aZiLe: a Second Life curio

aZiLe; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickraZiLe – click any image for full size

We were directed towards aZiLe by Shakespeare, who dropped a landmark over to me recently. Occupying the bulk of a Full region (a corner parcel to the south-east is a separate private residence), it is a multi-faceted environment predominantly designed by Zoé (zoeliah), with assistance from Boro Moretto (boromir22) – within additional elements I’ll get to – that is a little hard to define.

With its mix of public and private residential units, the region might at first seem to be your typical rental estate – but to view it as such would be a mistake. The region also has an Adult rating and a D/s leaning – but to view it as a D/s role-play environment would also be a mistake.  There is also a strong arts flavour to the setting that offers a further twist of curiosity to it.

aZiLe; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickraZiLe – click any image for full size

Perhaps the easiest way to define aZiLe is to quote region holder Boro:

We wanted to create a space for relaxation in a welcoming setting of beach and holidays. The design is by Zoé, our architect and gardener whose design you will be able to appreciate by touring the sim. It is incidentally a residential space. If you would to live here, contact Zoé for parcel availability, and she will build your house on the beach in the spirit of the region.

aZiLe is above all a friendly space with freedom and a little note of madness because we like lightness and humour. And this offbeat touch gives the people who live here their group name: zinzins. We have no rules, except for common sense and courtesy between adults.

aZiLe; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickraZiLe – click any image for full size

To describe the setting would be a little self-defeating; it is unique enough to deserve to be seen for itself. While “beach and holidays” might be suggestive of sands, surf, palm trees and shady parasols, this is most assuredly not aZiLe. Instead, the region has a certain “shabby chic” run-down look to it that is quite captivating.

The landing point sits just off-centre within the region, looking out over a small beach that has something of the appearance of a holiday setting – albeit it a possible low-cost one. The sand flows down to a small bay where inflatables sit on the water and flamingos strut under the umbrella of trees and palms while a bar sits on one shore, offering a place to sit and relax.

aZiLe; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickraZiLe – click any image for full size

Beyond this, gravel paths, steps and walks wind among an eclectic mix of building, some stone and or brick, many wood; some old, some new. Not all of the building – particularly those near the coast – are private residences, but others are open and sit as galleries or spaces where light D/s role-play might take place – such as the church. Although again, this is not a place in any way devoted to D/s and / or RP.

aZiLe is not a D/s sim and at the same time, some of us are D/s lovers. Since we established we’re a crazy tribe, we’ve decided to try to combine a friendly sim, welcoming everybody, with a spicier side, that we want present, but discreet. We are quite normal people; we need to relax and breathe and laugh. We found the D/s world of SL to be a little too heavy for our taste. The constant need to have rules, the hierarchy, the eternal question “To RP or not RP”… We don’t fit in that mould. We love the exchange. But as conversations, not discussions. We like the idea that SL is like RL. One evening we’ll act light and stupid, or will go dancing, or will simply cuddle. But the other evening we might get deeper.

aZiLe; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickraZiLe – click any image for full size

The art to be found within the region is as broad as the setting itself: sculptures by CioTToLiNa Xue and Mistero Hifeng share space with pieces by Bryn Oh while hippos and giraffe stand within the waters and open spaces. Off to the north-east of the region, there sits on a sandy headland the Gallery Pinot Gris. It stands like a giant bunker and offers a circular display space featuring the art of Rob Barber (Rob Steenhorst in the physical world).

Eclectic and fascinating, aZile is a step outside the more “usual” public region, and well worth the time taken to explore it. For those who take photographs, there’s also a Fickr group where they can be submitted.

aZiLe; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickraZiLe – click any image for full size

SLurl Details

  • aZiLe (Satotage, rated: adult)

 

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High Fidelity changes direction (2)

via High Fidelity

In April 2019, as I reported in High Fidelity changes direction: the reality of VR worlds today (& tomorrow?, Philip Rosedale announced that High Fidelity would no longer be sitting within the content creation / public space provisioning area, and would instead switch to focus on software / platform development. This announcement has now been followed with a blog post by Rosedale that expands on the company’s immediate plans for the future.

In the May 7th, 2019 post Rosedale indicated that the company is shifting its emphasis even further and will be downsizing its workforce by 25% (some 20 people) in the process. The blog post is brutally honest – kudos to him for being so open – and its commentary gave me pause to mull a few things over before offering any lay thoughts of my own.

In stating the reason for the change, Rosedale points to the lack of take-up of VR headsets:

If you had asked me when we started the company in 2014, I’d have said that by now there would be several million people using HMDs daily, and we’d be competing with both big and small companies to provide the best platform—but I was wrong. Daily headset use is only in the tens of thousands, almost all for entertainment and media consumption, with very little in the way of general communication, work, or education.

– Philip Rosedale, Toward A Digital World, May 7th 2019

On the one hand, for those of us who never brought into the whole “VR will be a US $70 billion a  year business by 2020” simply on the basis of the “gee whiz” factor ascribed to it, nod knowledgeably and mutter, “told you so”. But this would rather miss a good portion of the point. As I’ve also pointed out in these pages, VR could in time come to have an impact on our lives in a variety of ways, and there are markets available today that could be – dare I say – revolutionised by its presence.

The problem is, no-one has yet found a way to substantially break into those markets for a variety of reasons. Take education, for example (a big focus for High Fidelity in the past): yes, VR could revolutionise teaching in many areas, but until the cost of headsets has come down substantially to the point where schools can afford to equip a class of 25-30, until questions of controlled access and the provisioning of virtual environments for schools and colleges to access (or build for themselves), the widespread integration of VR teaching remains a horizon vision.

Philip Rosedale, High Fidelity founder and CEO (centre) makes the first of what are now two announcements about the company’s direction, on April 5th, 2019

However, when it comes to the broader metaverse in particular – the starting point of Rosedale’s blog post – VR is really just one component. As he notes, since its inception, High Fidelity has worked hard on many of the foundational requirements for a broader framework in which to set “the metaverse”.

We’ve been working as a company for six years now writing open-source software and creating test events and experiences to enable this imagined place to come into existence. We’ve created a 3D audio engine that can handle large crowds, an open-source graphics engine with live editing, scalable servers, a blockchain-powered currency and marketplace, and more.

– Philip Rosedale, Toward A Digital World, May 7th 2019

Could it be that, moving the focus of VR headsets off to the side until they do gain real, broad-based market traction, some of this additional technology, combined with what had already been achieved through non-VR centric 3D spaces, demonstrate real world uses cases business (and others) might want to adopt? And in doing so, might this further lay practical foundations for wider acceptance of the concepts inherent in a “metaverse” type of setting, one that could in time also more naturally offer VR HMD support if / when the latter does start to become more a part of working environments?

That’s what High Fidelity is now setting out to explore, by delving into the idea of a virtual workspace solution.

For two weeks, we sent everyone home, with their computers, and created a private tropical island where we could work together all day, mostly wearing headphones but not HMDs—we didn’t prescribe the medium of use.

Within the first couple of days it was obvious we were onto something. The 3D audio was always on, perfectly realistic and comfortable. We found ourselves walking around and interacting with each other the same way you would in a physical office. We put up whiteboards and spaces for teams … What if the general trend toward remote and distributed work … could be accelerated even faster by virtual worlds?

– Philip Rosedale, Toward A Digital World, May 7th 2019

Again, for those of us who have been around long enough, this approach might ring a bell. Back in 2008-2010, another company Rosedale founded (but had since departed in an active capacity) tried a similar idea through a product called Second Life Enterprise (SLE), designed to provide companies with a “behind their firewall” implementation of a Second Life based virtual environment for collaborative working.

That idea ultimately failed – although it’s fair to say the reasons for that product’s failure were potentially more rooted in how it was implemented and the walls Linden Lab placed around it to (presumably) protect their IP than in any disinterest in the concept of virtual work spaces or sleazy associations appended to SL itself. And times have moved on a good deal since then; if nothing else eight years on, people are now more au fait with things like virtual spaces, avatars and the like to potentially be more open to virtual working environments.

So time will tell if this new approach works for High Fidelity – again, Rosedale admits there is no certainty in the move. But after six years – most recently with a lot of effort poured into high-profile events – High Fidelity is still struggling to grow an audience, and it really wasn’t clear if anything would substantively change in the next six years if they kept on that road. As such, this a brave move for a start-up to take, and a dose of realism when it comes to the state of play with the VR market. And in the meantime, as the blog post also makes clear, High Fidelity will continue to support its open source VR platform.

Which leads to a final question. Is this a sign that more VR-centric virtual spaces could face some hard decisions? Quite possibly. High Fidelity actually isn’t the first to hit the wall of slow VR take-up. In 2017, Altspace VR announced its imminent closure, but was ultimately saved when Microsoft stepped in.

But again, caution should be exercised if tempted to see this as a sign of the future for something like Sansar. If nothing else, the latter doesn’t have the weight of US $73 million investment sitting on its shoulders, quietly demanding the way be shown towards some kind of future return. Plus, Linden Lab have a viable source of income through Second Life, a platform they are committed to continue to develop and (hopefully) grow. If nothing else, this allows them the potential to throttle / steer the development and growth of Sansar to meet the realities of their potential marketplace without the worry of external pressures.

In the meantime, to High Fidelity, one can only say “good luck” with the new endeavour, and it will hopefully be interesting to see where it leads.