High Fidelity Raises $11 Million

One of the biggest things to hit virtual worlds is the idea of being able to experience it in the immersive Virtual Reality, or VR. High Fidelity is open source software for shared Virtual Reality, and they are the first to move forward with this technology in the virtual world environment. Second Life 3, or whatever it is going to be called, is going to be geared toward that kind of technology also, using the still rather clunky VR headsets such as Oculus Rift. While we are still in the early stages of the development of this technology, it is exciting to watch it grow and develop.

It was announced yesterday in an article posted on the techcrunch.com website, that High Fidelity, the San Francisco-based startup from Second Life founder Philip Rosedale, has raised another $11 million in funding in a round led by Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital. The funding was noted in a SEC filing recently, and was confirmed to the TechCrunch website by Rosedale himself. Hi Fidelity is clearly a forerunner and a big player in this exciting, developing technology.

I’m quoting directly from the article below. But you can find the original posting by clicking on this link: Hi Fidelity Raises $11M

“Founded in 2013, High Fidelity is building deployable virtual worlds, combining the ease of rolling out a VM instance on a modern cloud platform with the interactivity of Minecraft and the immersion of virtual reality. Over the course of several hours at High Fidelity HQ yesterday, Rosedale demonstrated the state of the startup’s tech and the vision he has for turning it into a viable business.

“The main idea driving High Fidelity forward is the ability to quickly generate a virtual space to meet in and interact with. While the interface is far from final, it’s already at the point where you can pick a template, choose a name, and instantly have a space accessible by others. Each space is essentially a small video game world, filled in with the same 3D models you’d build for a game built with Unity.

“The startup has built enough logic that you can jump in with friends, have a quick virtual chat, and interact with the virtual space. If you want more stuff to do, you can grab or sculpt your own models and create logic in JavaScript to tell the world how interaction should work. Rosedale showed off this capability by dropping a billiards table he’s been working on in his free time into a world. Using two Razer Hydra controllers, you could pick up balls, roll them around, or throw them at one another and see them react with realistic physics. Similarly, the studio has invested a ton of time into naturalistic facial/gesture capture and 3D audio, making it the closest thing to the ideal virtual reality chatroom.

“If you can code it, you can build basically anything into High Fidelity’s worlds. Between alpha users and the team’s developers messing around in their own time, people have built procedurally generated cities and AI-powered animals that wander around realistically — and that’s just scratching the surface of what’s possible.

“As with Second Life, High Fidelity doesn’t plan to sell you a one-time license in exchange for unlimited play. In fact, the base of the experience is open source, letting anyone host worlds on their own machines with less of a hassle than even the kid-friendly Minecraft.

“Rosedale plans to monetize High Fidelity at the points where the community provides value to itself. While you can generate a temporary name to send to friends so they can quickly jump into a world with you, you’ll also be able to pay a fee to keep a distinct name for longer-term use — kind of like reserving a good URL for your site or username on Twitter.

“Since users can make all kinds of content for their worlds, High Fidelity also wants to host the go-to repository for models and code in a digital store resembling Unity’s Asset Store. Given the product’s open source approach, generous users can give out their offerings for free if they’d like, but if they want to charge money, High Fidelity will take a small cut.

“As I’ve noted before, advertising is probably going to be common in virtual reality. Some might hear that and groan, but in “contemporary” virtual settings, ads done right can actually contribute to immersion. Rosedale says the startup is looking to make ads not only feel natural in High Fidelity, but helpful: while there might be ads for “real” products on in-game televisions or billboards down the road, in the near-term you’re more likely to see ads for cool objects you can pick up from the asset store.

“Virtual reality allows for an infinite range of experiences, and the studios and hobbyists working on content for headsets from market leaders Oculus and Samsung have barely touched on what’s possible. For now, the majority of development in the space happens in traditional game engines like Unity and Unreal. High Fidelity’s deployable worlds put it somewhere between those professional tools and the most customizable video games, opening up innovation in the space to those who are willing to get technical but don’t want to build something from the ground up.:

We are on the cusp of some exciting developments!

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

Captain Oculus Tests Oculus Rift in Second Life

oculus rift logo
As Oculus Rift continues to grow and develop, it is interesting to hear about experiences people are having with it in Second Life. Kate Bergdorf, who has a blog called “The Bergdorf Reports” recently had a fascinating guest blogger who posted about his experiences with Oculus Rift in SL.

Recently, Kate bumped into a noob named Captain Oculus, and ended up having a discussion with him about Oculus Rift. Captain Oculus commented to Kate that he had just about run out of places to visit to test Oculus Rift. Kate gave him a list of places, and he agreed to do a post about it for her blog.

As Captain Oculus states in his opening paragraph, “My Second Life name is Captain Oculus and I am a Software Developer who spends free time in Second Life with the Oculus Rift Developer Kit 2 (DK2). I am not affiliated with Oculus, Facebook, or Linden Labs in any way, and merely provide a third party opinion about various things in the virtual reality.”

Since Captain Oculus apparently has no agenda to promote, his observations and experiences can presume to be unbiased as far as a corporate affiliation. Obviously no one is completely unbiased; we all come to the table with our own life experiences and thoughts and feelings, but Captain Oculus does an excellent job. He writes about his own personal experiences in SL using Oculus Rift, and he describes his experiences in depth and detail. It is well worth the read to learn more about Oculus Rift and this fascinating way of interacting with a virtual world.

His post can be found by clicking this link: The Experience of Oculus Rift.

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

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