AvaCon: A Brief Introduction

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AvaCon is another virtual world company that is notable for its work in organizing and hosting real-world conferences in the past. They run an OpenSim grid called AvaCon Grid, and they appear to have hosted a series of real-world Avatar Meetups:

AvaCon hosts and produces a series of educational lectures and community gathering meet-upsthat reach approximately 15 to 40 attendees per event and take place in various regional cities such as Austin, Boston, New York and San Francisco.

These meetups feature a single panel discussion, presentation, artistic or musical performance, or community event to foster knowledge sharing and social networking among attendees who are interested in broad technical, scholarly, scientific and creative uses of virtual worlds, augmented reality, and 3D immersive and virtual spaces.

These meetings appear to have stopped in 2014, however. Their news page hasn’t been updated since October 2017, and I notice a lot of somewhat dated content on their blog, which leads me to believe that AvaCon is not nearly as active at the moment.

I was surprised to discover that AvaCon produced the Second Life Community Conventions of 2010 and 2011. (There hasn’t been an SL Convention since then. I guess people just lost interest, or maybe the organizers got burned out. Organizing a convention is a lot of hard work!)

More recently, AvaCon was a co-host of the 2017 OpenSimulator Community Conference, so it would appear that they are still at least somewhat active in OpenSim projects.

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Money in the Newer Virtual Worlds

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Image by TheDigitalWay on Pixabay

The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want

Your love gives me such a thrill
But your love won’t pay my bills
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want

Money, the Flying Lizards


In-world currency systems are an integral part of many social VR/virtual world platforms. Second Life can be seen as the perfect example of a virtual world whose popularity exploded once people realized that they could make money on the platform, inspired by a 2006 Businessweek cover story on Second Life entrepreneur Anshe Chung:

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This blogpost is an attempt to provide a comprehensive overview of how the newer virtual world platforms have implemented in-world currencies and set up systems for commerce.

Sansar

Linden Lab has, of course, 15 years of experience working with Second Life‘s economy and in-game currency, and they have applied that expertise in the setup and operation of the economy for their new virtual world, Sansar. You can buy Sansar dollars in two ways, directly in bundles or via the Sansar Dollar Exchange (SandeX), a currency exchange. There are more details on the SandeX in this document:

 The SandeX is the official virtual exchange of Sansar, run by Linden Lab, where you can:

  • Buy Sansar dollars at the current market rate.
  • Make limit buy offers at a requested exchange rate.
  • Sell Sansar dollars at the current market rate.
  • Make limit sell offers at a requested exchange rate.

All SandeX transactions are subject to transaction fees.

Market buy and sell

Market buys and market sells are the quickest ways to purchase or sell Sansar dollars on the SandeX. The SandeX automatically matches your order with the best exchange rate. The quoted exchange rate includes transaction fees associated with buying and selling on the exchange.

Limit buy and sell

Limit buys and sells allow you to specify the amount of Sansar dollars and the exchange rate you are willing to accept. The SandeX automatically matches up buy and sell offers as they come in. If you are buying, you must have sufficient funds in your US$ wallet to pay for the buy order.

Creators can sell their creations on the Sansar Store, and can also receive statistics on how well their items are selling. There is as yet no in-world commerce like they have in Second Life.

Sinespace

Sinespace has two in-world currencies, called silver and gold. According to their wiki:

Gold

Gold credits can only be purchased for real money by spending users and can be converted back to real money by Sine Wave virtual goods partners.

Gold credits trade at 100 / 1 fixed ratio with USD$

Silver

Silver credits are free promotional credits given to users as rewards for participating in the community.

Silver credits cannot be converted to real money but can be used by creators to promote their content to new platform users who have not yet purchased gold.

Sinespace has a Marketplace built into its client software, and a few vendors like BlakOpal have also set up in-world stores.

High Fidelity

High Fidelity has attracted a lot of recent media attention due to the fact that they have decided to set up a blockchain-based in-world currency, called High Fidelity Coins (HFC):

  • Blockchain Technology: Our new currency, High Fidelity Coins (HFC), will be a public blockchain with a consensus group of multiple parties. A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions. We are using blockchain technology to track and record transactions made using HFC. All information on a blockchain exists as a shared database, which means the records are public and verifiable. It is not centralized. We are also using the blockchain to store information about digital asset ownership in High Fidelity. This enables us to protect intellectual property by embedding certification in items in the blockchain. HFC will eventually be convertible to local currencies or other cryptocurrencies at popular exchanges.
  • Cryptographically-secured Wallet: Users will be able to participate in transactions using their Wallet, which will be an app on their tablet in High Fidelity. Your Wallet is secured using a security picture and a passphrase which includes ECDSA public-private keys pairs. These key pairs are used to sign each transaction.
  • Proof of Provenance (PoP) certificate: This certificate is generated for every transaction between a user’s Wallet and the Markeplace. This certificate’s ID is stored on the blockchain. The certificate contains static properties that can help in identifying the item and the owner. These properties cannot be altered, except by transfer of the PoP Certificate. Currently, we only support objects that contain a file type .JSON. Support for avatars and other file types will be coming soon.

Currently, the only way to get some HFC (a free one-time grant) is to go to the Bank of High Fidelity domain at their open times and meet with the banker. Here’s some more information of HFC from the High Fidelity website:

We are currently giving out the currency for anyone interested in participating in the closed beta for High Fidelity Commerce. If you want to get your inital HFC grant, you first need to set up your Wallet.

These coins are to be used as currency for any commerce transactions in the Marketplace. Since we are using blockchain technology, all transactions with HFCs will be publically recorded and stored.

Your Wallet will be secured using ECDSA public-private key pairs, security picture and passphrase. Learn more about your Wallet here.

HFC is not intended for speculators to hold and should be used in transactions in High Fidelity. HFC is intended to be a stable currency and used to support a healthy and vibrant virtual economy for digital goods and assets.\

High Fidelity has an online Marketplace where vendors can sell their products (users can also access the Marketplace listings using their tablets in-world). Avatar Island is the first domain set up in HiFi where you can try on and purchase items for your avatar in-world.

VRChat

VRChat currently does not have any sort of commerce or in-game currency, although there is a thriving real-world business for people designing and rigging custom avatars for VRChat users. It will be interesting to see what happens when/if the company decides to implement an in-world economy on the most popular of the social VR platforms.

AltspaceVR

As I recently reported, AltspaceVR seems to be gearing up for commerce, but at the moment, there is no commerce or in-game currency system in place.

OpenSim

Different OpenSim grids have different solutions to the problem of an in-world currency. Every grid has in-world stores which offer merchandise for sale. Some grids issue their own currencies; others use the Gloebit system, which has the advantage of being one standard currency which is transferable and usable across a large number of participating OpenSim grids. The Kitely Marketplace is a popular shopping mall for the many OpenSim virtual worlds:

Kitely Market can deliver items to all Kitely avatars, as well as to avatars on all other OpenSim grids that support the Hypergrid. Our marketplace also delivers items to avatars on several non-Hypergrid grids that have been set up to receive deliveries from our system.

Kitely Market has been used to deliver items to thousands of OpenSim users on more than 100 different OpenSim grids.

Virtual Universe, Decentraland and the Other Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds

Virtual Universe, Decentraland, Mark Space, Staramba Spaces, VIBEHub, Ceek, and Terra Virtua (among many other products in this increasingly crowded marketplace) are issuing their own blockchain-based cryptocurrencies or tokens for future use on their platforms. all of which are still in development. The product closest to a launch date appears to be Virtual Universe, which plans to start a closed beta sometime in the fourth quarter of 2018.

I’ve already strongly warned potential investors to do every. single. scrap. of their homework before investing a penny in any of these blockchain/cryptocurrency ventures (link). Caveat Emptor!

Other Social VR/Virtual World Platforms

I can’t think of any other metaverse products which have in-world currencies at the moment, besides the adult virtual worlds like Oasis and Utherverse/The Red Light Center (these links are safe for work). If I’ve missed one, please let me know in the comments, thank you!

Question for My Readers: In Your Opinion, What Have Been the Biggest Successes in the 15-Year History of Second Life?

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

And I want to follow up on yesterday’s question with another one: In your opinion, what have been the biggest successes in the 15-year history of Second Life? Things that we should celebrate, that were accomplished either by Linden Lab or by the users?

As before, I am going to post this question to both the official Second Life forums and SLUniverse.com. You can respond on either forum, or leave a comment on this blogpost. Thank you for contributing to a lively discussion!

Question for My Readers: In Your Opinion, What Have Been the Biggest Controversies in the 15-Year History of Second Life?

No virtual world is without controversy, and Second Life is no exception. Note that this is not any sort of attack on Linden Lab; I think overall they do a pretty good job as a company (even if they do make the occasional blunder now and then; every company does). In fact, a good many of the controversies that have erupted over the 15-year history of SL have had nothing to do with Linden Lab (e.g. disputes and lawsuits between competing vendors).

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But I was curious and I wanted to know what long-time SL folk thought. So, on August 14th, I posted the following message to the official Second Life discussion forums:

I’m curious, and I thought this forum would be a natural place to ask the question:

In your opinion, what have been the biggest controversies in the 15-year history of Second Life?

I have found a website with an interactive timeline of SL controversies, but it only goes up to 2012. What do you think have been the major controversies since then?

Thank you in advance for your comments! I’ve also posted over on That Other Forum Which Shall Not Be Named 😉 and I am hoping to trigger some lively discussion and (perhaps) I may write up a blogpost for my blog on the topic.

And I posted essentially the same question in the General SL Discussion section of SLUniverse.com: In your opinion, what have been the biggest controversies in the 15-year history of Second Life?

Please join in the discussion and debate on either forum, or if you prefer, please leave me a comment on this blogpost, thanks!

LearnBrite: A Brief Introduction

LearnBrite is similar to many other products which I have already covered in this blog, such as Apertus VR, Engage, Edorble, Rumii, and NeosVR, in that it offers tools for people wanting to build virtual worlds for educational purposes. LearnBrite bills itself “The only VR-Ready authoring tool designed with Trainers in Mind”:

With LearnBrite, you simply author once in the VR-Ready Workflow and it automatically brings your micro-learning and instructor led training to life on mobile, tablet, desktop and VR/AR without writing a single line of code.

That means you can create immersive 3D (for flat screens like mobile & desktop) or AR/VR experiences that put your learner right in the middle of the action to fully engage their senses as they PLAY through your scenarios.

This is your opportunity to design active learning modules that will help solve performance issues & behavioral challenges in a fun & engaging way vs the “point, click, quiz” method that has most learners “checked out” after the 1st slide.

Here’s an example of LearnBrite in use at Curtin University, where it was used to help train students on how to do a home visit on an elderly woman that aims to provide support to allow her to continue to live at home:

What’s surprising to me about LearnBrite is how expensive it is:

LearnBrite 14 Aug 2018

Obviously, they are targeting customers with large budgets! And they do seem to have a rather impressive list of customers:

LearnBrite 4 14 Aug 2018

They also outline what they call “premium complimentary” services available at each price point:

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That line of fine print along the bottom reads, “Because of the high demand for these services, we can only guarantee availability for the next 20 subscribers.” Which, of course, is a standard sales technique: “Act now, supplies are limited!”

What I find odd is that most other platforms provide “built-in conferencing” for free, as a part of the platform (hence the term “built-in”), so why is LearnBrite charging for it, and why are they limiting it to only a certain number of hours per month?

Here’s a quick list of features and a look at their avatars:

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Hmmm…sure sounds (and looks) an awful lot like Second Life to me, which has had educators using it for teaching purposes for well over a decade now (here’s a list of resources from their wiki and they even have an Educator’s Portal set up).

If you’re interested in building educational virtual worlds and social VR experiences, you might want to take a look at LearnBrite, but you might also wish to consider other, potentially cheaper alternatives like Engage and (of course) Second Life.

A VRChat Avatar with Full-Body Tracking Dances to Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why VRChat is still pulling in the crowds: a simply mesmerizing YouTube video of an expertly-rigged custom avatar operated by a user wearing an HTC Vive VR headset, hand controllers, and three Vive Trackers securely attached to his feet and body:

This video was posted to the VRChat subReddit. When asked about his setup, the user said:

Usual HTC Vive setup + 3 trackers and strap belts for them. I used to have a wireless adapter, but the cables kept breaking (lose contacts from jumping around, 30 bucks for each cable set…), so I just ditched it and got used to dancing with cables around me LOL!

And when asked how to managed to secure the trackers to his feet, he replied:

I have them strapped really tight a bit above my ankles. My feet are too thin for tracker straps and stepping on the straps gets uncomfortable after a while.

I honestly cannot wait until the day that other virtual worlds like Sansar support Vive Trackers (or a similar technology) to allow for full avatar body movement. Can you imagine what fun we’ll have?

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Sweet E’s August Hunt at the Free Dove

Every month, The Free Dove freebie store selects three designers who place hunt items throughout the store for you to find (sometimes, the free hunt items are also found in their mainstore locations). Savvy freebie hunters already know to drop by The Free Dove once a month to pick up some fabulous hunt goodies!

One of the designers participating in the August hunt is Sweet E’s, which has some truly delightful and well-designed items available as free hunt gifts, either at The Free Dove or at the Sweet E’s store:

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In both locations, you are searching for a cupcake with bright pink frosting and an “E’s” on it, which looks like this:

Sweet E's Hunt 2 13 Aug 2018

Vanity Fair models some of the amazing hunt gifts that Sweet E’s is offering up—everything from ballgowns to a bikini to a comfy men’s shirt and matching socks! (Please click on each picture to see it in a larger size.)

To pick up the hunt gifts at The Free Dove, you must join the Free Dove group (there is no join fee). To pick up the hunt gifts at Sweet E’s mainstore, you must join the Sweet E’s group (also free). So the total cost of all these beautiful items is zero, zilch, nada! Best of all, these items come in sizes to fit all the major mesh avatar bodies (Maitreya, Belleza, Slink, The Mesh Project, Tonic and eBody) and classic system avatars too!

Remember, you only have until the end of August to do this hunt. Happy hunting!