Linden Lab removes Oculus Rift Project Viewer and may not release another one

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When Linden Lab released a new Oculus ready viewer, one that worked with DK2 and CV1, the reactions were, to put it mildly, not enthusiastic.
I wrote about it in my previous blog post that you can read by clicking here.

Today Linden Lab announced they have removed the Oculus Rift viewer from its alternate viewers page.

The Oculus headset picture and link to more information  about using it in SL seems to have also been removed from the main page on the official SL website, at least I no longer see it.

In this discussion on one of the official blogs the following comment was posted by Linden Lab;

Thank you for experimenting with our Oculus Rift Project Viewer and offering your feedback. Unfortunately, the Project Viewer that we recently made available didn’t meet our standards for quality, and so we’ve now removed it from the Alternate Viewers page.

By definition, Project Viewers aren’t ready for primetime. The purpose of these experimental Viewers is to share with you the earliest possible version of what we’re working on, so that you can see what we’re up to, help discover problems, and provide feedback. In this case, though, we’re not ready for that, as those of you who tried it have seen.

We can’t say at this point when or even if we may release another Project Viewer for experimenting with the Oculus Rift in SL.

We want to prioritize our development efforts around initiatives that we know will improve the virtual world and bring more value to SL Residents, and due to some inherent limitations with SL, it may well not be possible to achieve the performance needed for a good VR experience. (In fact, this is one reason why we’re creating Project Sansar a new, separate platform optimized for VR).

We greatly appreciate the interest in trying SL with the Oculus Rift and are grateful that several of you took the time to try the Project Viewer. We regret that the quality was not up to our standards, and we will of course keep the community posted if we release a new Project Viewer for VR in the future.

Of course people were very unhappy with the new viewer and yes, it was not good enough for people to actually enjoy Second Life with.
But hearing that they may not release another one is very disappointing.

As imperfect as Second Life is for Head Mounted devices at the moment, I still was extremely impressed with my visit to 1920s Berlin wearing the DK1.
Regardless of lag and if the frame-rate was fast enough or not, I was exploring MY world, the place I build and loved.
I didn’t care about the imperfections, I was inside my Second Life.
Of course, if you can’t make it work, releasing (another) viewer is probably a good idea.
But it is going to be months, perhaps even years before most of us can start enjoying Sansar as a virtual world that is as interesting and has as much to offer as Second Life and it really would be nice if we could at least have some fun with the HMD’s in Second Life.
Even with the old Oculus Viewer and head set, I loved every minute I spend in SL with it.

So I hope that that we will see another HMD viewer for SL, regardless.

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Ebbe talks Sansar at ZDNet & USA today

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Today ZDNet (a business technology news website published by CBS Interactive) published an interview with Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab.

You can read the full article by clicking here, I quote a few bits I found extra interesting below;

“We’re very fortunate to have over a decade of experience regarding what people want to do when they immerse themselves in a digital world,” Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg said.

It is really good that Ebbe keeps telling people this, because that is without doubt the most valuable thing about our Virtual World; we have tons of people with years of experience spending time in VR and creating VR experiences while it seems that so many other people are just getting started… and are reinventing the wheel again and again but that is a story for another time.

With its new VR platform, Linden Lab is aiming to solve that. Called Project Sansar, the platform that will allow just about any user — regardless of technical skill — to build their own VR content at a very low cost. The platform is being billed as “the WordPress or the YouTube of VR.”

Although I’m not so sure yet if we won’t need much technical skill to build (in stead of create with stuff others build) their own VR experience, at least not for a while, I am glad to see it being promoted as the WordPress or Youtube of VR, I think that is a very good way to sell it and maybe the new name of the world should represent this.
Hello VRTube?

The platform is not open source, but it will be compatible with industry standard tools. For example, creators will be able to upload a variety of common 3D file formats (such as .fbx and .obj), and scripting will be done with C#, rather than a language unique to the platform.

No Collada (DAE)?

In Second Life, a person or business can spend nearly $300 a month to host a space (it’s half price for educators and nonprofits, but that’s still a hefty sum). Altberg promised that hosting a Sansar experience will cost in the “tens of dollars” per month.

Now that is good news.
We’ve already been told that “tier” will be a lot lower in Sansar but I think this is the first time we’ve been given a sort of number.
Of course we do not know how much land or “prims” we get for this but I like to think that this means I will be able to host something the size of 1920s Berlin (4 regions) with many more prims for less than $50 a month.

USA Today also published an article about Sansar that you can read by clicking here.
Again, I’ve quoted a few things that stood out for me;

“We’ve never referred to it as Second Life 2.0,“ says Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg of Project Sansar in an interview here. “We think we’re building what will be the easiest ways for users to create virtual reality experiences that are social.  And to make it easy for people to create, share and monetize these experiences.”

The writer is also invited to try Project Sansar and describes his experience;

Donning Oculus Rift headgear, my Sansar demo began on a virtual replica of Mars, before I was teleported to an ancient Egyptian tomb, where I could inspect the hieroglyphics on the walls up close. Soon, I found myself “inside” a 360 video and later spent time in a virtual reality toy room where I was encouraged to knock down a bridge and bat other objects around.

As for moving SL users to Sansar;

Altberg hopes to draw users from Second Life to Project Sansar, while acknowledging the likelihood of some cannibalization. “We obviously have the largest ready to roll audience…. But rather me than someone else,” he says.

Ebbe ends with;

“The luxury we have (in developing Sansar) is that we have already seen people successfully do all of the things I mentioned in Second Life. The true strength of VR will be social.”

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Second Life Oculus ready viewer released, fails to impress

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Linden Lab has released a viewer that supports the Development kit 2 version of the Oculus Rift but also the consumer version.
This is something many people have been waiting for.

Unfortunately I can’t test it myself, I don’t own a VR headset nor a computer it would work with.
Any sponsors out there with some spare money?
Give me a call.

When you visit the Second Life website you still see an artist’s impression of what the Rift might look like, not a picture of the actual current headset and when you click for more information you’ll be taken to a blog post from 2014.
So Oculus users joining SL today, will not know they can use their headset till they try.

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The viewer was much anticipated, but once tried the experience left several users less than impressed.
According to some users, it seems like performance has gotten worse compared to the dk2 viewer.
Of course we all know that Second Life is not perfectly suitable for VR headset experience, but you’d at least hope that it would still be working just as good or better than it did with the DK2 even though the commercial Oculus may be more demanding.
The viewer also lowers your graphics settings so even if you have a super computer that technically could handle SL at ultra settings in your Oculus, you wouldn’t be able to try it.

Check out the forum thread here (click) to see how people are experiencing it.

Jim Reichert, who does a lot of work with new VR technologies, uploaded the first (as far as I know) video showing the new viewer;

He was rather disappointed by his recent experience.
He writes;

I took a leap of faith on my part to update my Oculus drivers to the latest drop.
After an hour or two of laboring through latest Oculus installation and sorting out its ideosyncrasies, I finally got everything working– and by “working” I mean limping along like something from 2003.
Comparatively speaking, it’s a far worse Oculus experience than I’d had on Linden Lab’s previous attempt from 2014. Not only is it far choppier from a frame-rate perspective, but it’s rendered on the lowest settings– a far cry from the smooth experience that I’d grown used to.
More frustratingly, it’s not even good for taking stereoscopic screenshots since the render settings seem to have been pulled down as far as they could go. Setting them to Ultra had no effect whatsoever.
The real kicker, however, is that there is currently no way to go back to the original attempt– the one from 2014. I can no longer shoot videos to showcase how amazing Second Life is to my neo-VR friends.
It’s very frustrating development because I’m finally drawing a crowd.
What do I show them now?”

On twitter people have also been sharing their experiences;

Mr Tate writes;

Testing with various settings it seems HMD view colours are washed out, transparency & plants missing, HMD UI settings seem to have no effect. HMD UI can be across middle of screen, light blue squares on sea.
My setup is Windows 10, Xeon processor, 32GB memory, SSD drives and Nvidia GTX980 GPU.
Comparison shot of normal 2D view and HMD view with many missing items, sea patch, etc.;

Making more progress by turning “Atmospheric Shaders” off. Transparency okay then

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On the Second Life VR Facebook page and the Second Life VR Facebook group people have also been commenting;

Mr Claesen;

I tried, works with CV1, well it works as badly as it did with the SDK2. Massive latency, bad shading, no AA, … . And it’s overcomplicated AGAIN.

Ms Lorentzson;

Wow that must have been the worst VR experience in a long time. All the old errors and a few new ones are still there. It is like pre Alpha.

Ms Millar;

Well yes, it works, and I’m so glad that it does, BUT it looks absolutely bloody terrible. Is there any point in me using something that makes my virtual environment look so appalling, just so I can move about it in a limited fashion anyway? I’m sad to say that it’s just not what I’d hoped it would be, and for that reason alone, I’ll stick with Firestorm. What I’ll take away from this whole experience is that it’s clear that it can be done, but as far as LL/official viewers go it’s with limitations.

Mr Mikula;

I was running it today on my rig which is driven by dual titan X’s and yeah its certainly a stripped back viewer. I actually enjoyed first person view more on my monitor than on the oculus “CV1”. Seems like many objects weren’t rendering even if I cranked it to ultra.
I mean my expectations weren’t too high, but I figured it’d at least show me what I can see in desktop mode! Definitely can’t wait for project sansar lol.

The discussion is also going on at SLUniverse (click).
There, Ms Cortes reported;

I only briefly tried the first viewer long ago with DK2, the new one is better from what I recall of it. As for the experience with the current viewer and the release version of the rift? It’s… okay I guess. Not being able to change the graphics settings to look better really hurts the experience. If it’s there I couldn’t figure out where, so no shiny ALM, shadows or any of that .

A lot of objects vanish or become 100% transparent when they shouldn’t be, scene loading in general seems very blocky. It reminds me of new chunks loading in Minecraft.

The head tracking could probably use improvement, but it’s not bad. Disabling seeing your avatar in mouselook is probably a good idea since you’ll see your own head clipping into your viewpoint on occasion, I imagine this is worse with people who have idles that move all over the place.

Here’s some videos I took (although not very good ones), I cropped it to only show the main center area of my screen (it’s quite a bit larger otherwise), and keep in mind that while the video looks jittery, it seems more natural with the actual headset on your head, since it’s your own subtle head movements and you looking around making all the motion.

This first small area is made to 1:1 RL scale (along with my avatar), which is key for any kind of immersion. Most of SL fails this terribly, and it is one of the reasons why VR in most of SL is bleh. The start of the videos where it’s all weird and shaky is me putting on the headset and recentering the view, and I do a few back and forth comparisons with HMD vs normal mode to show the massive graphical differences at different points in both videos.
https://streamable.com/wgys

This second area is a lot more spacious:
https://streamable.com/jcjh

All that said, it is still fun to play around with, and being able to see things in 3D is really nice, the videos don’t capture that sensation of depth. As it stands though, SL in VR sadly doesn’t compare well to a proper game made for VR.

Make sure you check out the videos Ms Cortes shared in the quote above.

So in short the main issue appears to be that the viewer forces you to lower your graphics settings, which makes SL look real ugly, real fast.

Also downloading the new viewer may cause your firewall and protection software to alert you because of an outdated security certificate, and the new viewer is Windows only.
A HTC Vive viewer is not being worked on at the moment, a shame as the Vive seems to have pushed the Oculus to the side as the leading VR headset.

But it is early days.
These problems may just be temporary bugs.
So although Lindens read my blog, make sure you file bug reports so the right Lindens get to hear about your issues asap.

Have you tried it?
What is your experience, let us know here in the comments section below.

On a side note; there is apparently a service called Vorpx that will allow you to enjoy Second Life with your firestorm viewer and at higher graphics settings in the CV1 AND HTCVIVE.

Crazy idea; Free land for every new user in Second Life

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So, my brain has had a crazy new idea again that might help SL hold on to those new users as retention still seems to be a problem.
Many people join SL but after a short while give up or lose interest and leave again.
The community gateway is a new initiative, a very good one, but here is another sort of idea, that I mentioned before a bit, but I had another think about it;

How about every (yes every) new user to Second Life gets their own little piece of land?
I know sounds expensive and a huge hassle right?
Hear me out

When you join SL you arrive on a bit of land, 512 square meters for instance, could be smaller.
It can be on mainland (plenty of available land) it could even be a skybox.
This is your land, it is just a room, maybe just a field.
On it you find a basic tutorial, a few signs and perhaps videos explain how SL works, a bit like a small version of the community gateways and general starting places.
Besides being smaller, it also is very private.
You get to learn SL on your own, no grievers, no advanced avatars who perhaps intimidate with loud voice chats or rude gestures and also quite important; a lot less lag.
After all, it is just you in your skybox.
At the end of the tutorial you know how to rez and build but also that this plot of land is now yours to with as you please for one month.
You are asked to push a button that will let you claim the land or to discard it.
After all, those of us who aren’t really new to SL but just there as an alt or are about to be teleported by an experienced SL friend to a sim, don’t need the land.

If you discard it or teleport out without claiming it, the land is reset and given to the next new SL resident.

If you claim the land, the tutorial prims will all be removed and the empty land is now yours, for a month.
On your own, in peace, without being bothered or distracted, you can experiment with building something, rez a house you bought, have a nice private place to change your clothes, personalise your avatar or bring your friends to.
Not only will you have a safe, private place to get used to SL, you’ll also avoid those truly horrific encounters many of us had; finding yourself as a noob amongst scary, weird and often loud and rude chaotic crowds of avatars.

After a month or so, you’ll be reminded that your time is up, you’ll have to go out into the world and find a new place to live.
Maybe this is where LL brings up the offer of becoming a premium member, meaning you’ll get a new piece of land or maybe get to stay on the land you’ve been using for free.
Once you leave, the land is reset, the tutorial rezzed and it will be fresh and smelling of daisies for the new user.

This will of course have to be automated, we can’t expect a whole bunch of people to take care of the noob parcels and clean up after them.

There used to be something similar in SL, years ago, called the first land programme.
But that land you had to buy and it was also land you could keep for ever and even sell on, opening the scheme up to abuse.

Just another crazy idea, what do you think?

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Using cardboard VR headsets in Second Life

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A software company called Trinus VR has developed a platform that allows you to enjoy pretty much any game with android operated VR headsets, including the very cheap cardboard ones you can make yourself.
And by bringing the costs down dramatically, it could bring VR to a lot more people.

Simply connect a PC with an android device, slide the latter into one of those headsets and you’re ready to go.
The experience will probably not be as good as with the Vive for instance, but for a fraction of the price, you will be at least able to experiment VR from within your games and… virtual worlds!

And this is where it gets interesting for us.
The technology isn’t that new, Trinus VR has been around for about a year, but now someone has tried it with Second Life!
Of course the experience will probably not be as good as with the fancy pansy whoop dee doc headsets but it will allow you to go into Second Life with VR support without having to wait for the next LL viewer or buy an expensive Oculus or Vive or one of the other headsets.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
Sadly, I don’t have a mobile phone, so I can’t try it out.

Unfortunately there are no plans (yet) for Mac Support.

The Ebbe Altberg interview at SL13B (with video)

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Tuesday Zander Greene and I interviewed Ebbe Altberg as part of the ‘Meet the Lindens’ at Second Life’s 13th birthday celebrations.

It was an interesting chat, if I do say so myself, and many things were discussed.
Of course Sansar came up and one issue caused some confusion afterwards, especially by those who weren’t even there during the interview.

Some people were worried that they were going to have to use their RL identity to take part in Sansar and without checking if this was true, by for instance asking those who were present or who asked the questions, this story was spread.

Luckily, some people who were there and who paid attention wrote down in detail what was being said and there is now also a video.
So now you can make up your own mind.

I am far too lazy to write a transcript or detailed report of what was said so  we’re all very lucky that the brilliant Inara Pey did this for us.
Please check out her blog post on the interview by following this link;

https://modemworld.me/2016/06/23/sl13b-ebbe-on-the-lab-second-life-sansar-and-more/

And here you can see the entire video;

Thanks for the interview Ebbe and a happy 13th birthday to Second Life and all who sail in her.

Ebbe Altberg talks to AWE.tv

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Ebbe Altberg (CEO of Linden Lab) did a short interview with AWE.tv a few days ago.

He doesn’t say much that new or shocking for most of us but one thing he did mention is that “thousands and thousands” of people have applied to be given early access to Sansar and that they will be given acces around “early August”.
Going public is still scheduled for the end of the year.

Sansar will also have spacial audio, 360 video, avatar customisation, will work with headsets and controllers, you’ll be able to create inside of VR, etc.

One thing that made me frown a little was that he said;

You can use a X-box controller or the keyboard and mouse if you’re just on a PC but if you really want to get the full meal then you want independent handcontrollers like the Oculus Touch or the HTC Vive controllers because it makes a huge difference.

Now of course it makes sense that using these things will enhance your VR experience in Sansar but in stead it sounded a bit like not only will Sansar be a lot better with them but perhaps a bit impractical or cumbersome without them.
Will the VR headsets and controllers just be a nice bonus that makes Sansar better or something you don’t really want to be without in Sansar?
I sort of want the full meal without all that stuff, I can enjoy a meal without ketchup but not without cutlery.
Is the VR stuff the ketchup or the cutlery?
And why are we talking food?

Anyway, not much news, but still worth watching even if it is just because of Ebbe’s nice sweater.

Enjoy;

The 1920s Berlin Project celebrates its 7th anniversary!

Our 1920s Berlin Project is about to celebrate its 7th anniversary!
Check out the 7 days of celebrations we’ve got planned;

The 1920s Berlin Project

In January 2007 I first joined Second Life, I looked around for a bit, didn’t see anything I liked, didn’t like what I saw and left after a few days.
In February 2009 I decided to run Second Life again, simply to test the ability of my then new computer.
And minutes before I decided that Second Life was not for me and would leave for ever (again) I found the ‘search’ option, tried a few search terms that appealed to me and found the first sim I actually liked; a surreal vintage bar called ‘Flashmans’.
There I suddenly realised that I everything I saw was made by users just like me and that maybe I could create something myself.
And I was doomed lost hooked.
The rest is, as they call it, history.

Within weeks I started working on The 1920s Berlin Project and on May the 30th 2009 I…

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Bring your Second Life into real life with Augmented Reality

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Ever thought about meeting a SL avatar face to face in your RL living room?
Or see your SL house appear in front of you on the drive outside your RL home?
Or perhaps work on a SL dress in your RL workshop?
Thanks to Augmented Reality this is now becoming a possibility and it is only the beginning.

James Reichert has been working with Virtual and Augmented reality for years and early on experimented with Kinect, 3D tv and even building his own virtual surroundings for presentations. During his research he discovered Second Life, joined as Illiastra Ascendent, explored this virtual world, created something, sold something and, like the rest of us, was doomed hooked.

Recently James started experimenting with the Microsoft Hololens in combination with Second Life and his very first tests are already very promising and exciting.

Look for instance at this video he made, showing a SL-like avatar with a dress he designed.

He is looking at her through the Hololens, an Augmented Reality device that does not only show you a virtual object in reality but it also manages to lock it in a specific location so it stays there while you move around.

Right now you can see the avatar or furniture or whatever object you’ve created, as if it is with you in your real life, you can walk around it, see it from all angles.

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But it won’t be long till you can do more than just watch, can you imagine actually building something virtual in real life?
Standing in front of an avatar wearing  your dress that you then lengthen, shorten and re-texture, right there and then. But even if you’re not a creator, wouldn’t it just be fun to see your own avatar standing in your RL room? Or even have another avatar visiting you in RL and chatting with you…

And on another level, a building James made in ‘Chief Architect’, which is not that different from what we’re used to in Second Life, is, lets call it ‘rezzed’ in a parking lot. Allowing us to look around it but even go inside and check out the details.

As someone who has created lots of buildings in Second Life, I’d love to walk around them in VR and AR, and looking at the future again, imagine being able to actually build this way or at least change the wallpaper while walking around your parking lot.
I can’t wait.

James says;

These modern HMDs aren’t VR, they are merely the conduits– the summoning circles– through which our avatars will finally be unleashed upon the waking world. The neo-VR industry built them thinking it would get them into the metaverse… they never considered what would come out.

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James’ bumper sticker

James will be a guest on the Draxfiles Radio Hour soon and we’ll talk more about his experiments and the future possibilities of this technology.

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