Hi-Fi and the Lab: in the press, & further speculation from me

Logos via Linden Lab and High Fidelity respectively

Following the announcement that High Fidelity, the company co-founded by Philip Rosedale in 2013 and after his departure form Linden Lab, has invested money, patents and staff into the latter, the news hit a lot of on-line tech publications and even the Wall Street Journal – creating a buzz around Second Life that has so far, if we’re honest, somewhat eluded the Lab in the wake of all the broader “metaverse” chatter that has been going on.

Of these articles, the most detailed came via GamesBeat / VentureBeat (by the ever-informative Dean Takahashi), c|net and The Wall Street Journal (the latter via Archive to avoid the paywall)¹ that added butter to the bread of the original announcement, which I’ve summarised below, and which gave me further pause for thought.

To deal with the bullet point takeaways first:

  • The patents transfer from Hi Fi is for distributed computing, and include “moderation in a decentralised environment patents.”
  • In all some 7 members of the Hi Fi team will be moving to work alongside the Second Life engineering team, effectively increasing it by around 20%.
  • The move will mean that around 165 people will be working on Second Life and Tilia.
  • Two elements of the work Hi Fi staff will be involved in are:
    • SL’s “social aspects”, given as “avatars and digital marketplace”. I assume the former is a reference to things like “avatar expressiveness”, on which more below.  And the latter potentially greater accessibility to SL’s Marketplace by users using mobile options, etc.
    • Oberwager also indicated that Hi Fi’s work will be to assist LL in developing “the tools to make virtual economies work” and a concept for “underpinning FinTech to metaverse” – which I assume is a reference to involvement in Tilia, per my original speculations on the investment.
  • Separate to its involvement with LL, High Fidelity will continue to develop its spatial audio capabilities, which have already been licensed by a number of other companies.
  • In terms of SL itself:
    • 2020 still seems to be the platform’s most robust year, with the economy put in terms of a US $650 million GDP, with 345 million annual transactions (virtual goods, real estate, and services) and US $80 million cashed-out.
    • The platform boasts more than 1.6 million transactions per day and generates 1.8 billion messages (presumably user-to-user and Group IMs) per month.
    • Second Life won’t be moved to support VR headsets any time soon, simply because the latter need much more time to mature, both in terms of their technology and their market reach; something Rosedale believes (and I’d agree, for whatever that is worth) is unlikely to be reached in the next 5 years. However, once SL itself is more performant and better placed to naturally leverage VR hardware.
Philip Rosedale and Brad Oberwager, via VentureBeat / GamesBeat. Credit: Linden Lab

In terms of my own speculation, this primarily arise – and rather belatedly, given my own previous coverage of High Fidelity in this blog – as a result of a comment from Philip Rosedale in the piece by Dean Takahashi:

The tech changes are all about communication,” Rosedale said. “I don’t think it’s about pixels. I don’t think it’s about radical richness. I don’t even think it’s all about 3D. I think the problem and the opportunity is communicating with people in a naturalistic way where I can interview you.

– Philip Rosedale, speaking to Dean Takahashi

We already know from Linden Lab’s own review of 2021, which includes a bullet list of deliverables planned for 2022 – that “avatar expressiveness” to Second Life that will bring “camera-based gestures and movement to your avatar for a whole new level of interaction and connectedness”. This is something that marries up to Rosedale’s comments above. More particularly, it is something High Fidelity started to develop back in 2014, when the company was working on its own decentralised virtual spaces – even producing an informal video that helped demonstrate that early work – and which I’ve embedded below.

Yes, the avatars are someone cartoonish is looks, but this work was carried out in Hi Fi early days and before their avatars developed into something SL users might find more appealing, so don’t get too hung up on that fact.

What’s important is to note that how the avatars (faces and hand movements) reflect those of the people behind them. Take, for example, Emily’s face as she emotionally responds to the lyrics she is singing, and the way Ryan’s avatar (with the beard) makes eye contact with viewers as it looks directly out of the screen, and they way his eyes / head naturally move as he also addresses Chris and Emily who are sharing the same office space with him – plus the capture of his real-time hand-clapping at the end of the song! (And as a total aside specific to SL “old timers”, not that the guy providing the backing vocals is none other than Andrew Meadows (once (and again….?) aka Andrew Linden.)

If this capability could be brought into Second Life – and again, I have no idea how much further down the road Hi Fi got in developing / enhancing it and am aware that SL presents a range of its own technical challenges (range of mesh heads, rigging /weighting, etc.) – then clearly, it could offer considerable depth to avatar interactions for those who would care to leverage them. Take the SL live music scene, for example, and the potential for performers to add gestures to their music and (like Emily) have the emotions in singing transferred to their avatars. (I’ve also submitted a question on this subject for consideration in the upcoming Lab Gab session with Brad Oberwager and Philip Rosedale.)

There is a lot more that might be unpacked from these articles – such as the idea of a “decentralised environment” and what that might mean for thing like SL and mobile device access, and a lot to chew on regarding SL’s approach to virtual spaces and how it stands apart from the recent headline-grabbers like Facebook / Meta. Some of these comments should give comfort to those concerned about matters of privacy and the like, and Rosedale at least has carried his view on things beyond talking to journalists, embodying them in some of his tweets.

Philip Rosedale via Twitter,, January 15th, 2022

Given what is available for consumption between the three articles, I would recommend a reading of all three rather than having me drone on further here, or dilute the core speculation I wanted to put forward as a possibility. As such, I’ll leave you to peruse them in your own time, if you’ve not already done so.

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  1. While there were other articles on the announcement, most were either baseline reproductions of the original press release (with a sprinkling of commentary in some cases) or re-treads of one of these three pieces.

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.

Related Links

High Fidelity changes direction (3): layoffs & shuttering apps and access

via High Fidelity

In April 2019 during a High Fidelity General Assembly meeting, Philip Rosedale announced the company would no longer be sitting within the content creation / public space provisioning area, and would instead switch to focus on software / platform development. He followed-up on that announcement a few days later with a blog post outlining the company’s move to try to develop a virtual workstation / environment that would allow people to work collaboratively whilst geographically separate.

Since that time, the company has been working on the virtual workspace idea, apparently developing it to a point where a desktop versions has been undergoing widespread testing involving teams from some 75 organisations.

However, in a December 11th blog post, Updates and a New Beginning, Rosedale announced that while the company plans to continue use the technology they’ve developed, and hopefully carry it forward into the future, they  do not plan to commercialise it at present, and are again pivoting to a new project.

Simply put, having taken a close look, while we can see that remote work is going to continue on its growth trajectory and we do have customers using it—the opportunity is not big enough today to warrant additional development. 

The work we’ve done over the past six months has been valuable in helping us understand how to make a 3D VR environment usable, stable, and accessible to first-time, non-gaming audiences, and that is intellectual property we will take forward into future work.  

– Philip Rosedale, December 11th, 2019

The pivot means that the company is shedding a further 50% of its staff (approx 40 people, given 20 people, or 25% of staff were let go in May 2019). Further, and as from January 15th, 2020, High Fidelity will be shuttering public access to its code repositories on Github (although users are welcome to fork them, if they wish), and will also be withdrawing all their apps from the Steam and Oculus stores and from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

For now, Rosedale is not revealing what the new project is, but given the shuttering of the current platform code repositories and a comment in the December 11th blog post, it might be related to a more virtual world style of platform / application.

Giving up on the current generation of HMDs doesn’t mean we’re giving up on Virtual Worlds. A team is already working on a new internal project, and although we aren’t going to talk about it now, we will have more to share about what we are doing when we are ready.

– Philip Rosedale, December 11th, 2019

A FAQ has been produced to accompany the blog post, answering core questions existing user might have about platform accessibility, account registrations, blockchain use, buying / selling HFCs, etc. And those who have a High Fidelity account should refer to that document. 

The announcement comes on the heels of a blog post from Rosedale published on December 9th, 2019, in which he continues to ruminate on the hard realities surrounding the state of VR at this point in time.

In Requiem for the HMD, he admits something that many of us have always felt: the the current generation of HMDs can at best only enjoy a modest success, and the technology as a whole still has a long way to go before it is liable to reach a “mainstream” place in the consumer market. In particular, he notes four things he believes the technology requires in order to reach this point: comfort of wearing, the inclusion of see-through displays and at desktop screen resolutions, and the ability of people to be able to type tat normal speeds in VR. To these I’d actually add more fundamental requirements such as cost per unit, overall ergonomics and compelling use cases – but these are topics for another blog post.

In the meantime, Updates and a New Beginning makes for interesting reading, as it offers a further honest evaluation of VR as it is today from someone who has been one of its strongest evangelists. For those who are having to depart High Fidelity as a result of the company’s further shift in direction, the hope is that they are able to transition smoothly into other work opportunities.

For those users who would like to keep the spirit of High Fidelity’s VR platform alive, as noted, they have until January 15th, 2020 to fork the code into their own repositories. There also the likes of Tivoli Cloud in development by former High Fidelity alumni Caitlyn Meeks and Maki Deprez that may blossom into new homes for HiFi users.

Related Articles

High Fidelity changes direction (2)

via High Fidelity

In April 2019, as I reported in High Fidelity changes direction: the reality of VR worlds today (& tomorrow?, Philip Rosedale announced that High Fidelity would no longer be sitting within the content creation / public space provisioning area, and would instead switch to focus on software / platform development. This announcement has now been followed with a blog post by Rosedale that expands on the company’s immediate plans for the future.

In the May 7th, 2019 post Rosedale indicated that the company is shifting its emphasis even further and will be downsizing its workforce by 25% (some 20 people) in the process. The blog post is brutally honest – kudos to him for being so open – and its commentary gave me pause to mull a few things over before offering any lay thoughts of my own.

In stating the reason for the change, Rosedale points to the lack of take-up of VR headsets:

If you had asked me when we started the company in 2014, I’d have said that by now there would be several million people using HMDs daily, and we’d be competing with both big and small companies to provide the best platform—but I was wrong. Daily headset use is only in the tens of thousands, almost all for entertainment and media consumption, with very little in the way of general communication, work, or education.

– Philip Rosedale, Toward A Digital World, May 7th 2019

On the one hand, for those of us who never brought into the whole “VR will be a US $70 billion a  year business by 2020” simply on the basis of the “gee whiz” factor ascribed to it, nod knowledgeably and mutter, “told you so”. But this would rather miss a good portion of the point. As I’ve also pointed out in these pages, VR could in time come to have an impact on our lives in a variety of ways, and there are markets available today that could be – dare I say – revolutionised by its presence.

The problem is, no-one has yet found a way to substantially break into those markets for a variety of reasons. Take education, for example (a big focus for High Fidelity in the past): yes, VR could revolutionise teaching in many areas, but until the cost of headsets has come down substantially to the point where schools can afford to equip a class of 25-30, until questions of controlled access and the provisioning of virtual environments for schools and colleges to access (or build for themselves), the widespread integration of VR teaching remains a horizon vision.

Philip Rosedale, High Fidelity founder and CEO (centre) makes the first of what are now two announcements about the company’s direction, on April 5th, 2019

However, when it comes to the broader metaverse in particular – the starting point of Rosedale’s blog post – VR is really just one component. As he notes, since its inception, High Fidelity has worked hard on many of the foundational requirements for a broader framework in which to set “the metaverse”.

We’ve been working as a company for six years now writing open-source software and creating test events and experiences to enable this imagined place to come into existence. We’ve created a 3D audio engine that can handle large crowds, an open-source graphics engine with live editing, scalable servers, a blockchain-powered currency and marketplace, and more.

– Philip Rosedale, Toward A Digital World, May 7th 2019

Could it be that, moving the focus of VR headsets off to the side until they do gain real, broad-based market traction, some of this additional technology, combined with what had already been achieved through non-VR centric 3D spaces, demonstrate real world uses cases business (and others) might want to adopt? And in doing so, might this further lay practical foundations for wider acceptance of the concepts inherent in a “metaverse” type of setting, one that could in time also more naturally offer VR HMD support if / when the latter does start to become more a part of working environments?

That’s what High Fidelity is now setting out to explore, by delving into the idea of a virtual workspace solution.

For two weeks, we sent everyone home, with their computers, and created a private tropical island where we could work together all day, mostly wearing headphones but not HMDs—we didn’t prescribe the medium of use.

Within the first couple of days it was obvious we were onto something. The 3D audio was always on, perfectly realistic and comfortable. We found ourselves walking around and interacting with each other the same way you would in a physical office. We put up whiteboards and spaces for teams … What if the general trend toward remote and distributed work … could be accelerated even faster by virtual worlds?

– Philip Rosedale, Toward A Digital World, May 7th 2019

Again, for those of us who have been around long enough, this approach might ring a bell. Back in 2008-2010, another company Rosedale founded (but had since departed in an active capacity) tried a similar idea through a product called Second Life Enterprise (SLE), designed to provide companies with a “behind their firewall” implementation of a Second Life based virtual environment for collaborative working.

That idea ultimately failed – although it’s fair to say the reasons for that product’s failure were potentially more rooted in how it was implemented and the walls Linden Lab placed around it to (presumably) protect their IP than in any disinterest in the concept of virtual work spaces or sleazy associations appended to SL itself. And times have moved on a good deal since then; if nothing else eight years on, people are now more au fait with things like virtual spaces, avatars and the like to potentially be more open to virtual working environments.

So time will tell if this new approach works for High Fidelity – again, Rosedale admits there is no certainty in the move. But after six years – most recently with a lot of effort poured into high-profile events – High Fidelity is still struggling to grow an audience, and it really wasn’t clear if anything would substantively change in the next six years if they kept on that road. As such, this a brave move for a start-up to take, and a dose of realism when it comes to the state of play with the VR market. And in the meantime, as the blog post also makes clear, High Fidelity will continue to support its open source VR platform.

Which leads to a final question. Is this a sign that more VR-centric virtual spaces could face some hard decisions? Quite possibly. High Fidelity actually isn’t the first to hit the wall of slow VR take-up. In 2017, Altspace VR announced its imminent closure, but was ultimately saved when Microsoft stepped in.

But again, caution should be exercised if tempted to see this as a sign of the future for something like Sansar. If nothing else, the latter doesn’t have the weight of US $73 million investment sitting on its shoulders, quietly demanding the way be shown towards some kind of future return. Plus, Linden Lab have a viable source of income through Second Life, a platform they are committed to continue to develop and (hopefully) grow. If nothing else, this allows them the potential to throttle / steer the development and growth of Sansar to meet the realities of their potential marketplace without the worry of external pressures.

In the meantime, to High Fidelity, one can only say “good luck” with the new endeavour, and it will hopefully be interesting to see where it leads.

High Fidelity changes direction: the reality of VR worlds today (& tomorrow?)

Philip Rosedale, High Fidelity founder and CEO (centre left) addresses the weekly General Assembly meeting in High Fidelity, Friday, April 5th, 2019. Credit: High Fidelity

On Friday, April 5th, Philip Rosedale stunned attendees at High Fildelity’s weekly General Assembly meeting (see the video here and embedded at the end of the article), when he announced that the company would no longer be sitting within the content creation / public space provisioning area with its platform, and that forthwith all public spaces hosted by the company, together with the large-scale events they have been hosting would cease as the company switches tracks to focus sole on software / platform development.

The news was greeted with a sense of shock by High Fidelity users, and the company certainly moved very quickly to follow through on the announcement, shutting down all of the public spaces it has hosted, included social spaces and their flagship Avatar Island, which opened just over a year ago as a means of showcase virtual commerce, shopping and the power of the platform’s micro payments capabilities (see Commerce in High Fidelity, this blog, February 2018).

One of the driving forces behind the decision is that High Fidelity is currently unable to gain major traction – and this despite major pushes to do so with some large-scale events pushed out to the media for promotion, and the former monthly stress tests of the system, trying to push concurrency rates up to determine just how well High Fidelity domains can handle multiple hundreds of avatars. Which is not to say all events are coming to an end: the platform’s popular bingo sessions are set to continue and – taking a leaf from Sansar’s book – High Fidelity is promoting coverage of the first operational launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket with an in-world event on Thursday, April 11th.

High Fidelity have, until now, straddled themselves across the software development, content creation and event hosting environments in both trying to generate an audience for their platform and develop the platform itself. Going forward, they plan to focus solely on the latter

However, moving away from large-scale event hosting and hosting domains and environments to try to encourage user growth and instead turning to users and (I assume) suitable partners for audience-generating content, means the company will no longer be pulling against itself trying to both develop the software and platform and provide engaging content and events intended to acquire an audience and encourage their retention.

Which, when you think about it, is pretty much what Linden Lab have, for the most part, been trying to do with Sansar. While the company have provided various social spaces, for the most part they have left content development to users, or have facilitated content creation on behalf of partner organisations (Intel, HTC, the Smithsonian, OpTic Gaming, Roddenberry Entertainment to name a handful) through Sansar Studios – and it has recently been indicated that we’ll be seeing more of this in the future.

One potential benefit of the move for High Fidelity domain creators is the move will hopefully spur more interest in their environments, as Rosedale noted:

By shutting down our public servers, I actually make the prediction that there will be… more people concurrent across the servers that you guys run than us. So I’m not saying that we’re giving up on the servers, I’m saying that I want you to run them.

– Philip Rosedale, April 5th, 2019

Another aspect of the decision is the slow growth of VR in the broader public marketplace. In this, High Fidelity is possibly more vulnerable than other platforms, in that while it has a Desktop option, it has largely marketed itself as “the” VR virtual spaces company. All of their major event activities; for example, the monthly One Billion in VR events, the FutVRe Lands festival, etc. (bold emphasis my own), have all been VR-centric in their titles, potentially spurring a feeling among a broader audience that High Fidelity isn’t for them due to the lack of any personal HMD.

One of the factors influence High Fidelity’s decision is the slow take-up of consumer VR

Which is not so say others platform built to try to ride the wave of VR don’t also face issues building an audience. For example, much is made of the “success” of VRChat (which can be played both in VR and via desktop), yet the fact is, its average and peak hourly concurrency is only roughly one tenth that of Second Life. But, having said that, the take up is likely to come in time. In fact, as I’ve noted in other articles on VR, right now there are clear niche markets / environments where VR can have a significant impact  – if someone can leverage them correctly: education; training / simulation; architecture / design / prototyping; healthcare; visualisation and computer modelling, etc. And in the future, as VR / AR (or more particularly MR / XR)  do start to gain a broader consumer audience traction, then opportunities for broader virtual environments will arise.

There is perhaps a broader take-way from the High Fidelity announcement: and that is, companies like High Fidelity, Linden Lab, Altspace VR, etc, are likely to face something of an uphill battle to gain an audience for their emerging platforms, even when VR does gain a firmer consumer foothold.

This is not Second Life in 2004. Second Life actually took off like a rocket, once it got working. Even though it had tons and tons of problems… but it took off like an absolute rocket. And the reason that it did, I think, was that this experience of bringing a lot of people together and letting them build things together live, well, in the time frame when we built Second Life, it had never, ever been seen by anyone …

The problem we have today is that that’s just not true. The internet affords us many, many, many, many different ways to be together as people, for example, or just to chat. And so one of the things we are up against here is that there is not as much of a genesis moment … Coming on-line you just don’t have the kind of meme in the sense of a grand or cultural meme kind of written out there like Second Life did. That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to make it. It simply means that we have to be more clever and the strategy that we use to get people in here has to be somewhat different.

– Philip Rosedale, April 5th, 2019

In other words, Second Life has been successful because, at the time of its birth and in the years of its initial growth, it was largely unique on all fronts in the way it captured people’s imaginations*, and its broadness of scope and its ability to embrace people’s imaginations and desires meant it could gather an audience to its shores long before anything came along to seriously challenge it.

This is no longer the case. Today, the digital realms we have at our fingertips are limitless, be they for gaming, socialising, sharing, entire virtual environments, and so on. Whatever we might be seeking, the chances are there is already something there to sate appetites. Even creators can build and mod for a range of games and environments and – through the likes of Unity and Unreal and so on – build environments, all without necessarily getting too hung up on arcane tools built-in to platforms.

Thus, and even if / when VR does become far more consumer mainstream, any attempt to build a world-girdling, audience-rich metaverse is going to face something of a challenge without a significant fiscal weight behind it. Not just in terms of developing the technology, but also into the marketing and PR and – most importantly – the licensing of content. To put this last point another way: were OASIS real, would all the models, characters, and so on from major franchises / brands seen within it really be user-built, or would they more likely be the result of hefty licensing deals that brings the content to the platform whilst protecting the rights (and royalties) of the licensors?

But this is looking further down the road. Right now, High Fidelity’s decision is worth marking; how much of a wider impact it has is a matter yet to be seen.

* Revised, from the original after Will Burns correctly reminded me Active Worlds predated SL.

High Fidelity pilots HFC and Ethereum trading

via High Fidelity

On Tuesday, January 8th, 2019, High Fidelity announced the start of a pilot programme that will allow High Fidelity users to trade between High Fidelity Coin s(HFC) and Ehterium Either (ETH).

Etherium is an open-source, public, blockchain based distributed computing platform / operating system featuring smart contract (scripting) functionality. It incorporates a cryptocurrency  – the Ether.

The latter functions in a similar manner to the Bitcoin, and its use has been boosted over the last two years by the  Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), an non-profit organisation of over 150 members, including national and global banks, technology companies such as Cisco and Microsoft, investment houses and research organisations, with the aim of driving the use of Ethereum blockchain technology as an open-standard across multiple market sectors.

via High Fidelity

Initially, High Fidelity will be allowing users to purchase HFC using ETH. However, over time, all High Fidelity users will be able to buy and sell their HFC for ETH, although an ETH wallet will be required.

Trades of HFC will be handled in fixed amounts of $25 or $50 (HFC 2,500 or 5,000), and will be handled via an in-world banker, through a process similar to that currently used to convert HFCs to USD. As the programme with ETH develops, High Fidelity plan to start offering an automated means of selling HFCs for ETH, and may eventually see the ability to sell HFCs directly for USD values discontinued.

An important point to note with trades is that HFC is a stablecoin pegged to the US dollar (100 HFC = US $1.00), while Ethereum varies against the Dollar. Thus, the exchange rate between HFC and ETH will fluctuate.

This is a further interesting move by High Fidelity, which High Fidelity see as being key to the future of buying / selling HFC:

Over time, we see this being our primary method for purchasing and selling HFC. It’s convenient, global, well-governed and broadly adopted. In future, we may enable trades to other cryptocurrencies or tokens, either directly or through third-party exchanges. We also hope that HFC will be used by other VR platforms or applications, making the transfer to Ethereum even more useful.

– High Fidelity blog post on HFC and ETH trading

You can read the full announcement here.