Friday, June 24, 2016
Open Forum: How Will Brexit Impact SL's Many UK Users?
UK users, the floor is yours -- how will last night's Brexit influence your usage of Second Life? British SLers make up a large percentage of the active userbase, and most economists believe the Brexit will have a heavy negative impact on the British economy, so the overall influence is likely to be sharp and noticeable.
Your own take, UK readers? And come to think of it, as the Brexit will probably impact every user in every country, this open forum is open to all.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Trump's Second Life Supporters Erect Giant Anti-Hillary Billboards Across the Street from Hillary HQ
So remember that Hillary Clinton headquarters in Second Life I told you about earlier this month? The one that had replaced a Trump fan's tribute to the Republican's Florida mansion? On a visit to the Hillary HQ this week, I felt a blobby mass looming over my head behind me, and so slowly turned around. And saw this:
Yes: Trump's Second Life fans may have lost the mansion, but they put up a big billboards for Trump's SL headquarters (with a couple proposing Hillary for prison for good measure) directly across the street. So now, both Trump and Hillary HQs stand at a literal crossroads:
Oculus Rift Terms of Service Warns VR Exposure May Increase Risk of Injury "in the Real World"
Some VR experts believe the technology can endanger users in the real world, and in fact, Oculus Rift's Terms of Service warns consumers of just that -- however, you need to dig around to find that caution. Item 15 of Oculus' ToS, "Disclaimers", points to a .pdf document with safety warnings, then says "BY USING THE SERVICES, YOU REPRESENT AND WARRANT THAT YOU HAVE READ AND UNDERSTAND THESE WARNINGS AND INSTRUCTIONS". The "Health and Safety" document is pretty standard for high tech devices until you get to the Discomfort section, which lists a host of symptoms ("seizures, loss of awareness... involuntary movements; altered, blurred, or double vision or other visual abnormalities" etc. etc.) followed by a passage in bold (captured above), which says this:
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Project Sansar May Require RL Names, Suggests CEO, UPDATE: Audio/Transcript Confirms, "But We Have Not Made Final Decisions"
Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg made a public appearance in Second Life yesterday during that virtual world's 13th year anniversary, and dropped this potentially unlucky bombshell about Project Sansar:
Ebbe was then asked if users of Sansar would have the option to chose their own names for their avatars, or would they be having to use real-life identities. Ebbe answered he was leaning to the latter, "I think what's best for Sansar is real names. ... anonymous identities makes things confusing."
I missed this press appearance, so it's possible that SL blogger Bixyl Shuftan misheard Ebbe on this point; I'm double-checking with Linden Lab now. But if that's accurate -- still a big if -- that's a pretty big potential showstopper:
VR Industry Risks Major Liability Exposure Due to Disorientation, Expert Warns
"How big an issue is the nausea problem for Virtual Reality products?" is the title of a really fascinating if disturbing Quora post by Steve Baker, who's been working in VR for over two decades, primarily for the military and defense contractors, who got into the virtual reality business way back during the Cold War. Baker carefully analyzes the nausea problems associated with VR, argues they are fundamentally unsolvable, and then drops this jaw-dropping factoid taken from a military study of test subjects' reaction to long term use of a flight simulator:
Anecdotal data continues to be received indicating there is a part of the aviation population that experiences delayed problems beyond the simulator exposure and for periods that exceed 6 to 8 hours for approximately 8 percent of the population and l-to-2 days for an even smaller population... an aviator should wait postflight before piloting an actual aircraft or even driving a car.
"Yeah," Baker observes, "the US Navy believes that some people shouldn’t drive a car within one to two DAYS of being inside a VR environment."
In conclusion, he raises a liability issue I brought up from another direction a few weeks ago:
Cool Demo of SL's New Project Bento Avatar Customization
We're still seeing a dearth of Project Bento-based avatars since the new SL avatar technology launched, but here's a pretty impressive new demo from Medhue showing how avatar customization works with a Bento-borne avatar -- starring, of course, a talking fox.
Speaking of dearth in Bento avatars, reader Adeon thinks the delay is due to needing a special viewer to see them:
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Oculus Rift for Second Life Promoted on Official Site But Actual SL Viewer for Oculus Outdated
Now that the commercial model of the Oculus Rift is showing up in consumers' hands, some of them might want to try their new Rift out in Second Life. After all, Oculus Rift for SL is promoted on the official homepage. Some Rift owners, however, report some not too great results:
First of all, the official viewer with Oculus Rift capabilities hasn’t been updated since 2014... What I didn’t realise was that yes, Second Life will work with an Oculus Rift using that viewer, BUT only if it is the DEVELOPMENT MODEL. My commercially released treasure is more powerful, and NONE of the viewers have been updated to support it. To say that this sucks balls is an understatement.
More ranting in a post cheekily titled "Oculus MIFFED". And indeed, clicking "Explore now with the Oculus Rift" on the SL homepage takes you to an official announcement from October 2014, which takes you to a download link of an SL viewer compatible with the DK2 development kit version of Oculus Rift.
Where's the updated viewer for the commercial version of the Rift? I've asked Linden Lab about this, and will update this post when/if I get a reply. Until then, if you're planning to use your new Rift with Second Life, caveat emptor. (Or however you say "downloader" in Latin.)
Flickr of the Day: "Singing Butler" Recreated in Second Life
I love this new Flickr image from Goodie McCross, which started as a screenshot taken in Second Life, then after quite a bit of post-production, became a more moody and melancholic recreation of Jack Vettriano's famous painting "The Singing Butler". Click below to compare and contrast:
HBO's Westworld Remake Sure Seems to Have a VR Twist
The 70's original was about animatronic cowboys and showgirls in an old West theme park going haywire, while the HBO remake (to judge by this new teaser trailer at least), sure seems to suggest something more akin to clones in a VR simulation of the old West. Lead creatives include J.J. Abrams (Lost) and Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan's brother and frequent collaborator (Interstellar, Memento), so expect mind-bending in any case.
VR, or something else? Discuss.
Monday, June 20, 2016
Second Life Users Raise Over One Million Linden Dollars in Donations for Orlando Shooting Victims
Great news to start the week: As of the last hour, the total in Linden Dollar donations that will be converted from Linden Dollars to US$ donations to the victims of the Pulse shooting stand at L$1,053,210 -- that's over $4100 in US dollars, that will soon be sent to the official GoFundMe Pulse Victims Fund for Equality Florida (which as of today, has nearly $6 million total). That amount is almost double from last Thursday, when the total was just below L$600,000. So clearly a lot of SLers donated during the weekend.
One big help was the distribution of donation boards, enabling anyone to collect donations from their land. And Casper Warden, the reputed SL entrepreneur who launched the drive and created the sign, tells me those boards have been going out like crazy:
Watch Realistic Avatars Powered by Oculus & Vive Interact in High Fidelity
I meant to blog this video last month, but it's still worth a watch -- two impressively realistic avatars, one powered by a Vive user, the other by an Oculus user, playing tic-tac-toe (kinda sorta) in High Fidelity:
High Fidelity's lead artist is a veteran of Pixar, so most avatars we've seen in demos are decidedly Incredibles-like, so it's good to watch eerily human-looking ones in action. (Dangling in mid-air Wiley Coyote-like over the Uncanny Valley though they may be.) In a new blog post, HF Director of Content Caitlyn Meeks includes this demo while summarizing the startups' mission to make the VR experience more human:
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Future of VR Games Probably More Like "Follow the White Rabbit"-Type Adventure Games Than "Doom"
- Second Life Users Raise Nearly $2500 in Donations to Help Orlando Pulse Victims
- Slow Bento: New SL Avatar Development Likely Delayed by Multi-Disciplinary Nature
- I Painted Whirling Virtual Fire & My Face Felt the Flames
- In Academic Study of Sex in Second Life, 60% Enjoy Virtual Version Over Real Life Thing
Friday, June 17, 2016
Today at 2pm Pacific, Meet Philip Rosedale in High Fidelity for Vive/Oculus Building Demo
Have an Oculus or Vive? Join me in High Fidelity today at 2pm to talk about building with hand controllers. Download beta, go to 'playa'— Philip Rosedale (@philiprosedale) June 17, 2016
Get the download here and get your Vive/Oculus hand controllers ready. Somewhere in San Francisco's SOMA district, Philip with his awesome hair will be all:
That Time a Rock Legend Retweeted My Story About Donald Trump's Virtual Troll Army in Second Life
Probably only interesting to me and definitely a humblebrag, but this retweet of my Vice story on Trump demons trolling Bernie fans in SL tickled me:
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Future of VR Games Probably More Like "Follow the White Rabbit"-Type Adventure Games Than "Doom"
So I was standing in line at a VR party the other night when the woman in front of me pulled a world from her bag. I was still recovering from playing a spoogey, eyeball-punching demo of the new Doom on Vive, but the world she strapped to my face was decidedly more serene -- a magic apartment in Paris full of mystery, clues, and surprises.
"Follow the White Rabbit" is an upcoming VR game designed by Nicole Lazzaro, who as it happens, also designed the iPhone's first accelerometer-driven game back in 2007. And if VR games have any chance of reaching a mainstream audience, I think "White Rabbit" and games like it stand the best chance of doing so:
Second Life Users Raise Nearly $2500 in Donations to Help Orlando Pulse Victims
As of this hour, the total in donations that will be converted from Linden Dollars to US$ is L$586,767 -- about $2300. If daily donation rates keep pace, that total should easily go over $2500 in value by today. Casper Warden, a well-known SL content creator, is converting all donations into real US dollars and sending them to the official GoFundMe Pulse Victims Fund page for Equality Florida (which as of today, has nearly reached $5 million total). I'd love to see the L$ total exceed $5,000 or even pass $10,000, and I know the community can do it. The annual Relay for Life campaign in Second Life for the American Cancer Society consistently collects Linden Dollar donations worth six figures in US dollars.
Click here to make your own donation on the land of Casper, or get a copy of the donation box for your own land here.
Slow Bento: New SL Avatar Development Likely Delayed by Multi-Disciplinary Nature
Why are we still waiting for Project Bento-based Second Life avatars? After two weeks on the main grid, little two none have shown up in SL social circles or media. (Besides those already developed by early beta developers, like Aki's wyvern above.) One very good reason, as SL veteran Patchouli Woollahra puts out, is developing a Bento avatar tends to require more than just one skill set:
"The main barrier here," as he puts it, "is that unlike the legacy SL avatar skeleton, the extra bones in a Bento-ified avatar need extra animations playing in order to properly animate them. So this is not a simple model/texture/rig job, but also requires help from a good animator as well. And frankly, this is stretching across multiple disciplines:
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
I Painted Whirling Virtual Fire & My Face Felt the Flames
Tilt Brush, which lets you paint in brushstrokes of glowing solid light, is by far the best non-game VR application I've tried out so far -- and thanks to fellow Linden alum Reuben Steiger, whose new company co-sponsored a huge virtual reality party/demo show last night, I got to leap into quite a few.
Rather, the effect was impressive. Developed by Google, the user interface for Tilt Brush is pretty counter-intuitive and kludgy. (Instead of selecting different brushes and paints which actually look like brushes or paints, the more intuitive choice, you have to page through a 3D menu which seems more suitable to 2D.) Once you more or less get it going, however, it is pretty magical: Using Vive's hand controls, you're able to draw in the space in front of you, and to a striking degree, actually feel what you're creating as solid, reactive entities. Specific example: There's a seriously cool fire font in Tilt Brush which paints rivulets of spinning flame wherever you wave -- and if you paint these strokes close to you, you can actually feel the warmth against your cheeks, more or less as you would whenever you blow out a candle.
I mean, if you're asking me if this is the killer app of VR, that's a totally different question:
SL Sim Pic Inspired by Wyeth Reminds Me of John Ford
This moody and richly textured SL Flickr pic of the day by "Shelly70" is taken from her new sim inspired by Wyeth's "Christina's World". But because I'm a film geek, it reminds me more of John Ford's closing from The Searchers:
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Second Life Users Raise Over L$430,000 to Benefit Victims of Pulse Terror/Hate Shooting - Get a Free Donation Box
Since Sunday night, Second Life users have raised over $L430,000 in donations that will be converted into cash donations that will be sent to the victims of last weekend's horrific terrorist/homophobic attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. L$430K is about $1,700 in real dollars, which is a great start, but surely we can donate far more: Click here to make your own donation on the land of Casper Warden, who's running the drive.
You can go even farther than that: Click here to get a free copy of this donation collector, so you can help increase donations:
Yes I Know E3 in LA Here Now Inundated With VR News
... I'm actually right now as you read this arranging to on do some live-blogging and/or Tweeting from VR-related events at E3, and will do a round-up of the biggest announcements later in the week. Meantime, what's the most exciting VR/E3-related news you've seen so far?
See the Future of Avatars in One Jaw Dropping Reel
You might swear these are people underneath elaborate costumes, but they're actually data of motion captured people beneath layers and layers of further code:
In Academic Study of Sex in Second Life, 60% Enjoy Virtual Version Over Real Life Thing
Just came across this WTF factoid arguing that virtual reality will kill porn as we know it:
In the journal Psychology and Sexuality, Gilbert and his team investigated the sexual behavior and attitudes in Second Life. He and his team looked at 217 participators in the virtual world game — about 51 percent who were in a real-life relationship and 49 percent who were not. Within the game, 43 percent of the players had sexual experiences. In Second Life users can purchase and attach virtual genitalia and engage in sexual relationships with other players. They found that 60 percent of the subjects actually had more satisfying sexual sexual experiences in Second Life than in real life.
That from an academically rigorous study from California university researchers. Which is notable partly because a recent informal survey suggested two-thirds of SLers prefer the real thing. I continue to be stunned how many people, when given the chance, prefer the simulation of what's fundamental about the human experience at its best than the thing itself. Even happiness.
The study [.pdf link here], which was published in 2011 (academic results often move out of academia at a glacial pace) does have some consolation for the reality biased:
Warcraft Earns More in China Than All US & EU Combined
Western movie based on Western MMO based on Western books based on Western folklore bombs in West... loved in China. pic.twitter.com/MgEXpHBRFj— Wagner James Au (@slhamlet) June 14, 2016
Witness the power of a massive country shaped by the massive popularity of massively multiplayer online games. (At least that's one key factor.) As of now, Warcraft has grossed $156M in China versus $148 in the US and the rest of the world (mainly across Europe). All respect to Jackie Chan, I don't think this means Hollywood is going to start making movies in Chinese, but it is going to impel more US movies primarily catering to the Chinese audience's interests -- including and perhaps especially MMOs and other online games. League of Legends: The Movie, anyone?
Monday, June 13, 2016
Donate Linden Dollars in Second Life to Send Real Dollars to the Victims of the Pulse Orlando Terrorist Attack
Click here to visit a donation kiosk in Second Life to support the victims of last weekend's horrific terrorist/homophobic attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It's hosted by Casper Warden, a well-known SL content creator, who will convert all donations into real US dollars and donate the contributions to the official GoFundMe Pulse Victims Fund page for Equality Florida.
"I’ve been a long-time supporter of various LGBT causes, including within Second Life (Second Pride and such)," Casper tells me. "The recent abomination that occurred in Orlando absolutely sickened me, and I wanted to do what I could to help out." After setting up the donation kiosk this morning, Casper's already collected over L$200,000 (around USD$800).
As it happens, I first heard about this donation drive from well-known SL blogger Strawberry Singh, who lives in Orlando, happens to be a Muslim-American, and has a poignant post reflecting on her perspective being so close to the terror attack:
Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Janine "Iris" Hawkins Remembers Her Late Mom Through the Games She Loved
- Matrix Effect Survey: Over 1 in 3 VR Users Experience Temporary Confusion Between What's Virtual & What's Real
- Be Donald Trump in Second Life (For About One Dollar)
- Donald Trump's Second Life Mansion Replaced by Hillary HQ
- Hair-Raising Story of Second Life Stalking Soon to Be Replicated in VR-Based Worlds
- Can Consciousness Be Simulated as Musk Must Assume?
Friday, June 10, 2016
Janine "Iris" Hawkins Remembers Her Late Mom Through the Games She Loved
Janine's mother's SL avatar Sharona Medby (pic also by her mom)
NWN alum Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins, has a very powerful post on Giant Bomb about her late mom who recently passed away, who she remembers through the games she used to play, and what they say about her. She was avid SLer as well (known as "Sharona Medby" in-world):
Second Life is full of artists, and for as much as she dabbled in the fashion and clubbing sides of it she inevitably fell in with them and started learning Photoshop to spruce up her virtual world snapshots. She figured out how to find and follow tutorials to get effects she liked, and posted picture after picture of photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Koinup before eventually filling a little gallery of her own in Second Life itself. After having her confidence in her artistic abilities torn down, Second Life steadily built it back up until she was sketching in real life again, exploring a part of herself she thought had atrophied. I will never have patience for people who dismiss Second Life as nothing more than an MMO for horny loners, because it was both the palette and the canvas that helped my mother understand that making art for yourself is much more important than making it for other people.
Much more of Sharona's art here, and read the rest of Iris' tribute on Giant Bomb here. I distinctly remember Iris writing about her family here on this blog, because as it happens, both her mom and dad were avid SLers:
Friday Open Form: Links, News, Opinions on the Virtual
What's the most interesting thing NWN readers (which include me) should know about today?
Thursday, June 09, 2016
Matrix Effect Survey: Over 1 in 3 VR Users Experience Temporary Confusion Between What's Virtual & What's Real
Here's the results of our fairly non-scientific but still pretty interesting survey on the Matrix/Cartesian effect. After extensive VR use, over a third of the users who took the survey report experiencing "light to medium" confusion between what's virtual and what's real, at least for a few minutes. 3% report experiencing that level of confusion for a few hours, the same amount experiencing "medium to heavy" confusion for a few hours, while notably, another 3% report medium to heavy confusion for over 12 hours.
Of course, we could slice these results in the other direction and also note that 45% of those surveyed (the plurality) report no confusion at all. However, like I said before, from a company liability perspective, it's notable if a significant minority experience this kind of confusion after using your product. Take longtime NWN reader Adeon Writer:
Second Life Sim Inspired by Wyeth's "Christina's World"
Click here to visit a Second Life sim which just opened which was inspired by one the 20th century's most beloved paintings: "A little painting called 'Christina's World' sparked the idea for a full sim around the feel of those times," announces Goodie McCross, who took the photos above. The sim's creator is "Shelly70", who fittingly calls this experience "Gates of Melancholy".
Hamlet is Hungry for More Bento (Avatars) - Who Has Some?
Project Bento has been available for general user testing since late May -- that's Linden Lab's codename for much-anticipated Second Life skeleton extensions which greatly expand the expressive range of avatars -- but since then, I haven't seen many user-made avatars showing up on social media. This articulated centaur from Aki Shichiroji above is pretty cool, but I want to feature more here. Got Bento? Please post links in Comments!
By the way, Linden Lab, thank you so much for giving me hunger pangs every time this technology is mentioned. For people who grew up in Hawaii, calling it Project Bento is pretty much like calling it Project Bacon.
Wednesday, June 08, 2016
Be Donald Trump in Second Life (For About One Dollar)
Of course you can be Donald Trump in Second Life, for just L$299 (about one dollar and pocket change): Offered by someone named "say fairlady", here's the Trump Complete Mesh Avatar, which comes both with red power tie and orange power hair. L$299 too much? Just buy Donald Trump's floating, disembodied head for a low low price of L$199.
Why would someone want to be Donald Trump in Second Life? Beyond comic relief, I'm not entirely sure. (Then again, I don't even know why Donald Trump wants to be Donald Trump.) But then yet again, the opportunities for a virtual Donald Trump who is like actual Donald Trump are limitless in Second Life. There's Trump's large contingent of racist, anime porn-loving fans in Second Life, for one thing, so there's a waiting fanbase. And virtual estate development is Second Life's biggest business, earning millions of US dollars in the process, so his skill set is supported. Second Life used to be a popular place for educators, so why not set up a Trump University in SL? (What with the real one defunct and buried in lawsuits.) Judge a new Miss Second Life contest? Those exist too -- L'Oreal even sponsored one, once. Command an army of fascist furries? Got you go covered there, Donnie.
Speaking of lawsuits, I'm kind of curious if the very litigious Trump files a DMCA order to prohibit people from selling his floating head in Second Life. That would open up a pretty interesting legal conversation on fair use, and the First Amendment implications of imitating a political figure. Maybe he can ask Second Life fan and Trump VP hopeful Newt Gingrich for advice there.
(And no, far as I can tell, there's no Hillary Clinton avatar in SL for sale in the Marketplace, least far as I can see, but that's likely to change soon.)
Flickr of the Today: Sina Souza, Fantastic SL/RL Artist
Sina Souza has a fantastic Flickr feed full of surreal and striking images originally created in Second Life and then post-professed in beautiful ways. Her art's on display in SL (here's a show opening in late May), and in the real world too:
Tuesday, June 07, 2016
Donald Trump's Second Life Mansion Replaced by Hillary HQ
Since March, visitors to the Lionheart region of Second Life were greeted by a garish recreation of Donald Trump's Florida mansion, complete with a virtual wall:
Last week, however -- roughly around the same time Hillary Clinton was condemning Trump on television and Twitter -- a Scottish leftist LGBTIA activist named Ysabelle Stewart was wandering Lionheart looking for the Trump mansion, when she came across a totally unexpected change of scenery:
A Hillary Clinton headquarters, standing in the exact same place as Trump's mansion. Which seemed too ironic a turnaround to be intentional. In fact, I originally suspected it was the Trump mansion owner trolling would-be Hillary supporters with a dummy HQ. But no, it was even more interesting than that:
"I had come by the Trump site via Kotaku a few weeks back and was amused with its ersatz exclusivity and loud-mouthed ethos," Hillary HQ owner Candace Larganta tells me. "I happened to comeback for a visit and noticed the plot was vacant. Aha! Why not create a Hillary HQ. I support her (and Bernie as well), but lean very heavily in her direction."
And so it stands, just in time for the primaries today in California, New Jersey and beyond: Click here to visit for yourself.
If People Are Too Embarrassed to Speak to Siri in Public, Why Would They Wear Augmented Reality Glasses Outside?
In the latest example of my "culture trumps technology" rule of thumb, here's the latest striking datapoint:
According to a recent study by Creative Strategies, some 98 percent of iPhone users have used Siri, the virtual assistant baked into every iPhone since the 4s. However, just 3 percent of us are using the feature in public or in front of others.
“With public usage as low as 3% for iPhone users, it seems users are still uncomfortable talking to their devices,” the research firm said in a statement. “Even more fascinating is this happens in the U.S. where consumers are accustomed to talking loudly on phones in public.”
In other words: People are embarrassed to be heard speaking to an AI. This despite the fact that Siri is widely available to a large percentage of the market (i.e. anyone with access to an iPhone), the technology has been available for almost five years, and it comes from Apple, the undisputed master of creating popular, consumer friendly computing devices.
Like I said, this is just the latest example of culture trumping technology, another recent, obvious, apropos example being the death of Google Glass. Speaking of which, I hope everyone in the augmented reality industry is discussing this right now:
Monday, June 06, 2016
Hair-Raising Story of Second Life Stalking Soon to Be Replicated in VR-Based Worlds
From /SecondLife comes this incredibly disturbing story of some SLers who were ruthlessly stalked in Second Life and into the real world:
I reported this jerk, so did all her friends. He was ignored and his carbon copy accounts blocked. So he made more. Many more. He copied outfits, displaynames and profiles and would hang out at places where my friend would hang out sending nasty IM's to people calling them names, fag, tranny etc...
He used several alts to monitor the main public hangouts, we tried in vain to pattern match accounts on the region preceding everyone near by a victim getting messaged. He tracked my friend down RL and sent a message about her kids and their school. She finally folded and quit SL. He wasn't finished with me, and started using single use rezzed prims to send me scripted IM's calling me and the people around me names. These could not be blocked, every message came from a brand new object rezzed somewhere in SL. A few times we got to the objects location just as he logged off and with a lot of messages managed to get the main copy cat accounts banned from social sims. We made a blog and logged every incident and sent that to Linden Lab staff. My friend went to the police, they told her to stop using the internet.
There's a lot more to this, and it concludes with this ominous warning worth emphasizing: "There are major issues in how abuse and harassment are handled and no one at Linden Lab seems prepared to step up. Be careful what you reveal about yourself in SL because no one has your back."
Linden Lab, by the way, is hardly the only tech company struggling to deal with this variety of stalking -- Twitter, for example, is a much larger company, and after years of trying, still has profound difficulty dealing with it. Incidences like these -- or the one I reported last year, in which a woman was stalked in real life by someone who reverse image searched her SL avatar -- convince me that the next generation of VR-connected virtual worlds have a massive problem on their hands.
To be sure, many SLers report no experiences of harassment at all, and even argue that the world's architecture itself discourages such behavior:
Can Consciousness Be Simulated as Musk Must Assume?
Really great reader conversation about Elon Musk's belief that we're already in a simulated reality. Here's a smart point by longtime reader "Galatea", who pushes back at my skepticism that consciousness probably can't be simulated:
To make a convincing argument that you can't simulate consciousness, you must make a convincing argument that you can't simulate physics, or that consciousness arises some something other than the physical (e.g. a soul). If you're committed to materialism, your only course to save this argument you're making is to make a convincing argument that basic physics is impossible to simulate, because once you can simulate that, you can simulate anything and everything that exists in the material universe, with enough processing power.
Very valid point. I'd answer that from a slightly different direction, and say that it's likely that consciousness only arises from living creatures as an evolutionary adaptation. Or as philosopher Alva Noë puts it:
VR Users: Last Chance to Take Our "Matrix Effect" Survey
After extensive VR use, do you experience any confusion between what's virtual and what's real -- and for how long? Last chance to answer that in our survey here!
Top Seven New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Early VR Communities Adopting Gaming's Toxic Male Culture
- No, Elon Musk, We're Probably Not in a Virtual Simulation
- Can High Fidelity & Project Sansar Compete With MMOs Like Worlds Adrift?
- Survey: After Using VR, Do You Feel a Matrix-Like Effect?
- Linden $ Sell Order Exchange Rate Seems Back to Normal
- Extremely Articulated SL Avatars Now Available for Testing
- Polygon's "Monster Factory" Hosts Hilariously Insane Party That Captures Second Life At Its Freeform, Anarchic Best
Friday, June 03, 2016
Donate to Help Children of the Late SLer Brandy Maltas
Click here to donate via PayPal to help the children of the late Brandy "Kalli Birman" Maltas, a longtime SLer and active promoter of Second Life's vibrant live music community, who tragically lost her life to cancer earlier this week. The PayPal link goes to the account of performer Seth "Mankind Tracer" Regan, who was Brandi manager, and is now raising funds to help her family:
If you are in a position to help, and to avoid any fees and deductions, if you are able to make a donation, I will offer my own PayPal account so I can be sure every last penny gets to the kids. I would like to raise at least $10,000 USD to help them. This would take some of the pressure off them, at least for a few months.
Read more about this fundraiser on Seth's Facebook page, and if you are on Facebook, please share the update to fellow SLers.
Early VR Communities Adopting Gaming's Toxic Male Culture
"Virtual Reality Is Full of Assholes Who Sexually Harass Me. Here's Why I Keep Going Back" is a must-read post by Taylor Lorenz which is her account of trying to explore the VR social chatroom Altspace, but gets this treatment for her trouble:
Within two minutes... I was given my first unsolicited "virtual reality kiss." Shortly after, my skinny brown-haired avatar was swarmed by male users rubbing on me and asking if I was as skinny in real life or just a fatty behind an avatar. I felt ripped from the virtual world and transported back to middle school... Despite the rocky start, I gave Altspace a couple more tries over the weekend and I have to say I really love it, or at least the idea of it. When the moderators are around, conversations are pleasant. I talked to people from around the world and even met a couple other women. Unfortunately, these interactions were sandwiched in between men making jokes about gang rape and pretending to give each other blow jobs.
Her experiences actually seems less traumatizing than has been reported by other women, but bad all the same. Despite that, Taylor ends on a hopeful note:
I think Altspace has tremendous potential, provided it can build the right community and facilitate more meaningful connections. VR has been derided as the ultimate solitary experience, but despite the crass welcome and middle school humor, Altspace proves that VR has the ability to be a powerful connector of people. Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly claimed that virtual reality could become "the most social platform ever." I think he's right. It just has to grow up.
But that strikes me as over-optimistic. Generally speaking, an online community is defined and shaped by its early adopters, because they set the expectations and mores of the userbase that develops around them. And by all appearances, VR's social spaces are being shaped by the people who've been first to adopt VR as a technology:
Insanely Diverse & Diversely Fantastic SL Fashion Blog
Blanche's Randomity from Blanche Foxclaw is a very well-named SL fashion blog, because it is definitely a cornucopia of random scenes, each pretty unique and impressive, and there's just dozens and dozens. This screencap above is just a tiny sample: Go to her homepage, click on a thumbnail for the embiggened image and credits for each item.
Thanks to Sophee Mojo for the tip!
Thursday, June 02, 2016
No, Elon Musk, We're Probably Not in a Virtual Simulation
Depicted: Second Life, circa 2014
The strongest argument for us being in a simulation probably is the following. Forty years ago we had pong. Like, two rectangles and a dot. That was what games were.
Now, 40 years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, and it's getting better every year. Soon we'll have virtual reality, augmented reality.
If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now. Then you just say, okay, let's imagine it's 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing on the evolutionary scale.
So given that we're clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we're in base reality is one in billions.
Tell me what's wrong with that argument. Is there a flaw in that argument?
At least three, actually:
Can High Fidelity & Project Sansar Compete With MMOs Like Worlds Adrift?
To me this captures the magic that made Minecraft so massive, translated into truly massive MMO scale:
Worlds Adrift is a persistent sandbox - every tree that falls and every item crafted will exist and remain where it is forever, until you or someone else interacts with it... Join thousands of players in a shared world at the same time and explore a vast sky of procedurally generated islands... Experience truly emergent gameplay with no set missions or quests in a huge multiplayer sandbox. There's no XP or leveling-up, your progress and skill will be driven by accumulating knowledge and artifacts, not by mouse clicks. With no rules or boundaries, you create your own adventure.
It's important to see upcoming virtual worlds we write about a lot, specifically High Fidelity and Project Sansar, in relationship to MMOs like these that are launching around the same time:
Wednesday, June 01, 2016
Survey: After Using VR, Do You Feel a Matrix-Like Effect?
Some VR users experience a Matrix-like confusion between the real and virtual world, others say it's more like a mild feeling that you're still wearing skates once you're back in shoes -- most others may vary. So here's a survey about a well-known technology device, asking a profoundly philosophical question:
Linden $ Sell Order Exchange Rate Seems Back to Normal
As of today (I took this screen capture at right from the LindeX about an hour ago), the top exchange rates are almost bang-on the more historically typical rate of around L$250 per US1.00. (It was trending back to normal last Friday.)
Assuming it stays around this level, we basically had strong fluctuations for most of May, possibly a bit longer -- but not much more. I think this stabilization lends still more credence to the theory that the fluctuations happened simply because many private sim owners were cashing in L$ to take advantage of Linden Lab's recently announced offer of grandfathered maintenance rates (after paying a "buy-down" fee of $600). The deadline for that offer is this October, but as longtime reader Ezra astutely put it, "The sooner you buy down, the sooner you start saving $100 per sim per month. If you wait the 6 months to pay the $600 dollars, you've lost $600 dollars." So assuming that's the case, the rush on buy downs has ebbed.
If anything, I'd expect the L$ exchange rate to go down in coming months, as SL's thousands of heavy content consumers rush to buy lots of Linden Dollars in anticipation of cool Bento-flavored avatars to hit the market. How about you?
Microsoft Envisions Mixed Reality Future Where Cool Twentysomethings Willingly Wear Senior Citizen Sunglasses
I mean seriously:
That's right: In the near-future, the coolest kids on the block will eagerly don bigass sunglass-looking things which make them seem more like retirees sunning by the pool of their Palm Beach condo. I don't mean to be a hater, I really don't, but when even TechCrunch gets skeptical about demonstrating existing hardware (the HoloLens, which can't even deliver on existing promises) with utter vaporware, you have to slap your forehead (which I can still do, because I'm not wearing a HoloLens):
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Extremely Articulated SL Avatars Now Available for Testing
The Project Bento viewer is available for download here for general user testing -- that's Linden Lab's codename for much-anticipated Second Life skeleton extensions which greatly expand the expressive range of avatars: Wings that actually flutter more or less naturally, fingers that actually grip, and so on. See video above for some early, pretty impressive examples. Much more on this emerging tech soon, as this is sure to get still more impressive soon.
Also, I'm offering special coverage to the first Bento avatar that's literally a bento:
Free Worlds Adrift Island Creator: Design Your Own Floating Isle, Upload It For Others to Play In
The Worlds Adrift Island Creator, as the name suggests, is a free building tool for the upcoming single-sharded, fully simulated MMO. (Brief tutorial above.) The tool not only lets you build your own island, but insert an avatar into the finished mini-world, to explore what you built first-hand (so to speak). Even cooler: You can upload it to Steam Workshop for others to download and play in, and even get a chance to have it added to the official MMO when it launches: