Sketchfab annoys me, i am annoyed by Linden Lab

I was visiting Oxford when a Jira i made started gaining interest from other creators. I had stopped in oxford to look at the architecture as i was on my way to see the British F1 Grand Prix, but ended up checking my phone every couple minutes.

I used to be quite fond of the Jira for requesting new features. In most cases the ideas fall on deaf ears, but in some instances i’d discover a year later the ideas appear in some similar form, not that i assumed i had anything to do with them. Except i sometimes do :-p.

 

Moving on to what the title of this post is about.
In 2011 i created this Jira ‘Allow to animate a rigged object with an ‘animation’ asset

The idea was simple enough in my none coding mind. If we can upload a rigged object to be worn by the avatar, how hard would it be to add code in order for the object to animate via a animation asset dropped into it along with a script?

Currently if we want to animate an object we have to script it to move in positional terms relative to the world and objects around it, all of which has to be reported to the servers and distributed to everyone else witnessing the object. It results in an almost pre 90’s style of computer animation that all SL users have just had to accept.

The idea to allow static objects the ability to animate to a looped asset should have been seen as a great way to reduce lag through less server resources while boosting Second Life’s visual appeal for things like NPCs and Ai. A region could bring life to their landscape with animals scurrying around, or NPC people mingling in crowds. Creators could build engines that looped mechanical functions. It seemed as Draxter might say ‘A no brainer

 

So why did this not happen?
Well maybe i’ve over simplified the process. There was talk at some of the User Groups about this and a Linden was quoted as saying something along the lines of ’This is the kind of feature that would probably be more suited to The Next Thing (Project Sansar)’

project-sansar

It’s hard to tell wether Second Life has reached its limit feature wise. Have we already passed the point where new advanced features can’t be added to SL without the whole thing collapsing? There is also the matter of how much resources Linden Lab have spare for working on new ideas, what with Sansar probably having the most resources due to the impending VR headset Wars next year. It does make me wonder though when Linden Lab ask for third party devs to volunteer to help pick apart how the SL viewer caches everything.

 

So i realise i still haven’t said whats annoyed me yet.
In the past two years i’ve watched a small service called Sketchfab grow. They allow you to create a profile to showcase your 3D creations on the web like a Deviant Art for 3DModel Makers. You can export to Sketchfab from almost every 3D creation program then embed their 3D viewer into almost anything, twitter, Deviant Art, Facebook, wordpress (not SLmarketplace). I’ve found it quite handy to show people who don’t use SL my 3D creations. I can say “hey i made this airship for Second life”, and they are like “Wow thats kool, Second Life still exists?”.

For a while my stuff on Sketchfab looked comparable to Second Life in terms of shading. But then Sketchfab added Physically Based Rendering (PBR). Suddenly all my work was looking much better than in Second Life. Then Apple enabled WebGL on iOS and suddenly i could show all my 3D models on my iPhone or iPad. Now Sketchfab are allowing animated models and plan to add support for Morph Keys. Suddenly the 3D models I’m uploaded to be viewed in a mobile web browser are beyond what i can create for Second Life. They have added the feature i wanted Linden Lab to add to Second Life and thats where i got annoyed.

Briknal Running
by lokieliot
on Sketchfab

Im pleased that Sketchfab has advanced so much so quickly, but i find myself uploading kool animated models that have limited use. I wish i could just upload the same model to Second Life where it would be used as part of a VR experience. Why SL can’t has this feature. WHY!!!!! Because of the New Thing? OH COME ON! I want to believe there is still life in the old Second Life yet!

My last post about Oculus, my first about Sansar

Well it was fun being part of the re-hype of Virtual Reality but being a Mac user i must accept that at least with regards to Oculus it’s not going anywhere for quite some time.

I first grabbed an Oculus back in 2013 with the hope that soon i would be exploring virtual worlds as if i was actually there and the DK1 made it seem all the more possible. 

The first attempts by Linden Lab to connect Oculus to Second Life were poor but showed promise. Kickstarter Demos such as Technolust made me back them and other Oculus projects with excitement. But then the DK2 came out and while many users were expressing how much of an improvement it was, i was not so impressed. Sure the screen resolution was better but it just didn’t work out the box like the DK1 did and hinted at a decrease in support for OS X and Linux which ultimately lead to Oculus finally stating “Our development for OS X and Linux has been paused in order to focus on delivering a high quality consumer-level VR experience at launch across hardware, software, and content on Windows. We want to get back to development for OS X and Linux but we don’t have a timeline.”

What does this mean for projects hoping to create cross platform VR services like High Fidelity and Sansar? They can ether wait three or four years and hope oculus dos well enough consider it financially viable to support multi platforms, or perhaps they can start looking at other HMDs .

While i continue to read fascinating studies about how Oculus was being used for social experiments, research and projects that help people the main focus has turned to gaming and media consumption. While the Oculus Brand of VR initially retreads old consumer ground for an increasingly niche group of well off PC gamers, i find myself no longer interested in it.  Perhaps it’s time to look towards the augmented reality camp for an experience that will push VR beyond playing games and watching movies.

Yeh I’m annoyed that Oculus dropped support for the Mac, so i’ve written a prediction of how it will pan out for Oculus. Yes this is me cursing Oculus.

1. Oculus is delayed past 1st quarter of 2016.

2. Oculus comes out at a higher price than most expected

3. Oculus sells are poor.

4. Oculus decides after all it’s not financially viable to add support for the mac or Linux as it struggles with a niche of high income gamers.

5. Eveyone forgets Oculus.

Meanwhile i’m still fully entrenched in Virtual Worlds and have a lot still to explore and give in that area. Sure there will be no Oculus in my foreseeable future but there is still a lot happening off the back of it’s hype. 

 

My Hope for Sansar.

I’ve still yet to see anything of the new project from Linden Lab. Maybe it will try and add HMD support or maybe it will simply be a platform as such that future technology can much easily be added to rather than badly retrofitted to. There are small companies out there on kickstarter building fascinating amazing technologies that would fit right in on a virtual worlds. I hope Sansar will be the kind of place that will welcome those companies in and flourish. 

As for how current Second Life Users will adjust? Sometimes i feel this could be the end of Second Life, other times i doubt Sansar will grow quickly enough to establish itself Like Second Life did. What will having Sansar alongside Second life be like? Perhaps logging into the Beta Grid will give an idea? 

What if Sansar does not appeal to us old VR peoples? what if Sansar attracts mainly new people? Linden Labs Patterns managed to make a nice community of users who had never heard of Second Life, that was until Linden Lab killed it, so maybe Sansar will attract a new crowd leaving us to continue with Second Life until we all die out. Happy thought.

I want a second action button in Second Life’s controls

Just before Rod Humble entered the scene and just after upgrading my island to a full region, i had started a project to create a game that tapped into childhood joys of bashing things with a stick. 

It was my first real attempt at making a game within SL and over the years I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to use while maximising the fun. It’s now at version 4.5 and includes Health, auto teleporting and animations, but while I’m still waiting for a new Permissions system to make things even MORE easy for the user to use, I’m going to blog about something else that I’ve found it hard to work around.

 

 “Action”

Second life has a plethora of control keys to move your avatar but only one button for an action. This is the mouse button. You click on an object to sit, open doors, fire a gun or activate a scripted object.

 

Mouse Look

Traditionally with projectile weapons you change to ‘mouse look’ mode and click mouse button to fire a cow gun, Problem is, if you try to open a door while in mouse look you end up with cow all over your door.

mouselook

in mouselook i can shoot monsters and other avatars with weapons and swing my stick, but i can not open this door 🙁 if only i could click a key to open it.

3rd Person

For my bashing game i wanted people to stay in 3rd person but still be able to use weapons.  Nothing is cooler than watching you Avatar go nuts on a giant thistle. But you cant click the mouse to fire a weapon in third person, you end up just clicking the floor or where ever your cursor currently is on screen.

3rdperson

In third person i can’t shoot a weapon or swing my stick, but at least i can open doors. If only there was a keyboard button i could press to shoot my weapon or swing my stick 🙁

The HUD Work Around

In my Bashing game i worked around the third person issue by adding a HUD Button that you click to make you avatar bash stuff, But in mouselook you can’t interact with a hud. Would be nice if i could script the controls to map to a keyboard key, but LSL seems unable to do this.

 

The Gesture work around.

I’ve seen some people use gestures to activate commands such as ‘reload’ or ‘holster’, but its limited and script heavy.

 

Solution

The easiest solution i can think of is the creation of a second action. A second action button would allow users to finally open a door while holding a weapon in mouse look, or in Third person adventures to attack NPCs without inadvertently sitting on giant mushroom seat.

Or why not allow scripts to map keyboard keys to scripted actions?

Portal-2-small-2-1

It would be nice if i could have more freedom with mapping keyboard keys to scripted actions, Or simply one new action button to activate objects in mouse look or fire objects in 3rd person would be nice.

Why Bother

Im seeing more and more hardware appearing that revolve around controlling like leap motion, iOS Controllers and headsets that require more intuitive ease of use. The latest Oculus Beta Viewer also suffers from this lack of a second action. I think it’s about time Second Life got a second dedicated Action key.

 

Ideas for Premium Perk – Marketplace

Everything in Second Life bugs me in one way or another, its what keeps me scratching at it.

slexchangeThis particular itch is to do with Marketplace, one of the first user generated digital content marketplaces and it was originally created by Users of Second Life not Linden Lab in that fine SL tradition of User Generated innovation. Linden Lab bought SLExchange, inherited all its issues, implemented a tax on each item sold and rebranded it SL Marketplace.

OK now lets back up a bit. Last year during SL’s 10th anniversary celebrations i finally signed up to Premium Membership. Ive since then struggled to find any benefits for being a premium member of the SL community (other than the grandfathered stipend). The problem from my point of view is that since the Second Life experience is different for almost everyone, i can imagine its hard to catch people in an area where Premium Features benefit them. I have no need of free land or free house, and most of the toys offered at random points of the year hold no interest for me.

So i’ve started to wonder where in my daily use of Second Life could Linden Lab add Perks to justify my Premium Membership. Well one such area could be more options for my Marketplace Store page. Every Merchant has a store front, and its typically a mess of items that has not changed since LL acquired SLExchange. I would love to as a Premium Member  be able to add featured items to my store front, create groupings of items and have more dynamic choice over how my products are presented through the year on my Marketplace Store Front.

Here is a simple mock up…

MarketplacePro

Of course another Premium Perk could be to lower the tax on sold items.

Getting physical in Second Life

For years I’ve seen youtube videos of people experimenting with all sorts of ways to control Second Life.

I remember this vid by Mitch Kapor who was a chair at Linden Lab. It showed a kinnect style motion camera interacting with SL and much was said about how this would change the face of virtual worlds…… meh…

Ok so THAT never happened and ill blame M Linden as i always do.

In the past year there has been a veritable barrage of input devices coming onto the scene specifically designed for multiple uses with what ever software might want to use it.

 

oculusThe Oculus Hype

The Oculus Rift is a streamlined headset display that gives you a proper immersive visual experience and is currently in development to be supported by Second Life.

The more i think about the Oculus Rift the more i begin to realise how it could possible impact the SL platform.

If the Oculus is as cheap as they claim it will be, if it gets good game developer backing and more importantly if the public get on the hype and buy it on mass then all Linden Lab may have to do is say “Got an Oculus Rift? Why not take it for a spin in an endless world of virtual space? FOR FREE”.

I mean if you get an Oculus Rift and do not have any official games, Second Life could be there and ready as the ultimate Virtual Immersive FREE experience, Maybe even sneak a sign up card in every box of Oculus Rift.

Depending on what Linden Lab settle on for Oculus UI, they could have a welcome Island specifically for Oculus users who want nothing more than to simply experience a virtual world with oculus rift. They will want the ‘OMG I’m like totally in a virtual world, woooooow” factor.

 

leapLeap into creativity.

The Leap motion is a small box that sits just infront of your screen and can see your hand movements and even determine which fingers you are holding up.

Some have expressed interest in how this could change the way people build stuff or interact with stuff in Second Life. For items that need a lot of precision i can’t see myself relying on anything other than a mouse, but for simple interactive tasks the leap could an interesting tool for exploring and socialising in SL.

 

bandThe Jedi arm band

[UPDATE] Nat reminded my of MYO which does a similar thing as Leap Motion but from a different direction. It senses the differences in your arm muscle when making hand gestures which can be transformed into interaction of virtual space. Im not sure weather it can track your hand movements or just recognises your hand shape.

omniRUN “Second Life”

The Omni VR Rig is a rather large frame so far resembling something out of Red Dwarf. It uses rather simple ideas to track and convert your leg movements into virtual movement. Basically when you run on the spot in real world the character in the virtual space runs also. Personally i fly everywhere in Second Life so i doubt i’d use it.

 

3DmouseThe Awesome Nipple Mouse.

Otherwise known as the 3D space navigator, my Nephew has no idea what it does but loves messing about with it. It has been out for quite a while and has had no revision in design because … well it’s already perfect. The Spacenavigator is an input device specifically tailored for navigating 3D space and i can’t live without it. How the Spacenavigator might work with Oculus Rift will be interesting to see as its more intuitive than using keyboard and it’s already fully supported by the Second Life viewer.

 

iwatchiWatch

Now you might be wondering why would i be mentioning the rumoured new wearable Apple product in relation to Second Life? Initially id imagine the iWatch would have specific support for interacting with an Apple TV or MacOSX features, but its potential motion sensor capabilities could allow developers to use it with other platforms.… such as Second Life. If the iWatch follows the path of most Apple products we could see a large amount of people wearing motion trackers, a resource that Linden Lab might be able to tap into with a simple iWatch App.

 

Combine to create MEGASECONDLIFE

The problem here is you can see the different techs, and they all give a part of a puzzle that when combined would create a Second Life experience that not only make interacting and experiencing SL more intuitive and simple, but also more Physical. I for one would welcome a more physically challenging Virtual Experience.

I recently got myself a Nike+ Fuel wristband, a rather cool gadget that keeps track of my activity through motion sensors and gives me feed back on how active i am through the day. Suffice to say I’m not as active as i could be while using Second Life.

I would like to see my fuel score increase when using SL in future, from having to look around on the spot when using Oculus Rift. Having to reach out and wave my arms around to activate things either by using Leap Motion or sensor tracking the iWatch. I might even consider the Omni VR Rig for a quick jog around my island instead of flying or teleporting. It’s a new direction where using more physical ways of interacting with virtual space becomes an important addition to UI rather than a simple gimmick.

While i look forward to more physical ways to interact with SL i am aware that there is a fair amount of SL users who have physical handicaps who might read this and think “pffft what ever”. Perhaps the fact all these techs are coming from different places means we can taylor our interaction with SL to our personal needs.

These are exciting times, ideas suggested years ago during Second Life’s hype peak are starting to appear, but is the Lab and Second Life Platform open enough o support them all?