Virtual Forbidden City

Miniature Tigerpaw… in disguise as an “Imperial Woman” in the new 3D world “Virtual Forbidden City”
Earlier this week, blogs were abuzz with news of the Virtual Forbidden City launched by a partnership of IBM and Beijing’s National Palace Museum. Of course, RMB City Team decided that we had to take a look at this “other” online virtual rendering of a Chinese city…

Calling itself an “immersive 3-dimensional virtual world where you can celebrate and explore aspects of Chinese culture and history,” the downloadable software and online platform is of course, extremely similar to Second Life. But with some major differences. In the Virtual Forbidden City, you cannot customize your avatar, you cannot buy or sell anything, you cannot build anything… you cannot even fly.

Of course, for people who are new to virtual worlds (clearly the majority of the audience being targeted), this platform is an eye-popping introduction, and astoundingly easy to set up and enter. Visually, the city is astounding; so rich in detail that I wonder if avoiding prim limits is one reason they decided to build this project outside of Second Life. The interface is simple and intuitive (and the way it allows you to quickly change perspective, instead of grappling with mouse-look, is something I kind of wish SL offered). And it seems quite useful as an educational tool– there are pop-ups and extensive information about Chinese history and culture, similar to a real museum visit.

But it seems very much a passive experience. Yes, you can take some low-resolution screenshots (but cannot save them to desktop- you can email to yourself or a friend, but even then it just contains a link, not an attachment), and chat with other visitors, but you can’t really do anything else. Which is perhaps sufficient for a historical landmark, or the classic conception of a museum. It is a place to look at (but not touch) the past.

Since RMB City is more about the present, and the future (sometimes even we confuse the two), it seems vitally important that it exists in the larger metaverse and community of Second Life. I personally wish that the Virtual Forbidden City had been built in SL instead. A place that’s a little messy, a little dusty, but open to change and challenge. A place to foster real conversation and interaction. A place where you can re-mix the myths and dreams of your nation into something strange and new. And most importantly, a place where you can fly.

Miniature Tigerpaw... at home in the chaos of RMB City

Miniature Tigerpaw... at home in the chaos of RMB City

Blog — Miniature Tigerpaw, October 18, 2008 @ 12:44 am

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