Wednesday, July 03, 2013

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Why Oculus Rift is Important for SL, Explained in 2 Photos

When I argued in my 10th anniversary Second Life post for GigaOM that the future of SL largely lies in the Oculus Rift, some people were confused why I made that argument. Gwyneth Llewelyn thinks I want the Rift to attract hardcore gamers into SL; not exactly. But maybe my argument is better expressed by two photos.

This is someone who uses Second Life and finds it very valuable for many important reasons:

Fran Serenade Parkinsons Second Life

And below, is someone who can easily use the Oculus Rift and already finds value in it:

Oculus Rift Second Life

I tried to suggest as much in the GigaOM post, in two passages:

SL enthusiasts have tried promoting it as a platform for any number of real-world applications... but only one consistently shows substantial and unique value: a real-time, immersive social space for people with physical or mental disabilities that impair their first lives, who often find comfort and security interacting through anonymous avatars. (Indeed, some academics believe using Second Life might even help improve motor ability for people with Parkinson’s.) This capability alone almost justifies SL’s entire existence. As the developed world experiences a spike in senior citizens, SL very well could find a new audience.

And the thing is, Second Life already has a very large group of users in their 50s and even 60s. (With some even into their 70s and 80s, as Fran is, above.) The trouble is, it'll be difficult to introduce the technology to oncoming senior citizens, unless it's as easy as wearing a headset.

This is not to say I see a future for Second Life that's only inhabited by senior citizens or the physically/mentally disabled. But these groups have the most incentive to use it, especially when it's as immersive as the Rift can make it. This isn't to say a Rift-based SL will be the only means of access -- just that it's the one that's easiest to experience, and conveys the most power in the experience. And when a substantial number of senior citizens begin to use it, their children and grandchilden will be more than likely to follow them there.

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Metacam Oh

The Rift is exciting, no doubt, but the reasons people don't use SL are not fixed / changed by the adding the Rift to the equation.

Madeline Blackbart

@metacam i disagree a world that's meant to be immersive adding a technology that will make it more immersive will make it more appealing to more people. Do I think it will make numbers go up a humongous amount? maybe not but it may increase numbers a little.

Paypabak Writer

My heart goes out to WJA when you have to so carefully explain and clarify your every statement. You ask how many years will SL stick around. I wonder how much more abuse are you going to put up with before you give it up. Thanks for this information and point of view. @metacam says it best.

Wagner James Au

Thanks much, Paypabak! To Gwyn's point, I do think *some* hardcore gamers will like SL + Rift, but mainly MMORPG fans. It probably doesn't have fast enough frame rate for FPS gamers who'd rather play something like TF2 on the Rift.

Hitomi Tiponi

Problem is that you can't use Occulus Rift with over 95% of existing kit - you can't use it on your own Alienware laptop, because it won't have the frame-rate Wagner. You really need a full desktop and decent graphics card to run the Rift - yet most people are using laptops for SL... unless you are a hardcore gamer of course.

Hal Jordan

I agree with Metacam. I don't see any added value in a wearable monitor, especially if the user still needs to move around using the keyboard and mouse. And don't forget that many of the people who are becoming senior citizens these days are already computer users, so they won't be as intimidated by the technology as someone who is 20 years older.

I've met many disabled people in Second Life, and I agree that it's a great place for them. I've had friendly chats with people who are afraid to leave their apartment or talk face to face with anyone in Real Life, and I've seen people flying who are bedridden or wheelchair-bound. For their sake, I hope SL stays around forever.

Adeon Writer

Conversely, I think people who do have a Tift will enjoy more slow-based games, than fast shooters like TF2, when using it.

If SL implements it well, and dosn't require you to take off the HMD in order to do certain tasks, then I see it as Oculus's killer app, yes,

But SL needs to do a lot of house keeping first to pull that off.

Ajax Manatiso

This is like the gaming world's segway. The segway was full of hype, it will change the way we live our lives and our entire planet's infrastructure will forever be changed. You will remember the time and place you were when you first saw a segway, etc, etc. The same thing with the Occulus device. Only a very few people will use them. The ones that do will like it very much, the majority will see no actual need for it, a fanciful piece of fluff for those burdened with too much disposable cash.

joker

lol.
with both hands needed to firmly keep that headscope affixed to your brow...how will the most popular form of virtual interactions take place...-one hand needs to be "free".;)

not including the use of text/typing and using the overly buttoned and mouse driven GUI of SL.

Occulus deals only with navigation... 85% of SL interface has nothing to do with that.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Hehe... I have missed your post, Hamlet, so I'm just replying now :)

We both are committing some fallacies:

You: Just because you know a few senior citizens that love the OR, that doesn't mean all will love it, or even that a substantial amount of them will do so.

Me: Just because I don't personally know any 70+-year-old who is a hard-core gamer, that doesn't mean that there are hundreds of thousands of them around.

So I stick to my point... will the OR (or some clone of it) become as ubiquitous as, say, the mouse... or the mobile phone? I'd say, "no", even if it costs $5, because it's not a question of technology that drives people to social virtual-worlds with user-generated content. If it were the case, SL would be empty, as it trails behind the gaming industry in terms of technology :) But still it attracts *some* people — well, a few millions — even though it's not something designed for the hard-core games, but sometimes is presented as if it were.

So I have to agree totally with Ajax. Note that the Segway isn't a flop. It's a huge commercial success. It has long passed the stage where the hype attracted consumers, it's incredibly overpriced, but it still sells like crazy even if the media doesn't talk about it — and it continues to evolve and be developed. But it didn't change traffic patterns and urban layouts as the original viral meme-spreading about the Segway claimed it would do.

There are good reasons for the OR to be similar. It will appeal immediately to the tens of thousands who already want one. Hundreds of thousands more will also buy it instead of a new console for Christmas. I can even believe that soon every major game will support it natively — and so will SL. But that doesn't mean a) that millions will join SL because of its OR support or that b) OR will become as commonplace as a keyboard and mouse. Or even a joystick.

Because, well, not everybody likes immersion (see Nozick).

Oh, btw, and I'm not so sure that the current generation of kids would love to use something that "even their grandparents are using". In fact, I would certainly not use that as an argument! I'm sure it will kill sales instead of promoting them.

To reply to @joker: as far as I understand, the OR's support in SL will work in a way that at least you won't need a keyboard and mouse to move around. And of course LL wants everybody to use voice and not text, so they don't worry much about that issue. My question is more how other things in the UI will work — how do you open inventory and drag an item to a friend without a keyboard and a mouse? So I have to agree, 85% of SL's interface is not about navigation and camera positioning, and, in that regard, I fail to see how OR will improve all that. BUT... let LL suprise us. Sometimes they do!

Wagner James Au

"Just because you know a few senior citizens that love the OR, that doesn't mean all will love it"

But Gwyn, please read what I wrote above: I didn't argue *all* will love it -- I argued that there's going to be a huge growth spike in senior citizens very soon, and that's an extremely large, incentivized potential market for Rift+SL. Even if just 1% of that segment gets into it, we're still talking millions of new users.

Speaking of which:

"still it attracts *some* people — well, a few millions"

I'm sorry, Gwyn, this is not accurate, and I think is a key way of misunderstanding Second Life. Millions have tried SL, yes, but almost all of them quit on the first try. Even by Linden Lab's own stats, there are only 600K monthly active users, and that hasn't changed for years. A little over half a million, not millions.

whatevertoputhere

I think there is a market for 'shared space' that is NOT in a world. The world is what people want to escape many times, which is why doors where invented and windows have curtains. It is why we wear clothes. We do NOT want people in our lives, at least not all parts of it. Sure, SL has this but I am not sure people understand that part of it and if you logged right into your personal space and zero configuration is needed, you see no one etc. it all makes sense. You invite you friends, you maybe have a link to go visit the rest of the world (as chat clients had links to chat rooms, but many only ever IM'd with them) if you are bored. It is 'shared space' and not a world, so is maybe the direction.

Hi-Fidelity may be the one that does this, it is distributed (I think, or plans to be) and maybe this is the future and LL may make something similar.

I can see how a lighter client that is not for navigating a world would be faster and easier to use. You choose who to talk to, your place or theres and they have up to 20 people that can log in with no connection to the SL world at all, not on the map even. Just a building, space paid for as you choose and same as teir fees sort of are. No building, no loading the room dynamically or changing it. This cuts down lots of activity and lack of much pysics may help as well. Not SL, something new BUT connected to the assets for sale and leveraging the avatar and animations. Who knows.

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