Disney’s miniature, multi-ethnic, animatronics, were right! In my entire career in technology I don’t believe that I have ever experienced such an Alice in Wonderland day as I did this weekend. I bounced around cyberspace in and out of virtual reality, real reality, and around the globe until it almost became a blur.I had the opportunity to once again participate in something the world has never seen before. This is about creating a virtual product, of a virtual object, uploaded to actual servers, to be distributed to virtual representations of actual people, during a virtual event, of an actual organization, in a virtual world, to download into the actual world, printed, and built into an actual 3D model of that virtual object.
My company; Paper Model, Inc. has been participating in ecommerce over the Internet since the last century. I was awarded a patent a few years back, on a concept I implemented more than a decade ago, V-E-Tailing, Virtual Electronic Retailing.
This is a concept that once it was accepted and we put it into practice, now seems obvious, but in the mid-nineties, selling products over the Internet was a new concept. Selling products that didn’t really exist in real life was unheard of. I’m not speaking of course, about taking my customers money and running off with it without providing them with a product. I’m speaking about selling products that are as ephemeral as the electrons that make up the very Internet itself.
These products are specialty advertising objects and educational school projects; see http://www.PaperModelsInc.com. They can range from a Boeing 737 to an Ice Cream Sundae, to Chevy Silverado pick up truck to Notre Dame, and from The Mission San Diego to Capital Building in Washington, D.C. All architecturally true to their originals, but as true as they are, they also really don’t exist; at least not in the world we live. They are all electrons moving through the air & over the wires and charged particles on iron oxide computer disks.
These “products” are all pdf files, that when purchased, downloaded, printed, and with scissors, and a little glue & time, build into a three-dimensional replicas of their original real counter-parts. Imagine wanting or needing an accurate replica of say, The Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas for your child’s school project. Where do you turn?
At www.PaperModelsInc.com, you can download a pdf and a complete history into your home, print it from an ordinary printer on ordinary paper, at 8:30 on a Sunday night, all for under $10. For anyone who has had school aged children, you will understand why Sunday night is so important. None of this prepared me for Saturday.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to work with The American Cancer Society. The ACS has a strong presence; actually they have their own island headquarters in Second Life. For those who have never experienced Second Life, it’s something you must try. You really haven’t experienced the Internet or completely understand where the Internet is going until you’ve walk around the virtual environment of Second Life (SL), www.SeconfLife.com.
Second Life is similar to playing a video game, on-line. You can sign-up and participate for free, but to really experience the far-reaching implications of this virtual world, you will need to set up an account. It’s inexpensive, about $6 per month and easy to do. I’ll ask you to experience SL for yourself to save space here and I’m sure that SL will be the subject of many of my future blogs. When you go to Second Life, look me up, my name is Lon Sands.
I had the opportunity to participate in the ACS’ Island Dedication Ceremony and on-going events on Sunday. The dedication ceremony started with some very heart-felt opening speeches & beautiful music, trees swaying in the breeze, the birds were singing, and it all ended in a fireworks spectacular. What comes next is what made this particular day so unusual.
The place where you are transported on ACS Island is a plaza on the shore of an ocean and in front of their virtual, American Cancer Society Second Life Headquarters. In a park in the very front of their building stands a grand old tree that looks to be more than 200 years old. On and around that tree are what appears to be fireflies that flicker and fly around the tree. These represent the souls of loved ones we’ve lost to cancer. It is a beautiful representation of a virtual tree in a virtual world, on the virtual grounds of an actual real life organization, or as a Second Lifers calls it, First Life. We agreed to recreate that virtual tree, The American Cancer Society, Memory Tree, as one of our paper models to distribute all of the participants at Sunday’s Dedication Ceremony.
Many of our paper model designers are in Russia. Doing business in cyberspace, allows my company to be based in San Diego, California, while I live in Gilbert, Arizona, and our designers are in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and throughout the Ukraine. To develop our models, I specify the model we need, the designers then use the Internet to research that object or landmark, then use Auto-CAD to develop the model. Once complete they upload it to a development server, and send me an email that it’s there. We test it and after a series of comments, approve and place into the paper models store.
I’ve never actually met any of my developers; I don’t actually have an office, communications is done through email and money wire transfers through Western Union, I have no employees, no inventory, no shipping, and no products. It’s fully automated from the time the client enters the store, selects a product, goes to check out, pays for it, and the revenue gets deposited into a bank account. It’s 100% Virtual.. Electronic… Retailing.
With this particular paper model the development was a rush. We only had four days to develop the ACS Memory Tree from concept to finished deliverable product. The heat was on. The Russian developer took on the challenge and began designing the Memory Tree in his Auto-Cad and was sending me the photo updates when… Cox Communications, my I.S.P. (Internet Service Provider), when down. The day before the models were needed to be finalized and uploaded to our server for distribution at the ACS Event, my Internet went down. After nearly a half dozen telephone calls to Cox Tech Support, it was past 5:00 PM, Saturday My window of opportunity slammed shut! It wouldn’t be until Monday now before I could get their help. Monday was far to late. I needed access to the files uploaded by the designer in the Ukraine, which he uploaded to the San Diego server, so I can downloaded them to my Mac in Gilbert. And, I needed it now!
I called my partner in the paper model company, on his cell phone. This was a bit of a problem as he was currently traveling outside of the U.S. in Indonesia. I needed his help gaining access to the distribution server if and when I ever got access to the ACS Memory Tree files. This was getting complicated and I was out of time.
After sitting down and analyzing the resources I had at my disposal and the limitations I was face with, I came up with the following plan. When I thought about my plan before implementation, I realize that it sounded like something out of the Borne Identity, The Matrix, or maybe even James Bond. By now it was past 8:00 PM, dark and time was up. I grabbed my car keys and laptop and headed out into the night.
With my Mac laptop turned on and sitting on the console of my SUV, I drove slowly through neighborhood, carefully watching the WiFi signal bands on the top right of my menu bar. Finally, viola, full bars! I quietly pull my car into one of my neighbor’s driveway, put my car in park, switched on the interior lights, and went to work. This particular neighbor was out of town for the weekend and would never worry about a running vehicle parked in his driveway this late at night.
I had read and even taught about “hackers” hacking into people’s wireless from outside their homes only to send a flood of as many as 25,000,000 illegal SPAM email messages. I taught it, but I have never actually hacked into someone else’s wireless from the street. In less than a minute… I WAS IN. I now had complete access to the Internet from my car!
Using my Yahoo email account, I downloaded all of my emails from my home account, which gave me access to the email that my partner had sent to me earlier that day from Indonesia, which contained the log-in information for distribution server in San Diego. I needed this to be able to upload the completed model pdf for later distribution. Bingo! Got it! There it was!
The next step was to access the I.P address of the development server where the completed model was stored by the Russian designer earlier that day using only FireFox and an I.P. address. Again, Bingo! There it was! Downloading Files!
All the while I was engaged in this espionage from my neighbor’s driveway, I was carefully watching for heads of the Gilbert police. Not because I was doing anything illegal, but I’m sure there were at least a half dozen neighbors that by now were very curious why there was a car in that driveway while no one was home, with the motor running, and the interior lights on, at that time of night.
O.K. I got all of the files downloaded to my laptop! Image jpg’s, pdf, dfx (CAD files). I go them all! But now, could I gain access to the distribution sever with the information that came from my partner in Indonesia? Open Server, type in the ftp address… Now the username… the password… Bingo, again! I’m in! Select files, uploading… Got it! They’re on the server!
Now, the last item I had was to let my contact from the ACS know that the finished files were uploaded and ready for tomorrow’s event and to send him backup copies. It was back to my Yahoo email, open my Palm Pilot to grab his email address, got it, Attach Files of the images and pdf, got it! Let’s hit send and keep my fingers crossed… “Email Sent Successfully”! Done! I did it!
I then quickly shut down the Mac laptop, set it on the passenger seat, put my car in reverse, backed out of the driveway, and headed home with success and this story. Now let’s recap what just took place.
My Russian designer in the Ukraine, completed the model in Russia, and uploaded it to my development server in San Diego, and sent me an email that it was complete to my home in Gilbert, Arizona. Because I didn’t have Internet access, I called my partner in Indonesia on his cell phone asking him to set up access to the distribution server in San Diego for me to upload the files. He sent me an email from Indonesia to Gilbert, which I still can’t get. I then cruised the neighborhood with a wireless enabled Mac Laptop until I find a signal, I hacked in, and I’m connected again. I used Yahoo to download all of my emails in the driveway, got the access code and the completed Russian files. Uploaded the files to the distribution server in San Diego from the driveway in Gilbert with the files from Russia the access information from Indonesia. I uploaded the a 3D virtual model file of the virtual object (The Memory Tree), in the virtual world Second Life, to be given out to virtual representations of actual people, at a virtual event, to be download into the actual world (First Life), to be printed and built up into an actual real world 3D paper model of the virtual Memory Tree.
Talk about Social Media! We truly are citizens of cyberspace.
The Dedication Event for the American Cancer Society went beautifully with a record turn out of virtual citizens of doctors, caregivers, ACS volunteers, survivors, and those currently fighting cancer.If you would like your own, American Cancer Society Memory Tree Paper Model, please visit my link at:
Or go to the American Cancer Society Headquarters in Second Life, enter the main building, and see the download display on the right wall.
The ACS Memory Tree Paper Model is free, but if you feel as emotionally moved about this as I do, visit the American Cancer Society in Second Life at:
“American Cancer Society 143, 37, 23″
or you can find them on the web in First Life at:
and please make a donation that will save the lives of our loved ones and possibly even you and me.