LL offer discounted regions to educational and non-profit organisations on the QT

secondlifeFollowing my piece on the general status of Second Life, some of the comments revolved around educational discounts for regions – or rather, the ending of them in 2010. Many credit the abolishment of the discounts with the loss of hundreds (I’m not entirely convinced on the “thousands” element) of regions from the grid since that time.

It now appears that the Lab is quietly trying to reverse matters by extending a 50% discount to selected educational and non-profit organisations.

The news comes via Hamlet Au, with a natty little scoop on the offer he gained after being e-mailed on the matter. The originator of the e-mail informed Hamlet that he’d been offered a full region for $1,770 USD for a year or $3,540 USD for two years, for use by his organisation. The new prompted Hamlet to drop Peter Gray, LL’s spokesman, an e-mail on the matter. Hamlet comments:

“I’m not able to share numbers,” Gray e-mailed me, “but can confirm that we’ve extended this special offer to a targeted number of educational and non-profit institutions that have recently left Second Life.” The next question is how many institutions they’re offering this to, but there, he is mum. Furthermore, there’s no way for former sim owners of this variety to request this discount:

“There isn’t currently a way to apply for this; it’s a special offer we’re extending directly to some nonprofit and educational institutions as part of our customer win-back efforts,” as Gray puts it.

Deep Think East - one of the regions operated by the UK's Open University, one of the educational organisations which still operates within Second Life
Deep Think East – one of the regions operated by the UK’s Open University, one of the educational organisations which still operates within Second Life

While not privy to the exact arrangements specified in the offer, I assume that as one or two-year discounts are specified, the caveat to it is that the discount only applies to a full up-front payment of said fees.

Like Hamlet, I’m also a little dubious that the offer will be taken-up by everyone who has departed Second Life – although it is interesting to now that LL are apparently targeting organisations which have “recently left” SL, and therefore have yet to put down roots elsewhere. As Hamlet rightly points out, a lot of people got somewhat burnt when the Lab announced they were discontinuing discounts for educational bodies and non-profits, and there has been a good degree of bad feeling since. There’s also the fact that over the past couple of years OpenSim has become a more than credible – and potentially a lower-cost – solution for educational needs.

It is probable that the move might be seen is some quarters of one of “desperation” on LL’s part in order to reverse the decline in the number of privately-held regions. However, given the limited and closed nature of the offer, such views may not be entirely valid – Second Life isn’t anywhere close to balancing on the edge of disaster just yet – although it would be interesting to know what did prompt the move.

In the meantime Hamlet has requested the any organisations or individuals who have been in receipt of the offer drop an comment onto his post on the news.

With thanks to Hamlet Au.

Playing with Pixieviewer

Thomas Buchauer has been working on developing a virtual world viewer-in-a-browser. The work is still very much in its alpha stages, but already shows sign of promise for those who are OpenSim-based.

Pixieviewer is available now as a special “first look” release, with access restricted to a special test grid called, appropriately enough, Pixiegrid. It is also in non-public testing with two OpenSim grids, and the aim appears to be to make it generally available as a browser-based means of access OpenSim environments at some point in the future. The viewer utilises HTML 5 (and so runs of Firefox, Chrome, etc.), and runs on any portable / mobile device capable of running WebGL.

PixieViewer: accessing OpenSim through a web browser
Pixieviewer: accessing OpenSim through a web browser

As an initial “first look” release, functionality is obviously limited – although already offering enough to get people playing with things and see the potential. Capabilities currently included in the viewer comprise chat, building both using primitive (“basic”) shapes and pre-set 3D models (mesh is supported although uploads are currently not enabled), and the ability to send content to a file suitable for 3D printing on your own (data exported as an STL file), or have the data sent to http://i.materialise.com, where you can preview and order 3D prints. Some basic object interaction is also possible as well – such as sitting on objects or clicking them to display pop-up with further information.

You’ll need to create a log-in account to the Pixiegrid in order to try-out the viewer, and you can do so directly through the viewer’s log-in page.

General Looks

The preview version loads fast – once you’ve registered an account, you can fire-up the viewer and are immediately delivered to the Pixiegrid preview area, where you can wander, try out various options (including the 3D printing), chat with others and explore what is already available.

3D printing from within PixieViewer
3D printing from within PixieViewer

Avatars come in default male and female forms and are non-customisable at present – although you might find your hair colour changes between log-ins; I’ve tended to find I’m either a blonde or a red-head when using the viewer. Movement  – both avatar and camera – is fairly basic, but more than adequate for getting around and seeing things; those who have followed Lumiya’s development will be aware how rapidly things like this improved, so it’s reasonable to expect PixieViewer will add further refinements as time and the technology allows.

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