You're slowly sinking under the water's surface, eyes open, watching the aqueous mirrored ceiling slip further and further away. Citrus-colored angel fish flit to your left and sea anemones cast out spindly appendages to your right. A marlin with a halo-like glow swishes past, grazing your skin with its slippery scales. But then the boss knocks on your cubicle wall and asks you for those TPS reports that were due half an hour ago.
TheBlu is an online collaborative, digital animation project that brings an ever-changing ocean to your computer. The multi-level virtual world merges social networking, web design, virtual goods, and even a little online gaming. Its official launch date is slated for tomorrow.
Cultist recently took a pre-launch dive into the virtual ocean guided by Neville Spiteri
, founder of TheBlu and WemoMedia
. Upon entry, we were surrounded by a number of different species of fish. After we clicked on a blue and yellow one, a small box popped up disclosing its name and a brief description, along with its creator's avatar, name, and location. "The Blue Ringed Angelfish is very territorial and fights aggressively with other angelfish," we learned. Hugo, a young Asian guy from L.A., was the artist.
Clicking Hugo's fish also allowed us to swim with it, darting quickly around rocks and coral, then slowing down to drift a while, eventually swirling playfully around other fish.
A speedy, sharp-nosed marlin eluded us several times. We chased it by clicking on each of the seven different available camera views. When we caught it, we found it was designed by an environment and texture artist named knay3d, also from L.A.
We decided to drift to another continent, clicking an icon of a globe and darting fish to find destinations "Australia: sandy bottom;" "Asia: open water;" and "Europe: the cliff." Each new world brought new fish and new flora, allowing the user to meet new artists from all over the world and play with their creations.
Fish with strange glowing auras swam by. We clicked them to find they were part of a set we could "collect." Like kids playing tag, we got a silly sense of exhilaration as our eyes scoured the screen for more glowing creatures to add to our collection. When we tagged all five, there was a serene swimming slideshow and a new set of fish to find.
This aqueous digital underworld can reel the user in deeper and deeper, with the ability to create musical playlists and a virtual store where you can buy multiples of your favorite fish or plants to populate your sea world as you prefer.
The coolest part? The artists behind your favorite animated creatures get paid for your purchases, making TheBlu a globally accessible medium for supporting independent artists (another portion of the proceeds goes toward saving our oceans). And any digital designer can participate in and profit from TheBlu. Some design schools have already signed on to use it as a platform for helping their students "dive in" to practical use of their newly acquired animation skills.
The site officially launches on Tuesday, October 18. To check it out firsthand, or to become a digital art "maker," visit theblu.com