When Rika Watanabe showed me the first prototype of her Planetarium my first thought was “Stellar Cartography” – one of my favourite scenes from “Star Trek The Next Generation” (STTNG). The Stellar Cartography is an immersive room in which the starship’s crew could examine their galaxy in a panoramic view. And Rika gave us the same for Second Life.
What is the Planetarium? Basically, it is a map of all of Second Life, but not a map as you see it in-world or on slurl.com. Instead of a more or less detailed map, Rika took a significantly different approach and represents every sim as a single pixel on the map. One should think that looks rather boring, and in fact the first maps I saw with white sim-pixels on black backgriund actually hurt my eyes. Doing full justification to her brand name “Clever Things”, a smart algorithm was implemented to break the hard map up into continents, large and small islands. The result looked so compellingly like a starmap that there was no choice: a planetarium was the method of choice to display the map.
Trinity Dechou, co-owner of the beautiful sim Kernow, was easily convinced to make room for a public installation of the planetarium. Located on one of the shores of the island, the largest of the available versions is shown, with an exterior that looks like a mixture of Steampunk and Star Trek. All I can say is seeing is believing. There are little words to describe the “Wow!” effect the planetarium has. And among all the excitement, some features of the installation almost get forgotten.
For once, you can actually click the starmap, and receive a teleport location for the sim you touched. What better ways of doing random explorations? But what is probably most amazing is that the map is a live map – Rika’s backend server queries the sim-database and keeps track of vanishing and newly created sims. For the time being she guarantees the displayed starmap is no older than a week – depending on the sim database update frequency we might even get faster updates. This highly sophisticated programming explains the price tag of the device: you basically get a lifetime subscription for current and up to date starmaps – the upload costs for the textures and the maintaining of the backend server get financed that way.
The package does not only contain the full size planetarium. Apart from a 32m, a 20m and a 10m version, there are also 2 globes (5 prims low resolution and 12 prims high resolution) that are a wonderful decoration for your SL home or office. This device is probably one of the most unusual things I have seen in SL for a long time, and I can highly recommend to visit the public installation and/or get one for yourself.