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.

This is an important point because Cecilia raises the issue of access to Sansar (and VR in general) in terms of financial and technical barriers and points out that people are at the heart of Second Life’s longevity :

Second Life was a sensation because of the users who flocked there to create.

Technical and financial barriers are going to be a challenge in terms of early adoption, but over time they will become less of an issue as prices come down in real terms and the technology improves.

There’s also the question of what exactly Sansar is, it has been described as the wordpress of VR and yet wordpress provides users with a freedom that Sansar, initially anyway, will not. There are content restrictions on the use of Sansar in its creator preview that do not apply to WordPress. Whereas this makes a large degree of sense the success of Sansar is really going to depend upon how free Linden Lab set it. I am not talking about the price of Sansar here, I’m talking about the freedom for people to create.

Use cases are going to be important for Sansar, we know from Second Life that there are many use cases, art, education, socialising, business, music etc and then there’s a use case that in many ways didn’t get off the ground, although it does actually still happen, I’m talking about conferences.

This brings me to Julia Rosen’s article for Nature, which talks about how we can reduce the amount of flying we do and the article covers virtual worlds for conferencing.

The article mentions technology for conferencing and how it is not quite the same as real meetings :

One obvious solution to this trade-off is virtual meetings, but they have been slow to catch on. Many scientists say that although webinar technology has come a long way, it still can’t provide opportunities for the casual one-on-one interactions that make conferences so valuable.

The article also points out that Second Life has been used for conferencing :

However, Linden Lab in San Francisco, California, which previously developed a virtual conferencing service called Second Life, is preparing to launch a beta version of a platform called Sansar. Users will be able to create custom virtual-reality experiences, including meetings.

A few things stand out here, one is that virtual meetings are not new but the technology hasn’t always enthused people. Another is that more immersive experiences and improved technology may lead to virtual conferences becoming far more popular than they ever have before.

Another major point is in terms of users being able to create virtual meeting spaces that suit their needs and this is where Linden Lab needing to set Sansar free comes into play because people need the freedom to create meeting spaces that are also safe spaces.

There has been a lot of talk of the experience being front and centre of creation with Sansar, which leads me to wonder whether Sansar will actually be a technology that gets deployed rather than one largely contiguous virtual world. A technology that can be deployed has a greater sense of freedom for creators of experiences.

I’m not sure which way Sansar will go, but there is a lot of potential for a VR platform that allows people to conference in an immersive fashion, but that will require the experience to be front and centre, with the technology being much admired but not the product.

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