Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Another L$1 Male Head from Akeruka!

Akeruka has, as expected, followed up their anniversary group gift of the W21 women’s mesh head with a similarly fabulous offering for the gentlemen! The M09 male mesh head is available from now until July 15th, 2021 at the Akeruka main store (SLURL):

Remember that you’ll have to join the [AK} Heads News & Support group for L$150 to obtain this group gift; just pay the vendor a single Linden dollar and the M09 head is yours!

This head does not come with any skin, so I paired it the dollarbie Meshbody Classic male mesh body, and applied a couple of Bakes on Mesh skins I had in my inventory.

The first skin is the pale Delphinus skin from Altamura (adding the high-definition eyebrows from the HUD for the head):

For a darker tone of skin, I chose a free BoM tanned skin I picked up from BROX:

I’m quite pleased with this second look! This is a very handsome Bento, Bakes on Mesh male head, and I’m certain you will be quite happy with it as well.

Remember, it’s only available until July 15th, 2021, and then it’s gone. Happy freebie shopping!

ENGAGE Announces a New Social VR Platform, ENGAGE Oasis

We want ENGAGE Oasis to be the LinkedIn of the metaverse.

—David Whelan, CEO, VR Education

VR Education, the Waterford, Ireland-based company that makes the educational social VR platform ENGAGE, has been doing well lately! Last year, they reported that revenue jumped 43%, to €1m (US$1,188,380). And the company just announced that they had successfully raised US$10 million in venture capital.

They’re also launching a new social VR platform called ENGAGE Oasis, aimed at the corporate market (a market segment that I like to collectively call YARTVRA: Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App):

Inspired by the VR simulation known as OASIS in the book and film ‘Ready Player One’ ENGAGE Oasis will be an always on, fully persistent virtual world, where ENGAGE clients can meet and sell products and services directly to each other. Designed for business professionals, corporations, young professionals, and college students, it is best seen as a cloud-based digital city where actual business can be done. Employees from the world’s largest corporations can connect with each other to generate new business ideas and deliver value to their respective organisations. ENGAGE Oasis aims to be an opportunity for corporate users to expand their customer base and provide immersive services at a reasonable price.

All the avatars and virtual locations will be tailored for professional users, and guidelines will be set by the owners of each sector. There will be no limits on digital artists or corporations regarding the virtual building blocks and styles used, allowing for unlimited branding opportunities. As part of this metaverse, a new marketplace will become available for
corporations and digital artists to sell digital items and provide services using non-fungible tokens, fiat currencies and
cryptocurrencies.

Now, as many long-time readers of the RyanSchultz.com blog well know, Auntie Ryan has OPINIONS… 😉

So I am going to go on record to say that “ENGAGE Oasis” is a terrible, TERRIBLE name, and I hope that VR Education changes it before launch! Everybody wants to jump on the Ready Player One bandwagon, it seems; this is the THIRD virtual reality platform that I know of that is called Oasis (here’s the first one; here’s the second one) .

As I have written before:

Another big problem with Oasis? As I mentioned earlier, it’s almost impossible to find this game on Google, due to so many other unrelated hits you get from searching on “Oasis”. Search on “Oasis VR” or “Oasis game” and you get the Ready Player One-branded experience by VIVEPORT, or the Chinese game company….Frankly, Oasis is a TERRIBLE name for a virtual world. It’s just too common a name for too many other things on the Internet.

Now, branching out from the profitable educational market (ENGAGE has gained 100 customers in just 2 years!) to launch a corporate cousin is a very savvy move by VR Education. They already have a viable, popular social VR platform, and it’s likely that those features which set ENGAGE apart from the competition (notably, three-dimensional recording and replaying of content) will make it into the Oasis product.

Other platforms, such as Breakroom by Sine Wave Entertainment (the makers of Sinespace), have seen great success recently, capitalizing on the unfortunate situation caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, selling to corporations and hosting virtual alternatives to real-life events such as conferences and training sessions. And I’m quite sure VR Education is also hungering for a slice of that pie!

VRScout reports:

“If Rec Room and Roblox are the TikTok and Twitch of the metaverse, we want ENGAGE Oasis to be the LinkedIn of the metaverse,” said David Whelan, CEO of VRE, in an official release. “We think that young professionals, corporations, digital artists, and service providers will love all the opportunities being part of the metaverse will lead to. With the pandemic and climate change causing businesses to rethink how they interact externally and internally, the virtual world provided by ENGAGE Oasis has the potential for exponential growth.”

ENGAGE is already a leader in the world of virtual communications, and our growing client base and proven technology underlines our belief that we can become the leader in the corporate metaverse. We look forward to updating the market on our progress, including launch partners, in the coming months.”

For more information on ENGAGE, visit their website, or follow them on social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.

Decentraland Introduces a Wearables Editor: Creating and Selling Avatar Fashion on the Blockchain

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 500 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the companies building it. Come join us! More details here.


If Second Life has taught us nothing else during the 18 years of its existence, it is this: that people are willing to invest considerable amounts of time and money on avatar customization. In some worlds like VRChat, the customization applies to the entire avatar; in others, like Sinespace, Second Life and Sansar, you can have dressable, human(oid) avatars, where you can mix and match clothing you purchase from content creators to make your own signature look. (In fact, at one time I had aspirations to teach myself Marvelous Designer and become an avatar fashion designer in Sansar…you can read through all the blogposts of that particular saga here.)

The blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland has followed the latter path of Sansar and Second Life (i.e. dressable human avatars), and early this month, they have taken another step on that journey by releasing the Decentraland Wearables Editor. Here’s a quick promotional video:

Now, unlike Sansar and Second Life, creating and selling avatar clothing is different in a blockchain-based virtual world like Decentraland. Every single copy of every single article of clothing has to be minted as a unique NFT (non-fungible token). In other words, the designer decides ahead of time how many copies he or she wants to sell. All clothing is limited edition!

The Decentraland Wearables Editor allows you to name items, model wearables on an avatar, assign categories and item rarity, and set a price for each item in your collections. After that, according to the official blogpost:

Once you’re happy with the details, you can publish your item or collection which then goes to the Curation Committee for approval.

The Curation Committee was voted in place by the DAO, and exists to prevent buggy or offensive wearables from appearing in Decentraland.

Read more about the committee and the approvals process in the documentation.

While there is no gas cost for minting wearables on Polygon, there are fees for publishing wearable items in the Editor. These fees are intended to discourage and reduce wearable “spam”, which can have a negative impact on the performance of the Decentraland Platform.

Again, this is another key difference between Second Life and Decentraland: everything you create for the latter has to go through an approvals process. Since this is a new process, it is impossible to say how much of a potential bottleneck this could create. (By the way, the Decentraland DAO is an autonomous body which owns the most important smart contracts and assets that make up Decentraland—the LAND Contract, the Estates Contract, Wearables, Content Servers and the Marketplace—and subsidizes various operations and initiatives throughout Decentraland.)

So, as you can see, blockchain throws an interesting curveball at the world of avatar fashion design! If all this intrigues you, you can learn more from the Decentraland documentation on wearables. You can follow Decentraland via Twitter and Reddit, or via their blogYou can also join their official Discord server.

Editorial: Some Facebook Musings on a Lazy Saturday Morning

Image by Firmbee from Pixabay

It’s been ten oh-so-glorious months since I decided to boycott Facebook and trade in my Oculus Rift for a Valve Index, and I continue to celebrate (nay, revel!) my near-complete emancipation from Facebook software and hardware. (I did have one person tell me he would no longer bother reading my blog after my decision… to which I responded Bye, Felicia!)

I have done a factory reset on my Oculus Quest (first edition), and it sits quietly in its box, waiting to be shipped to my sister-in-law in Alberta, where she plans to use it in her work with developmentally-challenged adults. I have completely deleted both my Facebook and Oculus accounts, and I asked Facebook to delete all my personal data. The Facebook app has never graced my relatively new iPhone. I even installed Privacy Badger and uBlock origin to block the setting and sending of tracking cookies to Facebook while I surf the Web! I think I have burned my bridges pretty effectively. (Now, I am not kidding myself, I am quite sure that Facebook has some sort of “shadow account” on me.)

In fact, the only remnant of Facebook left in my life the Oculus Rift I had purchased for my suspended research project, which sits in my office at the University of Manitoba Libraries, untouched as I continue to work from home during the pandemic. (I’m still figuring out what my new academic research project will be!) That VR headset has an Oculus account, and I have a little under two years to decide if I want to get a Facebook account for it when I am forced to do so. I can tell you one thing: if I do, it sure the hell won’t be in my name! I’m quite sure that many institutions of higher education are dealing with the thorny issues of being required to set up Facebook accounts for Oculus hardware. I’m also quite sure that Facebook/Oculus has lost some business because of that requirement!

At the same time, I am glad that the Oculus Quest 2 is selling well. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” as I like to say, and greater consumer uptake of VR will only mean good things for the entire VR/AR/XR ecosystem. People whose first taste of virtual reality is in an Oculus Quest will no doubt migrate to other hardware over time (many people are eagerly awaiting to see what Apple will do). I’ll tell you one thing: I trust Apple with my privacy way, waaay more than Facebook! I watch with amusement as the privacy battle between Facebook and Apple continues.

My experience with Facebook has informed the skepticism with which I look at all social media platforms, including the ones I use the most: Twitter and Reddit. I still derive value (and leads for potential blogposts!) from both, and I intend to continue to use them, and I still hang out on the new drop-in social audio apps Clubhouse and Spotify Greenroom (although I suspect that the Clubhouse boom has turned into a bust). However, I will never again use social media without wondering about data and privacy issues. Remember, if it’s “free”. YOU are the product!

I’ve also been watching Facebook take its first tentative steps into introducing advertising in Oculus apps. The BBC reported:

In what the social network described as an experiment, ads will begin to appear in a game called Blaston with other developers rolling out similar ads.

It said it would listen to feedback before launching virtual reality ads more widely.

It also revealed it is testing new ad formats “that are unique to VR”.

In 2014, shortly after Facebook bought Oculus, creator Palmer Luckey told concerned gamers: “We are not going to track you, flash ads at you, or do anything invasive.”

But in a blog on Oculus’s website, the firm said: “We’re exploring new ways for developers to generate revenue – this is a key part of ensuring we’re creating a self-sustaining platform that can support a variety of business models that unlock new types of content and audiences.”

Shortly after this was written, Blaston withdrew from the program after the negative press and review-bombing by unhappy players:

Barely a week has passed since Facebook started testing ads in Oculus apps and already the initiative has run into trouble. On Monday, one of the handful of developers involved in the initial ad experiment said it was pulling out of the test. Resolution Games tweeted that it had decided that in-app ads were not suitable for its multiplayer shooter game Blaston after “listening to player feedback.”

The developer had encouraged its user base to leave their thoughts on an ad feedback channel on its Discord server. As spotted by Upload VR, angry players had also review bombed Blaston on the Oculus Store and Steam shortly after its participation in the ad trial was announced.

Resolution Games’ decision marks a setback for Facebook’s burgeoning ad strategy for Oculus. After squeezing more ads into Instagram and its main platform, the company risked irking passionate gamers by bringing ads to VR. Unlike those other services, Oculus isn’t free: An Oculus Quest 2 headset alone starts from $299. While Blaston is also a paid game. 

I have been informed that, in fact, Facebook sells the Oculus Quest at a loss, hoping to earn back that money through software sales for the platform (which makes sense). In a discussion with Voices of VR podcaster Kent Bye (whom I admire greatly), I mentioned that I didn’t feel the need to subscribe to VRChat Plus, and he challenged me to consider the alternative: paid advertising in VRChat. I can tell you that the very thought made me shudder, and I changed my mind in a hurry, happily shelling out for a VRChat Plus subscription. And apparently, they are selling well:

Our community has shown their support by buying our optional subscription, VRChat Plus, which unlocks some enhancements and perks. VRC+ has been greatly successful, and has been instrumental in helping us expand via features like Regions. We plan on expanding VRC+ by enabling purchases on the Oculus platform, as well as allowing players to gift subscriptions to each other. We are so grateful to our community for their support!

I also find myself wondering about Facebook’s latest attempt at a social VR platform, Facebook Horizon, which many people expected to be launched by now, and which seems to be stuck in closed beta testing. I don’t regret not participating in Horizon by boycotting Facebook, not for one instant, but I do find the delay in launch perplexing. I have heard second-hand accounts that, while the in-world building tools are nice, there’s not a lot to do, and user moderation has been a problem area, despite Facebook’s surveillance attempts, which I mention in this blogpost. The longer it takes for Facebook to roll out Horizon, the more people wonder what’s really going on.

It just seems that Facebook can’t put a foot right these days. Even worse, the company itself doesn’t seem to know exactly what it is nowadays, as it lurches from market to market in an attempt to remain dominant. Shira Ovide of The New York Times wrote recently in an On Tech newsletter editorial:

This question might sound silly, but I’m serious: What is Facebook?

Did you know that Facebook has a dating service, online job listings, a version of Craigslist, a new collection of podcasts and live audio chat rooms, multiple copycats of Zoom, a section just for college students, two different spots for “TV” shows, a feature like TikTok (but bad) and software that office workers can use to communicate? On Tuesday, the company also outlined new developments in its efforts to get more businesses to sell merchandise directly inside Facebook and the company’s other apps.

If you knew that Facebook was doing all of this … gold star, I guess. You spend way too much time on the internet.

…The company’s constant tinkering raises the question: Is Facebook trying so hard because it’s excited about what’s next, or perhaps because, like its peers, it is no longer so adept at predicting and then leading digital revolutions?

(The entire On Tech column is well worth a read, by the way.)

Anyway, these are just some assorted musings about Facebook this lazy Saturday morning. As always, I’d love to hear your comments and perspectives! Feel free to join the burgeoning RyanSchultz.com Discord server, where well over 500 of us like-minded social VR/virtual world enthusiasts gather to discuss, debate, and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and all the companies building it! Or just leave a comment on this blogpost, thanks!