What if Linden Lab did Hardware?

Its a question i’ve thought about a few times over the years because there is no shortage of examples where Hardware has tried to be part of Second Life.

Back in 2008, the days when Xbox Connect was all the giddy rage, there was a video of a Mitch Kapor showing research into plugging SL up to Kinect.

Experiments to get Leap Motion working with SL

And of course the new swanky VR Prophet Oculus.

In all these cases it’s been a matter of adding ‘Support’ to these devices. Usually the hardware hasn’t been able to find it’s feet and disappears or replaced by new ones. I’m often left with just a glimpse of their potential usage in Second Life.

What if Linden Lab had created a hardware devision when on the crest of the forgotten previous VR hype cycle could they have invented the Oculus, or the Leap Motion, or the Prio-VR suit? What things could they have developed to expand Second Life or incorporate with their New Thing?

1. Input device: A lot of sensor tech that works with hand gestures can be ‘WOW’ but when used in a Virtual Space, tend to be a bit ‘MEH’. This idea of moving your arm or hands out to move quickly becomes lame when your arm starts to ache. Actually most ideas like this turn out to be lame. I still can’t find a practice intuitive use for my Leap Motion.

2. Oculus Killer: Not 3Dhead. The thing with a lot of Oculus demos right now is they are simple spaces, bare minimum options. Thats not a bad thing since everything in a total 360 VR world has to be as simple and intuitive as possible. Eventually though you will be able to reach out and touch things in VR with preciseness and clarity, and at that point the complicated options such as building and customising and organising and reading will be comfortable. Maybe Linden Labs New Thing will do away with a lot of that info clutter, or maybe Linden Lab could make goggles similar to Microsoft’s hololens that augment the ‘New Thing’ beyond the monitor?

3. NFC Kit: Not everything Linden Lab does has to be about VR, What if Linden Lab released their own ‘Build Yourself Near field communication’ Kit. NFC chips are used in Skylander and Disney Infinity Toys where you can place them on a special stand and they appear in the video games on screen. Imagine being able to program your own chips that can be placed in personal objects that effect your Virtual Experience. Add a chip to your coffee mug so when you place it next to your computer your avatar also drinks coffee. Your real world self would have even more of a connection with your avatar and virtual space.


Goals outside Second Life

Yes i do actually have a real world Life, although its sometimes hard to detach from SL. Over christmas i managed to hardly login at all, except for my DJ shows and the occasional clean up job due to our current antisocial troll.

It’s CES2015 this week were i get all geeky over new tech ideas. Last year there some very cool things appearing which then disappeared never to be heard of again. Maybe they will appear again this week? will have to see.

I like to see whats arriving in the near future and there are things i hope to get into this year not specifically related to Second Life.


1. Motion Capture.


I backed on kickstarter over a year ago a number of motion sensor kits. Sixsense STEM and the PrioVR. Both of which have yet to arrive and while they are promoted of the back of the Oculus hype, i’m actually more interested in wether they will offer acceptable motion capture for animations. The hope being i can create computer animations quickly for short films, Game developing and of course Second Life. I’m half expecting to have to bootcamp windows on my Mac due to these gamer devs having such a hard time with the Mac platform. I’m also still experimenting with mapping facial expressions which i hope to show some results later in 2015, the aim being that i might be a one man 3d animation studio.


2. 3D Printing.


I backed a small 3D printer team called Zeepro over a year ago and their Printer the ZIM should arrive any day now. It’ll be my first foray into the world of 3D Printing and I’m looking forward to honing my 3d modelling skills for printing. I’ll be starting with small objects I’m sure with the goal of eventually printing action figures of the characters i make for Second Life and other platforms.


3. Expand use of 3D Skills.


In general i’d like to start using my 3D modelling skill set for things other than just Second Life or 3D printing. That means uploading more stuff to my Sketchfab Portfolio and maybe start looking in to Blend4Web which allows browser based interactive environments ported straight from Blender, if only second life could allow for such a thing (HINT, LINDEN LAB, NEW THING?).

by lokieliot
on Sketchfab


4. Get the Apple Watch


This still might not happen, i mean its just a watch really. Although i’m an apple fanboy so if i can afford it i’ll probably get it. The question is what uses will developers find for it? I entertain the idea that in future VR Platforms such as High Fidelity and Linden Labs ‘New Thing’ could allow feedback from the Apple Watch Health Kit so physical activities mirrored in VR could be displayed in your VR space.


5. Learn Another Scripting Language.


Every now and then all through 2014 i was like ‘I wish i just KNEW how to use Unity3D because i don’t have the time to learn it. I’m slow, and even LSL script in Second Life completely numbs my brain when it gets deep into the numbers of things. There is also that sinking feeling i get when i look at how High Fidelity uses Java Script to do everything, and of apple releasing Swift and i don’t even know what Linden Labs NEW THING will use yet for scripting. Took me years to learn LSL script, i just wish it was as simple as how Neo learns Kung Foo in the Matrix. I also have a few ideas swimming around in my head about creating an app or website or at least something to help stream line the creation of Adventure game stories in Second Life. For My Egnog the Winter Troll adventure i used a simplified set of scripts i had slowly developed over 2014, but what would make it easier now is for a sort of WYSIWYG style creation process to create the scripts for the games. This would be a huge job i don’t think i can do judging by how long it took me to get to grips with MySQL external Databases and then subsequently forgot how to do a few months later.



6. Star Wars


Yeh the new film comes out end of 2015 and i expect much crazy shit surrounding the film to appear before then. The Star Wars Rebels animated series has so far been a delightfully fun surprise. Capturing the kind of goofy fun i’d like to see. I was disillusioned by the Prequels but still could not help feeling overly geeked by the Trailer For J.J.Abrams continuation. I’ve been enjoying all the Marvel films lately, as they seem to regress me back to being a kid were i just full on enjoy the spectacle and characters. If Abrams can do this with the new Star Wars, then balance will be restored etc. My goal though this year is to not by to much star wars merchandise.


7. Arcade Cocktail Table.


Im pretty sensible when it comes to buying tech. I spend ages building up the case for why buying such things would benefit me skill wise and financially. Even my PS3 was bought with the understanding that playing some games would help me in the creation of my own, lol. So it’s rare i buy anything just because i want it. But there is something i really want that i don’t really need but just want it. That is a custom built old school Arcade cocktail Table. When i was about 7 or 8 i went on holiday to Austria and in the hotel we stayed at was this Arcade Table. It blew my mind that i could sit at it with my glass of coke resting on top and play Pac Man. Ever since then i’ve wanted my own and there is a company in the UK called Ultimate Arcade Cabinets that specialise in building custom classic machines. But they are not cheap, but then they are custom and unique and i could design my own with tron style neon effects and add many more games. To me it would be like owning a classic Car. Wether i can get one of these this year all depends on how my work goes and it has to be through my own success rather than hand outs from family and friends, it may happen, it may not… we’ll have to wait and see. 😉 one day i’ll own one, one day.


What are you willing to sacrifice for the next VR platform?

In 2014 HighFidelity accepted Alpha users in their development of a new VR platform. By mid 2014 Linden Lab had announced they were working on a ‘New Thing’ that would be superior to Second Life. So how is this gonna pan out for us still using Second Life?

It’s understandable to assume the next version of Second Life will include the same feature set but better, but is that really a sensible assumption to make? People have said to me ‘Unless it does everything SL already does, i won’t be interested!’. I think i read somewhere that Linden Lab have already stated that the initial Alpha or Beta release can not be expected to have all the features of Second Life.

Looking at High Fidelity, it’s clear Phillip and his new team are using a similar developing strategy as was used in the creation of Second Life. If you go back to the beginning of Second Life, the whole thing was simply an experiment at first. A big massive ‘WHAT IF WE DID THIS?’.

As far as i know, from this experimenting the virtual world we have become so in tune with matured. Pretty much all of the features SL has now were created from the initial experiments, how to chat to each other, how to monazite the platform, how to own land, how to build stuff on it. Linden Lab did’nt know what features would excel and which would flop, they had no idea how Second life would be used as the population grew and at times it felt like the Lab had no clear idea where to take SL next. To hear a great first account of the early days of SL, listen to Cubey Terra’s insightful interview on the Drax Files episode 49. in which he describes trying to help new users and how land used to be taxed and free to claim.

High Fidelity seems to be enjoying that fresh open experimental stage which to a Second Life user can seem very Alien. SL users are used to the structure that has grown from SL’s experimental days. Sure there are still experiments being made to add knew useful features but they get over shadowed by the need to fit into the established structure of SL’s coded Laws which the users have become used to.

I’m reminded of a panel discussion i watched at Wikimania London 2014 about Virtual Communities. The whole talk is full of ideas and observations that can easily be applied to Second Life. At one point in the talk the discussion was about ‘The power of code & algorithms’ in which Raph koster aired his thoughts on how code can be like a law of physics in an online community. How these laws of code can mould a community as they learn to work around them, and how a lack of some code can cause users to fill the space. How removing some laws can leave an imprint in the community. I love this idea, to me this is one of the biggest relevant observations that can be applied to Second Life with regards to communities social interactions around the platform, the content created and how Linden Lab has to spend huge amounts of time not breaking anything we place in there.

You can watch the full wikimania panel talk on virtual communities here!

So what is Linden Lab going to do? Will they be looking to clone Second Life’s established laws of features so we all comfortably move across or should they just hope we can learn to love new laws, creating new unheard of features, cherry picking plus expanding on SL features they consider to be the core of what makes a virtual world thrive? and what would those features be?

In any case it would be unwise for us to assume the laws of Second Life will be the same in ‘The New Thing’. Currently there are a lot of SL users Alpha testing High Fidelity and many have excepted the that it’s not anything like Second Life, but it’s really hard sometimes to push aside the imprint left from years of using Second Life.

In 2015 a lot more attention will be placed on the forthcoming Second Second Life, but perhaps instead of wanting to know which features will be in the new Platform, we should consider which features of Second Life we would be willing to sacrifice for a possibly better experience.

Much still to do in 2015

Last year i wrote a project list, a sort of New Year Resolutions mixed with goals. The fact that i can look at the coming year and have goals to achieve in Second Life shows just how ‘not dead’ Second Life Still is.

1. Continue rebuilding & developing Escapades island.
Yup i did this in some areas. I rebuilt the junk yard to be more of an adventure playground and i also replaced all the tropical trees and plants with mesh ridding that area of sculpts. I re-introduced the underground base in a smaller mesh build but failed to rebuild other areas such as clifton house and the Goondocks… so you can guess what i hope to do in 2015.

2. Upgrade the Bashable System.
Well i started working on this then Linden Lab announced the XPtools. As a test i retrofitted the Bashables game with the XPtools as proof of concept and it’ll be 2015 where Bashables 5.0 will arrive i hope. I plan to explore HUD based inventories for choosing weapons and collecting items of use on Escapades.

3. Back to organising role-play events.
I attempted to do this with the New Babbage Factory clock-in game where you had to come to work and clock in and get points and free gifts and level up in ranks. This used an external server and while it was simple and easy for users to use, it was very complicated for me to maintain. In 2015 i’m hoping the XPtools will allow me to maintain things much easier and allow me to finally run an RPG with low maintenance.

4. LEA  (The Linden Endowment for the Arts) 
This never happened, i was simply far to busy with other projects, but it is a goal i wish to achieve at some poin and the ideas in my head continue to develop and grow. so perhaps it’ll happen in 2015 armed with XPtools.

5. SL12B
Well everything i had planned to do for SL11B was abandoned after i was asked to create the Cake Stage which was awesome fun. My original idea for SL11B will now be used for SL12B and i can’t wait to submit my idea, and also i might get to use XPtools!?

6. Full Mesh Kid Avatar
This was the BIG project of 2014. It took me for EVER to make this new mesh kid avatar, perhaps too long and effected other goals in the year. I had to learn fitted mesh, then decided it was more hassle than i wanted. I built the body with future Virtual Worlds in mind also, with facial expressions shape keys used for platforms such as HyFy. It’s still a work in progress now, but I’m almost ready to release the Avatar for SL kids. The Finished Kid Shape uses scripting to change alphas, material mapping and skins. I’ve been using it for myself since May and most comments were that i looked awesome if a little skinny. But making the Mesh Avatar easy to use for other SL users proved to be a lot more work than i wanted. How others will find using the Mesh Kid Avatar, i don’t really know but in 2015 i hope to expand the sorts of clothes i can make for it and feel more like a modern Avatar than a decades old squished looking hobbit.

7. Loki Mesh Clothes
New Clothing was on hold until i was happy enough with the shape of my mesh Kid Avatar which meant almost no new clothes all year and my clothes business too a deep hit that i might not recover from. I managed to get some new clothes out just before christmas with the plan to release new clothes regulary in 2015. My clothing now has more complex scripting to do more such as changing sleeves, hoods and unzipping making each clothing a little experience for the user.

8. The Founders Tales.

As you might have noticed, the XPtools features in a lot of my plans for 2015 with the hope of making more fun with less hassle. One of the reasons i got Escapades Island four years ago was to tell stories. There is a story to Escapades Island only glimpsed at via the little adventures and characters. The island and its mysterious characters were created by the arrival of four founders of different time periods, from which everything else grew. The Founders tales will be an adventure game that uncovers the stories behind each founder. With XPtools finally arriving, 2015 is the year i’ve possibly been building up to.

So there is no stopping in Second Life, and there is still plenty to do even with the ‘NEXT THING’ approaching.

Anyways as has become tradition, here is a quick video showing the sketches and scribbles created when planning projects for Second Life in 2014.