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.

Maxwell Graf of Rustica fame has been filmed talking about Sansar :

I will admit at this point that I’m a tad biased because Maxwell’s work consists of a lot of products that can be used in roleplay or even RPG’s, there’s also talk of a Kraken! More importantly though we get an idea of the sort of scale that could be possible within Sansar and it’s very impressive.

There are a couple of other creator preview videos which give some insight into what can be done in Sansar and I’ll embed them here as they are short but worth a look. The first is from a content creator called Ria, whose work I am unfortunately not familiar with.

The other features Loz Hyde, whose work I am familiar with from his Meshworx brand in Second Life.

So we are seeing a lot of good progress, but (and it’s a pretty big but) I still feel we’re a fair way off from seeing VR go mainstream. The content isn’t really there yet in large enough numbers and the price to get the required specs is still at the high end of the market, despite indicators from the likes of Oculus that they could come down.

The minimum Windows specs for Oculus Rift are :

  • Graphics card – NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti/AMD Radeon RX 470 or greater
  • Alternative graphics card – NVIDIA GTX 960/AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater
  • CPU – Intel i3-6100/AMD Ryzen 3 1200, FX4350 or greater
  • Memory – 8 GB+ RAM
  • Video Output – Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
  • USB ports – 1 x USB 3.0 port plus 2 x USB 2.0 ports
  • OS – Windows 8.1 or newer

The minimum Windows specs for High Fidelity are :

  • Graphics card – NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equiv. or greater
  • CPU – Intel i7-4700 equivalent or greater
  • Memory – 8GB+ RAM
  • OS – Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer

These specs aren’t insurmountable and as I said earlier, these sort of specs are getting more affordable but they do lean towards the gaming market, which isn’t where a lot of virtual world users currently sit with their hardware.

People getting into VR are not going to want to spend a hefty sum getting their hardware VR ready only to find out it’s behind the curve in six to twelve months. This is a real challenge because VR social experiences are going to need people.

Rachel Metz over at MIT Technology Review recently wrote an article entitled Virtual Reality’s Missing Element: Other People :

Unlike most people, I have a virtual-reality headset. I have exactly one friend who also has one. So most of the time I spend in VR, I’m all by myself. I can almost hear the digital tumbleweeds rolling by.

Rachel also wrote :

Although market researcher IDC believes 10 million virtual-reality headsets shipped last year, that number is tiny compared with, say, the smartphone market, where 1.5 billion handsets were shipped in 2016. And I think the technology will struggle to snag more users—and thus to come down in price from at least $800 for a headset and VR-ready PC—unless it becomes more social.

These are really important points, the social aspect of virtual worlds is oft ridiculed or deemed unimportant, but as Second Life has proven, despite being a platform that many people think is no longer around, it has actually just celebrated its thirteenth birthday and that’s because, there are people in Second Life.

I’m not negative on VR, I am wildly excited by it, but I temper that excitement by not expecting VR to start to really take off for another eighteen months at least because there are still many challenges regarding content, price and people, these issues all need to converge for VR to even start gaining the sort of popularity it will need to thrive.

That means that I expect Second Life to have a very happy and and strong 15th, 16th and even 17th birthday because people will still want the sort of experience Second Life offers, even if VR really starts to gain traction.

I am hoping that the VR Kraken gets released, but I don’t expect it to make real waves for a while yet.

2 Replies to “Release The Kraken!”

  1. Maxwell’s video is the first one I’ve seen about Sansar that was interesting. Not interesting enough to make me want to try it but interesting. I still think Sansar is a train wreck and one video is not going to overcome the what has become now years of LL missteps with Sansar.

    1. I haven’t seen Sansar and I know little of LL’s decisions but there has to be a certain amount of caution at this stage because Sansar is also going to be reliant on factors outside their control, VR hardware has not yet achieved agreed standards and new VR headsets are under development from Microsoft.

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