Halloween Premium discount and gifts in Second Life

Update: The Lab has also now blogged on this offer, and also indicate that the Haunted House experience has re-opened in Second Life, which is open to anyone via the Portal Park.

Linden Lab has launched the latest Premium membership offer alongside a seasonal Halloween gift offer for new and existing Premium members.

The Premium membership discount applies to the first quarter of the Quarterly Billing plan (remaining quarters all billed at the full price of US $22.50 per quarter), and runs from now through until 08:00 SLT on Monday, November 2nd, 2015.

The Premium Discount is once again on offer, together with a set of Halloween gifts
The Premium Discount is once again on offer, together with a set of Halloween gifts

The Halloween gifts come in three parts: a ridable flying dinosaur (with aviator helmet for the rider), which is clearly intended to link to the PaleoQuest game; two “ghostly” avatars (male and female) with HUD and alpha mask; and finally, a drone system, comprising a wearable iPad-style controller, a HUD, and an update system.

I’ve tended not to be overly enthusiastic about such gifts (with the odd exception, such as the sailing boat – which at least got me into sailing in SL), and to be brutally honest, these do little to break the mould. The dino and the ghost avatars have a certain yawn factor about them which had me rezzing to take a look, trying and deleting.

Playing with the drone
Playing with the drone

The drone could be seen as a little fun item, and has a number of interesting features.  You can, for example, slave your camera to it, and fly it around, or you can set it to automatically follow you (or someone else who is within range) as you wander around (it’ll self-delete should you teleport out of the current region), while the radar function will list the names of other avatars in the region and their distance from your avatar. There are also options for customising the drone and setting its “mood”, and it’ll get a tad naggy if you forget it is there.

That said, I’m not entirely sure just how long the drone is likely to remain a novelty item for most; if you want to have a free-flying camera, a suitable controller and the flycam mode in the viewer are both far more efficient (as is alt-camming). However, it can be entertaining (I admit to having a giggle when it spooked a helo crew hovering next to my house), and could offer options in some RP scenarios, while the iPad and its associated  animations might find a use from time-to-time, even if the drone doesn’t.

As usual, if you are considering the move up from Basic, might I offer some thoughts (as long in the tooth as they might be) as someone who has bounced from Premium to Basic and back again?

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Final days to Pursue Impossible & a L$560K+ prize pool in Second Life

Image courtesy of UWA
Image courtesy of UWA / Eliza Wierwright

The University of Western Australia’s (UWA) latest 3D art and machinima challenge, Pursue Impossible is counting down the final days before entries close at midnight SLT, on October 31st, 2015. With a prize pool for participants in both the art and machinima categories standing at over L$ 560,000, there have already been some amazing submissions – and there is still time for artists and film-makers  to create and submit their own entries.

Pursue Impossible takes its theme from the UWA’s clarion call to students in the physical world to achieve their fullest possible potential by studying with the university. Within the challenge, it calls on entrants to consider what their “impossible” might be.

Kazuhiro Aridian - "Rise Above the Mundane" - Pursue Impossible
Kazuhiro Aridian – “Rise Above the Mundane” – Pursue Impossible

Perhaps it might be something personal, a goal achieved individually or by a loved one or friend. Or perhaps it is consideration of those things we deem to be impossible, but which we may still pursue and conquer as individuals or collectively. Perhaps it is itself a clarion call for us all to face the things we consider impossible and rise above them; or maybe it is an illustration of how virtual environments empower people to visualise, create and push the boundaries of the possible. There are many options and opportunities to consider.

Jipe Loon – “Impossible Quest” – Pursue Impossible

Currently, the first prize for each category stands at L$60,000 plus a cover feature with BOSL magazine. Should you wish to enter either or both categories, full details of entry requirements can be found on the Pursue Impossible announcement page.  However, a brief outline of the key points to keep in mind is given below.

  • Art submissions are limited to one per entrant, must have COPY permissions, should not exceed 150 LI, and must be free from any copyright issues – if third-party content is used in an entry, permission must and been sought and granted from the creator for its inclusion in the Challenge
  • Entrants can submit as many machinima pieces as they wish, but films should preferably be no longer than 4 minutes and 30 seconds (although this is not a “hard” rule), and should be made specifically for this challenge. All films must include “For The University of Western Australia’s MachinimUWA VIII: Pursue Impossible” in the opening credits
  • All submissions should allow casual viewers to interpret how the theme is represented, or provide a means by which the piece can be understood in the context of the challenge theme, either via note card (art) or text in the video description when uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, etc.

As well as the art and machinima category prizes, there will also be special cash prizes for audience participation. The total prize pool for this currently stands at L$41,000, and prizes will be awarded to those members of the audience whose top 10 lists most closely align to the final juried top 10 entries in each category.

Details on how to enter the audience participation part of the challenge will be announced in due course. In the meantime, don’t forget to check the art entries at the UWA Gallery and the video submissions on the UWA blog.

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Magic Leap reveals a little more about their AR system

Romy Abovitz talks Magic Leap at WSJD Live (image courtesy of engagdet)
Romy Abovitz talks Magic Leap at WSJD Live (image courtesy of Engagdet)

Magic Leap, the augmented reality company established by enigmatic entrepreneur Rony Abovitz, and which gained over US $500 million from the likes of Google in 2014 (see my article from October 2014),  revealed a little more about its product during a WSJD Live interview recently.

As reported by Nicole Lee for Engadget, Abovitz and Chief Content Officer Rio Caraeff talked in general terms about the system which has caused no small amount of excitement among those who have actually seen it in action. People such as Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, who sits on the Magic Leap board and was one of the driving forces behind Google’s lion’s share of the half-billion funding mentioned above, and who shares a place on the board with Qualcomm’s executive chairman, Paul Jacobs, another investor from that round of funding.

The technology has also wowed leading lights from the entertainment industry such as Weta Workshop’s co-founder Richard Taylor (one of the first to invest in Magic Leap), and Thomas Tull, CEO of Legendary Entertainment (aka Legendary Pictures). For those outside, however, Magic Leap has perhaps come over as a riddle bordering on smoke and mirrors.

Magic Lap's website splash screen (no pun intended)
The Magic Leap website splash screen (no pun intended)

Talking at the WSJD event, Abovitz indicated Magic Leap won’t be tied to a particular platform or OS, but will be entirely self-contained and with a dedicated OS. He also indicates that in difference to those dismissing AR on the grounds that “no-one likes to wear glasses for long”, the form factor for the unit will be something people won’t fight shy of wearing. He also states it will allow them to maintain a normal relationship with others when in use – a little dig, no doubt, at the first generation of cumbersome and isolating VR headsets about to hit the market.

Alongside of the interview, Magic Leap also released a new video which they state is filmed entirely through Magic Leap technology and with no special effects or compositing.

Quite how the system works, however, is still a mystery. No headsets are shown in any of the company’s promotional material, and much is made of the use of a “Dynamic Digitized Lightfield Signal” (which we can call “Digital Lightfield™”). In speaking at WSJD, Abovitz and  Caraeff both skirted specifics, with the former only saying, “We treat human biology as our centre point; everyone already has a head-mounted display. It’s your head!”

This suggests the company is perhaps pursuing direct retinal projection, possibly in some form of headset unit that is less intrusive than the kind of units suggestive in the patent filings the company has made in the past. And if this sounds like science-fiction, remember Abovitz made his money developing medical technology, and the company has apparently devoted considerable effort into researching the relationship between the photonic light field and the way the brain functions.

Patent filed for Magic Leap by , draws extensively on one of earlier patents for augmented reality headsets styled in both "regular glasses" and "wrap-around" form factors (US 20120162549 A1)
Patent WO 2014043196 A1, filed for Magic Leap by Chunyu Gao for augmented reality headsets styled in both “regular glasses” and “wrap-around” form factors, suggesting some form of headset will be a necessary part of the system – click for full size

So what is the purpose of all this? Caraeff indicated the ultimate am is for Magic Leap to provide broad-based platform for visual computing. “Anything that you can do on your smartphone, on your computer; you’ll be able to do on Magic Leap,” he said, then added, “Where the world is your screen.”

“We believe the future of computing should be natural,” Abovitz stated. “With Magic Leap, your brain doesn’t distinguish what’s real and what’s Magic Leap, because as far as your brain’s concerned, it is real.”

I admit to being far more persuaded that AR will generate a greater mass market presence than VR. Despite the negative memes about people not liking glasses and Google’s misplaced Glass product, AR would appear to be far more inclusive in its use than VR, and have the same potential reach into many of the markets being hailed as VR’s territory: business, medical, education, healthcare and entertainment.

Whether Magic Leap will actually pave the way in this regard as units start to roll off the company’s new production line in Florida at some point in the future, is open to debate. I do, however, admit to being more intrigued by the potential of AR systems like it and CastAR than I am with the first generation of VR headsets we’re about to see.

Additional material on the WSJD Live event via The Verge.