High Fidelity, Linden Lab, and the return of Philip Rosedale – updated

Logos via Linden Lab and High Fidelity respectively

Update: January 26th: this piece contains speculation (emphasis intentional) about High Fidelity’s spatial audio capabilities playing a future role in Second Life. Commenting on this at the Concierge and Land meeting, Wendi, Izzy and Vix Linden commented that they are unaware of any plans to move in this direction (or discussions on the same), and that for at least the foreseeable future, voice audio within SL will remain with Vivox. Comments can be found on this video (direct timestamp).

On Thursday, January 13th, Linden Lab officially announced that High Fidelity Incorporated was now an official investor in the company.

For the few who may not be familiar with High Fidelity, it is a company co-founded in 2013 by Philip Rosedale, one of the co-founders of Linden Research (Linden Lab), and who had initially departed Linden Lab in a hands-on leadership capacity in 2008, prior to severing all ties (management and board) in 2010.

The news came via an official press release from both parties, and also via blog post from the Lab to users – of which more at the end of this article.

Originally founded to build a distributed, VR-centric virtual worlds / virtual environments platform, High Fidelity was an interesting concept that attracted considerable inward investment (rounding-out at some US $73 million), and provided numerous innovative and unique features and capabilities. However, despite that investment, the support of luminaries such as Tony Parisi, the co-creator of the VRML and X3D ISO standards for networked 3D graphics, and numerous efforts to encourage the use of it (such as a US $15,000 “STEM VR Challenge”), the platform developed by High Fidelity failed to gain broad traction, Thus, in mid-2019, the company announced it would be pivoting its business to focus on a virtual workstation / environment that would allow people to work collaboratively whilst geographically separate (see: High Fidelity Changes Direction: the Reality of VR Worlds Today (& Tomorrow) and High Fidelity Changes Direction (2)).

Then, in December 2019, the company indicated a further change of direction to focus on a (then) unnamed new project, which was eventually revealed to be a new immersive spatial audio capability, which appears to form a part of the structure of High Fidelity’s investment in Linden Lab, as the official press release notes:

 The deal includes a cash investment and distributed computing patents. Members of High Fidelity’s metaverse team are joining the company, and Philip Rosedale, who is a founder of both companies, is also rejoining Second Life as a strategic advisor.
Philip Rosedale: inwards investment to LL via High Fidelity and a Strategic Advisor role with LL

It’s interesting to note that the press release does not indicate any potential board / direct management role for Rosedale – although I’ll be watching the Lab’s management page to see if it is updated subsequent to this announcement.

Certainly, that he, and other members of the High Fidelity team are joining Linden Lab might suggest High Fidelity’s audio capabilities could be playing a role in SL’s future – and it cannot be denied that a rich, immersive spatial voice audio could help SL better serve existing audiences – such as those in the educational sector – and potentially increase the platform’s appeal among potential audiences. I’m also curious as to whether such a capability might be used in overhauling SL’s other audio capabilities, such as through the introduction of audio materials and surfaces. Perhaps time will tell on that.

Another aspect of High Fidelity that might be of relevance – although this is again highly speculative on my part – is whether or not the work and IP the company put into developing their own commerce and micro-transaction system might have a bearing on SL and (more specifically) Tilia Pay.

Obviously, given his work in establishing and running Second Life – a decade of being away not withstanding – and in formulating and developing High Fidelity both initially as a content platform  / virtual spaces environment and more latterly as a potential business tool, Philip Rosedale potentially has a broad enough view of digital spaces, coupled with a direct hands-on approach with software development that could be of significant benefit to Second Life as a it does seek to grow its audience(s).

Outside of what this means directly for SL / Tilia (and for the longer-terms futures of Linden lab and High Fidelity as a whole – e.g. future merger, allowing for respective investors?), this announcement is interesting for a handful of minor points.

The first is that When High Fidelity was being established, Linden Research was one of its early investors, albeit it (according to Ebbe Altberg) on a relatively small scale. The second is that Linden Lab’s Executive Chairman, Brad Oberwager, has been friends with Philip Rosedale for a long time (he has described Rosedale’s wife as one of his closest friends), and they appear to have like minds and approaches to things. Thus, Rosedale’s return in the role of a “strategic advisor” would seem to be a natural fit in helping to leverage  / define SL’s development and potential future directions.

Finally, the announcement that Rosedale will be joining Linden Lab as a “strategic advisor” (note: not as the “new CEO” as I’ve already seen flying around in one in-world group) actually marks his second “return” to a hands-on role at the Lab. In 2008, he handed the CEO reins over to Mark Kingdon (“M Linden”) – although for a while he retained had Board position albeit while working on other business ideas such as Coffee and Power – but then returned to the role on an interim basis for several months in 2010 following Kindgon’s departure and pending the arrival of Rod Humble as the de facto CEO at the end of that year.

Lab Gab Special

To mark Rosedale’s return to the Lab, and hopefully discuss more of what his and High Fidelity’s involvement with Linden Lab means for Second Life, etc., the Lab will be running a special edition of Lab Gab towards the end of January 2022, and – as per the official blog post – the event will be open to questions from Second Life users.

The show will feature both the Lab’s Executive Chairman, Brad Oberwager (Oberwolf Linden) and Philip Rosedale, and questions can be submitted via this form, prior to midnight (SL time) on January 16th, 2022.

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2 thoughts on “High Fidelity, Linden Lab, and the return of Philip Rosedale – updated

  1. If this means that voice in Second Life will be replaced by voice from High Fidelity, it will be the first time in a long time that SL has had a “flag day” change; that is, one where the switchover immediately breaks older viewers, or at least a significant part of their capability. Alternately, viewers could be made that have both voice systems present and automatically make the switchover when it happens so that it won’t be on residents to start using a new viewer on the correct day.

    I’m old enough to remember the days when you had to download a new viewer nearly every week. SL was a different place then…


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