My Virtual World avatar is now 12 yrs old!

Loki is now 12 and since last year has had a massive overhaul thanks to the Second Life Project Bento.

From 2006 to 2013 my avatar which is represented by a mischievous and creative kid has steadily improved in fidelity and visual personality. One of the most flourishing aspects of the virtual world of Second Life is the ability to pretty much completely customise what represents you there.

Many eventually settle on a look and over the years fine tune it based on their personal likes, culture and influences. friends learn to recognise each others avatars based on their avatars appearance and even mannerisms.

Between 2014 and 2016 my avatar did not change much at all. I had reached a point where i thought there was nothing much more i could really do to improve my avatars fidelity and other projects got in the way of improving clothes. That was until this year when i decided to explore ‘Project Bento’.

Project Bento has allowed me to completely recreate my avatar with higher detail than before that includes complete control over the 3d Model, animated fingers and facial expressions opening the door for an avatar that expresses even more personality.

It was not easy either, with Avastars 5 month rocky release candidate road i nearly went stark raving mad and it took a lot of patience and Blender3D knowledge. But we got there in the end and while my current Bento Avatar is almost complete there is still a lot of extra stuff to explore with expressions and animations.

This year has gone blindingly fast and It’s been a year of waiting for things to be released from Sansar,  Apple, Avastar, or Animesh. I cant help but feel that some very cool stuff will be possible next year all across the world of VR and AR as well as Second Life.

Thanks to everyone who’s encouraged me through the past year 🙂

Still waiting for MacOS VR Support

It was an exciting keynote at Junes WWDC2017 not just because Apple finally introduced new upgraded mac computers, but also because they seemed to have teamed up with Valve to bring native support for the HTC Vive and finally gain support for VR on MacOS.

On the day of release for MacOS High Sierra there was much Tech Media fanfare announcing that the latest high end Macs ‘finally support VR’, they obviously had not even tried to run VR on the new OS. Even Apples website declares that High Sierra has ‘Optimised support for Valves SteamVR.


The reality for me has been one of frustration as while the HTC Vive connects and is recognised by valves SteamVR beta software and displays a white grid room complete with tracked controllers , i’m unable to run any MacVR titles from the store. I am also unable to run the VR Headset alongside the MacVR Preview of the Unity Application.

The interesting thing is that even though i can not preview VR experiences created in Unity on my Mac, i am able to build them. I was able to build a VR Experience in unity on MacOS that could be run in windows, just not on the mac. It’s as if SteamVR on Mac is unfinished and prevents VR Apps from being played on the headset. Yet Valve keep updating SteamVR on the mac and every time its not working. Someone isn’t telling someone something. Either SteamVR is broke and not bridging the apps to the headset, or SteamVR is working but valve has not updated the unity plugin for Unity, or High Sierra changed something and apple didn’t inform Valve. In any case its very frustrating being so close to creating VR Experiences on Mac.

While there are plenty articles online spewing out how MacOS finally has VR support, it’s very hard to find any information about actual VR usage on MacOS after the release of High Sierra. There is no push from Valve towards mac users finally having access to VR Applications, there is nothing on HTC Vive website about Mac support arriving. It’s all surprisingly dead silent with very little information at all.

I’ve posted questions on SteamVR support, and on Unity MacOS VR Preview forums and had no answer at all, only replies from other confused mac users searching for clues on where Mac VR is.

There is only one app on SteamVR i’ve found that works, Blobby tennis. I’ve messaged the developers asking what they are doing thats different to everyone else. So until the fog lifts from the whole sorry scenario i’ll just play some tennis… against a blob.

Loki Avatar 3.0 – Part 6: Avastalling the Consumer Version

2 months later and Avastar has progressed to RC14 and unable to fix a major issue that came with RC13. Its frustrating to have come so far along with my Bento avatar only to suddenly have to halt.

A friend of mine asked for base files to make clothes for my Bento avatar seeing as it appeared to be swiftly approaching final release. I hesitated and decided not to agree and good job i did because the latest versions of Avastar will not allow me to even export a fitted mesh avatar.

The modern mesh avatar uses fitted mesh to allow slider customisation so you can be fatter or thinner or customise the face. This fitting can also be added to the clothes made for that avatar so they deform along with the customisation. The modern avatar also uses Bento bones and avastar has 129 bones for its skeleton. Second life though only allows rigged objects with up to 110 bones to be imported. The advice from an Avastar documents (which i can’t find at the moment) was to chop up the avatar mesh once you are finished and use a special tool ‘clean weight maps’ to remove unused bone groups from the chopped parts. The avatar is then a collection of objects each with less than 110 bones attributed to them allowing for import to SL.

This was working perfectly until RC13. Now when i cut up the avatar it looses fitted mesh support and i haven’t been able to find a work around. It’s possible that they have changed the workflow and have yet to inform me of the new one, but It’s been like this for over a month now and the recent RC14 does not resolve the issue. I haven’t been able to import any new version of my personal avatar and the Consumer version i was working on is in limbo right now.

I did manage to get a few Consumer Version test kits out to testers before RC13 came along. Working on a classic avatar head shape and testing wether users could replicate their classic faces. The main issue i had was with the neck and jaw but things were progressing well.

Two testers recreating their classic style faces. It became apparent that Avastar is unable to replicate exactly how the jaw is presented in SL

With the help of my testers i hope to allow users to get as close as possible to their original avatar faces but its slow going with Avastar.

It is a little bit frightening in a way how much my avatar work relies on Avastar now. As much as i appreciate Avastars mission to make mesh avatar creation as simple as possible, I’m at Avastars mercy. But then Avastar 2.0 is STILL a work in progress, i just didn’t realise the Release Candidate stage would take it all year.

The Dagoma Neva 3D Printer is Awesome

Unlike iPhones, 3D Printers are coming down in price and are getting progressively easier to use. If you are a DIY freak you can get a 3D printer for just £100 with hours of fun putting it together. I’m More of a DIFMP (do it for me please) and 3D Printers that are ready made and designed to make printing as simple as possible tend to be more expensive choices.

I’ve had a 3D Printer before which was a massive metal cube with a cloud based slicer. That was four years ago backed on Kickstarter and was promoted as the ‘true consumer oriented 3D Printer’. The print heads clogged up, the prints kept getting loose from the print bed and the final prints were not that good quality. Then the company collapsed after the founder was in a car accident. Then the printer became unusable because the cloud based software went down. I was practically left with a big metal cube of junk.


Along Came Dagoma

I had pretty much decided to forget about 3D Printing until i saw the Dagoma Kickstarter campaign for the Neva. Im now a lot more aware of Kickstarter and what to look for when backing these days. Dagoma had a proven track record in the 3D printing industry already and their new Neva was already a fully working product they could show. It was also much cheaper. So i backed the project to get an earlybird reward. Two months later and the 3D Printer arrived with complimentary  sweets YUM!



The simplicity of this printer compared to my previous printer gave me confidence that this was going to be a much better experience. The triangle design with its three pairs of magnetic arms is simple to put together and looks dam cool.

Dagomas website needs some work and it took me a while to find their custom version of the slicer software Cura. The Slicer Software is what calculates how the 3D Printer will layer the melted plastic to build your prints. The software is very simple with very minimal options and profiles. You can see what you are printing in 3D placed on a virtual triangle print base.

When ready you simply click ‘prepare for print’ and it will save to the included SD card (Gave me a reason to finally use the card slot on the iMac). You then just plug the SD card into the Neva Printer and click the single button on the front to activate the printer. It warms up, calibrates then gets to business printing.

Occasionally with fiddley prints the Print head would knock the print free from the base, but usually the print sticks firmly and there are some options in the software stage to add a more substantial base. From my amateur experience the 3D Prints were pretty good quality even on the lowest quickest settings. Changing the filament is easy once you know what to do. Their videos show that you can pause the print at any time and change the filament by simply clicking that one button, then double tapping the print bed. What was not clear is exactly where you are supposed to tap it and what exactly happens when it works. I later discovered that the touch sensitive double tap location can vary from one neva to another. Mine turns out to be just over the small letter ‘A’ at the end of the word Dagoma thats printed on the print bed. Once this double tap activates the extruder takes a moment to heat up before the motor in the orange side box reverses and ejects the filament installed.

I originally did not know what was supposed to happen, so i would double tap and nothing would happen. So i would try and pull out the filament by hand which i now blame for the super clog.


The Super Clog

So after three days of use the Neva clogged bigly. I do not blame this clog on the 3D printer, rather my inability to understand how to properly replace the filament. The Neva could not push the filament into the extruder and i could not get into the extruder to unclog it. I read up on countless un clogging tips online and contacted Dagoma via their kickstarter page. At the advice of other printer users i used tiny needles to try and push up through the nozzle, and tried pushing hard through the top. I used my iPhone to get a look down into the extruder and there seemed to be some hard filament blocking just as the filament would enter the heating block. The advice i got from Dagoma was ‘You should try to “launch a print’ and then pause it and unclog it once heated. To do so, you can use a needle, and go through the bottom of the printer and/or, try with a thin screw through the top of the nozzle’.

down deep inside is a piece of plastic causing me a week of grief!

So i went out and came back with a thin drillbit. Pushing hard and twisting seemed to do the trick cracking the hardened plastic. Now my printer is back in action and in a way the experience has given me a lot of info on how the printer works, how it can be easily unscrewed to get to parts and the various ways to try and unclog in future, plus Dagoma were pretty good with their responding to questions.


Printing things!

So with all that out the way i’ve been having fun printing out different projects. It’s fun experimenting with what can be printed and the various ways to print things.

This temple ruin was built for the Second Life Tea party during one night of the Escapades 7th Anniversary weekend, now printed as a reminder of that night.

This figure was first made from sculpted clay, then scanned into digital form, then rigged in blender, then worn by Draxtor at SL14B Second Life, before being printed out into reality again as a plastic figure.

Was able to print out an addon upgrade for the Neva printer to hold the filament spool.

Though i had the clogging issue i’m still very pleased with the Dagoma Neva.

• It looks great, is light and easy to move.

• Its not to noisy

• One button to start and pause

• Easy to change Filament and Colour even during printing

• Simple software for preparing models for print.

• Dagoma responds to questions pretty quick.

I’m a total newb at 3D Printing and my experience with this printer has been one of fun exploration. There is always an element of DIY with 3D Printing even though when you press the button you’re mostly just letting it do it’s thing. I’m looking forward to getting my nephew involved with printing out things next time he comes round to visit. It’s a great new area of creativity. 🙂

If you’d lie to know more about the Dagoma Neva such as prices, check out their website for the US or France

Escapades 7th Anniversary Video

As always i record the festivities during the Escapades Island anniversary weekend

Here is the edited down highlights of the fun and game for you to reminisce or if you missed some of the events you can watch what you missed. Highlights for me were the Ground to Air cannons added to the Battle Balloon contest. Thanks to everyone who came along to the event and contributed to the fun.

Escapadse 7th Anniversay by lokieliot