Second Life mobile apps: a (belated) update

Logos © and ™ Linden Lab and Apple Inc

As I’ve previously noted, Linden Lab is working on an iOS client for Second Life, the first phase of which will be focused primarily on chat.

Keira Linden, who is now a Product Manager at the Lab, is heading up the project, and at a recent open-source developer meeting (held every Wednesday, but at a time I can rarely make), she offered some feedback on the upcoming app, with Oz Linden, the Technical Director for Second Life providing some additional comments on the Lab’s approach to mobile.

You can read an excerpt of the meeting’s transcript that encompasses the discussion in the forums – with thanks to Arielle Popstar for posting it – and the following is a summary of the comments made, grouped by topic.

Summary of iOS Specific Comments

  • The iOS app is to be deployed in stages, starting with – as previously noted – the chat capabilities. This will support IM and group conversations, and will likely include the capability to search for friends and non-friends alike.
  • It appears This initial release of the app will not support local chat, with Oz Linden noting:

Unlike other current apps, the plan is that your avatar will be in a separate space inaccessible to others, so it won’t just be standing somewhere not moving, so you won’t have a regular ‘location’ at all to chat in.

– Oz Linden, Open Source Dev meeting, August 14th

Presumably, this will change in later releases.

  • Further capabilities for the app are being discussed internally at the Lab, and these discussions include prioritising capabilities for release as the app is enhanced.
    • At some point in the development cycle, Keira will be reaching out to users to gain feedback on what are considered to be the important capabilities / options, in order to help the Lab prioritise future enhancement of the app.
    • Overall, the plan is to add as much functionality as possible as the app continues to be developed beyond the initial release.
  • There are no dates for when the app might be made available for testing – but the development work is considered a “high priority” by Keira and within the Product Team.
  • The precise framework for testing hasn’t been finalised, but will be announced via the forums when decided upon.
    • Side note: it had been previously indicated that when the app is made available for testing it will be through Apple’s beta testing environment for apps, and users wishing to test the app will need to have TestFlight installed on their iPhone (or iPad). It’s not clear if this is still the case – but given Apple’s requirements, I would assume so.
  • Currently, the Lab isn’t focusing on providing any graphics support (a-la the 3D world view in Lumiya), with Keira commenting:

We haven’t focused too much on the graphics side, as we’ve been working on chat and security, but I’ll be sure to include that consideration when we get there.

– Keira Linden, Open Source Dev meeting, August 14th

Summary of Overall Approach to Mobile

  • When starting the project, consideration was given to developing mobile apps in a multi-platform framework, but the decision was made to develop natively for different platforms was the better way to go.
  • The decision to go for iOS over Android for the first app was largely made on the basis that Android was better supported at the time (late 2018) by 3rd party apps (including Lumiya).
  • The Lab believe that by focusing on one platform at a time will, ultimately allow them to roll out individual apps and enhancements to those apps faster.
  • Once the Lab is happy with the status of the first app, they will consider porting it to “other platforms”.
  • Concerns have been raised over the potential of a mobile app to increase ad-hoc group chat griefing. Both Oz and Keira indicated there are various server-side means of cutting back on such griefing under consideration as a part of a broader project that’s not directly linked to mobile app development.
  • A browser-based streaming solution is currently excluded from consideration, purely on the basis of cost-effectiveness to users (e.g. considering the pricing model for Bright Canopy), with Oz Linden commenting:

We’ve done several experiments with streamed viewers, and are watching the evolution of the required server side costs and capabilities. So far, we don’t think there’s a viable business model (that is, we’d have to charge too much), but we expect competition and technology to eventually change that.

– Oz Linden, Open Source Dev meeting, August 14th

In addition to the above, and more recently – during the second segment of Lab Gab – Reed Linden indicated that the Lab has a number of initiatives related to mobile support, including optimising the SL Marketplace for use on mobile devices. Please refer to my summary (with video) of that session.

Related Links

Again, thanks to Arielle Popstar for posting the  transcript excerpt.

Second Life iOS companion app – mini update

Logos © and ™ Linden Lab and Apple Inc

As I’ve previously reported (see: Linden Lab confirm Second Life iOS client in the making), Linden Lab is developing a companion app for Second Life that will run on Apple’s iOS.

Recently, during a Meet the Lindens session held at SL16B and at a Third Party Viewer Developer meeting, Oz Linden, the Senior Director, Second Life Engineering, provided further information on the status of the app, and what the initial release of the application will include.

While there is a degree of overlaps between what was said at the two events, there were also some differences in the information provided, with the TPV Developer meeting in particular being used to give further information on the app.

This being the case, I thought I’d offer a mini-update on the status of the app’s development, combining the comments made from both meetings into a single bullet-point list, with the relevant audio extracts from both meetings also provided for reference.

Note that throughout, Oz is only talking about the initial releases of the app, and so these notes and the audio comments should not be taken to mean the app will be “feature complete” when it appears, but that it will be enhanced over time, hopefully developing features that will make it more client-like (e.g. Radegast, MetaChat, lumiya, etc.) in general capabilities.

Summary of the comments made:

  • The app should initially be regarded as more of a communicator / companion app than a fully-rounded client:
    • It will provide a log-in option, and chat options (e.g. chat, group chat).
    • It will not present you with an in-world location, nor will your avatar rez in-world.
    • Seen as being useful for merchants / business owners to maintain contact with customers when away from their viewer.
    • Over time it will be enhanced – but additional capabilities are still TBD.
  • In theory, the app should work with both iPhones and iPads, although there may be some configuration differences.
  • The Lab have started the work of getting the initial test versions through Apple’s acceptance process.
    • It is not clear how long this will take, as it is the first time the Lab have followed this route themselves. However, it is hoped the first test version should be available in the “not too terribly distant” future.
    • When the app does appear, those wishing to test it will need to have TestFlight installed on their iPhone (or iPad), as the app will be made available though Apple’s beta testing environment for apps.
  • The major reason for selecting iOS for building an app of this kind is that at the time the decision was made, Android was well represented by Lumiya.
  • Some of the back-end infrastructure the Lab is building is support of the app might be applicable for use with a web application at some point. However, doing so is not in the current plans.

Oz’s comments from Meet the Lindens, June 25th, 2019:

Comments from the TPV Developer Meeting, June 28th, 2019 (these also include a comment on the app and iPads from Vir Linden):

  Again: note there is some overlap between these two sets of comments.

Revisiting Second Life mobile options

Logos copyright and Trademark Google, Linden Lab and Apple Inc., respectively

With the recent confirmation that Linden Lab is working on an iOS solution for accessing Second Life, there has been renewed interest in what is available – and it struck me that since my initial reviews of mobile clients such as Mobile Grid Client (2011) – and with the exception of Lumiya – I’ve not really updated on those clients that are available.

This being the case, here’s a quick round-up of those mobile (Android and iOS) solutions recorded on the Third Party Viewer Directory. These are not intended to be comprehensive reviews, but will hopefully provide a general overview of the products and their capabilities / status.

Android

Mobile Grid Client

  • Available since: 2010.
  • Last updated: 2016.
  • Text only.
  • Subscription package.
  • OpenSim support: yes.
  • Website.
  • Reviewed:  November 2011.

Mobile Grid Client is the longest running of the Android clients listed on the TPV Directory. A text-only application, it provides a range of options, including OpenSim support – but these are subject to the subscription package taken, one of which must be selected after an initial 14-day trial period.

Mobile Grid Client: inventory options (note some , such as the give / copy options are only available by taking the “Pro” subscription)

The available subscription options  are:

  • “Standard” version: L$250 per month, with a selection of features disabled (e.g. giving inventory to others, creating / copying notecards, changing your active group, paying avatars, OpenSim support).
  • “Pro” version L$450 per month / L$4500 per years, with access to all available features.

Please refer to the Mobile Grid Client licensing page for a breakdown of the application’s features by subscription model.

Opinion

In 2011, this was a reasonable application, given what was available at the time. Today, however, and even allowing for the subscription payments being non-recurring (so opting out is easy at the end of a subscription period), when compared to Lumiya (below), Mobile Grid Client is notably over-priced, even at the “Standard” subscription model.

Lumiya

  • Available since: 2012.
  • Last updated: October 2017.
  • Text  and graphical.
  • Single payment.
  • OpenSim support: yes.
  • Website
  • Reviewed:  March 2012-January 2017.

First released in 2012, Lumiya was, up until the start of 2017, routinely updated to keep pace with the latest viewer releases from Linden Lab as well as to provide bug fixing issues with various android platforms.

This application has such a well-rounded suite of capabilities, including plug-ins for voice and improved rendering (both available for free), that it pretty much matches the “full” viewer in features and functions, up to and including Bento support (January, 2017). It even has VR (Cardboard) support!

Lumiya even support HUD use in its 3D world view

Initially text-only when first introduced, Lumiya quickly progressed to basic graphical rendering prior to maturing into a very capable graphical client with continued improvements to the graphical UI to allow for better, easier and more comprehensive in-world interactions. For those who use it, Lumiya also respects RLV / RLVa

Opinion

Lumiya is the Rolls Royce of mobile Second Life / OpenSim clients, although development work seems to have frozen. There have been recent issues for some with the use of voice in recent months.

Even for occasional text use, inventory management, etc., this is the go-to Android client, while the 3D world rendering adds a whole now level to mobile SL / OpenSim use. True, the graphics are not as crisp and fresh as the “full” viewer, but considering everything Lumiya is packing into a hand-held device and it has not been developed within major financial input and technical support, it is not to be dismissed on that basis.

Very much the standard-bearer for what can be developed by way of mobile SL / OpenSim applications using Android.

LittleSight

  • Available since: 2012.
  • Last updated: October 2016.
  • Text  and graphical.
  • Single payment.
  • OpenSim support: No.
  • Google Play web page
  • Reviewed:  July 2012.

Appearing around the same time as Lumiya, LittleSight provides basic text chat and IM capabilities to users – albeit with ads displayed periodically. Additional capabilities, such as teleporting, and the removal of the ads can be had on payment of a small fee.

LittleSight: free for basic messaging. What to teleport / get rid of ads? Pay the fee – or just get Lumiya: you still pay, but you get way more bang for your bucks
Opinion

The most limited of the three Android clients, and one with reported issues for users trying to log-in with the latest version. While I encountered no problems myself with logged-in on re-installing LittleSight on my tablet device, I did find the map failed to render, but that seemed to be the only issue.

Given the need for payment, and the sheer volume of capabilities presented in Lumiya, unless the latter expressly will on work on a particular device, it is hard to see why anyone would opt to use LittleSight. You may not need all the tools available in Lumiya, but having them available just in case is not necessarily a bad thing.

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