Project Sansar Clouds, Discovery And It’s Not Second Life 2.0

Project Sansar Concept Art

Project Sansar is making the news again and we learn a little bit more each time an article is published. A couple of articles I’ve read today add some more context, it’s not earth shattering news but it adds a little bit more.

The first article is by Edward C. Baig over at USA Today and comes with an accompanying video : Second Life’s creators try for a third — in virtual reality. The part I find interesting in this article is in terms of discovery. That means how people will be able to find Project Sansar experiences and although this has been mentioned before, the way it is described in this article really hits home :

Linden Lab’s design aims to give Sansar creators more power to attract an audience to their experiences than they do in Second Life, where visitors may stumble upon the places by chance. Some people never find such places and don’t stick around.

If you search Google for “I want to learn French” you might find in the search results a virtual reality experience in Sansar where you can actually “go to virtual places in France, meet French people and have French dialogue at the boulangerie,” Altberg says.

The key difference there being that unlike Second Life, you should be able to discover Project Sansar experiences via the web. I know you can search Second Life from the web now, but the Project Sansar approach sounds more organic in terms of discovery.

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The Future Of Virtual Reality Must Be Social

For far too long, Virtual Worlds have been lumped into the gaming category, when they are more than games. There are games within Virtual Worlds, but Virtual Worlds are not just games.

The user generated content aspect and potential of Virtual Worlds has also for far too long, been overlooked or treated with contempt. However as the Virtual Reality hype cycle keeps gaining traction, people are finally starting to talk about more than games.

This brings me on to two articles I’ve been reading today, one about a platform called ROBLOX, which I will confess I’d never heard of before but I’m glad that I now have and the other is about AltspaceVR, which I have heard about before and I’m pleased to see that AltspaceVR is making interesting strides. There are differences with the approaches of these platforms, but they both seem to agree that the future is social.

Before I highlight the article on ROBLOX, it’s probably a good idea to mention what ROBLOX is, so I’ll quote their blurb :

ROBLOX is the best place to Imagine with Friends™. With the largest user-generated online gaming platform, and over 15 million games created by users, ROBLOX is the #1 gaming site for kids and teens (comScore). Every day, virtual explorers come to ROBLOX to create adventures, play games, role play, and learn with their friends in a family-friendly, immersive, 3D environment.

ROBLOX founder, co-created and CEO, David Baszucki, has posted an article on The Huffington Post : Why Co-Experience Is the Ultimate Killer App for Virtual Reality. David is an enthusiast, early on he talks about The Metaverse, Snow Crash and more. David talks about how storytelling has evolved and continues to evolve.

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Road To VR On Open Versus Closed Metaverse And An Interview With Ebbe Altberg

Over at Road To VR there’s a post up by Kent Bye : Open vs Closed Metaverse: Project Sansar & The New Experiential Age. This is a dual media post as it contains text and an accompanying Podcast where Kent speaks to Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg. The interview took place at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality (SVVR) Conference in April this year.

The text isn’t a rehash of the interview with Ebbe Altberg, it explores many deep issues and concerns regarding Virtual Reality, information and whether walled gardens or open systems are the best approach. There’s some fascinating discussion material here. For example when it comes to the trade in the Information Age between users and providers, Kent writes :

One of the primary business models of The Information Age has been that information is freely available, and that it’s supported by ads. There’s an explicit agreement that authenticated users are volunteering to be tracked and surveilled by companies in exchange for all of this free content and social connections that they are enabling.

There’s a lot of discussion here, I am not a fan of the way data is shared and collected by many platforms, but I accept that in exchange for access, I need to give up some information about myself. This is an exchange, it’s not a free lunch.

Kent goes further and talks about how with VR we can embrace the Experiential Age, which has a different trade :

While there’s a level of consent for data that we are explicitly sharing on websites within the context of the Information Age, the Experiential Age is going to be tracking behavioral and biometric data that is a lot more unconscious but yet still revealing. Virtual Reality has the capability to gather an enormous amount of biometric data ranging from our heart rate data, our emotional states, identifiable body language cues extrapolated from head and hand tracking, and eventually our eye-tracked “attention” for what we’re looking at and getting impressed by.

While we have had no real pause with sharing abstracted information with companies, then perhaps we will be more cautious about what type of unconscious medical data from our bodies that we’re willing to share with companies. That means that Facebook, Google, or Linden Lab could start to save vast repositories of personal biometric data that could become a target for governments or hackers.

This is meaty stuff and deserves to be read in full at Kent’s article.

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Lab Chat 3 – Inara Has Posted The Transcript and Audio So Let The Discussion Commence

Lab Chat 6th May 2016

Inara Pey has posted the transcript and audio from the most recent edition of Lab Chat, held live in Second Life on Friday May 6th. I’m not going to go into all the details, there’s plenty of information in Inara’s post.

Inara’s post is split neatly into sections so that you can listen and read the parts you find most relevant and for a lot of Second Life users, that’s going to mean the parts about Second Life. There’s plenty there and no signs of Linden Lab stopping work on Second Life.

For example they talk about continuing to work on improving inventory robustness. There’s also talk of fixing existing issues and sometimes that means updating technical aspects of Second Life, as Oz Linden explains :

We’re continuing to dig very hard to try to fix existing problems; one of the things that’s going to be coming out over the next few weeks is some changes to the protocols between the viewer and the back-end inventory system. We’ll be removing support, over the next couple of months, for some of the older, more fragile mechanisms, and making sure that everything is beginning to transition to using the newer and more robust methods, so that we can continue to make the whole system more reliable.

These are the sort of non headline grabbing improvements that help everyone to enjoy a better Second Life experience, so on a personal level, I like reading about things like this.

There is also talk of making improvements on the animation and sound file front. In answer to a question about the length of sound files in Second Life, Oz said :

Actually, this is something we’ve recently been talking about. We’re going to have to make some changes to how sound files are delivered to the viewer, which incidentally will make the download faster and more predictably [via the Lab’s CDN services], and once we’ve done that, then we can make them without and adverse impact.

So, yes, we’re definitely looking at this. I can’t pin it down to exactly how big a difference we’ll make, but we’re going to do something.

We’re also going to allow larger animation files to accommodate Bento. We’ve got more bones to animate, so we want to give people a little more room to do that with. But again, that’s part of the same change to how things are delivered to the viewer before we make them any bigger, otherwise we’ll just be adding lag.

So there are two examples of Linden Lab continuing to develop and improve Second Life. There’s a lot more in Inara’s post including discussion of the new Grandfathered tier offer, having more estate managers (generally for large events), group reports of abuse and a hell of a lot more, really, read or listen to this.

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Applications Now Open For Creator Preview Of Project Sansar

Project Sansar Concept Art

Linden Lab have today announced that applications are now open for creator preview of Project Sansar. The first question on many people’s lips is going to be “What the hell is a creator preview?” The answer, it seems, is pretty straight forward, as the press release informs us :

SAN FRANCISCO – April 26, 2016 – Linden Lab®, the creators of Second Life®, today announced that applications have opened for an upcoming “Creator Preview” for Project SansarTM, the new platform for user-created social VR experiences. Interested 3D content creators can now apply at and accepted applicants will begin to receive invitations later this summer.

So this is a preview for 3D content creators. The application form is pretty brief and asks you questions such as What type of content would you like to create in Project Sansar? Which tool(s) do you use to create content? Which headset(s) will you have access to, if any? There’s nothing overly intrusive in there.

If you’re wondering why Linden Lab are asking questions such as this, then there are clues in the press release :

Slated for general availability at the end of 2016, Project Sansar will democratize virtual reality as a creative medium. It will empower people to easily create, share, and ultimately monetize their own interactive social experiences that can be enjoyed in VR with head-mounted displays like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, as well as via PCs and, later, mobile devices. The platform enables professional-level quality and performance with exceptional visual fidelity, 3D audio, and physics simulation, while also solving the complex engineering challenges that have previously limited creating and publishing social VR experiences to just sophisticated professionals.

There’s nothing earth shattering or surprising there, we knew that Project Sansar was being built with VR headsets in mind. The press release also includes some not too revealing, but still interesting, quotes from Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab CEO.

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