Kaseii Vallis refers to Kasei Vallis (notice the spelling), a game concept of a friend of mine that never made it past Deluxe Paint. It is also a geological structure on Mars.
Bjørn Tennøe. FMH/ Design Fiction
Imagine this event as seen in a future Internet cafe. You enter a modern looking yet traditionally furnished cafe situated on the corner of a building in Kaptenikatu. The windows to the street show you city life as you used to know it. But as you look into the cafe you experience that it turns into a balcony. Some meters beyond the end of the balcony, the room ends in what you know is a sophisticated projection screen. But what you see is the new city - Kaseii Vallis, stretching out endlessly in all directions.
Sitting down where you can have a good view of the digital city, a sports arena drifts past some stories below you. It seems it's a basketball game. With that many spectators, it's got to be the NBL. You ask the nearby waiter, what's that game down there? Oh, some West Coast showdown. Not so interesting. You order a cappuccino.
Even though you have never been in this cafe before, you feel somewhat familiar with it's interior. Suddenly you realise why. It's on the corners of Geek Street and Gandhi Avenue, plane 505. You pass it whenever you do your online shopping. And now you see those fellow shoppers passing right outside the cafe. Hmm you always thought those people on the balcony were some kind of video prop. Now you know better.
|the volumous net
Kaseii Vallis is a digital city, an artificial environment designed to accommodate needs of communication, commerce and entertainment for every human being on (or off) the planet. It is a future Internet, a way to throw Internet into the many-dimensional realm sci-fi literature refers to as cyberspace.
Encyclopædia Britannica has this to say about cyberspace:
With tree directional dimensions and a fluctuating society, Kaseii Vallis has the power to represent itself as a real location. But being purely virtual, it can also rearrange itself at any point. The balance between stability and flexibility poses a great challenge for this pioneer world.
why the shift to a three-dimensional world
The reason an environment like Kaseii Vallis could be desirable is the paradigm of the human scale. Today's Internet has been called the ultimate time machine because of the absence of feeling of space and time on the net. In fact this constitutes a user interface problem. There are many reasons to argue for a volumous net.
stable versus fluctuating layout
Kaseii Vallis does not simulate the real world in terms of trying to recreate actual physical locations. This would result in inconsistencies and wouldn't serve any purpose since the net is largely context-based, with people navigating by abstracts such as interests and subjects.
Rather, for many purposes it would be desirable to have an arrangement by context or information provider. Veterinary medicine, general book stores and national newspapers could be found in distinct areas. Equally easily imaginable is the division between commercial, educational, personal and government sites.
Problems arise when it comes to combining these 3D projections of a multi-dimensional information structure. Not all wishes of different layouts can be accommodated in one rigid 3D structure. The alternative, to have several or infinitely many ways of arranging the city, clouds the possibilities of creating an understandable user interface and providing an overview to the visitor. Therefore, Kaseii Vallis needs to have at least a few different modes of appearance. The basic mode is the city layout, common to all visitors.
city layout: physical structure
|size: quite large
As of today, Kaseii Vallis must be large enough to support simultaneous visits from all the active users of cyberspace, perhaps peaking at half a billion people (spring 1999 / wild guess). But in the future it can grow to a size corresponding to the earth's population, somewhere in the region of fourteen billion people. At this point, if every person occupies as much virtual space as a real-world city dweller, the city will be 3000 times bigger than Manhattan.
Other articles also indicate that the future Internet could become quite large.
Parts of the city is designed by hand, but due to it's size, most of it has to be generated by some kind of set of algorithms. Perhaps fractal math can find its use here. Also, the right density must be found. Quite clearly there are enough sites available to make a dense cube stretching out for kilometres in all directions; this would be impractical since navigation would be very confusing.
Also, as this world is created to make people connect, collaborate and share information, measures should be taken so that the human activity is just as visible as the static structures that reside in this world. Therefore, all human avatars emit a glow when viewed from far away. This way they illuminate the city, showing where activities are taking place.
main physical layout / macroarchitecture
Kaseii Vallis simulates a real city in the way that it has buildings, streets, (commercial) services, media events (for instance advertisement) and active, visible inhabitants (humans, avatars and animated visible representations of programs).
The basic layout of the city is that of a planet encircled by rings stretching outward, hovering above a sea, illuminated by a circling sun on a blue sky.
The city should be quite easy to navigate in. At all times the globe and the visited plane is visible. Clouds above and below indicate other planes of activity, and sky density shows where action is currently taking place.
Sites can be given different visual appearances considering what kind of services they offer. For instance, if you navigate to an area devoted to Commodore 64 computers, you can easily figure out what sites are die-hard fan chat rooms, service parts retailers, software salespoints and the like.
Kaseii Vallis is a place common to all visitors, but organisations will also have the need for intranets. These can appear on the outskirts of Kaseii Vallis, and also stretch in between the disks toward the city's core.
Two different models can be applied:
the nature of buildings
|Buildings in a virtual city don't necessarily have to look like real ones. There are many things they don't have to do, like provide shelter for bad weather, to have a sound construction from an engineering point of view, and to provide services for the bodily need of humans.
There are no toilets in cyberspace.
Rather, buildings should serve the purposes web sites do today, and more:
accessing the city / reaching the city
|Think about the feeling of entering and leaving the movie theatre. The transition is a very important part of the movie experience. Wim Wenders says that "you are [only] informed about the movie [when you see it] on TV". Of course, there is less of a ceremony in turning on the TV than going to the theatre. What will the transition to Kaseii Vallis be like?
Kaseii Vallis must integrate to the future environments for computer interaction, whatever shape those may take. The key point is that the city exists because people need to connect, collaborate, retrieve information, work and entertain themselves. The design must be geared toward human perception. Many user interfaces (see above) are possible and many should be supported.
An abstract place that is geared towards human activities is of course much better suited to host media activity than something that is designed to display written information. In Kaseii Vallis, online events are more natural, have richer media and require less effort to participate in. Mass media can interact more with their audience, and there can be a greater focus on participation.
Work can be carried out in Kaseii Vallis. As such, programs exist in the artificial work to make different services possible. But the term "application" is obsolete. There is no "user interface" as such. No icons to press, no menus to select. No help bar to provide support. Help is also a service, like guiding is in any city.
directory of activities
As events and activities become more commonplace, eager souls will seek to structure them the way one tries to structure everything electronical. Therefore, as Yahoo! today has a directory of where to get information in the net, Kaseii Vallis will offer directories on social activities. Finding others with common interests will be easier, and so will online community building.
inhabitants: avatars, bots and droids
Humans exist in Kaseii Vallis through virtual representatives of themselves, generally known as avatars. A number of options have to be supported. Two key issues:
From my point of view the latter is not discussible. It is a major property of any city that the inhabitant has the possibility to remain anonymous. Granted that he or she conforms to the laws and norms of the society, this should be a fundamental right in a virtual community, as long as the opposite is not crucial to the existence of the community.
Avatar body posture
However, in many instances it is not appropriate to present the users true body posture. Specifically, real-world and on-line movements will match only occasionally. Many users will be seated when surfing through the virtual city, and if they are walking, their avatar will only seldom copy their real-life movement. It is unwise to let the avatar walk, since the speed of propagation often will be that of a jet plane!
When computer systems need information from the visitors and vice versa, and even when humans ask for augmented communication, computer-generated characters, bots, will facilitate most of the information. Bots look humanoid and speak most human languages.
existing 3D worlds
Distributed throughout the Internet, the visitor does not enter one specific server; rather, Kaseii Vallis is a cyberspace of it's own. It is the presentation that is centralised somehow. An unlimited number of locations co-operate to present one single layout.
The service is graphically intensive. It demands resources from the computer that renders scenes for the individual user. Equally important is the use of pre-rendered panoramas. One solution is to have the world split into bubbles or spheres that blend into each other. When a user is inside one bubble, everything inside is rendered specifically from his viewpoint. The rest of the world is a publicly available, centrally rendered panorama media feed (still image or video with audio on demand) that is projected on the bubble. This is quite different from current state-of-the-art visualisations. The servers that today maintain web pages would have to provide these panoramas to client computers. The user would not be aware of these technicalities.
Just as Java promises to let programs to be run in a browser, applications integrate into Kaseii Vallis. But the term application should be a dying one. When you ask somebody for a favor, or you buy a service from somebody, are they performing an application for you? At least you don't look at that way. It's the end result you focus on, and if there's any importance in the interaction its in recognition of the other human. Since computers are non-emotional entities this layer should be dropped and the focus should entirely be on whatever is beyond the user interface.
future media home scenario building blocks
The Scenario Building Blocks presented by Future Media Home easily fit into the Kaseii Vallis scenario. Bots are of course natural-language agents. Communication with boths, other parts of the system and even other visitors is assisted by the Ontology. The digital city itself is a central piece of the Directory. These terms are not crucial to consider at the current stage of development, except that they underline the need to split the service up into independent modules while keeping a seamless interface, as mentioned in the previous paragraph.