Release The Kraken!

Red Door

Virtual reality experiences are coming slowly and seem to be getting a tad more affordable. Oculus are running a Summer of Rift promotion, where you can get an Oculus Rift + touch controller for around £399.00 in the UK, or around $399.00 in North America. That’s quite a significant drop on previous pricing.

High Fidelity is progressing in a way that demonstrates some very impressive potential for VR experiences, for example by partnering with Limitless to help users create NPC’s in High Fidelity.

Linden Lab’s Sansar is still in creator preview mode but we are hearing more about what is being developed, a recent article by Charlie Fink over at Forbes looked at art in VR –  Artists Show Potential Of VR :

Virtual Reality galleries within the gallery were the subject of several exhibits. Notably, The Apollo Museum and the Harold Lloyd Stereoscopic Museum, were both built using Linden Labs new VR platform, Sansar. which is still in closed beta. Linden created and operates the insanely profitable 3D social world Second Life. Bjorn Laurin, VP of Linden Labs, told me Sansar will be the WordPress of VR, a simple world construction tool and platform that anyone can use to create their own VR world.

Ikinema recently announced – Linden Lab Integrates IKinema Tech for Natural Avatar Movements in Sansar :

IKINEMA, the leader in real-time inverse kinematics, today announces that Linden Lab has harnessed IKinema technology to bring full-body IK to SansarTM, the new platform for user-created social VR experiences.

Positive developments on different platforms and on top of that, a content creator who is pretty well known in Second Life circles has also been talking about Sansar.

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Sansar Will Be Free To Access But Will Have Subscription Options

Sansar Screenshot 1

Cecilia D’Anastasio’s recent article for Kotaku regarding Linden Lab’s Sansar has certainly started some heated discussions and one point of major discussion has been regarding subscription pricing. Cecilia wrote :

Right now, only 2,000 select virtual artists, builders and designers have access to Sansar, but later this summer, Sansar will open its doors to everybody with its open beta. Users may pay a small subscription for access.

Hamlet Au over at New World Notes covered Cecilia’s post : Sansar May Launch With “Small Subscription” Fee, Kotaku Reports. with Hamlet pondering whether this would be a subscription model similar to that used by World of Warcraft.

The comments on the New World Notes article are lively, but into the fray stepped Gray of The Lab from San Francisco, AKA Peter Gray, senior director of global communications for Linden Lab.

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Sansar, Sustainability and Suspicion

A couple of unrelated articles about virtual worlds have caught my attention. One is by Cecilia D’Anastasio for Kotaku : Hands-On With Sansar, The New Second Life.

The second is regarding a greener future by Julia Rosen for Nature, International weekly journal of science : Sustainability: A greener culture.

Whereas the articles are unrelated, I’m going to link them because the latter article covers a subject that Sansar could help with.

First Cecilia D’Anastasio’s article for Kotaku, this as the headline suggests, takes a hands on look at Linden Lab’s Sansar and has some very positive commentary about the platform :

my favorite, an Egyptian tomb. In real-life, this tomb is only accessible with permission from Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. The level of detail a Lidar-scanned image of it betrayed in Sansar was astounding.

Also impressive were Gholston’s facial movements as we toured around the world. Sansar is developing a new facial recognition software that contorts avatars’ mouths into shapes it knows people’s faces make when they pronounce certain sounds. It’s like vocaloid software, but it blends into the whole Sansar caprice of “immersion,” an empty buzzword that took on sudden meaning inside Sansar today.

This exemplifies how immersive Sansar and other Virtual World / Virtual Reality ventures will get. Whether this makes them more popular remains to be seen because beyond superb technology you will also need communities.

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Ebbe Altberg Talks to The Irish Times About Second Life and Sansar

Outside Blarney Stone

Marie Boran of The Irish Times has been talking to Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg about Sansar and, inevitably, that also means talking of Second Life too.

The article is entitled Virtual reality is giving Second Life a second lease of life and although it starts off with some negative commentary around Second Life, the article actually goes on to make some positive points about Second Life.

The article also points out that Linden Lab do not consider Sansar to be a replacement for Second Life :

The idea is not to replace Second Life or even phase it out, says Altberg, who describes it as “a very healthy virtual world that will be very healthy for a long time to come”. It is celebrating its 14th birthday this summer and continues to have a dedicated team continually improving content and interaction experiences.

An interesting point is made regarding Second Life in terms of it not being easy to find what to do unless you’re inside Second Life and have familiarised yourself with the platform. Sansar will take a different approach, but let’s not forget that Second Life has also started to take a different approach, when Linden Lab announced that places pages are available to all land owners, the blog post also mentioned :

Many of these pages will also soon be discoverable via popular search engines, such as Google. This means that more people than ever have the potential to learn about your Second Life place!

Sansar sounds as if it will start with the aim of being more easily discoverable for people.

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Jem Alexander Brings Some Reality To Virtual Reality Discussion

Jem Alexander over at Develop has published a two part look at Virtual Reality, where we are now and where we go next. These posts are excellent in terms of the reality they bring to the discussion of virtual reality. Part 2 also features a few quotes from Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, I’ll come to that later.

Part 1 : VR Check-In Where are we now focuses on developers. The article starts by pointing out that the hype cycle has cooled somewhat, although developers are still very excited, we’re not there yet and it’s a slow ride.

Part of the issue is that there are different headsets and hardware requirements, this is a challenge, but not a showstopper for developers. An arguably larger issue is that hardware remains expensive and then there’s the issue of room space.

Lukas Roper, a freelance games developer seems to think the choice of hardware is good as it will improve the quality of VR experiences, but he is also quoted as saying :

“However, as much as engine developers and headset manufacturers present supporting a headset as a simple task, it isn’t, and for each platform you support, you have separate issues to consider.”

Eventually we will need standards regarding hardware so that developers and users can get similar experiences, but early competition to set those standards can definitely be good.

In terms of room space, developers seem to be keen on the idea of seated and room scale experiences, they will of course be different experiences and this is summed up well by Owen O’Brien, CCP Newcastle’s Executive Producer on EVE: Valkyrie when he says :

“I don’t think large audience size and bespoke VR experience have to be mutually exclusive. Not everyone has enough space for room scale of course, but equally you can create a bespoke VR experience that is seated. It totally depends on the market you are going after. At CCP we are pushing forward on both fronts, with EVE: Valkyrie being the seated experience and Sparc our standing experience.“

I agree and a one size fits all solution would be limiting for VR.

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