Tag Archives: Sansar Speculation

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.

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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.

Sansar at Web Summit 2016

The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)

Logo courtesy of Linden Lab

November 10th and 11th saw the 2016 Web Summit take place. An annual technology conference, 2016 marked the event’s first appearance at its new home in Lisbon, Portugal. However, as with the 2015, it included a look inside Linden Lab’s Sansar platform, this year presented by the Lab’s CEO Ebbe Altberg and Bjorn Laurin, VP of Product at the Lab.

The official Web Summit video of the demonstration has yet to appear (if indeed they filmed any of the sessions). However, courtesy of Loki Eliot, I was steered towards a video of the presentation taken by an attendee at the summit: Miguel Mimoso Correia, which I’ve taken the liberty of embedding below, as there are a number of points of interest.

The Sansar Atlas

The Sansar Atlas – a Kitely-like directory of accessible places

The first is seeing Sansar operating in a purely third-person, keyboard / mouse driven mode. While the platform is obviously primarily geared to VR HMDs and controllers, it’s nevertheless good to get a better look and feel for how it might also be used by people without such hardware. Of particular interest to me in this was the suggestion that users might have relatively free camera placement when moving their avatar around in a third-person view, rather then their camera being locked into a “default” view, as with Second Life.

In the “highlands” scene, for example, the camera is clearly set low down, affording a good view of the avatar and the hilly terrain around him as he walks through it. Meanwhile, in the Mars scene, the camera position is noticeably higher relative to the avatar, giving a broader view of the flatter landscape. The avatars also appear to respond more naturally as well – note how Bjorn’s avatar casually rests one foot on the dais in the 360-degree video sphere when he stops walking.

The “highlands” environment

While the demonstration is given in third-person view, insight is given into how movement is achieved when in a first-person VR headset view:

With VR, we found one thing that’s uncomfortable for some people is to just use a thumb stick, like on an Xbox controller or whatever, and just walk around …. because … you can start spinning the world around. And when your body’s not moving, but the world is moving, some people can get nausea or something like that. So … the way we prefer to move around in VR [in Sansar], is that we actually have with the controllers, a way to point to a spot in front of us with an arrow … and we just jump to that spot.

For those used to Second Life, there might be something of a “bleah” response to this description; but really, it’s not that much different to the convenience of SL’s double-click to teleport option.  However, that said, it would be nice to see if there’s also a Sansar equivalent to SL’s “single click to walk” – something which might be preferable to having other people seeing avatars hopping around, as suggested in Ebbe’s explanation. Elsewhere, we get to see a little of the dynamic capabilities in Sansar, which employ some of the platform’s physics.

A further (brief) look at Sansar's editing environment

A further (brief) look at Sansar’s editing environment

The creative aspects of Sansar are only briefly looked at, and for those who have been following Sansar reports, offers nothing of significance. However, it is somewhat interesting to learn that the familiar Golden Gate bridge seen in Sansar is actually a TurboSquid model, underlining the ability for models to be purchased from other mediums and pulled into Sansar.

But for me, what is more interesting – if only because it offers room for speculation. Is the use of the term “Sansar Studios”, which appears as each scene is loading. Why not “Linden Lab (or even “Linden Research”)?

Is it simply indicating that the scenes are the result of collaborative work between the Lab and content creators / “content partners”, and simply a means to denote “pre-built” environments which will be available for people to explore when Sansar opens its doors to the public? Or might it be indicative of something else? Might the Lab be looking to sell its own scenes within the platform as a means of additional revenue generation? Or that “Sansar Studios” might be the marketing brand for the platform? Again, I’m not indicating a particular belief, I’m simply speculating as I write.

TSansar, October 2016; Linden Lab, on Flickr A further look at the fantasy “highlands” Sansar space, as revealed by Linden Lab in October 2016

I’m pretty happy with my lot in Second Life and  – at this point in time – have no desire to own a VR HMD (something which might change in the future, depending on how the market and technology develop). Ergo, an outright move to Sansar doesn’t interest me (not that Sansar is intended to be any kind of “replacement” for Second  Life – it isn’t. Hence why the Lab has said Second Life will continue well into the future).

However, I do continue to see the potential for something like Sansar, particularly in those markets where the emerging “low-cost” VR tools could have significant impact: design, engineering, architecture, simulation, education, training, healthcare. These are very much the markets the Lab is looking at for Sansar.

As such, even if the whole “social VR” thing falls flat on its face, I still hold the view that there are potential VR niches and audiences out there Sansar could occupy and be a success, just as Second Life has successfully occupied a niche and developed its own audience.

 

Sansar: what’s in a name?

The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)

The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)

In the first half of 2015, speculation circulated that the name of the Lab’s new virtual experiences platform might be “Sansar” or “Project Sansar”, after two trademark registrations were spotted. When asked, the Lab would only comment than “Project Sansar” was a temporary name, and that a number of options were being considered (and there was at least one other trademark filing at the same time which seemed to support this statement).

However, on August 31st, in a press release marking the distribution of the first invitations for people to join the platform’s Creator Preview, Linden Lab indirectly confirmed the official name of their new virtual experiences / social VR platform is indeed Sansar.

As the news of the name circulated, there were various group chat comments questioning the meaning and relevance of the name. While there is no reason for any product’s name to have a definitive meaning, in this instance, there do seem to be likely connotations.

Sansar Screen Shot, Linden Lab, August 2016, on Flickr Sansar (TM) Screen Shot, Linden Lab, August 2016, on Flickr

Back when the Lab was poking at possible names for Second Life, one option they considered was “Sansara” (later used as the name of the first mainland continent). This was said to be a variation on the Sanskrit word Samsāra, meaning “wandering” or “world”, associated with cyclic, circuitous change.

The interesting point here is that the Maxgyan dictionary  / lexicon offers sansar (also sansaar in Jainism) as an alternative for Samsāra, and defines its potential meanings as “earth”, “world” or “universe” (with “cosmos” cited as a possible alternative to the latter), depending on the context.

Given that  Sansar is intended to host many different virtual spaces, “universe” might be taken as a good “fit” when looking for a meaning in the platform’s name. Similarly, the idea of cyclical, circuitous change appears to be reflected in the platform’s logo, with its three segments suggestive of movement (/change).

Sansar Screen Shot, Linden Lab, August 2016, on Flickr Sansar (TM) Screen Shot, Linden Lab, August 2016, on Flickr

Of course, other meanings of “sansar” could be offered (such as an”icy Iranian wind”, for example), but it seems reasonable to look no further than those derived from Hinduism / Jainism. There is a certain “fit”, as noted above, and the Lab has turned to Hindu nomenclature before. As most of us are aware, the Lab’s two publicly accessible SL grids are named for Rigvedic deities – Agni, god of fire, and Aditi, the mother of gods.

But even accepting this as a possible derivation for the platform’s name, it might be argued that the Lab should have gone for something more “obvious”. Well, possibly. But then again, it is fair to say that at this point in time, those being drawn to Sansar are doing so by way of the Lab or through media reports on it, and so already have some idea of what it is about. This will also likely be true when Sansar opens it doors to the public (although by that time, the website will hopefully be a lot more dynamic and informative as well). Thus, having a name which “reflects” the platform’s intent perhaps isn’t so major a consideration.

For my part, if the platform’s name is intended to have a meaning, I admit to being drawn to it being “universe”. As noted above, it, fits the idea of an environment hosting many, many virtual spaces of many different sizes, some of which exist independently of the rest, others of which are “stitched together” to form – dare I say – “constellations” of linked spaces. Of course, being a “space fan”, I could also be a tad biased 🙂 .