Lab seeking a “plan B” to secure Sansar’s future

Courtesy of Linden Lab

During the Friday, February 21st live stream of Lab Gab, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg gave what may amount to the first fully public statement on the future of the Lab’s social VR platform, Sansar.

Speaking at the top of the programme, he stated:

Yeah, so as you might have heard, sadly we have decided that we, as Linden Lab, couldn’t continue to sponsor the project financially, so we’re looking for a plan B for Sansar to continue. I can’t say much, but we’re having very interesting conversations with several parties to help that project move forward, which I’m really excited about. But no deal is done yet, so people will just have to be patient and see what happens with it, but yes  it is true that Linden Lab going forward will focus entirely on Second Life and Tilia. I’m still busy making sure that Sansar finds a great home and that the great work that that team has started can continue.

So that’s where things are at. Hopefully, we can be more specific on what’s going on in the next couple of weeks or so. So lots of conversations going on.

The statement confirms belief that, following the recent lay-offs of staff working on the platform, that Linden Lab is looking for a new home / a new means to continue Sansar. Whether this means the Lab is looking to sell the platform entirely, or looking for a company to partner with them in order to allow development of Sansar to continue, was not made clear – although the former appears to be more likely.

Also in commenting on Sansar, Ebbe also referenced the “heavy hitters” who have returned to Second Life, laying to rest the unfounded rumour that perhaps Philip Rosedale had returned (Philip is still very much engaged with High Fidelity as a company), and instead appeared to pointtowards the long-term Lindens Whirly Fizzle and I have previously pointed to (see: Linden Lab provide statement on SL in the wake of Sansar lay-offs) – for example: Maestro, Monty and Runitai Linden.

You can hear Ebbe’s comments on Sansar’s future in the audio clip below, and in the Lab Gab video, including his remarks vis. the returning “heavy hitters” and his relationship with Philip Rosedale.

In the meantime, Sansar does still remain open for users, community events continue to be added to the events calendar and experiences remain open for people to visit.

The Virtual Black History Museum: Made in SL and more

The Virtual Black History Museum

Thursday, February 20th saw the release of the latest in the Lab’s on-going video series Made in SL. Subtitled History in SL, it could also fit into the category of Learning In SL, given its subject,the  presents a lesson in both history and education: the Virtual Black History Museum, which has re-opened for 2020’s Black History Month is the United States.

Founded and curated by AbriannaOceanside, the museum traces the often uncomfortable history of African Americans from the days of slavery through to modern times, as well as offering featured exhibitions on African American history and the civil rights movement, with the February and March feature focusing on the Unsung Female Heroes Of Black History – women who may not be as famous as Rosa Parks, but who have nevertheless played important roles in the shaping of African American history in the United States.

Abrianna Oceanside

The museum is split between two min buildings. The first, located alongside the landing point, has within the foyer area a complete reproduction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered on August 28th, 1968, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC.

Through a clearly arrowed door facing the panels bearing Dr. King’s speech, visitors are invited to walk through African American history in America, from 1619 through to the 1960s.

It has been argued that the history of African slavery in America actually dates back almost a hundred years further, to the colony of San Miguel de Gualdape (which also saw the first documented slave rebellion). However, 1619 is not an unreasonable place to start a museum like that, as it was then that a ship privateered by British seamen arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, carrying some 20 African slaves to what might be regarded as the nascent United States as we know it today. Which is not to say Abrianna is in any way ignoring any earlier history of African American slavery in continental America, as I’ll come back to in a moment.

From this point, the museum, through a series of information boards, offers a chronological flow that commences on the ground floor and progress to the upper. This charts the unfolding history of slavery and subsequent matter of segregation, the Jim Crow laws, and the civil rights movement.

The boards can make uncomfortable reading for some, but they do chart a period of American history that forms an important part of the country’s heritage. Currently, they stop at 1965 and the assassination of Malcolm X, and the Watts riots that took place later that same year; but there is a reason for this, which also links back to the use of 1619 for the start of the exhibit, as Abrianna shared with me, as well as revealing some of the future direction for the museum.

At the time I originally set up the museum [2017] I intended to have a build that went into depth as far as what led us to 1619. But a sudden change in real world priorities meant I never had the time for the projects that I now do.

My long-term vision has always been to dig deeper into the “how”; not just a series of events, especially now that I have a more giving volume of space to work within, but also the focus. I want to include an exhibit on modern day issues, like police brutality/high profile cases, the prison system, institutionalised racism in general; it’s a wide topic that would be great for discussion.

– Abrianna, discussing the Virtual Black History Museum and its future

The Virtual Black History Museum

Meanwhile, the second exhibition hall is currently home to the Unsung Female Heroes Of Black History, set to run through to the end of March as noted above. Within it are a series of information boards focusing on nine women noted for their roles in civil rights, LGBTQ issues and as role-models for African American women. These provide an photo of the subject, and a brief outline of her life and work, and are in the process of being updated to direct visitors to a web biography of each woman when touched.

That exhibitions in this building will change around every two months means that visitors to VBHM have an incentive to make return trips to the museum and witness future exhibitions. In this, it forms a part of much wider plans that Abrianna has for public engagement.

I’d love to engage people interactively as well. One example of this would be to stage iconic or significant scenes from the civil rights era that allows visitors to become a witness or participant in them; the Freedom Riders, some of the sit-ins, and Selma.

– Abrianna, discussing the Virtual Black History Museum and its future

The Unsung Female Heroes of Black History

Some of this work will be dependent on Abrianna receiving support – and she is always willing to hear from anyone willing to offer practical assistance; she can be contacted via note card or through the Virtual Black History Museum’s Facebook page. Suitable events are also welcomed at the museum – with the potential for music and arts events already in the planning stages, with Abrianna already looking towards educational opportunities as well – school visits, and similar. So again, those who would be interested in holding a related event at the museum, or who would like to help Abrianna in providing space at the museum as an events venue, should drop her a line.

At a minute and forty seconds, the Made in SL video forms an excellent introduction to the museum, and as excellently narrated by Abrianna, as well as being superbly framed by the use of the famous instrumental version of Billy Taylor’s I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free, adopted as the unofficial anthem of the US Civil Rights Movement, with a version with lyrics recorded by Nina Simone. Once seen, a visit to the museum is highly recommended.

SLurls and Links

2020 Content Creation User Group week #8 summary

Catena et Cavea, January 2020 – blog post

The following notes were taken from my audio recording of the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting held on Thursday, February 20th 2020 at 13:00 SLT. These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, meeting SLurl, etc, are available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

Environment Enhancement Project

Project Summary

A set of environmental enhancements (e.g. the sky, sun, moon, clouds, and water settings) to be set region or parcel level, with support for up to 7 days per cycle and sky environments set by altitude. It uses a new set of inventory assets (Sky, Water, Day), and includes the ability to use custom Sun, Moon and cloud textures. The assets can be stored in inventory and traded through the Marketplace / exchanged with others, and can additionally be used in experiences.

Resources

Current Status

  • Work is continuing to clear the remaining rendering bugs, which are being described as “resilient”.
  • The hope is EEP could be ready to move forward by the end of the month.
  • There is a backlog of potential fixes / enhancements for EEP (e.g. further rendering improvements, improving the brightness of stars, etc). Some of these will form future EEP enhancements, others may be dealt with as part of other work such as on-going rendering system improvements, rather than being held for a future EEP-specifc project”.

ARCTan

Project Summary

An attempt to re-evaluate object and avatar rendering costs to make them more reflective of the actual impact of rendering both. The overall aim is to try to correct some inherent negative incentives for creating optimised content (e.g. with regards to generating LOD models with mesh), and to update the calculations to reflect current resource constraints, rather than basing them on outdated constraints (e.g. graphics systems, network capabilities, etc).

As of January 2020 ARCTan has effectively been split:

  • Immediate viewer-side changes, primarily focused on revising the Avatar Rendering Cost (ARC) calculations and providing additional viewer UI so that people can better visibility and control to seeing complexity. This work can essentially be broken down as:
    • Collect data.
    • Update ARC function.
    • Design and provide tool within the viewer UI (i.e. not a pop-up) that presents ARC information in a usable manner and lets users make decisions about rendering / performance.
  • Work on providing in-world object rendering costs (LOD models, etc.) which might affect Land Impact will be handled as a later tranche of project work, after the avatar work.
  • The belief is that “good” avatar ARC values can likely be used as a computational base for these rendering calculations.

Current Status

  • Vir is still working on the Bake Service issue I’ve noted in my last two CCUG updates. However, he believes he now has a fix, and this is currently going through internal testing.
  • One thing that ARCTan testing has shown is the degree of variability in frame rates in terms of how long each frame takes to process. Part of this might be due to multiple operations running in the same thread when they should perhaps be separated into their own threads, particularly in terms of avatar loading.

Project Muscadine

Project Summary

  • Currently: offering the means to change an Animesh size parameters via LSL.

Current Status

  • Still on hold, but the Aditi simhost that did have the back-end code has also been re-purposed for other project work, so the back-end support for Muscadine is currently unavailable.

In Brief

  • Viewer caching project: this has been a long-term project, which has recently re-started (and which is usually a subject for discussion at the TPVD meetings).
    • There is code related to the VFS caching (referenced in the message seen at viewer-start up) the in in-memory processes that sit on top of it that has not been updated in a long while and which can give rise to stability issues.
    • The Lab now plans to work on this code “extensively” over the next few months.
  • There are claims that use of Animesh impacts simulator performance. As Animesh is predominantly a viewer-side capability, it is hard to see how it could impact simulator performance; it is possible that those experiencing issues could be conflating viewer and simulator performance.
  • Poser project: a contribution from the Black Dragon viewer, this is a project that is currently on hold.
    • The idea is to allow local (i.e. viewer side) joint-by-joint poses by entering different values for each of the required positions and rotations for a joint.
    • The fact that the tool is viewer-side with the results unseen by other users has been seen by the Lab as the project’s core limitation.
    • The Lab’s view is that the easiest way to share the results would be to place them in a single frame animation that puts the avatar into the required pose and which can be seen by other viewers, and this would like be the approach taken when / if the project is resumed.
    • This work has nothing to do with the pupeeteering project from 2011.
  • A further project awaiting resumption is the move to HTTP 2, which will hopefully improve things like asset data fetching, offer improved stability in data handling and improve scene loading.
  • Tidbit: the mesh uploader for Second Life apparently took around 10 people over 2 years to develop / get to work (and still has a UI element that might be incomprehensible to some). As such there is some concern at the Lab that attempt to extend SL to support other modelling formats (e.g. FBX) could result in something equally / more confusing – although this is not to suggest LL is resolutely against supporting other file formats for use with SL.