Oculus DK2 and why it’s just a bit Meh

IMG_5593Arrival of the DK2.

So my DK2 arrived just before i was gonna head out the door for a weeks holiday. I thought maybe i can quickly set it up for a half hour play…. but no, the DK2 was not plug n play. It came up with some error where the config could not find the device. So i went on holiday disappointed.

When i arrived home of course i immediately went back to seeing what i needed to fix in order to use the DK2. Turns out the problem was because i am a Mac user… oh that old chestnut. The DK2 uses the SDK4 and at that point there was no SDK4 for the Mac or Linux Platforms.

A month later SDK4.1 arrives with Mac support. HAZZAH!?…right?… well… this is where things start to get really frustrating.. or concerning.


It’s my own fault?

FacebOculus have stated from the start that the DK2 is for DEVELOPERS ONLY. While I’m not a developer in a code monkee sense, i do plan to use the oculus to explore creative developments in Second Life and High Fidelity Virtual Worlds. But the DK2 really is still an experimental Kit with bugs and serious compatibility issues with OSX and Linux.

When the 4.1 Update finally arrived, the Headset was recognised but a new weird thing occurred. If you read other articles from DK2 users you will hear about how the DK2 displays at a 90 degree angle.

The reason for this according discussion on the FacebOculus developer forums, is because the DK2 uses a rather basic off the shelf smart phone display which is built to be seen in portrait. In the Oculus this display is rotated to landscape and when connected to a computer using a ’DirectHMD’ mode, the content is rotated to Landscape.

The problem is the DirectHMD mode seems to be “pretty unstable, as well as pretty thinly tested”according to one developer.DirectHMD is also not available at all for the Mac. 

Of course developers are fiddling with work arounds. You can get a Mac to ‘extend’ its display into the oculus, but you have to then set the Oculus’s extended display to rotate to landscape. But while you are able to finally view demos and games on the Mac in DK2, it comes at a very dramatic performance cost. While the DK2 picture quality is vastly improved over the DK1, , the frame rate and latency drops negating any point in upgrading from DK1.

But this is a development Kit so i can’t really complain, it should get better,  though i was expecting the Oculus to have come a lot further along by now.


Who Loves Oculus and who does Oculus Love?

I can’t use my DK2, its sat in the corner waiting for an SDK thats more, i dunno… complete. Maybe FacebOculus is just concentrating on the PC gamers market to start with. I’ve already seen Developers tell others to invest in a PC instead of using Mac… yeh, same old same old crap.

I didn’t think the Pc Gaming community was that big anymore when compared to console gaming and mobile gaming?

Anyway, I’m initially disappointed with the DK2 because I’m kid who can’t get his new toy working. Hopefully updates to the SDK with improve the situation, but at this stage, it just makes me wonder how many years away we still are from getting a consumer version.


The Legend of the SL Experience Tools.

gandalf-the-lord-of-the-rings-16472The Myth

Many Many years ago at the dawn Second Life’s Dark Ages, after the excitement of Rod Humbles arrival as CEO died down, it was announced at SL Community Convention 2011 (SLCC) that the Lab was messing around with ways to make it easier to do games in SL.

Second life has always been great at creating awesome looking environments and with scripts you can bring these places to life. You can also make attachments that do helpful and fun things, but it has always been strangely difficult to make gaming experiences.

The reason for this is a thing called ‘permissions’. The SL etiquette requires ‘one must ask permission from other to do something to them’, thats why you get pop up boxes that say things like “Dance ball wishes to animate you, is that ok?” or “Gemini reluctantly wants to hug you, accept YES or NO?”.

These permission requests occur when ever an object wants to animate you, teleport you, attach something to you, take your controls, change your avatars position… anything really that involves interacting with your avatar. Having to ask you to give a monster permission to squash you completely spoils the immersion of an experience or  breaks if you don’t give permission.

The permission requests placed a huge hurdle for those who wanted to make gaming experiences so i was excited when Linden Lab showed off Linden Realms. Just simple little things like, having a HUD automatically appear in your view, or being teleported to a respawn point after being hit by a monster WITHOUT having to click a Permission request made such a monumental difference. I was giddy with excitement over the new possibilities.


Three years and another CEO later, my excitement was replaced with scepticism that now legendary new permissions system would ever appear. I heard from people who had been on the beta team that LL staff that had been working on the Experience tools had left. The Beta group had no idea what happened or wether the project was still happening.

Then finally, Experience tools started to get hinted at again in user group meetings and finally at the start of summer 2014 Linden Lab officially announced experience Tools and requested beta testers and i almost nocked everything off my table as i lunged to my keyboard to reply to the Lab.


Becoming a Games Master.

So what is these fabled Experience Tools? Well it’s a new Feature in SL that allows a creator to become a sort of ‘Games Master’, a person who manages what happens to you in an adventure. It’s called ‘Experience Tools’ because experiences don’t necessarily have to be a game, so maybe instead of Games Master, it should be termed Experience Master :-p

You grant the ‘Experience Master’ permissions to animate, teleport and what ever else is needed to give you the full immersive experience. After you finished the experience you will then be able to retract your permission from the experience via a special list in the Viewer that organises all the experiences you are part of.

Linden Lab are currently looking for a bunch of experiences to showcase and I’m working hard to supply them with something. Although after three years of waiting and hearing nothing i decided to get on with other projects which are now preventing me from doing any large scale Experiences… typical.

I have updated my Islands bashing game to use Experiences. Its a simple game of bashing things with a stick to find prizes while avoiding biting monsters. The Experience Tools have made it a much more fluid experience, you get a stick and hud auto attached, you bash, you find prizes, you get bitten by monsters, you pass out and you are teleported to the lost point. As simple as that sounds it was far more difficult to achieve before Experience tools.

There is a lot to come, i have tonnes of ideas and am most interested in story telling experiences. Three years ago i wrote  a whole bunch of stories for escapades island expecting XPtools to be released back then. I also have a series of stories and mysteries in New Babbage. While i haven’t currently got the time to build these experiences right now, they will be on my list of projects for next year.

And for those who groan at the thought of being forced to play games, the experience tools also open up opportunities for creating learning tools to help new users. I wonder if Linden Lab will create their own new user learning experiences or leave it to SL creators? or why not both :).


Things the Experience Tools do not fix.

Im excited by how the experience tools will make things simpler to do in SL, most of you won’t even notice it. While XPtools fixes some major obstacles to making easy and immersive experiences in SL, there are still three areas where i’m frustrated.

1. Windlight Settings – The amount of times I’ve created dark moody experiences only for a user to arrive with their viewer set to default midday. It would have been good if Experience creators could get permission to llSetWindlight on a scripting level so for example if you went into a cave the wind light settings changed to dark misty atmosphere. Or if you got beamed up into space, then a script could change your wind light to be nighttime with stars. – JIRA

2. Sitting on things. – Say you walk into a monster plant by accident and that plant then automatically flips you in the air and eats you with a gloriously graphic animation. Well that can’t be done, because you can’t be made to sit on an object just by colliding with it. I and my friend spent an entire day trying to work out a way to do it and we ended up with a really complex work around that just did not give satisfactory results. We need something like permission to llSit. – JIRA

3. 3rd person action key – In the Oculus viewer the LL team added an ‘X’ action key this allows those with a VR headset to use mouse button to fire a gun, and then the X key to open doors. They did not however expand the action key to 3rd person mode, but its possible they could if we badger them enough. – JIRA



XPtools might not stand out to many as an exciting amazing new feature, after all what it allows is mostly assumed already possible. Some people might think it’s to late and lost all enthusiasm for SL. But i for one understand how crucial this new permissions system will be in opening doors to new opportunities of creativity, the likes of which we probably won’t start to see until early next year after creators fully explored the possibilities.

SL Experiences – The Escapades Island Experience

Escapades island has now been upgraded to the new SL Experiences Feature.



What is Escapades Island?

Its an Island of adventure where you can grab a stick from either the Rickety Town Centre or the many Sushi Bars dotted about the island. Explore and bash open boxes, bushes and barrels to find gifts or monsters. Be careful though as Monsters bite and can lower your health. Unless you eat Sushi you will pass out and awake at the lost point.


What is SL Experiences?

When you take part in an SL Experience, you choose to grant a place permission to do a whole bunch of things in one go.


Why is this such a big deal?

The big deal is it allows creators to give you more fluid games or experiences taking away the need to click pop up windows every time things need to happen.


What things does the Escapades Island Experience do?

SL Experiences will allow Escapades Island to automatically attach a special HUD & Stick that allow you to bash objects and find prizes all over the island. It allows the island to teleport you to secret places or back to a respawn point if you pass out from being bit by to many monsters. When you leave the island the HUD and Stick detach themselves from you.



How can i try the Escapades Island Experience?

Simply visit Escapades Island Rickety Town Centre and walk over to Board 2 to be be added tot he Experience. Read the Boards for hints and Tips.



Is that all?

No, over time more prizes will be added, new secret places to explore, and stories to uncover. If you want to try a small experimental story, check out the Cheese Fairy.



Escapades Island

Looking for adventure? Look no further than Escapades Island, a place jam packed with interesting places to explore. Explore steampunk houses, pirate seafronts, castle ruins and peaceful forest walks. Grab a free Escapades bashing stick to uncover prizes and monsters while exploring the many secrets and games on the island!

Visit in Second Life

Faceshifting Eyes

Immersion is one thing, presence  is another thing entirely.

<iframe class=”vine-embed” src=”https://vine.co/v/MYWQIDxlDzQ/embed/simple” width=”600″ height=”600″

Using Faceshift software with facial tracking technology to transfer eye movement and expression to an avatar.

Thoughts on Avatars & Anonymity.

In the UK the topic of online anonymity is being discussed by a House of Lords Select Committee with the aim to curb online abuse from anonymous users.. 

For me, my avatar presents an interesting gradient to Identity vs anonymity. My SL avatar is my anonymity but also an identity, so its not really anonymity, but a pseudonym. But the way todays media seems to work Anonymity and Pseudonyms are merged and treated as the same thing sometimes as Google and Facebook seemed to do during the #nymwars.

I’ make quite an effort to keep My SL avatar identity separate from my real life, to the point of asking NWN’s to remove an image it posted of my real identity in order to disassociate my real life personal identity from my SL avatar in googleImage search.

There was a time when everything was tied together. I had Facebook, and Google whatever, building albums of videos and pictures of my family and friends and work. Then i reached a point where i didn’t want just anyone from anywhere looking at family pictures, seeing where i lived and what I got up to and where i worked. I was creating an environment thanks to growing social networks where anyone could comment on my personal life. If people wanted to bully or harass me then they could on Facebook, on my blog, or youtube. They could also easily find members of my family or friends, and i allowed this.

So i disconnected my real identity from my online world completely. Facebook, Google, Youtube, all social networks that took great pains to trawl my real world personal life  in order to create a history about me.

You give up finding out what people said they liked and instead you just look at what they’ve done in the past. You assembled all the data from people’s history – all the stuff they’ve looked at and bought in the past – and then compared that with other peoples’ past. Out of that came patterns and correlations that the human brain could not possibly see – but from those correlations you could tell what individuals would want in the future. Greg Linden was part of what was called The Personalization Group in Amazon. He said:

the joke in the group was that if the system were working perfectly, Amazon should just show you one book – which is the next book you are going to buy.

And it worked – sales soared, and Jeff Bezos who runs Amazon allegedly crawled up to Linden on his hands and knees saying “I am not worthy“.

What Amazon and many other companies began to do in the late 1990s was build up a giant world of the past on their computer servers. A historical universe that is constantly mined to find new ways of giving back to you today what you liked yesterday – with variations.

NOW THEN – Adam Curtis It’s an interesting article i suggest you read 🙂

So Social Networks won’t like me since i don’t give them any data about my real world for other companies to reference when trying to sell me stuff.

I’m left with my Second Life identity which is a pseudonym and become far more known around the world compared to my personal real world life. I’d be silly to bully or harass people online as my SL pseudonym because my avatar and SL name is incredibly valuable to me. Facebook are quite welcome to collect historical data on what i’m up to in virtual space, … actually no, they can fek off.

I’m somewhat surprised given that long time Users of Second Life curate their experience in virtual Space around their interests and hobbies, there is no evidence that Linden Lab have ever collected and used that historical data like Facebook. I wonder if Linden Lab have ever looked into it?

In May 2007, the then-chief operating officer of Second Life gave a “brown-bag lunch” address at the NSA explaining how his game (Second Life) gave the government “the opportunity to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviours of non-Americans through observation, without leaving US soil”. – The Guardian.

I also wonder wether the Social Avatar in a virtual world is different enough from a text based social accounts that it could lead to a more valuable pseudonym if how 2ndGen VR enthusiasts are predicting the Web will turn 3D. But then i think about my friend who is on his 10 or 11th Alt account simply because he likes to try out new versions of himself but ends up just being the same instantly recognisable person.

The struggle between Anonymity and Identity is one of power and freedom. I should be free to explore any aspect of my life without being restrained by the capitalist and totalitarian need for everyone to be static and easy to predict.