Editorial: Fasten Your Seatbelts, It’s Going to Be a Bumpy Night!

Yesterday’s announcement that Sansar is moving to Steam was a big shock, but it should not have been so unexpected. It’s clear that Linden Lab is under increasing pressure to show a profit from Sansar, after plowing years of work into the platform without getting much back in return. They simply can’t keep relying on the profit from Second Life to build Sansar indefinitely. Eventually, Sansar has to pay its own way.

Some people will say (in fact, they are already saying) that Sansar is not yet fully-featured enough to be on Steam. High Fidelity made the mistake of putting its product up on Steam well before it was ready, and it got savaged in the user reviews. Is Linden Lab really ready to take this fateful step now, rather than wait another six months or a year to further polish the platform? Why the sudden pressure to do this now, before the end of this year?

What surprises me is how quickly and easily Linden Lab is jettisoning its SandeX exchange. The delicate and intricate balancing of the Sansar economy was something that LL staff put a lot of time, effort and energy into (even going so far as to create a subsidiary called Tilia, which focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies). All of that work, or at least a good chunk of it, gone.

Obviously, integration with Steam was considered to be a higher priority than the SandeX, which was considered a key component of Sansar. Which leads to the question: What other major changes to Sansar are going to be required before its launch on Steam? 

Yesterday’s announcement has probably raised more questions than answers. Several content creators have already announced on the official Sansar Discord channel that they are taking a break, cashing out their profits, and watching from the sidelines as all this plays out over the next few months. Which is exactly what Linden Lab doesn’t want.

And, of course, the even bigger question is: What happens if moving to Steam doesn’t bring a significantly larger audience to Sansar? (You could argue that High Fidelity’s launch on Steam has so far had very little impact on its usage levels, aside from the monthly spike of users attending regular stress testing events.)

As Bette Davis says, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” A bumpy night not only for Sansar, but for all the competing metaverse platforms in this overcrowded and uncertain marketplace.

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Mark my words; there are going to be winners and losers, and it will not be pretty. I predict that one or more of the blockchain-based virtual worlds will be among the first to fail, given the current grave state of the cryptocurrency markets, but really, anything can happen at this point.

Oh, and by the way, in response to those people talking about how Linden Lab tried—and failed—to get Second Life on Steam way back in 2012, Eliot, Sansar’s Community Manager, said on Discord today:

I also saw some people commenting that trying to get SL on Steam didn’t work out. Well we’ve learnt from that experience. The announcement we made comes after months of negotiation with Valve. We have an active dialogue with them on this :thumbsup:

So, it would appear that this move has been in the works for quite some time, and it’s not an impulsive decision by any means. But no matter how well they plan, it’s still going to be a bumpy ride. Stay tuned. And fasten your seatbelts!

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Mozilla Hubs and Sketchfab Announce a Design Challenge: Create Your Own Clubhouse!

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Sketchfab and Mozilla Hubs are teaming up for a contest: design your own clubhouse! (Apparently, this is a trend in virtual world contests…)

Welcome to our new community contest! Once again we’ve joined up with the Mozilla crew to build virtual worlds. This time we’re exploring their new Hubs platform and populating it with new spaces and props.

The theme is ‘Clubhouse’ – this can be anything from a treehouse to a speakeasy, a space station to a super-secret gathering space at the bottom of the ocean. You’ll be challenged to design both the space as well as props for it so that other people can use them on Mozilla Hubs.

About Mozilla Hubs

Hubs is Mozilla’s new social 3D platform. It lets you meet friends, ‘voice talk’ to them, and decorate the space with any kind of content, including YouTube videos, images and, of course, Sketchfab models – just by visiting a link.

Give it a try now! Visit this room on Hubs, open a second window with downloadable Sketchfab models and just copy and paste the page URL for in any downloadable Sketchfab model to add it to your space.

The prizes are pretty sweet, too:

1st Place

  • $1,000 Amazon Gift Card
  • Oculus Go – If Amazon supports shipping in country ($200 gift card if not)
  • 1 year of Sketchfab PRO

2nd Place

  • $750 Amazon Gift Card
  • Oculus Go – If Amazon supports shipping in country ($200 gift card if not)
  • 6 months of Sketchfab PRO

3rd Place

  • $350 Amazon Gift Card
  • Oculus Go – If Amazon supports shipping in country ($200 gift card if not)
  • 3 months of Sketchfab PRO

10 Honorable Mentions

  • $50 Amazon Gift Card
  • 1 month of Sketchfab PRO

The contest deadline is Tuesday, November 27th, 2018. The complete list of contest details and rules can be found here.

Spatial: A Brief Introduction to Another Social Augmented Reality Platform

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Spatial is another social augmented reality (AR) platform with an emphasis on workplace collaboration:

According to their website:

Spatial’s mission is to empower people to be more connected, creative, and productive. Our first product transforms how people work. Organizations are increasingly distributed across offices and information doesn’t flow easily. Success depends on people working together. Spatial is the collective computing platform for organizations to unlock their productive and creative potential.

Among the companies testing out Spatial is Ford Motor Company:

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According to a press release from BusinessWire:

After two years in stealth, Spatial is launching its cross-reality collaboration platform that enables holographic teleportation through augmented reality, turning any room into a 3D workspace. With Spatial, users connect remotely and express ideas seamlessly using lifelike avatars, unlocking a new level of computing that is not confined by space. Spatial runs on various AR headsets including Microsoft HoloLens.

Spatial enables an entirely new way of working together and eliminates the need for video conferencing and work travel. Features include:

  • Remote presence: Feel like local and remote participants are in the same room with lifelike avatars.
  • Infinite workspace: Extend your workspace beyond the screen and seamlessly tie together content from all digital devices into an infinite space.
  • Collective knowledge work: Quickly visualize thoughts and ideas using Spatial’s voice-driven 3D web browser.
  • Accessible anywhere: Spatial works best with augmented or virtual reality headsets, but is also accessible via web and mobile browser.

Spatial’s cross-reality platform is being piloted by Ford X, a new incubator formed by Ford to unify its product teams working on mobility initiatives.

I guess Ford Motor Company has deep enough pockets to be able to afford the still-expensive augmented reality headsets required to use Spatial!

Occupy White Walls Will Soon Launch on Steam—But You Can Get a Sneak Peek!

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You’re probably wondering what happened to Occupy White Walls, the fun and funky virtual world for the art curator in you? Well, they had to shut the platform down completely for a period of time while they got ready to relaunch the program on Steam. They’re now very close to that official launch date, but you can get in early if you want to take a sneak peek! Here’s the scoop:

Hello people!

We have some Good news, some bad news and some terrific news.

Let’s start with the bad news; we said we’ll launch OWW in October, but sadly, for the first time in video game history we will be a little late, hopefully in the first week of November. The game is almost ready we just want to polish it a bit further, squash a few tiny bugs and sprinkle some extra pixie dust.

The good news; we are currently holding a secret beta for OWW. Even better; we are GIVING OUT STEAM KEYS on our Discord channel – you can help us with that last drive for polish! But hurry, not many keys left…

To get an early-access software key, join the Occupy White Walls Discord channel and send a private message to Protobear, and he’ll fix you right up! He says:

If you don’t have a key yet, you can easily get one! send me (protobear#0001) a PM here on discord and I’ll send you a key ASAP.

For testing purposes, we ask you to create a new account.

Leveling is currently a bit wonky. For some it goes too fast. This will be fixed in the coming week.

Note: the number of keys they are giving out is limited. Once they’re gone, you’ll have to wait for the official launch date on Steam.

I was able to obtain a key, and this evening I reinstalled the software, setting up a new account. (Unfortunately, OWW was unable to save any of the old galleries that people had created. You do have to start over again from scratch, with a new username and a new email address.)

The collection of artworks you can use to decorate your gallery has been expanded, and now consists of approximately 3,000 works, mainly classics from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., plus the work of about 20 living artists (with plans to add more over time).

In no time at all, I had my first picture framed and mounted!

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If you haven’t tried out Occupy White Walls yet, why not give it a try? It’s great fun!