Speedlight: looking at the 3D world view

via Speedlight

At the end of March 2020, Speedlight, the browser / Android Second Life client, extended its world rendering capability to Free account holders whilst also offering Gold members the ability to move their avatars around.

Over the last few days, I’ve had the opportunity to take Speedlight’s world view for a test on both Free and Gold accounts, and this article is intended to act as both an introduction to the capability and to provide insight into where it stands at this stage of its development.

Before getting down to specifics, it should be remembered that it is still very early days in the development of Speedlight’s rendering capabilities – what is seen here is by no means anything close to what might be considered a “finished” product. Avatars, for example, are only presented as rudimentary “manniquins”, as the emphasis thus far has been on rendering in-world objects, and the Speedlight team plan to improve avatar looks in the future.

The Speedlight world view showing our living area at home. The rendering is acceptable, although there are some niggles that will doubtless be addressed in future updates (e.g. in this image, the “glass” doors rendered as soid grey objects, the ceiling rendering as black). Certainly, they are not enough to detract from what has been achieved at this early stage of work

Also at this point in time, the world view doesn’t offer any avatar / object interaction (no right-click options, etc.), and interaction (chatting, IMs) with other avatars is via switching tasks using the left menu. Other points worth keeping in mind with the world view are:

  • As I understand it, Speedlight uses an intermediary server for organising asset data information for download to the client, and this can have an impact of how fast a scene can be rendered. It also means that rendering can occur in “bursts” as object and texture data is collected (visible in the information bars at the top of the world view panel – see below), so it’s perhaps preferable to refrain from changing your camera view / moving your avatar until the scene has loaded.
  •  Key differences between Free and Gold accounts in terms of world rendering are:
    • Free accounts do not (as of the April 1st 4.093.0825 release) have the ability to move their avatar, but can orbit / zoom their camera.
    • Gold account can move their avatar via the Arrows keys when running in a browser, or via the on-screen “joystick” when using the dedicated Android app.
    • I understand from Speedlight support that the number of textures / objects a scene loads is “capped” for Free accounts at present, in order to prevent the intermediary server from being flooded with requests to handle asset information.
  • The world view requires a minimum of Android 7.0 to work on an Android device (either using the dedicated app or when running Speedlight through an Android flavour of a web browser). As I only have Android 6.0.1 at my disposal, this precluded me from trying Speedlight’s rendering on a mobile device.
  • In order to limit any excessive load, rendering is limited to a radius of apprximately 50-60m around your avatar / camera, with objects fading into haze – an effect that helps disguise what might otherwise be glaring “holes” in a scene.

Accessing the World View

  • Log-in to Second Life via your Speedlight account and Open your avatar account.
  • The Summary screen will be displayed.
  • Click / tap the 3D World View option in the left side menu.
  • If you have not run the 3D world view during the current session, a blank window is displayed with the message: Avatar Is Not Rendering 3D World.
  • Click / tap the button under the message to start the rendering process.
  • Rendering will commence, with a warning that it could take 2 mins. Given the variables involved (complexity of scene, information fetching / caching, network connectivity and speed, etc.) this is a not unreasonable estimate.
  • The information bars at the top of the world view (see image below) will report the land area, the number of textures and objects that are being processed / loaded.
The world view explained: 1: the X, Y, Z region coordinates of your avatar; 2: object and texture load count – will change as you cam / move / teleport. 3: horizon hazing at the limits of the pre-set draw distance; 4: avatar mannequin – displays a small green arrow (not always visible) to show direction being faced / avatar will move in (Gold only); 5: information bar – Gold membership shown; Free accounts have a yellow panel located on the left of the world view, carrying different information

Observations

Given this is still very much a first cut at scene rendering, what is presented is impressive, if with some niggles to be addressed, as noted above, and with things like dealing with blended alpha masks and with some transparent surfaces, etc.). However, these will hopefully be addressed over time.

Movement also seems to have a degree of latency surrounding it – possibly because of the use of an intermediary server on top of general network / connectivity aspects. This can be particularly noticeable when ceasing avatar movement, which can result in a degree of “rubber banding” as the avatar’s position as estimated by the client is updated with its position as recorded by the simulator. As such, I found it preferable to use light, repeated taps on the movement keys rather than holding them down for extended periods.

I also encountered a peculiar issue with my avatar simply refusing to stop walking, even after a teleport; something that I could only remedy by relogging. It’s something that may well be unique to me, although I’ve reported it to the Speedlight team just in case. Should anyone trying Gold membership with Speedlight encounter a similar problem also advise the Speedlight team?

Overall, and in terms of appearance, it is not unfair to say that Speedlight’s world view is pretty much on a par at this point in its development with that Lumiya’s world view during its earliest days of development – and look how far that went over time. Whether Speedlight will go on to mature to a similar level of capability with its rendering obviously remains to be seen. However, given that development is only a couple of months old (and niggles aside) what has been produced thus far is not to be sneezed at, and I look forward to continuing to cover the client’s development in the future.

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