Ebbe Altberg interview about SL & Sansar which is going public next January.

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Donnie SC Lygonis, Swedish business coach, currently working in Silicon Valley, recently interviewed Ebbe Altberg (AKA Ebbe Linden, CEO of Linden Lab) for his podcast on spreaker.com.

Ebbe talks about his career, how he ended up with LL, he brags a little about how awesome Second Life is, talks about the new Project Sansar, how users can create experiences there and the future of VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality) and MR (Mixed reality).

Nothing really new or earth shattering is said, but Ebbe did mention that only a few months ago people who tested Sansar gave it a fairly high ‘discomfort rating’, probably based on how dizzy they felt using a headset in this Virtual World, but that today this rating is very low after fine-tuning the speed of walking, tweaking the teleporting, etc.

Ebbe repeated that this August, more users (by invitation only) will be invited to come test Sansar, it already is August, so lets hope those invitations are about to be send!
Close to 5000 people have signed up to be allowed to become part of the August test wave, I am one of them and my virtual suitcase is packed.

My plan for Sansar is to first build an embassy for Virtual Time Travellers, nothing fancy, nothing big, just a place where people interested in using VR for historical purposes (education, entertainment, etc) can hang out, chat, make plans and wonder how long it will take before I can build 1920s Berlin there.

Ebbe also mentions that Sansar will open “to the world” in January 2017.
We’ve been told that Sansar would go public in 2017, even early 2017, but as far as I know, this is the first time an actual month is mentioned and January is quite soon.

Most important of all though is the mentioning of The 1920s Berlin Project at 43:10🙂

I love that Mr. Lygonis mentions how annoying it is that with all the experience we have in SL, it must be a bit annoying to have all these people re-inventing the wheel when they pitch something as original, unique and new… while we’ve been doing it in SL for over a decade.
Ebbe answers politely but I prefer to imagine him running around Silicon Valley screaming; “SL has been doing that for over a decade, and that, and that!”

After the interview Mr. Lygonis got to try Sansar and calls it “to date; the most interesting virtual reality environment”.

You can listen to the complete podcast by clicking here;
https://www.spreaker.com/user/constantinnovation/episode-7-ebbe-altberg-virtual-reality-s_1

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First Hololens experiment with 360 degrees footage filmed in Second Life

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After seeing the 360 degrees video shot in Second Life, Jim Reichert decided to see what he could do with this footage and his Hololens.
You may remember his name from a previous article I wrote about his attempt to bring an avatar into the real world.

The result is quite impressive, of course this is only a first test and as Jim explains he had to lower the resolution and the frame-rate is also not that great, but once you realise what you’re watching it becomes clear how impressive this is and that yet another milestone has been reached.

360 degrees video footage has been recorded in a virtual world and is now being projected onto a Hololens, live, while it is being worn in an office.
Combining virtual reality with 360 degrees video with Augmented Reality.

But you’ll see that the possibilities are huge, I look forward to more experiments that bring RL into SL and SL into RL!
As the song goes; “You ain’t seen nothing yet”.

First 360 degrees video recorded within Second Life

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Imagine being able to bring your 360 degrees camera into Virtual Reality, just set it up in the club, house, park or city that you’ve build yourself in Second Life, record it and then share it online with people from all over the world.

Let them get a taste of where you live in VR, let them look around and even give them the feeling they’re actually there by looking at it with their VR headset.

This is now possible!
Yesterday Electric Shepherd from Vimagine (who also worked on the ‘Virtualize it’ documentary for ‘Der Spiegel’) and Draxtor Despres came to 1920s Berlin to test out an amazing 360 degrees camera to film the, as far as I know, first 360 degrees video shot Live in Second Life in real time.

Snapshot_003The camera rig was made by Arduenn Schwartzman (of Warbug fame), it has audio and video syncing capabilities and all recorded tracks are then aligned in post production.Snapshot_009Even though this is still just an early test, it is already very impressive.

I can imagine short clips like these made in sims all over Second Life being used to show outsiders what life in our virtual world is like and the things that they can experience there.
Because these can also record busy events with lots of people and with many things happening at the same time!

Not only are these just fun videos on youtube, but they are very impressive when viewed through the Gear VR, the Cardboard VR or other headsets.
And not just that, it will also allow me to show off my sim in a whole new way to people who may not have tried Second Life, don’t know how SL works or who don’t have a computer that can handle SL.

And imagine making a full length machinima with this technology!
We could be making 360 films while people in RL have only just experimenting with it.
Once more the people in SL are groundbreaking.

You can see this pioneering footage here;
(not all browsers support 360 degrees video)

Some technical details send in by Draxtor;

  • We are simulating a goPro Rig of 6 cameras, filming each with 1080 by 1080 (which is already too low = SL can handle more but we need the screens for FRAPS to capture it that high, working on it!!)
  • I filmed this test myself so there is no syncing which means the Zeppelin dissapears into the cloud at one point: to do live action in SL we need to film at same time.
  • Syncing is no prob: we have an automated system made by Arduenn Schwartzmann which syncs the six cameras with sound and a visual cue. But again = we need to figure out higher resolution = who has the computers to make it happen, are the colors in sync as well, is the SL lag an issue when aligning the cameras later on (f.e. a dance or fast car race or airship battle etc).
  •  I am working with spatial audio on a RL project so next step will also involve inserting some sounds and dialogue which is spatialized.
  • All in all the workflow we have is SUPER FAST = plop down the virtual camera rig in SL and shoot, export, stitch, correct = DONE = faster than RL 360 !!!!!!
  • Big benefits of SL for this = inserting virtual sequences into a RL 360 video = much faster and easier than constructing it via other CGI options because you can film it in REAL TIME and the assets are all there. Yes maybe render engine less able than Unity or Unreal but a LOT easier and ultimately not worse than RL 360 at this point in the game!

And this article wouldn’t be complete without this earlier 360 degrees video in VR experiment by Zuza Ritt;

A new project; Time Portal, a community for Time Travellers in Second Life.

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You may have noticed that I love history.
And that is quite an understatement, I’m obsessed with it, I’m addicted to it, I live it, I breath it, I need it.
And to be fair, it is the only reason I am in Second Life, this virtual world allows me to travel back in time and spend my evenings drinking schnapps in 1920s Berlin.

There have been shops and malls in Second Life that had historical themes, where you could buy vintage, retro and antique stuff but as far as I can tell they catered to a rather specific era or sold things that weren’t quite authentic and historically accurate.

Not that long ago my 1920s Berlin Project was neighboured with such a mall and it was nice for visitors to Berlin to have a place to go shopping nearby.
But Berlin moved and that shopping sim has since vanished.

As my friend Sonatta Morales her shop and my own shop Weimar! now suddenly found themselves without a place to sell their wares, we started thinking about setting up something new.

So, coming to Second Life (right next to 1920s Berlin);

Time Portal; Time Travel Gateway

A sim that will not only offer you the chance to shop with some of the best vintage, retro and historical creators in Second Life but where you can also rent an apartment, visit a club, see a show at the theatre, watch a movie at the cinema or learn something new at constantly changing exhibits in the museum

A place where shops will sell the best in historic clothing and items from any era up to the 1960s, where you can live in historical buildings, where we have a club and theatre where you can enjoy historically themed shows and even a museum with historical exhibits.
And of course, everything you see, from goods, buildings to entertainment, will be historically themed.
It will truly become a community for Time Travellers and history lovers.
You may be a Victorian Urchin living in a dirty old attic, your neighbour could be a 14th century princess living in a tower, while the guy living across the street enjoys walking around in his Roman armour.

Time Portal will not be a role-play sim (although it will of course be allowed), there won’t be a dress code, anyone will be welcome.
You can listen to someone playing Live 17th century music at the theatre,rock ‘n roll by the jukebox at the 1950s diner, enjoy yourself at a 1940s dance in the dance hall, learn something about Medieval architecture at the Bauhaus style museum or just hang out with a bunch of Victorian pickpockets.
Try and imagine a city where Time Travellers live, shop and entertain themselves in-between time travelling and you’ll get an idea of what Time Portal will be like.

Time Portal will be build and managed by me, Jo Yardley, builder and manager of the 1920s Berlin project, a sim that has been successful for over 7 years and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
And I won’t do it alone, my team of admins, advisors, event organisers, entertainers and performers from 1920 Berlin will also help out, all experienced people who know what they are doing and will make sure Time Portal will be a safe, fun place with plenty of customer service for visitors and tenants.

We are preparing Time Portal now, funds are gathered to buy the region and if everything goes well we’ll be able to open before the end of the month.
We’re accepting applications for shopkeepers now.
If you sell good, authentic items or clothes from the stone age up to the 1960s, let me know!
And if you build and sell authentic and historically accurate buildings, also get in touch.
We’ll be filling the sim up with buildings from different eras.

To simply stay updated like and follow the page;
https://www.facebook.com/timeportalsl/
I look forward to seeing you in Time Portal!

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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.

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