The Virtual World Framework (VWF) is a means to connect robust 3D, immersive, entities with other entities, worlds, content and users via web browsers. It provides the ability for client-server programs to be delivered in a lightweight manner via web browsers, provides synchronization for multiple users to interact with common objects and environments. For example, using the VWF, a developer can take video lesson plans, objects and avatars and successfully insert them into an existing virtual or created landscape (such as EDGE or Open Sim), interacting with the native objects and users via the VWF interface.
VWF further opens the door to interface different training content, simulations, objects, users and locations; which will extend and expand the scope of training and education (imagine running a tank simulation with aviation assets, provided by two different simulations suites but executed together and passing imagery and sensor data between them, working over a common landscape and feeding a constructive mapping simulation run on a third platform, all seamlessly and transparent to the users). VWF is meant as a useful tool to interact with differing types of entities (objects, avatars, simulations, spaces). As an open-source tool protected under the Apache II license, VWF is free and accessible to any number of developers who can create content and expand its scope and functionality. VWF delivers its interactivity using the web, creating an opportunity to align mismatched objects or environments. VWF is currently under development to work with MMOs such as EDGE, and ideally will be developed to interface with the latest object encodings (such as Unity and MP4), environments (such as OpenSim/MOSES) and simulations platforms in order to create a truly agnostic interfacing tool.
HTML 5 – a significant upgrade in expressive power for the web
WebGL – an integrated 3D graphics capability
WebSockets – providing a full TCP/IP connection between the client and server
XMPP – the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (Jabber)
Please visit the documentation link and read the Getting Started and Tutorial pages for more information.
Even though it has a suggestive name, the VWF is not a virtual world. Nor is it a virtual world generation tool. Can the VWF produce a virtual space and content to fill it? Yes, it can, and it absolutely can be used to provide additional objects and interactions to augment/interact with entities to which it connects. VWF isn’t a simulator. VWF is meant to extend the use of active client-server simulations in order that they can be accessed via a web browser. It is also meant to add extra dimensions to existing simulations or to create simulation content to add to an existing virtual space (such as MOSES) or a spontaneously generated space. VWF has the capability to create fully-functional simulations but is not meant to be a complete simulator on its own.
VWF is not an avatar, nor does it require an avatar to run. VWF does not require a virtual space in order to work; it can be used to generate a virtual space within the web browser or locally on the host machine. VWF does not need an avatar to function, and does not necessarily generate avatars for use with virtual worlds, but can be used to produce or interact with avatars.
The Department of Defense (DoD) cannot continue to do business as usual. In FY05, the DoD spent $9.1B in Modeling and Simulation related activities. Approximately 40% of that budget was used for simulators, war gaming, and modeling. The vision of the VWF is to reduce the funding currently used to support M&S activities in direct support of pressure to reduce spending and increase efficacy of existing/emerging technology.
The DoD needs a tool to tie together its myriad, stove-piped, specialty simulations solutions. It needs a tool to extend and expand its ability to train an increasing number of personnel across ever-widening distances. DoD stresses a need to reduce and reuse technology and to find more cost-efficient means to provide the most advanced technological and pedagogical systems of training. It’s not just about training DoD personnel however.
We are surrounded by immersive, personalized social media and technology (such as Smart Phones, Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Project Glass and augmented reality sites such as Layar. Traditional education systems do not allow for the pace of information sharing and immersion that media, games and the internet provide to youth on a regular basis and modernization/customization of education is becoming absolutely essential to its effectiveness. The intersection of technologies and the speed/volume of data delivery create a perfect storm of possibility for this system to provide the most good at the best cost.
VWF is for developers of simulations, education systems, training content, games, information sharing, private individuals, really anyone with an interest in sharing information with multiple users in a lightweight fashion using a web browser as a delivery mechanism.
VWF is for users to be able to access information, training, or content no matter where they are or what their hardware or bandwidth restrictions may be, as long as they have a secure link to the training server through the internet. VWF is to provide rapidly-available content to those who need it most, when they need it, in a fashion which is accessible and low-overhead.
VWF means a massive savings in preventing redundancy, in linking different systems and in building economies of scale and scope. It means access to unprecedented complexity of training content and a huge flexibility in its delivery. It means faster and more thoroughly trained personnel. It means platform-independent computing solutions for passing any type of data quickly and efficiently. It means highly adaptive, rapid prototypes independent of the platforms which created them. It means staying at the forefront of the computing trends in information sharing. It means a rapid means of generating customized training solutions. It means spontaneous meeting spaces and a method for delivering increased complexity and speed of intelligence to those who need it.
Currently the DoD owns the rights to the source code of the VWF, however as it is licensed using Apache II this means that it is freely usable by any and all as long as original attribution is given to the creators.
The Virtual World Framework is currently licensed under the Apache II license. Essentially it states that the user of the software is granted a royalty-free license to use, modify, sell derivative works of, the software as long as the original license and attribution file(s) are included in the distribution of any and all subsequent works. The original work is licensed “as is” and contains no warranties of any kind.
Presently content rights are managed via the provisions contained in the Apache 2 license. The current content version control is affected by the primary engineers through github, with the latest stable builds published under unique serial numbers.
VWF is currently posted on github, and is open to any and all developers who wish to contribute forks, projects, suggestions or build-outs for the framework. The original creators especially seek major platform developers who wish to add interfacing to their platform for use with VWF, such as MMOs, simulations designers, terrain mapping providers, 3D modeling, virtual landscapes, etc.
Presently the VWF is managed via github and developer inputs through a loose consortium of the original creators. In time, the community will stand up a non-profit governing organization, in order to conduct full-time partnerships and version control of the software. Through the use of the latest codecs, interfacing partnerships with major content, object and texture providers, and a persistent location, it is additionally the goal of the creators that VWF will evolve into the standard for interfacing content with users on the web.
VWF is currently available for use in web applications, and there are a few minor applications/demonstrations already constructed as proofs of concept and can be found in the public directory. As the community extends the robustness of the VWF, increases the libraries and finalizes the toolkits, these applications will gain in complexity as well. Currently developers are welcome to construct web applications with the existing code and examples. There is nothing special required to run completed applications outside of having access to a compatible browser with WebGL and potentially Web Sockets capability depending on the location of the source objects and interactions.
Currently there are no development tools in widespread use that interface different entities in a persistent, secure manner using a thin client through web-browsers. There are other tools which produce virtual environments, avatars, and content, but none of the ones currently known tie them together, spontaneously create interfaces among them or provide seamless communications to all of the entities regardless of their timing. VWF does this and will do more as it continues its evolution. Further VWF utilizes web sockets and web GL, directly providing a content link between entities in the quickest, most efficient manner possible. Other virtual interfacing programs utilize Flash which also provides direct content, but does so in a less efficient manner.
VWF can be applied to content to train on most DoD tasks which do not require solely live training. Specifically: Training facilitated through simulations, classroom training, augmented reality, mixed media training, and games are the ideal candidates for VWF. Also simulations which combine live training with simulated content are good candidates for VWF. The complexity of the training and the number of trainees largely dictates the date by which this VWF capability will be delivered. For delivery of classroom-type training the VWF is currently capable of being used to develop content. For simulations-type training, following the persistence and synchronization elements of the VWF being developed in the next 6 months (by fall 2012), this capability of the VWF should be possible. For augmented reality and truly immersive gaming, VWF will be under development with critical partners and hopes to have this capability in the coming 24 months, depending on current technologies and partnerships.
Ideally, VWF will be used in LVC exercises as a primary or secondary delivery mechanism. LVC is ideal for VWF delivery due to its large virtual/digital component and its need to be delivered to myriad audiences in a variety of locations/platforms.
Through sensor data (read off of the radar/weapons/sensors on the live equipment directly into the simulation), data streaming through interfacing servers (in the case of personnel/equipment trackers such as BFT) and through information injection through constructive simulations (such as placing live units on a map and manually tracking their status/positions).
Simulations do not take place “in” the Virtual World Framework. VWF is a tool to help interface different entities. Constructive simulations, in which simulated people operate simulated systems, are stimulated using human inputs. Ostensibly the VWF would provide the interface (via the web) for some or all of these humans who would be inputting data into the system, then would receive the simulation results from the program executing on the server machine/cloud/locally-determined-host, and would display the results in some fashion via web interface.
Presently developers use the VWF to build simulations using Java script and functionality provided through the VWF. VWF generates the appropriate display and manipulation files at the time of compilation. As the VWF develops a construction environment will be developed in order to allow users to drag and drop content and manipulate it, greatly reducing production time/complexity. This environment is currently under construction, and is anticipated to be completed at the end of 2012.
The web is agnostic to content. VWF is not secure or unsecure. The use of secure socket layer encryption, virtual private networks, public-key-encryption, proprietary encryption, hardware secured network systems, etc. provides the security needed to secure any simulations produced and interfaced using the VWF. With the use of IPv6, bit-wise security protocols are available that were previously not available to data transport. A potential additional security method is to add a security bit header to the data transported via VWF in order to provide an additional layer of security. This measure has not yet been added to the current build.
The problem with opening a continuous connection between two computers via a web browser using Web sockets is that it potentially opens up the link to something called cache poisoning, in which someone can directly introduce viruses or other malware to the link, compromising the system description of the attack. Here is a summary of other weaknesses. Originally, potential security issues led Mozilla and Opera to discontinue support for Web Sockets until the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) could produce a standardized Web Sockets protocol as part of HTML5. A work around based on Connect based handshakes (as opposed to upgrade- based handshakes) proved to be secure. The semantics of the handshake as coded into VWF will take this into account. Since late 2011 this has been largely addressed with latest builds and standards, and many web platforms do support Web Sockets currently.
Mozilla Firefox 4.0 onward, Opera 11 onward, Google Chrome 9 onward (native support), Safari 5.1 onward. So far, Internet Explorer does not support WebGL and has not announced any plans to support WebGL. Chrome Frame and IEWebGL plug-ins support WebGL for IE 6.0 onward.
Safari, Opera, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox are all currently available and all support WebGL in their current versions.
The WebGL standard is affected by the Khronos Group, Mozilla, Apple and Google currently along with influence from United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team which raises security concerns to which the WebGL consortium (headed by the Khronos Group) react.
Java Script runs locally in the browsers, does not require additional plug ins or environments (like the Java runtime environment) to run, and does not require compilation or .exe files to be run on the client machine in order to work. It is faster, more efficient, and simpler to build and execute than both Java or C#.
HTML 5.0, ECMAScript5, WebGL, Web Sockets, Collada (or other later file formats)
Yes, currently developers can download the latest build of VWF from github and submit their recommendations, code and applications directly on the site. Github allows user to create their own forks, submit pull requests, and leave questions, comments, and support related items in the issue tracker.
VWF is currently available freely and openly on github to any and all persons, regardless of origin. VWF content specifically designed for operations will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis depending on the content, training objectives, and coalition goals being exercised. There is no standing reason why VWF cannot be shared and there are no security restrictions on the original code As an open source program, there are currently no restrictions to anyone downloading the original source code on github.
Absolutely. VWF is meant to interface content via the web, but it also contains construction pieces enabling the creation of games or communications services wholly executable within the web browser. These games and services would capitalize on the direct link between entities facilitated by the VWF, while the company would determine where the resources were located. For example: A game company might use VWF to create an online game using their proprietary graphics, and store both the graphics and the program files on their own servers while delivering that content through the web; a teleconference company might more efficiently create an e-classroom with the VWF to take their own streaming media codec and pass their video through the web to a digital classroom environment created wholly with the VWF, complete with avatars and interactive objects.
VWF is currently available freely and openly on github to any and all persons, regardless of origin. VWF content specifically designed for operations will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis depending on the content, training objectives, and coalition goals being exercised. There is no standing reason why VWF cannot be shared and there are no security restrictions on the original code As an open source program, there are currently no restrictions to anyone downloading the original source code on GitHub.