SL Go is the first official mobile app for Second Life which offers the full high-end 3D experience on mobile tablets (both iOS and for Android and eventually iOS), and I'm proud to disclose I did some consulting on its development and launch. Created with Linden Lab's authorization by OnLive, the cloud-based streaming service, this is a Second Life that's as graphically rich as pretty much anything you'd experience on most high-end desktops -- except now, you can literally hold the world in your hands. That's why I love how the promo video above depicts two people sharing their Second Life experience with each other: On tablets, sharing content with the people around you is far easier than it is on other form factors, and it's my hope that SL Go will make Second Life far more shareable than it’s ever been before.
Since I sporadically consulted with the OnLive team on this app over the past few months, I can say they’ve made a thorough, concerted effort to create a new mobile experience that’s appealing to the SL user community. And since I am clearly biased, I want to be open about some caveats with the service before I go any further:
- As it's been optimized for mobile and streams the full client within the OnLive interface, using SL Go on mobile requires learning a new user interface, which by necessity, doesn't have all the features of the traditional viewer -- it’s a simplified and streamlined UI with the essential controls (moving, camera control, chat, etc) that takes some getting used to. (Tutorial video above.)
- SL Go is probably not for new Second Life users, and is better suited for existing SLers who are already comfortable with the world’s complexities, and want to extend aspects of their SL experience to mobile.
- As a cloud-rendered application which requires heavy server and bandwidth capacity, it's a metered, for-pay service. Having used SL Go extensively myself, I believe most dedicated SLers will find it worthwhile enough to pay for, at some level -- indeed, when I ran a survey about cloud rendering SL a few years ago, many said they were willing to pay quite a lot. But the price tag is worth keeping in mind.
All that said, I want to talk about how SL Go feels like a new era of Second Life, as I suggested in the title above. That's not to say all the myriad challenges facing SL are resolved by SL Go. (The underlying UI and the revenue model, the poor new user retention, and so on.) But here is the thing that makes all the difference for the world: SL Go works, and almost paradoxically, is the first platform to present Second Life as it really is. It eliminates almost all of the lag and load times most SL users have learned to accept, and presents to you a Second Life at its best, and purest form. If you couldn't see dynamic shadows, you can see them now; if your draw distance was small, it's now broadened to the sky. You may have noticed I've been doing more in-world reporting than I have in many years (as here, and here), and that's entirely due to SL Go. As I said, it's probably not ideal for new users (at least not in this early stage), but I do think it will bring many back to Second Life, to see the world as they've always wanted -- and as they've always wanted to share it with their friends -- but up to now, have never had the means.
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