Second Life Mobile mini update, May 2020 with audio

As I’ve previously reported several times over the last year, starting with Linden Lab confirm Second Life iOS client in the making, Linden Lab is developing a companion app for Second Life.

Since that first article, I’ve provided a number of updates on the development, including that the client will be for both Android as well as iOS, and speaking at the Web User Group meeting on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020, Keira Linden – who is the Product lead for the client – provided and update on process, the core points of which are bullet-pointed below.

  • iOS Client:
    • The iOS version is now in a closed alpha featuring some residents.
    • In keeping with the Lab’s plans, this version offers the ability to communicate via IM, and has a basic Friends listing.
    • Further updates will follow  – the next being the addition of Abuse Reporting support and improved management for the Friends list.
    • Once the Lab believe the client has an initial set of functions to make it useful as a communications tool, it will will move to a beta phase and made available to a wider cohort of users for further testing.
  • Android Client:
    • Work is progressing, but it will take time for it to reach a point where it is ready for testing.
    • When it is ready, it will likely follow a similar Alpha / Beta test process to the iOS version.

General Capabilities

Note: this is a reiteration of notes from earlier updates on the SL Mobile client.

  • It should initially be regarded as more of a communicator / companion app than a fully-rounded client.
    • The initial intention for the client is to provide users with a means of maintaining basic contact with other users whilst away from their main means of accessing Second Life.
  • As such, it will support logging-in to Second Life services to support IM and group chat support. However:
    • It  will not initially present you with an in-world location, nor will your avatar rez in-world, it will not not support local chat nor any form of world rendering.
  • Capabilities such as having an in-world rezzing location, the ability to chat locally, support for scene rendering will be added over time.
    • However, in terms of any in-world rendering, this will not be part of any initial released (in the meeting it was described as “not even Soon™”), as LL are focused in just trying to get the basic app available to users as soon as reasonably possible.

All information I’m able to provide through this blog, including future updates can be found under the SL Mobile tag, and can be accessed directly from the top menu options:

  • SL → User Group & Viewer → Viewers → Android & iOS and then selecting either:
    • Android Clients → SL Mobile or
    • iOS Clients → SL Mobile.

Second Life companion app: mini update, March 2020

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.

As the last mini-update I gave for the product was in July 2019 and there is some further news to be had, I thought it time to provide a further update on where the client stands.

First and foremost, while the client was initially defined as an iOS client, speaking during the 19th episode of Lab Gab on March 27th, 2020, Ebbe Altberg confirmed the Lab has now started on an Android version as well, which they have to have up to parity with the iOS version at some point.

In addition, he indicated that the iOS version is currently close to being at an “alpha” testing status, which may only be for internal testing.

So, lot’s of activity there. We have a person who’s worked on a mobile – what do we call it? Companion client, because I want to make it clear that people understand that the mobile client will be primarily a communication client, where you can chat with people, and stay connected, but it’s not a 3D viewer. So you will not be running around with your avatar in the mobile client for quite some time. But you can at least, when you’re on the road, stay connected with your friends and customers, etc.

The iOS client is very close to what we call an “alpha”; I don’t know exactly how the alpha will then progress to a beta to like a full release that people can try…

I’m not sure if alpha is even just for internal people; we probably want to get the whole company using it first, but we might, umm, some pre-production grid, get some external users involved in the alpha as well, I don’t know the exact details. But it’s being worked on; hopefully most of us will be able to use the iOS client to stay connected with Second Life in, I don’t know, a month or two, I’m guessing.

And we also have added more resources, so we now have people working on an Android version as well. So hopefully that will catch-up and will get neck-and-neck or almost parallel with iOS here by the time we get to full release. So, actively being worked on.

– Ebbe Altberg, Lab Gab, March 27th, 2020
(video extract)

Summary of What is Known

The following notes are an amalgam of my July 2019 mini-update, and more recent comments from Third Party Viewer Developer Meetings, Simulator User Group meetings and the aforementioned Lab Gab session.

General Capabilities

  • As noted, the app should initially be regarded as more of a communicator / companion app than a fully-rounded client. The intention is to provide users with a means of maintaining basic contact with other users whilst away from their main means of accessing SL.
  • It will support logging-in to the Second Life service and initially provide IM and group chat support.
  • Initially it will not:
    • Present you with an in-world location, nor will your avatar rez in-world.
    • Support local chat (as your avatar does not have a defined in-world location)

A mobile user won’t actually be in an area … they can use p2p or group chat, but not local, because we’re not rendering the world (yet) in the mobile app [and] we didn’t want things to be unbalanced: you can see me but I can’t see you, I can “go” somewhere but can’t see anything [etc.]. [But] direct IM is supported (that’s what I meant by p2p).

– Oz Linden, VP of Engineering, Simulator User Group Meeting,
March 17th, 2020

  • In theory, the app should work with both mobile ‘phones and tablets / iPads, although there may be some configuration differences.
  • Over time it will be enhanced – but additional capabilities and their order of development is still TBD.

Availability

  • As noted above, the iOS client will likely be available to users ahead of the Android client.
  • The time frame for the iOS client appearing is not confirmed, but might be in a next 2-3 months.
    • The Lab had started the work on getting the initial test versions through Apple’s acceptance process some time ago.
    • It had been previously stated that iOS users 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. I assume this is still the case.

 

There may be further news on the mobile client in the April 3rd Lab Gab session, in which case, I will update this article.

Second Life: LL confirm iOS client in the making

Logos © and ™ Linden Lab and Apple Inc

On January 9th, 2019, and thanks to a pointer from Whirly Fizzle, I blogged Lab working on a Second Life iOS client? noting that a Bit Bucket code repository had recently been set-up by Brad Linden for just such a purpose.

In writing the piece, which includes some of the Lab’s recent commentary of the subject of mobile / streaming solutions for Second Life, I indicated that I had contacted Linden Lab with a series of questions concerning the repository and what it might signify, and that I’d provide an update on receiving any reply.

Being so early into the work, the Lab declined to comment on all of the questions I asked, but here is what they did say via-email in responding to my enquiry:

As you point out, we discussed at our Town Hall events last year that we’re actively looking at ways to extend the reach of Second Life to new audiences including mobile platforms. For example, we’re in the early stages of work on an iOS companion app for Second Life.  

Right now we’re focused on getting a prototype out to our Residents, at which point we’ll be looking for feedback and suggestions. In the early stages, we will not be tying the app to a streaming service. However, we don’t have anything to formally announce yet about the specific features, capabilities, and availability.

– Brett Linden,  Second life Marketing Manager, via e-mail

Granted, it’s not a lot of information, but there are a couple of potentially interesting elements to the statement that might help contextualise things /  be indicative of some of the thinking still in place at the Lab. For example, the use of the term mobile platforms and noting that that the iOS work is offered as an example of this work.

This would perhaps suggests (and in answer to some of the questions asked following my original piece) that an Android client is still part of the Lab’s thinking. Certainly, it is something I’d anticipate, given both the popularity of the Android platform and the popularity of Lumiya and Mobile Grid Client*.

I also found the comment In the early stages, we will not be tying the app to a streaming service interesting, suggesting as it does that a future streaming solution is still very much part of the Lab’s broader thinking.

Again, this would make sense given the ongoing move of SL to the cloud. As well as providing the means to deliver SL as a whole to users, the cloud move further deepens the Lab’s relationship with AWS. This might in turn allow them to more positively and cost-effectively (to both the Lab and to users) supply a streaming service to mobile devices and web browsers at some point in the future. Perhaps this might even be part of a broader examination of their product offerings once Second Life is firmly established within a cloud-based infrastructure.

So, food for thought; in the meantime. I’ll continue to update on the iOS work as / if / when news emerges.

* I’m intentionally avoiding LittleSight here, as it is questionable as to whether the app is still being maintained and the repeated complaints that users have been unable to log-in since the last update (October 2016).

Lab working on a Second Life iOS client?

Logos © and ™ Linden Lab and Apple Inc

We’re in the early discussion stages, so Grumpity and I – Grumpity who heads-up Product here for Second Life – we talk quite a bit about what it would mean to invest in a mobile Second Life experience or product. So we’re trying to figure out how to validate the idea, and how much would it take to do it, and what could the value be to us and to customers to do it.

– Ebbe Altberg, April 20th, 2018 Town Hall meeting

I’m leading with the above quote because in the early hours of Wednesday, January 9th, 2019 (UK time), Whirly Fizzle directed me towards a Linden Lab code repository on Bit Bucket, which reveals that work has apparently started on an iOS client for Second Life.

The repository has been posted by Brad Linden, and shows some initial code segments Brad has been working on.

Brad Linden’s Bit Bucket repository for the iOS Client. Note I’ve redacted his given last name and some other information in respect of his privacy (although I understand it has also been posted to the forums)

That the Lab could start work on a mobile solution has in some ways been heralded over the course of the past 12 months, with Ebbe and senior SL managers openly discussing thoughts and possible options.

In his April 2018 discussion, for example, Ebbe pointed out that at that time, there were still issues the Lab wanted to address in trying to develop a mobile client, including what kind of investment it would be, both monetarily and resource-wise, and what the return on investment might be gained for the effort, as well as trying to figure out how such a client might be used.

I think the main question is if it would really primarily be a companion for existing users, so therefore increase the time spent in engagement and commerce. Or would it be an opportunity to actually reach users who don’t even have PCs and Macs, and would that be an addressable market, is something we have to wrap our heads around.

– Ebbe Altberg, April 20th, 2018 Town Hall meeting

By June, and the SL15B Meet the Lindens talks, it was clear that the Lab was thinking long and hard about the merits of both mobile and streaming solutions, with Grumpity and Oz openly discussing both.

– Grumpity and Oz Linden discussing mobile / streaming options at SL15B, June 2018

Both the question of how a mobile  / streamed solution might be developed and used was also a topic Ebbe returned to in his SL15B session in June 2018. Like Oz and Grumpity, he pointed to a previous streamed solution, SL Go (Grumpity and Oz referenced Bright Canopy, which was founded after SL Go had ceased to be available).

– Ebbe Altberg  discussing mobile / streaming options at SL15B, June 2018

Whether the repository indicates the Lab has now answered those questions and is ready to go ahead with an iOS client, or whether it is another aspect of testing the water and seeing what can be done, code-wise is unclear. I also freely admit to being insufficiently versed in code to guess whether this work is geared towards a dedicated iOS client, or part of a larger streaming option.

Turning to the man who is fronting the project, Brad Linden joined Linden Lab a the time of the Windlight integration over 11 years ago, and since that time has been focused on viewer development, specifically in the area of viewer stability.  Interestingly, the first indication that the Lab might be ready to move beyond talking about a mobile client came in December 2018, when Brad changed his Second Life Display Name from Brad Linden to Mobile Brad.

Brad Linden changed his display name to Mobile Brad in December 2018

I have contacted the Lab about the repository and what might be coming out of it placed with the Lab, and will update should a reply be received.

In the meantime, until such time as Linden Lab do clarify the work, it shouldn’t be assumed any kind of iOS client is about to be released in the immediate future. However, that the Lab is working on code would appear to be a positive sign, again given Ebbe’s words at the April Town Hall.

I hope will come to the conclusion to jump in soon; so more to come on that.

– Ebbe Altberg, April 20th, 2018 Town Hall meeting