Writing in Readwrite on March 2nd, Ryan Matthew Pierson looks at Linden Lab’s Project Sansar and the Future of Virtual Reality. It’s an interesting article in that Mr. Pierson is a journalist who likes to research his subject, rather than relying on cliché or the input of jaded pundits.
As such, what is presented is a brief, but fair potted history of Second Life, charting the highs and lows, and pointing out that while it can be “dark” it’s simply not all about the adult naughties and nasties. So it is that Mr. Pierson charts the highs and lows of Second Life, with input from someone who know it well: Gary Wisniewski (Wiz Nordberg in SL) the founder of Treet.TV.
Starting with the rise in SL’s popularity in 2006/7, thanks to the attention of the media, the reader who might be unfamiliar with Second Life is given glimpses into the platform’s magic which are painted as effectively with words as they might be illustrated by an image:
You could travel quickly from island to island, experiencing a fantasy world filled with a lush forest one minute and a sprawling post-apocalyptic CyberPunk-style city the next. Just about everywhere you went, there were crowds of people taking in the sights, chatting about their experiences, or dancing the night away in one of Second Life’s many nightclubs.
He also touches on the broad appeal of the platform:
This appeal extended well beyond tech-savvy early adopters. Many residents found that you could do things in Second Life that transcended physical disadvantages. For example, someone bound to a wheelchair could dance the night away in Second Life’s nightclubs, or even fly through a mountain range like a superhero.
The darker side of SL isn’t shirked, as noted, with Mr. Pierson pointing out the platform did suffer from a reputation for seediness – and that the Lab sought to try to address it as best they could through maturity ratings and safeguards, and without impinging unnecessarily on people’s freedom of choice.
From here, and via an all-too-brief mention of Relay for Life (when, oh when will journalists realise the sheer depths of human interest these is to be found within Second Life’s ability to support global fund-raising events in what is – when compared to the physical world costs involved in trying anything nearly so large – so utterly cost-effective? But I digress, as charity isn’t the focus of this article), the piece gently segues into an overview of Project Sansar.
In this, nothing exceptionally new is mentioned regarding the Lab’s new platform, although the parallels with the likes of WordPress and YouTube are avoided. The familiar comments on the VR tech support, the shift in revenue model away from land, and the desire to make it easer for “creators” all get the usual mention, as do the plans to make Sansar more broadly accessible to consumers:
Linden Lab also wants to make Project Sansar more cross-platform accessible. Where Second Life is largely tied to a desktop-only experience, Project Sansar’s users will be able to log in and enjoy the virtual world from various other platforms including mobile devices as well as HMDs.
It’s likely that SL users will find the Readwrite article frustrating for its lack of new information on Project Sansar. However, that more information isn’t provided stems not only from the fact that the Lab isn’t as yet ready to divulge more details – assuming they keep to their desired time scales, I’d expect this to start happening from about the middle of 2016 onwards – but from the fact that Mr. Pierson isn’t actually writing for Second Life users. He’s addressing the audience the Lab is primarily trying to reach: those ready to invest themselves in opportunities presented by the emerging wave of new VR technology.
That said, it’s fair to say the Readwrite piece isn’t perhaps as engaging as Sophie Charara’s recent piece in Wearable, but as an attempt to encapsulate both Second Life and Project Sansar, it’s a pretty good overview of the past and the present – and the Lab’s hoped-for future.