The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Sansar

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man – Truth is Beauty, by Marco Cochrane

Monday, July 23rd saw the launch of the latest joint venture Sansar experience developed by Linden Lab’s Sansar Studios and Intel, who this time are working with The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) to present No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, an intriguing experience that helps demonstrate the potential of VR in bringing art and culture from the physical world to those not readily in a position to visit them first-hand.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man is also the title of a physical world exhibition at SAAM’s Renwick Gallery in Washington DC, that runs through until January 21st, 2019 and which serves as the inspiration for the Sansar experience.

As the name implies, the exhibition is a celebration of art from Burning Man, the annual experiment in community and art, influenced by ten main principles, held in the Black Rock Desert of north-west Nevada (and which will be very familiar to many Second Life users). The Sansar experience offers a faithful reproduction of the exhibition in a space modelled directly on the interior of the Renwick Gallery itself.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man – Tin Pan Dragon by Duane Flatmo

The physical world exhibition is a collaboration between SAAM, through its Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, Nora Atkinson, and the Burning Man Project, the non-profit organisation responsible for producing the annual Burning Man event in Black Rock City, and takes its name from a saying common among those who attend the Playa the area in which Burning Man is held.

“‘No Spectators’ is a long-standing saying on Playa. You are encouraged to fully participate. It’s all about being there, being fully present, and not just observing. Two of the ten principles of Burning Man are radical participation and radical inclusivity, meaning that there are no outsiders. Everyone is part of the experience.”

– Nora Atkinson, Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Nora Atkinson has also been instrumental in bringing the exhibition to Sansar. The Smithsonian has a mission to reach a billion people globally with its art, and VR is one of the means the museum has identified as allowing them to achieve that goal – although the idea to use Sansar as a medium originated with Intel.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man – Paper Arch by Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti, with the version at the Renwick inset

Over the course of the last year, the technology giant has been building a relationship with Linden Lab and Sansar. In January 2018 for example, Intel’s entire Consumer Electronics Show (CES) booth was reproduced within Sansar, together with a walk-through model of the Intel 8th generation CPU core. Nor was that all, Intel introduced the Sansar Ready Player One experience, Aech’s Garage (and reviewed here) to the world through CES, featuring it and Sansar in a keynote address at CES given by Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich.

Nor has that been all, Sansar later went on tour (so to speak) with Intel, turning up at places like the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where Sansar has again be on demonstration under the hashtag of #FutureofStorytelling, which has been strongly associated with VR.

Intel has also worked in the past the the Smithsonian, producing Beyond the Walls, a room-sized VR experience, developed for the HTC Vive system. It reproduced a garden that American writer Henry Adams, created, featuring a sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, in memory of his late wife, Marian Hooper “Clover” Adams. That experience was so successful, Intel sought to work with the Smithsonian again, and the Renwick exhibition and Sansar came across as a perfect match.

We had an idea that VR would be a compelling medium to take people to places they haven’t gone to, or will never go to, and produce really meaningful experiences.

– Raj Puran, Intel’s Director of Business Development

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man – Evotrope by Richard Wilks with Michael Conn and Victor Rodarte. The archway to the left is the teleport to the Playa experience

Within Sansar, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man is home to reproductions of some of the iconic pieces from the Renwick’s physical world exhibition, including the towering Truth is Beauty, by Marco Cochrane, and the beautifully intricate Paper Arch by Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti. The latter has been especially reproduced by the artists for the Smithsonian exhibition, given the original was actually burned at Burning Man.

The startling thing with all of the pieces on display is the level of detail within them. Within VR / first person, it is akin to getting right up close and personal with the “real thing” on a 1:1 scale that is truly unlike many other art environments. Get right in close to Truth is Beauty, for example, and the extraordinary intricacy of the original’s design is revealed.

Currently, the Sansar team, working with the Smithsonian and Intel, have reproduced the ground floor exhibition spaces at the Renwick – the first floor halls are part of a project to be unveiled soon. Intel have also produced a video (below) which intriguingly shows a holographic approach to displaying some of the art: an open space where avatars can select and rez additional works. I’m uncertain if this is meant to be part of the actual Sansar experience, the pieces seen in the video are actually displayed in the “Playa” – an “outdoor” space reached by passing through an arch (and experience teleporter) at the back of the ground-floor exhibition halls – perhaps it’ll appear in the future.

As noted above, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man is part of an extensive project between Intel and the Smithsonian to digitise more of the museum’s 157 million objects and present them through the virtual medium as transformative and engaging educational / cultural experiences – although it’s not at this time clear how extensive Sansar’s role will be within this broader project.

As a part of the work, Intel has indicated that Beyond the Walls will be re-released in 2018, featuring the art of Saint-Gaudens, together with that of sculptor Hiram Powers, painter Frederic Edwin Church and contemporary media artist Alex Prager.

The Playa is an outdoor exhibit annexed to No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man. This is a little more of a disappointment, coming over as a haphazard display without any real context for the Burning Man Playa. Given the Renwick’s own exhibition spills over into outside spaces, it would perhaps have been nice to see this experience reflect that. But perhaps there is more to come here as well; or perhaps it is simply a holding space for art to be added to the next phase of the No Spectators experience …

As someone who has a passion for real and virtual art, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to seeing how experiences like this ground within Sansar as the capabilities of the platform continue to be built out and allow for more imaginative ways by which visitors to such exhibits can interact with, and learn about, the art they present.

With Sansar, we hope not only to make the museum experience more accessible, but to also empower people to curate experiences of their own and share their unique perspectives with the world. We’re thrilled to be supporting this transformation of art and education, and we’re excited to find forward-thinking partners in Intel and the Smithsonian.

– Jason Gholston, Head of Sansar Studios

Experience URL and Related Links


2018 viewer release summaries, week #29

Logos representative only and should not be seen as an endorsement / preference / recommendation

Updates for the week ending Sunday, July 22nd

This summary is generally published on every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog.
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.
  • Note that test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are not recorded in these summaries.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version and dated June 15th, promoted June 21st – formerly the Pálinka Maintenance Release Candidate – No Change
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • The BugSplat RC viewer, version, released July 20th, 2018. This viewer is functionally identical to the current release viewer, but uses BugSplat for crash reporting, rather than the Lab’s own Breakpad based crash reporting tools.
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers


  • No updates.


  • No updates.

Mobile / Other Clients

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Space Sunday: British space ports and some female space firsts

The United Kingdom is to gain a vertical launch space port in what might at first appear to be one of the most unlikely of locations: the A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland, Scotland, one of the most northerly points in the UK’s mainland.

The announcement that the UK Space Agency has selected the location, sitting between the Scottish coastal villages of Tongue and Durness, was made on July 16th, 2018. The new facility will be kick-started by a new £2 million fund established to boost vertical space port development across Britain.  In addition, the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), a Scottish government agency, will be given £2.5m from the UK government to develop the space port which could be up and running by the early 2020s.

In all, the HIE claims to have secured a total of £17.3m to develop the facility: £10 million through the HIE itself, and the remainder being put forward by “other sources”. It was selected over proposed sites at Unst in Shetland, and North Uist in the Western Isles.

The UK’s first vertical launch facilities will be developed on the north coast of Scotland and serve the polar orbit market. Credit: The Guardian

Given that most launch facilities try to be as close to the equator as possible in order to gain and additional “boost” from the Earth’s rotational speed of 1,600 km/h when launching a space vehicle, siting a space port so far north might at first sound odd. However, the facilities to be built at A’Mhoine, which will initially employ around 40 people on-site and provide supply chain jobs for up to 400 more, is not designed to place payloads in near-equatorial orbits. Instead, it will offer a means to reach the highly sought-after polar orbit, so-called because the payload circles the Earth pole-to-pole.

This is an increasingly valuable orbital path as a payload in such an orbit can, over time, pass over just about every point on the surface of the Earth, thanks to both its orbit and the Earth’s own rotation. Thus, it’s an ideal orbit in which to place Earth observing satellites, weather satellites, climate observing satellites – even communications relays.

A high northern latitude launch centre is also ideal for placing satellites in Sun-synchronous orbits, which allow their solar panels to remain in permanent sunlight. Such orbits are popular again with weather and climate observing payloads and also spy and ELINT (electronic intelligence) gathering satellites.

The primary launch vehicle for use at the new site has already been selected. It will be provided by a consortium of US aerospace firm Lockheed Martin and start-up business Orbex. They plan to use the New Zealand developed Electron rocket, designed by Rocket Labs.

Newquay Airport, Cornwall, could become one of a number of horizontal launch centres in the UK, and has announced a strategic partnership with Virgin Orbit to fly 747 / LauncherOne missions out of the airport, possibly starting in 2021. Credit: Cornwall Council

In addition, the UK government is also looking to develop so-called “horizontal spaceplane operations” centres across the UK. One of the prime contenders for this type of operation is “Spaceport Cornwall”, focused on Newquay Airport. Coinciding with the Scottish launch facility announcement, it was confirmed by Cornwall Council, operators of the airport, that Virgin Orbit and the airport’s management had entered into a strategic partnership which could see the airport become a base of operations for Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne / 747 carrier aircraft combination.

If all goes according to plan, the first 747 / LauncherOne flight from UK soil could take place in 2021. The agreement itself marks the second such arrangement Virgin Orbit has entered into with a European country – as I reported in my previous Space Sunday update, the company has also entered into an agreement with the Taranto-Grottaglie airport in southern Italy to operate flights from that airport, alongside possible tourist flights by Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Orbit could be operating its LauncherOne rocket at carrier 747 out of Newquay Airport, Cornwall, from 2021. Credit: Virgin Orbit

The UK is a leading developer and constructor of satellites and other space systems, both on its own, through the likes of Surrey Satellite Technology, BAE Systems, ADS, and so on, and through the European Space Agency.

Name Sought for ExoMars Rover

The UK is the prime contractor for the European Mars rover, due to lift-off for the Red Planet in 2020 and set to commence operations there in 2021. A part of the European Space Agency’s ExoMars campaign, the rover is within a formal name. So, to correct this, on July 20th, 2018, the UK Space Agency launched a public competition to give the rover a name.

Entries are open to all EU citizens and limited to one entry per person. Entrants must offer a name for the rover and give a 150-word explanation of why they think it should be used. Entries must be submitted no later than 23:59pm BST on October 10th, 2018, and the winner and three guests will be able to tour the Airbus facility where the rover is being built.

The UK is the second largest European contributor to the ExoMars mission, behind Italy, having invested around £270 million into the programme. Airbus Defence and Space UK is leading the build of the rover, with the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London, developing the rover’s major “eyes”, a high-resolution 3D camera which will be used to look at the terrain and rocks to try to detect signs of life. In addition, Leicester University and UK-based Teledyne e2v are involved in developing the Raman Spectrometer on the rover, while the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory will be responsible for processing the data it delivers.

British astronaut Tim Peake announces the launch of the competition to name the ExoMars rover, with a full-scale mock-up behind him. Credit:

Those wishing to enter the competition to name the rover can do so via the link above. The full terms and conditions for the project are available here. However, for those so inclined, “Marsy McMarsface” has already been ruled out as an option! (If you don’t get the reference see here – and I should probably note that Boaty McBoatface will sail with the Sir David Attenborough as well!)

Continue reading “Space Sunday: British space ports and some female space firsts”

Arrivals and Departures in Second Life

Erstwhile Station: the setting for Arrivals and Departures, a new Second Life machinima

Arrivals and Departures is a new machinima from CEH Productions, a collaboration between Caledonia Skytower from  Seanchai Library, Elrik Merlin of Radio Riel and Designing Worlds, and Honey Heart of Elite Equestrian.

The 15-minute film, premiered in-world at a specially constructed theatre setting on Sunday, July 22nd, 2018, takes the audience into a moment of time in the lives of two people who come together for one last, shared moment. It reveals how their individual journeys have become intertwined, and the essential role each has come to play for the other. Though the word is never uttered in the film, it essentially addresses aspects of our attitude towards death.

He has accepted the journey on which he must now embark. His last act is to pass along that which has been most important in his life to someone who is remaining behind – requesting their commitment to carry on the work. She is dropped without warning into loss, grief, and accepting his legacy with no warning or time to become accustomed to its inevitability. She must choose to be present for him in this moment, accept the commitment with which he tasks her, and be prepared to continue on – while at the same time dealing with the shock and weight of it.

– Caledonia Skytower on Arrivals and Departures

Arrivals and Departures: Him and Her (via Caledonia Skytower)

The story was inspired by, and performed in, the superbly imagined Erstwhile Station, a Steampunk-inspired space port created by leading virtual world creators Sharni Azalee and Marcus Inkpen of The looking Glass fame for Fantasy Faire 2018. The build was generously donated to the project by Sharni and Markus, with Technical Director Honey Heart re-erecting it as a film set, using path-scripting techniques within the build required to realise the film’s action. For the premiere, Honey also provided a special theatre setting based on the film set, and which remains open for further viewings of the film.

Arrival and Departures is a transatlantic production; Caledonia Skytower, as writer based in Washington State, Honey Heart, who also developed the in-world animations used within the film, is based in Michigan, and Erik Merlin, who edited the film from footage he and Caledonia shot, is based in Scotland. Both Caledonia and Erik voice the principal characters.

The story itself is beautifully told. As noted above, it is a tale of passings and also of beginnings. It also highlights the vital importance of storytelling, harking back to an earlier time when tales were woven into a verbal tradition that was handed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next. Delicately folded within it is a reminder that while those who leave us in this life may physically pass beyond our reach, we can nevertheless continue carry them within us, breathing life into their passions and ideals by inspiring and teaching, loving and caring for those around us.

The Arrivals and Departures theatre setting, while will remain in place for several days after the July 22nd Premiere of the film, and where visitors are invited to watch it in-world

Eloquent and poignant with an elegantly told story, Arrivals and Departures is an outstanding film, and not one to be missed. You can see it on-line via the following links, or if you prefer, in-world through until 16:00 SLT on Tuesday, July 24th, 2018 at the Arrivals and Departures theatre in-world (Silver Sands, rated: Adult):

In addition, and with the producers’ permission, I’ve embedded the film at the end of this article.

About CEH Productions

  • Caledonia Skytower is an artist and storyteller with over 30 years of experience as a theatrical designer, production manager, and non-profit administrator. Since 2008 she has worked as a volunteer presenting literature live in virtual worlds, logging in over 1000 hours to benefit a variety of charities, and develop engaging experiences to promote reading and literature, as part of Seanchai Library. She continues designing for the stage, works as project specialist, a small non-profit consultant, and has self-published ten titles of fiction, poetry and reflective essays.
  • Elrik Merlin has been in Second Life for over a decade. Virtually from the beginning, he has been involved with in-world media, as a DJ, a presenter (and Technical Director) on Radio Riel, and on Designing Worlds, the popular weekly TV show on design and designers in virtual worlds, which he films and edits, and co-hosts. He is also involved in Fantasy Faire Radio and his voice can often be heard on promos and sponsor messages, and on several of the “Tales from the Fairelands” stories that are broadcast on FFR. He has frequently taken part in in-world and radio drama over the years, with groups including the Radio Riel and Fantasy Faire Players.
  • Honey Heart is the owner of two award-winning in-world companies, Ladies’ Pleasure and Elite Equestrian, where she heads a team of highly talented designers and scripters specialising in developing innovative horse avatars and accessories for equestrian enthusiasts. At the same time, she also has a design practice in real life. She originally began designing in SL because she couldn’t find tack and accessories for her and her first horse, Dancer, so she started making them herself. Then others wanted to buy what she made, and it grew from there. She finds growing a business with her partners to be the best fun in SL.