Facebook Spaces: Look, New Avatars! Ryan: Yawn.

Apparently, Facebook Spaces is rolling out a new-and-improved update to their cartoony avatars. It’s disgusting to me how even the smallest Facebook Spaces announcement gets oceans of fawning press coverage, and this latest planned update is no exception.

As I have said before, I am not a fan of social VR apps that lock you into place:

But what Sansar, High Fidelity, and VRChat offer is an opportunity to let both VR and desktop (non-VR) users connect, in three-dimensional virtual worlds that you can actually move around in. And that’s what I consider true social VR. What’s the point of using a VR headset and being in an immersive, three-dimensional environment at all, if you’re just going to be locked into one place? 

So until Facebook Spaces fixes what I consider this fundamental flaw in its platform, I don’t especially care how much they try and tart up the avatars. As The Verge reports:

Of course, we’re a far ways off from the avatars of Ready Player One. Facebook Spaces still makes you look like a goofy cartoon, and that creates a somewhat off-putting effect when those avatars move in realistic fashion as the Rift headset tracks your head and hand motions. Facebook says it’s working to make the movements feel even more natural, so perhaps that will change for the better with this update. And the realism it seems will only get better over time.

Want to see the difference between before and after? Glad you asked. Here’s a picture from VentureBeat’s coverage:

Facebook Spaces Avatars Before and After 4 Apr 2018
Facebook Spaces Avatars: Before and After

Big whoop-dee-doo.

Even with the upgrade, the humanoid avatars in Sansar and Sinespace still look much, much better than Facebook Spaces. And of course, there are no limits to the many different kinds of avatars you can create in High Fidelity and VRChat if you have the know-how. (If Second Life has taught us nothing else over its fourteen-plus years of existence, it’s that people are heavily invested in the appearance of their avatars.)

And, more to the point, all four virtual world platforms I just mentioned—Sansar, High Fidelity, Sinespace and VRChat—allow you to move around freely in a three-dimensional environment, explore, break off into separate discussion groups, and interact not only with other VR headset users, but also non-VR (desktop) users. Facebook Spaces still can’t do that. (And no, I’m not counting the ability to video call friends without VR headsets via Facebook Messenger from within Facebook Spaces. That’s just plain stupid.)

Has Facebook learned nothing from the many other companies that are putting out more fully-featured social VR platforms, with much better-looking avatar options? Are they paying any attention at all? The continued lameness of Facebook Spaces, now a full year after its launch, continues to astound me. Sorry, but I’m seriously unimpressed.

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Forbes Covers HoverDerby in Sansar

 

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Screen capture of the Forbes article by Charlie Fink

 

Charlie Fink has written a very detailed and complimentary Forbes article in their Tech section about Sansar.

Titled VR Action Sport Hoverderby Opens In Sansar, Charlie gives a good overview of all that Sansar currently has to offer, touching on many of the experiences I have already covered in this blog, such as C3rb3rus’ Eternity and 2077, and the Hollywood Art Museum exhibits of the Lost Art of Star Wars and the Art of Drew Struzan.

But the main focus of the article is the HoverDerby experience that Galen, Jasmine and Drax have been building and promoting over the past several weeks. Charlie writes:

When [Linden Lab CEO Ebbe] Altberg showed me the new user-generated multiplayer game, Hoverderby, I realized immediately this is what I had been looking for in Sansar all along: a place where people would gather and collaborate or simply watch in a group. As I have said repeatedly in this column: People are the killer app.

One of the reasons AltSpaceVR struggles and Rec Room is succeeding is because in VR you need to know who you are, where you are, and what you are supposed to be doing. HoverDerby addresses that. It might or might not work for all sorts of reasons, scale being one, but it’s the right idea.

The article also addresses the continuing need for interactivity in Sansar, which needs more than just beautiful experiences to visit:

Draxtor sums up the challenge Linden Lab faces. “The passive consumption of beautiful worlds will always be secondary to social engagement.” Altberg agrees, “Sansar, like Second Life, is at its best when it’s social.” Drax says there is more social action cooking. “We have some more social games coming.  Circling around 114 Harvest starting in late May we are giving away houses to rent and will do daily community hangouts with board games and scavenger hunts and book clubs.” Personally, I’d love to see more action sports like Hoverderby.

I want to rent one of the houses on Harvest Street! Please get me on that list, Drax!

And I was surprised to find I was also mentioned in Charlie Fink’s article, taking a direct quote from this blogpost in which I briefly describe the rules of HoverDerby. Thanks, Charlie! It will be interesting to see if I get any resulting uptick in traffic to the blog. (I also recently received a complimentary shout-out from Strawberry Singh, thank you so much Strawberry!)

All in all, this is quite the positive public relations coup for Linden Lab. Congratulations to Ebbe and his team!

Sansar Top 5: A Hunt for Four Keys Hidden in Sansar

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Image: Sam’s Mountain Cabin

The plot of the novel/movie Ready Player One revolves around finding three special keys. Sam and Boden have decided to do something similar for a special contest in this week’s episode of Sansar Top 5. Here are the details:

For this week’s very special Sansar Top 5, we’re doing a Ready Player One-inspired hunt:

“Four hidden keys open four secret gates. This happens now, so don’t even wait!”

Get started BEFORE the next episode (April 5 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific) — go to Sam’s Mountain Cabin and look for said literal key object, which will take you to the next experience, and so on. A clue is in the Atlas listing for each place.

There’s a fun prize for ANYONE who takes pics of themselves next to each key in ALL four experiences with keys. Tag #sansartop5 on Instagram, or if you don’t use that, just post your 4 photos in #sansar-top-5 in Discord.

Plus, the first gunter (that’s “easter egg hunter” in RPO parlance) to do this will get an exclusive honor!

The hunt is on!

So, good luck! A warning: this hunt is HARD! I hunted all over and I could not find the first key!

YouTube Shooter: Has Google Created a Monster?

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I know this is off-topic, but I wanted to write this blogpost. Has Google created a monster with its YouTube service, and their policy of paying popular YouTubers according to viewership levels?

Not too long ago, there was a big fuss over a popular YouTuber who was earning millions of dollars from his controversial video antics, Logan Paul (he earned a staggering 12.5 million dollars in 2017, according to Forbes). With YouTube, has Google created an unhealthy culture, with people saying or doing anything in order to get popular? And building up some people’s false hopes that they, too, can become Internet famous like Logan Paul?

According to a news report from SFGate about the shooter, Nasim Aghdam:

On a website consisting of a collage of photos and video posts, many of them about her vegan beliefs, Aghdam rails against YouTube for restricting views on her videos and for what she said was skimping on revenue driven by the traffic to her YouTube page.

You can see a short video clip of her complaining about her treatment at this news report from the U.K.’s Telegraph website.

It seems pretty clear that this woman felt “cheated” of fame and money by YouTube, and she took her grudge (and a gun) to a courtyard of the company and started shooting, injuring three people before killing herself. This is a tragic story, but was it preventable? Probably not. You can’t predict that something like this would happen.

But I’m sure that Google executives must be having some sober second thoughts about the YouTube culture they have created, and the negative impact that YouTube celebrity is having on society.