Sansar Scene of the Day: The Beach

I haven’t done one of these for a while!

C3rb3rus The Beach 11 May 2018

This picture was taken by Solas NaGealai of volleyball players at C3rb3rus’ experience called The Beach. Don’t you just love the lighting in this?

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Active Worlds: A Brief Introduction

Active Worlds* is the granddaddy of virtual worlds. Founded in 1995, it has been in operation for nearly 23 years now. I had visited once before, back in 2010, after reading about its 15th anniversary on Metafilter. But I had lost my login information, so I decided to create a new account and pay Active Worlds a visit. The arrival area looks like this, with a rather ugly-looking bot to greet visitors:

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But to my surprise, there were no less than seven other avatars in the default welcome area who were chatting (I had expected it to be deserted). One of the avatars there told me how to pull up a list of worlds to teleport to:

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I picked the HeavensStairway world, and there were about seven avatars there as well, and I was actually welcomed by a handful of people! But after a little while, I realized that these avatars were merely bots, as they greeted other newcomers in exactly the same manner.

The avatars/bots are rather primitive compared to Second Life, but serviceable:

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Here’s a selfie of my default male avatar:

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There’s a user community called AWPortals.com which you can also join, and I did. There’s only one event coming up, a TGIF Party, to which nobody seems to be planning to attend, according to the message at the bottom of the screen:

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There’s also an Active Worlds news website called AWTimes, which is updated bi-monthly (and which is, frankly, one of the most hideously designed websites I’ve seen in a long while). According to the AWTimes, surprisingly, the Active Worlds software has been updated as recently as February 2018.

And tonight, I am dancing with a few others at the TGIF Party at the PrairieHills world! Turned out some other people showed up after all! It would seem that there is still a little bit of life in Active Worlds after all these years…

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*Note that when I tried to access the Active Worlds website, Google Chrome gave me a security warning. Apparently, their website security certificate had expired, only yesterday! My timing was perfectly (im)perfect. I decided to bypass the warning and visit the website anyway, but you might feel differently about it:

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Pluto VR: A Social VR Dashboard App

Pluto VR is a software product by a small Seattle-based company that has a distinctly different take on social VR: it’s a dashboard app that you load while you are running another SteamVR program. Last year they raised almost $14 million in funding. Here’s a picture from that report, showing three avatars from the perspective of one who is in Paris within the Google Earth VR software program.

PlutoVR 11 May 2018

Now, there are still some limitations. You can see other people and talk to them while you’re in a SteamVR program, but they can’t see what you’re seeing (in other words, the other two avatars can’t see Paris). You can only see the head and the hands of the other avatars, and you can talk to each other.

Here’s a few questions and answers from their FAQ:

How do I use Pluto once it’s running?

Pluto runs as a dashboard app, which means if you open the SteamVR dashboard you will see our icon along the bottom of the SteamVR dashboard.  Select it and you can interact with Pluto to call your contacts. If you receive a call the dashboard will open automatically, and show you Pluto’s UI.

Can people I’m talking to see what I see?

Not yet. Several organizations including Pluto are actively developing technology to let people see more of what each other is doing. In the meantime, Pluto gives you the ability to see and hear each other no matter what app each of you are currently using.

What can we see about each other?

You are able to see the heads and hands of those you are talking to (if their motion controllers are on). We currently limit what we show based on the tracking information that most people have.

Here’s a YouTube video that probably describes Pluto VR better than I could. Notice that, at the beginning of the video, one avatar is in Google Earth and the other is in Tilt Brush, but each cannot see what the other sees. (One avatar did send the other one a screenshot of their Tilt Brush creation, though.) At the end of the video, there is a sort of weird mashup of Pluto VR and Rec Room, where it wasn’t clear to me whether or not each avatar could actually see what the others were doing. (And, if you’re all playing together in Rec Room, why would you use Pluto VR anyway?)

This is an intriguing concept, but I’m still not sold on how practical or useful this would be. Pluto VR is currently available through the Early Access Software program on Steam, and they are actively looking for alpha testers with VR headsets. So if you’re interested, download the software and give it a try.

Question: What happens when you use Pluto VR as a social VR overlay in a social VR app on SteamVR, like VRChat? Would it be like when John Malkovich enters the portal into his own head in the movie Being John Malkovich? 😉

There.com: A Brief Introduction

Blog commenter Nicolas Barrial reminded me of yet another older virtual world that is still hanging on, and that is There.com. It’s yet another contender for the most unfortunate virtual world name—ever try to Google “There”?

There.com 11 May 2018

Their website has an up-to-date blog with reports on in-world events, so there still must enough people who are playing There to keep it a viable virtual world. I used to have an account, but I’ve forgotten the details; I haven’t been to There in a very, very long time! Their avatars give me serious flashbacks to Second Life circa 2003 (see this picture from 2017 from their blog):

There.com avatars 11 May 2018

According to its Wikipedia page, There.com is unique among virtual worlds in that it actually shut down operations in 2010, and then reopened in 2012 with a monthly subscription fee (US$10 per month per avatar). I can’t think of another virtual world that was able to resume operations after closing their doors. There is definitely a survivor!

Started at roughly the same time as Second Life, There.com never reached the levels of popularity that SL did. Another virtual world for the curious to explore…