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ExitReality (1)
- 18th May 2012 -

 1: Main screen in ExitReality - Laurel Galli looks at her home space, 2: Visiting a 3D model of an eye, 3: Default "3D look" of an un-customised web page (Microsoft), 4: Meeting yourself in Exit reality, 5: Merlin, a typical 3D place, 6: The search bar.

ExitReality is an attempt at combing several "clever" ideas. Wouldn't it be great to view existing 3D models on the net, and also be able to meet and chat while doing so? What if you could view any web page in 3D - wouldn't that be cool? That's the premise of this web browser plug in that doubles up as a viewer to an ad hoc collection of virtual worlds. You install the plug-in and go to a suitable page and the fun begins. Well at least that's the intent.

The execution is quite different and often buggy. You do get to have an avatar (but see below) and a home which you can customise and and content to. And you can also chat with avatars (if you ever meet any) and add them to a "buddy list". But in practice you'll be lucky to be able to run this let alone meet anyone else anywhere using this! In the three years that I've explored this I met exactly one other avatar and they were very surprised to see me! In fact this is "dated" technology the 3D component is based on VRML which was "cutting edge"around the turn of the century. There is very little that is particular to ExitReality as such: a plaza, a nightclub, your "home", and several demonstrations like the Warner Bros Lobby and Carl Jnr. Otherwise, using the viewer to go to a regular web page gets you something like image 3 above. Yes, it's "3D" as such, but having 2D elements shown on sticks like parking signs, or a scrolling screen, hardly makes a regular web page easier to read or use, does it?

You can customize such pages, but what that does is add a 3D environment around the parking signs while the data is displayed the same way. What's more interesting is the list of worlds originally created to be 3D. Exit Reality provides a search bar with which to find them This list, like most of ExitReality, is buggy. Some links just don't work and others lead to props and avatar sets rather than places. Some places have duplicate entries, while others that different have the same name. In fact a good portion are just 3D models which your avatar can view but not really inhabit or travel through (more on this in part 2). In some worlds there are puzzles to solve but the interactivity is the exception to the rule. The different worlds give a solitary pleasure of exploration. Some have music and triggered events (The Streets a Ripper who appears at furtively and the sounds of travel in the fog) while others seem to be exercises in design, perhaps made for some other system entirely.

The avatar itself is a crude representation. Under normal circumstances you'll only ever see the back of it (but due to bugs, you sometimes meet yourself, which is what inspired "The Clone" in the last story). You can alter it by loading another avatar but you really can't do  much with it: you can chat, you have a dozen gestures, and you can move about (double left and right clicking the mouse, and pressing F2 open up hidden options (see menu at left). Also moving your mouse to a space on the screen and then double-clicking the right button will move you toward any solid point regardless. There are a number of keyboard shortcuts as well, the most useful being SHIFT-CTRL-G to toggle gravity and SHIFT-CTRL-C to toggle collisions. If you get stuck somewhere, become intangible and walk through the sky! Best to leave the options alone. If it actually works on your PC, don't mess with that!

You can modify your home by adding and modifying furniture, but there's little point to this with no one else about to entertain (and there's no way in which you can lie on a bed or sit in a chair). 

And worse yet, it may not run on your PC. It runs on Windows only with ActiveX (Opera seems to be the best browser to use, Explorer the worst). I first came across ExitReality in 2009 when I was using an earlier version of both Windows and Firefox, and it worked (mostly). Now I use Win7 and the current version of Firefox on two PCs and ExitReality works on one and not the other (who knows why)! What you might get an error message that says the interface cannot be loaded, but reinstalling it doesn't make a difference. .I suspect that the viewer was designed to work with browsers that were current in 2007-2009 and the newer ones no longer support it.

And also, the whole project seems to be have been abandoned. The last entry on the blog mentions that the owners bought something called vSide. Go check that out and you'll see why development on this stopped (and probably also on Surroundus) - socially it's everything that ExitReality might have been.

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