Announced August 18, 2015, Linden Lab’s new virtual reality platform, currently called Project Sansar, has opened for pre-beta testing to a small group of invited users.
What is Project Sansar? Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Labs, addressed the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality (SVVR) Conference on May 18, 2015. He said that with Project Sansar, Linden Lab is “building a virtual experience platform from the ground up.”
Altberg said that the Second Life® platform has aged, and while Linden Lab worked with Oculus Rift to make Second Life compatible with the headset, the performance isn’t great because Second Life does not run at the frame rate needed to really be viable for widespread headset use.
He spoke at length about Second Life and how much Linden Lab has learned about virtual worlds. Altberg said that as Second Life has turned twelve, and it is, to date, the “most successful virtual world that has ever been created.” In world residents cashed out over 60 million dollars last year alone. For all of that, while Second Life has done well, it isn’t really scalable past where it is currently. He mentioned some of the amazing experiences that residents have created, but most of the majority of the public cannot get to them because they “are hidden inside of this walled garden called Second Life.”
Sansar (the Hindi name for universe) is being designed to take online virtual reality to an entirely different place. The challenges facing Linden Lab are many. Altberg listed the following as goals for the Sansar Project:
- Make it very easy to individuals and companies to create VR spaces and experiences.
- Be easy for consumers to use the VR spaces.
- Ease of discovery: Users can find things they are looking for in this virtual space.
- Accessible: People can use it across multiple devices and platforms.
- Scalable: Spaces have the ability to host many concurrent users.
- Monetization: While SL has done well, it isn’t really scalable.
Performance, quality of the experience, and lowering the cost for people to create things and spaces were other things Altberg emphasized. According to a recent article in Variety magazine, “Project Sansar will be rendered with 90 frames per second” which means a great experience with VR headsets.
Until Linden Lab gave this new project a working title, there was speculation that it was simply Second Life 2.0. This question was asked of Altberg at the end of his SVVR talk, and he reiterated that Sansar is a completely different project and that he sees Sansar and Second Life existing side by side for a long time to come.
Nick Ochoa of Upload magazine interviewed Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab, on August 7, 2015, in a fireside chat format. In this thirty minute interview, Altberg talked at length about Sansar, emphasizing many of the points made in his address to the SVVR conference. While there wasn’t much new information about Sansar, it was great to see head of the company in this relaxed environment.
Altberg talked about his own background being a mix of art and computer programming, describing walking across campus from printmaking to coding when he was at Middlebury college. The pre-beta testing for Sansar is for a small set of invited users that have skillsets, like modeling in Maya, that will help Linden test the capabilities of the new platform. Linden Lab plans to roll out a wider beta test in early 2016, with the possibility of a version 1.0 released by the end of 2016.
The Drax Files Radio Hour with Jo Yardley is a weekly podcast done by Draxtor Depres (Drax) and Jo Yardley from the Berlin 1920’s sim in Second Life.
On August 14, 2015, Drax and Jo hosted a panel of three, Canary Beck, Bill Glover (Chaos Priestman), and Josh Farkas of Cubicle Ninjas, to discuss Sansar. Part of the focus was how residents of Second Life view the project. The podcast lasted for a bit over an hour, with the panel discussing the Sansar Project, concerns that is causes for Second Life residents, and the potential a project like Sansar has for virtual reality on the Internet in general.
Residents of Second Life worry about:
- Whether Sansar will replace Second Life
- Whether the Second Life inventories will port to the new platform
- Whether there will be adult content
- Whether the technical requirements be beyond them
- Whether people will leave Second Life, effectively splitting the user base
One point the panel touched on was Linden Lab’s stated goal, to turn Sansar into a WordPress for VR, “allowing enthusiasts and big brands alike to build VR experiences without spending tons of money and man hours on custom programming.”
Panelist Canary Beck commented that while some might see the word “template” as evil, devoid of creativity, it gives new users functionality quickly. The example she used is that someone might be able to buy a pre-made 3D Italian theme town, then spend some time personalizing it. Having the template would greatly reduce time to get it up and working.
The group went on to talk about what a larger 3D virtual community might be like. Josh Farkas thinks that “eventually most people will interact with augmented reality and virtual reality.” Canary Beck said it this way. Second Life has been like a one-door coliseum, allowing just a few people in through that one door. With a bigger, more inclusive platform, people will have many, many new ways to experience life.
Millions of possibilities.
Image from Pixabay.