Editorial: Second Life Founder and High Fidelity CEO Philip Rosedale Comments on the Facebookening of Oculus

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Erica joy Baker, Director of Engineering at GitHub, recently tweeted her dismay at discovering that, upon deactivating her Facebook account, her Oculus Quest became unusable:

I deactivated my Facebook, as I often do. It made my Oculus Quest 100% unusable. Not “hard to use” or “unpleasant to use.” Unusable.

She added:

My Oculus Quest didn’t degrade gracefully after I deactivated my Facebook account. Instead, the home app went into an ANR loop. When the Quest came back up after I hard rebooted it, the home app loaded, but blocked me using anything until it could connect to my Facebook account again.

Second Life founder and High Fidelity CEO Philip Rosedale commented on her tweet:

So true and so sad. I can’t believe VR tech (which is getting better) is dominated by one company whose track record clearly suggests they will cause harm to those who would use these devices. What a bad situation.

And I replied:

This is why we need to promote and support open source social VR solutions such as Tivoli Cloud VR and Vircadia (based on your HiFi code). Thank you for your part in building that universe of possibility, Philip.

And it’s true; Philip Rosedale’s decision to make the original High Fidelity social VR platform software code available for other developers to build upon has already led to two separate, distributed open-source successors to HiFi, both of which I have written about before on this blog: Tivoli Cloud VR and Vircadia (which I would strongly encourage you to check out, if you haven’t already done so). I have recently had a guided tour of both platforms, and both look very promising!

And, of course, there are numerous examples of other, non-Facebook social VR platforms which people should explore (NeosVR, Sansar, and Sinespace* are three I highly recommend you try).

Facebook already has too much power and control over the current and future development of social virtual reality, unnecessarily forcing users of its Oculus VR devices to create accounts on its Facebook social network (so that their personal data can be further strip-mined and sold to corporations and campaigns for profit).

We need to actively promote and support metaverse alternatives to the Facebook ecosystem, which do NOT track our every click, like, relationship, glance, and gesture.

*Full disclosure: I am an embedded reporter for Sinespace, writing sponsored blogposts about the people, news and events on that virtual world/social VR platform.

Tivoli Cloud VR: A Quick Update

Yesterday, Andrew William and I paid a visit to Tivoli Cloud VR, the new, open source social VR platform based on the code from the old High Fidelity platform. Caitlyn Meeks and Maki Deprez, the friendly, geeky team who are the heart and soul of Tivoli, kindly gave us a bit of a guided tour, and showed off a few new worlds and a few new features.

We met up at the Squirrel Nut Café, where they hold a Tea Time meetup every Saturday.

Chatting with Caitlyn and Maki in the Squirrel Nut Café

Among the worlds Caitlyn took us to were Nostalgia, a wintertime Bavarian market with gently falling snow, created by Skimi, who brought over many of his models from Second Life:

Our next stop was Madder’s meeting place and art gallery, set in a futuristic cityscape environment (all of which actually runs quite well on a Raspberry Pi processor, with no less than six avatars wandering around!). Caitlyn informed me that all the art I saw on the walls was automatically framed and positioned, instead of each piece being placed by hand, using the scripting abilities of Tivoli.

We wrapped up our brief tour with a visit to a new project that Tivoli is working on with Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: a working lecture hall that boasts a fully-fledged, shareable virtual computer that can be used by the presenter to present slideshows and videos, but also to run other programs such as games!

This virtual computer runs on Linux and is called a Tivoli Shared Desktop, and Caitlyn informs me that they are working on a custom desktop environment, to make it even easier to use from VR as a more general-purpose virtual computer. The Tivoli Shared Desktop and this virtual lecture hall were created for a cognitive science course that is part of the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at SFU, that will be delivered both in-world and via Twitch, which some students will be using to view the lectures and interact with the instructor.

The lecture hall and virtual computer created for Simon Fraser University

Caitlyn and I spoke about the importance of having an open source virtual world which is not controlled by Facebook/Oculus, especially in light of the announcement last week that a Facebook account will now be required for all Oculus VR devices. We discussed the ramifications of such a move, plus the fact that Facebook Horizon avatars would be linked to people’s real-life profiles (and the impact that could have on role play communities, for example).

Caitlyn told me that she saw it as Tivoli’s mission “to protect the future of VR from Facebook”, a sentiment which I support wholeheartedly. (Then she apologized to me if her statement sounded arrogant, which it wasn’t at all! If anything, I think it’s a confident, positive, and bold vision for the future. We need all the non-Facebook VR hardware and software we can get!)

One of their goals is to provide a really high-quality virtual reality experience, and her and Maki have been hard at work revising the original HiFi codebase to that end.

She told me that the Tivoli Cloud VR platform is growing slowly but steadily through word of mouth, and they have had an recent influx of Japanese users. In fact, one day recently they came across one Japanese user in VR who had actually fallen asleep in his headset! (Shades of VRChat! Or, as Caitlyn said, “Achievement unlocked!”)

Oh, and I forgot to mention that all TIvoli automatically users get one free gigabyte of file storage space for their own projects. I plan to move the avatar that I had created using the Virtually You app for the old High Fidelity—the files for which someone kindly saved for me—into my personal storage space. I’m looking forward to replacing the standard-issue, photorealistic Matthew avatar you see in these pictures with one that looks a lot more like me in real life!

I find it extremely cheering that Tivoli Cloud is rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the old High Fidelity platform, and I very much look forward to seeing it grow and develop over time. Caitlyn and Maki and their team are already off to a great start!


All pictures in this blogpost courtesy of Andrew William—thanks, Andrew!

Tivoli Cloud VR (a Fork of the Old High Fidelity Social VR Platform) Is Now Available in Early Access!

This evening, Maki Deprez posted the following message to the announcements channel on the official Tivoli Cloud VR Discord server:

Tivoli is now available for early access!

Visit our updated website to try it out now! https://tivolicloud.com/

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.

You can request features or report bugs on our road map: https://roadmap.tivolicloud.com/

Make sure you check out your Tivoli files as well: https://files.tivolicloud.com/

And here is our code base if you’d like to see: https://git.tivolicloud.com/tivolicloud

Thank you for being so patient!

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).

If you want to follow their progress on this enterprise, here is their blog. You can also join their Discord server or follow them on Twitter. If you want to contribute to the project, here is their GitLab and Roadmap.

Pictures from Today’s Lockdown Dance Party in High Fidelity, Presented by XaosPrincess and Tivoli Cloud VR!

The second Lockdown Dance Party in High Fidelity is now in full swing!

Caitlyn Meeks announced from the stage that the next Lockdown Dance Party will actually be held on alpha-test version of the Tivoli Cloud VR platform, a fork of the HiFi source code, instead of in High Fidelity itself. While this is exciting news, it is also a sad moment, as today’s event might very well be the last major event to happen on the now essentially closed-down social VR platform High Fidelity. It is truly the end of an era. (And here is news on what High Fidelity, the company, is planning to work on next.)

So here are a few pictures I took to commemorate the event, which is on now and running until 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time today, Saturday, May 16th, 2020, with DJ Kreolis and DJ BrainStormer spinning tunes. Here are step-by-step instructions to join the dance party!

I chat with XaosPrincess during the amazing light show by BrainStormer
Caitlyn and XaosPrincess address the crowd
Busting a move on the dancefloor to DJ Kreolis

This is also likely the last time I will ever see my customized High Fidelity avatar, which I created using the now-withdrawn Virtual You mobile app:

Of course, it wouldn’t be a HiFi dance party without Chocka dancing on the stage!

Like I said, the end of an era. The final picture is courtesy of XaosPrincess: