Dr. Phil Explores Second Life

In a recent episode of the Dr. Phil show, a US television talk show dispensing psychological advice (lately it seems to have become a civilized Jerry Springer, but that’s just my opinion!), Dr. Phil explored the world of Second Life. He talked about the benefits and drawbacks to video gaming, but specifically in this episode addressed the virtual world of Second Life. Someone helped him create an avatar that looked just like him, and he even had Ebbe Altberg on the show to discuss the merits of Second Life.

Draxtor Despres created a video of the parts of that show where Dr. Phil explored Second Life. It’s fun to watch him manipulate his avatar in world and hear Ebbe’s comments, brief though they were.

Here’s the clip. Enjoy!

I remain respectfully yours,
~ Suzanne Piers, ZI Blogger/Social Media

Linden Lab Gives a Peek into Project Sansar

Project Sansar June 2015

Now that the new platform is well underway, Linden Lab is giving us a glimpse into this other platform and what it means to Second Life residents, as well as new users of virtual worlds.

In an article published on the Xconomy.com website, and in an interview Ebbe Altberg gave in world at the SL12B celebration, more is being revealed about the timeline, the economy of Project Sansar, and more.

In an article on xconomy.com, Linden Lab is preparing to test this “parallel universe.” This article emphasizes again that Project Sansar is not a different version of Second Life. While Linden Lab has been making improvements to Second Life, “It would take more than just tinkering to retrofit it for current virtual reality hardware while keeping the site up and running,” stated Ebbe Altberg. Project Sansar is being created to be used with the virtual reality headsets, such as Samsung’s Gear VR and Oculus Rift (those two companies are still duking it out to see who becomes King of the VR).

The article states, “Although Second Life is still a popular online meeting place, as well as an e-commerce marketplace with a GDP greater than $500 million, Altberg says Linden Lab’s leadership team decided last year it needed to build a new world from the ground up if it wanted to succeed in the future.”

Alpha testing for Project Sansar will begin toward the end of July. Handpicked, eager to build something in the new virtual reality medium will be invited to the alpha testing, Altberg says. These guests, (they are not going to be Linden Lab staffers) will use each other’s games and other invented environments, trade feedback, and tweak their own work, he says.

About a year from the alpha release, Linden Lab will begin inviting ordinary users to explore Project Sansar, with a more public beta testing sometime during the first half of 2016, Altberg says. A version 1.0 might be ready by the end of 2016.

Quoting directly from the article:

“While Linden plans to do many things differently in Project Sansar than it does in Second Life, it will also draw on its dozen years of experience operating a pioneering site in several different fields: virtual reality, user-generated content, e-commerce, and virtual currencies. In Second Life, users can buy its currency called Linden with their credit cards at an exchange rate of 250 for one dollar. They can also earn Linden as participants in the Second Life economy, and cash out their virtual currency. Altberg says users redeemed a total of $60 million in 2014.

“Among the products and services for sale are makeovers for one’s avatar. Second Life’s standard-issue, free avatars all look like minor Marvel Comics characters—maybe to appeal to the male fans of digital games who flock to virtual reality sites. But users have also used Second Life for more diverse activities—to host meetings, offer college classes, teach each other languages, open fashion design houses, and set up real estate businesses. (The pirate ship with dirigible shown above is a Second Life creation.)

“Linden [Lab], which is profitable, earns revenues by renting “land” where users can build their virtual homes, museums, shops, or racetracks, at the rate of for $295 per month for a plot of a little over 16 acres. Users who only want to pitch a tent or open a taco stand can rent smaller spaces from virtual real estate businesses that lease large properties and then create subdivisions, Altberg says.”

Linden Lab continues to state emphatically that Second Life will live on after Project Sansar opens its doors as a parallel universe, probably under a new name.

“It’s still very popular and very successful, so we have no plans to discontinue it,” Altberg says. Second Life now hosts about 900,000 active users a month—a bit lower than its peak of about a million years ago. As a private company, Linden Lab doesn’t disclose its revenues. It had raised a total of about $30 million in equity financing by 2006.

The article on xconomy.com goes on to state:

“Linden’s employee count is now more than 213 “and we’re hiring as fast as we can,” Altberg says. Most of the new hires will support Project Sansar.

“Linden plans to make it easy for Second Life denizens to migrate their virtual activities to Project Sansar. But the alternate virtual world will have new features, and will operate by somewhat different rules.

“Altberg says the company is looking to scale up on a number of fronts, including the size of events that can be held in Project Sansar, the number of avatars participating, and the amount of money users can make through their projects.

“For example, Linden wants users to be able to make an unlimited number of “copies” of profitable constructs they’ve created. If an entrepreneur builds a virtual chemistry lab for a college class, that lab could also be sold to other colleges that want to teach chemistry, Altberg says.

“Competition within the virtual community might heat up in Project Sansar, because Linden wants to lower the barriers to entry for creators and entrepreneurs. The company is working on tools to make it easier to build something for advanced virtual reality hardware without being a professional developer. It’s also changing its revenue model.

“Rather than making most of its money renting land, Linden would make land cheaper, but charge taxes on users’ revenues from in-world businesses once they’ve succeeded. This could open up the site to new kinds of businesses, Altberg says.

“Some businesses in Second Life may not have the same success in Sansar,” Altberg says.

The full article can be found by clicking here: Second Life Creator Linden Lab Prepares To Test Parallel VR Universe

Clearly, things will be completely different in Project Sansar, VR will be the norm; the economy will be more resident-driven than land-driven. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Meanwhile, here’s the video from the interview Ebbe Altberg (a.k.a. Ebbe Linden in world) gave at the SL12B celebration:

I remain respectfully yours,
~ Suzanne Piers, ZI Blogger/Social Media

VR In Project Sansar

Living In a ModemWorld by Inara Pey posted a blog post about the future of virtual reality (VR) in Linden Lab’s newest platform, Project Sansar.

Ebbe Altberg gave a 20-minute talk titled “The future of VR is user-created” at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality (SVVR) Conference, which opened on May 18th, 2015.

“Those who may have been hoping to gain more of an insight into the Lab’s Next Generation Platform (aka Project SANSAR) will perhaps be disappointed by this presentation. As the title suggests, it isn’t so much focused on the Lab’s NGP, but rather on user generated content (UGC).” says Inara in her post.

Ebbe touched on SANSAR during the third part of his speech, but he really didn’t give much more away about the platform than has already been revealed by the Lab in statements made about it to date: That it is in development, that it will be running in a closed alpha from summer 2015, etc.

Read the full article by clicking here: Ebbe Altberg: “The Future of VR is User-Created” (a look at SL + SANSAR from the VR perspective)

I remain respectfully yours,
~ Suzanne Piers, Blogger/Social Media

Ebbe Altberg Discusses the New Platform!

Second Life’s TV show Designing Worlds‘ Saffia Widdershins and Elrik Merlin interviewed Linden Lab’s CEO Ebbe Altberg. Filmed during their 250th episode, Saffia and Elrik had an in-depth and candid discussion with Ebbe about many things, including the new platform, the future of Second Life, among other things.

Ebbe revealed that bringing back last names is on the horizon. He stated that while it’s not an active project on the moment, it is high on the list and will be coming back at some point in the future. He also discussed possibly bringing back community portals, which would attract users directly into a creator’s experience from RL.

He also discussed how bringing real-time facial expressions to avatars in SL is also a project, but that this technology is very much in it’s infancy and will take time for the hardware (such as 3D cameras) to become more common before this can become a reality.

Ebbe also had a long discussion about the new platform. He indicated that it has not yet been named, and said they have a code name for it as they’re developing it. However, they are keeping it secret because they are not sure the name will become the platform’s actual name. Linden Lab doesn’t want it to get branded with that name if that is not what is going to be used. It could potentially be very confusing. So for now, they continue to call it “the new platform” publicly.

Ebbe also emphasized that this new platform is NOT a replacement for SL; but is a completely new environment incorporating new technology. It iss easier to build new using the SL platform as a jumping off point, rather than trying to make the old platform work with the new technology. He stated that the new platform would be in the spirit of Second Life, with user generated content, and to make it easier for new users to interact with it.

He stated that they are at the point with the new platform that they are getting close to launching an avatar in the new world (hopefully by the end of the year), and indeed working towards possibly having an alpha test ready for specific invited users by mid-2015.

When asked if the viewer for the new platform will be open source, Ebbe stated that at the present time, they do not plan to open source the viewer. However, they are looking at possibly having plug-ins to be used with the viewer for customizations without the code being open source. He hinted that there might be a possibility for open source in the future at some point.

Ebbe also discussed cross-compatibility. He said that indeed some content would be able to cross to the new platform, but not all. They wanted the new platform to be forward thinking and future oriented, and not have to be written to allow for older technology. He stated that mesh would be transferable into the new platform, but that there would be a completely different scripting language used. He also indicated that avatars would be able hop between worlds using your avatar’s identity and Lindens. [Ed. Note: I got the impression that you would have two different avatars, one in each world, but that you could transfer the identity and lindens, not the avatar itself.]

The interview is featured on the Living in a Modemworld blog, and includes a written transcript of their discussion. In addition, the blogger, Inara Pey, includes interesting graphics and embedded videos to highlight the transcripts. It is well-worth a visit to her blog to see it. What I did was listen to the video and follow along by reading the transcript.

The video interview is here below.

I remain respectfully yours,
Suzanne Piers, Social Media Manager

A Brave New World!

“I feel like we’re in a very good place,” Altberg says. “We are the most experienced when it comes to this stuff. We’re bullish; we’re investing; and all the things that are happening around us with Oculus and the market getting excited about these things again [are] great for us. It’ll make it easier for us to attract talent.”

Now that the big news has broken, and some of the hubbub has died down a bit, more information is beginning to be leaked about the new virtual world platform that Linden Labs is developing.

Based on the information in the interview with Oz Linden and Pete Linden last week, Second Life is not going away. Indeed, Linden Labs is working on a new virtual world, but it will be a additional virtual world focused more on virtual reality, not a replacement to Second Life. They reassured anxious residents that Linden Labs is still putting time and effort into the continued development of Second Life, and that even though the team working on SL is smaller, it is no less focused on fixing what isn’t working and developing and improving the current platform.

According to an article appearing on the website Engadget, the new platform will be more focused on virtual reality in a social networking platform. Basically, this new platform will be Second Life on steroids.

According to the article on Engadget, Linden Labs’s CEO Ebbe Altberg’s vision for this new platform includes making it compatible with just about every device its users could possibly own. “How do people interact with the world from their phone, from their pad, from their PC and from their Oculus? All of that we’re solving from the ground up with this new code base,” Altberg says. “Multi-device from day one.”

Engadget states: “Altberg wants this new platform to be a virtual world that embodies everything Linden Lab got right with Second life, but bigger and more accessible. He also thinks of it as a development platform for new games and virtual reality experiences.”

” ‘It’s a platform,’ Altberg says. ‘In some ways, you could compare it to Unity.’ Altberg wants developers to see both Second Life and its eventual successor as game engines they can build their content on. He tries to paint…a picture: ‘I’m going to build an experience that has virtual capabilities,’ he states. ‘Do I use Second Life? Do I use Unity? Do I use Unreal Engine? Well, if you want to use those [latter two], your technical ability needs to be a lot higher and you have to have a team. In Second Life, you just come in and start building.’ If Linden Lab’s follow-up to Second Life has a good Oculus Rift implementation, he explains, then every experience on that platform can be an Oculus experience. ‘So, the bar of entry for anyone to be able to create an Oculus experience … it’s almost like we have the lowest bar possible,’ he says.” Reference: Engadget

The Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset has been forefront in the news lately, and indeed Second Life has already developed a beta viewer that will accommodate the VR headset. However, users often experience simulator sickness (a form of motion sickness) while using it, which can leave users feeling nauseous, disoriented and uncomfortable. An entire publication on VR Best Practices has been published, and in it are some guidelines for minimum framerates, graphics aliasing and response times, but most of it focuses on creating an experience that feels natural to the user.

“Seemingly simple things, like a player’s walking speed or limitations in camera control, can have a major impact on how uncomfortable a player can feel in a virtual space. The user’s awareness of their own presence in VR is also pretty important. ‘Looking down and having no body is disconcerting,’ the document reads. ‘A full character avatar can do a lot to ground the user in the virtual environment.’ The guide has health warnings too, suggesting that users take 10 to 15 minute breaks for every hour spent in the Oculus Rift and declaring its 3D technology potentially unsafe for children.[credit: Oculus’ Best Practices Explained]

Clearly, Ebbe Alberg’s vision for this new VR world includes attracting as many users as possible — he was talking about Facebook-type numbers — and yet not “dumbing down” the experience and keeping it complex enough so that developers will emigrate away from traditional game-development platforms like Unity and Unreal Engine. He wants the complexity to attract high-end game developers and the gamers that play them, yet make it user friendly enough to attract huge numbers of end users. A bit of hyperbole, perhaps? Since the development of this new platform is in its infancy, it remains to be seen.

At this time, Linden Labs’ stance is that the new virtual reality platform is not going to eclipse Second Life; but rather will be another bright star in the galaxy of Linden Labs’ universe.

I remain respectfully yours,
~ Suzanne Piers
ZI Social Media Manager

Breaking News! Second Life 2 in 2016??

Ebbe Alberg RLWe interrupt your regularly scheduled perusal of our website to bring you the some breaking news.

The interwebs are abuzz with the latest news leaked from the headquarters of Linden Labs. After cagily sidestepping any questions about the future of SL, and stating staunchly that he is 100% behind growing SL, the grid has exploded with rumors of a “Second Life 2” that is set to be launched in 2016.

Rumors? or Fact? Or a giant marketing scheme?!? You make the call.

According to Jo Yardley’s blog, she says, “In an interview with ‘The Next Web,‘ Ebbe Altberg (CEO of Linden Lab) says that a beta of ‘Second Life 2′ (no official new name yet) is expected to be launched in 2015 while the final version should be ready in 2016.”

Cue the record needle scratching across the vinyl.

You can see the entire interview here.

“A new version of Second Life is being built from the ground up, with a little help from the Oculus Rift” screams the headline, in giant red letters.

With help from Oculus Rift, Linden Labs plans to create a whole new world in an attempt to go mainstream. Linden Labs CEO Ebbe Altberg says that Second Life has plateaued.

“It’s a massive project to do a new virtual world. To start from the ground up we’re hiring 40-50 more people,” Altberg told TNW.

“With technology, market interest, hardware and software available, now is the time to give it another big shot. We have the experience to do it more than anyone else,” says Altberg. The new Second Life will offer more robust tools for creators. Games, designs, goods, all the things that make the current incarnation of Second Life the go-to place for current users will be part of the new world. When asked why not just update the current world Altberg said, “We’re not going to constrain ourselves with backwards compatibility.”

The new version of Second Life is still a ways off though. A beta is expected to be launched in 2015 with the final version expected in 2016. In the meantime, Linden Lab has already told its users that a new version is coming, according to the TNW website.

There are two virtual reality frontrunners — Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus, meaning that virtual reality is finally hitting the mainstream. The reasoning behind the change is that SL must change with the mainstream, and the original grid is not built for it.

While I can certainly understand the need to create an entirely new grid based on the latest technology, I have to wonder what this means for the countless residents and content creators who have tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of RL dollars tied up in inventory and real estate. What happens to landowners whose investment in their real estate is suddenly valueless? The thought of having to start over in a new virtual world and not being able to sell their old real estate because it is no longer of any value in the abandoned world, may not be palatable or even do-able for many.

While this cutting edge technology is exciting, and possibly necessary, there has to be a way that Linden Labs will make this right by business owners, content creators and landowners in the current SL platform.

I remain respectfully yours,
~ Suzanne Piers
ZoHa Islands Social Media Manager