First new starter avatar revealed!

For a while now, every new user gets to choose from a selection of avatars.
A while ago Ebbe Linden announced that these would be updated soon.
And just now I’ve learned that the first of these starter- or stock avatars has already been revealed… by none other that Ebbe himself!

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Ladies and gentlemen, one of the new starter avatars as worn by our lovely model Ebbe Linden;

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This is interesting news for more than one reason.
Not only is it nice to see more realistic and dare I say it, handsome avatars being given to new users who join SL.
But it is also interesting to note that this avatar is a lot closer to a more realistic scale (aka Prim Scale) than the previous ones.
It seems that the many topics about scale in SL by people as Penny Patton and myself may have gotten trough.
Either way, I think this avatar is a step forward and I can’t wait till the other avatars are announced,

However… there is of course a downside to this.
I think that mesh avatars are harder to customise and finding clothes for them that go with the mesh avatar may be trickier as well.
Especially if you’re new to SL, it can be quite frustrating to discover that the old types of clothing won’t fit and that mesh has issues of its own.
For instance, Ebbe himself took some while to rez properly in my viewer today.
This was of course in an extremely busy area of SL, but still.
I can imagine quite a few confused and frustrated new users who aren’t sure how to deal with mesh avatars.
Having said that, coincidentally ;) Linden Lab just announced that they are going to try and make it easier for people to buy the right clothes for their avatar.

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Ebbe speaks about a variety of subjects

Ebbe Linden (AKA Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab, makers of Second Life) spoke to a crowd of several hundred listeners at the 7th Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference.
Although the topic was of course Education in Second Life, many other questions came up as well.

Snapshot_016It was a bit of a shock when Ebbe walked onto stage completely naked.
Luckily this was not some sort of statement about nudism becoming compulsory in SL, but just a bit of mesh clothing loading lag.
And no, before you ask, I will not put those screenshots online.

It was very nice to see Ebbe inworld (again) and it was clear that most people there were very excited about meeting him.
It also seemed that what he said was welcomed with much enthusiasm.
I think Ebbe managed to make a lot of people excited and positive about the future of SL.

Snapshot_012There was some exciting news, or should I say potentially exciting, as the proof is in the pudding and we can’t judge it yet till things actually start happening.
But if things are going the way Ebbe apparently wants them to go, the future of SL is going to be very interesting indeed!
More and better communication between Lindens and us users, cooperation between SL and High Fidelity, easier exchanges of goods, people and money with other virtual worlds, etc.

I was also very glad to see that his avatar was not gigantic, but a more realistic (prim)scaled one.

Snapshot_021

I’ve tried to catch a few of his answers and share them here with you.
But as I had to do this while the actual talk was going on, and while I sometimes had to just copy/paste things from public chat and the (excellent) transcript, in stead from what I was actually hearing.
So please be critical and make sure you watch the video below to be sure of what Ebbe actually said.

Ebbe on education;

“We’ve made a mistake”, talking about taking away education discount.

On content and ToS;

We do not want to steal or profit from your content.
We’re not trying to lock you in, getting content in and out of SL should be easy.
We don’t want to lock in content. You should be able to export to other environments.
Nothing we are doing technically prevents export. Many get their content out.
maybe it is third party solutions
we are not preventing. Are we making it simple enough from our interface?
there may be few people who do this.
Maybe we need to make that more streamlined, we are not preventing it, but we don’t want it to be easy for others to rip people off.

On what is happening in the industry;

There is industry interest in solving the things we are trying to solve.
It gets more competitive but anyone of us moving the ball forward moves us al forward.
Yahoo’s acquisition was a tech talent acquisition.
I don’t think they want to get into our space
Facebook buying Oculus is excellent.
They see the future we have all been working on.

On new users experience and improvements;

The conversion rate of people staying with SL isn’t great
You have to be determined to make it through on your own.
We need to make this easier for normal consumers to use.
This is a challenge for a small company.
I lean to making it easier to use before focusing on interconnection.
We have a lot of work ahead, but a lot has been done, it’s better than 2 years ago.
There is still a lot to do in subcomponents of SL.
Most are not great.
It needs to go from a minimally appealing product to a product that appeals to hundreds of millions.
I know we can solve this.
My dream is to make this something a huge number of people can enjoy and contribute to, this is just the beginning, there is more to come.
It should be easier to get a nice plot of land with a mesh house.
improve the quality of that experience.
We have discussed how people navigate.

Communication between users and Linden Lab;

We are here. We are willing to listen and dialog. We want to talk about the future. The doors are open again.
We want to know how to make you successful.
I want to learn and listen.
You can reach out to individual Lindens if you think they are interested.
Maybe we can think of a place where we can list interest groups and what they are talking about, so we can hop in.
Like an interest group catalog to know meeting times and formats.
The general communications with you and us had deteriorated before I got here, from what it was years ago.
We want to be more transparent.
We want feedback, to learn from you, to correct things
If the community has things to do, if they want to invite us to participate, today you will find more people who can and are willing to participate.
There was a policy that Linden avatars being inworld, They could always use alts. That policy has been removed.
we had an all hands meeting yesterday, they told me to interact more with users.
That may create formal meeting plans between certain Lindens and interest groups.
As people start to be inworld, with their relevant projects, they will see how their work can improve.
I hope more Lindens will come inworld to interact with users so that can be a more normal comfortable thing.

About the Oculus Rift;

We released a beta viewer compatible with Oculus.
we will have an improved version in a week or so
You can be truly inworld in a realistic way I am glad Facebook bought Oculus.
it shows the market that this isn’t a niche.
It will have broad implications for many people.
We are the ones who have been working on *a* version of a virtual experience
the most advanced to this date.
I trust FaceBook will do the right things to benefit all of us, not just them.
With Oculus we have worked focused on viewing experience.
not yet the user interface
and it becomes harder to interact with SL
We want to explore how to make changes in how you interact with the world.
Without relying on keyboard/mouse
PHilip (rosedale) is doing interesting things and other companies.
We want to work with things that may become mass market.

About current state of SL;

Nobody else has an environment this open and where users take it where they want to take it
The GDP inside SL is hundreds of millions of dollars
we are ready to take it to the next level
nobody else is this far.

On education;

If there are groups not qualified as an education institution by our current rules, they don’t have credentials, maybe we can explore this.

About customers asking for changes;

When they express a need, that’s right.
When they tell us how to meet that need, it’s often wrong.

On Sl’s reputation;

It is unfortunate.
I don’t know how much is self inflicted, or dynamics of the market.
People need to understand the depth and breadth of what SL offers, no single vertical.
Not exclusive to any segment, just like RL you want to allow everybody.
It has as much variety in content as the internet itself.
One good thing, looking back, SL got overhyped too early, some was self inflicted.
Maybe there was a hope that tens of millions would use it
but complexities, it got as big as it got because of how easy or difficult it was to use.
The idea that a concept like this would displace the internet was swollen head thinking.
Our wish and the reality were too far apart.
that is unfortunate, there is a lot of good stuff happening here, not seen outside
We want to correct this.
The market is starting to embrace virtual reality, there is an opportunity to restate our role,we don’t want to over promise but we spend a lot on marketing

On expanding;

We want to make safer high volume transactions
There is a lot of extra eyeballs on this space because of what is happening with bitcoin
what that offering would look like, a virtual currency that goes out of SL, that’s another step
Ultimately, in order for SL to grow, it has to become easier to use.
we can’t go mass market as we are today.

Drax and I asked; what tech from High Fidelity will be used in SL?

I hope a lot!
I hope it will create many advances many can benefit from to move virtual worlds and virtual reality forward.
the more new hardware and interfaces, it moves us all forward.
Philip and I know each other well
Some of us will visit them in a couple of weeks to see demos
how we can help each other
it is early stages
I am transparent with Philip
we have assets that are valuable to them, and I hope we can collaborate
I am interested in the work they are doing with bringing emotion into your avatar experience
look them in the eye
they are working in that area
I want to be sure we provide that level of emotional capability to our avatar

Wow, that was pretty much exactly what we were talking about in The Drax Files Radio Hour!

The last words Ebbe spoke trough the microphone were;

How do I…

I couldn’t help laughing at that, he is still a bit of a noob ;)

Let’s hope this goes a bit towards fixing the disconnect with the educators that have left SL and that LL is working on getting them back.

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Philip Rosedale shows High Fidelity progress

hifi-logoAbout a week ago Philip Rosedale, founder of the virtual world Second Life and High Fidelity, was a guest speaker at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Meetup where he spoke and showed a few very interesting things about his new Virtual Reality project.

The full video can be seen below but I choose to pick a few things and mention them here.

Screenshot_1He demonstrated how he could move his avatar’s face and arms by simply talking to his webcam and using some controllers.
Although a Kinect like device was also viewable on the computer.
It was very impressive, it brought his avatar to live in a whole new way.
But, and I know I sound like a broken record, every time I see someone waving controllers around, I can’t help but thinking to myself, what’s keeping the designers to move on from these silly gadgets to gloves, bracelets, rings, etc.
I know a few people are experimenting with them, but well, they have to hurry up.

I think that for a lot of reasons, being able to use these devices to make the process of getting into a virtual world and the actual qualitative experience of being there fundamentally different is going to take us from the million people Second Life has today to a 1 billion users with something we’re all going to build together.

I agree that communication will be completely different and our bond with avatars will become much stronger than it already is.

This direct communication he was showing was extremely fluent and very natural, something “you just can’t do with anything else”.
Spatial sound is another very exciting thing High Fidelity (can we name it HiFi yet?) has to offer.
It makes voice chat so much less annoying and intrusive but it also adds to the immersion.
Mr Rosedale demonstrated it by having another avatar inworld whisper into his left and then his right ear.
I love that sound is very important to the HiFi team, especially with the coming VR renaissance, it is going to be much more important as part of a VR experience.

According to Mr. Rosedale HiFi has a latency of 100 milliseconds, while these numbers can go up to 500 with mobile phones and even higher with voice over IP services.
The kind of person to person communication HiFi is offering can’t be compared to anything else (except perhaps RL…) and is revolutionary.

The avatars we see in the demo look nice but a bit cartoony.
Of course eventually users will be able to completely customise these avatars but the “anime” characters look like fun and of course they reinforce any facial emotions.
Mr. Rosedale also said that they did try a more realistic version but the “photorealistic faces are scary”.

Screenshot_5He then showed us a nightclub, perhaps the first (public building) in HiFi?
Again the Spatial sound makes a big impression, the music clearly comes from within the club.
In a city like 1920s Berlin this would be amazing, especially when you’re walking around using a VR headset.
You go trough a narrow street and you hear a baby crying from an open window, music coming rom a radio in a shop, a couple fighting from another house, a dog barking, etc.

In the club there are 40 avatars jumping around a bit, probably bots.
Mr. Rosedale explains that all of these could run on separate devices, a test showed that you could run an avatar with just one cell phone.

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Screenshot found on Reddit. http://imgur.com/uenRSyZ

 

You can build any avatar you want… …we’re using full on triangles and textures to build these characters as compared to something like Second Life.

At the moment it seems like they are concentrating a lot on avatar interaction, I think that is a very wise thing to do and something that could definitely be improved in Second Life.Screenshot_8
But from my personal very narrow point of view, I’m hoping (and assuming) that the tools to make large realistic looking cities are going to be worked on soon as well.

Mr. Rosedale did not talk about alternative ways of communication.
It seems that you can decide not to use your camera so your facial expressions are not translated into the virtual world, but there was no mention of other ways to interact with other people.
In Second Life there are many users who for one reason or another don’t want to use voice chat so I wonder how they will fare.

Screenshot_3Prims have been replaced by something he calls ‘Voxels‘, but in a way, they are just boxes he rezzes in VR, so prims.
But in the demonstration he shows how he can build with the sensors, drawing in virtual air, in 3D just by waving his hands around.
Looks good and works good, but of course, I can’t help but think about how I’m going to be able to build my cities with that.
Will there be serious architectural tools as well?
I’m sure there will be.

Because HiFi is using JavaScript, the prims, excuse me, voxels appear to have already some functionalities that we would normally need scripts for in Second Life.
Mr. Rosedale throws voxels all over the place, when he shoots them they vanish, etc.

Screenshot_4He also shows off a statue of David, it looks impressive but still a bit ‘Minecrafty’.
And it didn’t fully load till we got really close.
But I’m nitpicking and of course, this is all still in an Alpha phase.
The statue uses its own server, you could use servers for everything, you could have a city with a server for every single apartment or even each closet.
Making it all run a lot smoother I guess.
The statue was made with “several million of voxels”, I wish we could see how it was made!

I love the idea of building things that could actually be damaged, imagine a car crashing into a house and half the façade falls apart, bricks raining everywhere!

Lag may become a thing of the past when HiFi is going to be able to use people’s computers as their servers.
Machines are already so fast these days that the HiFi team has more power than they need.
But I can’t help wondering how the smooth way HiFi works will start slowing down when I import my infamously laggy 1920s Berlin sim there…

High Fidelity, the business, will make their money providing the service and selling names for avatars and locations.
The club and people have single text names that are unique in the entire virtual world.

Whois gonna own ‘San Francisco’ is going to be as interesting a debate as who is gonna own ‘sanfrancisco.com

I can imagine a lot of early birds snapping up some of the big names and then making a bundle selling them on.
Screenshot_7What would you do if somebody already has your name or a server with the name of the simulation you wanted to build?

Hifi will have its own, new, currency and a fluid economy.
There will be new tools and a marketplace where you can buy and sell things across virtual worlds.
And as mentioned before, it has worked with the Oculus Rift since the very beginning and Mr. Rosedale thinks it will be a visual access point for many.

The Uncanny valley becomes even more uncanny when its you, looking at yourself in the mirror.

Second Life shows that it can be done and Mr. Rosedale thinks the virtual world will become as big as consumer internet is today.

When asked if it will be possible to bring things and avatars from Second Life to High fidelity Philip Rosedale didn’t give a straight answer but did say some rather interesting things;

I don’t think any of us, even those of us here, understand once this all starts to work how large a space, set of interactions, people using it, we’re talking about. I think we’re talking about the same scale as the consumer internet today, eventually…
…Everything in the Google warehouse, everything in Second Life, everything in Turbosquid, will just be sucked up into this expanding network of systems that people are putting online as if a drup of water in an ocean.

He also mentioned identity, he said that it is very important and that just like in real life, it should be your choice what you tell others about yourself.
So walking around with a big sign over your head with your name on it would be weird.
In High Fidelity, you choose what you want to disclose about your RL.

The default choice, I guarantee you that makes virtual worlds really big, is zero, you don’t identify anything at all.

There will be unique user names, Philip couldn’t say when we can start registering these but promised it would be very soon.

As mentioned before, High Fidelity plans to use regular users their computers as servers, on this Philip said;

There’s only 600.000 servers, we estimate, plus or minus, on earth in server farms.
That is all of Rackspace, not counting Google… …there is 600 million machines (laptops an desktops) out there… …Second Life today is about 40.000 Host Islands, that is enormous but think what it would be like if we could have 40 million.
Second Life is so staggeringly large, it boggles the mind, and beautiful, you can’t believe how much is in there.
But what’s it going to be like when it is 2 or 3 orders of magnitude larger than that.
And if we can use everybodies machines togethers in a common network, it can be and it can be really fast.

At the moment it does seem like transporting our Second Life avatars and things to High Fidelity won’t be an option.
Screenshot_12Making the odds of me actually switching very small indeed.
HiFi does look very promising, but I have an entire 1920s city in SL and the idea of having to even pack it up and move it to a new world gives me a headache.
Let alone having to rebuild it from scratch.
I’m not sure I’d survive that.

Having said that, I have to say that this is the first time that I am officially getting excited about HiFi, I am starting to see progress and potential and will be keeping an eye on it even more now.
But I can’t help wondering if Mark Zuckerberg is thinking the same thing…

You can watch the full Philip Rosedale segment of the video here;

show #13: terms, terms, terms….

Jo Yardley:

Our latest Drax files radio hour episode, about ToS, Oculus, copyrights and much much more.

Originally posted on the drax files radio hour [with jo yardley]:

show #13 [art by richard a.goldberg]

show #13 [art by richard a.goldberg]

we are tackling two big challenging things this week: recording the show with our oculi on while trying not to bump into physical objects AND we are discussing the linden lab terms of service.

brace yourself and listen to the full hour before commenting, deal?


and additional reading material as per usual below:

- sl go [sl beauty for mobile & low-end machines] now unlimited use for 9.95 US$ per month

pro tools, google docs & sl go by onlive [on an oooold mac pro!]

pro tools, google docs & sl go by onlive [on an oooold mac pro!]

- jo and her rift review [+ maria korolov says: "the race is on!"]

- should fb buy ll? [according to april 1st & gwyn llewellyn they already have]

linden lab is focused on cutting edge dev!

linden lab is focused on cutting edge dev!

- vitriol against oculus team!

- the guardian on vr

- philip rosedale on identity in the metaverse of the…

View original 168 more words

SLGo will cost $9.95 a month with unlimited usage

SLGo_StillImage_768_432When I first wrote about SLGo, the service that lets you use Second Life on mobile devices but also on old computers at ultra settings, the reactions were very mixed.
In general everyone agreed that the technology was impressive, many of us can’t enjoy SL at ultra settings at all, so it was quite exciting to be able to do that not just on our old computers but also on mobile devices.

But people were unhappy about the fee.
Being Dutch I hate paying for anything, except stroopwafels of course.
During the beta testing that I was a part of, you can read my experiences here, Onlive had set the costs of their service at $2.50 a hour.
But it seems that the people at OnLive have actually listened to our complaints, suggestions and tips because they have lowered the prices dramatically and offered some really good subscription deals.

As Beta users we filled in some surveys and trust me, I filled it in with a Dutch mind; I wanted it for cheap.
Well they actually listened and even cut in half what the average amount was the beta testers said they wanted to pay.

The full press release explains in detail;

It’s been almost a month since we launched the beta of SL Go, our mobile viewer for Second Life, and the response from the SL community has been very positive. Second Life residents have said they love being able to access Second Life in full 3D using Wi-Fi or 4G LTE on a tablet or lightweight laptop. We also know they want a subscription plan with unlimited usage and would like broader international access.

So today, we’re releasing updates that will allow more people to experience SL Go and that offer more choices and flexibility in our pricing.

SL Go updates (effective immediately):

  • Monthly unlimited usage subscription plan for $9.95US/£6.95UK.
    No commitment – cancel anytime.
  • Reduced hourly rates – only $1US/£0.70UK per hour
    (the free 20-minute trial remains in effect).
  • Expanded international support: now 36 countries (listed below).

SL Go is now supported in the following countries:

  • Andorra
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lichtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • San Marino
  • Slovakia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • United
  • Kingdom
  • United
  • States
  • Vatican City

We’re grateful for the opportunity to support the Second Life community, and pleased to be working with such a passionate and creative group. We look forward to further developing SL Go with their feedback and suggestions.

Rick Sanchez, VP Product and Marketing

And check out the interview Drax had with Dennis Harper, senior product manager with SLGo;

Make sure to check the Drax Files episode tomorrow where talk more about this subject.

Late addition;

I asked SLGo why Germany is not on the list;

When compared to other European countries, Germany has a number of rules governing online purchases which aren’t a perfect fit for models like this. We’d love to open up SL Go to users in Germany, and will certainly do so as soon as the opportunity presents itself. It’s understandably an important audience for us and for Second Life.

I also asked the SLGo team if it would be easy to change subscriptions, for instance what if you have the pay per hour plan but suddenly your super computer explodes and you have to start using SL on your poor old 5 year old laptop, in that case you’d want to switch to 10 bucks a month.
They said that you can subscribe to the monthly option at any time and the time you’ve already paid for on the hourly plan will not be lost but kept in a ‘credit bank’, so when you switch again those unused credits become available again.
But if you’ve got a LOT of SLGo time already paid for you can contact their customer support team who have been instructed to give a free month’s subscription to customers who feel they’ve been disadvantaged by the change of pricing.

Good customer service all around I reckon.

I still hope Linden Lab makes a nice deal with them to offer SL premium members a discount and perhaps SLGo should look into creating an inworld presence where people can pay for their subscription with Linden Dollars.

The official announcement on the Onlive website can be read by clicking here.

The Linden Lab press release can be found by clicking here.

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Ebbe Linden visits 1920s Berlin and hints that Lindens will do more mingling

Earlier today (still April 1st) Ebbe Linden aka Ebbe Altberg CEO of Linden Lab, posted this mysterious message on twitter;

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A very exciting message although also a little mysterious.

Has an official decision been made about Lindens are going to be inworld more often?

Snapshot_005For some time now people started noticing that Lindens were becoming a rare sight, much to everyone’s dismay.
Most of us like seeing a Linden pop in during events or just wandering around.
Last year I heard rumours about there being some sort of restrictions about Lindens being allowed ‘out in the wild’ and it would be fantastic if that has now been overturned.

Being a rather demure and subtle lady, I immediately decided to try and test Ebbe’s post;

Screenshot_3

Schnaps and stroopwafels, an offer impossible to resist!

Snapshot_029Although I didn’t really expect him to pop up in 1920s Berlin within minutes of that post!

He joined me in Der Keller, the bar where we have our daily Happy Hour and as promised I poured him a virtual schnaps and stroopwafels were on the bar.
It was nice to see he was no longer using the starter kit Robot avatar but had turned into a nice
Snapshot_023The bar soon filled up, someone must have been shouting Ebbe’s arrival off the rooftops… maybe some Dutch bar lady or something… ;)

He stayed for over half an hour chatting with everyone, enjoying the 1920s music and even answering a few questions.

Pierre Webb: Is it true the rumors about the sale of SL to FacebooK?

Ebbe Linden: Pierre, you have to ask Frau Jo Yardley about that rumor…

Of course I know nothing about that, but I assume he was talking about my April fools joke.

Augusta Carolina Maria v.Nassau (gardengirl): I would like to know what plans you might have going for education and SL
Ebbe Linden: First I have to listen to the education folks and understand what we can do for them…hope to learn a lot at the upcoming education conference coming up…

Oh and in case you’re wondering, he hasn’t got a Linden Bear to give away yet.

There was also some general banter and chit chat, but I was rather happy with his last words;

Ebbe Linden: Frau Yardley, sorry I have to leave now…I look forward to coming back…thank you!

We look forward to his return and hope that Lindens will now indeed be encouraged or even told to go spend more time inworld and that we’ll see some of them in 1920s Berlin again as well.

Screenshot_2

Auf wiedersehen Herr Linden!

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My first Oculus Rift experience in Second Life

After getting my hands on an Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset some time ago it took a while for me to get it to work properly.
You have to share displays and all that, in short, some complicated settings that need to be tweaked, especially on my Alienware laptop that was of course a little more complicated than a regular laptop.
And modern technology doesn’t like me very much.

But I finally managed to figure it out, I had been allowed to try the brand new official Second Life Oculus Rift Beta viewer so I was now ready to go explore some virtual worlds!
I decided to also try the CtrlAltStudio Viewer so that I could compare both viewers.

Screenshot_5Before I continue please keep in mind that the Oculus Rift is a Developers Kit, a sort of Beta version of hardware.
It has low resolution and is not ready for public use yet.
Hence my trouble with trying to get it to work while the commercial version will be much easier to sort out and will use the plug and play principle.
Both the CtrlAltStudio viewer and the Second Life viewer are experimental viewers and Beta viewers so also not quite the final product.

To make sure I tested both the viewers and the Oculus Rift to the limits, I’ve explored SL while wearing the headset and used it during our daily happy hour, chatting with friends both trough voice and text chat for over an hour.

I will first write a bit about the experience in general, then I will discuss both the CtrlAltStudio Viewer and the Linden Lab Second Life Beta Oculus Rift Viewer and share my ideas on how the virtual SL experience could be improved and finally I will write (again) about why I think SL still can be the ultimate application for the Oculus.

The experience.

I had already tried the Oculus Rift a while ago with some basic demos, but I’ve been desperate to try it in Second Life of course.
The experience is mind blowing, truly amazing.
Obviously I spend most of my VR time in The 1920s Berlin project, the sim I build and live in, my baby.
So there I was, actually inside SL, I walked down the streets of the city I build, it felt and looked all so real and soo good.
Screenshot_6I must confess that when I saw the Graf Zeppelin fly over, I cried.
It was so beautiful and a sight I’ve wanted to see ever since I was a little girl.
But also jumping on a tram and being driven around the city is so exciting, I couldn’t stop giggling.
The details, the sounds, the textures, all great, but the general feeling of being inside something real, a proper 3D surroundings, is just impossible to describe.
You experience depth, height, scale, all those things that get lost on a regular computer screen.
Stretching your neck to see the top of a building is a whole new experience.
There is nothing like it and it may sound rude but I have to repeat myself; Until you’ve actually tried the Oculus Rift, you can’t judge it.
I have used a Virtual Reality set almost 30 years ago, it was fun but you really can’t compare it and it is no wonder that these wacky ski goggles have turned the industry upside down.
They truly transport you to another reality.

Screenshot_13You’ll get to experience claustrophobia, the pleasure of going outside into an open space, you’ll get dizzy when you look down while standing on a high tower.

But yes, we’re talking Developer’s kit here, so it is far from perfect and there is a lot I don’t like about it as well.
For starters the resolution is really low, no wonder as you’ve practically just stuck two tv’s right onto your eyeballs.
This has already been massively improved for the Second version of the Developer’s kit and my be even better in the consumer version.
Either way, this will of course just keep improving with time.
Some facts & figures; Developer kit 1: 1280×800 (640×800 per eye),[5] Developer kit 2: 1920×1080 (960×1080 per eye), Consumer version: ≥1920×1080

DK1 also has very limited head tracking and no positional tracking.
So when you move forward to look at something a bit closer, the headset ignores that movement.
You can look up and down, left and right but that is about it.
This will all be hugely improved with the consumer version.

Screenshot_12Although the headset is not heavy and not very bulky, it is a weight you notice, I’d be telling lies if I denied being relieved to take it off after using it a while.
And although I didn’t get seasick, I still realised that the feeling wasn’t always very comfortable either.
Besides, I’ve sailed trough a hurricane and didn’t get sick, so me not getting sick doesn’t say much.
But you still realise that you’re using some amazing tech, something that will actually change the world as we know it, as I’ve written before.
This WILL become part of our daily life, for everyone, not just gamers or geeks.
But more about that later.

One of the things I noticed right away was that little things we tolerate on our computer screens, become intolerable when actually being inside the simulation.
For instance, floating text, any kind of floating text, is horrendous.
I will be removing all of them from my sim, even if that means I’ll get less tips and people won’t always know what to do.
We’ll just have to learn to make better signs.
Letters floating in the air everywhere just look weird and ugly and out of place, after all, anything that damages the immersion, that illusion of reality, becomes upsetting.

Screenshot_11But also the little flashes when a shadow vanishes for a second and light bursts trough a building, those feel weird.
Mesh not razzing right away, sculpties in general, badly made buildings, low resolution textures and unrealistic scale; they suddenly become even more irritating.
It is just very annoying to see a door and realise the door handle is too high for you to realistically reach.
Wanting to duck when you enter trough a small door is fantastic but entering one of those regular SL houses that is HUGE and appears to be build for giants is just very weird.
Much of SL uses an imaginary scale and thus makes no sense at all for regular primscale avatars.
When you walk into a room where the ceiling is 8 meters high, it feels like you’re in a room that is 8 meters high, which is really odd if it is supposed to be a small bungalow or cottage.
Adapting much of SL to a realistic scale will be something we’ll be seeing more and more.
Rejoice Penny Patton!

Screenshot_10One thing that did disappoint me a lot was that it is pretty much impossible to use your keyboard while wearing the Rift.
You may think that this an obvious conclusion, but it affected me more than I expected.
For instance I can type without seeing my keyboard, I’ve been a fast blind typist for years.
But I guess I need my peripheral vision more than I expected.
If you want to communicate or build or do something a little more than just walking around, you keep removing the headset to see the keyboard.
And that is not good.
Enabling people to communicate and interact is going to be a tough job.

Seeing Second Life from within gives you a completely different experience, and that is an understatement.
Once you’ve tried it, once you’ve played a regular game with the Rift, once you’ve shared a virtual space with friends or watched a movie in a virtual cinema wearing the Rift, you will want more of it.
I bet that soon all games will be VR compatible, just like pretty much all games now have 3D worlds.

Screenshot_8To quote Loki Eliot; “It is a really awesome feeling to be stood in places you have visited everyday in Second Life. In a way it feels like you’ve watched the movie everyday for five years and now it feels like you are finally standing at where it was filmed. Objects that constantly move such as a giant water wheel, your eyes focus on one part and your head moves to follow its rotation up and around. The sense of scale is amplified by the effort you have to make to see it all by the craning of your neck. Leaning over edges of cliffs and buildings you get that depth, you feel the distance and as you leap off you get that super human rush.”

Trying the CtrlAltStudio Viewer

The CtrlAltStudio Viewer is quite nifty and was the first that allowed people to explore SL with their Oculus Rift.
Made by David Rowe (who responded fast and friendly to my emails asking for help) it burst onto the scene last August, ahead of everyone else.
It works well and is very impressive though a bit basic.
All you get really is the ability to look trough your avatars eyes.
But to be honest, I think that is what most people will want anyway.
Some UI has been added so you can communicate but in general this is more of a ‘stop-gap measure’, as David described it himself.
I have to say though that it was a pleasure to work with this viewer simply because I’m used to the Firestorm viewer that this one is based on.

Trying the Linden Lab Second Life Beta Oculus Rift Viewer

First things first, as I’ve just said, I am used to the Firestorm viewer so many of my issues with the Beta viewer have something to do with me having no idea how the official LL viewer works.
For instance, with Firestorm I have muted pretty much all my groups, this means that I very rarely get chat messages from groups.
With this LL viewer I didn’t know how to turn these off, it may even be impossible, something I find very hard to believe.
Receiving messages from groups and getting bothered with group chat if you don’t want it can be hugely annoying, especially if you’re a member of some very active groups.
So the first things that I noticed while trying this viewer were the messages popping up, and with a rift they literally pop up, right into your face.When you are in VR, you want to be left alone, no popups, no messages, no floating text, no animation requests, etc.
Of course you can’t avoid all of them, but the fewer the better.
So maybe it is already possible but if not, I hope LL will allow us to put a stop on receiving a barrage of chats without having to change our status to being completely unavailable.

Screenshot_15But in general I am very impressed with this beta viewer.
Because LL (or to be excact just one very hard working Linden) has tried to put all the regular SL functions into this viewer and appears to have succeeded.
You can do pretty much anything in VR mode that you can do in regular mode as well.
I’m not saying that it is easy and some things work better than others, but it works.
To succeed in this the viewer has 3 camera modes; regular (over shoulder camera), mouseview and the special new camera view.
The regular overshoulder view does not work for me, it is fun to see my avatar like that but well, I want full immersion with VR and not an out of body experience.
But I guess it does makes some activities easier.
The regular mouseview is quite handy for people who just want to go explore, its what I’d use if I wanted my friends to experience SL in VR.
And finally the fully functional camera view look, or First Person look, which is fantastic.
It allows you to explore SL with your Oculus Rift but still have access to the buttons you need to do more than just walk around.
Screenshot_3The buttons float in front of your face but just out of regular view, to access them you have to look up, down or to the sides.
There is a bit of a fish eye effect that I personally don’t like very much, but it didn’t bother me too much either.
I think I would prefer something resembling a hud.
Smaller, hidden in a corner but when clicked it shows all the buttons.
Or even handier, hide all the buttons till an easy to find key on the keyboard is clicked.
You could of course switch between the 3 views all the time, but I like the idea of one button that reveals all floating bars and buttons, preferably grouped together and easy to find.
Having to look around to find buttons was a bit distracting for me.
And looking up at a nice building and seeing the slurl bar pass by wasn’t pretty.
An inworld and outworld (keyboard) reveal button might be a better solution, revealing all the bars and buttons with one click.
Screenshot_7Another problem is that if you feel that the buttons and windows are too big (and they generally are) you can change the settings so they float away a bit further from you, but then the text becomes harder to read.
And when you get a whole list of options you’re stretching your neck looking up and down for the function you need.
I think that the VR viewer needs the pie menu back for better functionality or some sort of new scroll system that allows you to quickly and easily scroll trough menus and options without having to look all over the place.

But the best thing about this camera view is that it also works in regular non-VR mode, thus giving us a mouselook but with access to all the buttons from the regular view.
I’ve always felt that mouselook in SL was pretty useless because you couldn’t even chat while using it, but now we can, and more.

Screenshot_4The camera does seem to lose track of where you are sometimes, suddenly your view is at a weird angle or when you think you’re going straight ahead, you’re actually turning left.
For this they have added a Q button that resets your view, which is very handy although it would be nicer if the camera just stuck better to where your eyeballs are.
I think that the CtrlAltStudio Viewer controlled the camera a bit better, at least I felt like I lost track a lot less.
But that could just be me.
The freedom we want in a regular viewer is one we don’t want while being in VR view.

Using the arrow or cursor is fun, it flies all over the place, making it sometimes hard to find, almost as if it has a life of its own!

So, in short, I think this beta viewer is pretty good and I was impressed that they managed to stuff pretty much all functions of the regular viewer into it.
I look forward to the next version.

How the virtual SL experience could be improved

There are some things Linden Lab needs to do to improve the SL experience in VR but there are also things the users and creators have to do.

I think that SL needs a basic viewer.
I know they have experimented with that but it didn’t quite work but in the not to distant future a lot of people who have just bought an Oculus Rift may want to try it in Second Life and they will not want all the options our viewers currently have.
They want to edit their avatar, find a cool place, walk around and chat.
I think a viewer should have 3 stages basic, advanced and experienced, all build into the same viewer.
Settings you can easily switch between that hide or show buttons and bars.
I’ve written about this before but I think it becomes more necessary now the VR Renaissance appears to be just around the corner.

Let’s face it, using a keyboard to communicate while wearing the rift is pretty much impossible.
Even if you can touch type.
Using voice chat is something most people will do once they start using the rift, but many SL users don’t want to use their RL voice.
I don’t have a problem with that but the avatars we portray in SL are sometimes a lot further away from who we are in RL than we want our friends to know.
Pretty 21 year old cheerleader Jolene may actually be a 53 year old trucker called Dave.
That old cranky grumpy barmaid who drinks and smokes too much, might actually be an 18 year old miss universe.
It is not that we all have secrets from each other, but our RL accents or voices sometimes just don’t match the avatar.
But Linden Lab knows this and that is why they added Voice Morphing a few years back.
Unfortunately it costs L$750 a month per pack, I know that this is only 3 bucks a month, but still.
Many people in SL don’t want to spend any RL money or want to spend it on something else.
It is more than some people pay for rent and it is yet another thing that costs money.
Not to mention that if you’re new to SL and just want to try it out with your rift, you need to first setup your account, connect it with paypal, buy linden, etc, etc.
So maybe LL should make the voice morphing a free service.
I think it will become more popular when the rift comes to SL.

Having said that, using voice simply won’t be an option for many, with free voice morphing or without it.
I am not sure if there is a good solution at this moment but with so many people using tiny keyboards on their telephone or tablet screens, an inworld virtual keyboard may be something we could experiment with.
Want to chat?
Click the chat button and a small keyboard window appears with a chat bar below it.
Simply use your mouse cursor to type.
Far from ideal, but it might work a bit.
Either way, very few of us will be able to actually type chat and use the rift at the same time and when it hinders communication people may not be interested in using it.

But the users and builders of SL have to start improving things as well if they want to make their sim a welcome experience for Oculus Rift users.
Once you actually are waling INSIDE our virtual world, you notice little mistakes and less pretty things a lot more.
And when the SL camera is suddenly at the same height as the eyes of your avatar, you realise that much of SL has been designed for giants, yes even if you are a giant yourself.
Ceilings too high, doors too big, etc.
Building according to prim scale makes an even bigger difference now, it is actually a very interesting and fun experience now to walk trough narrow streets and enter small houses.

And when you make furniture, did you program where the camera goes?
Because sometimes when you sit on something while wearing a Rift, the camera goes insane.

Why I think SL still can be the ultimate application for the Oculus.

Once you’ve tried it you realise that this truly is a game changer that soon will become part of our daily lives and will become as common as the television set is today.
I’ve already written about why I think one day Virtual Reality will be in every home here on my blog.
But it is very frustrating that at this very moment hundreds, if not thousands of developers and gamers are trying all sorts of things and creating ‘new’ experiences for the Rift… while everyone in SL knows that we could offer all those things to them already and have had them for years.
A Virtual cinema… a virtual museum… etc etc.
Second Life offers many of the things I’ve seen in Oculus demos and quite often SL offers them at much higher quality.
Recently a demo that allows you to explore the Seinfeld tv show apartment got a bit of publicity, I tried it, I’ve really seen much better builds in SL.
And the virtual cinema demo was nice and although watching a video on your computer works of course better than streamed in SL, at least in SL I can watch the movie together with friends from all over the world in a cinema I designed!

In short, Second Life is the biggest online user build virtual world.
A place where you can build whatever YOU want in stead of limiting yourself to the Oculus Rift demos and games.
In my eyes there is nothing more fun than exploring a VR location of your own making.
If I could make SL videos, I’d make one trying to explain the huge potential SL has to every Oculus Rift user.

I think LL should get some of the best SL builders they can find and build a showcase sim, one place where all new visitors with Oculus Rift should go first, with wonderful textures, lots of mesh, realistic scale, perfectly build to have as little lag as possible and one that shows all the many things possible in SL.
Not only will this give new visitors a good first impression it will also show them how wonderful a place this is for the VR headset users.
And of course such a place would be a good starting point for everyone and perhaps also a good spot to send journalists so that they for once realise we’ve moved on and they can make their own screenshots and stop using the 2007 ones.

And I hope Linden Lab realises how big this could make Second Life again, IF LL plays its cards right and of course if Facebook World isn’t going to be like Second Life 2.

The blog turned out to be a big chaotic, there is just so much to say.

Some of you may be very excited at the moment and can’t wait to try a Rift yourself.
Understandable, but you may want to wait a bit.
The DK1 will probably be much cheaper on ebay soon but don’t buy the DK2.
It is very near completion and I suspect that the consumer version might become available before Christmas.

Finally, I want to ask you if you know any sims that are especially suitable for explorations with the Oculus Rift.
Linden Lab is working on a list of sims for a special Oculus section of their destination guide, so perhaps we can help them with that.

And if you know of a few nice sims or if you want to share your Oculus adventures in SL, please do.
You can leave your story here or upload your pictures to the Second Life Virtual Reality group on Flickr.

Also make sure you join the Oculus Rift and Second Life Facebook group.

Oh and did I mention there is even a Reddit for Second Life & Virtual reality matters?

9121911862_8ed7462747_c

Explore SL by walking in RL!

You may have already heard about The Virtuix Omni, a so called omnidirectional treadmill video game peripheral.
Although I feel that this gadget is still in a very early stage of its evolution and will eventually be replaced by something much better, it is still rather interesting.

Just like almost everything VR related (except SL) it is getting a lot of attention lately.
Especially after reaching its Kickstarter goal of $150,000 almost immediately and eventually ending up with more than $1,100,00.

No matter how you feel about VR, it is clear that there are a lot of very generous people out there who are desperate for the VR (r)evolution.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 04.10.11

Looking up to a dinosaur.

Simply put, it is a plastic bowl you stand in while simulating walking by sliding your feet, this movement is then translated into the game you’re playing and together with a VR headset you’ll experience the illusion of actually moving inside virtual surroundings.

Far from perfect but it works and it is a lot cheaper than most of multi directional treadmills that can only be found at laboratories, the army, etc.
These machines generally also need a lot more space to function.

So for the moment, it is a pretty cool thing that will give you the illusion of actually walking inside a game or virtual world.
With all the attention it is getting, it is very nice to see that they have bothered giving Second Life a go and even made a video of the experience;

Unfortunately it seems that they were just giving it a go and did not spend much time figuring out SL before they started their walk.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 04.09.46 1

Dancing with some RL moves.

Graphics settings seem low and well the locations are not that visually stunning.
New Babbage, Frisland or, if I may say so myself, 1920s Berlin would perhaps be a bit more interesting to see.

Nevertheless, it is fun to see someone walking around SL with their RL feet.

I can imagine myself doing this quite a bit.

Especially in role-play sims this could add a whole new dimension, try and outrun a cop, for real!

Or perhaps have a running contest!

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 04.09.17 1

Stroking a horse.

In combination with a kinect or other 3d scanning gadgets you could even move your body in RL and have those movements translated to your avatar in SL, finally you too can dance in SL as bad as you do in RL!

But it will also make us get out of our chairs and move our selves.

I can imagine that this would make SL a much more entertaining option for exercise than going to the gym or running outside in RL.

But as I’ve said before, it is still a bit of a primitive device and I hope that eventually we get something that won’t involve us wearing a harness and sliding on plastic.

Why do I suddenly have to think about those baby seats on elastic bands they used to jump around in before they could walk?

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Seriously, not a bad idea for VR is it? All you need is a hook in your ceiling, step in and run like hell. Just so you know, if you steal this idea without giving me a cut, I’ll break your knees.

 

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