2018 SL UG updates #39/2: Web User Group

Peace of Mind; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrPeace of Mind  – blog post

The following notes are taken from the Web User Group meeting held on Wednesday, September 26th, 2018.

These meetings are generally held monthly on a Wednesday at 14:00 SLT, and are chaired by Alexa and Grumpity Linden at Alexa’s barn. The focus is the Lab’s web properties, which include the Second Life website (including the blogs, Destination Guide, Maps, Search, the Knowledge base, etc.), Place Pages, Landing Pages (and join flow for sign-ups), the Marketplace, and so on and the Lab’s own website at lindenlab.com.

Marketplace

New Deployment – New Features

A deployment to the SL Marketplace was made on Wednesday, September 26th. However, due to some issues surfacing, it had to be rolled back, causing the grid status report of Marketplace Maintenance.

This is actually the update that includes more of the promises Marketplace updates, including:

  • Wish lists.
  • Follow favourite merchants.
  • A new drop-down of people a user must frequently sends Marketplace gifts to.

It will now be re-scheduled for deployment once the issues have been fixed.

Clean-up

The Lab will shortly be starting a clean-up of the Marketplace. This will most likely be done by running different queries with different criteria, and seeing what the results would be in terms of removed listings / stores.

For example, one query might be run against all users who have not logged-in to Second Life or the Marketplace in (say) 10 years or 6 years, and see how many items might be unlisted as a result. If the outcome is thought to be a manageable amount (i.e. not half the Marketplace potentially vanishing), then the query might be run, and the items unlisted. Then the process will be repeated over a shorter time period (e.g. say not logged in for 8 years of 4 years, depending on the original query). Other criteria, such as number of sales of an item over a number of years, or how frequently an item is flagged etc., might also be added to the mix over time.

This does mean that items that still work in SL, but the creator is no longer active in SL or the Marketplace, will likely vanish. However, as items are only being unlisted, and affected merchants will be contacted and advised where possible. So, they will always have the option to log-in to the Marketplace and re-list their items if they so wish.

Web Updates Release Notes

It is hoped that a location will be established for web property release notes, just as there are pages for release notes on SL wiki.

Automatic Landmark Updating

This is an age-old problem: how to automatically update store (or other) landmarks following a move. In 2012, Toysoldier Thor came up with the concept of the Virtual Landmark (VLM) – see here for the essentials – and which eventually lead to Darrius Gothly developing VLM for Virtual Worlds – see here for the essentials. VLMFVW are not ideal (I have not tested them in five years to confirm whether they still work), but at the time they did assist with the problem.

Unfortunately, having landmarks that can be remotely updated is seen by the Lab as requiring an entire new landmark system and (presumably) and entirely new asset type which would exist entirely independently of existing LMs (and so could cause confusion among users), so this is not something that is likely to happen in the short-to-medium term, if at all.

Date of Next Meeting

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018.

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Oculus Quest: the new Oculus standalone headset system

The Oculus Quest (centre) with the Go and Rift flanking it. Credit: Facebook.

Update, Thursday September 27th, 2018: hands-on reviews, such as this one from Techcrunch, report the Quest is powered by a Snapdragon 835 chipset.

On Wednesday, September 26th, Facebook announced the Oculus Quest, billed as their “first all-in-one VR gaming system”. The new headset is due to start shipping in Spring 2019 with a price point of US $399 and 64 GB of on-board storage.

The Quest isn’t actually the first Oculus standalone headset unit – that honour went to the Oculus Go, launched in May 2018. It provides an experience similar to the Gear VR system offered by Samsung (and using Oculus optical hardware), and sells for US $199 with 32 GB, or US $249 with US $64 GB of storage. The unit was seen as easy to use, albeit with limitations.

Oculus Quest is intended to sit between the Rift and Go, and “first” used with it is in relation to the “VR gaming system”, as Facebook see this new headset being specifically about gaming. It offers capabilities far above those of Go, and even exceeding the Rift. These capabilities include:

  • 1600 x 1440 per eye resolution.
  • Two Oculus Touch style controllers.
  • 6DoF (6 degrees of freedom).
  • Built-in 360 degree audio.
  • Adjustable spacing for its lenses.
  • Four ultra wide-angle sensors for motion tracking / positioning, with “arena sized” tracking capabilities.
The Oculus Quest on display at Connect 5. Everything – battery, CPU, GPU, etc., is contained within the headset. No separate battery case processing unit. Credit: Windows Central

As a standalone unit, the headset uses a dedicated operating system, based on Android (as does the Go), so it will not natively run existing Rift VR titles, although it is anticipated that Rift-focused games will be ported to Quest alongside Quest’s own list of titles – there will be a portfolio of at least 50 titles available when the Quest starts shipping. Interestingly Facebook have indicated that they plan to have a Single button” process to allow Quest centric games to be converted for use on the Rift “with no code changes”.

The key differentiator between Quest and the Rift – other than the standalone nature of Quest – is, as mentioned above, that Quest is being touted as a games-centric headset, while the Rift is seen as more “video” oriented. However, and allowing for development of titles and applications, it’s hard to see such an artificial division between the two remaining in place over time.

In keeping with this, the 50-title line-up for when Oculus Quest starts shipping is games centric, and will include a three-part cinematic Star Wars “6DOF” experience, centred on Darth Vader. Called Vader Immortal, players using it will, to quote, “Be able to step inside the world of Star Wars in the comfort of your living room and, for the first time, truly feel free.” Also as a part of the games element, Facebook note that Quest headsets can be used in multi-player scenarios right out of the box.

An image said to be from Vader Immortal, the new Lucasfilm 3-part VR experience set to launch when the Oculus Quest starts shipping in 2019. Credit: Starwars.com

The sensor system on Quest, now officially called Oculus Insight, sounds particularly impressive. The four ultra-wide-angle sensors coupled with “advanced computer vision algorithms”, allow for full position tracking in real-time. the sensors look for edges, corners, walls and furniture to build up a 3D map of the wearer’s surroundings, while input from the headset’s gyroscope and accelerometer allows an estimate of the wearer’s head position to be calculated every millisecond. Quest also includes a capability called “multi-room guardian”, allowing multiple environments where the headset may be used to be mapped and saved, removing the need for constant recalibration when using Quest in different locations.

The new Quest controllers (seen below) are very similar in nature to the Touch controllers, offering joysticks, menu buttons, a pair of trigger buttons for each hand, and an AB/XY array. The major difference is a new halo that goes around the hand. It is thought this may link with another element of the Oculus Quest ecosystem: an RGB sensor, which may be used to translate controller location in virtual space, and which can double as a “camera” a Quest wearer can toggle in order to see a (greyscale?) view of their real-life surroundings.

The Oculus Quest controllers, similar in nature to the Oculus Touch. Credit: Facebook

No detailed specifications have been given in terms of CPU / GPU for Quest – although it is believed a  high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon is providing the necessary processing. In introducing the headset, Facebook refer to it as rounding out their “first generation” of VR systems:

With the introduction of Oculus Quest, we’ve completed our first generation of best-in-class VR headsets. Oculus Go remains the easiest and most affordable way to get into VR, while Oculus Rift leverages the power of your PC to push the limits of what’s possible. Thanks to Oculus Quest, we’re now able to combine the best of both worlds and welcome even more people into the VR community.

Oculus VR, Introducing the Oculus Quest, September 26th, 2018

With HTC recently having launched a US $300 wireless adaptor for the HTC Vive and Vive Pro – both of which require a high-end gaming rig, Oculus VR may just, with this announcement of the Quest priced at the same level as the Rift, stolen a march on their competition. That said, it’s likely still not enough to get me to invest in a VR headset just yet. I’ll see what the next generation of hardware brings. But for those who are interested in the Oculus Quest, hands-on reviews should be appearing on the web, “real soon now”, to coin a phrase.

Second Life Hair Fair 2018

The 2018 Second Life Hair Fair is currently open, and runs through until Sunday, October 7th, 2018. The event features around 70 hair designers, and as with previous years, is being run to raise money for Wigs for Kids.

Spread across six regions, four of which – Brunette, Noirette, Redhead and Blonde – contain the stores of participating vendors, while the remaining two, Foils and Streaks, are designed for those who prefer to shop by camming rather than walking (and are thus referred to as the Cam Sims).

The four shopping regions are wisely lightly decorated in order to minimise viewer-side lag that might otherwise be created by having a significant amount of extra object and texture rendering.  Stores are easily identified by the large signs located on the brick paths leading around the regions. These are laid out in such as way that wherever you teleport into a Hair Fair region, by following the red brick path in one direction and keeping to that direction, you’ll eventually visit  every store before returning to the point at which you arrived.

The full list of participating merchants can be found on the Hair Fair website together with SLurls. However, do note that direct teleporting is limited to the landing points in each region; to use the store SLurls, copy them into local chat once at the event, then right-click on the display link to display an in-world beacon and arrow you can use to navigate to your desired store.

Hair Fair 2018 Map, on FlickrHair Fair Map, via Sasy Scarborough

All items purchased at this event will have a minimum of 15% of their price donated to Wigs for Kids, and for the men, stores selling male / unisex hair are denoted by a large symbol floating over their roofs. When purchasing, always check to ensure items are received; should you encounter problems, left-click the vendor / pack from which you made a purchase, this will trigger an automatic redelivery. However, do note that the list of purchasers held by each vendor / pack is only so long, so it is essential you check as soon as possible after purchase in order to avoid the vendor / pack dropping your name.

Those wishing to avoid spending too much time in the event regions can join the Hair Fair Demo group (no charge for joining). Notices with demos posted by participating merchants within the group allow styles to be tried prior to visiting, so that desired hair can be identified and the SLurls used to make visits to the required stores. Note that this is the only in-world group associated with the Hair Fair.

If by chance you don’t find hair to suit your needs, there are numerous donation kiosks located along the paths of the regions, so you can always make a L$ donation directly.  There are also Bandana Booths to be found, which also give 100% of donations to the cause, and from which you can obtain Hair Fair Hares.

The Hair Fair shopping regions offer open spaces with minimal additional objects / textures to help reduce viewer-side loads and lag.

About Wigs for Kids

For more than thirty years Wigs for Kids has been providing hair replacement systems and support for children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, Alopecia, Trichotillomania, burns and other medical issues at no cost to children or their families. The effects of hair loss go deeper than just a change in a child’s outward appearance. Hair loss can erode a child’s self-confidence and limit them from experiencing life the way children should. With an injured self-image, a child’s attitude toward treatment and their physical response to it can be negatively affected also.

Wigs for Kids helps children suffering with hair loss look themselves and live their lives. Families are never charged for the hair replacements provided for their children; Wigs for Kids rely completely on both the donation of hair and / or money to help meet their goals.

Read more about Wigs for Kids mission, and discover how hair can be donated.

URLs and SURLs

 

A rendezvous with Florence Bay in Second Life

Florence Bay; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrFlorence Bay – click any image for full size

Florence Bay is a homestead region held by Gnaaah Xeltentat and Tomaso Franizzi, with landscaping by Minnie Blanco (Minnie Atlass). Minnie both runs and landscapes the Soul 2 Soul region (some of which you can read about here, and here); given my fondness for hers work, I was curious to take a look at Florence Bay, so we recently hopped over to explore.

The region is listed by Gnaaah and Tomaso as “private, but please wander and enjoy”. Two large houses are located on the island; as these are private residences for both Tomaso and Gnaaah, people are asked to respect their privacy and consider both properties as off limits, although there are no security systems in place.

Florence Bay; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrFlorence Bay – click any image for full size

The setting is suggestive of somewhere in northern latitudes, the tall off-region peaks on two sides suggesting this is a rugged upthrust of rock just off a stretch of untamed coastline, caught under a cold, wintry sky. Fir trees and scrub grass are the dominant flora on this hunched landscape, their presence and the sound of the wind whistling its way in off the sea further enhancing the sense that this is somewhere well north of the Topic of Cancer.

At the time of our visit, there was no enforced landing point for the region, so for this article I’ve arbitrarily selected a point in the south-east corner of the region, as it seems a logical place to start explorations. A narrow ribbon of shale beach curls around a low-lying promontory here, the home to a copse of tall firs and an old chapel. The latter appears to have been converted to a place for general meditation or reflection, rather than being a place a worship, the altar replaced by a warming fireplace. For those with a taste for adventure, a raft lies among the reeds of the shallows close by. This again offers a place of rest and shelter, although the manner in which its makeshift sail is catching the wind suggests it is eager to break free of whatever ropes or chains are holding it in place…

Florence Bay; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrFlorence Bay

The little promontory curls around to connect to the bulk of the landscape, climbing as it does so. Here rocky paths can be found, one running west, the other north, each leading to the private residences. It is also here that things get a little confusing with exploring.

Beyond the western house is a little café and, sitting behind it on a second headland, a shed housing – rather incongruously, given the overall rugged setting – a car undergoing repair.  However, while the café would appear to be a public space, the only way to reach it is by walking directly in front of or around one of the two private residences, potentially impinging your presence, even in passing, on the property. It thus becomes a little confusing as to whether the café is a public space or not.

Florence Bay; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrFlorence Bay

Similarly, beyond the headland with the garage, the land falls away to another low-lying finger of rock and shale beach, complete with a set of piers reaching out into the deep cut of the western bay. Chairs sit on the piers, and a rowing boat with sitting poses is moored alongside, together with a fishing boat, all of which suggests this is also a public space; but again, to reach it requires a degree of trespass through the garden of the private house.

This pier looks both eastwards and back inland to where the second of the two houses sits high above the frigid water atop a shoulder of rock, and north to were a narrow cleft splits the land, spanned by a wooden bridge. This can be reached by following the path from the my offering arrival point westwards and up over the low hump of a hill, before turning right and away from the first house and its gardens.

Florence Bay; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrFlorence Bay

This route passes over another grey beach of shale curing within the large bay before rising to the western headland, offering a view down to a small, and previously hidden cottage sitting right on the coast, and access to a path running up to the bridge and the small knuckle of rock beyond – the home of firs trees and a bear with her cub.

There are odd little issues that might be found when travelling across the region: the rocks used to mark the paths can be seen hovering over the landscape in places, while there were a few points where we either bounced off of flora that wasn’t phantom or fell through rocks that unexpectedly were. But when taken in total, there is no denying the atmosphere exuded by Florence Bay, accentuated nicely by the region’s soundscape, and the fact that it lends itself as a perfect location for photography.

Florence Bay; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrFlorence Bay

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2018 SL UG updates 39/1: Simulator User Group

Missing Melody; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrMissing Melodyblog post

Server Deployment Plans

There are no planned deployments for week #39.

SL Viewer

The Bakes on Mesh project viewer updated to version 5.1.9.519785 on Monday, September 24th. Otherwise the start of the week sees the majority of the current official viewer unchanged:

  • Current Release version 5.1.8.518593, dated August 14, promoted August 20. Formerly the SL Voice RC viewer – No Change.
  • Release channel cohort:
    • BugSplat RC viewer, version 5.1.9.519462, September 10. 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.
    • Rakomelo Maintenance RC, version 5.1.9.519298, September 5.
    • Animesh RC viewer, version 6.0.0.518949, August 24.
    • Love Me Render RC viewer, version 5.1.8.518751, released on August 20.
  • Project viewers:
  • Linux Spur viewer, version 5.0.9.329906, dated November 17, 2017 and promoted to release status 29 November – offered pending a Linux version of the Alex Ivy viewer code.
  • Obsolete platform viewer, version 3.7.28.300847, May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

Environment Enhancement Project

Those who have been testing EEP have been raising JIRAs on the test viewer, and Rider Linden is about to pass an updated version of the simulator code to the QA team for testing.

It will address some validation where FS had much larger ranges of values than the Lab did. [And] I’ve dealt with a cloud speed issue that had annoyed me and I forgot to get in before we sent out the preview. Internally no cloud motion was 10,10… it will now be 0,0 this means some clouds will suddenly appear to go faster

– Rider Linden on the EEP simulator update

Region Crossings

Joe Magarac (animats) continues to poke at the viewer side of region crossing issues, and has apparently come across a contributing factor to some crossing issues: essentially, on a double region crossing (ie briefly crossing into the corner of a region from another before moving on to the next region) the simulator seems to be sending the viewer an object kill message for the vehicle at the very beginning of region crossing. The viewer sees the message unexpectedly and reacts to it, causing the region crossing issue referred to as a half unsit (he avatar is stuck in the region, unable unsit, move or teleport, and requires a relog as a means to recover). The issue could be down to a race condition in messaging, but  Joe has been using additional logging in a version of Firestorm, and can consistently catch the kill message.

Region crossings currently aren’t being looked at by the Lab, although Simon Linden keeps hoping to get back to looking at the code in the future. In the meantime, Joe continues to log his findings on BUG-214653.

No Spectators 2: a return to SAAM in Sansar

No Spectators 2: The Temple by David Best

In July, I wrote about the opening of a Sansar experience celebrating No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, an exhibition of art created for the annual Burning Man experiment in community and art held in the Black Rock Desert of north-west Nevada. The experience is a reproduction of a physical world exhibition of the same name, hosted by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) at their Renwick Gallery in Washington DC between (effectively) April 2018 and January 2019 as a part of an overall effort by Intel and SAAM to digitise many of the museum’s 157 million objects and present them through the virtual medium as transformative and engaging educational / cultural experiences.

After the publishing of that review, Jason Gholston, Head of Sansar Studios, indicated to me via Twitter that the experience would be expanded over time, and on Monday, September 24th, the official Sansar Twitter account announced the Second Floor of the No spectators experience has now opened to public visits.

No Spectators 2: The Temple by David Best

The centrepiece of the new exhibition is a reproduction of the interior of the 2018 Temple, as designed from laser cut wood by artists David Best. It is an intricate, beautiful design, the original – as are all Temple builds at Burning Man – put to the torch at the 2018 Burning Man event.

David Best is actually responsible for the designs of around half the Temple built at Burning Man, having created the very first in 2000, working with Jack Haye. At the time, Best had been attending Burning Man for about three years, and wanted to present a piece of art. He was also working with a group of young artists who would be attending that same year. One of these young artists was Michael Hefflin, a 28-year-old motorbike enthusiast who was killed not long before the event, and that first temple became something of a memorial to him and to others.

We built this thing and it became obvious that we were building a tribute to Michael. And as we were making it 100 people came by and added the names of people they’d lost. Then we put some diesel on it and burned it.

– David Best, speaking to The Guardian, February 2015

In 2001, Best was asked by the event’s organisers to build another Temple, and given the Black Rock “city” of the festival had just about everything else except a place of meditation, and he took up the offer, and built upon the what had happened in 2000.

I thought, ‘What would I dedicate a temple to?’ Not having any religion – and not being very fond of religion – I thought how in some faiths you can’t be buried in a cemetery if you’ve committed suicide. So since Burning Man welcomes so many things, the most sacred place, in the centre of the temple, should be in honour of those who’ve lost someone to suicide. By the end of the week 500 people had put names in the centre and 10,000 had put names elsewhere in the temple, the names of people they’d lost.

– David Best, speaking to The Guardian, February 2015

In keeping with this, the interior of the piece in No Spectators faithfully reproduces the names and messages left during the 2018 Burning Man festival. Even when visiting the experience in third person desktop mode, these notes, left on Post It sheet, postcards, scrawled on the wood, give an almost tangible emotional depth to the design. So much so that I had another of those rare (for me) moments when I wished I had a VR headset of my own to experience the full immersiveness of the setting while reading them.

No Spectators 2: Hybycozo by Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu

Also in the new exhibit area are reproductions of Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone (Hybycozo for short) models from Burning Man 2014 and 2015. Designed by Yelena Filipchuk and  Serge Beaulieu. Rather than having something to do with Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, Vogons or the destruction of the Earth, these large structures are, in the artists’ words:

A series of large-scale polyhedral installations and artworks that investigate geometry through light, shadow, and perception. The project is inspired by the intersection of math, science, technology, geometry, material, and light.

– Yelena Flipchu and Serge Beaulieu on Hybycozo

However, it’s hard not to escape the feeling that Adams and his classic radio series and books / records (and the spin-off TV series and film) didn’t have some influence the project’s title…

Next to the Hybycozo display is a hall featuring four Gamelatron Bidadari. Again seen at the 2018 Burning Man, these were actually a recreation of  2013 set of instruments created by Aron Taylor Kuffner. Each features 10 Trompong kettle gongs, 12 Reyong kettle gongs, Klentong, Kempli, 4 hanging gongs, 2 ceng-ceng and 4 Kopyak from Bali and Java, all fitted with mechanical mallets on 4 powder-coated and hand-gilded steel mounts. They are genuine musical instruments, designed to be played, and the versions in Sansar are animated, producing a range of chimes in keeping with their physical world counterparts.

No Spectators 2: Stymen Lumen by FoldHaus Art Collective

The final hall of the exhibition area features three Strumen Lumen, large-scale Origami mushrooms that morph into different shapes when activated by visitors, designed by the FoldHaus Art Collective. Animating them is achieved by touching or clicking on the circular buttons on the floor by each of the Strumen.

As well as having a dedicated experience URL, the upper floor of No Spectators can be reached from the lower floor by wither touching the teleport sign at the foot of the stairs in the entrance hall, or by just walking up the stairs (which will also activate a transfer between the two experiences. Similarly, a transfer to the lower floor can be activated by touching a sign at the top of the stairs, or by starting to walk down them.

I’d personally like to see a little more thought given to the way this material is presented in order to become fully engaged throughout. Much of the art at Burning Man is both mechanical / interactive and / or carries a story with it – as with the Temple builds. As such, it would add to the sense of engagement being able to hear the story of the Temple build, perhaps in David Best’s own words, or to here a complere loop of music Aron Taylor Kuffner has composed / played on the Gamelatron Bidadari.

That said, there is enough in this extension to make No Spectators worthy of further visits, and I hope the Lab / SAAM will resume tours of the experiences in the future. Certainly, it was enough to encourage me t see how video filming works in Sansar, using both of the main exhibition spaces, and the “outdoors” area.

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