Those of you who follow the Wonderland forum may already be familiar with Tim Wright. Tim is a PhD candidate at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. His committee has recently approved his dissertation topic which involves adding access control mechanisms to Wonderland. In Tim’s guest blog that follows, he has included a link to his dissertation proposal for those of you who would like more details. We are looking forward to tracking the progress of Tim’s project as he starts work in earnest on WonderDAC. His work, which he and his committee have generously decided can be conducted in the Wonderland open source code base, is likely to benefit all Wonderland users in the future. Please give Tim any access control use cases and feature ideas you may have as well as your support as he undertakes this valuable research.

Guest blog contributed by Timothy Wright from University of Notre Dame:

As collaborative virtual environments (CVEs) become more functional and integrated into our computing endeavors, there is an increasing need to protect data and resources available therein.  This need must address not only spatial access (i.e., who can move their avatar where), but also  media access (who can view which images or hear what sounds) and object use/mutability (who can use and change which VR objects).  All of this may succinctly be referred to as privacy and integrity within CVEs, and it forms the basis of research in which I’m involved.

It’s noteworthy that some degree of access control exists within various commercial CVEs–but, this is largely spatial in nature, and is often confusing with a slapped-together feel.  Project Wonderland, however, presents us with a great opportunity to devise coherent, sensible access controls.  Because its life cycle is still in the early stages, we have the chance to design controls into Project Wonderland’s features rather than around them.  Also, its client-server model can be leveraged to provide a trusted platform on which to base our controls (i.e., we can secure the sever endpoint and, thus, have assurances about access controls implemented there).  A peer-to-peer environment, in comparison, has the very difficult problem of securing information that may already reside with all peer nodes.

Recently, I implemented a simple prototype, called WonderDAC, to add basic discretionary access controls to Project Wonderland’s 0.3 release.  Over the next year, I will be working extensively on WonderDAC to evolve it along several lines:  spatial object access, non-spatial object access, audio chat access (this may fit with the cone-of-silence feature planned for the 0.4 release), avatar cloaking (anonymizing an avatar’s image), and access to WonderDAC information through a user interface.  Foremost in my approach is simplicity:  I adapt the essence of traditional, UNIX-style file system controls to the Project Wonderland "cell."  In so doing, a recognizable, easy-to-use access control mechanism may be derived.

These images show a sample world from two perspectives. In this example, the avatar twright is able to see more content than the avatar bench-40 based on the access control settings.

WonderDAC screen shot showing twright's point of view WonderDAC screen shot showing bench-40's point of view


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