Today is Day 227 of my working from my home in self-isolation for my university library system. I am nearing the end of a three-month period where I have been frantically working days, evenings, and weekends to meet several project deadlines, and I can almost see the finish line of November 1st, 2020. I am cranky, utterly exhausted, and most definitely not in a Hallowe’en trick-or-treater mood.
Here are the latest provincial stats, and they are not encouraging. Pandemic fatigue has settled in, people are getting sloppy, and COVID-19 infections are rising sharply:
Record high hospitalizations are ringing alarm bells for health care professionals. With outbreaks in three units at St. Boniface Hospital and two units at Victoria General Hospital, physicians and nurses are worried about the rising strain on the health care system.
In a Facebook post Saturday, a medical microbiologist at St. Boniface Hospital wrote that, “Without a turnaround, we are within days of being at the limit of ICU capacity.”
“Resources are getting strained. ICUs are full. We are on the brink. This is what happens when we let our guard down, have too many contacts, relax and go out with too many people,” Dr. Phillipe Lagacé-Wiens wrote.
Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist at the University of Manitoba, noted health care professionals have been warning of a rapidly approaching crisis point for a while.
“Not only are we seeing increases in case numbers, we’re seeing increases in hospitalizations, we’re seeing increases in people being admitted to intensive care units, we’re seeing increased fatalities,” he said Sunday.
On Monday, I went to my local pharmacy to get my flu shot. It was the first time since March 16th that I have been part of a large group of people (mostly seniors, all masked, and all trying to keep 2 metres apart, an increasingly impossible task as people kept arriving).
A hastily-assembled makeshift flu clinic had been set up in the electronics department, but it was clear the pharmacists and assistants were overwhelmed with the demand. Shouting matches broke out between a few of the people waiting for flu shots and the staff, when it was announced that those who had booked appointments earlier in the day would be processed before the “first come, first served” crowd who had gathered. “If you don’t like it, LEAVE!” shouted one stressed-out pharmacist at a particularly angry and accusative old woman, who had not stopped complaining from the moment she arrived.
It was a unsettling, dispiriting, and dehumanizing experience, being treated like an assembly on some machine line, perched on a chair for 30 seconds for a jab in the upper arm, with the chair then being thoroughly wiped down with disinfectant and ready for the next person (I believe the proper term for this is “hygiene theatre“).
As I walked out the pharmacy, I saw my best friend John, masked and standing in a long line of sombre people, all approximately 2 metres apart. The lineup started at the entrance and snaked back and forth between the cars in the pharmacy parking lot. I told him that there were probably 60 or 70 people ahead of him, and that he would probably be waiting at least an hour for his flu shot, if not longer. It was a shitshow.
After I came home, I carefully removed and threw out my N95 mask, washed my hands and my glasses thoroughly, popped three Lorazepam and lay down for a long nap to try and forget the whole unpleasant experience. If this is what getting the flu shot is going to be like, what it is going to be like when there’s an actual COVID-19 vaccine that has to be distributed?
I have one final lecture to deliver tomorrow for my class—delivered remotely and online via Cisco Webex—and then I am going to collapse, after three months working non-stop overtime. I have been sleeping 10, 12, even 14 hours at a stretch lately, and I am still exhausted.
My apartment is a Red Cross disaster area, with dust bunnies, dirty dishes, and canned goods and Clorox wipes piled high in the corners of my apartment. The office chair I had to bring in from work has worn a big hole in the carpeting in front of my home computer workstation, where I sit and work most of the day. (So much for my damage deposit.)
I have had exactly one person touch me in SEVEN. FUCKING. MONTHS, and when it happened (my best friend John touched my arm to make a point in conversation over a summertime dinner on an outdoor restaurant patio), I almost leaped out of my skin. I can’t even remember the last time somebody hugged me.
This pandemic is beating the absolute shit out of me, and the end is still nowhere near in sight. I’m trying to find a positive note to end this blogpost on, and you know what? I can’t. Not today.
LOGO is celebrating its 15th anniversary in Second Life, and as part of their festivities, the store is giving away two free Bento, Bakes on Mesh-compatible mesh heads, one for male avatars and one for female avatars. All you have to do is join the LOGO Update Group for free, teleport to their sales platform here, pay the panel one Linden dollar (which is automatically refunded), and the Chase or Chelsea heads are yours!
Here is what the Chase head looks like, with the default body and brow shape, and without any adjustments to the sliders. He’s quite the handsome fellow!
The L$299 skin package for Chase comes with five skin tones: blaze (shown), chestnut, copper, pale and umber, and six colours of eyebrows: black, blond, brown (shown), light brown, red, and white. But of course, you can use any Bakes on Mesh/system skins, hair bases, tattoos, etc., so if you are short of Linden dollars, just buy the Chase head for free, and hunt around for free or inexpensive BoM/system skins to use with it.
Here’s what the Chelsea head looks like (again, using the included default body and brow shapes, and without making any changes to the sliders):
The Chelsea head is, like the Chase one, only L$1, and your Linden dollar is automatically refunded. The L$299 skin package for Chelsea includes six skin tones: alabaster, almond, amber (shown), bloom, cocoa and cream, plus eight different colours of eyebrows, eight eyeshadows, and eight lipsticks. Here’s a look at the fully-styled result, utilizing the dollarbie Classic female mesh body by The Meshbody (more details here):
Both the Chase and Chelsea heads comes with a head animation override with natural, neutral movements, a nice little bonus.
Here is the full anniversary announcement from LOGO:
LOGO celebrates their 15 year anniversary with a big event starting on October 23 that will run 15 days until midnight SLT on November 6th. Founder Maximillion Grant and his team will be celebrating with the release of two new heads, Chelsea and Chase (shown here) which will be FREE during the event. These new exclusive heads have been reworked from the ground up to fully support pre-mesh skins and makeup via Bakes on Mesh meaning most of your old skins should fit perfectly. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Of course appliers will still be supported and the customization HUD has received a much needed update as well.
Max has over a dozen talented designers working on unique products for the new heads. These designers include skin designers The Skinnery, Pink Fuel, Lara Hurley, makeup designers Izzie’s and Alaska Metro, shape makers iEvolve, Cree Moi and Wren’s Nest and hair designers Mina and Exile plus more. In addition Meshbody will be having a draw to give away copies of their full Legacy bodies.
Stay tuned for more prizes and giveaways during the event!
Draxtor Despres did a two-minute profile of Maximillion Grant as part of his Fashion Made in SL documentary miniseries:
The Chase and Chelsea heads are only available until midnight Second Life/Pacific Time on November 6th, 2020, so be sure to pick yours up before they’re gone!
UPDATE Oct. 28th, 2020: I forgot to mention that, in order to set up your Chase or Chelsea LOGO head properly, you will have to use two HUDs, a blank Customization HUD, and (if you purchased the separate L$299 skin kit) a Skins and Options Installer HUD, which allows you to copy over all or only the options you want to use on the Customization HUD:
The system is unlike what you might be used to with other brands of mesh heads, but the instructions are clear and easy to follow.
Earlier this year, Sensorium Galaxy announced their partnership with French DJ and global superstar, David Guetta, who will also produce a series of music events in the VR platform.
Through the new collaborative partnership, Cox will call upon his experience working with festivals and events such as Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival, Tomorrowland, and Glastonbury to design his virtual shows. The globe-trotting DJ has previous experience performing for a virtual crowd, including AltSpaceVR’s Burning Man 2020 as well as Glastonbury’s virtual Shangri-La festival on Sansar.
Here’s a teaser video for the music venue, which is called Prism:
The virtual world of Prism is the epicenter of music within Sensorium Galaxy. In this virtual setup, you can attend multiple grand shows by the world’s top electronic music artists. The brutalism of the Prism environment is balanced by the musical harmony and the performance of a digitized DJ. The production and scenography are prepared in partnership with renowned performers, producers, and organizers of the world’s top concerts and electronic music festivals.
There’s also a spaceship simulation called Starship Sensorium:
The first group of virtual space travelers embarked on a year-long journey to Sensorium Galaxy. And today, you can also jump aboard the starship. During the flight, guests are entertained with live performances of DJs and unimaginable galactic views. For a comfortable trip, each passenger is offered personal cabins, various activities in the lounge area, and walks in the open space. Virtual bartenders also offer heavenly drinks, while our flying camera captures the brightest moments of the adventure.
In addition, there is something called Motion World, which describes itself as “an underwater world of perpetual motion and dance”, with creatures called Omojas:
There’s really nothing to see here yet, except for a Windows tech demo you can download here. It looks like you will need to shell out at least $8 in SENSO Tokens (which apparently are not rolling out until the first quarter of 2021) to get an avatar from their store (the credit card and PayPal payment options don’t work). So there’s already a store with cabins, avatars, and avatar clothing for sale, but as yet no way to buy anything.
One investor who is really excited about the future of music in VR is Mikhail Prokhorov, former owner of the Brooklyn Nets and Jay-Z’s music streaming service Tidal, who has helped attract more than $100 million in investment money for Sensorium Galaxy.
And—this was bound to happen sooner or later—Somnium Galaxy is the first social VR platform that I have encountered where my desktop gaming computer does not meet the minimum specifications: a i5-7500 or Ryzen 5 1600 CPU, and a GeForce GTX 1080 or RX Vega 64 GPU (I have the GeForce GTX 1080, but my CPU is only an i5-6600).
They are aiming squarely for the high-end PCVR crowd here, users with an HTC Vive or an Oculus Rift S (and Facebook has already announced that they will be suspending sales of the Rift this coming spring). This is not a platform you will be able to visit on your wireless Quest headset! And, as the teams building the old High Fidelity platform and Sansar have each discovered to their detriment, aiming for high-end PCVR might just be a tactical error.
As always, I issue the following warning: Do every single shred of your homework before investing a penny in ANY blockchain or cryptocurrency-based project! Do not be swayed by the names of famous deejays attached to this project; as we have already seen before with Staramba Spaces/MATERIA.ONE, celebrity endorsements alone are not a guarantee of a viable platform.
Housekeeping Notice: This is the third and final part of a three-part series. Part 1 can be found here, and Part 2 can be found here.
UPDATE Oct. 14th, 2020:Well, that didn’t take very long! The first reports of Facebook bricking Oculus VR headsets have already begun to come out, only on the second day of the Quest 2’s release. More details on these cases are at the very end of this blogpost.
Today is the first day of shipping for the new Oculus Quest 2 standalone VR headset, which has received glowing reviews from many quarters. Scott Stein of C|Net reports:
There’s a pair of magic goggles I’ve gone back to again and again over the last two years, opening up worlds of games, theater, conversations, art and experiences that are tough to even describe. The Oculus Quest 2 is an improved, less expensive sequel to the Oculus Quest, a self-contained VR game console that was my absolute favorite thing in 2019. This year it’s already been my portable holodeck, my little magic fitness room, my escape space.
Over the last month, I’ve used the Quest 2 for hours, sometimes an hour straight or more at a time. It keeps impressing me, and the fit and comfort have actually improved. The more compact head strap feels like it’s broken in a bit, and the eye padding now feels less restrictive. I feel like I’ve found a sweet spot for adjusting it to my face. And the controllers still haven’t needed new batteries in over a month of use.
However, he adds:
The Quest 2 requires you to connect or merge with a Facebook account, even if you’re a long-standing Oculus user. Facebook’s policies for the Oculus VR have changed, requiring a Facebook login which wasn’t necessary before. Existing Oculus ID owners still have to merge accounts immediately when using the Quest 2. Facebook’s social media ambitions are clearly aligned where VR and AR are heading, and guess what? The Oculus Quest 2 is a Facebook product. This isn’t surprising to me, but it’s something to consider if you want a VR headset that’s more open and flexible, or doesn’t live under Facebook’s umbrella.
That’s concerning in the longer-range scope of how Facebook handles data on its VR headset, but in the short term it doesn’t affect much at all. The Quest 2 is a game console, for the most part, and it’s a fantastic one. It might even be my second-favorite game console right now next to the Nintendo Switch.
I want to thank Kent Bye for taking the time and effort to read through the fine print of multiple Facebook/Oculus policy documents, and running a comparison checker on them against previous versions, to highlight what was new. The overwhelming majority of people, of course, would not go to this length, but I wanted to highlight here some of the things he discovered.
As I said up top, this document was updated only a couple of days before the first Oculus Quest 2 units started shipping to consumers.
Under “How do we use this information?”, the Oculus Supplemental Data Policy states:
We use information we collect when you use Oculus Products for the purposes described in the Facebook Data Policy under “How do we use this information?”, including to provide, personalise and improve the Facebook Products (including seamless integration between the Facebook Products); to provide measurement, analytics and other business services (including ads); to promote safety, integrity and security; to communicate with you; and to research and innovate for social good.
“Research and innovate for social good”?!?? From a company whose flagship product is a toxic dumpster fire of misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories, and who strip-mines your personal data and sells it to corporations and campaigns (remember Cambridge Analytica?)
“Research & innovate for social good” is a clause allowing them to do academic research on a whole range of topics. It’s language that’s a carry-over from their Facebook Policy, which provides a bit more context. The social harms get into all of the many unintended consequences.
One thing that new Supplemental Oculus Terms of Service makes very clear is that you, the purchaser, are responsible for any breaches of the ToS by anybody who uses your headset. Kent says:
My take: You could lose your Facebook account if you let someone use your Oculus headset & they violate the ToS.
Kent asked Facebook, “Can I use multiple Facebook accounts on the same device?” and the answer back from Facebook was:
Not right now, but we plan to introduce the ability for multiple users to log into the same device using their own Facebook account, so that people can easily share their headset with friends and family while keeping their information separate.
To which I ask: Why the hell didn’t Facebook take care of this before shipping the Oculus Quest 2? The Quest 2 is being marketed as a single-user device tied to a single account on the Facebook social network, at a time when the majority of VR devices are shared between multiple people. Why did Facebook not take this into account? Were they in too much of a hurry to tackle this problem before launch?
I can think of numerous examples where different users (such as multiple children of different ages within the same family) will be using a single VR device. For example, I am donating my original Quest to my sister-in-law’s workplace, where she is part of a team of people who works with developmentally challenged adults. Even worse, if any one of those people breaks the Terms of Service, they could then lose access to their device and all the content purchased for it.
Another new thing in the Terms of Service is Facebook has “permission to use your name, profile picture, and information about your actions with ads and sponsored content.” When Kent asked Facebook what was meant by “your name”, the response was it could refer either to your Oculus username of your real name.
In addition to what is stated in Section 4.2 of the Facebook Terms of Service, your access to or use of Oculus Products may be suspended or disabled, and you may lose access to, or the use of part or all of, the services offered by Facebook or third parties through Oculus Products, if (acting reasonably): (1) we determine that you have violated or breached the Terms, Community Standards (also known as the Facebook Rules), Conduct in VR Policy, Oculus Platform Abuse Policy or other terms and policies that apply to your use of Oculus Products or Third-party Services; (2) we believe that your access to, or use of, Oculus Products creates a health and safety risk; or (3) Facebook suspends or disables your Facebook account. Furthermore, we may suspend or disable your access to or use of Oculus Products if you repeatedly infringe other people’s intellectual property rights or when we are required to do so for legal reasons. To the extent permitted by applicable law, Facebook and its affiliates assume no liability for such loss of access and use and will have no obligations related to such loss. If you delete or we disable your access to or use of Oculus Products, these Oculus Terms shall be terminated as an agreement between you and us…
Kent Bye reports that there is a LOT of data collection which Facebook will be collecting from Quest 2 users, and users who choose to merge their Oculus and Facebook accounts with older devices (Rift, Quest 1, and Go).
The Facebook Data Policy states (yes, I know it’s long, but you should read the whole thing):
To provide the Facebook Products, we must process information about you. The type of information that we collect depends on how you use our Products. You can learn how to access and delete information that we collect by visiting the Facebook settings and Instagram settings.
Things that you and others do and provide:
– Information and content you provide. We collect the content, communications and other information you provide when you use our Products, including when you sign up for an account, create or share content and message or communicate with others. This can include information in or about the content that you provide (e.g. metadata), such as the location of a photo or the date a file was created. It can also include what you see through features that we provide, such as our camera, so we can do things such as suggest masks and filters that you might like, or give you tips on using camera formats. Our systems automatically process content and communications that you and others provide to analyse context and what’s in them for the purposes described below. Learn more about how you can control who can see the things you share.
– Networks and connections. We collect information about the people, Pages, accounts, hashtags and groups that you are connected to and how you interact with them across our Products, such as people you communicate with the most or groups that you are part of. We also collect contact information if you choose to upload, sync or import it from a device (such as an address book or call log or SMS log history), which we use for things such as helping you and others find people you may know and for the other purposes listed below.
– Your usage. We collect information about how you use our Products, such as the types of content that you view or engage with, the features you use, the actions you take, the people or accounts you interact with and the time, frequency and duration of your activities. For example, we log when you’re using and have last used our Products, and what posts, videos and other content you view on our Products. We also collect information about how you use features such as our camera.
– Information about transactions made on our Products. If you use our Products for purchases or other financial transactions (such as when you make a purchase in a game or make a donation), we collect information about the purchase or transaction. This includes payment information, such as your credit or debit card number and other card information, other account and authentication information, and billing, delivery and contact details.
– Things others do and information they provide about you. We also receive and analyse content, communications and information that other people provide when they use our Products. This can include information about you, such as when others share or comment on a photo of you, send a message to you or upload, sync or import your contact information.
– As described below, we collect information from and about the computers, phones, connected TVs and other web-connected devices you use that integrate with our Products, and we combine this information across different devices that you use. For example, we use information collected about your use of our Products on your phone to better personalise the content (including ads) or features that you see when you use our Products on another device, such as your laptop or tablet, or to measure whether you took an action in response to an ad that we showed you on your phone on a different device.
Information that we obtain from these devices includes:
– Device attributes: information such as the operating system, hardware and software versions, battery level, signal strength, available storage space, browser type, app and file names and types, and plugins.
– Device operations: information about operations and behaviours performed on the device, such as whether a window is in the foreground or background, or mouse movements (which can help distinguish humans from bots).
– Identifiers: unique identifiers, device IDs and other identifiers, such as from games, apps or accounts that you use, and Family Device IDs (or other identifiers unique to Facebook Company Products associated with the same device or account).
– Device signals: Bluetooth signals, information about nearby Wi-Fi access points, beacons and mobile phone masts.
– Data from device settings: information you allow us to receive through device settings that you turn on, such as access to your GPS location, camera or photos.
– Network and connections: information such as the name of your mobile operator or ISP, language, time zone, mobile phone number, IP address, connection speed and, in some cases, information about other devices that are nearby or on your network, so we can do things such as help you stream a video from your phone to your TV.
Advertisers, app developers and publishers can send us information through Facebook Business Tools that they use, including our social plugins (such as the Like button), Facebook Login, our APIs and SDKs, or the Facebook pixel. These partners provide information about your activities off Facebook – including information about your device, websites you visit, purchases you make, the ads you see and how you use their services – whether or not you have a Facebook account or are logged in to Facebook. For example, a game developer could use our API to tell us what games you play, or a business could tell us about a purchase you made in its shop. We also receive information about your online and offline actions and purchases from third-party data providers who have the rights to provide us with your information.
Partners receive your data when you visit or use their services, or through third parties that they work with. We require each of these partners to have lawful rights to collect, use and share your data before providing us with any data. Learn more about the types of partners we receive data from.
And the Oculus Supplemental Data Policy covers even more kinds of data which Facebook collects about you when you use your Oculus device, including a few things that you might not have thought about, for example, “your physical features and dimensions, such as your estimated hand size” and “information about your environment, physical movements and dimensions when you use an XR device“:
In addition to the information described in the Facebook Data Policy under “What kinds of information do we collect?”, we collect the following categories of information when you use Oculus Products:
– Physical Features: We collect information about your physical features and dimensions, such as your estimated hand size when you enable hand tracking.
– Content: We collect content you create using Oculus Products, such as your avatar, a picture you post, an object you sculpt or audio content you create, and information about this content, such as the date and time you created the content.
– Cookies and Similar Technologies: We receive information collected in or through various technologies on Oculus Products, including cookies, pixels, local storage and similar technologies. Learn more about how we use these technologies on our websites and mobiles apps in the Oculus Cookies Policy.
– Interactions: We collect information about the features you interact with on our Oculus Products. For example, we receive information about your Oculus Browser usage, such as interactions with recommended pages, which browser features you use, crash reporting data and other statistics related to your Oculus Browser. When you use our voice services, we process your voice interactions to respond to your request, provide the requested service to you and improve our voice services on Oculus. You can learn more about how we collect and use information from other features you interact with on the Oculus Products in our Oculus Privacy FAQ.
– Environmental, Dimensions and Movement Data: We collect information about your environment, physical movements and dimensions when you use an XR device. For example, when you set up the Oculus Guardian system to alert you when you approach a boundary, we receive information about the playing area that you have defined; and when you enable the hand tracking feature, we collect technical information such as your estimated hand size and hand movement data to enable this feature.
– Information From Third Parties: We receive information about you from third parties, including third-party apps, developers, other online content providers and marketing partners. For example, we receive information from developers about your achievements in their app and share this information with your friends on Oculus. We also collect content and information that other people provide when they use Oculus Products. This can include information about you, such as when they send us an abuse report that refers to or contains a video of you.
– Technical System Information: We collect technical system information such as crash logs which may contain your user ID, your device ID, your IP address, the local computer file path, the feature quality, the amount of time it takes to load a feature and whether you use a certain feature.
Will any of this make any difference to the success of the Quest 2? Probably not. Most people (many of whom probably already have a Facebook account) will see a cheaper, better version of the original Quest and buy one, tacitly signing off on all these policies without reading them or understanding them. The people who know about the potential dangers and warn about them (such as Kent Bye and myself) are but a vocal minority. Most people don’t know the issues and don’t care. As one of the members of the RyanSchultz.com Discord said recently:
Facebook wants to own the Metaverse…
The question is whether you are willing to sell your data to get a cheaper VR headset. The mainstream market cares about the price more than privacy.
Got my Quest 2 today and created a new Facebook account with my real name (never had one previously) and merged my 4 year old Oculus account with it. Promptly got banned 10 minutes later and now cannot access my account or use my device.
Sent drivers license photo ID as requested by Facebook and my account now says “We have already reviewed this decision and it can’t be reversed.” upon trying to login so it looks like I’ve lost all my previous Oculus purchases and now have a new white paperweight.
Fuck Facebook & Fuck Oculus. Be warned folks.
This user’s Facebook initial signup email, the ban page they received on Facebook, and resulting Oculus support email can all be found here:
I swear I had the exact same thing happen today.. Except I didn’t use a phone number, so 10 minutes later I was disabled, but they wanted to verify phone number, which I did.. Then they wanted a selfie video of me… Now it’s pending REVIEW!! WTF I just created an account with all 100% real info. THIS IS ILLEGAL! Buy something you can’t use!! You can buy PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo and never create an account but you can buy a game, put it in, and play it!!!! SERIOUSLY FACEBOOK IS THE MAFIA!
We can expect to see many more incidents as Facebook’s faulty automated checking systems falsely flag and ban accounts which it assumes are false. As word gets out, and the news media begin to report on these problems, it could put a small dent in Quest 2 sales (although I still predict that Facebook is going to sell a lot of Quests, regardless).
This is actually happening a LOT to my Japanses VR fanatic friends, right now, who are buying the Quest 2 to get involved in VRChat, Cluster, and VirtualCast. If you check the Twitter hashtags, it’s rampant… In Japan, Facebook is used like LinkedIN, it’s there for business and networking with business. THey don’t use it for personal stuff. That’s reserved for Line and Twitter. Japan’s mobile phones have automated filters to blur the faces of people in the background of images, even.
Japan takes identity and privacy online to the next level, and many of them have multiple personas online that are used for various groups or associations, so this is hitting them really hard…Many of them are making an Oculus account (creating a Facebook account) for the first time, putting a picture of their avatar or their artwork up, and making private everything else as you would expect them to. Then they go to use their headset and are immediately locked out.
To steal a line from I Love Lucy, Facebook has some ‘splaining to do…