May 29, 2008

AMU Preview 1

If you haven't been paying attention, we'll repeat the news:

Andromeda Media Universe Preview 1 is slated for release to the Beta Team on June 1st, 2008.

That being said, we're trying to meet the deadline as best as possible. There are a few setbacks here and there as we march ever closer to deadline. One of which happened to be dealing with the atmospherics and haze for the planet. Another issue that seems to be coming up is related to various sub-systems as we bring them online.

Some things simply do not want to play well with others, but we are still bringing them together to work as a well connected team of features. That being said, June 1st is simply a Preview Release, so while the system has many amazing things built into it, keep in mind that much of it will not be enabled for the first preview release until we can make absolutely certain that it is stable and working. That is why we have a beta team in the first place :P

On another completely unrelated note -

It has come to our attention that the server this is hosted on is located in Amsterdam. We have no idea why this bit of information amuses us, but we'll figure it out eventually.

*Edit: It was just brought to our attention after this, that the reason it is so amusing that this server is located in Amsterdam is because in Amsterdam, marijuana is completely legal. This being said, every time this server goes down, it's actually just too stoned to serve you the pages. Yes, even as corporate people, we at AMU are still laid back enough to joke.


A Town Hall Meeting has been scheduled for all Beta Team members. The email went out this morning informing everyone of the time (1PM EST), Date (Saturday, May 31st 2008) and Location.

If you have yet to participate in the Beta Team, and do not make any effort to let us know you wish to remain on the team, after June 1st 2008 you will be removed from the beta team going forward.

Just a friendly reminder.

- Andromeda Development Team

May 27, 2008

Random Site Outages

One of the reasons we originally opted not to get a domain attached to this project was that we had a sneaking suspicion that after we did, we would begin to get slammed with traffic from around the world.

While the servers usually adjust automatically, sometimes it takes about 15 or twenty minutes for that to happen as our site is hit by the onslaught of visitors. During that time, you may experience slow downs or time outs when trying to load

We are well aware of this, and the best answer we can give at this time is to be patient and try again in 15 minutes. Believe it or not, the bandwidth for our server is actually astronomically high so it is to be expected that a random hiccup here and there will occur that will disrupt access.

We're looking into another server for a later date that has what we have termed "an insanity bandwidth clause" - meaning in the very high Terabytes of traffic. So for the time being please be patient as we do what we can to accommodate all of our new visitors.

Thank you for your patience and understanding,

- Andromeda Project Team

May 24, 2008

All Clear

Forums are back online. Thank you for your patience.

May 23, 2008

Forums Down

The forums are currently down, assuming for maintenance. We are working on getting them restored and back online as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your patience

- The Management

May 19, 2008

Something About Nothing

There is this general feeling I get when I think about the vast expanse of nothingness that is the universe. Sure there is a whole lot of something in there, but on the whole it is separated by larger expanses of nothing.

Unlike you see in science fiction, space is a pretty dark place or so it would seem. When on the surface of a planet, you can see the stars at night and in rural areas this must seem like an overwhelming sight to behold as the vast expanses of the heavens unfold over your head.

Lately I've been pondering whether or not when you actually get into space, if that same sort of overwhelming aspect of a starscape is still there. From videos I've seen from NASA, it is a very different picture when you are actually in space itself or even on the moon. The moon footage is eerily devoid of stars in the lunar sky except maybe the Earth itself as it rises over the horizon.

It is also possible that these circumstances are simply not on par and due to other circumstances that I have yet to uncover.

In other news -

Andromeda Media Universe now has a registered domain name for easy access. Pointing your browser to will take you to this now very public project page. Along with this update included such things as adding text links at the bottom of every page to accommodate browsers with flash disabled. Also a new sitemap was created and submitted to Google proper, so now the behemoth of a search engine will start indexing this site.

You will no longer be able to simply bookmark individual pages on the site, including the beta section. This is for relative security reasons, and also because we would like to keep the address bar simple and clean. As for the Beta Section, the entire area was recoded from scratch in order to work the same across all browsers (to our knowledge). So Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera and others should see the beta section the same way.

This also includes getting the nice clock in the bottom right corner to finally work cross-browser as well. Added google search to the beta section, and also a log out button on the task bar which will return you to the main site. Cleaned up the login and password boxes making them rounded and stylized.

As of this posting, the countdown until First Preview of the AMU platform is about 13 days away. Lots of things going on between now and then as we gear up for D-Day. For the time being, we have also set up a new Forum for the site, but are using this one as a test run before we determine if we would like to finalize it at a later time. The address for that is -

Please take the time to register and post an introduction profile. The forums are moderated, so please keep that in mind. If you post something inappropriate, you will be banned.

Other than that, I bet you can't wait to see the preview, can you? We'll keep you posted as we make updates and changes. Until then, why not subscribe to this blog and have it send to your email when we make updates?

Till next time,

William Burns
Project Leader
Andromeda Media Universe

May 13, 2008

The Countdown Continues

With only 19 days left before the beta release of Andromeda Media Universe, things here are speeding up in development.

The server structure is completed, world server is finalized, and we've been working on the front end for the past few weeks. Over the past few days we've been obsessing over how to make the sun look as realistic as possible from the ground and we've learned a lot along the way.

One thing we've learned is that the color of the sky is altered by the atmosphere itself. We realized this about two days into working on the sun while trying to match the look and feel from a photograph. We were aware that the atmosphere played a part, but weren't entirely aware of how much of a part it would play until we began having issues matching the RGB for the sky gradient.

We were taking direct RGB samples from the photograph itself, and yet the same RGB colors weren't matching in the environment settings. So after a looking into things, we realized that the atmospheric scattering in the browser was actually working and doing it's job as coded, thusly altering the color of the sky based on intensity of the haze.

It's refreshing to find out that something isn't working simply because something else happens to be working as planned, versus something just being broken. So that brought a breath of fresh air as we realized this to be the case. The atmospheric scattering of light actually works and we are happy about that.

As for the sun itself, we've been working out multiple layers in order for them to properly adjust depending on the angle you are looking at them. This, as we realized later, may have been a waste of time as we realized that if you look at the sun itself you are more than likely blinded. So assuming that the bloom effect will kick in and create that sort of effect of the sun being brighter and possibly blinding you (within reason), the layered effects of the sun itself may or may not play a part pertaining to the average user. That's not to say, though, that the sun doesn't look really good as a result of this effort.

Next in line for our attention is adding in the moon itself (which is a modified version of the sun routine and shouldn't take long), and then we're off to the spherical planet itself - which should be happening in about a day or two from this posting.

A lot of what we're doing now is simply adding the routines that we had made prior to the servers themselves. The reasoning for this was that at this stage, we would be able to simply drop the routines that were pre-made into the system and link them up.

Considering we've added the dynamic shadow system (which is also capable of casting shadows for semi-transparent and colored objects), I think we're making a lot of progress and should be able to do the beta release on June 1st without any major issues.

We'll keep everyone posted on the progress through the beta section, and also take a look at the programs section occasionally to see what systems tests we are putting forward for you to evaluate.

Until next time -

William Burns
Project Leader
Andromeda Media Universe

May 3, 2008

What is in a sound?

Today's post is about something that we often take for granted, something which we pay no real attention to because the effects are an automatic assumption.

Of course, we are talking about sound.

Sound comes in many types, bitrates, formats, and channels. We can say possibly that the codecs for sound formats such as MP3 or OGG are the shell in which the essence are wrapped, and that the interpreter itself is what utilizes this in order to produce the audio. But what happens when you take it another step forward, into the third dimension?

In real life, our ears are placed roughly 6 inches apart and separated by our head in between. When acoustics in the air reach each ear (we'll say a stereo channel, left or right) the sound itself is shaped by the very structure of our head in ever so subtle ways. This in turn, the left and right channels of our ears, allows our brain to process a spacial location for sounds that we hear.

There is a form of recorded audio known as Binaural Recording which uses this characteristic of human hearing to it's advantage, and places small microphones inside a dummy head modeled after a human head. Some even take this further and model in detail the fake human ears in which the tiny microphones reside.

When recorded in this manner, it is possible to convey spatial position to the listener as though the sounds were really happening around them - but the effect only works for headphones. This in itself is because headphones are placed over the ear and isolate each channel to the listener in the same manner that the tiny microphones for the dummy head were isolated (earbud headphones do a poor job keeping this effect)

Obviously this effect of Binaural Audio is lost when listening on a set of standard speakers, as the acoustics are out of phase, but it does bring up a very interesting idea concerning virtual audio implementations.

When listening to a Binaural recording with headphones, your brain fills in the blanks and then informs you of the positions for each sound as they are located around you. So if there is a guitar playing in front of you, the acoustics in binaural audio would trick your brain into telling you there is a guitar playing in front of you. The same can be said for all space around you - left, right, front, back, up and down.

The down side to binaural audio (other than the headphones) is that since it is recorded via a stationary microphone setup, moving your head around does not change the locations appropriately of the sound locations. Instead it would seem that you are moving the entire room when you move your head.

Applying this idea, though, to a virtual world, we suddenly see the amazing benefits to having positional audio. Where in many cases today, virtual environments only offer four degrees of spatial awareness in audio (left, right, near, far) applying full spatial audio techniques to a virtual world would offer us the ability to hear with higher resolution.

As an example, let us say we have a chirping bird as a looping sound effect.

In a system with four degrees of spatial awareness (left, right, near, far) we would only be able to place said bird to our left or right and with a relative distance. With a full spatial audio algorithm, we would be able to hear with higher resolution, in that not only would we mentally place said bird to our right or left, near or far, but also above, below, front or behind.

Increasing spatial audio resolution to 8 degrees of freedom doubles the accuracy by which the brain can tell the listener where in a 3D space a sound is located. In this latter case, we are talking about the difference between knowing the bird is on our left or right and near or far, to knowing that same bird is on our right, behind us, about 25 feet up, and about 50 feet distance.

When utilized with multiple sounds, we in turn create a fully spatial soundscape for the user, and thusly a fully immersive environment. So then we take this one step further, because in a virtual environment we can move around.

With a spatial audio algorithm, the audio samples and locations would be dynamically adjusted as you moved around, so moving in the virtual world would alter this spatial soundscape in real time.

The effect would only work either with headphones or a surround sound setup, but when you listen only with a normal set of speakers the audio would sound like normal audio without the spatial effect. At best you may be returned to left, right, near and far (4 degrees) versus a full 8 degrees of audio.

If you have a pair of headphones handy, and are ready for a really amazing experience, we have provided a link to a list of streaming samples. One of our favorites happens to be the Virtual Haircut.

Binaural (Holophonic) Audio Examples - Listen With Headphones!

Until Next Time -

Andromeda Media Universe
Development Team