Sansar: of images and reactions

 Project Sansar (image: Linden Lab)
Project Sansar (image: Linden Lab)

There’s been a lot of reaction to recent images release via Twitter of scenes from Project Sansar. The images, one of the surface of Mars, and another an almost alien-looking beach scene, were Tweeted by Ebbe Altberg.

The first came on February 4th, and prompted several Tweets in reply, the second on February 10th. Both were picked-up by various media outlets such as Tom’s Hardware and VR Focus. Each of the images reveal very little, and this has led to a certain amount of negative feedback and potentially incorrect comparisons to Second Life, with some of the criticism reading as attempts to write-off Project Sansar before people have been given the opportunity to look inside it.

The February 4th Tweet by Ebbe Altberg
The February 4th Tweet by Ebbe Altberg

Some of those critiquing the images point to similar work being possible in Second Life. On the surface, this is a fair comment – such environments are possible in SL; however, they also seem to miss the point.

While Project Sansar isn’t exclusively VR HMD oriented, when discussing its initial use, Ebbe Altberg has made it clear that the Lab is firstly looking to those market verticals which are already demonstrating interest in getting involved with immersive environments through to use of (relatively, when compared to the “traditional” costs of such systems) low-cost era of HMDs and their peripherals. Verticals such as education, training, simulation, healthcare, design, architecture and business have all been mentioned time and again. Hence why,  for example and as I’ve previously pointed out, it was no accident that the first public demonstration for Project Sansar came during month-long Architecture and the City Festival in San Francisco, held in September 2015.

The February 10th Tweet by Ebbe Altberg
The February 10th Tweet by Ebbe Altberg

The hard reality here is that for the most part, these are sectors which have little or no interest in delving into Second Life to achieve their aims; it is simply too costly and / or too complex to do so (even were it capable of supporting HMDs at things like the recommended frame rates, etc). Thus, comparisons with what is shown in the images and what can be created in Second Life is really irrelevant.

Of course, by the same standard, aiming for specific verticals and opportunities and actually gathering a sufficient audience from those vertical to help grow the platform more broadly isn’t an automatic given. That in itself is a worthwhile debate, but it is one far beyond determining Sansar’s worth based on a couple of in-world snapshots.

Others have critiqued the images on the basis that they are leveraging pre-built models and thus the comment that Sansar environments can be built in “a few hours” is misleading. But is this really the case?

Ebbe Altberg on Sansar's marketplace, January 21st, 2016
Ebbe Altberg on Sansar’s marketplace, January 21st, 2016

The reality is that in this regard, Project Sansar isn’t that different to Second Life, where we leverage existing assets and content, purchased in-world or through the Marketplace, every day to create our environments.

What Project Sansar aims to do is take things further by offering those who wish to simply acquire and use assets up to and including dedicated experiences, the means to do so. This can then be coupled to a much easier means of direct access to those environments, possibly hooked directly into their own  user authentication systems (see the 3rd bullet point here), to provide a direct means of immediate access to that environment for their staff / students / users / clients, thus entirely bypassing the stress of user access which is so much a part of Second Life.

As such, the use of pre-existing content in the Tweeted images isn’t misleading or “cheating” when placed alongside the “few hours” statement of build time. Rather, it’s a reflection of one of the ways the Lab envisages Project Sansar being used.

There is a lot about Project Sansar that has yet to be revealed and / or understood. There’s also much about it that would seem to be a gamble on the part of the Lab. As such, there is a lot worthy of debate about it and platforms like it – High Fidelity,, AltspaceVR, et al, their potential for success, how they fit with the VR ecosystem, how that ecosystem will fair over time when faced with things like emerging AR capabilities and potential, and so on and so forth. But to dismiss Project Sansar purely on the basis of a handful of screen shot seems, at least to me, a tad bit premature.


9 thoughts on “Sansar: of images and reactions

  1. I completely agree Inara. However the extremely limited information in conjunction with our understandable interest (you could almost say investment) in Sansar inevitably leads to rampant speculation.
    One thing we DO know is that, at least initially Sansar will have an extremely build capability. While you and I both use purchased components in our builds we often modify them with our own textures, take them apart to use only selected parts, etc. Without proper build tools in-world Sansar is likely to be unusable to me.


    1. Yeah, I cut out a long, rambling piece on build options – external, leveraging content + in-world tools, and I agree on potential limitations in not initially having the latter. I’ll try to get what I had into another article – but I’m *so* far behind in all I want to say about Sansar, I’m not sure when that will be!


  2. Good post Inara! I think the main issue is that people expect Sansar to be Second Life version 2, when in some ways its similar to Second Life, but the main audience does not appear to be Second Life. LL is chasing people who want a virtual wold experience, but out of the box and built for them, so that they do not have to do all of the building and set up.


    1. Yup… it’s one of the reasons I dislike seeing Project Sansar referred to as “SL2” by those who acknowledge is isn’t “second Life 2.0”, because it runs the risk of giving those who might be less well informed on the subject the misconception that it is somehow a replacement or successor for Second Life.


  3. I wonder if users of SL don’t actually see how the majority of SL users actually use SL. That Users think of SL in a dated fashion, such as free to build inworld. Most of the places i know of don’t allow anyone to build on the land, and most of the stuff created now is from imported Mesh Builds not created with prims. Many switch build off on their land because of random prims being left laying around from experimenting newbs. Maybe Project Sansar will be more like how we use SL than people think of SL.
    I was one of those who replied to Ebbes statement of taking a couple hours. I asked if that included building the models in Maya, because my thoughts are that there is going to be an initial period where creators build and import and place on offer content for other creators to acquire and place in their Sansar spaces/experience. Because they are skipping that prim based inworld tools phase.


    1. Yep, that’s my feeling when it comes to what might be called “public” spaces (or perhaps “shared” spaces might be a better term?) in SL – they are largely “off-the-shelf”, hence my pointing to it in the article. However, there are many who, in building more personal spaces, do like to mod and fiddle; I’ve literally come to this comment having spent another 30 minutes cutting and slicing some mesh elements on our island home and adding the odd prim and script here and there to get the results I want, for example 🙂 .

      So the balance is interesting, and in the broader scheme of things, it’s not entirely clear where the “dividing line” (if there is one) lay between purely “prefabricated” region and parcel builds, and more “prefab / bespoke” build lies. But I do strongly suspect that overall, your observation is correct.

      And yes, there will be an initial period where people are going to be importing / optimising existing content; there will also be many cases where bespoke content will have to be built (whether in Maya or anything else the platform supports) to achieve a goal, and these do need to be factored-in to things when looking at Sansar on a broader basis. But again, for those focused solely on content creation for the purposes of sale, I’d say the time taken to produce their goods is offset by the profits generated out revenue obtain from the sale of their models, rather than in terms of the time taken to create environments utilising those models.


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