NetBeans in Wonderland (Part 1)
By seapegasus on Feb 04, 2009
Getting to Know Wonderland - Cybertech news reviewed Sun's Wonderland: A free open-source toolkit for building virtual 3D worlds in pure Java. Access a public Wonderland server or set up your own as a meeting point for your distributed team. Wonderland is based on Project Darkstar, a multi-user 3D world server.
Accessing the Wonderland Demo - To see for yourself, go to the education grid and click Enter the Grid, then click Sun Microsystems.
The browser opens a Java Web Start (JNLP) file. When the Java plugin asks about signatures, click Run (or Trust respectively) to continue. Your browser then downloads the Wonderland application to your desktop. (In my case the app detected an outdated Java3D installation, and gave me instructions how to remove them. I then double clicked the Wonderland app to continue.)
At the login dialog, type in any name (the demo does not require any registration), and create an avatar. The avatar is way less detailed than the ones in SecondLife, basically just hair and cloths colors.
Navigating in Wonderland - Note the View menu (1st/3rd/orbit view) and Placemarks (quick navigation). Walk and turn with the arrow keys, sidestep with Z/X, fly by pressing Q. Also try pressing numbers to trigger gestures like nodding and waving. Keep the right mouse button pressed to look up, down, left and right. The middle mouse button controls the right arm, and you use it to point at things. Walk around a bit and don't miss reading the crazy posters in the conference room!
Listening to Wonderland - The main means of communication in Wonderland is audio chat, but there is also a text chat interface. Invite a friend to webstart the client and log on simultaneously, and have a chat with him. A cool feature that you will immediately notice is 3D audio: Approach talking avatars, and their volume increases, and sounds from further away fade out. In case nobody is "home", the demo includes a couple of bots who talk about nothing but Darkstars and Blackboxes all day. :-)
The freely available Wonderland server supports interactive objects such as microphone stands (for room-wide announcements), telephones (think Skype), a cone of silence (for private conversations), and answering machines (to record and play audio). People who call into the world by phone are represented by floating spheres. Since a caller cannot navigate the 3D world (they wouldn't see where they are going), avatars in-world can help out by carrying the caller's sphere to another room, or by placing them in the Cone of Silence or in front of microphones. Pretty neat stuff. :-)
Sharing Applications - Wonderland allows you to share Xwindows applications from your desktop with other avatars. Log on to the public demo, walk around in the Demo Room, and try out the red-framed windows -- e.g. there's a whiteboard for drawing and a photo browser. Shift-left_click the frame to gain control over the application, then shift-right_click to move the camera to an optimal position. All keyboard input will now be sent to the shared application. Shift-left_click the frame again to release the application, and press escape or C to reset the camera position. Live application sharing, now that's something that Second Life doesn't have, eh? :)
Sharing NetBeans? - Why am I posting this in the NetBeans category? Can I stick my instance of the IDE to a wall in the 3D world, and my colleagues' avatars can use it as if they were standing right next to me?
Yes! Note however, although there is a NetBeans menu item in this demo, it is not active. Bummer. Those heartless people run the Wonderland server on a machine with no NetBeans installed! :-/ But setting up a local instance of the Wonderland server is easy, and if I run the server on Solaris or Linux, I can share apps such as NetBeans myself... Hm...
What will NetBeans be like in 3D? Will I be able to do code completion and window undocking? And will I be able to see NetBeans from behind? :-o Read part two of this blog entry to find out!