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About VirtualLife

Secure, Trusted and Legally Ruled Collaboration Environment in Virtual Life

VirtualLife project aims at developing a virtual world platform mainly focusing on security, democracy and collaborative aspects. Combining a virtual legal system with a strong security infrastructure and a peer-to-peer architecture, VirtualLife provides a digital 3d environment suitable for education, training, e-commerce, business and entertainment; see a short overview of VirtualLife.

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 216064. Further details are provided in the CORDIS service: ICT Project Fact Sheet.

Contacts
Project coordinator:
Maria Vittoria Crispino e-mail: mariavittoria.crispino@nergal.it
Technical director:
Francesco Zuliani e-mail: francesco.zuliani@nergal.it
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Executive summary

VirtualLife is an experimental and innovative framework containing advanced tools and options for creating virtual world applications. VirtualLife is not a virtual world, nor a stand-alone application, it is a scalable and customizable platform containing some basic modules and based on some fundamental innovative pillars (peer-to-peer architecture, secure communication infrastructure, legal framework, powerful scripting language); additional modules can be built on top of it on demand.

The core of VirtualLife is the innovative Virtual Reality Engine based on a hybrid peer-to-peer infrastructure that allows the sharing of computational load in experiencing the virtual environment obtaining infrastructural resource optimization and bandwidth reduction. It enhances the platform in terms of robustness, availability, scalability, load balancing.

From an higher level point of view, VirtualLife is provided with a Legal Framework that allows to conclude deals and to carry out transaction directly in-world. To obtain this aim, VirtualLife is integrated with a secure communication infrastructure based on a strong identity system that bounds the avatar to the real identity of the person behind, that is responsible of his actions as in real life. In case of infringement of the contract terms, an in-world dispute resolution is implemented within the platform The design of such system carefully mimics the Model Agreement provided by The International Mediation Institute, www.IMImediation.org.

The main S&T objectives of the project were:
  • to create a scalable, reliable p2p architecture for a 3d environment: two innovative custom libraries have been developed, namely vlnet and vrengine that allow the creation of a coherent world on top of a overlay network leveraging on a newly introduced authority mechanism;
  • to create a secure and trusted infrastructure and a certified authentication system: it allows end-to-end security in communications between either users or participating virtual nodes; this layer is built upon PKI and stresses the role of mutually entrusted communication streams as well as digital signature of documents and proof of identity;
  • to implement a virtual law system: leveraging the platform built-in strong identity, users are allowed to carry out transactions directly in-world (contracts and online dispute resolution system) and to participate to its ruling via customizable Constitution and Law System;
  • to create a powerful scripting engine, allowing the users to interact with the virtual world. Scripting has been targeted toward programmers, privileging power over ease-of-use;

This innovative approach has received some encouraging feedbacks from private universities and training companies, so that a specific applicative scenario has been customized for educational purposes (Virtual Campus). The Virtual Campus scenario takes also advantage from the interactivity enabled by the VirtualLife scripting engine. From the legal side, some Contracts template specifically targeted to the relationships existing among private universities, teachers and students, cover the main use cases.

Moreover, after a careful examination of potential business applications, thanks to the powerful scripting engine has been possible to obtain a specific applicative scenario (industrial scenario) aimed, for example, to provide a testing platform to the streetcar/railway designer/manufacturer. The project has devoted great attention also on dissemination and exploitation activities; more than thirty publications have been written and more than one hundred fifty potential stakeholders have been contacted in order to build a business relationship.

Platform Validation has demonstrated that VirtualLife offers the architectural support for adoption of the platform, whether in autonomous or assisted usage, in educational and industrial application domains (i.e. Virtual Campus and Street-car).

The validation highlighted some improvements area, in particular with respect to the usability and 3D interaction mode. Notwithstanding this finding, the users in both the domains were able to perform the planned scenarios and the validation exercises.

VirtualLife demonstrates to be fully compliant with the requirements provided by the pool of involved users. As for Virtual Campus the platform proved to enhance teachers and students to carry out their duties. In particular the possibility to visualize complex objects, as well as their exploration, and the persistence of the virtual world, were assessed as valuable features to support the educational scenarios.

VirtualLife also proved to impact the Street-Car domain throughout the validation of the logic layout behind test cases (i.e. validate the logic controller, validate the railway apparatuses and validate the railway physical and logical structure), the definition of an easy-to-edit XML version of the logical layout, and the processing of the XML directly via lua-scripting, hence as user-generated content.

The experimental results demonstrated that P2P framework effectively balances richness, responsiveness, robustness to provide an enhanced user experience to what is possible on traditional client/server architectures on regular Internet connections. In addition, our P2P framework reduces the requirements of bandwidth and CPU power on the service provider of a VirtualLife-based virtual world service, and hence reduces the total cost of ownership.

Video on scripting improvements
Video on scripting improvement driven by validation scenarios is now available in the gallery
VirtualLife validation videos
VirtualLife validation sessions showed successfull user experiences. You can see tham in our gallery
Final review: good news
The final assessment of the VirtualLife project: good.

VirtualLife virtual world platform demos