Wednesday, October 26, 2016

WATCH: New Sansar Demo With User-Made Content

Here's Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg at a Wall Street Journal conference this week, showing off how we move content around in a Sansar living room with a VR rig. We've seen similar demos before, but perhaps new here is that he's doing this, he says, with user-generated content he "bought" in the Sansar market from one of the several hundred early users in there now. (I can see why one of them compares Sansar to Disneyland.)

My biggest concern isn't that, though, it's this: 

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Linden Lab Offers Exclusive Sandboxes to Premium SLers

Second Life Premium Sandbox

With even famed sites like Insilico leaving Second Life while other private sims leave the grid at a rapid pace, Linden Lab needs new ways to shore up its revenue base and convert people to becoming monthly Premium subscribers. The latest benefit is a smart one -- more exclusive sandboxes:

First up, we’re proud to introduce 5 new Premium Sandboxes! Like other Premium sandboxes, these are only available to Premium members. We have allocated 4 new regions for cross server code testing, perfect for those multi-region experiences; the Blue Steel, Magnum, LeTigre and Second Life Main regions are each Premium sandboxes arranged directly adjacent to each other in a square... The fifth new region is called: Sandbox Premium Weapons Testing which, as the name suggests, is dedicated to testing your SL munitions! In the past, weapons testing was done in general sandboxes where it was prone to overcrowding, griefing and instability. It was very difficult to get testing done. Now we’ve opened up more space for Premium members to test their combat gear in a less disruptive environment.

Second Life's sandboxes have always been the best part of Second Life -- when they're not overrun with resource hogs and douchenozzles, that is. Adding more premium sandboxes to Premium accounts are a great way to create exclusive social spaces for established users.

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High Fidelity's Day of the Dead Looks Damn Delightful

High Fidelity may be difficult to use and not very appealing if you don't have a VR headset and it may inspire you to ask, as Linden Lab's own CEO put it, "You install a server. Who the fuck installs servers?", but all that to one side, this upcoming Day of the Dead event they're planning looks pretty damn delightful. Oldschool gamers may even be thinking to themselves: "Multiplayer VR Grim Fandango!"

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SL Flickr of the Day: Amona Savira's Red Shoes & Shadow

red shoes

Another mini-masterpiece from Amona Savira making the metaverse her perfect palette, with dynamic shadow and a unique avatar pose.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fact Check: Yes, Second Life Stopped Growing Around 2006

Second Life stagnation 2006 WiredMy report on SL usage from 2007

Disappointing but not surprising: Some zealous Second Life enthusiasts (including some who currently have a paid marketing relationship with Linden Lab) are trying to dispute a passage from Wired UK reporter Rowland Manthorpe's great story on Sansar and High Fidelity, where he notes that Second Life hit a growth plateau pretty much a decade ago:

Then, in 2006, Second Life stopped growing. No matter how many people registered, the number of users remained stuck at around a million. In 2008, Rosedale stepped down. The following year he left the company altogether.

Rowland got this report from Philip Rosedale himself, and as I confirmed with him via e-mail, this is basically accurate. (If anything, Rowland is being over-generous to how large Second Life actually is*.) Back then, Linden Lab published lots of user stats, and by 2007, it was very obvious even outside the company that the stagnation had already started. Millions tried SL because of the excessive media coverage, but 99.5% would leave after/during the first try. As I wrote back then:

This despite explosive media attention in October, when the world was featured in two top rated television shows, The Office and CSI: New York.  But despite estimates that these tie-ins lead to 100,000 or more additional sign-ups, most of whom were using a significantly improved version of the software, nearly all of those who came, left. 

This ancient history wouldn't be worth re-hashing, except for one small problem: Sansar and High Fidelity seem dead-set on repeating the same mistakes which greatly helped contribute to that stagnation:

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Virtual Sex Assault is a 20 Year+ Problem That Probably Won't Improve Until Devs Deal With Their Own Bias

Virtual Sex Assault Julian Dibbell

"My first virtual reality groping on .Mic" is a woman's recounting of a sexual assault she just experienced in VR -- which ironically, I first read because writer Julian Dibbell shared it on Facebook. Ironic, because the author writes that "[e]ventually we're going to need rules to tame the wild, wild west of VR multiplayer"... and Julian wrote about virtual sexual assault in a milestone story over 20 years ago:

These particulars, as I said, are unambiguous. But they are far from simple, for the simple reason that every set of facts in virtual reality (or VR, as the locals abbreviate it) is shadowed by a second, complicating set: the “real-life” facts. And while a certain tension invariably buzzes in the gap between the hard, prosaic RL facts and their more fluid, dreamy VR counterparts, the dissonance in the Bungle case is striking... Which is all just to say that, to the extent that Mr. Bungle’s assault happened in real life at all, it happened as a sort of Punch-and-Judy show, in which the puppets and the scenery were made of nothing more substantial than digital code and snippets of creative writing.

Actually, it's doubly ironic, because Julian himself got the .Mic story from Raph Koster, who's been building virtual worlds for over 20 years, and keeps asking VR developers now to learn from that history:

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Posted at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Some SLers Wonder If Insilico Could Have Been Saved

With weeks left for the soon-to-evaporate landmark Second Life location, this melancholy (and curiously empty of avatars) tribute by Die Villa. Perhaps more poignant, some longtime SLers say Insilico could have been saved if it had been made more sustainable. As regular readers Rin and Rei put it:

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Gods & Devils: Wired UK's Rowland Manthorpe on What He Learned by Writing About Sansar, High Fidelity... and Palmer Luckey's Trump Support

Wired Sansar High Fidelity VR

Wired UK has a new long and excellent profile of Philip Rosedale, High Fidelity, and Project Sansar by Rowland Manthorpe, deeply delving into the evolution of virtual worlds and what drives them. NWN readers in particular will enjoy finding out about the "frenemy" competition between Philip and Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, their deeply differing view of their competing products, and for that matter, the salty sailor tongue of Commodore Altberg.("'You install a server,' Alterg says incredulously [of High Fidelity]. 'Who the fuck installs servers?'") I spoke at length with Rowland for the article, and having written it, he tells me, he now has a lot to think about:

"For me this was really a piece about dreams," Rowland tells me. "First, because dreams define companies. When I was reporting the piece I was struck again and again by the contrast between Philip Rosedale and Ebbe Altberg. Philip is motivated by a dream, a vision; Ebbe wants to give users what they want. Neither approach is right, but it really shapes what they're producing. It also shapes the risks: Philip may be trying to do much, Ebbe may end up being a bit boring and commercial. We'll see which approach proves correct (if at all).

"Second, and more importantly, this piece was about dreams because virtual reality is the place where dreams come true. That's how Philip Rosedale thinks of it: it's the place where we can do whatever we want, be whoever we want, call structure into being with a wave of the hand. It's not too much of a stretch to say that it's the place where we become gods."

I talked with Rowland back in June, and since that time, the VR world was shaken by Oculus Rift founder Palmer Luckey being exposed as a supporter of a pro-Trump group associated with Reddit's noxious alt-right fan club for Trump. Unsurprisingly, that seriously impacted Rowland's thoughts about the final story:

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"We have adapted to technology's pace by slowing its impact." - Comment of the Week

2006 Smartphones

Steve Jobs reviewing top smartphones of 2006

Really interesting thought by Pussycat Catnap, commenting on how wrong 2006 virtual reality forecasts turned out to be:

What is actually more interesting is how LITTLE has changed since 2006. I think we're hitting a point where even as the technology changes speed up - we've managed to consume it into our cultures in a manner now that keeps it from effecting real change at a pace faster than we have evolved to be able to handle. We have adapted to its pace, by slowing its impact. 2026... the only thing different will probably be another half hour added onto my commute in traffic.

That first part seems exactly right. 2006, we had smartphones and spent a lot of time on social media (maybe more MySpace than Facebook, but still), and we're still doing that. What fundamentally new, categorical technology shift has reached a mass market level since then?

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Top Four New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Insilico Skills Hak Second Life

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Anyland: Virtual World for Vive With Prim-Based Building

AnyLand is a new VR-based virtual world for Vive, and more than any other world I've seen -- even High Fidelity and certainly Sansar -- it evokes Second Life in its very earliest incarnation over a decade ago, when the creative space was open and abundant, and we all built quirky things of wonder with prims (i.e. building blocks). Created by indie developers Philipp Lenssen and Scott Lowe, it's a VR spinoff of their web-based Manyland, but the inspiration goes even farther back than that:

"Even before Manyland was released some years ago, we had the idea for Anyland," Philipp tells me. "Manyland being a 2D sandbox universe, and Anyland being the 3D sibling. At that point, we didn't know the wonderful virtual reality devices like the Vive would come along! Once we saw those headsets, and later hand motion controllers, we knew it would be perfect for it. Making 3D models with fluid hand tracking can be super intuitive, and virtual reality can be so incredibly immersive... So Anyland is our indie project of love to give people tools and a universe which is enjoyable, open, inspiring, and unpredictable."

Since launching over a week ago, he adds,the world has a few hundred early users. More about Anyland from Phillip below the break:

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Nevereux Makes Stunning Second Life Photos of Surreal & Perfectly Composed Beauty

Nevereux SL art Flickr

"The worms raise to swallow" is an image by a new favorite Second Life artist of mine: Nevereux, whose Flickr stream you should just peruse right now. Ever thanks to Cajsa and to Saffron Foxclaw for the tip to Nevereux.

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Second Life Crashing? Fix Your Inventory (Seriously)

SL inventory management walkthrough

If you're like Marianne Mcccan, the latest update of the Second Life viewer has been crashing on you. And if you're a longtime SLer like Marianne Mcccan, you have a massive, massive object inventory, which very well might be causing that crash:

My inventory is sizable, and really has piled up over the last few months. I’m not good at getting everything where it needs to be, and first life stresses have made me far worse than normal. Plus, I’m a builder and a gacha fanatic. As a result, I currently have an inventory that is fast approaching 115,000. But as I learned, the size of the inventory was not the issue. Two friends came forward to suggest an alternative issue at play. My bulging inventory was, in fact, too flat.

She explains what she means here, but basically, it means if you're crashing, you might want to restructure your crowded inventory:

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Virtual World Experts in 2006 Were Wildly, Wildly Wrong About the Future of VR & the Metaverse in 2016

Metaverse Roadmap VR

Now that Robert Scoble and other top VR experts are helping develop a new roadmap for the future of virtual reality with Reuben Steiger, I looked back to the Metaverse Roadmap that Robert, Reuben, and a lot of other folks in the virtual world/reality industry (including myself) helped write ten years ago, in 2006. Reading it is an exercise in humility, because it is mostly wackily, wackily wrong. For instance, here's a statement for the report that I helped draft with report lead author Jerry Paffendorf and others:

"Invisible, unobtrusive PDAs will be the cellphones of 2016, and they will access a datascape where information is presented in a variety of contexts-- metaverse as the operating system of 2016. The walled gardens of fantasy and narrative will become just one annex among many in the metaverse, which will be an equal and parallel partner to the legacy mediums of popular culture-- music, film, TV, celebrity. Real world companies will be incubated, developed, and in large part run in the metaverse. This will engender a high degree of personal entrepreneurship—metaverse as the EBay of 2016. "The developed world will be subsumed by the metaverse. Developing nations will collectively share metaverse portals that will enable them to join the global economy. The datascape, providing constantly updated knowledge about every corner of the world and accessible by all, will create total transparency over politics, the health of the globe’s citizens, and the planet itself."

At the time ten years ago, I was 100% positive this would all be happening right now. But turns out we were about 80% wrong. Let's look at it point by point:

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More & More Virtual Fashion Bloggers Now Vlogging Too

I'm seeing more YouTube videos like this on a regular basis -- SL fashion bloggers turning on the video capture to record and upload SL fashion vlogs. (This one in particular being from UK fashionista Saffron in the blogosphere and The Sulphur Rose on YouTube, who's got a great voice and personality for video.)

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Metaverse Pioneer Who Helped Launch Last VR Hype Wave Proposes Drawing New Map of Our Mixed Reality

New VR Roadmap Reuben Steiger

Help Draw a Map of Reality is a new proposal from Linden Lab alum Reuben Steiger and some two dozen VR developers to create a new guide to a world impacted by VR, AI, augmented reality experiences like Pokemon Go, and so on, including:

  • A STATEMENT A single statement defining why now is a definitive moment in the history of mankind and a vision for guiding our efforts and energy.
  • CATEGORIES AND FRAMEWORKS (This is the largest single deliverable). The future of simulated reality requires common naming conventions. We will attempt to create a working model so that relationships between disciplines and markets are clearer. For each category, there will be an Editor.
  • A MAP: A graphical representation of the systems, software, content and markets that comprise the future of networked experiences. 

If you want to get involved in this consortium, register your interest on Reuben's Medium, or on Reuben's Facebook page. VR veterans will feel some very keen deja vu, and there's a very good reason for that: 

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Insilico, Landmark Second Life Location, Reportedly Closing Soon Due to Mounting Financial Losses

Insilico Skills Hak Second Life

This is big: Insilico, the masterpiece, cyberpunk-themed Second Life location which has been among the most beautiful and popular SL destinations for over 8 years, is reportedly closing in the next few weeks:

We still have the sims until the end of their respective tiers. Central and South will be dropped on the 28th/1st, but East and South East will remain until November 17th... after which they too will go their separate ways. The Ning will hang on for a while longer after that, but for how long I cannot say as we don’t have access to the creator account. In the meantime, continue RPing and taking in the sites. Enjoy it while you can. Take pictures, tell war stories, have a party. [Click here to visit Insilico in Second Life]

So reads a new announcement on the official Insilico site. This comes roughly six months after Skills Hax, Insilico's lead creator, was temporarily banned from SL by Linden Lab. Since then, manager Abeus Madruga says, Insilico's revenue sources have been drying up to a point where they can no longer cover tier costs:

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Hillary Clinton Has a Hyperrealistic Head in Second Life

Hillary Clinton avatar Second Life

And just in time for the third Presidential debate which is likely to be more surreal than anything Second Life could conjure up, you can be Hillary with this mesh head. Perfect companion piece to the equally hyperrealistic Trump avatar. Not that I'm suggesting SLers should use these to create, I don't know, hilarious Hillary vs. Trump cage match wrestling machinimas, except that I totally am.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Most People Need the Cut: What Ashton Kutcher Gets About VR Most in the Valley Miss

Kutcher VR cut narrative

Aston Kutcher, star of Jobs (above) and irrevocably, of Dude, Where's My Car, is also a well-respected tech industry investor, and he recently made this really sharp point about the problem VR faces:

“Everybody’s way too overhyped on VR,” he said. “You have to buy into this basic notion that people don’t want the cut ... Since the beginning of time, people sat around a campfire and told their stories. They cut the boring parts and moved through the interesting parts. That’s how you tell a story.”

“The minute you’re forced into a platform where you don’t get a cut, all of a sudden you get into this ambiguous short-form zone that has to be short to even engage an audience,” he added.

That's not a point that would have immediately occurred to me, but like most people in tech and definitely like most people in VR, I'm a hardcore gamer, and I'm in the mindset of that 3-4% of the world who don't necessarily want a cut.

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Virtual Mining of Virtual Currency Used to Keep Real People Warm in Siberia

Bitcoin virtual currency

In Putin's Russia, heating bill pays YOU:

During the Bitcoin mining process mining equipment generally gets heated, and this heat can be used for warming premises. According to the businessman, there are perfect conditions for such a use case in Russia: electricity is very cheap and heating season is long... Electricity costs when for mining equipment instead of heating equipment remain the same, but their owners also receive bitcoins, which not only compensates the expenses, but also generates revenue, says the entrepreneur.

Which come to think of it, is probably the only scalable use case of Bitcoin in general. If the people of Siberia teamed up with people in other frozen climates of the world to actually start using Bitcoin as money, we might finally have a virtual money that people actually use as money. (While also using it to help pay the heating bill.)

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Cool Tool Turns Second Life Locales Into Little Planets

SL little planets panoramic tool IOL Camera Panoramic

The IOL Camera Panoramic is another cool SL tool for taking those 360 degree panoramic Second Life images which have become all the rage. Erythro Asimov used it to create this panoramic I blogged a few weeks ago and it also includes a feature to create the image you see above (also by Ms. Asimov): A little tiny fricking planet!

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Monday, October 17, 2016

How to Separate VR Hype from VR Reality: Track Usage As Well As Ownership

VR Hype Forecast Study

VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi posts a somewhat skeptical summary of a VR penetration forecast, but from my point of view, isn't skeptical enough:

Boston-based Strategy Analytics said that 11.4 million Americans will own a VR headset by the end of 2016. With prices ranging from under $15 for a Google Cardboard headset to $800 for an HTC Vive, VR headsets will generate nearly $556 million worth of sales in the U.S. this year, according to the company. “Penetration in the U.S. is higher than in other countries, partly due to the greater number of headset giveaways to promote the technology,” said David MacQueen, analyst for Strategy Analytics’ global wireless practice, in a statement. “Samsung is giving away lots of Gears with new handsets, Google has given a lot away too, and even the New York Times gave 1.5 million to their subscribers to try out a series of VR documentaries.”

To be sure, tracking the total install base is important, and something I do a lot, but ownership is only part of the puzzle. The other key piece is usage, and from what we know now, most VR devices aren't not being used all that much.

For example, that New York Times giveaway of Google Cardboard that Strategy Analytics mentions? Here's the problem there:

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Monday SL Machinima: Surreal "Gravity is a Mistake"

Yes, yet it is:

Via Eupalinos Ugajin, who has many more on his site here. As you can probably guess, this features "Gravity is a Mistake", Eupalinos' Linden Endowment for the Arts installation from last Spring. Ziki Questi has a write-up here.

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Top Four New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Sansar Screenshot 2

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Friday, October 14, 2016

What is Linden Lab Building on This New, Largely Adult-Rated Second Life Continent?

Second Life new Linden Lab project

Good scoop by Daniel Voyager and grid expert Tyche Shepherd, whose army of bots noticed it first -- a massive, ring-shaped continent emerging from the digital waters:

In late September 2016 Linden Lab added a series of new Linden Project regions (over 40+) far north of the mainland in Second Life. These regions (named HR/HC/HIH) are currently closed to the public but they are mainly rated Adult which is rather interesting.

Speculating wildly, I'd guess it could be a themed area for skill gaming, which could become pretty lucrative if Linden can get the first-time user experience right.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Watch Alicia Chenaux Have Fun With WindLight Settings

... because New World Notes is on semi-hiatus for today!

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How Sansar Differs from Second Life: One Early Preview User's Perspective

Sansar Screenshot 2

A longtime Second Life user and professional developer I'll call "Shin Ra" just shared with me his (or her) experiences in Sansar, which they've been using over the last few months during the closed Creator Preview. Without going into specifics that might violate Linden Lab's NDA, Shin Ra compares Sansar to Second Life this way:

SL and Sansar are different animals. Neither is better than the other at everything. There are things that I wouldn't dare to do in SL that might fit in an Experience or set of experiences in Sansar (especially ideas that in SL would require severe tier upkeep because of land requirements), and there are things I could do in SL that I probably will never be able to in Sansar if they opt for a conservative toolbox of functions.

It's like the difference between Disneyland and your hometown.

The reasons for that are many, Shin Ra went on:

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

High Fidelity Video Demo Sets Bar for Other VR Worlds

Memo to Sansar staff at Linden Lab: Now this is what a VR world demo should be:

Compared to, say, Metaworld, or AltSpaceVR, or even Oculus Rooms, the avatars are far more robust and expressive, as are the user creativity options. Especially when you add this HiFi scripting and physics demo:

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Babbage Breaks News: Ex-Linden Lab Engineer Now Working on Oculus Avatars & Rooms!

In case you missed it during the controversy over Palmer Luckey's suspicious absence, here's highlights from last week's Oculus Connect 3 conference -- watch especially starting around 2:50:

... because as it happens, one of the lead developers of Oculus Avatars and Rooms was once a lead developer of Second Life: Jim "Babbage Linden" Purbrick, who left Linden on a longboard in 2010. It's amusing when younger VR enthusiasts inform me that Second Life is "not really VR", when so many developers of Second Life are behind the scenes shaping the current generation of the platform: 

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University of Western Australia's Second Life Presence Saved at Last Moment by Community, University of San Jose

Nish Mip SL art Last Ocean UWA sim

Good news from Jay Jay Zifanwe, who's managed the University of Western Australia's five simulator-wide presence in Second Life for over seven years, which looked likely to disappear last month:

"An 11th hour reprieve," he says. "All of the five sims are alive through mid-2017 (in part thanks to a lot going on behind the scenes including SL residents making direct offers to UWA senior management to help keep the sims alive). While all five sims are still there, one of those has transferred ownership to the University of San Jose, although in operation will remain as it has been in the location it has been."

Wonderful (if temporary) reversal of fortune for Second Life's art scene, as UWA is one of its last prominent sponsors. Go here for more on this change on the official UWA in SL blog.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Sansar Teaser Pics Should Look Better Than Second Life, But Don't (Comment of the Week)

Red Door

Reader JohnC performed a pretty brutal autopsy on the latest Sansar teaser image from Linden Lab (above) released late last week:

I honestly don't mean to keep dissing these images that keep appearing, but when you are developing something new such as Sansar, and when you act in a totally secretive way about the product, then anything you release deserves critical attention. There is absolutely nothing special about this image that would warrant it being released as special in some way, as far as I can see. If I were in Second Life right now I could go there and in an hour or so, maybe a lot less, I could come up with a shot that looked easily as good as this, if not better. In fact I could go take some shots in Arranmore that was featured in a post here the other day and get more atmospheric impressive shots than this.

JohnC goes on to propose the kind of teaser pics and videos he's hoping to see from Sansar:

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Top Seven New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Cross Platform VR Oculus Vive

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Friday, October 07, 2016

Virtual Hype, Real Numbers: Total Projected VR Install Base for 2016 Under 6.25 Million

This is what a niche of a niche of a niche looks like:

VR HMD sales 2016 SuperData

From SuperData Research, for my money the best game industry analytics firm out there, an even factoring in the just-announced Google Daydream, the total install base for all mid to premium VR HMDs is projected to grow to way less than 7 million. With console and mobile-based devices, from Sony and Samsung respectively, way ahead of the Vive and Rift, which still get way more publicity.

I say this is a niche of a niche of a niche, and there's a very good reason for that:

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New Sansar Screenshot Evokes SL Artist AM Radio

Hello, new Sansar screenshot just popped up on the otherwise quiet official Twitter account:

Love the volumetric atmospherics yo. And maybe it's just me, but the lonely red door standing by itself distinctly reminds me of acclaimed metaverse artist AM Radio, who I profiled a couple years ago. Is he doing things for Sansar, or is this an homage, intentional or otherwise?

Anyway, here's the AM Radio installation from 2008, you tell me:

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Why SL Developers Should Use Advanced Lighting

SL Lighting tutorial facelight ALM

Nalates has a good tutorial for and background on the Advanced Lighting Model, which Linden Lab recently added to Second Life to give users more and better options for illuminating a scene. Trouble is, she says, is many people still don't take advantage of it in their SL locations: "We can’t get any information on how many people are using ALM. We’ve been asking for a couple of years now. So, creatives and merchants have some hesitancy about building for ALM. Understandable. But, I ran with ALM enabled on my old machine and still got 10 to 30 FPS in most cases. Shadows killed me, not ALM." So she makes the in-depth case for adding ALM here. Whatever you do, don't do lighting like this:

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Thursday, October 06, 2016

In Jane Austen-Themed MMO, Telling Lies is a Player vs. Player Mechanic

Ever Jane Austen MMO Lying

Ever, Jane, the Jane Austen-themed, still-in-Beta MMO lead-designed by Linden Lab alum Judy Tyrer, has an amazing game mechanic I've never quite seen before in an MMO: Telling lies about other players' characters to cause player damage.

"The lies come from Pride and Prejudice," Judy tells me, citing the Austen novel that inspired this. Willoughby lies about Darcy. "We haven't sufficiently impressed stats on players yet but gossip affects your stats, so if a lie is spread about you, you start to lose reputation. If you catch the liar, the loss comes back to you double."

Which is fricking brilliant... and, I bet, likely to cause player vs. player ragequitting as brutal as when players shoot crossbows into each others' face. So you know this Jane Austen game is hardcore. (Video below.)

Judy tells me they're still integrating lies and the consequence of lies into the game's content:

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Posted at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wages of Trump: Palmer Luckey Pulled from Oculus Conference, Facebook Seems Set on Taking Over VR Brand

Oculus Rift Palmer Luckey Second Life

The likley cause:

[A] jaw-dropping report from The Daily Beast that Palmer Luckey has been secretly funding a pro-Trump organization founded by some uniquely noxious online racists...

The apparent effect:

Oculus co-founder and Trump troll financier Palmer Luckey was conspicuously missing from the keynote stage at today’s Oculus Connect 3 conference in San Jose, CA. That likely related to the backlash against news that Luckey donated $10,000 to Nimble America, a pro-Trump non-profit dedicated to bashing Hillary Clinton with offensive memes.

The probable blowback on the VR industry as a whole:

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MMO Blogger Asks, Can Second Life Be Pretty?

Spoiler: Yes, if you're willing to take the time and effort to make it so. Not totally surprising, as MMO YouTuber/longtime MMO blogger Beau Hindman has been writing about and playing in Second Life for over a decade.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

High Fidelity Hiring Virtual Reality-Based "Greeters"

Cross Platform VR Oculus Vive

In yet another sign of the VR boom times we're currently living, you can now make a real life living by standing around in virtual reality being friendly with other people in virtual reality:

High Fidelity's Greetsquad is a small team that work on a short-shift (4 hours) basis monitoring new user activity in High Fidelity. In addition to interacting with new users, Greeters will be encouraged to help improve the first time user experience and the High Fidelity welcome area. Greeters are expected to have access to HMD VR equipment (e.g. HTC Vive controllers) and work from their own hardware.

Full details here. No word if this will include VR-based tango (as is possible in HiFi), but I imagine candidates with smooth moves will have an advantage.

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Posted at 01:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Media Partnership With New World Notes Now Available!

Second Life advertising New World Notes

Interested in becoming a Media Partner with New World Notes, the oldest and largest blog with a primary focus on Second Life, VR, and virtual worlds? We got ~125,000 visits last month, according to Similar Web, we're expanding coverage of the next generation in virtual worlds and VR, and perhaps more key, we get our partners results. At left, for instance, is the clickthrough rates to the Second Life Marketplace listing of a recent partner, after just 4 months.

Read on for more:

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SL Flickr of the Day: Thorns on the Road to Neva River

Some thorns on the road

"Some thorns on the road", the latest from master SL landscape photographer Pepa Cometa, is not (despite appearances) enhanced with any post-production. "Just played with WindLight, not edited, moving the sun position," she tells me. The magic touch is she used a custom WindLight created for "City Inside Out", an SL installation built by Haveit Neox. (Video of that below.) As for the sim itself, that's Neva River sim, by Neva Virenque and Keon Xenga: Click here to visit.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

2016 Looks Like The Year Bitcoin Transactions Peaked

Bitcoin transactions peaked 2016

Every quarter I check to see how many people actually use the virtual currency Bitcoin as money, and for Q4 2016, not much has changed: around 150,000-250,000 daily transactions. Meaning at most, some 100,000 unique Bitcoin users, give or take, in the entire world. Meaning that Linden Dollars, with its 400,000 people regular users in Second Life (as insiders tell me), is still larger than Bitcoin.

For Bitcoin zealots -- and there are many, or at least, active enough to seem like many -- the trends look even worse when you look at this quarter compared not to the last twelve months, but since the time Bitcoin first virtually existed, in 2009:

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Second Life "Let's Play" Videos Need More People!

Just in time for Halloween, here's an eerie tour by Veemonthedemonking through Arranmore, a beautifully horrible island of fog, secrets, and death. (Map link to visit below.) I love "Let's Play"-type videos like this, but just wish there were more with people exploring together, to add player to player repartee, onscreen activity, overall fun. (Witness how hilarious Justin and Griffin McElroy's "Monster Factory" was.) In fact, I want this so much, I'd like to help: If you're a YouTuber about to shoot an SL "Let's Play" and you want traveling companions, Tweet the SLurl at me an hour or two beforehand and I'll retweet, so hopefully others can join the expedition.

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Posted at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Went Wrong (and Right) With Ello, The No-Real-Names-Needed "Facebook Killer"

Ello Social Network No Ads

Remember Ello, the no-real-names-needed social network that lots of people in 2014 described as a Facebook killer? To judge by its traffic, probably not. Now Backchannel has the inside story of its rise and fall and rise again, and as it turns out, it inadvertently started with Sister Roma, the drag queen activist who led the charge against Facebook's real name policy:

Sister Roma had started a movement. As activists rallied around her, a question emerged: If Facebook was going to demand legal names from its LGBT users, how could those users remain loyal to the social network? That’s when Ello laid out the welcome mat.

Thing is, Ello was never intended to be a Facebook killer, and as Facebook rapidly worked with Roma to carve out a policy that allowed pseudonyms (including for avatars), Ello lost a key growth driver. But all is not lost:

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Google Daydream Thrusts VR Into Android vs. iOS Wars

Google Daydream

Variety's Janko Roettgers (a fellow GigaOM alum!) had the scoop last night, but now the official word is officially here:

Google has finally revealed the first headset to support it, Daydream View. The headset comes with a controller and launches in November for $79. The new device was revealed at the Made By Google conference in San Francisco today. As expected, Daydream View will run with any Daydream ready smartphone. That includes the two new smartphones Google itself revealed at the event – Pixel and the larger Pixel XL for $649.

Normally my first instinct is to be cranky about anything Google tries to do in the consumer product space, but I actually like the soft, cloth design, making Daydream look less like a high tech device and more like binoculars which happen to see into other worlds. But to me, the big news from this announcement isn't about Daydream per se, but where it fits into the broader ecosystem:

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Monday, October 03, 2016

Sansar Survey: Only About 1 in 10 Have Signed Its NDA

Sansar NDA

Here's the results of last week's survey trying to determine active interest among NWN readers in Linden Lab's Sansar. ("Active" as in "interested enough to actually sign a contract to gain early access.") Surprisingly to me, just over 1 in 10 of our respondents said they've signed the NDA, while just over 1 in 4 have requested early access (but haven't yet been given the NDA form).

Assuming this data scales to Second Life users and people generally interested in virtual worlds who read this blog -- a medium-large assumption, but let's run with it anyway -- there's some interesting, potentially contradictory ways to interpret this data:

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Official Second Life Inventory Management So Difficult, User-Made Organizer Quite Popular

After noting how vexing inventory management is in Second Life, reader Madeline Blackbart chimed in to suggest (CTS) Wardrobe, a pretty impressive looking user-made tool which displays whole wardrobes on the web and enables you to wear them with a single click. "It's time-consuming to setup and maintain but worth it," she says. "I basically had to abandon my original main [avatar] because I couldn't stand the inventory. I just wish there was something like CTS wardrobe for furniture and poses." (Above, walkthrough by Marisol Verdugo with non-sexual nudity.)

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How VRmania is Like 19th Century Railwaymania - Comment of the Week

UR Trains

Commenting on the US Army's expansion of the OpenSim virtual world platform, Graham Mills (who creates simulations of railways systems), makes a fascinating historical analogy to the current buzz over virtual reality:

Back in 1830 George Stephenson, a taciturn engineer from outside the establishment, built a railway from Liverpool to Manchester. It worked so well that it ignited a period of over-excited investment in what came to be called Railwaymania.

On the upside there was continuous refinement of engines and track and, based on the Liverpool & Manchester experience, guidance for others on the best way to operate a railway safely. On the downside, track was put down without a decent business case, there was duplication of effort, dubious business practice, massive waste of capital. It was definitively not the most efficient way to establish a railway network.

Moreover, initially it was only the wealthy who could afford to travel and the companies did their best to ensure that people would want to pay for a premium experience by making life miserable for those in second class carriages. Ultimately the government stepped in and forced the companies to run a decent service for the average worker.

Anyway, the one thing that outlasted George was standard gauge, the gap between the two rails. Arguably it wasn't optimal but the scale of adoption and need for interoperability between all these little railways ultimately won the day.

Fast forward 186 years and we have VRmania. Lots of small pieces of expensive kit and content, largely isolated in terms of their tech and support for different operating systems, massive duplication of effort, prospect of mergers/acquisitions/closures, standards as optional, premium content closely sequestered, failure to reach potential, disillusionment down the line.

The hardware is one thing (Oculus, Vive, Daydream, Sulon Q, HoloLens, Magic Leap...) but the software is another.

Let's change hats and imagine I'm an educator running a virtual lab. Maybe I bought a nice package that I use as a pre-class simulation. It uses a pipetting device to transfer liquid from one place to another. But times change and we now use a different device in-class not supported in the original package that can't be updated (maybe the vendor went bust and the sim is closed source). I can't change it for a device from another vendor because the objects and avatars don't play together. In reality fingers and thumbs are pretty much a standard (I appreciate that's not always a given) and liquids "know" how to flow under normal gravity.

The solution, he suggests, may lie not in Unity or other high-end premium platforms, but the one very few in VR think about lately:

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Top Three New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Fate Family with Baby Linden

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