Ever since LL announced they were actively working on integrating Oculus Rift into Second Life, there has been a lot of upbeat blogging and speculation as to what it will do / mean for the platform. Reading some of the more enthusiastic posts on the subject, it’s hard not to escape the feeling that we’re apparently standing on the edge of a new age in virtual worlds interaction, and that Oculus Rift is going to bring new depth, new meaning (and new users) to Second Life.
Not all agree with the upbeat messages surrounding the headset and SL. Coinciding with the appearance of a photo showing the Lab’s CEO trying-out the headset, Mona Eberhardt and Will Burns each blogged on the Oculus Rift and some of the factors which could limit its wider use with SL. Both of them raise some valid points, and while I don’t agree with all their arguments, they do present food for thought.
Oculus Rift is a first-person experience, and this could immediately limit its appeal. The problem here is not so much interacting with the UI or in-world objects – the UI can be updated to handle such shortfalls; some TPVs already allow far greater access to the UI view and to in-world objects than the official viewer when using the first-person (aka Mouselook). Firestorm, for example, presents users with the toolbar buttons in Mouselook which can then be used to display and interact with various UI elements, and it also allows right-click/menu interactions with in-world objects. Ergo, it’s not exactly that hard to re-work things to make them more accessible when using something like Oculus Rift. Similarly, the upcoming updated / new experience tools could also provide the means for better interactions with in-world objects such as teleport portals.
Rather, the problem is that most people seem to intrinsically prefer the third-person view, with the greater freedom (e.g. camera movement, etc.) it presents for the vast majority of their in-world interactions and experiences. Coupled with the price tag for the headset (something I’ll return to in a moment), this could possibly count against the Oculus Rift in terms of general use.
Then, as Mona and Will point out, there is the problem that the headset isolates the wearer from the primary means they have of interacting with other people: the keyboard. While the conversations floater can easily be displayed (CTRL-H), it still leaves the problem of actually being able to see the keyboard in order to type accurately. This leaves those wanting to use Oculus Rift either needing to become very proficient touch-typists, or they’re going to have to settle for using voice.
Will Burns points to issues of headsets and open microphones as being a problem when it comes to voice. but I tend to disagree with him. For one thing, it’s not as if a headset / microphone combination can’t be worn with the Oculus Rift. More particularly, and from the in-world meetings held in voice I routinely attend, people actually do leave their microphones open, as the barking dogs, ringing ‘phones and the clicks of lighters being flicked in the background tend to demonstrate. No, the problem is actually more basic than that.
It’s this: since its introduction in 2007, voice tends to have been avoided by what seems to be the vast majority of SL users. Many simply will not use it, period. So if voice is seen as the means for person/person interactions when using Oculus Rift, then it is quite likely to further marginalize take-up with the headset, no matter what the promise of Exciting New Things it might bring.
In his piece, Will also points to the limitation of the headset when trying to perform tasks such as building. Such critiques might appear to be unjustly harsh and leave people saying, “Well yes, but Oculus Rift isn’t designed to be used for everything!“. However, while such a reply is true, it actually underlines Will’s central point: that the headset is liable have niche applications in Second Life which could further limit its appeal among the wider user base.
Then there is the matter of the headset’s yet-to-be confirmed retail price. Given the SDK versions are currently $300, it is not unreasonable to assume the consumer version of the headset will pop-up at somewhere between $200-$300 USD. This alone may well relegate the Oculus Rift to the status of “interesting-but-not-vital” optional extra” rather than “must have in SL”.
For example, I’d be curious to see what something like Nino Vichon’s When the Mind’s Eye Listens looks like when wearing the headset. There are also a number of builds which would be nice to see using Oculus Rift. But are these enough to convince me to invest in a headset I might use now and then? Frankly, no. It may be comparing chalk with cheese, but when I need a first person view, I’ll manage with Mouselook and forego the expense of the headset, thank you. I suspect I’m not alone in this view.
So what about enticing new users into SL? Again, the Oculus Rift immediately faces two problems: take-up among the likes of gamers and computer users in the world at large, and the contempt in which a sizeable percentage of the gaming community seems to hold Second Life. In terms of the former, we don’t know how widespread the uptake of the headset will be once it hits stores and on-line retailers. In terms of the latter, even if take-up is sizeable, it doesn’t automatically equate to those using it as considering Second Life as a “must see” experience simply because of preconceptions held about the platform.
And herein lies the nagging doubt. It’s not that I don’t believe the Oculus Rift and SL can’t work together; I think there will over time be some really interesting – if not novel – uses to which the headset is put in SL and experiences developed which do take advantage of it. I’m just not convinced that a) this will happen overnight, and b) that such experiences will actually have the anticipated mass appeal.
This leaves me wondering if all the hype surrounding Oculus Rift and Second Life isn’t going to end up resembling some kind of hype cycle curve which could further adversely affect the use of the one with the other.
Hype cycles is a methodology developed by Gartner Research as a means to examine the state-of-play of emerging / new / developing technologies, as Jackie Fenn from Gartner explains.
The truth is that all of the excitement and proclamations about Oculus Rift and SL do tend to leave me wondering if people are charging headlong up a slope towards some peak of over-inflated expectations. One which may, when the headset does eventually make its SL debut, lead to a corresponding tumble into a trough of disillusionment for a whole variety of reasons (ranging from it doesn’t measure up to people’s expectations of what they consider to be a “triple A experience” – we SL users are a notoriously picky lot – through to it needing longer than anticipated for really compelling experiences using it to emerge). A tumble which may not just further taint the headset in the eyes of the unconvinced, but which could also kill much of the enthusiasm and interest people currently have for it even before those compelling experience appear, leaving it facing a long, lonely climb to a point where people might once again take a reasonable interest in it.
It’s a totally subjective reaction on my part – but it is one I cannot shake.
- Great Expectations – Will Burns, July 17th, 2013
- Oculus Rift: The Consummation of Second Life or yet another fad? – Mona Eberhardt, July 18th, 2013
35 thoughts on “The Rift and the hype”
One quick note about the first-person-view versus third-person. The monitor screen doesn’t give a very wide field of view, so if you’re looking through your avatar’s eyes, it’s like looking at everything through a box that you’re carrying in front of your face — you can’t see where your feet are, what your arms are doing, who’s standing around you. By backing the camera up a few feet, and up a little bit, you get a broader field of view, one that feels more natural.
With the Oculus Rift, that broad field of view is built in — you can look down to see your feet, look up to see what’s above you, look to the sides and see what’s happening there. That wide field of vision is one of the reasons it feels so immersive and why folks are so excited about it.
You’re right that it will require a massive redesign of the user interface, especially when it comes to building and other interactions with objects. The immersive aspect might also prompt more use of voice. After all, reading text scrolling by in the air in front of your face is weird and breaks immersion, having to glance at an in-world smartphone or tablet to see local chat is a pain.
In fact, the differences between designing for a monitor-keyboard-mouse/joystick setup versus a Rift are so great, that some folks are speculating that many existing companies won’t make the transition. Instead, you’ll get a bunch of startups creating brand new platforms for what is, at first, a small, unprofitable, and tech-savvy user base, and then, as prices go down and quality goes up, the big players find themselves blind sided. This happened with mobile, and might happen here, as well. Whether Linden Lab can pivot fast enough to take advantage of the new technology without alienating its current user base remains to be seen. It’s a classic example of the Innovator’s Dilemma, I think.
While I’ve not tried the headset, I appreciate that it gives a more immersive feel; my point is more that, when everything else is taken into account, will it be that strong a draw for the majority of SL users? I’m not convinced, but happy to be disproven.
As to voice, again, as noted in the article, there seems to be a built-in aversion to the use of voice with many SL (and VW?) users. As such, immersion which is seen to “require” voice could be as off-putting to many as it might be appealing to some. It’s a tricky one to judge.
Mona Eberhardt in her article has a link to an interesting piece on the whole Rift / keyboard / gamepad / joystick situation.
Regarding the voice v text debate, I must say that I’ve never been a fan of voice chat. First, for meetings it’s a royal pain to transcribe. Second, outside the context of a meeting or a conference or an one-on-one discussion, voice chat can be tremendously annoying and distracting.
I use voice in a few places.
It’s sometimes tricky telling who is speaking, especially if they;re not in your field of view. It doesn’t help that voice can be heard from a much greater distance than text chat,
Many people still have problem / hate against Viewer 3 and still useing V1, besides Viewer 3 have still a long way to go, firestorm is best with UI, but SL one is better with graphics speed. But the UI is still behind V1 at some point, and with options then seconlife V3 is far behind useable. Am bouncing a bit between V1 and V3. So, as long LL not get Viewer 3 under control i dont expect the Oculus Rift get a warm welcome. I dont see no use at all, it would more be annoying to wear it the whole time and possible get carsick.
Also how do you want to jump to otehr application if you wear the Oculus Rift ? You dont see you desktop.
My expectation is very low for Oculus Rift, no welcome from my side.
Oculus Rift is like 3D tv, pretty useless. my screen is fine 3D without 3D.
The rift looks interesting, however I think it may need to have a specific viewer set up for it for it to be of any true use. If it were coupled with the Leap Motion as a controller and had a built in headset and microphone I could see this as a next gen control setup for building. Of course that would be a hell of a redesign for any system let alone one that is as complex as SL.
Still, one can dream.
I’m not sure as to the state-of-play now with Leap Motion. Simon Linden did some preliminary work with it, put together some code and put it out for TP devs to pick up.
I’ve no idea if anyone in LL is still looking at it. I actually got sidetracked into a short discussion on it and Oculus Rift when I originally drafted this piece last week, but opted to cut it out and focus on the core of what I wanted to say :).
It could be interesting for LL to add some sort of voice-text converter, everything you say is changed to text and broadcast in chat.
A great add on for people who are in some way handicapped and have trouble typing.
The main reason I don’t like chat is because 90% of mike users have not set them up correctly and they are either too loud or too soft, and half their family is shouting on the background.
Voice to text software could also help with transcribing.
Either way, I am glad that the Rift has no headphones, because it would make it more expensive and cumbersome.
I’ve used lots of headsets and they were all rather bad, till I decided to just use my Apple headset that was made for Iphones or something.
Those are absolutely perfect.
So I’d rather use the headphons I like and am used to.
I have tried the Rift and was very impressed but my enthusiasm for the Rift in cooperation with SL is mostly based on its huge potential.
Of course it can still go very wrong and LL will have to do a lot of viewer improving.
Wearing the rift is something I’d compare to wearing a larger headset, you forget about it.
I didn’t get carsick either.
But some people think that the Rift (or any kind of new VR headset) will only be interesting to gamers.
I think that within a decade, every household will have one.
That it will be used to watch movies, tv, to make exercise more fun, it will be in schools for lessons, etc, etc.
It will change gaming, entertainment and RL in general, or, as I should say, it has the potential to do so.
And when it becomes more then just a gadget for gamers, when lots of people have one, SL could become a very interesting place to them.
Because many of the games now being developed for the Rift are based on activities already available in SL.
And even better then trying experiences designed by other people, SL will allow you to experience worlds you create yourself.
Voice-to-text would be one heck of a piece of work. How would it handle multiple languages? If restricted to English (and even Portuguese), it could be seen as excluding many users. And if it is restricted to (say) English, there’s the issue of pronunciation, accent. etc – and everything has to be handled real-time or risk conversations getting completely out of sequence (or risk introducing frustrating delays in chat). No an easy ask.
I agree on integrated headphones & microphone a non-issue. As I said in the piece, OR doesn’t stop you from wearing another headset – and the fact is that many people already have a suitable headphone / mic combination, so why even include the extra baggage in the Rift? As you say, people will use what they are used to.
As to the future in RL – well, I admire your vision on things :). I’m not convinced I’d want to be sitting watching a movie using such a headset. I like to share the movie experience with the person / people I’m with. Having a headset which visually cuts me off from them would ruin the, um, shared experience, from my perspective. To say nothing of the nuisance factor in taking them off to do something simple such as lean forward and grab a snack from the coffee table or find my glass of wine without risking knocking it over while groping around for it :).
That said, I will agree with you on one thing – the ten-year time frame. I actually cut a piece from the article above (as it was a digression) where I pointed out that Gartner actually see things like AR / VR headsets & systems as just starting into the drop into the Trough of Disillusionment & virtual worlds like SL as just starting out of it and up the Slope of Enlightenment – and they put both VR / AR headsets and virtual worlds as still being up to 10 years away from achieving their plateau of enlightenment. So yes, in 10 years, we might just see people in households using the OR headset (or its successors) and SL (or its successors) as a matter of routine :). I’m just not convinced that in the here-and-now, the majority of SL users are actually that interested, or that OR / SL will be quite the winning draw some think.
And (as always) I’m more than happy to be proven wrong :).
I agree on the type-voice converter but technology is moving fast and it would be a cool gadget and solution to this issue.
Technically though they will probably go for something else.
Mind you, i’ve seen a prototype of the Rift that has a camera on the front, so who knows, they may be able to let you see your keyboard while gaming.
Or perhaps everyone should just learn to type blind, like me 😉
Watching tv or a movie with the Rift would or could be a social event.
You could choose.
For instance, you could watch a movie on your rift while your partner at home watches another movie, but you could also choose to be in the same location.
But even more interesting, you could watch a movie together with friends who live on the other side of the world.
Like we already do in Second Life at the moment.
Watching a movie in virtual reality could be a lot of fun when you invite friends to join you, perhaps you have build the cinema for them or perhaps the virtual reality space you use to watch that 1980s show you loved as a kid looks exactly like your parents living room in the 1980s.
Or perhaps a virtual cinema is slightly less depressing then the messy apartment you share with 3 other students 😉
I am convinced that we are at the dawn of a virtual reality Renaissance, with or without Second LIfe, with or without the Oculus Rift, things are about to change dramatically with the new technology.
We’re sort-of straying off-topic here vis-a-vis the Rift and SL, but I don’t really agree with your comment on people have a shared experience / shared social event when one is watching a movie and one is watching a movie of an OR headset. That’s more a case of two people who happen to be in the same room doing similar things. It doesn’t (to me) leave room for interaction, conversation, sharing the same moments in the respective films – all the things which make up seeing a movie together a shared / social experience :).
Your wider ideas have merit, and I certainly don’t disagree with them. There likely will be many and quite varied and innovative uses for headsets like OR (and CastAR for that matter) – Darrius points to one in a comment here, for example. But as you’ve said yourself, it could take a decade for such uses to be realised (and as I noted, Gartner tend to agree with your estimate). That’s a long way out, and people have extremely short attention spans / limited patience, so there is a risk here that if the OR arrives and all these wonderful things don’t happen, it will fall into a Trough of Disillusionment as the media (and industry) lose interest in it (just as happened with SL (see the first part of Business, Collaboration and Creative Growth), even though the technology does continue to move forward, be refined and gain more widespread use over time.
Of course, there is a case to say that the Rift could massively take-off through its use in games and niche applications from the get-go. Should that happen, and other businesses see these headsets gaining a foothold in homes around the world then it could encourage them to think more creatively about the directions in which they could take it and use it, because they see it not such much as a technology which might have an application, but a market to be exploited.
That said, please don’t confuse my position; I’m not saying Oculus rift can’t or won’t have applications in both RL and SL – I’m just not convinced that the arrival of Oculus Rift in SL will actually be that big a thing for the majority of users.
I’ll agree with Inara that voice-to-text is problematic. In fact, it’s highly problematic, at best, for the following reasons:
1. So far, all such applications come as versions dedicated to a specific language only.
2. Most of them simply generate text which you have to copy/paste into the application you want (a word processor, a chat application, what have you). Thus, with most of them there’s no chance of a real-time conversation, not to mention you still need to switch between applications and use your keyboard. I don’t see how Oculus Rift (or any other such device) would be usable in such a fiddly context.
3. Their performance leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to accuracy.
4. Incorporating something like that in a virtual world viewer would worsen the “bloat” of the viewer. Already, we have people nagging that some of the more popular TPVs are “bloatware”.
5. Even worse, as a result of 1 and 4, you’d need to have an Oculus Rift-capable viewer with voice-to-text capabilities that would be available in dedicated versions for every major language, thus making its maintenance complicated.
I prefer to be pragmatic, and this is why I’m not overly enthusiastic w.r.t. such devices.
Oculus Rift has that same “Really neat idea but …” feel to it that many other technology zowies have. They get a tremendous amount of pre-release buzz, but don’t really have a bonafide fix for a bonafide problem. SL itself fell victim to that same malady when it was pitched as the End-All, Do-All, Win-All platform for real-world businesses. It only took a couple of years before those businesses realized the “solution” SL provided was for a problem they didn’t have, and any other benefits SL offered were far outweighed by the glitches, annoyances and extra complexities inherent in the methodology.
If I had to put money on a niche that will really see a benefit from the Rift, I’d invest in a hook-up between the device and the internet savvy Real Estate (residential and commercial) markets typified by such newcomers as Zillow. I would also love to see sets of 300-500 of them donated to school systems around the globe, and then technology systems installed at the great museums, galleries and landmarks so that school-aged kids from every country could visit every place of import regardless of national boundaries, political bull-headedness or physical impediments such as localized poverty or the like.
That would be a great idea, Darrius.
After blogging about this myself, ive kinda come to the conclusion that we can speculate all we want, but how it’ll change SL will only be known once those with an OculusVR actually step into SL.
Second Life it self IS a result of what the users did with it, Linden Lab have never really known where it’s going and i’m pretty sure the SL Users dont know either.
I dont see the Oculus making a big change. When i look at other big new features im starting to see that some users adopt these features while others don’t. It’s all based on things like habits, interests and tech specs.
When the oculus arrives for current SL users may embrace it for stuff that it works for such as first person immersive scenarios most commonly combat RP probably. Others will flat out not be interested because they use SL in a more casual non immersive way.
With regards to new users there might be a new community created by people who use oculus rift and want a free sandbox environment to create experiences. This might bring in whole new type of SL user. Or it might not, point is we wont know until things happen.
I personally would like to see more control options added to mouselook. For Oculus to work there needs to be more options for first person and perhaps mouselook will get extra control options also such as an ‘activate/click’ action as well as ‘shoot’. For the voice thing, if you are really immersed in an experience you may choose to use voice over chat, but for the more casual experience chat seems preferred. Mac OSX already has a Dictation feature built in, so i know that possible.
Being an long time SL resident and Star wars fan im used to seeing Hyped up stuff and the Oculus is definitely getting over hyped. Its a head set that allows you to immerse yourself in a 3D game or environment. Its not going to change how you currently do things in SL, but it may give you new things to do that you’ve never done before.
Your response encapsulates pretty much what I feel – particularly your last paragraph, with the addition to your final sentence of, “if you happen to have an Oculus Rift headset anyway”. :).
As to additional controls when in first-person, as noted in the article, I don’t see that being much of a problem per se and as per the example (Firestorm) cited. Where I perhaps do see a problem is in striking a balance (at least where established SL users are concerned); that there is a risk that if too much of the UI is pushed into the first-person view, people are going to see it as simply replicating what they can do in third-person, with some added annoyances (lack of free camera movement, for example) all to “justify” a $200-$300 headset.
Please note that the bare bones, practically useless mouselook is used as one of the restrictions in RLV systems… I can hear crowds of BDSM gear designers screaming “OMGWTF U BROKE MAH SUPER-RESTRICTIVE RLV TRAP!!!” as I write these lines… If LL decides to enrich it for the Oculus Rift, that is.
Restrained Love Viewer. Essentially an API which allows various restrictions to be placed on the viewer’s capabilities. It was originally developed for the BDSM community in SL, but has also found a range of other uses within the platform. Ironically (in the context oif this discussion) one of its abilities is to force the user into Mouselook under certain controlled conditions – if they come out, their view is blocked either by a “locked” HUD attachment or via and “enforced” windlight setting.
Besides what Inara explained, please have a look at my comment here, regarding how it can be useful for various applications in SL.
Dont forget that the headset wont be just compatible with SL. I do have an interest in PC gaming even though i use a mac, so it’s not going to be just for the SL experience. I may even use it to watch 3D movies, depends how good that might be.
I often think about the 3DSpaceNavigator Mouse when thinking about the Oculus potential impact. The 3DSpaceNavigator is a total must have and did change my whole SL experience, i cant bare to use SL without it, yet how many long time SL Users have a 3DspaceNavigator? i might even go as far as saying the Oculus wont be as useful as the 3DSpacenavigator.
Adding to that, i think the combination of Oculus and 3DSpaceNavigator has been overlooked in our rush for fancy floaty hand gestury nonsense. :-p
I’m not forgetting the Oculus Rift isn’t just for SL. That’s why I reference its take-up among the gaming fraternity in the article :). However, SL and the Rift are at the core of my thoughts in this piece, regardless of wherever else the headset might be used, simply because (as you’ve said yourself) of all of the hype surrounding its arrival in SL.
The Space Navigator is interesting, in that I’d suggest it actually underlines my point vis-a-vis Oculus Rift and SL.
You find the SpaceNavigator an indispensable “must have”, because you found a reason to use it in SL (machinima?). Unless and until other users experience a similar “eureka!” moment, then the SpaceNavigator, with its $99 (or more, depending on where you shop / country you’re in) price-tag remains little more than an expensive optional extra for SL.
Oculus Rift will likely be the same. Until people actually discover a reason where it is invaluable to their in-world experience, it will remain an expensive (and avoidable) optional extra; and given it could well be that the experiences and uses suited to the headset do remain niche, then it is very possible that it’ll continue to continue to be seen by many as an expensive option they can actually forego.
What is rlv? kidding right?
Not everyone involved in SL is aware of RLV.
If someone is not inolved in the D/s or BDSM communities, there is actually little reason for them to have heard of it.
At the risk of starting an entire new subthread, I’ll go on record for saying that RLV does have perfectly valid uses outside the D/s and BDSM realm. An RLV control zone can easily enforce a certain windlight in an individual room of a build, thus changing the atmosphere completely. This goes beyond the parcel windlight capability, as you can have, for instance, two rooms in the same parcel of a region, one room on top of the other and each one with entirely different lighting settings, independent of the parcel’s own windlight. And RLV restrictions can also be useful in enhancing games within SL (mazes, most notably).
Is RLV a hack?
For more information, see the Second Life Wiki entry on it. I hope it helps.
Rlv is a helpful tool, for example for disability users, they can still be in world and with someone that knows it use, they can be tlp, sit on, walked around!
it also the only way i change my outifts, it also allows me to have a organized specific folder with all i can wear!
is also helpful when me and my love goes to a place, the 1st one to rezz can make couples pose ball appear and make the other sit while she is still rezzing all around!
And to be sure, it can be used for much more as Mona already posted above!
And i do believe that nobody dared to speak about the obvious appeal of the use of the rift for virtual sex! That will truly make it successful and revolutionary!
I just knew the sex angle would eventual
raise its head, stand up, arise, umm, appear…. :).
The Oculus Rift won’t change Second Life at all. What it MIGHT do, though, is bring its users closer to what it ALREADY IS.
Second Life isn’t about using a pie menu versus a cascade menu;it isn’t about interacting with someone with text versus voice; it isn’t about prims, sculpts or mesh.
SECOND LIFE IS A DYNAMIC, POPULATED, THREE DIMENSIONAL VIRTUAL WORLD.
One of the comments on another blog said that the Oculus Rift would “be difficult to use when setting Windlight.” SECOND LIFE ISN’T ABOUT SETTING WINDLIGHT, IT’S ABOUT WHAT YOU SEE AFTER WINDLIGHT IS SET.
One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is the fact that there is no downside I can see – it won’t require changes to the world or extensive ones to the servers; it shouldn’t affect system requirements for those not using it. It will just give people an opportunity to GO INTO WHAT”S ALREADY THERE. Whether you do or not is your choice.
To quote William Blake, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” Perhaps the Oculus Rift will make our doors into Second LIfe a little cleaner.
I foresaw many of the problems you bring up regarding OR, especially the problem of the immersion in VR completely isolating you from the real world and necessary things…like your keyboard or wine glass. As I read through these comments, I realized that this can be dealt with. A camera or a kinect-like device mounted on your monitor could “see” your keyboard and other important objects you specify, and then the camera and OR could superimpose an image of them in the virtual world, showing the position of your hands relative to them. Whether this could give you fine enough resolution to type, I don’t know. All I am saying is that if I, a relative non-geek, can think of something like this, the boffins in the labs can do it too.
That’s still a sizeable piece of software coding. There’s also an orientation issue to overcome as well, as the monitor-mounted camera would show and inverted keyboard relative to your own position.
Your idea could work if OR had a camera mounted within in for PiP, but it doesn’t. CastAR does, but the camera is used for a different purpose.
At a more basic level, PiP would likely be seen as ruining the immersive benefits of the OR system.
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