Sansar Meetups Are A Valuable Experience

Sansar Meetup Group Pic Pro

Inara Pey has an excellent blog post regarding a couple of meetings between Bjorn Linden (Bjorn Laurin, Linden Lab’s Vice President of Product), Widely Linden (head of Product for Sansar), Pete Linden (aka Peter Gray, aka Gray of the Lab from San Fan Francisco, Linden Lab’s Director of Global Communications),  Xiola Linden (Second Life Community Team Manager) and users of Second Life and Sansar.

The post is really important in terms of where Sansar is at this point in its development, where it’s going, why it’s called creator beta at the moment, why Linden Lab built their own engine and much more, it’s a really good read.

Meanwhile I’ve been attending meetups in Sansar, taking no notes, but making observations and I’ve found these meetups very beneficial in terms of enjoying Sansar and getting an idea about what I might like to do with Sansar.

Sansar Jenn Speaks

The meetups are largely voice based but conversations do take place in text too. This helps people find the text chat module and interact with each other, add friends, look at the features available and share knowledge of the platform.

I’ve recently reported how impressed I was with the mouth movements inside Sansar when avatars talk due to the integration of Speech Graphics technology within Sansar. Inara’s post touches upon this in a couple of important areas, firstly in terms of how detailed the Sansar avatar is :

The Sansar avatars are actually extremely, extremely advanced. I would actually go so far [as to say] they are among the most advanced avatars there is today, on any platform. Just the female avatar in Sansar has over 125 bones in the face, to make it work as we want it, to make it look realistic. That’s more than actually humans have.

I want you to build your own avatars. for now that technology we put in is so new, no-one else is using it, we’ll be able to use it for a long time, to make it look realistic, and that’s part of it. When they talk normally it’s going to look better as well, it’s going to look better, in any language, it doesn’t matter. It may Chinese, could be English, could be Swedish, could be Portuguese, Spanish. It’s going to look good. We’ve spent a lot of time on that, and I’m super excited about these small things that make it immersive, that make us want to spend more time in there.

I certainly agree on the point regarding this being a small point that makes Sansar immersive because I found this small detail to be extremely engaging but there’s an added side of this too when it comes not just to people using avatars, but also in terms of NPC’s, inclusiveness :

So you can imagine scenarios whereby you have an NPC [non-player character] that has a whole dialogue embedded within it that the user’s interacting with, and you’re not only getting a reasonably synthesised voice, but you also have the facial animations that go with it automatically – and they look convincing. So you have facial animation that’s at a quality that a lip reader probably could get information from it. And that’s something that we have right now in Sansar that is not available in other platforms; not just yet, anyhow.

The reason that this came to my attention though was because I was at a meetup in Sansar and noticed this technology at work due to interactions with other avatars.

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Vimmershavn A Dystopian Look Inside Second Life

Binemust

This weeks Highlights From The Second Life Destination Guide has many interesting locations, history, poetry, roleplaying, carnivals and more but my eye was attracted to Vimmershavn.

Ruined Hotel

The blurb tells us :

Vimmershavn is a walled-in city where life seems to have vanished…but, of course, it hasn’t. If you look closely, you will find pockets of hope and life even within the city.

The reason life seems to have vanished is because the area has been struck by a deadly outbreak and the remaining city is in ruins, but there is life there.

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Getting Social In Sansar With The Aid Of Speech Graphics

Ryan Schultz in VR

Last night I attended a Sansar meetup and a few things caught my attention. Obviously you can do social in Sansar, you don’t need a VR headset to get involved in a conversation, indeed with the text chat app you don’t need a headset of any sort, although the conversation was largely in voice and a voice headset definitely helps.

Some of the avatars moved, their arms would move when they spoke and I know at least one such avatar was wearing a VR headset but what took me more by surprise was the mouth movements and facial expressions of some of the avatars. At first I thought this was a feature of a VR headset but then one of the avatars mentioned that she was looking forward to getting a VR headset, but didn’t yet have one.

Now the facial expressions and mouth movement of this avatar had most caught my attention because at one time I’d convinced myself I could lip read her words.

A tweet later from Stanford VR explained to me what was likely to have been happening, Speech Graphics voice driven facial animations are apparently at work in Sansar, and if that’s true, they work bloody well.

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High Fidelity Jives With HTC Vives

JimJamz Studio High Fidelity

High Fidelity continues to demonstrate cutting edge technology with a smile on its face and in this case we get news via a press release – High Fidelity announces integration of HTC Vive Trackers for full-body motion capture :

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 3, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Today, High Fidelity unveils a new integration between HTC’s Vive Tracker and High Fidelity’s virtual reality platform, enabling full-body motion capture for real-time, social VR experiences.

The accompanying video (which I will embed at the end of this post) shows High Fidelity users enjoying dancing, yoga, basketball, table tennis and more.

The video also features a very enthusiastic looking Robert Scoble enjoying himself, which is good to see.

Now to embrace motion capture the video suggests that people need a headset, two hand controllers and four HTC Vive Trackers which are positioned on the feet, hips and chest. The video demonstrates this well.

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Sansar – A Set Of Different Virtual Experiences

Journey To Earth

Linden Lab’s Sansar entered creator beta this week and has been met with a mixed reception, which is to be perfectly honest what I’d expect.

Over at Forbes, Charlie Fink has published an article, Sansar Ignites VR Content Boom :

I got an early peek at Sansar from Bjorn Laurin, VP of Sansar, and Jason Gholston, Product Director, on June 20 and was amazed by what I saw. The photo realism, the avatars and creation tools, the spectacular landscapes, the Sansar store, aren’t totally new to VR, but they are brought together in a simple, intuitive way to create a seamless continuous experience. What’s new is now a writer with limited technology skills can make a world in Sansar and open it to the public, even charge a fee.

I think it’s fair to say Charlie is impressed by what he sees and the potential for the platform going forward.

Rocket

Second Life and virtual world explorers have been a bit more critical, although it should be pointed out that some well known Second Life content creators are very much embracing Sansar.

Virtual World explorer, writer and retired time traveller, Danko Whitfield sums up very well some of the different perceptions and why they may be happening :

What did I think? I dunno. If this was my very first virtual world experience, I think I’d be jazzed and would probably still be logged in now. But since I’m already experienced in virtual worlds, it’s left me with the same feeling I’ve had after looking inside at a new restaurant and checking the menu: Okay, looks nice. Maybe I’ll come back sometime.

I’ve been in other virtual world environments in their early days, Cloud Party and High Fidelity spring to mind and there’s a definite difference in the early days  between creators wanting to get something to work and people who visit but are looking for exploration and socialising.

Sansar is still labelled as being in Creator Beta, but people’s expectations have been raised by the beta going public and there being no restrictions on whether people are creators or not, some people will be disappointed, some people will be delighted. I’m enjoying my exploration, I haven’t even dabbled with creation yet, although I almost certainly will.

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