauri.

The Pegase area arrival/vendor area offers a number of free na’vi starter avatars, an RDA (scienists) outfit and a flyable ikran.

After visiting the Pandora region at DiskeyWorld in February 2018 I revisited the regions as “Ai’tswayon” (Ai wing)and took to the air again on my ikran “Ai’tsyal” (Ai fly).

And with a new (free) golden ikran from the Pegase vendor area … also called “Ai’tsyal”…

I tested a new version of the Linden Lab Second Life 360° snapshot project viewer (version which now adds the proper metadata to show with 360 degree capabilities in Flickr on

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 12:41

The ( web site used Drupal for its content.  The underlying data base was turned off for security in 2017.  Some pages archives by the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and web archiving sites may be used to recover some content when necessary.


Early Drag Racing in UK

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 09:45

This post brings together some early scrapbook material about my involvement and that of my brother Jon with the early development of drag racing in the UK. I was prompted to bring this material together and scan some early press articles on our activities after an enquiry from Jeremy Cookson who runs a web site documenting early drag racing strips in the UK, and he was asking abot Riccall Airfield in North Yorkshire. This was the location of a number of eighth mile sprint and drag racing events run by the British Quarter Mile Association (BQMA).

Jeremy Cookson
Raceway Promotions & Club Liaison
Shakespeare County Raceway @ Long Marston Airfield

I run a Facebook page entitled UK Drag & Sprint Strips That Time Forgot. This is where we document as much as we can about long forgotten airstrips and motor racing circuits other than the established ones like Santa Pod. Recently we have added a profile about Riccall Airfield, Yorkshire where we are trying to piece together event and date information from the days when the certainly forgotten about British Quarter Mile Association ran a few eighth mile events in the late sixties (1969 I think). So, this is when I performed the usual search on Google and came across your blog page and references made to Riccall. In your time I note that you used to be the flag starter as well as Competition Secretary for the BQMA, and I was wondering if you could give me some additional information about these events that we could include in the profile. As you will see from the FB link we have uncovered 3 photos, the club logo and that’s about it. Since I have discovered that the club had its own newsletter called Acceleration. Dave Hoy and Chris Tilney I believe contributed to this publication with cartoons and artwork. Chris in fact is one of our Group Members who used to help out running events for the Newcastle & District Timing Association and Millfield and Tughall Airfields before moving to Felton as the North East Hot Rod Association.

My reply tried to give some information about BQMA…

You came across my blog post which included a short bit on BQMA and the eighth mile strip races we did at Riccall.

My other club involvement in the mid 1960s through to the mid 1970s was in Drag Racing clubs. Younger brother Jon won a competition in the Eagle Comic and was awarded 1964 “Drag Festival” tickets. I went with Jon and elder brother Morris to see the second visit of the US Drag Racing Team to the UK in October 1965 and saw them in the Drag Fest at RAF Woodvale Airdrome near Southport in Lancashire when the first 200+ m.p.h. finish from a standing start on a quarter mile run on British soil was done by Buddy Cortines. The participants included Don Garlits and Tony Nancy amongst other famous early US drag racers.

I was a member of the National Sprint Association (NSA), British Hot Rod Association (BHRA) and British Drag Racing Association (BDRA). I also was involved as competition secretary and flag starter for the British Quarter Mile Association (BQMA) who ran events at Riccall Airdrome in Yorkshire. On one event at Riccall advertised for us by free (some called them “pirate”) Radio 270 we had thousands of people turn up to see the drag racers. I ran a drag bike in some events, and my brother Morris who raced a go-kart also entered at one stage with that.

My scrap book also contains a copy of two short pieces in The King’s School Pontefract Magazine – “The Pomfretian” from 1964 and 1965, and some local events we ran to promote drag racing in the North of Britain… including a Dragster float in the Knottingley Carnival on 3-Jul-1965 and a social evening on 18-Nov-1965.

In late 1965 and early 1966 brought together drag racers in the North for some social events which led to the formation of the BQMA…

I designed the BQMA logo and still have the original artwork in my sketchbook. A run of stickers/decals and a few chrome bumper badges were produced. One is on the wall in the De Lacy Motor Club House at Brotherton in Yorkshire with various motoring memorabilia. Also here is an image of a BQMA membership card… mine from 1967…

There is a posed BQMA group image of a couple of the dragsters and three drag bikes with their crews at Riccall…

I cannot recall how many races we ran. The races were only open to club members by our RAC competition licence… but one specific event went a bit viral when Radio 270 (as In mentioned above) ran a LOT of mentions of it on the radio.

At that time Jon was in touch with Radio 270 off the Yorkshire coast and even went out to the boat that had the transmitter just at the time we did one event. He had met Mr. Proudfoot, a supermarket chain owner in Yorkshire, who was involved with Radio 270 and got invited out there… which led to the coverage on the station and encouraged a LOT of people to come. I recall over 1,000 turned up, but that is from a vague memory! And to comply with our licence to let them in we had to get them to join the BQMA… So for a year we had a BIG membership! They did get their Gestetner produced newsletters, but it was way more work than we expected. Mike Hobman was the general secretary. He died at a very young age I am sorry to say. Our dad, Charles Tate (a local JP) helped us out a LOT and took charge when the car queues backed up at Ricall. Coordinated with the police to make sure there were no obstructions and helped sign folks in at the gate. Sterling job for which I have continued to have fond memories of a busy but excellent day. We met our licence conditions.

Ruth 2.0

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 16:30

Ruth 2.0 and Roth 2.0 are low-poly mesh avatar bodies, specifically designed for Opensimulator. They are built to use standard SL UV maps using scratch-built open source mesh bodies by Shin Ingen with other open source contributions from the OpenSimulator Community.

This page provides links and resources elating to these developments…

Vue Virtual World Artworks

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 09:00

A number of virtual world artworks have been created in the Virtual University of Edinburgh (Vue) virtual world platforms such as Second Life and OpenSimulator. Some are novel pieces of art created collaboratively by members of the University from a number of School, others preserve temporary real world art installations which have long since disappeared to preserve their concepts and designs, others honour University members who have won art or photographic competitions with their works.

Inspace Gallery

A model of the InSpace Gallery that sits alongside the Informatics Forum was created initially on the Vue regions in Second Life and ported to the OpenSimulator-based Openvue grid and via the OAR Converter tool to Unity3D and Sinespace.

The Inspace Gallery can be reached via:

  • hop://
  • Inspace Gallery – Construction Walkway

    Informatics Forum Inspace Walkway: On-site Launch Walkway January 2007
    Artists: Richard Spencer, Dan Brown, Kadie Salmo and Richard Brown

    Paolozzi Turing Prints

    The Paolozzi Turing Prints are displayed in the (real world) level 5 boardroom in The Informatics Forum and appear in articles for promotion of the School of Informatics. The designs for the prints appear in the InSpace Gallery on the in the OpenSimulator-based Openvue virtual world grid and in the Vue region on the Sinespace virtual world.

    A model of some of Paolozzi’s plaster maquettes used for his sculptures and some stainless steel and bronze sculptures given to the University or on display in the Informatics Forum also appear in the virtual world InSpace Gallery.

    Rakhi Kumar – Stairway to the Clouds – Photos

    Rakhi Kumar created a number of atmospheric photos of the spiral staircase that sits atop the Informatics Forum. These photographs are on display in the InSpace Gallery.

    Photo Competition – Graeme Pow – Penicuik Turner Prize 2008

    Graeme Pow – Penicuik Turner Prize 2008: Frosty Wrought Iron Spiral
    The winning photograph is on display in the InSpace Gallery.

    All Eyes – Collective Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Luce Foundation Center

    Austin Tate (avatar: Ai Austin) contributed an image to an online public collective art venture via a submission page which led to a mosaic which is on display as “All Eyes – Collective Art”at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Luce Foundation Center.

    Supercar Comic

    A detailed 3D model created by Mick Imrie and Austin Tate of Gerry Anderson’s Supercar from the children’s puppet TV show of the early 1960s was used by Austin Tate to create accurate outline line art for the Misc!Mayhem Comics Supercar Comic in 2003. One example page is on display in the InSpace Gallery… a dramatic page from issue 0 page 21…

    ACE Sculpture

    There are many objects placed in the Vue virtual world spaces. Galleries and displays for student projects have been set up annually for some Schools with some of the exhibits being in place for longer periods. One sculpture was created when the Vue regions on Second Life were first set up in 2007 and it has been replicated on later platforms used for Vue including in OpenSimulator and Sinespace. This is at “ACE Sculpture” by James Stewart of Arts, Culture & the Environment. It demonstrated the use of a simple “prim” to build complex shapes using the in-world building and twisting tools, as well as surface texture properties.

    Trans—~Formation – a trans-media virtual environment art installation

    A virtual worlds version of a “molecules” robotic kinetic sculpture originally designed for the Informatics Forum called “Formation” has been recreated as part of the art installation. More information at—~formation.html

    North Landing – multi-media virtual world installation

    A multi-media virtual world installation inspired by dramatic landscape and historical events off Flamborough Head in Yorkshire.

    More information at

    Real World Public Art Around the University of Edinburgh

    There is an extensive and varied collection of public art across the University of Edinburgh.. some documented in an article entitled in an article entitled “Thair to Remain” in the The University of Edinburgh Bulletin Staff Magazine, December 2017.

OSCC17 Hypergrid Tour

Sun, 12/10/2017 - 20:40

Thirza Ember introduced the Hypergrid Safari in a talk on 10th February 2017 at the OpenSimulator Community Conference 2017 (OSCC17)…

Then later that day, the OpenSimulator Community Conference 2017 Hypergrid Safari included five locations on a number of OpenSim grids …

One of which was our OSGrid RGU Oil Rig region… for more details see this blog post.

Blow Out Preventer (BOP) on the sea bed:

OSCC17 OAR Converter Presentation

Sun, 12/10/2017 - 16:00

OAR Converter presentation at the OpenSimulator Community Conference 2017… more details on OAR Converter at

The OAR Converter Expo Booth on OSCC Expo Zone 3… hop:// Expo Zone 3/101/58/26

Vue -> Openvue

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:00

Vue is a virtual educational and research institute bringing together all those interested in the use of virtual worlds for teaching, research and outreach related to the University of Edinburgh.

Second Life is a virtual worlds platform provided by Linden Lab in California. The Vue regions in Second Life have been available for over 10 years since 28th May 2007. A timeline of events is available at… and over the years we have arranged between us a variety of funding for the shared areas from Development & Alumni, Informatics, IS and the Vet School. Having maintained “Vue” as a core region now for over 10 years the usage now does not justify continued funding which even at educational rates costs $1,770 a year for a full region and $750 a year for one of our lower capacity regions.

Vue Regions on OpenSimulator – Openvue

It is worth noting that the whole original 9 region Vue mini-continent as it appeared at its maximum extent in Second Life with some enhanced areas is essentially replicated on an OpenSimulator grid.. in fact on several such grids. One hosted on servers in Informatics… called Openvue… and another on the “OSGrid” openly accessible free to use test grid. These “open” versions of the Vue virtual world facilities have been available since September 2007, A timeline of events is available at… so also for over 10 years now. They provide many of the facilities available in Second Life, including the same type of voice services used in Second Life provided free due to the support of non-profit and educational establishments by Vivox.

Visit Openvue by getting a (free) avatar on OSGrid at and then travel via the “HyperGrid” to hop:// (copy that “hop” into the Firestorm Viewer location bar or find the region on the Map).

Local avatars on Openvue are only necessary for builders and owners of regions. Contact Austin Tate if you are a member of the University of Edinburgh and feel that is useful to your projects or work.

How to Continue to Use a (Temporary) Facility on Second Life

Second Life continues to be available, and it is still possible top create and use a freely available avatar to visit facilities in Second Life. It is just the Vue paid-for regions we are no longer maintaining.

Sandbox regions in Second Life are available to test building and can act as a facility where a temporary facility can be rezzed.. such as a copy of “The Venue@Vue” as used for virtual graduations, MOOC class meetings, etc. As a suggestion try “Sandbox Exemplar” first to establish it as a first preference for Vue related meetings on such a Sandbox… but there are lots of other sandboxes. You can find them by typing “sandbox” as a region search term into the Second Life viewer Map tool.

Vue Regional Planning Authority (VRPA)

I would like to thanks the present and past members of the rather grandly named “Vue Regional Planning Authority” (VRPA)* which is the people from across the University of Edinburgh who raised funds for the Second Life Vue regions an were involved in the design and creation of the facilities. the group continue to be involved in explorations of other virtual world platforms in their own Schools, groups and across the University for the potential benefit of others.

*name suggested by Hamish Macleod.

  • Sian Bayne (E-Learning, Higher & Community Education)
  • Marshall Dozier (Library)
  • Ian Graham (Management School)
  • Hamish Macleod (Centre for Teaching, Learning & Assessment, Education)
  • Fiona Hale (E-Learning, Higher & Community Education and Information Services)
  • David Richardson (Informatics)
  • James Stewart (Research Centre for Social Sciences)
  • Austin Tate (Informatics & AIAI)

Previous Members:

  • Aghlab Al-Attili (Edinburgh Stanford Link & Entrepreneurship MSc)
  • Mike Clouser (Edinburgh Stanford Link & Entrepreneurship MSc)
  • Dawn Ellis (Corporate Communications & PR)
  • Naomi Nunn (Development & Alumni)
  • Jessie Paterson (Divinity)
  • Morag Watson (Information Services & Library)

Vue Experiments with other virtual Worlds Platforms

Even before Second Life began to be used across the University, groups in Business Studies, Education and Artificial Intelligence/Informatics had been exploring virtual worlds platforms for a range of educational and research project uses. Platforms (now long gone) such as “There” and commercial virtual world simulators such as “Forterra” had been in use, and Second Life itself had been used even in its very earliest incarnation. When we began using Second Life for Vue purposes we could not have imagined the platform would remain stable for such a long period (over a decade and it is still available). We envisaged moving onto new platforms as they arose and experiments have taken place with quite a lot of potential platforms, not all of which made it to full open public release. A number of these experiments are documented in my earlier blog posts.

Some current platforms under investigation include:

  • OpenSimulator
  • Sansar
  • Sinespace

OSCC17 Preparation for OAR Converter Presentation

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 10:23

In preparation for the presentation on OAR Converterpresentation at the Open Simulator Community Conference 2017 a speaker preparation event was held on 11th November 2017 on the Conference OpenSim Grid…

Each presentation is also allocated an Expo Booth on OSCC Expo Zone 3… hop:// Expo Zone 3/101/58/26