Canvas, the Unity-powered Second Life and OpenSim web-based viewer developed by ex-Linden Chris Collins (which I blogged Monday), is rolling out next week, but I recently got an early hands-on preview. This is what I look like after logging into Second Life via Canvas to meet Chris there:
As you can see, the graphics are rudimentary, because the conversion process from SL graphics to Canvas takes out Windlight and other shiny graphic baubles. However, Chris tells me that he’s not targeting an audience of power users who expect high-end visuals, but the education and real work market who may have slow computers or broadband. Through his start-up, Tipodean Technologies, Chris licensed the technology that runs Canvas from IBM, aiming to address "[The c]onstant challenge with more the casual usual [who] has low end machines, poor bandwidth, and [trouble] onboarding... there's a lot of work getting people to download or upgrade [Second Life]." With Canvas, he aims to go after the 95% who tried Second Life, had problems, and gave up.
That said, established Second Life users will probably find a lot that’s valuable in Canvas, as an option when they’re not able to launch the heavy 3D client. For example, all the thousands of Residents (including me) who groaned when Katharine Berry’s AjaxLife, a web-based SL chat client, was banned due to security concerns. At minimum, Canvas can work as a replacement to that. In future iterations, Chris tells me it should be possible to build with prims, and other features native to SL proper.
Still, Canvas is intended for the non-hardcore user. Controls are extremely basic: moving, flying, chat and IM, and that’s about it. Collins has added some UI functionality specifically for the casual user, such as an automatic click-zoom command, so you can look at an in-world display without the usual aggravations with the 3D camera control interface: