High Fidelity moves to “open beta”

HF-logoTuesday, April 27th saw High Fidelity move to an “open beta” phase, with a simple Twitter announcement.Having spent just over a year in “open alpha” (see my update here), the company and the platform has been making steady progress over the course of the last 12 months, offering increasing levels of sophistication and capabilities  – some of which might actually surprise those who have not actually set foot inside High Fidelity but are nevertheless will to offer comments concerning it.

I’ve actually neglected updating on HiFi for a while, my last report having been at the start of March. However, even since then, things have moved on at quite a pace. The website has been completely overhauled and given a modern “tile” look (something which actually seems to be a little be derivative rather than leading edge – even Buckingham Palace has adopted the approach).

High Fidelity open beta requirements
High Fidelity open beta requirements

The company has also hired Caitlyn Meeks, former Editor in Chief of the Unity Asset Store, as their Director of Content, and she has been keeping people appraised of progress on the platform at a huge pace, with numerous blog posts, including technical overviews of new capabilities, as well as covering more social aspects of the platform, including pushing aside the myth that High Fidelity is rooted in “cartoony” avatars, but has a fairly free-form approach to avatars and to content.

High Fidelity may not be as sophisticated in terms of overall looks and content – or user numbers – as something like Second Life or OpenSim, but it is grabbing a lot of media attention (and investment) thanks to it have a very strong focus on the emerging ranging to VR hardware systems, and the beta announcement is timed to coincide with the anticipated increasing availability of the first generation HMDs from Oculus VR and HTC. Indeed, while the platform is described as “better with” such hardware and can be used without HMDs and their associated controllers, High Fidelity  describe it as being “better with” such hardware.

High Fidelity avatars
High Fidelity avatars

I still tend to be of the opinion that, over time, VR won’t be perhaps as disruptive in our lives as the likes of Mixed / Augmented Reality as these gradually mature; as such I remain sceptical that platforms such as High Fidelity and Project Sansar will become as mainstream and their creators believe, rather than simply vying for as much space as they can claim in similar (if larger) niches to that occupied by Second Life.

And even is VR does grow in a manner similar t that predicted by analysts, it still doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will be leaping into immersive VR environments to conduct major aspects of their social interactions. As such, it will be interesting to see what kind of traction high Fidelity gains over the course of the next 12 months, now that it might be considered moving more towards maturity – allowing for things like media coverage, etc., of course.

Which is not to share the capabilities aren’t getting increasingly impressive, as the video below notes – and just look at the way Caitlyn’s avatar interact with the “camera” of our viewpoint!

 

 

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Fairelands thoughts and memories in Second Life

The Golden Delta - Alia Baroque
The Golden Delta – Alia Baroque

Fantasy Faire is one of the most popular large-scale events in Second Life. It is something looked forward to with huge anticipation by all those who participate and visit, not only because of its underpinning aim – to support cancer research and the care of cancer victims – but because it has such a unique atmosphere. The Faire is not so much an event, rich in activities and places to visit; it is a world within a world; a series of realms through which we are invited to travel and explore, where we can discover new things and make new friends.

A large part of this does come down to the regions themselves. Each year we area treated to the most incredible, region-wide themed builds, each joined one to the next to create a series of realms, contiguous to themselves through which we can travel as visitors, adventurers, the curious or the amazed.

Dangarmon - Jaimy Hancroft and Eowyn Swords
Dangarnon – Jaimy Hancroft and Eowyn Swords

But every so often a Fantasy Faire brings forth builds that are just that little bit extra special; and for me, 2016 is one of those years. Each of the regions has its own unique look and feel – as they always do; yet at the same time, there is something that resonates as we walk through them, a faint feeling of deja-vu; a feeling that while nothing quite like them has been seen here before, so to are these places someone connected to Fairelands of the past.

Kilik Lekvodas’ Bright Haven, for example, carries an echo of Kayle Matzerah’s Lumenaria from 2013 through its colours and broad streets, while Kayle’s build for Breeze carries a similar whimsy to that found in his 2014 Wiggenstead Mooring, albeit it with a little hint of Hobbiton thrown in! Meanwhile, in Kaelis Ember’s Serenity, one can also hear the elven songs once sung in Rynn Verwood’s Medhir Woods from 2014. Even dark Malfience in some ways carries echoes of 2013’s Valley of Ish’Nar.

Breeze - Kayle Matzerah
Breeze – Kayle Matzerah

Which is not to say that any of this year’s builds are in any way copied from the builds of the past – far from it; they are all truly unique. Rather, these echoes and hints help give us a feeling that not only do they form a world of their own, they are also part of a larger whole.

It’s not hard to imagine, for example, that if we could just continue a little further south from Mayah Parx’s Tinker’s Hollow, so might we come to her 2013 realm of Ravenshard, before travelling onwards from there to that year’s Blackwater Glenn, by Marcus Inkpen and Sharni Azalee, and from there travel back to  Lokii Violet’s Blackmoor to continue our journey owards through this year’s realms. Or that by travelling north from Elicio Ember’s Otherworld, we might once again tarry in his Faery Court from 2014. whilst west of Twilight’s Illusion, by Sweetgwendoline Bailey and Eldowyn Inshan, there waits the winter city of Aurora, designed by Beq Janus.

Lucentia - Markus Inpen and Sharni Azalee
Lucentia – Markus Inpen and Sharni Azalee

Such echoes are strong throughout many of the Faireland regions this year, greatly adding to the sense of returning to much-loved and familiar lands, even while the regions themselves are unique.And where the echoes may be less clear, we have the magnificence of builds which may well resonate into the future – The Golden Delta, by Alia Baroque, or Loki Eliot’s norse masterpiece of Echtra, the Sapphire Mirror Lake, Dangarnon, Lucentia.

It is in exploring the regions at each year’s Faire they I find my greatest pleasure; allowing my imagination free rein to concoct stories about each of them while seeing if memories of past realms and places seep through and alter my imaginings. Of course, your memories of Fairelands past as reflected in Fairelands present most likely differ from mine. Nevertheless, they are still link us, one to another, as citizens of these realms, and of those which have come before them, and which are never truly lost to the mists of time.

Fairelands Junction - Saiyge Lotus
Fairelands Junction – Saiyge Lotus

If you haven’t yet visited the Fairelands this year, there is a still time – follow the links below!

Fairelands Junction Blackmoor
Breeze Bright Haven
Dangarnon Echtra
The Golden Delta Lucentia
Malfience OtherWorld
Sapphire Mirror Lake Serenity
Tinkers Hollow Twilight Illusion

This post can also be found on the Fantasy Faire website.