Cool Demo of SL's New Project Bento Avatar Customization

We're still seeing a dearth of Project Bento-based avatars since the new SL avatar technology launched, but here's a pretty impressive new demo from Medhue showing how avatar customization works with a Bento-borne avatar -- starring, of course, a talking fox.

Speaking of dearth in Bento avatars, reader Adeon thinks the delay is due to needing a special viewer to see them:

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Slow Bento: New SL Avatar Development Likely Delayed by Multi-Disciplinary Nature

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 10.43.53 AM

Why are we still waiting for Project Bento-based Second Life avatars? After two weeks on the main grid, little two none have shown up in SL social circles or media. (Besides those already developed by early beta developers, like Aki's wyvern above.) One very good reason, as SL veteran Patchouli Woollahra puts out, is developing a Bento avatar tends to require more than just one skill set:

"The main barrier here," as he puts it, "is that unlike the legacy SL avatar skeleton, the extra bones in a Bento-ified avatar need extra animations playing in order to properly animate them. So this is not a simple model/texture/rig job, but also requires help from a good animator as well. And frankly, this is stretching across multiple disciplines:

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See the Future of Avatars in One Jaw Dropping Reel


2016 AICP Sponsor Reel - Dir Cut from Method Studios on Vimeo.

You might swear these are people underneath elaborate costumes, but they're actually data of motion captured people beneath layers and layers of further code:

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Hamlet is Hungry for More Bento (Avatars) - Who Has Some?

Project Bento has been available for general user testing since late May -- that's Linden Lab's codename for much-anticipated Second Life skeleton extensions which greatly expand the expressive range of avatars -- but since then, I haven't seen many user-made avatars showing up on social media. This articulated centaur from Aki Shichiroji above is pretty cool, but I want to feature more here. Got Bento? Please post links in Comments!

By the way, Linden Lab, thank you so much for giving me hunger pangs every time this technology is mentioned. For people who grew up in Hawaii, calling it Project Bento is pretty much like calling it Project Bacon.  

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Be Donald Trump in Second Life (For About One Dollar)

Donald Trump SL avatar

Of course you can be Donald Trump in Second Life, for just L$299 (about one dollar and pocket change): Offered by someone named "say fairlady", here's the Trump Complete Mesh Avatar, which comes both with red power tie and orange power hair. L$299 too much? Just buy Donald Trump's floating, disembodied head for a low low price of L$199. 

Why would someone want to be Donald Trump in Second Life? Beyond comic relief, I'm not entirely sure. (Then again, I don't even know why Donald Trump wants to be Donald Trump.) But then yet again, the opportunities for a virtual Donald Trump who is like actual Donald Trump are limitless in Second Life. There's Trump's large contingent of racist, anime porn-loving fans in Second Life, for one thing, so there's a waiting fanbase. And virtual estate development is Second Life's biggest business, earning millions of US dollars in the process, so his skill set is supported. Second Life used to be a popular place for educators, so why not set up a Trump University in SL? (What with the real one defunct and buried in lawsuits.) Judge a new Miss Second Life contest? Those exist too -- L'Oreal even sponsored one, once. Command an army of fascist furries? Got you go covered there, Donnie.

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Speaking of lawsuits, I'm kind of curious if the very litigious Trump files a DMCA order to prohibit people from selling his floating head in Second Life. That would open up a pretty interesting legal conversation on fair use, and the First Amendment implications of imitating a political figure. Maybe he can ask Second Life fan and Trump VP hopeful Newt Gingrich for advice there.

(And no, far as I can tell, there's no Hillary Clinton avatar in SL for sale in the Marketplace, least far as I can see, but that's likely to change soon.)

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Extremely Articulated SL Avatars Now Available for Testing

The Project Bento viewer is available for download here for general user testing -- that's Linden Lab's codename for much-anticipated Second Life skeleton extensions which greatly expand the expressive range of avatars: Wings that actually flutter more or less naturally, fingers that actually grip, and so on. See video above for some early, pretty impressive examples. Much more on this emerging tech soon, as this is sure to get still more impressive soon.

Also, I'm offering special coverage to the first Bento avatar that's literally a bento:

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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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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:

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Artist Cosplay: Frida Kahlo as SL Avatar & Fashion Model

Frida Kahlo SL avatar fashion

Pretty impressive avatar cosplay of the iconic artist by French SL blogger Eve Kazan -- with all Frida's fashion items listed. Not sure where Eve got Frida's iconic unibrow, though.

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Vice Reporter Wants to Interview People Who Play Avatars Who Look Like Their Real Life Lovers


Cecilia D'Anastasio is a reporter with Vice Motherboard who's written some excellent posts on avatar identity, such as this one on a Second Life user named Veronica Sidwell, and she wants to interview some folks for a future piece with an intriguing hook: "I'm writing a piece on people who design and play avatars that resemble their exes and significant others," she tells me. If that sounds like you, e-mail her at cecianasta at gmail dot com, connect with her on Twitter (below), or IM her SL avatar, Cecianasta.

"Having spent a great deal of time playing avatars and interviewing people about their relationships to their avatars, I've become fascinated by what we put into and take out of time spent in digital bodies," Cecilia tells me.

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