Well, I’m happy to report that I was finally able to visit Sinespace in my Oculus Rift VR headset! The latest version of the client software seems to work much better for me.
Now, all is far from perfect. I’m no longer sitting in the floor, but I still seem to looking out from within my avatar’s chest rather than his head, and shorter than the other avatars around me. Every time I tried to turn right, I turned left instead! And the screen of the pop-up user interface is a little too close to my eyes for my liking. When I pulled up the Explore screen, it twitched enough to make me feel sick.
But it’s a start. I can now officially add Sinespace to my list of virtual worlds that support VR!
Sinespace is one of those virtual worlds which has a Welcome Centre, which is where all new avatars spawn when they first set up an account. It’s always staffed with one or two greeters, called Sinespace Guides, who welcome users, answer questions and help troubleshoot problems. I had thought that they were part-time paid employees, but when I asked, they told me they were volunteers: “No, we help because we like to help people.” I think that this sort of program is a wonderful idea, one that most newer virtual world platforms should strongly consider doing, particularly in this competitive marketplace.
Sinespace’s Welcome Centre is an attractively designed tropical space, with a large pavilion, lots of palm trees, pools with water lilies and goldfish, and many wonderfully animated toucans flying around, landing here and there. Off to one side is a large sign posting upcoming Sinespace events, next to three tables where you can play the Greedy Greedy dice game (famous from Second Life):
(The translucent blue icons over the chairs indicate that you can sit down on them.)
The Sinespace Welcome Centre actually makes you want to come back, explore, and chat with the guides and other visitors. It’s a great example of a central meeting area!
This nifty item will animate your avatar’s face and torso from a connected webcam in realtime. Note: This feature only works on Windows and Mac downloaded clients. Facial coverings such as glasses can interfere with the tracking.
Here’s a one-minute YouTube video showing the facial driver in action. Very cool!
Now, I do wear glasses, otherwise, I would be tempted to spend the 800 Gold to buy this (that works out to about US$7.30) to try out this software add-on. (UPDATE: Sine Wave Entertainment’s CEO Adam Frisby told me he would send me a review copy to try it out. Thanks, Adam! I will let you know how well it works for me.)
Once again, Sine Wave Entertainment is really doing some innovative things with the Sinespace social VR/virtual world platform.
How do you find out what’s going on in the various social VR spaces/virtual worlds? Often the best way is to consult their upcoming events listings. In this blogpost I am going to link to all the various event schedules that I have been able to locate for each of the major metaverse platfrorms.
First, let’s start off with Second Life. The Events listing in the Second Life client (under Search in the Firestorm client) can be a bit overwhelming due to the sheer magnitude of events listed (there’s also a lot of store advertising spam mixed in). You can use the handy drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the Search window (under the General, Moderate, and Adult checkboxes) to limit your searching to, say, live music events. There’s also an events page on the Second Life website, which doesn’t appear to have as many events listed as you can find using the client. There’s also a Featured Events listing in the Destination Guide, which can direct you the major events happening around the grid.
Sansar has an upcoming events calendar within the client software, displayed prominently on the right-hand side of the screen when you first log in. There’s also a Rolodex icon labelled Events in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, which you can click at any time to see the events listings:
High Fidelity has an upcoming events page in pinboard, agenda, or calendar month views. Unfortunately, there’s no events listing within their client, on their tablet user interface, so you’ll have to rely on the website to get your information before you go in-world.
(Update: I just discovered that there is an in-world display board of upcoming events in High Fidelity’s Start domain, which you can search for on your tablet UI under the “Go To” icon:
Sinespace has an Events section on their official blog, but it’s not updated very often. You’re better off loading the Sinespace client software and getting information from the Upcoming Events section on the left-hand side of the log in screen:
There’s also an upcoming events board located near the spawn point at the Sinespace Welcome Centre:
VRChat actually has a VRChat Events website with links to their Discord server and to an online calendar of events. This is a separate Discord server from the very busy main VRChat Discord server, with different channels for each of the regularly scheduled events happening in VRChat, including the popular Endgame talk show. There’s simply no better way to stay abreast of everything that’s happening in VRChat! There’s also an official events calendar on the VRChat website. (Surprisingly, there is no upcoming events listing within the VRChat client, a glaring omission.)
What usually happens in today’s hyper-competitive computer applications marketplace, is that one or two players in a particular market segment get big (e.g. Microsoft, MySpace, Facebook, and yes, in its own way, Second Life), and then continue to grow like a juggernaut, based on the network effect, while the smaller players in the marketplace fight each other over the leftovers. The ones who get big are usually, but not always, the early entrants into the field (Second Life is a prime example of that, although there were notable virtual worlds which were founded before it, like ActiveWorlds).
But social VR and virtual worlds are not a zero-sum game. Many consumers are frequent visitors to a number of different metaverse platforms, and many creators build and sell products in various virtual worlds. Right now, success in one VR-capable virtual world (e.g. VRChat) generates interest in other social VR spaces. As they say, “A rising tide lifts all boats”.
It’s still not clear where all this is going, but I’m willing to polish my crystal ball and make a few predictions of what will happen over the next two year period, from now until April 2020.
What I predict will happen, over the next two years, is that one of the Big Five computer companies:
Is either going to launch their own social VR/virtual world/metaverse product, OR is going to buy one of the Big Four metaverse-building companies:
Now, there’s no guarantee that any of the Big Four companies WANT to be bought out by the Big Five. Perhaps instead of a buyout, a strategic partnership deal will be inked. But I bet you anything that it’s tempting for the bigger companies to buy their way into the evolving metaverse marketplace, rather than design something from scratch.
I also predict that a LOT of the new virtual world/social VR startups we see popping up are going to fail over the next two years. There’s a lot of virtual-reality-related (and especially blockchain-related) hype taking place, and some people are investing in startups that are risky. Some smaller companies have jumped into grand virtual world-building projects without realizing the sheer magnitude of the work involved in creating a fully-featured, viable metaverse. I’m afraid that some investors are going to get burned.
I also predict that Sinespace and VRChat are going to pull ahead in terms of features, simply because they decided to build on top of the popular Unity game engine, and they can use all the cool Unity development tools that are popping up. By comparison, feature development on Sansar will be slower as they continue work in-house on their own engine.
And finally, I expect that Second Life’s 15th anniversary celebrations will entice some former users to dust off their old accounts and revisit the platform to see what’s new. It may well herald a renaissance for SL! At the very least, it will help stave off a slow decline in SL’s user concurrency figures.
*Sorry, but as I have said before, Facebook Spaces is not a palatable social VR/virtual world product. It can’t even come close to competing against what High Fidelity, Second Life, Sinespace and VRChat are currently doing. But I bet you anything that Facebook has other plans up their sleeve. They can still try to leverage off their 2-billion-plus Facebook network (not to mention 800 million Instagram users) to become a potential major disruptor in the evolving metaverse marketplace. I’m not counting them out yet!
Unity bought it [ProBuilder] and released it for free, it’s part of the Unity editor, but we are looking into an in-client integration as well
But that’s not the only Unity tool that Sinespace is looking to integrate with its virtual world platform. Take a look at this very impressive promotional video for a tool called Archimatix (it’s a Vimeo link which I cannot embed in this blog). Adam says that models you upload to the world using Archimatix will be editable by end-users inside the client.
Now, check out these clips of Adam using Archimatix within Sinespace!
Apparently, this feature is expected for the April release of Sinespace! Things are definitely getting interesting in Sinespace.
You know, Sinespace is really starting to grow on me.
I’m starting to think that Adam Frisby was smart to build his virtual world on top of the Unity game engine, because he can leverage off all the development work that has taken place on that platform. For example, he already has great in-world vehicle physics for things like dune buggies and race cars.
And Adam can take advantage of all those cool Unity building tools. Of course, there’s a lot of work to integrate such tools with Sinespace, but the payoffs could be big. In the official Sansar Discord channel, creator Agustine shared with me a promotional video of a Unity building tool called ProBuilder. It reminds me of the Second Life in-world build tools, but on steroids!
Pretty impressive! Can you imagine having the ability to build so easily in a virtual world? And can you imagine how popular Sinespace could be if they could integrate such a tool? The Second Life crowd would be all over it!
And you can already build some truly beautiful experiences within Sinespace. I’ve already blogged about a few. Take a look at these pictures I took of the Sinespace region I am currently in. Trees swaying gently in the breeze, grassy rolling hills… it makes me want to explore!
And Agustine told me about a new enticement to explore: gifts! Hidden away in some of the Sinespace regions are gift boxes like the one in the picture above. Find them and click on them, and you win a small amount of in-game currency! I’m not going to tell you in which region I found this particular gift; come to Sinespace and explore for yourself 😉
Now, Sinespace is not perfect. For example, I still cannot get the new VR client to work with my Oculus Rift setup, even after several attempts (other people have been luckier than me). And, annoyingly, now when I launch the new Sinespace client in desktop (non-VR) mode, it also loads SteamVR and Oculus Home automatically, which means I have to work around the rather annoying SteamVR “Headset not tracking” pop-up window. But this is a minor complaint, and one that I’m sure will be fixed in time.
The fact is, Sinespace should be getting a lot more press attention than it has been to date. Yesterday I was talking with Andrew, the producer of my upcoming show Metaverse Newscast (hopefully launching later this year), and we agree: Sinespace is one of the “Big Four” where some of the most interesting developments are happening in the metaverse (the other three are High Fidelity, Sansar, and VRChat).