Linden Lab and Other Social VR Companies Sued Over Virtual Reality Patent

law-1991004_1920.jpg
Image by witwiccan on Pixabay

I was skimming through my Flipboard newsfeed on virtual reality over my morning coffee when I came across the following news item:

Second Life, VRChat, Others Sued Over Virtual Reality Patent

  • Virtual reality company says defendants infringed interactive theater patent
  • Company has sued 21 companies over patent

The makers of Second Life, VRChat, and other virtual reality games are facing claims that they infringed an interactive virtual theater patent.

Plaintiff Virtual Immersion Technologies Aug. 30 brought patent suits against seven companies, including Linden Research Inc., Sine Wave Entertainment Ltd., VRChat Inc., and Raytheon Co., Bloomberg Law data show.

The companies are infringing U.S. Patent 6,409,599, which allows people to interact in a real-time, virtual environment with live performers, according to Virtual Immersion’s nearly identical complaints filed…

A quick Google search on Virtual Immersion Technologies pulls up numerous lawsuits filed by the company against corporations such as Ford, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing. A 2017 lawsuit by the company against AltspaceVR led to the following spirited discussion over on the Vive subReddit:

Patent Troll.png

According to the Google dictionary, a “patent troll” is:

a company that obtains the rights to one or more patents in order to profit by means of licensing or litigation, rather than by producing its own goods or services.

At the time, Reuters reported:

A Texas-based company filed separate lawsuits on Wednesday against Boeing, Lockheed Martin and e-sports platform Sliver.tv, accusing them of infringing a patent on virtual reality technology.

The complaints filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware by Virtual Immersion Technologies of Georgetown, Texas are nearly identical to six others it filed in Texas last year against several other companies and one that it filed Tuesday in Delaware against Redwood City, California-based virtual reality startup AltspaceVR.

It would appear that Virtual Immersion Technologies is once again issuing patent infringement lawsuits against various players in the VR industry, including the companies behind Sansar, Sinespace, and VRChat. Unfortunately, fighting such lawsuits is a common part of the business landscape in America. Comedian John Oliver did a brilliant video on the problem:

Advertisements

Money in the Newer Virtual Worlds

money-1578510_1920.jpg

Image by TheDigitalWay on Pixabay

The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want

Your love gives me such a thrill
But your love won’t pay my bills
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want

Money, the Flying Lizards


In-world currency systems are an integral part of many social VR/virtual world platforms. Second Life can be seen as the perfect example of a virtual world whose popularity exploded once people realized that they could make money on the platform, inspired by a 2006 Businessweek cover story on Second Life entrepreneur Anshe Chung:

Anshe Chung.jpg

This blogpost is an attempt to provide a comprehensive overview of how the newer virtual world platforms have implemented in-world currencies and set up systems for commerce.

Sansar

Linden Lab has, of course, 15 years of experience working with Second Life‘s economy and in-game currency, and they have applied that expertise in the setup and operation of the economy for their new virtual world, Sansar. You can buy Sansar dollars in two ways, directly in bundles or via the Sansar Dollar Exchange (SandeX), a currency exchange. There are more details on the SandeX in this document:

 The SandeX is the official virtual exchange of Sansar, run by Linden Lab, where you can:

  • Buy Sansar dollars at the current market rate.
  • Make limit buy offers at a requested exchange rate.
  • Sell Sansar dollars at the current market rate.
  • Make limit sell offers at a requested exchange rate.

All SandeX transactions are subject to transaction fees.

Market buy and sell

Market buys and market sells are the quickest ways to purchase or sell Sansar dollars on the SandeX. The SandeX automatically matches your order with the best exchange rate. The quoted exchange rate includes transaction fees associated with buying and selling on the exchange.

Limit buy and sell

Limit buys and sells allow you to specify the amount of Sansar dollars and the exchange rate you are willing to accept. The SandeX automatically matches up buy and sell offers as they come in. If you are buying, you must have sufficient funds in your US$ wallet to pay for the buy order.

Creators can sell their creations on the Sansar Store, and can also receive statistics on how well their items are selling. There is as yet no in-world commerce like they have in Second Life.

Sinespace

Sinespace has two in-world currencies, called silver and gold. According to their wiki:

Gold

Gold credits can only be purchased for real money by spending users and can be converted back to real money by Sine Wave virtual goods partners.

Gold credits trade at 100 / 1 fixed ratio with USD$

Silver

Silver credits are free promotional credits given to users as rewards for participating in the community.

Silver credits cannot be converted to real money but can be used by creators to promote their content to new platform users who have not yet purchased gold.

Sinespace has a Marketplace built into its client software, and a few vendors like BlakOpal have also set up in-world stores.

High Fidelity

High Fidelity has attracted a lot of recent media attention due to the fact that they have decided to set up a blockchain-based in-world currency, called High Fidelity Coins (HFC):

  • Blockchain Technology: Our new currency, High Fidelity Coins (HFC), will be a public blockchain with a consensus group of multiple parties. A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions. We are using blockchain technology to track and record transactions made using HFC. All information on a blockchain exists as a shared database, which means the records are public and verifiable. It is not centralized. We are also using the blockchain to store information about digital asset ownership in High Fidelity. This enables us to protect intellectual property by embedding certification in items in the blockchain. HFC will eventually be convertible to local currencies or other cryptocurrencies at popular exchanges.
  • Cryptographically-secured Wallet: Users will be able to participate in transactions using their Wallet, which will be an app on their tablet in High Fidelity. Your Wallet is secured using a security picture and a passphrase which includes ECDSA public-private keys pairs. These key pairs are used to sign each transaction.
  • Proof of Provenance (PoP) certificate: This certificate is generated for every transaction between a user’s Wallet and the Markeplace. This certificate’s ID is stored on the blockchain. The certificate contains static properties that can help in identifying the item and the owner. These properties cannot be altered, except by transfer of the PoP Certificate. Currently, we only support objects that contain a file type .JSON. Support for avatars and other file types will be coming soon.

Currently, the only way to get some HFC (a free one-time grant) is to go to the Bank of High Fidelity domain at their open times and meet with the banker. Here’s some more information of HFC from the High Fidelity website:

We are currently giving out the currency for anyone interested in participating in the closed beta for High Fidelity Commerce. If you want to get your inital HFC grant, you first need to set up your Wallet.

These coins are to be used as currency for any commerce transactions in the Marketplace. Since we are using blockchain technology, all transactions with HFCs will be publically recorded and stored.

Your Wallet will be secured using ECDSA public-private key pairs, security picture and passphrase. Learn more about your Wallet here.

HFC is not intended for speculators to hold and should be used in transactions in High Fidelity. HFC is intended to be a stable currency and used to support a healthy and vibrant virtual economy for digital goods and assets.\

High Fidelity has an online Marketplace where vendors can sell their products (users can also access the Marketplace listings using their tablets in-world). Avatar Island is the first domain set up in HiFi where you can try on and purchase items for your avatar in-world.

VRChat

VRChat currently does not have any sort of commerce or in-game currency, although there is a thriving real-world business for people designing and rigging custom avatars for VRChat users. It will be interesting to see what happens when/if the company decides to implement an in-world economy on the most popular of the social VR platforms.

AltspaceVR

As I recently reported, AltspaceVR seems to be gearing up for commerce, but at the moment, there is no commerce or in-game currency system in place.

OpenSim

Different OpenSim grids have different solutions to the problem of an in-world currency. Every grid has in-world stores which offer merchandise for sale. Some grids issue their own currencies; others use the Gloebit system, which has the advantage of being one standard currency which is transferable and usable across a large number of participating OpenSim grids. The Kitely Marketplace is a popular shopping mall for the many OpenSim virtual worlds:

Kitely Market can deliver items to all Kitely avatars, as well as to avatars on all other OpenSim grids that support the Hypergrid. Our marketplace also delivers items to avatars on several non-Hypergrid grids that have been set up to receive deliveries from our system.

Kitely Market has been used to deliver items to thousands of OpenSim users on more than 100 different OpenSim grids.

Virtual Universe, Decentraland and the Other Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds

Virtual Universe, Decentraland, Mark Space, Staramba Spaces, VIBEHub, Ceek, and Terra Virtua (among many other products in this increasingly crowded marketplace) are issuing their own blockchain-based cryptocurrencies or tokens for future use on their platforms. all of which are still in development. The product closest to a launch date appears to be Virtual Universe, which plans to start a closed beta sometime in the fourth quarter of 2018.

I’ve already strongly warned potential investors to do every. single. scrap. of their homework before investing a penny in any of these blockchain/cryptocurrency ventures (link). Caveat Emptor!

Other Social VR/Virtual World Platforms

I can’t think of any other metaverse products which have in-world currencies at the moment, besides the adult virtual worlds like Oasis and Utherverse/The Red Light Center (these links are safe for work). If I’ve missed one, please let me know in the comments, thank you!

Shopping for Fashion in Virtual Worlds: Buying the Clothes Off the Avatar’s Back

Fashion is a key part of avatar customization in virtual worlds. Second Life has a huge clothing market, and many people make an actual living designing and selling virtual fashion. Newer virtual worlds with humanoid avatars, such as Sansar and Sinespace, have growing avatar fashion marketplaces, too. In fact, many creators who had their start in Second Life are moving their businesses to these newer platforms (for example, BlakOpal Designs has set up a store in Sinespace).

I have a confession to make. I buy a lot of clothes in Second Life when I see something I like that another avatar nearby is wearing, like this gorgeous Roxy dress with the chain detail by United Colors:

Roxy dress 9 Aug 2018.png

Whenever I am in a busy Second Life sim full of fashionably dressed avatars, like Frank’s Place, I almost always do a right click/inspect to see what other avatars are wearing. It’s quite easy to do, and I find out about stores I had never heard of before that way.

The following instructions are for the Firestorm viewer, but they should work in any SL viewer. Just hover your mouse over a mesh article of clothing that another avatar is wearing, click the right mouse button, then select More from the circle menu that pops up, then select Inspect. You will get a display that gives you the name of the object, and even tells you who the creator is, so you can check their profile for a store location in their profile bio or their profile Picks:

Right Click Inspect 9 Aug 2018.png

In fact, there is a free HUD available on the SL Marketplace, called What Is She Wearing?. that allows you to scan nearby avatars, and then select one to get a complete list of all their attachments! It’s very handy, as you can see at a glance their entire outfit, including shoes, hair, and what make of mesh avatar body and head they are wearing:

What is She Wearing 9 Aug 2018.png

Sinespace has taken this concept one step further. Click on another avatar in Sinespace and you pull up a complete list of what that avatar is wearing, including skin and eyes. You can then preview the item on your own avatar, or buy the item directly from that listing!

Sinespace 8 Aug 2018.png

This is a very handy feature to have in any virtual world, and I hope that Sansar and other platforms take note of it and implement some form of it for us fashionistas!

UPDATED: What Are the Most Popular Destinations in the Metaverse?

ryoji-iwata-479447-unsplash.jpg
Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

When you’re feeling like you want some company in a virtual world, where do you go? Sometimes people choose to go to popular places, where they can be fairly certain to meet other avatars who are also in-world at the same time. What are the metaverse equivalents of the Cheers bar, where you can just drop in anytime?


Second Life

For example, sometimes when I’m bored I go visit the London City sims, which are always busy. Clubs such as Muddy’s, Big Daddy’s, Fogbound Blues, and Frank’s Place are always a popular choice when you want to be around other avatars in a social setting.

Second Life does have a Popular Places listing, but the truth is, most of the places listed are actually pretty deserted. Clubs, in particular, seem to come and go with surprising frequency. Sometimes you have to go by word of mouth to hear about popular spots.

Here’s an interesting canned search that pulls up a list of Second Life sims, sorted in descending order by “traffic”. However, you should know that Second Life is notorious for having sims that may look busy, but are actually populated by armies of bots hidden away somewhere in a platform in the sky, in an effort to game SL’s traffic measurement system, and therefore appear higher in the Search function under Places. So be skeptical when looking at traffic statistics; they often don’t tell the whole story.

But what about the newer virtual worlds and social VR spaces? Where are their Cheers?

Sansar

Every so often Gindipple posts his statistics of the most popular Sansar experiences. Two that seem to be perennially popular are 114 Harvest (the starting place for the weekly Atlas Hopping event and the home of several notable Sansarians) and Alfy’s Arena Live Music Stage. Another popular place is Zen Garden. But really, you can just check the Sansar Events listing or the Sansar Atlas under the All tab, which automatically sorts Sansar experiences in reverse order by the number of avatars present (just check the green number in the upper left corner of the picture of each experience):

All experiences.png

High Fidelity

Finding popular places in High Fidelity (aside from scheduled meetups and events) can be a bit of a head-scratcher. The social VR platform does have an upcoming events page in pinboardagenda, or calendar month views. Unfortunately, there’s no events listing within their client (on their tablet), so you’ll have to rely on the website to get your information before you go in-world. If you search under Places in the tablet user interface, it will tell you how many other avatars are in other domains, though.

Sinespace

The most popular place in Sinespace (aside from special events such as speakers at the Delphi Talks) is invariably the Welcome Centre, where there is usually a small crowd of avatars sitting around and chatting.

VRChat

VRChat hosts many popular events such as the ENDGAME and Gunter’s Universe talk shows. The best way to find out when these are happening is to check out the handy VRChat Events calendar or join the VRChat Events Discord server. Again, sometimes the best thing to do when you’re simply looking for some company, is to open the Places menu and just pick a spot at random where there are a lot of other avatars gathered. You’re pretty much guaranteed to run into somebody to chat with.


What are your favourite places to go in the metaverse when you want to meet other avatars? Have you found a spot you like to go visit? Please leave a comment with your suggested places and strategies, thanks!

UPDATE Aug. 9th:

OpenSim

Alan Tupper of the Opensim Virtual community on Google+ has given me a great tip on finding popular destinations on OpenSim, by clicking this link to the OpenSimWorld directory, which gives a list of sims sorted in descending order by number of avatars present! This is very useful, thank you, Alan!

An UploadVR Journalist Covers Sinespace

Sinespace 27 June 2018.png

David Jagneaux of the UploadVR website has written a very complimentary article about Sinespace and how it might become “the Second Life of VR”:

We recently got the chance to talk with Adam Frisby, co-founder and Chief Product Officer for Sinespace, about their VR app and the name that it’s made for itself. The UK-based company quietly launched in 2017 and has since gone on to be immediately generate revenue for not only the company itself, but for users as well. He’s describing Sinespace as a “virtual world platform built for developers” and it shows.

They’re currently sitting at approximately 10,000 monthly active users across all Unity-enabled devices (that means PC, Mac, Linux, browsers, and viewing capabilities on mobile) with about 10% of those users being in VR, primarily Rift and Vive. Sinespace is mostly a third-person experience, but if you’re in VR, the view shifts to first-person.

That isn’t a lot of VR users right now, but it still puts them just below VRChat and Rec Room in terms of sheer reach and size. Considering they’ve barely made a peep in North America and aren’t even on Steam yet, that’s pretty impressive.

That figure of “10,000 monthly active users” sounds suspiciously high (maybe that’s the figure for the total number of Sinespace accounts created so far?).

David writes how Sinespace, like Second Life before it, is focusing on how creators can earn money from their work:

All of the content you see inside of Sinespace is more than likely created by a user. On top of that, all of that content that developers spend hours making isn’t locked to just Sinespace. It can be used in engines like Unreal and Unity as well — they don’t force people to sign any exclusivity agreements or rights waivers to the content. They’ve just got a straight-forward 70/30 split on all revenue with 70% going to creators and only 30% going to Sinespace, the company also makes money by selling in-game currency (Gold) to users. But the real meat of it all is the internal user-to-user economy.

Currently there are over 2,500 virtual goods for sale that range from clothing and animations for characters all the way up to vehicles and entire buildings. This is how Second Life started cultivating its economy and Sinespace is following a similar path. According to company representatives, the top creators are already earning hundreds of dollars per month in sales and that’s expected to continue growing as the user base expands.

2,500 is still smaller than the over 12,000 items already listed for sale in the Sansar Store, but it’s still impressive for a newer virtual world platform. (High Fidelity has nowhere near that number of items for sale in its High Fidelity Marketplace, as far as I can tell.)

It’s a good article and I would encourage you to go over to the UploadVR website and read it. The article also talks about the avatar facial driver software I had blogged about earlier, which I still think is a really cool feature!

Sinespace webcam facial capture - June 2018  (1).png

UPDATE 12:20 p.m.: Adam Frisby has gotten right back to me about the accuracy of the 10,000 monthly active users figure, saying:

Hey the user count is actually accurate — it’s the 30 days to June 15th… It’s been growing all year.

…[A] lot of that is just first time visitors (we get a lot of them); but the core user group is growing as well.

Sinespace Pick of the Day: The 381 Club

The 381 Club 26 May 2018.png

The 381 Club is just what you need after an exhausting week at work: a place to let loose on the dancefloor to some awesome Eighties music!

Screenshot 2018-5-26-17-16-16

Tonight, our DJ Kathryn Yer is spinning tunes and giving away in-game silver currency to a few lucky avatars! If you’re up for some fun, come into Sinespace and join us!

And where else could you dance like this, even using your leg as an air guitar?!??

An Hour with Jaron Lanier in Sinespace

I got to the Delphi Talks event early, so I could grab a good seat near the front. I opted to stay in desktop mode rather use my VR headset, and use Sinespace’s built-in snapshot tool to take pictures, like the one below:

Screenshot 2018-5-25-15-11-35

Check out Sinespace employee Sun Tzu’s centaur warrior avatar (above image, right). The detail on his outfit is AMAZING. Sinespace has really improved their avatar appearance in the last few updates to the client software!

Jaron showed up a little late, due to real life traffic. His avatar is the octopus with the dreadlocks in the pictures below:

Jaron Lanier 2 25 May 2018

Jaron Lanier in Sinespace 25 May 2018

Screenshot 2018-5-25-16-39-17

Among many other topics, Jaron talked about the artwork from the medieval era as a sort of precursor to today’s virtual reality. He was also rather disturbed by Facebook’s purchase of Oculus. He still hasn’t seen the movie Ready Player One, and he talked about bringing VR to Hollywood and giving demos back in the 1980s, when it was super expensive to recreate what we now have as relatively commonplace, consumer-level VR.

Here is a link to the livestream of the event.