Keep in mind that this isn’t the finished product and lots of changes are still coming their way. Expect new things to come and old things to go. We’ve been so busy working on the HiFi codebase, reverse engineering and redesigning the metaverse API, ripping out all the crap we think are friction points to VR and redesigning core parts of the program optimized for speed and efficiency. We really want to create a truly awesome social VR platform that’s fun, exciting and easy to use. We want to get the technology out of the way and just give people what they want.
Keep in mind that our early access is mostly targeted towards artists and developers but everyone is welcome. We want your feedback as much as possible and we’re here to help on our Discord.
In addition to Maki, other key people working on making Tivoli Cloud VR a reality are Caitlyn Meeks (the CEO) and Christina “XaosPrincess” Kinne (the CMO). But there are many people who are working on this project as volunteers as well.
So I paid a quick visit to Tivoli Cloud VR (you do have to set up a new account, by the way; I believe that your existing accounts on the old High Fidelity will not work). Your starting place is in the middle of a lush forest, with a pond and many little yellow ducklings wandering about!
You can pick up a free avatar from the Market, and I recognized many of them from my time in the old High Fidelity! I chose as my starter avatar the photorealistic Matthew male avatar (which, with a wizard’s hat, sort of became my standard avatar when filming episodes of the Metaverse Newscast in the old High Fidelity), and then I visited a stone temple world recreated via photogrammetry:
Looking pretty realistic! I have a good feeling about this project; it reminds me a lot of all the good things that happened in the old High Fidelity (and hopefully, without some of the technical, logistical, and organizational problems they encountered).
To celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride, Jackalope is throwing a 50% off sale, and they are also holding a Pride Hunt. The hunt items are free and you do not need to join the Jackalope store group to get the individual hunt items, which all together make up a complete rainbow outfit!
Everything Vanity Fair is wearing in the pictures below—the fishnet crop top, skirt, badges, earrings, bracelet, the wonderful combat boots with rainbow socks, even the Bento pose and the backdrop!—is a hunt prize from the Jackalope Pride Hunt.
One of the free hunt prizes is this wonderful, colourful backdrop! The collection of balloons to the left and right are separate items and you could easily reuse them for other celebrations such as birthday parties:
Now, I should caution you that many of the hunt prizes are rather fiendishly hidden all around the store (including the ceiling!). If you get frustrated, here’s a pro hunt tip from Auntie Ryan 😉 …in the Firestorm viewer, if you press Ctrl-Shift-R, it will turn on wireframe mode (which is essentially X-ray vision). Press Ctrl-Shift-R again to toggle it back off. (If this feels like cheating to you, then don’t use this tip.)
This next Pridewear freebie is from a store called 28LA, and it is a doozy! Teleport to the store, and click on the rack of clothing outside, and you will receive a Pride collection of apparel, with designs for for both male and female avatars! The male clothing comes in sizes to fit Belleza Jake and Signature Gianni mesh bodies, and the female clothing is designed to fit the Belleza Freya, Slink Hourglass, and Maitreya Lara mesh bodies.
Finally, we have the Pride Festival in Second Life, which runs from June 24th to 28th. Most of the vendor booths at this event have free gifts (you will have to join the free Pride Festival group to get them). Here’s a look at three of the many gifts:
this colourful eye makeup from ALMA (system/Bakes on Mesh, plus Catwa, LeLutka and Omega appliers);
the Proud Lips by Dotty’s Secret (system/Bakes on Mesh, plus Catwa, Genus and Omega appliers);
This week, I have been attending various presentations and events at the Immersive Learning Research Network’s 2020 virtual conference. Most of the sessions are taking place in a white-label* version of the virtual world VirBELA, and it would appear that this world will remain in place after the iLRN 2020 conference ends, as a meeting place for various groups of researchers.
The iLRN 2020 organizers are also using FRAME (a VirBELA project) for virtual poster sessions: smaller group gatherings around particular research topics. These poster sessions were accessible right from a browser on desktop, mobile, or even in virtual reality (more information on that can be found here).
The popular success of this conference in VirBELA (with well over 200 people in-world at any given time), plus the associated social events taking place in AltspaceVR, has got me thinking about another highly successful conference which I attended (and presented at) back in February 2020, the first-ever Educators in VR 2020 International Summit. In that case, most of the conference sessions were held in AltspaceVR, and the Educators in VR conference was really an opportunity for the platform to shine (there were also events taking place in ENGAGE, rumii, Mozilla Hubs, and Somnium Space, with livestreaming to other platforms).
What were the factors that led to such successful virtual conferences in AltspaceVR and in VirBELA?
Scalability of the Platform: In both cases, you could pack a large number of people into a shared virtual space. This was especially notable in the case of VirBELA, where the simple (but still highly customizable) avatars, coupled with many possible graphics quality settings in the client software, meant that you could have well north of a hundred avatars attending a single session without noticeable performance issues. And AltspaceVR’s cartoony avatars serve an important purpose: making the platform much easier to render on less powerful computers and devices.
Better Features: VirBELA is stuffed to the brim with useful features which make hosting a conference a breeze (e.g. the ability to quickly shift focus to one of three different presentation screens, or the podium/stage). AltspaceVR has also had a whole bunch of new features added to make holding events much easier (such as the ability to mute the audience, a raise your hand feature to ask questions, etc.).
Responsive Support: It’s very clear that, in the cases of both the Educators in VR and iLRN 2020 conferences, that the platforms were heavily involved in providing support and troubleshooting to the conference organizers. Such support, often offered in real time, is critical to the success of any virtual conference.
So, what lessons can other social VR platforms and virtual worlds learn from these successes, as they seek out new customers in the pandemic-fueled boom in virtual conferences?
First: You need to find ways to work around the technical limits in the number of people who can gather in a virtual space. For example, Sansar is absolutely gorgeous, and I could see it being used for conferences—if you could get more than 30 avatars into a single world! (However, Sansar does allow for multiple broadcast instances as a way to get around that limit.)
Second Life also has significant technical limitations on the number of avatars you can pack onto one sim before it heaves in protest (again, for major events such as the Live Stage at the SL 17th Birthday celebrations, a stage is located at the intersection of four sims to allow a larger audience).
To summarize this first point: the more users you can bring together, the better.
Second: The more devices and means of access you can support, the more likely your platform will appeal to a larger number of people. As the team developing Sansar and the old High Fidelity learned to their chagrin, betting the farm on high-powered, PC VR users was a tactical error. The majority of people attending these conferences do not have a VR headset, using desktop computers with flatscreen monitors and even in some cases mobile devices like tablets and cellphones. You need to meet the users wherever they are.
Finally: You need to provide real-time, responsive customer support. This is one area where many platforms simply fail to deliver the level of concierge support required to host conferences. For example, both of the recent Blockdown virtual crypto conferences (which were held in a special, white-label version of Sinespace) were well-staffed with Sinespace employees and volunteers to ensure that things ran smoothly. It’s a cost of doing business if you want to attract business.
If you were to hold a conference in Sansar (which you wouldn’t, because of the limitations outlined in points 1, 2, and 3 above), and if something were to go wrong, you would probably have some trouble getting the real-time support you needed from the team at Wookey (although I assume it will be an all-hands-on-deck situation for the upcoming Lost Horizon festival; Sansar simply cannot afford to fumble this opportunity to showcase their platform to the world).
In short, bare-bones customer support sends a message: you’re on your own. Corporate users such as conference organizers expect a higher standard of service, otherwise they will take their business elsewhere.
The success of platforms such as AltspaceVR and VirBELA leads to positive word of mouth among the conference attendees, who can see the potential applications, and which naturally leads to increased business opportunities; it’s a virtuous circle.
The question is: will Sansar and other social VR platforms and virtual worlds pay attention to the lessons being taught by the highly successful and popular virtual conferences held this year by a number of platforms?
*White labeling is when a product or service removes their brand and logo from the end product and instead uses the branding requested by the purchaser. Recent examples include the iLRN 2020 conference (held in a white-label version of VirBELA) and the Blockdown series of conferences (hosted in a white-label version of Sinespace). This is a feature that is attractive to corporate and conference customers, which is not offered by many social VR platforms and virtual worlds to date.