Open now at Artful Expressions, the boutique gallery curated by Sorcha Tyles, is the January 2017 featuring the art of Uma Sabra and KyRaLy (ElizzaLiza). As with the opening exhibition at the gallery (see here), these are two artists perfectly suited to being displayed together, their styles complimenting one another perfectly.
Both artists focus on avatar studies, with each presenting pieces which largely – although not exclusively – focus of the face in close-up, with both opting for minimal backgrounds with their subjects. The resulting images are hauntingly evocative in tone, look and emotional content.
“I think it is simply amazing that one can be able and can have all the freedom in the world to create digging deep into imagination,” KyRaLy says of Second Life. “It is a gift that one can see inside of things, the essence of things…” This is perhaps a perfect reflection of her work; each image is offering us a look not so much at her subject, but into them: who they might be, what they were feeling at the time the photograph was captured.
This is especially true of the images in which the subjects are not looking at the camera; by capturing them in a moment where their focus is apparently elsewhere, KyRaLy has imbued them with enormous humanity and vulnerability. Which is not to say those in which the subject is looking at the camera are any the less captivating for their emotional content.
Uma plumbs similar depths with her studies. However, where KyraLy has apparently chosen a number of subjects / faces for her pieces, Uma has focused largely on portraits of a single avatar. This makes them more intimate in presentation, as we are given the opportunity to share in the changing moods of the one individual cross a number of images – and perhaps, time.
Four out of her nine pieces are not limited to a facial portraits, but offer a more complete study (including on nude shot). These demonstrate a considered use of focus and background to produce pieces every bit as poignant as her closer studies.
As noted above, these are two sets of images by two artists who are well suited to side-by-side exhibition, and the display of their work at Artful Expressions is not one to miss. Bravo, as well, to Sorcha on her second exhibition, and for her choice of artists.
On Wednesday, January 4th, Linden Lab issued a “showcase” video alongside the public launch of the Sansar YouTube channel.
The launch of the channel is part of the Lab’s promise to gradually reveal more and more of the platform as they move towards opening the doors to public access. Its launch was accompanied by some in-depth media pieces in which Sansar is discussed in far more details than has until now been the case – including word on the platform’s currency, and the overall progress on the platform towards public access.
The video itself – embedded at the end of this article – was filmed by Draxtor Despres and features Loz Hyde of Meshworx fame, the video runs to just over 1 minute 30 seconds, and demonstrates the build environment of Sansar as used without a headset and controllers as Loz puts together a grand hall.
There’s actually not a lot to see in terms of the mechanics of the environment, but Loz’s view of the overall rendering (by which I assume he means the run-time environment, is “amazing”.
We do get to see the latter as well – or what appears to be the latter – when Drax takes us inside via a HTC Vive. The environment, lighting and detail certainly looks impressive, but again, may from SL are liable to be unimpressed with the detail shown, simply because it is a single interior space, and nothing is shown of it in situ as it were. Hopefully more comprehensive shots of spaces within Sansar will come in time. Certainly what is shown offers an impressive taster of what can be achieved in terms of architecture and fittings.
Elsewhere come hints of the size of the Creator Preview programme, and why content creators like Loz are being asked to showcase their work, with the Lab’s CEO noting:
We have over 12,000 creators registered for access to the platform, so we have way more creators than we need to get the feedback, and to ensure they get the tools they need to be successful. We’re really asking these early creators to explain what it is they want to do in Sansar, and if we think the platform is not yet ready to do that, we’re asking them to wait.
Of these 12,000, around 500-600 have so far been accepted into the Creator Preview, and the Lab has revealed that the Sansar currency is now in operation: the Sansar Dollar (S$), which will be traded on the SandeX – both of which, I assume – are operated under LL’s subsidiary, Tilia Inc, and are something of a port of the facilities and “currency” services the lab built around the Linden Dollar and LindeX. Like the Linden Dollar, the Sansar Dollar will be exchangeable for fiat money, and the system supports payout at least via PayPal.
What’s interesting here is that the “currency” system (the Lab will doubtless refer to Sansar Dollars as “tokens”), is that it is in operation, with the creators currently engaged in Sansar able to buy and sell their creations among themselves, with the Lab’s Director of Global communications, Peter Gray, noting:
With this new step, they’re [creators] also able to start buying and selling their creations with one another. And so, it’s the start of that sort of economic engine that’s getting warmed up in this creator preview period, and ultimately it will expand. Today they’re able to buy and sell items—pieces of content, but ultimately, creators will be able to monetize entire experience.
This actually makes a lot of sense, not only in terms of kick-starting the Sansar economy and establishing a nascent revenue model for both creators and the Lab, it also means that Creators and leverage one another’s creations to build out their experiences and – as Peter Gray notes – sell those on as well.
How much the Lab might be generating in revenue from these initial creator-creator transactions – given a “sales tax” is a core part of the revenue model – isn’t indicated (I would actually be surprised if any is at this point being leveraged – outside of a “purchase fee” for S$, simply because the Creator Preview is supposed to be a cooperative venture). However, Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat notes, there will also be a small “hosting fee,” or a property tax equivalent in the real world, for the spaces that you create in Sansar. Again, this isn’t entirely a surprise, but seeing it stated clearly is interesting.
Like the L$, the Sansar Dollar will operate on a user-to-user basis, with the Lab functioning as an exchange operator, not a bank. Currently the exchange rate is running at around S$100 per US dollar, making the S$ more expensive than the L$. However, this is only an initial exchange rate; ultimately, the Lab expects the market to define the exchange rate naturally, so the value might over time move towards something more in keeping with the L$.
One risk that comes with opening the exchange mechanism to a limited audience of users (creators) is the risk that the exchange itself could be manipulated through things like volume purchases of S$. The Lab is seemingly aware of this with CEO Ebbe Altberg noting that various caps are in place and thresholds are deliberately low at this point in time.
For those hoping to get into Sansar “soon” as a part of the opening-out to the public, the interviews accompanying the video release suggest that they might have to remain patient:
Toms Hardware: So, you’re running the private creator preview for Sansar for the next quarter or so?
Ebbe Altberg: Yeah. We’re trying to be data driven in the process as opposed to date driven. I wouldn’t say we have all kinds of luxuries and that we’re taking our sweet time, but we want to make sure that it’s incredibly great by the time any user can get access.
Again, this really shouldn’t be a surprise. As I’ve mentioned previously, building something like Sansar is a huge undertaking, one in which time frames are bound to slip. As such, we shouldn’t be holding
T articles from VentureBeat, Tom’s Hardware and UploadVR cover a lot of ground, and I highly recommend reading them all – links below. In the meantime however, and to give myself more time to digest them, I’ll leave you with the preview video.
On January 2nd, Tyche Shepherd issued her year-end summary on the general size and state of the Second Life main grid.
In all, 2016 has seen a slightly larger loss of private regions compared to 2015: 992 private regions (Full and Homestead) removed from the main grid in 2016 compared to 825 the previous year. This represents a reduction of some 5.6% over 4.4% for 2015. In terms of grid size, the loss of private regions was slightly mitigated by an increase in Linden owned regions, leaving the grid with a net shrinkage of 884 regions overall for 2016.
Taking the year-on-year figures from 2010 onwards (that being the last year the grid exhibited a growth in the number of regions), we get the following breakdown for private regions:
While the loss is something of an acceleration over 2015 and 2014, it is still not as drastic as the declines in private regions seen in 2012 and 2013 . Nevertheless, it does indicate a further drop in approximate gross monthly revenues for the Lab. Working on the basis of Tyche Full Private Region surveys I have to hand, a breakdown of recent monthly revenue from private regions can be given as:
November 2013: US$3,857,000 (+/- US $52,000)
March 2016: $3,385,000 ( +/- US $43,000)
December 2016: US$3,162,000 (+/- US $39,000)
This represents around an 18% drop in monthly revenues over a three-year period. While uncomfortable, it’s not outright alarming at this point in time, representing an average loss of about US $19,305.55 per month, compared to the staggering US $63,500 (approx) per month loss the Lab experienced in 2012.
Of course, a loss is still a loss, and sooner or later, continuing revenue decline will have an a visible impact. But it is hard to determine when that might actually be. The surface evidence seems to be that at this point in time, while of concern, the decline isn’t adversely affecting the Lab’s ability to do business. They are still continuing to invest in both Second Life and Sansar, including recruiting for positions working on both. While it is hard to be precise, a reasonable estimation suggests that the company is generating around US $49 million in revenue through Second Life. While we don’t know how much of that is bankable as profit, it’s still a tidy sum in terms of operating revenue for a company of LL’s size.
Some have raised concerns over how much of an impact Sansar will have on SL’s landmass in 2017. I actually don’t think it will. While I anticipate the decline in land will continue (but hopefully at a slower rate than 2016), I simply don’t think Sansar will have any immediate impact on Second Life one way or the other. Not in its first year, at least.
To me, the more interesting question is what can LL do to further offset revenue drops incurred by region losses (and sadly, the answer isn’t simply to reduce tier: that could actually do far more harm than good, given the amounts involved). The Horizons initiative, for example, is one way of spawning additional revenue. We’re now around half-way through that process, and I estimate the Lab has generated around US $45,000 from it thus far. 2016 also saw the private region buy-down offer, which appeared to be enthusiastically received, although numbers are far harder to ascertain on that. Are we liable to see further initiatives in 2017? I’d actually be very surprised if we didn’t.