UPDATED! Ernest Cline, Author of Ready Player One, Will Attend a Virtual Book Tour Event for His Sequel Novel, Ready Player Two, in Bigscreen Today (Saturday, December 5th, 2020)

Ernest Cline, the author of the phenomenally successful virtual-reality-based science fiction novel, Ready Player One, will be visiting Bigscreen (the social VR app which allows you to share movie viewing experiences with others; more here on my blog), chatting with Darshan Shankar (Bigscreen’s founder and CEO), and taking questions from a virtual audience.

According to the official blogpost announcing the event:

The Q&A with Cline and Darshan Shankar, the CEO and Founder of Bigscreen, will be streamed in Bigscreen on December 5th at 5:00 p.m. Pacific (8:00 p.m. Eastern). The event is open to audiences worldwide for free, and requires the Bigscreen application (www.bigscreenvr.com) and a supported virtual reality headset.

The cover of Ernest Cline’s eagerly-awaited sequel to Ready Player One

Bigscreen supports all major VR headsets, including the Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Bigscreen is available as a free download from the Oculus Store (PCQuest) or via Steam. (Please note that although the Ernest Cline event today is free, you must purchase tickers to see some premium movie content on Bigscreen.)

For more information on Bigscreen, visit their website, or follow them on social media: TwitterFacebookYouTube, and Reddit. You can also join the Bigscreen Community Discord server, with over 15,000 members.

UPDATE Dec. 6th, 2020: I, unfortunately, was unable to attend this event, but someone who did informed me that it was pre-recorded, and there was no Q&A session from a virtual audience. Please accept my apologies for the error!

Jel: A Brief Introduction

Jel (which bills itself “the un-Zoom”) reminds me of cross between Mozilla Hubs, Minecraft, and Remotely; it’s a created-on-the-fly social VR space/virtual world like Hubs, in a landscape vaguely reminiscent of Minecraft, and much like Remotely, it attempts to put a fun spin on remote collaboration between members of a workteam (in other words, the marketplace currently dominated by products such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Cisco Webex).

The Jel website is disconcertingly spartan when you first visit it; all you are asked to do is enter the name of the workspace you want to create (you don’t even have to set up a user account or password!).

Once you get into Jel, you are presented with a windowed look into a blocky, Minecraftesque landscape, which appears to be procedurally generated on the fly:

Pressing the Shift kay and spacebar simultaneously widens your view somewhat, to take advantage of all the real estate on your computer monitor (as far as I can tell, this is not an app which supports virtual reality):

The idea, like so many other YARTRVA (Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App) on the marketplace, is that you can invite your workmates to join you virtually from wherever they happen to be located around the world. Press the / key to pull up the Create menu, which allows you to create a floating page of text, upload an image, video, PDF, or 3D gITF model, or link to an image, video, PDF, or model on the internet.

The Jel website appears to set a cookie so that, the next time you sign in, you are automatically returned to your originally created workspace(s). You can invite your teammates to join you by sending them the URL of your space. You can chat with each other using your microphones (just like Hubs), and you can work on projects together.

The creator, Greg Fodor, writes on his blog:

Jel is now live. Come try it, or read on to learn more.

Earlier this year, I left my team at Mozilla to start something new. Five months later, I’m excited to share the news that Jel is now live for people to come try out. You can create a Space, or join the Jel community Space to check it out. As with all new web-based software, this is just an early version. This first version of Jel will hopefully be enough to kickstart connections with early adopters to refine Jel into something they love. If you want to join the conversation, join the Jel Discord.

Greg makes a few observations, based on his previous work experience at places like AltspaceVR and Mozilla Hubs:

First, while Social VR apps are ostensibly focused on creating social presence with VR headsets, the vast majority of users have great success with traditional laptops, phones, and tablets. It seems to me that avatar chat, not VR, is the core thing that people benefit from. VR is a compelling, but non-essential, way to create this form of social presence. 3D avatar chat tools are nothing new, but the Social VR space that grew in the wake of the Oculus acquisition paved the way for a wider exploration, and also led many to believe that billions of people would soon be meeting up as avatars.

Another odd thing is that the people I saw actually using these apps, the power users, had totally different preferences than the people proposing workplace or other “mainstream” use-cases for them. This latter group almost never became power users themselves, no matter how many features we built that they asked for.

…if you look at the avatar chat apps that people are actually hooked on, they are filled with whimsical or cute avatars, diverse, fantastical scenes, and, in some apps like Hubs or Anyland, a rich canvas of ways to share and mix media with one another with little structure or rules. They’re nothing like a boring conference room with floating human heads in seats and slides up on a projector screen, yet that’s the experience it seems like so many of these virtual meeting tools are trying to deliver.

This was the design philosophy behind Jel: that remote workteam apps should be more like video games like Minecraft, instead of Zoom:

[T]he most controversial claim I’ll make in this whole post that seems true is that once you start using avatar chat to regularly meet with people who “get it”, you’ll ditch videoconferencing, because it sucks in comparison. Being on camera sucks, talking to a little grid of blurry faces sucks, and not seeing other people’s body language but having them act like you do sucks. And it’s all completely unnecessary if you just meet in a video game instead.

In the post-COVID world, an intuition that videoconferencing does indeed suck for remote work has taken hold, despite the logic telling us that it should work just fine. I won’t get into the details here, but research supports this intuition. However, few teams take that intuition and act on it. If they did, they’d discover that meeting in a game like Minecraft or Hubs can be much, much better, as long as the team isn’t primed to reject it as a silly idea, as many do.

Two avatars chatting in Jel (source)

Greg goes on to say:

Jel is designed to be the first always-on, persistent tool for avatar chat, like Slack and Discord, but for 3D virtual spaces.

– You can keep Jel running in the background all day without it becoming a battery or CPU drain.
– Switching between 3D worlds is fast: one click, with no loading screens.
– When you switch worlds, you’ll find everything just how you left it. Objects, environments, and your last position are all persisted.
– Jel tries to always run smoothly, regardless of your device.

Jel can live in a browser tab or be installed as a standalone app. When you switch to something else, it runs quietly in the background, consuming less resources than a typical text chat app. It sets the graphics quality to a level that ensures that no matter if you have a high end GPU or basic laptop graphics, it feels smooth and responsive.

Obviously, Jel is still in the very earliest stages of development, but if you’re intrigued by the concept, you can read through Greg’s entire blogpost (it’s quite lengthy), visit the Jel website, and join their Discord server. You can also ping and chat with Greg Fodor on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, where he is a member (his handle is @gfodor).

While Jel is still a far cry from a true social VR app, it does qualify as a virtual world, so I will be adding Jel to my popular, ever-expanding (and soon to be reorganized…I promise!) Comprehensive List of Social VR Platforms and Virtual Worlds.

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Advent Calendar Gifts for December 5th, 2020 (Plus Gifts from Lara Hurley Skin)

Here’s my blogpost with links to four lists of Advent Calendars and 12 Days of Christmas Calendars, plus my “Top Ten” Calendars you should not miss in 2020!

First, before we get started today, I wanted to alert you that the Lara Hurley Skin store is offering a free head skin and shape for that freebie Chelsea head you picked up from LOGO, if you were on the ball! The Lara Hurley group is free to join, and the Maria group gift is free, just join the group and click the panel shown here:

The Bales on Mesh Maria skin comes as a full-head tattoo, with or without the black eyebrows, plus a couple of optional blushes. I think she looks quite striking with the black eyeliner!

Now, you will need to find a BoM skin to match, as there is not one included in the Maria gift package. However, in the next room over, are a number of other free group gifts, and one of them is a perfect body match to the Maria head skin!

O.K., now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive into the Advent calendar goodies available today! The December 5th Advent calendar gift from Virtue are the casual Margarita overalls outfit in yellow and blue (the Virtue group is free to join):

From Entice comes this lovely light blue top and matching skirt (the Entice group is free to join):

Pink Mango is offering a similar outfit, a gray wool top and skirt, as their December 5th Advent calendar gift (the Pink Mango group is free to join):

The gift from Justice is this sexy red dress, with a HUD to change the colour of the metal zippers as shown (the Justice group is free to join):

Today’s gift from Firelight Hair is the long, swept-back Lisea hairstyle, which comes with a mini-HUD with three shades of red (the Firelight group is free to join):

The gift from Vagrant’s Advent calendar is this red, knotted Chloe top (the Vagrant group is free to join):

Don’t forget to pick up all the Vagrant group gifts tucked behind the Christmas tree, including this skimpy little seasonal top which comes with a HUD with four different Christmas patterns:

Ho ho ho, indeed! (*badum tss*!!!)…and that is all the freebies I have for you today, folks!

Don’t forget to hit Wow Skins and 7 Deadly S[k]ins for their December 5th advent calendar gifts (if you belong to their groups). Here is today’s gift from Wow Skins, called Asia, in the sandy skin tone (the group join fee is L$199):

And today’s gift from 7 Deadly S[k]ins is the Hope skin in apricot (the group join fee is L$1,000):

Happy freebie shopping!

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Free Gifts from the FaMESHed December Round!

It’s Christmas time, and many of the vendors participating in the December round of the monthly FaMESHed shopping event have Christmas gifts for you! You do need to join the FaMESHed Update Group for free to pick up all these gifts.

Here’s a look at some of the fabulous fashion freebies for female avatars. This avatar is wearing three gifts together as one outfit:

  • the sweater is the gift from COCO Designs;
  • the skirt is the gift from Safira; and
  • the boots are by L&B SWEAR.

The detail on the boots are a little hard to see in the first picture, so here’s a closeup! These winter boots are by Lapointe & Bastchild SWEAR, and they come in Frost blue, Pine green, and Merry red, in sizes to fit most brands of female mesh feet. Truly beautiful craftsmanship by Lapointe & Bastchild!

The skirt from Safira comes in two versions, either with or without a large bow at the rear, along with a HUD to change the colour of the stripe on the red skirt and the included panties to one of 23 different colours (or, if you wish, to remove the panties entirely, but Auntie Ryan is not going to show you that! 😉 …it would shock the children!).

Here my avatar is wearing the SWEAR boots in Frost blue, with the same Safira skirt as above, plus the Christmas hoodie from Giz Seorn. She’s all set for a romp in the snow (well, okay, maybe if she swaps out that miniskirt for some snowpants!):

Next up we have this Unicorn pink bodysuit by Tori Toricelli:

The gif from Scandalize is the Lizzi dress with a separate belt, which comes in a fatpack of colours!

You can also pick up some nice shoes. The Mozambique heels from Essenz come in a three-colour HUD, plus the ability to change both the colour of the sole and the metal on the cheeky little safety pin!

From Gos Shoes, there are these lovely red sandals:

And there is a metric TON of jewelry at the December round of the FaMESHed event! Here are just a few examples. First up is the lovely ornate, antique Princess necklace from Junbug, with a delicate golden chain and a light blue gemstone. Isn’t it gorgeous? I will definitely be wearing this with a light blue ballgown at my next swanky soirée!

Kunglers offers the following Doriana necklace in two versions: gold pearl (as shown below), and silver teal:

The FaMESHed gift from Glitzz is the elegant gold Amira necklace, which comes with a HUD to change the colours of the gemstones:

Next up we have the Tressa necklace and earrings from Cae, which come with a HUD to allow you to select one of six different metals, and fifteen different gemstones!

The gift from EarthStones is the lovely Devorah necklace and earrings in bloodstone:

Finally, from Supernatural we have this chic, versatile choker, which comes in either white or black, in gold or silver, and with two HUDs to change the two sets of gemstones to 35 different colours, to match any outfit!

You can also find a few menswear and home decor gifts. This charming milk can, decorated with Christmas holly and branches with red berries, is the gift from Trompe L’Oeil, and the sweater this male avatar is wearing is the gift from ELEMEN’S (it comes in blue as shown or in red, in sizes to fit the Belleza Jake and Signature Gianni male mesh bodies).

Happy freebie shopping! This round of the FaMESHed shopping event runs from December 1st to December 27th , 2020, so you’ve got plenty of time to swoop down and vacuum up all the fabulous Christmas freebies! Here’s your taxi!