Avatar Takes the 10 Minute Stripped Down Challenge

On YouTube's massive community of video bloggers, the "Stripped Down Challenge" is a popular video segment where the vlogger extemporizes unedited about what they think and feel for ten straight  minutes. So what happens when the vlogger is an avatar? Something like this:

Alicia Chenaux is the challenge taker, of course, talking about her Wordpress blog, her virtual family, and many other random topics. It's casual, it's chatty, it's a fun way of getting insights into virtual world culture.

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Academics Study Child & Family Roleplay in Second Life

Virtual Family Alicia Second Life

Interesting that I had just blogged Alicia Chenaux's thoughts on roleplaying as the virtual mother of virtual children (who are adults themselves), when up pops this fascinating Inverse story about two academics studying that very phenomena:

The exact why people are looking to live as children, and tangentially why other users what to act as their parents, is what more analysis will reveal to Loveland and Gilbert before they can make any definitive claims. But they do have a research-supported hypothesis, which was recently presented to the Western Psychological Association. “The hypothesis is that both the child and the parental avatars are motivated to explore these roles as a kind of corrective emotional experience,” Gilbert tells Inverse. “This may be because of traumatic or difficult experiences in childhood, so that in effect both child and parental avatars are trying to recreate a family that would be a more positive, and hopefully healing, experience.”

That description fits the experiences of Alicia, who is physically unable to have children in real life, or this profile of someone who roleplays as a child and reports being a child abuse survivor.

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Do You Want to Prisma Your Avatar? Of Course You Do

Download the iOS app here, add an image of your avatar to your iOS device's photo roll, select a filter, and watch your avatar transform into something like this:

Prisma avatar Second Life app

Originally designed to convert photos into images inspired by the paintings of Lichtenstein, Munch, Picasso, Hokusai, and so on, Prisma seems to work just as well with photos from the virtual world. Here's the original screenshot:

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Why Would a Woman Want to Roleplay as a Virtual Mom?

Virtual Family Alicia Second Life

Longtime SL blogger Alicia Chenaux has a fascinating post which helps illuminate a remarkable phenomenon in Second Life: The existence of virtual families, in which groups of SLers roleplay as traditional nuclear families with a mother, father, and two-three kids. (With the children being roleplayed by adults who've shrunk down their avatars to a kids' size.) For Alicia, becoming a virtual mother was inspired by a painful limitation in her real, offline existence:

It has always been a big deal to me that I haven’t been able to have children. In fact, it sent me into a depression for a long time after I found out that it just wasn’t going to happen for me. And adoption, unfortunately, is not in the cards for me in RL for various reasons. Also, my immediate family is very small. I have never had a sibling close to my age because my sisters were quite a bit older than me when I was born, so I was basically raised as an only child. It’s just my parents and me now, and the rest of our extended family all live very far away.

So when Alicia partnered with someone in Second Life, they "adopted" a couple of children -- all of whom know each other (to some extent) in real life, all with the knowledge and support of Alicia's real life boyfriend:

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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.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 1.47.01 PM

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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