Why lowering setup fees in SL isn’t as great as it sounds

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Last November Linden Lab lowered the setup fees for buying land in Second Life.

At the time I was quite enthusiastic and felt that it was a great step in the right direction, hoping that more prices would start coming down, especially tier.

And even though I still think that this was a good step in the right direction, I’ve had a little time to think it over and now realise that this news wasn’t as great as I first thought.

For people who never looked into buying regions, it of course sounds great when they lower the price from $1000 (!) to $600, but if you have been in SL a little longer and ask more experienced people for advice, you’ll learn that paying even $600 is still a lot more than if you bought one second hand from another SL user.

For instance, if you join one of the Land selling groups in Second Life (such as the one I joined called ‘For sale by owner’ or here on the SL forum; Regions for sale) and are patient, you’ll be eventually offered regions for as little as $300 or even less.
I joined the group a while ago and have even seen them being offered for $100.
And you can even buy a ‘grandfathered‘ region there, if you’re lucky.
And yes, you may still have to pay $150 to move the region, $100 to transfer and $50 to rename it (even though in many cases this is already part of the deal and if you do all those things at once even LL will charge you less), but even then it is still cheaper than buying a new one from Linden Lab.

After all, fewer and fewer people are buying land and many want to get rid of their region, so the market is good if you’re a buyer.

So, as long as second hand regions can be bought for $300 or even less, having them now for sale at $600 is not a very good deal.
Looking at the stats, it is clear that the lowered setup fee did not cause a increase of regions being sold nor did it stop the total amount of regions declining.

In the end we end up in the same old situation; SL is too expensive for many people.
I still think they should lower the setup fee even more or scarp it.
And of course they should also lower the tier, even if it is just by a small amount.
But this is of course scary as the tier is what pays the bills and if they lowered them they would lose income without being sure that many more people would actually start renting land.

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I will not buy an Oculus Rift any time soon

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So, the Oculus rift is finally going to be commercially available.

They are now available for pre-order  and will start shipping from March 28th onwards.

But… and here comes the sting… it is going to cost $599.

That is just too much.
And here in the Netherlands you’ll even be paying $750.
This does not even include their special controllers.

And that while Palmer Luckey himself only a few months ago answered a question by Road to VR about if the consumer Oculus Rift price would come in around that $350 ballpark target with;

You know, I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. We’re roughly in that ballpark… but it’s going to cost more than that.

Must be nice to live in a world where $599 is roughly in the same ballpark s $350.

Either way, it seems they are selling them, lots of them.

But as excited as I am about all the new tech that is coming, I am not willing (or able) to spend this much on a headset.
Especially as I’ll also need to buy a new computer to handle VR properly as it doesn’t even work on my MacBook.

So even though I’m grateful to Oculus for sort of kickstart the VR renaissance, I also think they messed up.
Not only because of the high price they are asking for it but also because I think they missed the boat.
All this has taken them so long, that the competition has been developing other headsets as well, cheaper ones.
The Oculus will not be as much a seller as it would/could have been at half the price.
I think this may even slow down the spread of VR.

If even someone like me, who is crazy about VR and wants a good headset so badly, thinks that the Oculus headset is too expensive and will just not buy one, imagine what the average gamer or potential VR user will think
And let’s not even think about .general gamers, museums, schools and regular folks will think about this ‘toy.
While they should have brought us a good but cheap Rift that everyone would have wanted to buy and thus make sure that VR headsets end up in as many households as possible.

Do they really think we all want or need those special headphones, a game, a remote and an x box controller?
Because we pay extra for those, maybe not much, but it adds up.
Did they really have to spend so much time to develop all these extra things and their special new controllers?
I personally think they should have sold a basic Rift before Christmas and then sell all that other stuff separately for those who want them.
Now they missed the holiday sales and ended up with a very expensive toy.

But Palmer explains;

I think and hope that the competition will now step up and offer us a good VR headset for at least half the price.
Oculus may have just ruined the opportunity of a life time.

I am secretly looking towards the people at Apple.
We know they have been acquiring quite a few VR related patents and are working on something…
And at least if they build a headset it will work on my Mac…

Will you be getting an Oculus Rift?

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Photo copyright; Oculus.

 

The Infinadeck, a truly omnidirectional treadmill

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A year or so ago I saw a video showing the Infinadeck, an omnidirectional treadmill to be used for Virtual Reality.
I loved it and got excited about its potential.
A couple of days ago they released a video showing the new and improved version;

I know, I know, it is huge.
But it is a lot smaller than the previous version;

Once more it is the potential that is exciting, not (yet) the actual device.
Right now it looks great and seems useable in an arcade, laboratorium  or military HQ.
But too big for my room and probably too expensive, for now.

This will become interesting to us all once it gets even smaller and cheaper.
It has to fit in a regular room and be affordable.

But this is still early days, it is not important what the device looks like now but what does matter is how it has improved in the last year and how it actually works.
It is brilliant in its simplicity.
I once tried to think about how an omnidirectional treadmill would work and my brain exploded.
But their solution is so basic yet so sophisticated.
I think this might be the technique to go with.

Is this something we VR users want?
Yes and no.
I guess it depends on who you are and what you do in VR.
I personally love realism and would not mind at all being absolutely exhausted after a VR gunfight or having to actually walk everywhere in Second Life.
I think it will be fun but it will also finally give us a chance to actually get off our fat backsides and get some exercise without having to stop doing what we love.

The Teslasuit, a full haptic experience in VR

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Even though I am generally promoting a VR experience that involves fewer wearables and not more, here is one gadget I might be tempted into wearing.

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The Teslasuit allows you to undergo a wide array of sensations while exploring or gaming (or whatever else) in Virtual Reality.
From the expected bullet hits and punches, it also promises to let you experience wind, water, heat, cold and even something as subtle as a hug or stroke.
Yes, they really do promise that during your next visit to a VR beach, you’ll feel the water at your feet and the wind on your body.

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Incorporated within the suit is a mesh of sensors that pick up and translate actions in VR into electric impulses that you’ll experience as pressure.
It is called neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) and is generally used for exercise, physical therapy, etc.
You’ve probably seen it done with little patches stuck to the skin.

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It comes close to the Haptic Suit we know from the bestseller book ‘Ready player one‘, soon to be made into a Spielberg movie.

 

Just like with most VR related gadgets and VR itself, it is hard to imagine or understand how well it works and how much an impact it makes until you’ve actually tried it.
So checking out some of the videos that show people wearing and testing the suit is what got me excited.
Have a look at some of them by clicking here.

It is still early days and like many other gadgets being developed for VR these days we know that it is only the beginning and things will continue to get better, cheaper, lighter, etc.

I can imagine a not too distant future where VR haptic suits become even lighter and thinner, much cheaper and will cover your entire body, including your face and hands.
And that they can also be used to send signals to VR, not just receive them and when you close your hand, your avatar will close her hand.
I think that giving us gloves that allow us to actually feel what our avatars are touching or holding, or at least create some sort of sensation when you push a button or open a door, will change a lot of things.
I think the Teslasuit guys are working on those as well, and perhaps next a haptic balaclava so you’ll feel it when I slap you in the face for telling a dirty joke in my virtual bar in 1920s Berlin in Second Life.

When we have the ultimate suit that does everything, we will no longer need to place sensors in our rooms or wave controllers about the place.
And maybe they’ll add heat and cold pads that will be able to actually make you feel colder or warmer.
Maybe one day we can get rid of all our gadgets and wearables and just wear the suit and the headset to do everything.
One suit to rule them all.

The benefits of these suits are obvious; VR experiences become more real, more complete.
In games you actually feel a hit when someone shoots you, when you go sailing you feel the wind and the water, when you are with someone you care about you feel their hand shake, their hug or their hand on your shoulder.
And yes, I am avoiding the obvious, I’m too much of an old fashioned prude to discuss VR hanky panky with you lot.
I’ll leave that to your dirty, dirty imagination ;)

The Kickstarter went live yesterday and they hope it will get developers on board who will start creating experiences for their suit.
Their goal is £250,000 and as I write this the total stands at £7,649 £9,758.
Check out their video below and the Kickstarter page by clicking here.

 

Personally I am very excited about this development, not specifically this suit, because right now I couldn’t even afford one and I think that this technology still has some way to go, but it is more the potential that I love, I can see what this will be used for in the future.
It is the possibilities that are most exciting.

All pictures copyright Tesla Studios & Kickstarter.

 

Lab Chat is coming back – on January 21st!

LabChat

Lab Chat returns on January 21st – with Ebbe Linden (aka Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab) answering more of your questions!

After the success of our first episode in November last year, we are delighted to announce the second episode of Lab Chat, recorded in front of a live audience and then broadcast on numerous streams including Second Life’s You Tube channel, AviewTV and SLArtist as well as being available in audio and written transcription.

The second broadcast will be at 10.30am SLT in the LEA Theater with seating available on LEA2, 3 and 4.

Lab Chat Episode 1, photographed by Torley Lab Chat Episode 1, photographed by Torley

How do you submit your questions?

You enter your questions on the special Linden Lab Forum which will be opened for questions shortly – we’ll tell you when and where to go!

The questions to feature on the show will be chosen by the Lab Chat team…

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happy 2016 & we are on vacation…

Happy 1929!

the drax files radio hour [with jo yardley]

happy 2016 from the drax files radio hour with jo yardley happy 2016 from the drax files radio hour with jo yardley

well by the time you hear this you have transitioned into a new year & we wish you dear listener all the very best and our beloved world of second life just equally a grand old time in 2016.

jo and i will be taking a vacation until the next lab chat which will hit your ear-waves before the end of january = stay tuned and watch these pages.

now listen to our year end ranting…

…and be sure to check back on the awesome archives of this program to smooth out our time of absence these next few weeks!

just a few shows made in 2015... just a few shows made in 2015…

final treat before we leave = the birth of draxtoriusBIG on the firestrom orientation experience – to be continued….

happy 2016 everyone!

the drax files radio hour [with jo yardley] is a…

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Second Life avatars get their biggest change in years

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Today Linden Lab announced ‘Project Bento’, the biggest change in Second Life avatars in years.

One of the things Second Life offers like almost nobody else is the freedom to change and personalise your avatar pretty much without limits, now they are making this easier and are going us even more options.

I quote from the Second Life website announcement;

We are introducing extensions to the standard Second Life Avatar Skeleton that give you dozens of new bones to support both rigging and animation, and accompanying new attachment points! This extended skeleton, which is fully backward compatible with existing avatars, rigging and animation, gives creators the power to build more sophisticated avatars than ever before. The skeleton extensions include:

  • 11 extra limb bones for wings, additional arms, or extra legs.
  • 6 tail bones
  • 30 bones in the hands (all 10 fingers!)
  • 30 bones for facial expressions
  • 2 other new bones in the head for animating ears or antennae
  • 13 new attachment points associated with the new bones

We’ve developed all this in collaboration with many expert Resident content creators and with the developers of the most popular tools for creating avatars and animations, so there will quickly be versions of those tools you can use to help take advantage of these changes. There is also some demo content already available.

I think this is interesting news, quite a few people seem to think Second Life will be neglected now Linden Lab is working on Project Sansar, but this clearly shows they are still putting a lot of work into improving their first-born.

Another thing I like is that they aren’t releasing this yet, but first want us to testrun these new features and let them know what we think.

I quote again;

The avatar skeleton changes introduced by Project Bento are not yet final because we want your feedback, either in the Creation Forum or in JIRA. To experience the changes, you’ll need to download the Project Viewer and upload any content using the new skeleton extensions to the Aditi Beta Test Grid (most regions on the Beta Test Grid will allow this; some may be in use for other testing and not yet have these updates). Once we have finalized the skeleton extensions, we will enable uploads using them to the main Second Life grid and the real fun can begin!

You can read the entire announcement by clicking here.

And check out this enticing video made by Gaia Clary;

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show #98: qarl is back!

The latest Drax Files radio hour show;

the drax files radio hour [with jo yardley]

show #98 show #98

former linden lab star qarl [creator of sculpties among many other things] is back outside of vr and all that but nonetheless mind-boggling stuff = an ai paint engine.

enjoy the conversation and share your thoughts on the end of all human art:

qarl and partner noah rosenberg at nyc founder night qarl and partner noah rosenberg at nyc founder night

the source = hannah radcliff portrait source painted by martha iller the source = hannah radcliff portrait source painted by martha iller

hannah radcliff in the style of a portrait made by another painter hannah radcliff in the style of a portrait made by another painter

drax avatar with "make sl great again" hat drax avatar with “make sl great again” hat

  • pikazo speaks for itself through the pictures of its users [mostly selfies for whatever reason…]:

heather voyles in the style of hokusai's %22the great wave off kanagawa%22

helen peck in the style of a nice fabric helen peck in the style of a nice fabric

thomas pipia in the style of old cameras thomas pipia in the style…

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The Drax Files: World Makers. Episode 34: Cheeky Pea

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Draxtor Despres has released another wonderful short documentary about one of Second Life’s residents; Cheeky Pea.
You’ll find the video at the bottom of the page.

Draxtor writes;

The mainstream media likes to point out how “living online” destroys relationships in the “real” world but for one American-Scottish couple the virtual world of Second Life became a facilitator: a conduit to finding each other’s “soulmate”.

“You can absolutely tell who someone is by meeting their avatar in SL” says 3D designer Isla Gealach , who moved in with Ewan Mureaux two years ago after having met almost 8 years ago online.

Ewan, who makes a living doing land deals and writing scripts in Second Life, points out that by allowing to freely use an avatar identity as proxy for communicating, Second Life is unique in the category of social networks: “…it can cut through societal constraints and gets more to the heart of who you are!”

Completing the Edinburgh based family is Isla’s daughter who at 9-years of age has a solid grasp of the concept of virtual goods. No surprise there, since her mother makes her income by selling home and garden accessories via the Cheeky Pea brand.

The perceived esoteric nature of her work prompts Isla to use the term intangible rather than virtual when put on the spot about her profession: “I always respond to skeptics by saying that I make environmental spaces where the experience and the memories people have with my products are real!”

“As real as anything else!” says Ewan Mureaux.

And, suddenly, there is virtually nothing more to add…or is there?

For more information on Cheeky Pea check out http://cheekypeasl.com/

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Special thanks to Moriko Inshan whose beautiful “Cherished” sim [http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife…] played backdrop to the ending of this episode.

Dark version of a dystopian VR future

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The well known (and excellent) website ‘Road to VR’ has just published a story about a video made by Federico Heller of production team 3dar that is rather interesting.

It is about the future where VR junkies are addicted to VR and their dependence on it is abused by a third party.

Go ahead and watch it here, spoilers follow below the video.

 

Spoiler alert.

I rather enjoyed the video, as someone who spend 4 years in film school and a few years making film & TV, I was impressed with how well it was made.
I can enjoy a film simply based on technicalities.

At first I felt a bit defensive, because I consider myself to be  VR junkie already, or, like many people, at least a computer & TV addict.
How many people spend almost every available free moment behind a screen?
Yet my house looks pretty decent!
And I still have a social life.
So seeing people obsessed with VR being shown as social outcasts who live in squalor and filth, made me grumble.

But that is of course not quite the subject of the film.

This story is about the state (I assume) abusing those who spend lots of time in VR as entertainment to fight their (very) dirty war.
Connecting their avatar to an actual robot warrior somewhere across the world.

I find this a very realistic scenario and would not be surprised if in the future this is something that actually will happen.
After all nobody wants to risk the lives of their own soldiers and what we do with drones today will one day be possible with robots.
Putting metal boots on the ground.

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However, I fear that the state will not have to fool VR junkies into doing this.
Maybe I am too cynical and have too little faith in mankind, but I reckon that they can just recruit gamers.
If a country would offer its civilians the ultimate VR experience, a very exciting combat game that also could be considered as patriotism, doing your bit for freedom and democracy and that could involve a salary or possibly prizes and awards… people would come running.
No need to fool them, no need to mask the reality.
Countless people would enjoy playing this ‘game’ of war even if they knew the people they were shooting were real, as long as they don’t get hurt themselves.
And perhaps most shocking of all, would be that most of these soldiers would be kids.
A battle half way across the world could end abruptly as half the soldiers of one side have to go to bed as it is a ‘school night’.

Anyway, enough dark thoughts.

An interesting video.

And what do you think about the VR device?
A little nose ring…

Make sure you check out more information about it here on the ‘Road to VR’ website.

road to vr logo

 

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