Tivoli Cloud VR: building on High Fidelity

via Tivoli Cloud VR

Hello! We’re building a spatialised metaverse from a volcanic island!

So reads the title of an introductory blog post for an upcoming new VR social environment called Tivoli Cloud VR that reader and friend Thoys Pan nudged me about (I had actually seen and post in passing over the weekend, but Thoy’s nudge prompted me to take a closer look).

Of course, it can seem as if “VR virtual worlds” are popping up all over the place, whether then aim to be spaces as Second Life users might recognise them, or “VR social environments” or hybrid attempts to lean towards the idea of a “metaverse” centred around gaming engines.

However, what makes Tivoli Cloud VR potentially interesting is that it is (at least in part) leveraging High Fidelity’s open-source architecture. The company has also been founded by Caitlyn Meeks, the former Community Manager / chief evangelist at High Fidelity, and Maki Deprez, a former freelance developer at High Fidelity.

As I reported at the time, as a company, High Fidelity somewhat abruptly turned away from developing an open-source, content creation / public space provisioning area with its platform, to focus sole on software / platform development that leans towards more business-based applications (see: High Fidelity changes direction: the reality of VR worlds today (& tomorrow?) – April 2019 – and High Fidelity changes direction (2) – May 2019).

Caitlyn Meeks (l) and Maki Deprez

That change in direction saw the virtual world code for High Fidelity being fully open-sourced for others to take up and run with. It also saw a series of lay-offs in the company, Caitlyn and Maki being two of them.

Nevertheless, both maintained a firm belief in the potential of the platform, so they put their heads together to try to figure out how they might continue with the vision embedded at the heart of High Fidelity: that of building a globe-spanning, fully spatialised virtual world.

We’re building a spatialized metaverse on the architectural foundations first laid by the open-source virtual reality company, High Fidelity. We believe this architecture, and its future progeny, will become the foundation of the spatial networking metaverse we’ve all been waiting for.

In this and future blog posts, we’ll explain why we believe this is the way to go. We’ll talk about the features and functionality we’re adding and changing in our distribution. And we’ll discuss our philosophical differences on important matters like user experience, product design, community support, and commerce.

– Caitlyn Meeks, discussing the formation of Tivoli Cloud VR

This is something of an ambitious goal; High Fidelity raised around US $70 million in inward investment and was – as the blog post notes, headed-up by “known” individuals with a major technology track record, but it couldn’t bring things together; Linden Lab is similarly having issues finding the best placement for Sansar.

However, in reading the Tivoli Cloud VR post, it’s hard not to get the impression that  – finances allowing – Caitlyn and Maki aren’t in a hurry to make a major impression on the marketplace. Rather, they are all too aware of the state of VR take-up (which they charmingly  – and not inaccurately, perhaps – refer to as entering it’s “winter” now the initial over-expectation aspect of the hype-cycle has passed), and so are prepared to work towards VR’s Slope of Enlightenment “springtime” in stages. Thus, this initial blog post might be regarded as planting the public seeds in preparation for a hopeful springtime bloom.

There’s a rich amount of thinking evident in the post, including observations why game engines might not be best suited for metaverse building, and offers an insight into what made working at High Fidelity so engaging. It also explores some of the challenges those trying to build any form of “metaverse” face – as well as being brutally honest about the challenges Tivoli Cloud VR itself faces.

We’re not a big company by any means, we’re just a plucky little startup who wants a metaverse. We haven’t got money to make sexy videos, our shares are currently worth way less than penny stock, we’re not going to have a flashy “initial land offering” on a blockchain. In fact, we’re going to stay away from using the blockchain for now.

– Caitlyn Meeks, discussing the formation of Tivoli Cloud VR

All of which sounds somewhat daunting, but it’s clear Tivoli Cloud VR has more than just moxie and an idea to build on foundations laid by High Fidelity; they have a vision that means that have the support of a bank, and technology services:

We do have is more than enough server resources, donated to us by Amazon, Google and Digital Ocean via the WXR Accelerator and First Republic Bank. What we do have is a ground-breaking open-source metaverse engine, seven years in the making.

– Caitlyn Meeks, discussing the formation of Tivoli Cloud VR

This latter statement points to a potential difference in approach to forming a “metaverse” platform: High Fidelity sought to leverage servers running across multiple hardware environments from high-end servers down to users’ own computers and mobile devices. Tivoli, at least to start with, looks as if it will be focused more on using cloud technology (hence the “Cloud” in the company’s name as well).

It’s too early to focus on the platform itself in terms of pictures, etc., – although I understand that when available, the client will allow access for desktop users as well as VR users. However, providing the company can meet the challenges it has set for itself, it will be interesting to follow their development, and I certainly wish Caitlyn and Maki the best in their endeavours.

Oh, and the volcano reference? That’s related to the fact that Tivoli Cloud VR is headquartered both in San Francisco, California, and in Adeje, on the south-western part of the volcano island of Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, and well within sight of  Pico del Teide, the island’s volanic peak.

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