Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Second Life: Belated Update!

Hello again,

This will be a shorter update than the last few weeks, mostly because the SL team is hard at work. Our iGEM season ends alarmingly soon, on the 21st of August, so we're in crunch mode now to get the sim polished and ready for public consumption.

I will tell you what I've been up to toward the end of last week and the beginning of this one: the Biobrick builder (aka the Biobricker). This is one of the most important features of the Biobrick Simulator in SL, because it turns the very static devices seen in the video last week into plastic and redesignable systems. The interface for the Biobricker is finished, which enables the user to piece various promoters, coding sequences, terminators, and other Biobrick parts together. You can build a device of any length, insert and delete parts anywhere in the Biobrick too. The system isn't only critical for the final package, it will be very useful for testing the other new features that are yet to come. Clicking around the interface already feels nice and responsive, and very powerful!

The system is designed to be expandable, so while the initial selection of parts will be small it will be easy for myself or another intrepid SL coder to add additional elements. Did I mention that all of the components we're designing this summer will be made available for all to use in Second Life? We saw no point in restricting the use of the work we've done this summer, and I'd love to see what people can come up with.

The interface was finished up last week, but I have just finished the Linden Scripting Language code (that's Second Life's built in scripting language) to accomplish the construction of these Biobricks in world today. The Biobricker needs so pass a few more trace-throughs and a lot of testing before I certify this part of the project complete though.

A simplified view of what's going on behind the scenes, is that after using the Biobricker's interface to design the device you want, the interface object directs the assembly of a number of Biobrick objects in the real world. It creates each Biobrick part, gives it a name and position within the completed device, and orders all the DNA to link together into the final device. Guaranteeing that each part gets the information it needs is harder than it sounds though, especially given the nature of communications in Second Life! It's impossible to guarantee messages will arrive in the order they were sent, or that they will even arrive at all, so the construction system has a lot of fail-safes to ensure that your device comes out right every time.

That's all for this week, stay tuned!

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