Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Insider Attributes Massive Linden Dollar Fluctuations to Some Large Second Life Businesses Rapidly Liquidating L$ Holdings (Land Barons, Say?)

SL Linden Dollar Sell Order May 2016

Since my Friday post, the Linden Dollar sell rate continues creeping up, with people selling large blocks of L$ at historically high rates. At right are the very top sell orders last night, with the largest listed quantity, L$11,186,781, worth around $4,200 now in real dollars at an exchange rate of L$265 to $1 dollar. Thing is, just last month, when the exchange rate was closer to L$250/$1, that same block would be worth hundreds of real dollars more.

What's going on? I asked Linden Lab for a response on Thursday but still haven't received a reply. I also talked with an anonymous Linden insider with knowledge of this subject, and this person discounts the popular conspiracy theories raging among SL content creators, suggesting that Linden Lab itself is somehow manipulating the exchange rate. 

"We were super-transparent about this years ago," my source told me, "and I doubt it's changed significantly in the time since I left. Linden Lab doesn't control the rates, the market does. If a number of larger businesses that have been holding significant L$ decide to liquidate and are willing to push the rate temporarily less financially favorably for sellers in exchange for more rapid exchange, then short-term small fluctuations like this happen. It's not a bug, it's a feature."

But why would those larger businesses want to sell so much Linden Dollars all of a sudden? I believe the most plausible theory -- and I stress theory -- is also the most benign: Private sim owners are 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):

Continue reading "Insider Attributes Massive Linden Dollar Fluctuations to Some Large Second Life Businesses Rapidly Liquidating L$ Holdings (Land Barons, Say?)"

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Why Augmented Reality Won't Scale, Explained in Six Nightmare Minutes

"Augmented reality is more likely to go mass market than virtual reality" is something many people in technology (including me) say, but then you watch something like this and think, "... or maybe not":

HYPER-REALITY from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

Of course people who are willing to pay for premium augmented reality won't have to get a barrage of ads tossed at them 24/7, but for anyone who's not wealthy, something like this is more likely what awaits them. Which makes me think people will just stick to looking at their phones. (Which has about as much ads, but at least they can always look away.)

More from the video project's site:

Continue reading "Why Augmented Reality Won't Scale, Explained in Six Nightmare Minutes"

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Watch Polygon Play Politicized Pizza Troll in Second Life

After a long delay, Polygon's Griffin McElroy is back in Second Life for pizza and political-flavored quasi-trolling hijinks. (Watch Part 1 from last September here.) Unlike the many trolls besieging SL lately, Griffin and pal are pretty good-natured smartasses. If anything, I just wish they'd visit cooler, more popular sites in SL. As one of them casually notes, it's sad to see so many well-made places seem like ghost towns. In fact, I'd put it regular NWN readers: What are the best SL sites with lots of regular users with a sense of humor for these guys to visit next? 

Continue reading "Watch Polygon Play Politicized Pizza Troll in Second Life"

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Ready Player One 3D Avatar Creation Contest: Winners Get $1000 & Chance to Appear in Spielberg's Adaptation

Ready Player One 3D Avatar Contest

Cool avatar design contest run for Steven Spielberg's upcoming adaptation of the Ernest Cline novel: Design a 3D avatar in a typical file format (.ma, .mb, .obj, .fbx, .ztl), follow the rules and submit here, and five entries win $1000 and a chance to have that model depicted in OASIS, the film's version of Ready Player's metaverse. Looks like a full-mesh version of a Second Life avatar could work as an entry (long as you send it in original file form.)

If you do submit, let me know: I'd love to feature submissions in upcoming New World Notes posts!

Watch Ernest Cline's announcement of the contest below. And yes, Cline used to hang out in Second Life before the novel was published.

Continue reading "Ready Player One 3D Avatar Creation Contest: Winners Get $1000 & Chance to Appear in Spielberg's Adaptation"

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Oculus VR High Fidelity for Power Mac

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Top Second Life Creators Concerned About Increasing Linden $ Sell Rate, Massive Block of L$ Put Up for Sale

Second Life Linden Dollar fluctuations

Top Second Life content creators have been expressing concern over instability in the Linden Dollar market to me and on various online forums over the last few weeks, culminating in an urgent message I just received from Juliette Westerburg of Tres Blah (also co-creator of SL’s famed Mon Tissu brand).

“The [Linden Dollar] sell rate keeps creeping up. There’s 21 million sitting at a sell rate of 254 right now.” She shows me the LindeX screen capture above, taken by another well-known content creator. 21M in Linden Dollars is roughly USD$86,000, at least at current rates. “We used to cash out at L$249 back in April. Also, this grid helps to show how the market has been increasing.”

These increases may not seem like much, but for content creators who literally make a real life living from their SL content, they can make a fairly significant dent, while adding to long-term anxiety:

Continue reading "Top Second Life Creators Concerned About Increasing Linden $ Sell Rate, Massive Block of L$ Put Up for Sale"

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

High Fidelity Launches Compatibility for Oculus DK2 for Macs, Explains How Other VR Devs Can Do the Same UPDATE: Palmer Luckey Says "Not Exactly a Breakthrough", UPDATE 2: Philip Rosedale & Lead HiFi Dev Respond

Oculus VR High Fidelity for Mac

High Fidelity just quietly announced a pretty significant breakthrough [see Update below] for Oculus and virtual reality in general: Support for running its virtual world on Oculus -- on a Mac. As Mac-using VR fans know, Oculus stopped active Mac support around a year ago, and unless I missed it, this makes High Fidelity the first and only Oculus application compatible for Mac (if you have a Mac with a high-end GPU, that is, with an AMD Radeon R9 suggested).

High Fidelity CTO Brad Hefta-Gaub tells me this required very little code or effort:

"The actual process of getting Oculus working on the Mac was pretty easy for us because we'd built our architecture with cross-platform in mind. Less then 100 lines of code were required to enable this support."

More on how they did that -- and how other VR developers who want Oculus/Mac compatibility for their own Oculus apps might do likewise:

Continue reading "High Fidelity Launches Compatibility for Oculus DK2 for Macs, Explains How Other VR Devs Can Do the Same UPDATE: Palmer Luckey Says "Not Exactly a Breakthrough", UPDATE 2: Philip Rosedale & Lead HiFi Dev Respond"

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Dream On: Despite Little Usage of Cardboard, Google Launching Full VR Platform for Android

Google VR Cardboard Daydream

Undaunted by unproven consumer interest, let alone any skepticism from tech journalists -- seriously, has anyone with CNET, VentureBeat, The Verge, etc. actually offered any pushback? -- here's Google's long-expected full VR platform for Android.

And unlike Facebook and other tech giants, Google actually knows there's little consumer interest in VR from their own data:

Because from Google's own data, it seems more like 300,000-500,000 people use Cardboard with any high degree of engagement.... Looking at third party Cardboard apps, only a handful have been downloaded between 100,000 to 500,000 times -- most of the rest, much less... 350,000 hours of video may seem like a lot -- but split between 5,000,000 Cardboard units, that's an average of .07 hours viewing per user. I.E., a bit more than 4 minutes. Total.

If you think Google is still bullish on VR because Google's bright minds know something you don't, you may very well be wrong. Like Google was wrong about Google Lively, or for that matter Google Glass.

Oh well, let's watch the video anyway:

Continue reading "Dream On: Despite Little Usage of Cardboard, Google Launching Full VR Platform for Android"

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Confirming Real Life Now Cyberpunk Novel, Hacker Steals Virtual Currency to Aid Fight Against Apocalyptic Terrorists

Seriously, says Newsweek:

A Kurdish region of Syria that borders territory held by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has received an $11,000 donation in allegedly stolen bitcoin from a vigilante hacker. The pseudonymous Phineas Fisher donated 25 bitcoins to a crowdfunding campaign set up by members of the Rojava region’s economic committee, described by Fisher as “one of the most inspiring revolutionary projects in the world.”

Ironically, this means that a virtual currency often associated with funding terrorism is now helping fund the fight against terrorism. Perhaps even more ironically, the Kurdish peshmerga are pretty much the only people with an actual serious motive for using Bitcoin to buy goods and services -- because no one else does.

Continue reading "Confirming Real Life Now Cyberpunk Novel, Hacker Steals Virtual Currency to Aid Fight Against Apocalyptic Terrorists"

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

No, Linden Lab's Board Isn't "Ashamed" of SL's Virtual Porn


And SLer named Cathartes Aura posted a comment on last's post on Project Sansar which makes some good points, but also argues that Linden Lab is financing Sansar because Linden Lab's board is "ashamed" of Second Life and its many sex pervs, and it's a new variation on a commonly-repeated myth:

IMO the board members of LL never liked or appreciated what their money created... Why do they care that sex exists in SL? IMO it's because the board/VC's were ashamed of SL and its residents. They thought of us as the "weirds"... The "freaks"... Not exactly what they had in mind - they wanted a g-rated world only and we gave them something very different.

I frequently read some version of that assertion from one anonymous avatar or another, so to set the record straight: There's no evidence whatsoever that Linden Lab's board was or is ashamed of virtual sex and Second Life's assorted "freaks" -- in fact, the board has consistently tolerated the creation of adult-themed content in SL.

I've talked several times at length with Mitch Kapor, Linden Lab's founding lead investor and board member, and have never heard a dint of anything like animus or shame about SL's many sexual subcultures. In fact, in a long 2009 interview, he told me this: "I still think that in the evolving world of Second Life there’ll be room for peaceful co-existence of many styles and usage... in order to achieve the full potential." He said this as SL was amidst a mass market launch and partnerships with major companies, most especially IBM. During that conversation, the only time he mentioned anything about sexual content was in relationship to griefing. Or as he aptly put it: "There's a lot of work that needs to be done in the flying penis department... it is kind of mandatory now."

Based on that talk and many others with Linden executives (while I was working with the company as the "embedded journalist" and afterward), along with the major policy decisions the board approved, I believe the general attitude is something like this:

Continue reading "No, Linden Lab's Board Isn't "Ashamed" of SL's Virtual Porn"

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OK, Gear VR Has Probably Sold Over 1 Million Units

Samsung Gear VR setup

Initial reports from last week were ambiguous, but Samsung just put out some more concrete numbers on Gear VR sales:

Samsung has already sold over 300,000 Gear VR headsets in Europe this year, a significant figure given that CCS Insight estimates that the total number of VR devices sold in Europe last year was 1.8mn.

Factor in US and Asia sales, and 1 million total is easily a plausible estimate of Gear VR's install base. Which translates into less than 2% of the Samsung Galaxy 6 (with an install base of about 50 million) and the Galaxy 7 (about 10 million) who could use a Gear actually buying a Gear, but it's a start.

Continue reading "OK, Gear VR Has Probably Sold Over 1 Million Units"

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SL Tutorial: Painting Textures on Mesh Avatar Bodies

human skin'

Says Beev Fallen:

no-mod items do not stop the thief. no-mod items stop creative process.

now let me show you how you can enhance a mesh body with few easy-to-paint textures. the body is by Orange Nova Avatars, it's totally mod and i totally love it.

Another tutorial from Mr. Fallen here, and a strange lovely pic here.

Continue reading "SL Tutorial: Painting Textures on Mesh Avatar Bodies"

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

For Some, Post-VR Confusion More Like "Feeling You're Still Wearing Skates Once You're Back on Shoes"

Samsung Gear VR

Some people using VR experience Matrix-level confusion between what's virtual and real afterward, but regular VR user Adeon Writer has another perspective, with a really apropos analogy:

Can confirm the same effect happens after using an Oculus for a prolonged time. When you first take the headset off, you're fine, it's about 10 minutes later that you have a minute or two of confusion and think you might still be in VR. It wears off fast... it's no different than skating for hours and feeling like you're still wearing skates once you're back on shoes.

For what it's worth, the skating analogy is right on point for me, personally:

Continue reading "For Some, Post-VR Confusion More Like "Feeling You're Still Wearing Skates Once You're Back on Shoes""

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Follow Anoukanna for Artsy Fashion, Fashionable Art

Anoukanna SL Flickr images

Anou Kanna has a marvelous Flickr stream which I blogged about last year, but since then, many more metaverse-based high fashion/pop art goodness has popped up there. I'm not even going to include direct links to her recent, beautiful images above -- that way, you have to scroll through her whole corpus of awesome.

Hat tip: Arora of Rags 2 Riches.

Continue reading "Follow Anoukanna for Artsy Fashion, Fashionable Art"

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Got a Live Event to Promote Happening in SL, High Fidelity, OpenSim, or Random Virtual World? Tweet Details at Me!

Nice note from a fellow named Fred to come back to after a short holiday:

I like your blog or I'd not been around for so long. Keep it up. Keep politics out (or neutral) and the gamergate thing which I've not seen anything on lately, which is a good thing as it was a big divider amongst readers.

What I think would be interesting to read would be art, music and performances in SL. There is a lot of that happening, perhaps a interview series? We absolutely rely on your take on press releases from LL and different interviews by key LL people.

To the last couple points, I'd definitely like to do more interviews with great content creators. Far as events, please Tweet those at me @SLHamlet. I rarely blog about in-world Second Life events because generally, just a few dozen readers can attend -- plus a Tweet is also much easier for others to share. This is going to become even more the case when we start seeing High Fidelity and then Project Sansar-based events happening more often. (And as other readers have mentioned, we're also seeing a relative uptick of activity in OpenSim.)

I can't retweet all virtual world events, so here's some hints on making the Tweet more likely to get shared (by me and others):

Continue reading "Got a Live Event to Promote Happening in SL, High Fidelity, OpenSim, or Random Virtual World? Tweet Details at Me!"

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

The Matrix and Happiness

Posted at 12:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Open Forum: What Topic Should New World Notes Feature?

What in the world (virtual or otherwise) should I write about more? The microphone is yours.

Posted at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Metaverse ProTips: Building a New SL Brand to Succeed

SL business tutorial

Pictured: The author visits one of his favorite Second Life brands

Brookston Holiday has been building in Second Life for 10 years. You can view his work on the SL Marketplace here and his ProMaterials brand

If you followed my advice about branding your new SL business, you’re already well ahead of most beginners. On the other hand, you still have some disadvantages. You don’t have an established customer base, you have no name recognition, and you probably don’t have the cash flow for advertising. But being small can also be an advantage.

The Advantages of a Small Business : The Personal Touch

Running Brand 01

When Airbnb was starting out, they had relatively few hosts. The hosts they did have were posting lousy camera phone photos to the site. In an effort to grow their business, the company sent out professional photographers to each and every host’s home. The photographers took glamour shots of the homes to put up on the site. They also would go door-to-door, recruiting new hosts. While the company could never afford to do this now that they have millions of hosts; at the time, it was an effective way to grow their business. Thus, the Airbnb founders were following Paul Graham’s advice: Do things that don’t scale.

One way I’ve tried to adopt this philosophy was when I was starting my 3D textures business. I would take time twice a week to go through my list of sales and thank every one of my customers individually. I would ask if they were happy about the purchase, and if they needed any help.

Most people just ignored my IM’s, a few people said they appreciated it, but every so often someone was confused and needed help. For whatever reason, a lot of people were too shy to ask, but once I contacted them they were more than willing to explain the problems they were having. It was almost always something we could figure out together, and the few times it wasn’t, I simply refunded their purchase.

This habit of thanking my customers helped me to avoid negative reviews on the marketplace, and when I helped a customer fix a problem, I had no compunction about asking them to take a minute to write a positive review. As the business grew, it became less practical to contact everyone individually, but at the time, it was a quick way to get good reviews and create a good customer service reputation.

This brings me to my next point of advice:

Continue reading "Metaverse ProTips: Building a New SL Brand to Succeed"

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Virtual Reality-Based Virtual Worlds Face Huge Broadband Hurdle, Says MMO Scaling Veteran

High Fidelity Vive VR Oculus Rift HydraI was talking with Facebook engineer Jim "Babbage" Purbrick about his experiences scaling the single-shard virtual worlds Eve Online and Second Life, and of course, we got to talking about the challenges of scaling the next generation of virtual worlds, which are architected to be compatible with Oculus Rift, Vive, and other VR platforms. He made an interesting point there:

"People's machines and VR hardware will improve faster than the networks that connect them," Jim told me. "We're going to end up with a situation like the shiny beemers with burst low profile tires siting on the side of pot holed SF roads. Building higher fidelity experiences for higher fidelity devices over networks that are improving more slowly than the devices is going to be challenging, certainly. Especially if you want to connect the world and not just people with good fixed broadband connections."

Thing is, very few people in the world work with fixed broadband, while early adopters of VR are mostly going to be gamers, who are far more likely to own high-end desktop PCs with fixed broadband -- suggesting that they will be the ones using VR worlds first. While everyone else with our wi-fi powered laptops or our wi-fi connected smartphones risk getting left behind.

Speaking of high fidelity, Jim thinks High Fidelity, founded by his old Second Life boss Philip Rosedale, is well-positioned to overcome these barriers:  

Continue reading "Virtual Reality-Based Virtual Worlds Face Huge Broadband Hurdle, Says MMO Scaling Veteran"

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Gear VR Got 1 Million Users (If Not Owners) Last Month

Samsung Gear VR setup

Upload VR reports:

At an Oculus Mobile update event in San Francisco, California, Max Cohen, Head of Mobile at Oculus, confirmed that its smartphone-based device, made in partnership with Samsung, saw one million users last month... Note that Oculus was still vague on specifics; this doesn’t mean that a million Gear VRs have been sold, it likely means that a million phones used one in April, or something along those lines. There are plenty of ways this number could be boosted, the most obvious being that there’s no limit to how many phones can be used with one unit. It’s very possible that one Gear VR could be assigned to multiple phones within a household, for example.

My guess is actual sales of Gear VR (which I like quite a bit) are roughly half a million:

Continue reading "Gear VR Got 1 Million Users (If Not Owners) Last Month"

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Why is Linden Lab Likely Spending Over $20 Million to Develop Project Sansar?

Ebbe Altberg Second Life Sansar UGC

Last week when I blogged Linden Lab's latest and pretty impressive Project Sansar demo, I mentioned there was something in it that CEO Ebbe Linden said that made my jaw drop. And here it is, starting at around 9:25 (video below):

We've been working about two and a half years, it's a very large investment. Thankfully Second Life is kicking off a lot of money for us so we can make this massive investment. We have over 75 people in R&D building this platform to make it possible for all of you to create and share and socialize [in] VR.

Emphasis mine, because it bears emphasizing. Here's some basic, common sense assumptions:

  • The average developer salary is about $100,000 a year
  • Most/all of these 75 developers have been working on Sansar full-time
  • Most/all of these 75 developers have been working on Sansar for least the last 2 years
  • Most/all of these 75 developers will be on staff until at least Sansar launches at the end of this year

Do the basic math, and it means Linden Lab will easily spend close to $20 million developing Project Sansar before it even launches, just in developer salaries alone. That's definitely a "massive" investment as Ebbe says, and it actually seems like way more staff than is necessary, if Sansar is just a multi-user 3D creation platform.

Continue reading "Why is Linden Lab Likely Spending Over $20 Million to Develop Project Sansar?"

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Scaling Single-Sharded Virtual Worlds: Eve Online & Second Life Vet Jim "Babbage" Purbrick Explains

I'm highly biased but I think this presentation by my pal Jim "Babbage Linden" Purbrick gave to Facebook developers recently is pretty damn interesting:

Now at Facebook himself, Jim explains how he helped scale Second Life during its high growth period, and just as important, connect it to the web through APIs, then went on to do the same with Eve Online. Some highlights:

  • Discussing Linden Lab's "firebreak" strategy to stop grey goo attacks in SL. (Around 13 minutes in.)
  • What Suzanne Vega's appearance in SL (see video below) taught Jim about scaling. (Around 16 minutes in.)
  • Interestingly, judging by concurrency rates, Eve Online is slightly less active than SL. (23 minutes in.)

Also: epic space battle. After watching it, I got to chatting with Jim on Facebook Messenger (of course), and he made some really interesting points about scaling VR-enabled virtual worlds I'll discuss in a future post.

By the way, here's the video I shot of the Suzanne Vega show in SL which happened (wow) almost exactly ten years ago:

Continue reading "Scaling Single-Sharded Virtual Worlds: Eve Online & Second Life Vet Jim "Babbage" Purbrick Explains"

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

VR Users Report Experiencing Matrix/Cartesian-esque Confusion Between the Virtual & the Real

The Matrix and Happiness

"The VR industry," I recently mused to some friends, "has turned millennia-old philosophical thought experiments into practical business challenges." As a perect example of that, read this Rock Paper Shotgun thread where VR users report feelings of temporary confusion between what's virtual and the real:

I took off the headset and went through to the bedroom to get ready for bed. It was fine for a few minutes but then I had to go to the side of the room to get something and suddenly I felt convinced I was still in VR. Like, I was inching across the room because I was expecting the virtual grid to appear at any moment and tell me that the *real* edge of the room was imminent. If I went too fast I would walk into an unseen wall or wardrobe...

The 5 or 10 minutes after taking off the headset is a weird, sort of uncomfortable thing. I’ve noticed that it leaves me feeling drained, mentally exhausted. I fully expect to be able to phase through walls and furniture. It definitely leaves a lingering sense of altered perception but I can’t tell if it’s something that will lessen or become exacerbated after becoming well acclimated to spending more and more time in VR.

In other words, "Am I still in The Matrix, or have I woken up?" Or as René Descartes put it some four hundred years ago, "Am I in the clutches of an Evil Deceiver?" To wit:

Continue reading "VR Users Report Experiencing Matrix/Cartesian-esque Confusion Between the Virtual & the Real"

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SL Flickr of the Day: Jon Snow as a New York Hipster

Jon Snow SL avatar Flickr

Game of Thrones-themed avatar cosplay is fun and all, by why not imagine the beloved characters outside the usual pseudo-medieval settings? I'm not quite sure if Ricardo Morsch was going for that with this pic, but as Harlow Heslop first noticed, it definitely has a "Jon Snow reincarnated as a Brooklyn hipster" vibe going on. (And judging by the last few episodes where he [SPOILER and SPOILER], he might want to go the reincarnation route anyway.) Click here to embiggen. Daenerys Targaryenas a barista, anyone?

Continue reading "SL Flickr of the Day: Jon Snow as a New York Hipster"

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Monday, May 09, 2016

Donald Trump Vice Presidential Shortlister Newt Gingrich Once Called for US Congress to Meet in Second Life

Newt Gingrich Second Life President

Gingrich's Second Life avatar from 2007

Because this year's Presidential election wasn't crazy enough, there's more:

To political observers of a certain age, the news that Newt Gingrich was on Donald Trump's short list for the vice-presidential nomination was both startling and predictable... Indeed, despite the crackpot nature of many of Gingrich's many policy enthusiasms (his obsession with colonizing Mars is emblematic), his is what passes for a Big Brain in American politics, and as a veep prospect would happily occupy political media in babbling defense of Trump, leaving the Big Guy to wage more strategic battles.

Another crackpot idea Newt Gingrich actually executed: Visiting Second Life to give a speech while guarded by sexy avatar babe mercenaries fending him off from green fairy protestors. Yes, he really did, and that's just the start:

Continue reading "Donald Trump Vice Presidential Shortlister Newt Gingrich Once Called for US Congress to Meet in Second Life"

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Conversation on VR & Epistemology Cites Kant, Cats

Kant Philosophy Epistemology Virtual Reality

I thought last week's post featuring Philip Rosedale's philosophical thoughts that the mind itself is a virtual world would be too mind-bending to interest many. But I should know by now never to underestimate the intellectual savvy of NWN readers, you brilliant bastards. The comment thread has lots of brilliant or brilliantly wacky insights, my favorite coming from reader Galatea, who up and springs the Manny K on us:

"Considering the active role our minds play in forming the sensorium we live in, and the fact that we're human, it follows that we all live in artificial realities. This is not to say these isn't a natural, physical reality, just that we don't interact with it directly, and can't really say much about it. It would be the world of the noumena, and as Immanuel Kant noted, we can't really say anything about it. We interact with the world of phenomena, which is a product of our own minds. There's no Cartesian demon here, there's just us doing what our minds do: constructing our subjective, phenomenological reality."

Kant may or may not be right about the relationship of minds to reality in itself, but I think it's a leap to then conclude that "we all live in artificial realities", or that this tells us anything about the status of artificial realities within those artificial realities. (I.E., MMOs.) But I admire Galatea for taking that leap all the same.

Making a leap on top of a leap, a reader named "namegoeshere" (OK then) posits a reality created by cats. Yes:

Continue reading "Conversation on VR & Epistemology Cites Kant, Cats"

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New Mothers Day-Inspired SL Avatar Shape Dianthus Now Available at Ample Avi (NWN Partner News)

Ample Avi Dianthus Mother's DayThe SL store of NWN sponsor Ample Avi has a special new avatar that's still available if you click here quickly -- a Mother's Day-inspired shape.

"Mothers come in all sizes," designer Xme Xue told me recently, describing the inspiration behind her latest shape -- or rather the latest pair of shapes -- for her store. Dianthus (named for a charming pink flower) features two versions bundled together for the price of one. The first Dianthus' silhouette is just as curvy as you'd expect from a brand that's built its name on realistic proportions and natural-looking vanilla Second Life avatar shapes, while the other version is just a little bit more slim and svelte than her counterpart. Of course both shapes come packaged together, making it easy to take your time deciding which shape is right for you or to switch between them both whenever the mood strikes.

It's also worth noting that like most of Xme's shapes, Dianthus comes mod/copy enabled, so it's easy to make any adjustments that might be necessary and save different versions of the shape for use. If you want your own face on her, no problem. Want her legs to be just a bit longer? By all means.

If you want to get a look at Dianthus for yourself, you can check her out at Ample Avi's in-world store in Pryeri [teleport link] or via her Second Life Marketplace listing. Whether or not Dianthus is your cup of tea, you can check out the rest of Ample Avi's product line on their SL Marketplace storefront as well. 

Continue reading "New Mothers Day-Inspired SL Avatar Shape Dianthus Now Available at Ample Avi (NWN Partner News)"

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Top Seven New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Virtual Second Thoughts on VR Wagner James Au

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Friday, May 06, 2016

WATCH: Linden Lab Unveils New Video of VR Creation & Preview Scenes from Project Sansar

From the Collision Conference last week, here's Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg revealing some new footage of Project Sansar -- both creating scenes in VR, and some new sample scenes, including a photographic recreation of an ancient Egyptian site, a North Pole/Antartica scene, and more footage of that sample Mars we've seen in recent months -- including more than one avatar. Scroll past the opening boilerplate, which is mostly stuff regular readers are already familiar with -- the action starts at about 8:18 in.

Some screengrabs below -- watch and discuss over the weekend! In his talk, Ebbe revealed something that made my jaw drop -- did you catch it?

Continue reading "WATCH: Linden Lab Unveils New Video of VR Creation & Preview Scenes from Project Sansar"

Posted at 04:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

SL Roleplay in a Sim Inspired by Jane Austen's Works

Jane Austen Second Life

Pretty sure she's not Elinor fricking Dashwood, but OK

If roleplaying as haughty royalty in virtual Versailles isn't your thing, you could consider making social appearances in a new SL roleplay area inspired by Jane Austen's novels. (Click here to teleport.) Full of green meadows and countryside homes, it's a pretty impressive build, and when I visited, was crowded with visitors. Most of whom were dressed in costumes evoking less Austen than Khardashian, but that's what happens when you don't boot filthy commoners.

My pic above doesn't do the place much justice, here's a better one from Pepa Cometa:

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Pell Mell Makes Metaverse Pics Look Like Line Drawings

at random

Pell Mell is an artist on Flickr with a unique way of taking SL-made images and doing magic with them with post-processing. Many are like this -- no longer looking like digital screencaptures from a 3D platform, but beautiful and intricate line drawings. See many more here.

Thanks to barbie.glas for the tip!

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Thursday, May 05, 2016

"Virtual Second Thoughts": Full Text from My Wall Street Journal Editorial on VR Hype

Virtual Second Thoughts on VR Wagner James Au

Originally published (with minor variations) on April 3 in the Wall Street Journal

If you’ve noticed the incessant media coverage of virtual reality, you’re probably wondering why so many companies are so enthusiastic about the technology, perplexed why you share little of their zeal, but vaguely fearful that you’re missing out on the next great leap in the Internet’s evolution.

I’m here to say you probably shouldn’t worry. I should know: 10 years ago, I was one of those evangelists. And I now hear the same effusive rhetoric, the same Silicon Valley boosterism, the same desperate rush to paddle onto an oncoming wave of hype. But we’ll almost certainly wind up more or less back where we ended a decade ago—with unfulfilled promises, squandered investments and another case study in Valley insularity.

Here's why:

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Virtual Reality Pioneer Senator Mark Warner on Short List to Become Hillary Clinton's Vice President

Virginia Governor Mark Warner SL VR
Then ex-Governor Warner in 2006, making a pre-campaign appearance in Second Life

According to the New York Times, Mark Warner is on a very short list of candidates who'll most likely become Hillary Clinton's Vice Presidential running mate, right alongside Democratic stars like Julián Castro, Deval Patrick, and Elizabeth Warren:

Who he is: Senator from Virginia since 2009 and former governor.

What he could bring to the ticket: Mr. Warner also offers a strong footing in a key state while bringing legislative, executive and business experience. He is also well liked by progressive activists.

Another thing he could bring: His status as a virtual reality pioneer, being the first nationally prominent politician to make a virtual reality campaign appearance, all the way back in 2006. Yes, in Second Life. More on his appearance here. This happened when Warner was being groomed as a likely 2008 candidate for President, and his appearance as an SL avatar before a large audience of reporters and voters was part of that preparation. I got to moderate the event, and then met Senator Warner in real life a few weeks afterward -- I found him to be an impressive person, able to juggle conflicting ideas and perspectives and find a synthesis.*

Warner isn't even the first real life candidate with a virtual reality background to get close to the Presidency:

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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Philip Rosedale: The Mind Itself is a Virtual World We Live In

Philip Rosedale Coffee and Power

The launch of Philip Rosedale's High Fidelity last week reminded me of a conversation I had with him last year, as I was preparing my Wired Magazine/Conde Nast story on VR and happiness. John Carmack told me, “If people are having a virtually happy life, they are having a happy life. Period.” Philip had a similar answer, but also threw me a Cartesian curveball I'm still thinking about.

"If someone spent most of their life in a VR rig and had pleasant experiences in it, would you say they lived a happy, meaningful life?" I asked him. "Do you think there's a meaningful difference between virtual experiences versus real, material ones?

"It's the right question," Philip answered. "My short answer is: NO. There is no difference between a life lived in virtual reality versus real reality. We already live in a virtual world -- it's called our brain. The difference between subjective experience and sensation that is already happening in your brain (caused by your past experiences) is certainly bigger than the difference is going to be between hanging out in the virtual Smithsonian Museum versus the real one. Living a happy meaningful life is a function of your internal state, not the nature or diversity of your sense inputs -- just ask a blind person!"

Emphasis mine, because it bears emphasizing, since Philip is basically arguing that our real lives might as well be an illusion created by Descartes' Evil Deceiver. I'm inclined to disagree, but that'd take a whole other post (or book) to discuss.

In any case, this isn't just a philosophical problem, because Philip is part of an industry currently investing billions on the premise that there really is no meaningful "VR versus RR" distinction. And in his particular case, he thinks virtual worlds like High Fidelity will eventually be more interesting than the one we were born into:

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Few NWN Readers Register for Project Sansar Creator Preview; Games & Design Leading Project Categories

Here's the results of that Sansar Creator Preview I took last week:

Project Sansar Creator Preview Survey

With just 66 readers responding, the plurality say they haven't signed up for the Preview at all, while among those who have Games and Design/Architecture are the leading projects they've proposed creating in Sansar. Those are the best uses of a 3D, VR-enabled platform, so that makes sense. What's interesting to me is how few of you signed up for the Preview:

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Katat0nik is the Babymetal of Second Life Flickr Photos

Hunting Season

katat0nik is your go-to Flickr resource for kawaii-as-fuck SL images featuring adorable avatars amid dark explosive steampunk-esque insanity. Which is to say: Katat0nik is the Babymetal of Second Life Flickr feeds.

WTF is a Babymetal? So very glad you asked. This:

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

New York Times Expands Little-Used Virtual Reality Content While Laying Off Actual Reporters

New York Times VR

Virtual deja vu all over again:

AdWeek -- New York Times Doubles Down on Virtual Reality at NewFronts:
"Today we stand before you as the leaders in virtual reality journalism," declared New York Times Magazine editor in chief Jake Silverstein, who noted that since the Times debuted its first VR film exactly one year ago, it has distributed more than 1 million Google Cardboard viewers to subscribers through a partnership with Google and GE (with plans to distribute another 300,000 this year) and debuted a VR viewer app that became the most successful product launch in Times history.

Like I said last February, those numbers are misleading: The Times has tens of millions of readers, but according to Google Play, the NYT VR app has only been installed 100,000-500,000 times. (This despite the fact that Google's shipped 5 million units of the Google Cardboard VR viewer, which works with the NYT's app.) On App Annie, the analytics service, the app doesn't even register among Google Play's top 1000 apps (after a brief appearance at the top during its November launch), suggesting little viral or organic growth. 

And if you check Google Play now, three months after I noted that lack of growth, you'll see the Times' VR app has still not been downloaded over 500,000 times.

All this might be fine if this was just an experiment in a new medium -- just as Reuters' own experiment in virtual reporting also failed -- except when you notice what the Times is doing to its actual reporting staff:

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No Commoners Allowed in Second Life's Virtual Versailles?

So close but so distant...

There's an incredibly detailed virtual recreation of Versailles in Second Life (as I blogged last week), and someone who read about it visited the palace and was met with a vexing response by the French royalty roleplayers already ensconced there:

"I was really excited to learn about this place and couldn't wait to visit on Saturday for there grand opening," writes Bellahyae Enchanted. "It ended up falling on a special day in my family, so I asked my sister to go instead of me and we would enjoy seeing her character at the special occasion they were having. She wore a lovely stripped Baroque gown."

That's when the trouble started:

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Monday, May 02, 2016

Will Linden Lab Ban Donald Trump's Racist, Community Standards-Violating Supporters in Second Life?

SL Trum HQ Racism

I told you about the apparent Trump supporter who assaulted Bernie Sanders' fan headquarters in Second Life with Nazi swastikas, now VentureBeat's Jeff Grubb has an in-depth report on Trump's SL supporters, and to nobody's surprise, it's about as offensive as that:

I had no idea what to expect when I downloaded the Second Life launcher. It was pure chance that I clicked on that wall and ended up teleporting to a Trump HQ where a group of his supporters were going on racist tirades. But I could understand their skepticism, and I also remembered how I’m always begging vicious trolls who harass people on behalf of hate groups like Gamergate to remember that they are targeting a human being. And I kinda forced myself to listen to that plea even for some racist Trump supporters.

Jeff even captured some video of the casual racism (below, but not fun to watch). Of course, this runs in clear violation of Linden Lab's Community Service regulations:

The Community Standards sets out [behaviors], that will result in suspension or, with repeated violations, expulsion from the Second Life Community. All Second Life Community Standards apply to all areas of Second Life, the Second Life Forums, and the Second Life Website... Actions that marginalize, belittle, or defame individuals or groups inhibit the satisfying exchange of ideas and diminish the Second Life community as a whole. The use of derogatory or demeaning language or images in reference to another Resident's race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is never allowed in Second Life.

As with the controversy over virtual versions of the Confederate flag last year, or the firestorm over Front National's official SL HQ in 2007, the Trump community in SL brings up an interesting tension between real world racism and virtual expressions of it. Most agree that Donald Trump expresses racist opinions and policies, but at the same time, he is also a leading candidate for President with a very large following. Despite that fact, should Linden Lab's policies ban expressions of his opinions from SL, and supporters repeating his opinions in SL -- even after he actually became President?

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Satoshi, So What: Why is Everyone Interested in Knowing Who Created a Virtual Currency Hardly Anyone Uses?

Now clogging up my high tech industry newsfeed is the apparent self-revelation of Bitcoin's mysterious creator, Satoshi Nakamoto [Or not -- see Update]:

Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright has publicly identified himself as Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto... Mr Wright has revealed his identity to three media organizations - the BBC, the Economist and GQ. At the meeting with the BBC, Mr Wright digitally signed messages using cryptographic keys created during the early days of Bitcoin's development. The keys are inextricably linked to blocks of bitcoins known to have been created or "mined" by Satoshi Nakamoto.

Someone can finally ask Satoshi/Wright what it feels like to have created a virtual currency that everyone in tech seems to be talking about but hardly anyone actually uses:

Bitcoin transaction Craig Wright Satoshi Nakamoto

With daily transactions consistently under 300,000 a day in the last twelve months, Bitcoin is still used less than Linden Dollars, the virtual currency traded by some 600,000 regular users of a relatively niche virtual world. But now that we do know who Satoshi Nakamoto is, it does bring up a related point:

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Trump Bernie HQ in Second Life

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Project Sansar Creator Preview Survey: Did You Apply & If So, To Create What Content?

Now that Project Sansar's Creator Preview is taking applications, here's a survey for all you content creators reading this: Did you reply, and if so, what kind of content did you propose creating there?

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Posted at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Vice & Me Explain Why Second Life is Still a Thing

VIce Why is Second Life Still a Thing Wagner James Au

"Why is Second Life Still a Thing" is an article by Emanuel Maiberg on the influential site Vice, and while I'm extremely biased, I think he answers that question quite well:

“It's all user-generated content so it generates a steady stream of screenshots/videos/etc, posted across social media, it's free so it still attracts constant waves of fresh visitors, and lately, it's a reference point (or cautionary tale) for the new wave of VR platforms,” Au told me in an email. 

...Second Life is still a thing because despite its age and the easy jokes, it owns an entire market it invented itself... Indeed, the most surprising thing about Second Life is not that it’s still a thing, but that 13 years after its inception, it is still way ahead of its time.

My only quibble is the article saying the graphics look "incredibly dated", because SL's graphics now look quite good and up to date... if you have a high-end desktop PC and/or a powerful third party SL viewer which take advantage of those graphics updates. But like I said, that's a quibble, because relatively few people have high-end desktop PCs, let alone know how to install a third party viewer.

Interestingly, this reappraisal of Second Life from Vice, one of the top media sites in the US, happens just as Le Monde, the top news outlet in France, is also reappraising SL:

Continue reading "Vice & Me Explain Why Second Life is Still a Thing"

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Friday Open Forum: Post Anything Virtual

Links, events, opinions, news, blogs, Flickrs, Tumblrs, Vines, .gifs, gfycats, etc... go!

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Men Who Create Avatars Modeled on Their Real Life Wives/Girlfriends -- Vice's Fascinating, Disturbing Story

Vice avatar women avatars male users

"Men Are Working Out Their Issues By Playing As Their Lovers and Exes in RPGs" by Cecilia D'Anastasio depicts a fascinating if often sexist and disturbing form of avatar-based roleplay: Creating an avatar which resembles the user's real life wife or girlfriend, then literally controlling her in the virtual world. I talked with Cecilia when she was researching this story a few weeks ago, and now that it's published, I asked her what surprised her most about writing it.

"It was interesting to hear how protective these men were of their lovers' characters," she tells me. "To me, that indicates either a fetishization of the knight-in-shining-armor approach to dating women or... just that people get very, very attached to their subjective depictions of women they've been intimate with."

For instance, she writes about the guy who created a Skyrim character mod based on his girlfriend (above), uploaded with the utterly charming file name, “Enjoy My Girlfriend.” Or even worse, the anonymous female Second Life user who suffered a similar fate:

One female Second Life resident, let’s call her “Avi,” suffered the side-effects of Lara Croft syndrome when her ex, a popular content-creator in Second Life, modeled an avatar body closely off hers.

“It was my shape he used for the base shape for the stuff he made,” Avi told me. When she dumped him, Avi said he used her shape on in-world posters advertising her digital avatar body, which was for sale to other Second Life residents, without her permission. Worse, she added, over the course of a few months her ex began to alter her shape—inflating her ass, shrinking her waist, stretching her legs.

“He was full of rage that I was done with him,” Avi told me. “He took me and then ‘idealized’ me in his own image. Creepy.”

Wonder who the creepy content creator in question is. However, it's not all negative, not at all -- in fact, I just pointed out to Cecilia that most of SL users she profiled roleplayed as their significant others for positive reasons and with their SO's permission or approval. Like this one, which is actually oddly romantic:

Continue reading "Men Who Create Avatars Modeled on Their Real Life Wives/Girlfriends -- Vice's Fascinating, Disturbing Story"

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SL Flickr of the Day: A Tired Servant in Virtual Versailles

It was at Versailles. The impossible love (but real on her thougths)

A perfect shot by Pepa Cometa, who has many more in a similar Sun King's servant vein. Click here to visit virtual Versailles in SL yourself.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

High Fidelity, Philip Rosedale's VR-Centric Follow-up to Second Life, Now in Open Beta

Click here to get it, both for Mac and PC, and optimized to work with Oculus and Vive, and Leap motion controllers. (Unlike Project Sansar, which is PC-only, at least to start.) While we still don't know much about Linden Lab's Project Sansar, we do know few people involved in Second Life's early creation are involved with it. High Fidelity, by contrast, has been SL co-creator Philip Rosedale's baby for the last three years after leaving Linden Lab. (Click here to read about its evolution during that time.)

In case you missed it, catch the latest (and impressive IMO) demo video:

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Bernie Sanders’ Second Life Headquarters Besieged by Trump-Supporting Swastikas, Demons and 120 Ft. Fireworks-Spewing Donald Trump Statue

Bernie Sanders Trump Griefers Demons SL

Photo of pro-Trump demons besieging Bernie's HQ via Washington Liberals

As Donald Trump continues to ride roughshod over much of the United States, there’s multiple reports that Trumps’ virtual fans are riding roughshod on Bernie Sanders’ unofficial headquarters in Second Life as well. Sanders' spot is in the sim of Caspoli, located here, with a Bernie 2016 banner that can be seen from satellite -- a Roman-themed hangout space in a peaceful meadow, where Bernie supporters often gather to share news of their favorite candidate. But lately, the place has been besieged by pro-Trump griefers. I first read a report of anti-Bernie griefing from roving furry reporter Bixyl Shuftan (yes, that's a thing) and found out it wasn't an isolated incident:

Bernie Sanders Trump Griefers SL

“There is a picture I managed to capture of one of the flags spewing from a particle dispenser at HQ,” Sanders support group member Macaria Wind tells me, handing over an image file of a Trump swastika. “Left there by one of Trump's supporters when no one was around.”

But that was only the start. During a Bernie rally in SL, Mr. Wind goes on, Trump-supporting demons flew around Bernie’s rally, endlessly typing ”TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!" into text chat.

“Pages and pages of TRUMP! LOL,” Wind tells me. “[O]ne has to laugh at the childishness displayed by some of his supporters. In my opinion, they mimic their candidate. I must add though, what is not a laughing matter are the racial slurs and bigotry witnessed by one group member who visited Trump HQ when there were actually people there.” (Read more about that incident here.)

To be sure, virtual landowners in Second Life can bar anyone from their property. But that effort was, well, trumped, by a Trump supporter’s next move:

Continue reading "Bernie Sanders’ Second Life Headquarters Besieged by Trump-Supporting Swastikas, Demons and 120 Ft. Fireworks-Spewing Donald Trump Statue"

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Project Sansar Now Accepting Applications & Project Pitches for "Creator Preview" This Summer

Project Sansar Creators Preview

Click here to apply, and describe what kind of project you'd like to create in Sansar for early access in the next few months:

Continue reading "Project Sansar Now Accepting Applications & Project Pitches for "Creator Preview" This Summer"

Posted at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

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