Category Archives: Sansar

Sansar: new video from Linden Lab

Sansar from Linden Lab

On March 7th, 2017, Linden Lab issued the most insightful video thus far on Sansar, their next generation virtual environment platform. While it may not plumb quite the depths some might like to see, it offers far more in the way of glimpses and outright looks of what Sansar will look like and gives a teasing look at some of the capabilities currently present within it.

At just four seconds under the 2 minute mark, the video offers a narrative tour of the new platform, showing the runtime and editing environments, detailed shots of Sansar avatars, a look at the Sansar Marketplace – or Store – and more. It also touches on some of the market verticals and environments the Lab is hoping to attract to the platform, albeit with a clear slant towards education.

Sansar avatars. Credit: Linden Lab

Starting with the words, “Something is coming. Something revolutionary…”, over a slow, letterbox-style reveal of the platform, the video is polished, smooth and tantalising in what is shown. From scenes within Sansar we’ve witnessed before – the Golden Gate bridge, the fantasy realm with its enigmatic red door it flows to environments entirely new to the wider public eye. As such, it is an excellent piece of teaser advertising, clearly geared towards those the Lab hopes to being to Sansar’s worlds.

There is the inevitable pointer towards VR headsets – which is to be expected, given Sansar is primarily (although not exclusively) a platform for the fully immersed, consumer VR age, but it the video, by its nature, helps to demonstrate that Sansar can be used by those without head mounted displays (HMDs) as well.

A glimpse of the Sansar marketplace – or store. Credit: Linden Lab

For me, some of the points of interest in the video are the snippets of the UI we get to see, particularly when in the edit environment, and the first close-up looks of Sansar avatars offered to the world at large. While the latter may well still be in development, they are already impressive, and potentially a match in looks for Second Life avatars.

A closer look at a Sansar avatar. Credit: Linden Lab

Admittedly, the avatars shown in the video are all restricted to humans, so we don’t get to see the fully range of potentials, but again given that Sansar is being pushed towards the idea of “social VR”, where people are interacting with one another as humans, the emphasis shouldn’t be seen as negative. There’s also the fact that it’s unclear at the moment how far down the road the avatar system is when it comes to supporting non-human avatar types.

Voice syncing is also very cleverly indicated in the video, when the female voice used to narrate the piece is smoothly integrated with a Sansar avatar right at the end of the video, suggesting she has been our guide through this inside look.

A further point of interest for me is the video closes by adding a strapline to Sansar: Created Reality.

Back in September 2015, Ciaran Laval and I ruminated on a domain name filing made by the Lab around the time that the company was filing papers for “Project Sansar” and “Sansar” (see “Created Reality”- possible contender for Project Sansar’s name?). At the time we speculated whether “Created Reality” might be a possible alternative name for the Lab’s platform (still  at that time known only by the “internal” name of “Project Sansar”). Obviously, that didn’t prove to be the case – but it is still interesting to see the term, if not the domain, finding use in reference to the platform

And for those wondering when they’ll be able to step into Sansar, the video offers “Spring 2017”. But enough of the waffling. Here’s the video.

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Sansar via Road to VR: opening “first half” of 2017, monetisation and sundry thoughts

The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)

Sansar. Image courtesy of Linden Lab

In ‘Sansar’ Will Open to All in First Half of 2017 with a New Approach to Virtual Worlds (January 15th, 2017), Ben Lang of Road to VR becomes the latest tech journalist to sit down with Linden Lab to try out and discuss Sansar.  While he covers a lot of what has come to the for in other, similar recent articles, he also provides some further confirmatory / interesting tidbits, some of which allow for a little speculative thinking.

The biggest piece of information is perhaps right up there in the title: Sansar will open in the first half of 2017 (my emphasis). This actually comes as no surprise, as Sansar is a new project, and time frames for new projects of any description tend to slip a little as the work progress. Further, and as I noted in discussing Dean Takahashi’s recent look at Sansar, a degree of slippage appeared to be on the cards when he referred to Sansar opening to the public in “early” 2017, rather than the “Q1 2017” the Lab had previously indicated might be the case.

Ben Lang, Road to VR

Ben Lang, Road to VR

At the top of the article, Lang touches on the aspect of Sansar being focused on “creators” rather than “consumers”.  Again, as I’ve previously mentioned, defining “creator” here is perhaps important.

By and large, “creator” in SL tends  to be used in reference to those who design and make the goods we use to dress our avatars and furnish our land. Outside of lip service, it’s perhaps not a term closely linked with those who obtain land in SL and create environments using the goods they have purchased, rather than building and scripting everything themselves. With Sansar, however, it is pretty clear “creator” is intended to encompass both, and thus perhaps encompasses a broader cross-section of users than might be seen as the case with Second Life.

The focus on “creators” shouldn’t be taken to mean Sansar is “only” for “creatives”. Spaces hosted on the platform will obviously require an audience, be it the public at large or drawn from specific, more niche audiences. It simply means that from a technical standpoint (and most likely outside of the UI), Sansar’s focus is tipped towards those wishing to build environments within it. As an aside to this whole “creator” thing, it’s also worthwhile noting that where previous articles had pointed to around 600 creators being involved in Sansar’s Creator Preview, Lang mentions the number might be around 1,000.

Further into the article, Lang references moving between Sansar spaces, specifically noting “hopping” from one to another via web pages. This is unlikely to be music to the ears of many in SL; however, it’s important to note that this approach is not necessarily the only means to move between experiences.

In the past, Ebbe Altberg has mentioned the potential for “portals” between environments which might be see as “linked” (although it is by no means certain this idea is still be pursued). More particularly, in June 2016, when talking to Mark Piszczor of Occipital about Sansar, he referenced the idea of “teleporting” between Sansar spaces, and more recently we’ve had a glimpse of a Destination Guide style capability in Sansar (apparently called “Atlas”) for moving between different spaces.  So the web page approach might simply be one of several means to get from space to space in Sanar. Time will tell on that.

Inside Sansar. Credit: Linden Lab, via Road to VR

Inside Sansar. Credit: Linden Lab, via Road to VR

When referencing creators being able to monetise their creations, Lang touches on the previously noted ideas of selling virtual goods and creations (up to and including entire experiences) through the Sansar marketplace, and the potential for creators to charge people an entry fee to their experience if they wish. However, beyond this, Lang indicates some of the broader brainstorming going on at the Lab – such as the ability for consumers to pay money to a virtual object which would hold the money and pay it out to its owner at regular intervals.

As Lang points out, this opens the doors to a whole range of potential items – pay-to-play pool tables, vending machines (think broader than the gacha machines we see in SL), rides, etc. So –  and slipping into the realm of pure speculation for a moment – might this allow experiences creators to “rent out” their experiences – say an events venue – to others, and receive a fee each time it is used / instanced anywhere in Sansar, rather than simply selling them for a one-off fee on each copy purchased? The could be an intriguing route to take, if at all possible.

Might Sansar offer the means for experience creators to "rent out" their spaces as a means to monetise them?

Might Sansar offer the means for experience creators to “rent out” their spaces as a means to monetise them? Credit: The O2 Arena

But to come back to Lang’s Road to VR article. He notes that in terms of capabilities, Sansar’s graphics are “actually quite good”, although the physics are lacking. The former is perhaps something of a step down from verdicts passed by other journos, while the latter is promised to be improved in a forthcoming update. He also underlines the “style agnostic” approach to Sansar, which again is a potential differentiator to SL in that creators of experiences in Sansar are likely to have far greater freedom in how they visualise the spaces then build than can be achieved in Second Life.

Overall, ‘Sansar’ Will Open to All in First Half of 2017 with a New Approach to Virtual Worlds, makes for a further interesting read on Sansar, offering some apparent insights that help build the picture of what the world at large might expect once allowed in the platform. Definitely worth a read – as are the comments which follow it.

Sansar: preview video more images, currency and monetisation

The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)

The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)

On Wednesday, January 4th, Linden Lab issued a “showcase” video alongside the public launch of the Sansar YouTube channel.

The launch of the channel is part of the Lab’s promise to gradually reveal more and more of the platform as they move towards opening the doors to public access. Its launch was accompanied by some in-depth media pieces in which Sansar is discussed in far more details than has until now been the case – including word on the platform’s currency, and the overall progress on the platform towards public access.

The video itself – embedded at the end of this article –  was filmed by Draxtor Despres and features Loz Hyde of Meshworx fame,  the video runs to just over 1 minute 30 seconds, and demonstrates the build environment of Sansar as used without a headset and controllers as Loz puts together a grand hall.

Loz Hyde working in the Sansar editing environment

Loz Hyde working in the Sansar editing environment. Credit: Linden Lab / Draxtor Despres

There’s actually not a lot to see in terms of the mechanics of the environment, but Loz’s view of the overall rendering (by which I assume he means the run-time environment, is “amazing”.

We do get to see the latter as well – or what appears to be the latter – when Drax takes us inside via a HTC Vive. The environment, lighting and detail certainly looks impressive, but again, may from SL are liable to be unimpressed with the detail shown, simply because it is a single interior space, and nothing is shown of it in situ as it were. Hopefully more comprehensive shots of spaces within Sansar will come in time. Certainly what is shown offers an impressive taster of what can be achieved in terms of architecture and fittings.

Inside Sansar - the run-time environment (?)

Inside Sansar – the run-time environment (?). Create by Loz Hyde. Credit: Linden Lab

Elsewhere come hints of the size of the Creator Preview programme, and why content creators like Loz are being asked to showcase their work, with the Lab’s CEO noting:

We have over 12,000 creators registered for access to the platform, so we have way more creators than we need to get the feedback, and to ensure they get the tools they need to be successful. We’re really asking these early creators to explain what it is they want to do in Sansar, and if we think the platform is not yet ready to do that, we’re asking them to wait.

Of these 12,000, around 500-600 have so far been accepted into the Creator Preview, and the Lab has revealed that the Sansar currency is now in operation: the Sansar Dollar (S$), which will be traded on the SandeX  – both of which, I assume – are operated under LL’s subsidiary, Tilia Inc, and are something of a port of the facilities and “currency” services the lab built around the Linden Dollar and LindeX. Like the Linden Dollar, the Sansar Dollar will be exchangeable for fiat money, and the system supports payout at least via PayPal.

Sansar Avatars. in a city street scene in Sansar created by Paul Lapointe Credit: Linden Lab

Sansar Avatars. in a city street scene in Sansar created by Paul Lapointe Credit: Linden Lab

What’s interesting here is that the “currency” system (the Lab will doubtless refer to Sansar Dollars as “tokens”), is that it is in operation, with the creators currently engaged in Sansar able to buy and sell their creations among themselves, with the Lab’s Director of Global communications, Peter Gray, noting:

With this new step, they’re [creators] also able to start buying and selling their creations with one another. And so, it’s the start of that sort of economic engine that’s getting warmed up in this creator preview period, and ultimately it will expand. Today they’re able to buy and sell items—pieces of content, but ultimately, creators will be able to monetize entire experience.

This actually makes a lot of sense, not only in terms of kick-starting the Sansar economy and establishing a nascent revenue model for both creators and the Lab, it also means that Creators and leverage one another’s creations to build out their experiences and  – as Peter Gray notes – sell those on as well.

How much the Lab might be generating in revenue from these initial creator-creator transactions – given a “sales tax” is a core part of the revenue model – isn’t indicated (I would actually be surprised if any is at this point being leveraged – outside of a “purchase fee” for S$, simply because the Creator Preview is supposed to be a cooperative venture). However, Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat notes, there will also be a small “hosting fee,” or a property tax equivalent in the real world, for the spaces that you create in Sansar. Again, this isn’t entirely a surprise, but seeing it stated clearly is interesting.

Like the L$, the Sansar Dollar will operate on a user-to-user basis, with the Lab functioning as an exchange operator, not a bank. Currently the exchange rate is running at around S$100 per US dollar, making the S$ more expensive than the L$. However, this is only an initial exchange rate; ultimately, the Lab expects the market to define the exchange rate naturally, so the value might over time move towards something more in keeping with the L$.

Inside Loz Hyde's creation. Credit: Linden Lab / Draxtor Despres

Inside Loz Hyde’s creation. Credit: Linden Lab / Draxtor Despres

One risk that comes with opening the exchange mechanism to a limited audience of users (creators) is the risk that the exchange itself could be manipulated through things like volume purchases of S$. The Lab is seemingly aware of this with CEO Ebbe Altberg noting that various caps are in place and thresholds are deliberately low at this point in time.

For those hoping to get into Sansar “soon” as a part of the opening-out to the public, the interviews accompanying the video release suggest that they might have to remain patient:

Toms Hardware: So, you’re running the private creator preview for Sansar for the next quarter or so?

Ebbe Altberg: Yeah. We’re trying to be data driven in the process as opposed to date driven. I wouldn’t say we have all kinds of luxuries and that we’re taking our sweet time, but we want to make sure that it’s incredibly great by the time any user can get access.

Again, this really shouldn’t be a surprise. As I’ve mentioned previously, building something like Sansar is a huge undertaking, one in which time frames are bound to slip. As such, we shouldn’t be holding

T articles from VentureBeat, Tom’s Hardware and UploadVR cover a lot of ground, and I highly recommend reading them all – links below. In the meantime however, and to give myself more time to digest them, I’ll leave you with the preview video.

Media Links

Engadget and VentureBeat visit Sansar

The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)

The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)

There have been a couple of articles on Sansar in December, each of which touch upon Second Life. While both retread ground already familiar to those of us who have been following Sansar’s development. However, hidden within them are some interesting little nuggets.

Appearing in the December 17th edition of VentureBeat, Dean Takahashi’s Linden Lab’s Sansar will take virtual worlds far beyond Second Life, caused umbrage with at least one pundit, leading as it did with the statement “Second Life is by far the most successful virtual world ever created”, resulting in some kind of kindergarten like comparison of “who has the most”.

Dean Takahashi, lead writer, GamesBeat

Dean Takahashi, lead writer for VentureBeat’s, GamesBeat

Yes, there are other virtual / game environments out their with a larger cache of active users; but then, do any of them present the kinds of opportunity  for revenue generation on a scale achieved by Second Life? Does it really matter which has the most of what?

No, not really. Of far more interest to me is what Takahashi has to say about Second Life – the fact that it is still going strong – and about Sansar.

Foremost in this – although easily unnoticed – is the reference the Sansar opening its gates to the public at large in “early” 2017.

Over the last few months the Lab has talked in terms of “Q1 2017” as the time frame for Sansar’s opening out. It’s a precise time frame, indicating a period between the start of January and the end of March. “Early 2017” is somewhat less precise, and while Takahashi may be using the phrase as a different means of stating “Q1 2017”, it’s hard not to wonder if perhaps his wording is indicative that the Lab is now looking a little beyond Q1 2017 for opening Sansar to the public.

If so, it wouldn’t be surprising. Slippages happen with big projects, and shouldn’t be unexpected or seen as sign that something is “wrong”; it’s simply the nature of the beast. And we have already seen it at least once with Sansar, when the opening of the Creator Preview slipped from the target of June 2016 to August 2016.

Elsewhere in his piece, Takahashi pulls out the WordPress analogy. This is something we’re all probably tired of hearing, given it’s been raised in just about every interview / report on Sansar during the course of 2016. However, that doesn’t make it any the less important, because it is one of the central reasons why Sansar could reach a much, much broader audience than Second Life has managed to achieve, and Takahashi observes:

Rather than one continuous world, Sansar is a set of virtual spaces that will be a lot more accessible than Second Life. You could, for instance, share the link to your virtual space on social media and invite people to visit it that way. With Second Life, you typically visit the site, download the client, create your avatar, and then join it.

Second Life users looking unfavourably on Sansar has made much of this lack of it being a “continuous world”. but while we, as Second Life users are undoubtedly conditioned by the presence of the map, the same isn’t automatically true for a broader audience of the kind Sansar is being aimed towards. They’re liable to be far more interested in finding and accessing the experiences they want to enjoy and then having the means to possibly jump to other points of interest, regardless of whether or not they are in any way “geographically defined” one to another – perhaps via teleporting, something Ebbe Altberg hinted might be the case when talking to Occipital’s Mark Piszczor back in June.

Nick Summers, associate editor, Engagdet UK

Nick Summers, associate editor, Engagdet UK

In writing Second Life’s creator is building a ‘WordPress for social VR’ for Endgadget on December 21st,  Nick Summers also examines how people will move between Sansar experiences, referencing the use of an “Atlas” search directory (something we’ve also previously seen demonstrated). This appears to be akin to the SL Destination Guide, presenting a means for Sansar users to hop between connected experiences much as we hop around Second Life.

A further point of interest between the two pieces – which cover a lot of common ground in terms of what the reports are shown within Sanasar – is the manner in which the one article raises a question and the other answers it.

Take object manipulation. Up until now, the vast majority of object manipulation in Sansar has been sown in the Edit Mode, although it has been indicated that some basic manipulation will be possible in the run-time environment (and we’ll certainly need to interact with objects in the run-time environment if we are to sit on them, drive them, fly them, etc). However, Takahashi refers to moving a palm tree around and bouncing rubber balls about. So is object manipulation not more accessible in the run-time space?

Summers’ article suggests not, noting that manipulation in the run-time environment is still “limited”, and referencing the edit more more directly when discussing moving and placing things.  Both offer interesting tidbits which perhaps also help people who may not quite see the “point” or “audience” for Sansar.

Ebbe Altberg moving virtual furniture around in Sansar, demonstrating some of the platform's capabilities at the WSJ.D Live conference, October 24th-26th

So far, object manipulation in Sansar has only been shown in the platform’s edit mode, such as when being demonstrated at events like the WSJ.D Live conference, October 24th-26th. How much of this might be possible in the runtime environment? How will personal object manipulation be handled within spaces you don’t necessarily own, such as a role-play environment where you are a “player”?

Takahashi, for example, references Altberg’s comments that Sansar offers the kind of defined, manageable environment in which a school or architectural might comfortably develop (and have hosted) an immersive educational or design experience without the need to necessarily being in external design talent or partake of an entire MMO / virtual world experience.

Elsewhere, Summers shines a little bit more light on the potential for revenue generation through Sansar for both the Lab and content creators:

It’s unclear how much Sansar will cost for people who want to design their own VR world. Linden Lab envisions a low, monthly fee that will grant creators access to a virtual plot of land. They can build whatever they want on top, and then choose whether to charge an entry fee for visitors. Designers will, of course, also have the option to sell their individual items on the in-game marketplace. Sansar is therefore like a canvas. Linden Lab will provide some basic paintbrushes, but the hope is that artists will bring their own. They’ll pay the company to store and display their work — similar to an art gallery — and then earn some cash when someone requests a viewing or permission to rework it as part of something new.

Taken together, both of these articles complement one another nicely. Yes, they do re-tread familiar ground, but they also – possibly – give us a few new pointers and insights into Sansar which raise the interest level a notch or two.