Avakin Life: A Brief Introduction

Avakin Life is a different kind of virtual world. It’s a mobile app for iOS (Apple) and Android phones and tablets, although you can also play it on a desktop PC using Facebook Gameroom. I had never heard of it before today, so I downloaded the Avakin Life app to my iPad and iPhone to try it out.

You get all the basic avatar customization options, and a basic wardrobe of items to choose from. There’s a healthy fashion market where you can buy items, of course, including real-life brands such as Nike. Textures on clothing took forever to load in preview mode, though.

You also get a pet (a German shepherd) and a starter apartment. There are various places in-world to meet and socialize with other avatars, like this café (this a screenshot from my iPad):

Here is a screenshot from my iPhone, showing me standing on a dock in a tropical beach scene, chatting with another avatar, who is obviously looking for romance!

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All in all, Avakin Life is just a slimmed-down Second Life for mobile devices. Interesting, but there’s not enough of a draw to keep me coming back regularly. I’m probably not in their target market to begin with! At age 54, I found I really had to squint at the screen on my iPhone to make out all the menu options and figure out what was going on!

But if you’re looking for a virtual world experience that travels with you, give Avakin Life a try. It’s free to join (you have the option of buying in-game currency), so you can kick the tires on it without making any investment other than your time. And I must admit it was fun exploring a virtual world on my iPhone over a coffee at the local Starbucks, or on my iPad from the comfort of my sofa!

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Sansar Atlas Hopping, Episode 44: Pride!

The theme for today’s Atlas Hopping was LGBTQ Pride—and mazes! Our band of merry Atlas Hoppers, all decked out for Pride, visited five Sansar experiences:

Maya from Sansar donated her own money for cash prizes for best dressed for Pride, as well as the best Pride-themed items in the Sansar Store. KandyBrainz won the best-dressed prize, and Nya Alchemi won first prize for her nifty neon rainbow wings that almost everybody was wearing today! Alfy won second prize for his Pride hoodie and shorts. (There were also three third prizes.) Thank you for donating the money for the cash prizes, Maya!

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Andrew took some great pictures of today’s Atlas Hopping event (please click on each photo to see it in a larger size):

Mijeka Munro also took lots of pictures, which you can see over on the Sansar Atlas Hopping with Drax and Berry photo pool on Flickr.

Here is Drax’s livestream of the event:

Endless Riff: A Brief Introduction

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Endless Riff is another social VR app I discovered via the Social VR subReddit community. It describes itself on its website as follows:

Think of Endless Riff as a virtual music community. You can hang with your friends in VR around the music you love. See shows wherever you are. The experience starts on our own island in your own private RV. From there, teleport to festivals, venues, and see artists up close and live. We are building it so we can all come together and rock on. Get ready!

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The software is currently available for Gear VR, Oculus Go, and the Oculus Rift, with future support planned for HTC Vive, iPhone, Daydream and Sony PSVR. So I decided to download the Oculus Rift client and give it a spin.

When I started the program, I spawned on a sunny beach just outside a music festival, where I had to register my email address using a virtual keyboard in my VR headset (something I always hate having to do). Then I selected one of six starter avatars and entered the program.

I appeared inside an RV on the beach, where a video screen gave me options. I selected a concert that said it was currently underway (“Live Now!”), and it teleported me to a 3-dimensional bar scene—with the band called Belly playing on a flat videoscreen! It’s quite obviously not live, and it’s not 3D either. All I could do is move my avatar around the bar space while the video was playing. I couldn’t figure out how to exit the bar and return to the RV, and eventually, I had to shut down the Endless Riff software client using the Task Manager in Windows. Not a very impressive first impression at all.

They do have a list of upcoming events, where I assume you can watch live video performances within the app. But really, what’s the point of doing this in a VR headset? I’d rather watch video on my PC screen or on my iPad.

The entire Endless Riff platform appears to be nothing more than fancy window dressing for a music video delivery service! I’m so disappointed.

DiveReal: A Brief Introduction

I first came across a mention of DiveReal in the Social VR subReddit community. It recently launched on Steam as part of their Early Access Program. It bills itself as “Social VR on Planet Earth”, which is an accurate description.

When you sign up, you can select from a number of pre-made avatars (which appears to be the limit to your avatar customization options):

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I was rather surprised to find that DiveReal does not seem to support Oculus Touch hand controllers, so I plugged in my X-Box controller and was able to use that with my Oculus Rift VR headset.

Navigation in DiveReal reminds me of the old Blue Mars platform option where your avatar is standing within a Google Earth photosphere. Here’s a screencast of some DiveReal footage, showing an avatar moving around near the Eiffel Tower in Paris (there’s no sound):

In DiveReal, your avatar appears in a 360-degree photograph (which I assume was taken from Google Earth), and you “hop” from point to point using the A button on your X-Box controller. As you move around, you encounter a bit of a delay as the photo redraws around you. The avatar navigation feels rather clunky, and your avatar appears to be hovering on a slightly higher plane than the people in the photograph around you.

Here is my avatar in Times Square in New York City:

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And here is my avatar exploring Stonehenge:

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That’s pretty much all there is to DiveReal at the moment. Obviously, you’d need to organize where you are meeting up in-world ahead of time, because other avatars could be located anywhere on the planet! You will likely be a very lonely explorer (although DiveReal will tell you how far away other avatars are located):

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There’s a Reddit community and a Discord server for DiveReal, but there’s really not much there yet, since this is such a new platform. It’s really a strange little program, but you just might want to give it a try.

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: 1950s Retro Outfit

Take a look at this 1950s inspired outfit I was able to put together for next to nothing!

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This avatar is wearing:

Mesh Head and Lipstick: Giselle Bento head by Altamura (no longer available for free; this was an Altamura gift from last Christmas at the eBENTO event, and you had to join the Altamura group for L$50 to get it)

Mesh Body: Jenny Bento body by Altamura (no longer available for free; this was a gift last Christmas from the Women Only Hunt)

Hair: Hair Ball by Vanity Hair (free from the SL 15th Anniversary Shopping Event)

Earrings: Dark Mouse Vintage 50’s pearl stud clip (old free gift; no longer available)

Dress and Flower: Rizzo Dress by Giulia Design (free from the freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil)

Shoes: Dahlia Mary Janes by Poppy (free group gift; unfortunately, this store seems to have closed)

TOTAL COST OF THIS AVATAR: L$50 (Altamura group join fee)

Pictures were all taken at the 1950s and 1960s Time Portal zone by Jo Yardley.

An Interview With the CEO of Terra Virtua

One of the newer blockchain-based social VR spaces that is currently under development is Terra Virtua, which I had previously blogged about here. Terra Virtua bills itself as a “Netflix for VR”, a delivery platform for VR games and entertainment from other companies. It will be built on the Unreal game engine, and the company is also collaborating with Epic Games to develop a suite of tools which will allow users to create their own content.

The following is a nine-minute interview with the CEO of Terra Virtua, Gary Bracey:

He said that the Terra Virtua platform is expected to have its beta launch in the first quarter of 2019.

Hypergrid Business is Winding Down: Does This Mean the End for OpenSim-Based Virtual Worlds?

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Hypergrid Business is a long-running website that covers enterprise uses of immersive virtual reality environments and virtual worlds, with a particular focus on OpenSim-based virtual worlds.

In early June, editor Maria Korolov announced that the Hypergrid Business is winding down, saying:

The reasons are both personal and practical.

Personally, I’ve moved on from covering virtual worlds to covering cybersecurity and, most recently, artificial intelligence. (You can see some of “day job” articles here: mariakorolov.com.) I barely spend any time in OpenSim anymore.

Practically, there was once a strong possibility that OpenSim would evolve into an open source, virtual reality metaverse. That’s not happening. Our viewers are still stuck where they were ten years ago, without any real support for web or mobile access or for virtual reality headsets. All projects to address that issue seem to have faded away. Instead, the focus has shifted to VR-native platforms from Google, Facebook, and, to some degree, Microsoft. We don’t know yet what Apple is cooking up, but they’re busy as well.

It’s increasingly looking like the whole SL-OpenSim ecosystem has hit a dead end. It will probably continue to exist as a niche platform for its half million active monthly users, shrinking slightly each year until it’s just a nostalgia thing, like text-based adventure games or manual typewriters.

They’ve had quite a long and successful run, publishing more than 3,000 articles by over 200 contributors since March of 2009. The website was my main source of news on OpenSim-based virtual worlds, so I will miss them. I wish Maria the best of luck in her future endeavours.

Does this mean the end of the many OpenSim-based virtual worlds that Hypergrid Business covered so well? No. Many will no doubt continue for years to come. But perhaps this is indeed the end of an era, the end of a dream that a hypergrid of open-source, OpenSim-based virtual world platforms would eventually supplant Second Life. In the end, there just didn’t seem to be enough people who believed in that dream to work on it and make it a reality.

If you’re interested in exploring the Hypergrid, here’s a list of OpenSim virtual worlds.

Thanks to Richard DE Haan Eesti on Facebook for the tip!