It appears that, in keeping with their word, the Lab is starting to allow journalists into Project Sansar. At the start of July, Ed Baig got a look inside Sansar for USA Today, as I reported here and here (with Ed’s own article here). now it is the turn of Techcrunch and, earlier in the month, Times Higher Education (THE), with pieces appearing in Russian, Polish and Brazilian outlets.
In Second Life creators look to revamp reality once again, this time in VR. Techcrunch’s Lucas Matney steps inside Project Sansar at the invitation of Ebbe Altberg, and his guide is the Lab’s VP of Product Bjorn Laurin (Born Linden). As with most articles we seen of late, nothing intrinsically “new” is added to what has so far been revealed about Sansar in terms of capabilities, approach or screen shots, but there are some interesting tidbits, all the same. For example, early on he notes:
Traversing the worlds of Sansar and chatting with my guide, Linden Lab VP of Product Bjorn Laurin, was a mostly seamless experience but still an oddly unsettling one. It’s not that anything was particularly creepy about the place I was viewing through an Oculus Rift headset. Sansar is visually placid and often beautiful, but it’s also startlingly scalable and boundless. Scale is something that’s often taken for granted in an age of video game epics like Skyrim and GTAV, but when every horizon you see through your own point-of-view is conquerable, you’re left to either feel very bold or very lost.
The two things that are interesting here are the comment about the “mostly seamless” experience of moving between “Sansar worlds” (“worlds” here, I assume, means Sansar “scenes” which have been “stitched together” – to use the Lab’s terminology – to create an “experience”). This appears to imply that whatever mechanism is in place to move avatars between different connected scenes (teleporting?) is pretty smooth and that there may not be too much in the way of any interruption when moving between scenes. It’ll be interesting to discover if / how this might extend to vehicles at some point down the road as Sansar develops.
The second interesting part of the comment is the apparently limitless size Sansar presents to users, suggesting that as with Second Life, Sansar will convey a sense of massive spaces which might reach beyond their physical limits – so will people be looking out onto open “water” as with SL, or will the “land” appear to stretch off into the far horizon – or is it simply that the available Sansar scenes all make use of the upper bounding size (previously reported to be around 4 km / 16 SL regions on a side)? Either way, it may well be that environments in Sansar aren’t quite as “enclosed” – at least visually – as people might be fearing.
A further point of interest in the article takes the form of an astute observation perhaps overlooked when discussing Sansar’s potential for success:
Like Second Life, Project Sansar is not an experience that needs to be perfect at its initial launch or see a certain number of first week user numbers to be a hit. It just has to stay consistent, evolve with the hardware/interface trends of modern VR and steadily push boundaries as it updates.
In a time when we’re perhaps becoming inured (so to speak) with the comparisons to Sansar with the likes of WordPress and YouTube for content creation, it’s perhaps refreshing to have someone put their finger on the button of LL’s monetisation focus for Sansar, with Matney observing the company plans to essentially build “an app store for VR creative properties”. This is not only a neat way to encapsulate Sansar’s approach to monetisation, it also neatly folds back into the idea that “creator” in Sansar encompasses a broader cross-section of users than perhaps we consider to be the case in Second Life – as I mentioned in covering Ed Baig’s USA Today piece.
One of the several target markets the Lab is looking towards for Sansar is that of education, and it is from this perspective that Alice Bonasio, writing for Times Higher Education, considered Project Sansar back at the start of July 2016.
Starting with a look at the success Second Life has enjoyed within education, Virtual reality really is heading to a university near you more generically considers the role of VR in education, and the manner in which Sansar might be a part of an education revolution – not just in terms of providing immersive teaching environments, but in the ability for universities and colleges, etc., to potentially monetise their environments.
It’s an interesting line to take, but what is perhaps of greater interest, in terms of gaining further understanding as to why Linden Lab felt they needed to push ahead with Project Sansar, is in the vision for education presented through the piece. In this, Alice Bonasio doesn’t just examine the Lab’s hopes for Sansar, she frames them in terms of experiments conducted by Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. These experiments demonstrated some very real benefits of using VR / augmented capabilities can bring to the basic tutor / student relationship, quite aside from all the deeply immersive potential offer by the technology.
Again, neither article offers anything specifically “new” in terms of how Sansar will look when the door opens or what the baseline capabilities will be when that happens in early 2017. However, they do both provide individual insights into the platform which make them both a worthwhile read, with Techcrunch’s Matney in particular ending with further food for thought, noting that while Sansar might not require a huge audience from the get-go, it does nevertheless need to succeed in its central aim of providing a platform for “social VR” – and that’s no easy thing, because “social VR” isn’t really an understood medium right now (we can only guess at what it might be like and – equally importantly – how people might react to it). But as he notes in closing:
The early beta shows great promise and while a wide release of its desktop and VR versions is still likely months away, it’s clear that Linden Lab understands the daunting magnitude of both Project Sansar’s challenges and its potential.