LivCloser: A Look at the Avatar Customization Features

LivCloser is now in alpha version 0.33, and for a one-person company, the product is actually surprisingly fully featured (it’s currently based on the Unity game engine, although the developer is planning to move the virtual world to the Unreal engine).

I decided to take a three-minute video (no sound) of the female avatar customization features in LivCloser, so you can get a better feel for how it looks and how it works:

The avatar actually looks pretty good. However, there are still lots of bugs (for example, you can see that the focus doesn’t shift to the foot area when choosing shoes). But it is an intriguing platform. It will be interesting to see how it develops over time!

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NeosVR is Launching an Open Beta on May 4th

A little while ago I first posted about NeosVR, a new platform for social VR applications. Today a new promotional video was dropped into the Vive subReddit, it looks very interesting!

The poster, one of the developers, says:

Neos is an innovative metaverse engine designed to accelerate the development of social VR applications. It is built on top of a novel scripting engine that integrates engine logic, synchronization and asynchronous job and asset processing into a seamless whole.

This gives creators, engineers, developers or scientists the ability to focus on the behavior of their creations and what makes them unique, with automatic support for a wide variety of VR devices, online collaboration/multiplayer and cloud functionality, both for the development and the project.

As an end user you can explore a rich virtual universe full of diverse creations with your friends, colleagues or classmates and use the virtual tools and devices you find for fun, art, education or content production.

It is built on a novel powerful architecture that offers engine-like flexibility while making multiplayer and cloud features the standard. We took a great effort to make a very solid foundations to build everything else on (which is why it took so long, but we believe it was worth it).

For non-exhausive list of features, see the Steam Store page!

If you can’t wait until May 4th, then support them on Patreon and you can get immediate access to the current closed beta.

What Is It About Second Life and Other Virtual Worlds That Incites So Much Drama?

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Following the many online communities that have sprung up around various virtual worlds over the past decade (especially Second Life), I often find myself wondering about what it is about them that seems to bring out such a high level of conflict and drama.

God knows, I have (accidentally or on purpose) stirred up drama myself at times. The last time it happened was back in January, when I got angry when Linden Lab asked me to take down the pictures I had taken of their Aech’s Garage experience in Sansar. In a diva fit, I even stopped blogging for several weeks.

Looking back, I’m not proud of how I reacted then, even if everything turned out okay in the end. (Better than okay, in fact. I used that incident as an impetus to rebrand and refocus my blog, and it has really made a big difference in my overall perspective on, and writing about, social VR spaces, virtual worlds and the metaverse. I’ve gotten a lot of positive personal feedback on the change, too.)

The continued popularity of websites such as SLSecrets, where a seemingly endless succession of avatars can talk smack about each other, never fails to amaze me (yes, I know it’s wrong, but I visit it revery so often anyway). Discussion forums such the official Second Life forums and the long-running, venerable SLUniverse are infamous for the dust-ups which can occur there. Why does this happen?

First, some people seem to think that they can hide behind an avatar, and act out, lash out, or sow dissension. A very recent example: one of my female alts was listening to the music and dancing at Muddy’s Music Café, and I decided to move her from one position to another on the dancefloor where it was less crowded.  Immediately, someone IMed me, “LOL nobody’s paying any attention to YOU bitch ROTFLMAO!”

And I thought to myself, “Why did he even bother saying that to me? Did he think I was drawing unnecessary attention to myself?” He just said that to fuck with my mind, and he (partially, temporarily) succeeded. Some people are just toxic, and best avoided.

Of course, such continued negative and antisocial behaviour can lead to a lot of repercussions, everything from to being blocked, to a kick from a sim, to a full ban from Second Life. (I do actually have one SL avatar who is notable for being banned from the Emerald sim, home to the White Armory and Silvan Moon Designs. I’m afraid that I don’t actually remember what I did to deserve the swift kick and ban by one of the sim owners, but I’m pretty sure it was something they didn’t like. It might have had something to do with bagpipes ;-P )

Another area of conflict is in what people consider to be the underlying behavioural rules of the virtual world. For example, some people prefer to strictly separate real life from Second Life (or whatever virtual world they are using). Others don’t. When these two types of people mix, conflict and drama are almost inevitable. That’s because they are playing by different ground rules.

And finally, it’s not just virtual worlds that incite drama. It’s EVERYWHERE online. Facebook. Reddit. You name the place, and there’s drama and conflict.

So, what to do about it in virtual worlds? Well, having proper, explicit community standards and policies in place (preferably written down in the Terms of Service you agreed to when you first joined) helps. Being able to enforce those policies through provided in-world tools such as mute, block, kick, and ban helps too. I should probably define these four terms:

  • Mute: Turn off an avatar’s sound so you cannot hear them.
  • Block: Turn off an avatar’s appearance so you cannot see them.
  • Kick: Being able to remove an avatar from an experience/domain/region.
  • Ban: Being able to permanently keep an avatar from visiting an experience/domain/region (at worst, the entire virtual world platform).

Current social VR spaces/virtual worlds have different levels of implementation of these tools. For example, you can mute, but not block, an avatar in Sansar.

So, how do you choose to deal with the inevitable conflict, drama, and poor behaviour that seem to happen in virtual worlds? What tips and tricks have you found to work? Sound off in the comments!

Watch an Actor Control a Highly Realistic Human Avatar

Business Insider recently published an article about Siren, a hyper-realistic human avatar created by a computer-vision company called Cubic Motion. This is NOT a video of a real human being; it is a computer-generated digital avatar, driven by an actor!

Titled “This company makes hyper-realistic ‘digital humans’ — and it could be the key to merging real life with virtual reality“, the video shows you what I think is the most realistic-looking human avatar we’ve seen yet.

Here’s another video showing you some of the behind-the-scenes work required to make Siren seem like a real person:

This is another short video showing an actor driving the Siren avatar, taken at the recent Game Developer’s Conference held in San Francisco:

Mind-blowing technology! According to the Business Insider article:

Wood estimates that “sooner than two years” from now, each person could have access to the technology required to create and puppet their own digital body double in virtual reality, from their own home.

“It could be done today,” Wood said in an interview with Business Insider. The hold up, he explained, is with the VR headset manufacturers that have yet to incorporate wearer-facing cameras into their products, a feature which real-time image capture relies on.

Can you imagine being able to drive your own avatar in one of the newer virtual worlds, using this technology? Astounding.

Atlas Hopping, Episode 33!

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Today we are visitng six different museums in Sansar:

Here is Drax’s livestream:

And here is Strawberry’s livestream:

(My sinuses are acting up and my eyes are watering so much I can’t use my VR headset today, so I logged out of Sansar and I am just watching Strawberry’s livestream today.)

Rec Room: A Brief Introduction

I just realized today that there is one fairly popular social VR/virtual world platform I haven’t covered in this blog yet, and that is Rec Room by the company Against Gravity, which was first released in 2016.

Here’s the description of the social VR app from its Oculus Home description:

Welcome to Rec Room, the virtual reality social club where you play active games with friends from all around the world. Customize your appearance, then party up to play multiplayer games like Paintball, 3D Charades, Disc Golf, and even four player co-op adventures! Or just hang out in The Lounge (free membership required). Plus new activities and fun stuff added frequently.

The first thing I noticed about Rec Room was the avatars, which are blocky and cartoony, basically a head, torso and hands, without arms, legs or a neck.

Rec Room 14 Apr 2018

Now, those of you who read this blog regularly know that I have a pet peeve about cartoony avatars (hello, Facebook Spaces!). However, in the case of Rec Room, there is more of an emphasis on an all-ages, children-friendly environment, so I’m more willing to accept cartoon avatars. (Kind of like those Saturday morning cartoons I used to spend all Saturday morning watching as a kid. Is that still a thing?)

The emphasis in Rec Room is on fun and games. The main room is a gymnasium, which is usually full of other avatars running around and yelling (mostly children). There are about a dozen doors leading to separate game-playing areas: everything from disc golf to paintball to laser tag, even charades! You can earn in-world currency by completing activities and completing daily challenges, which you can then spend on exclusive merchandise (like a red fireman’s hat) that you can wear.

If you’re looking for something different and fun, Rec Room might just be up your alley. It’s available as a free app for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the PlayStation VR headset. (Note that there is no desktop-only version of this app; you do need to have one of the three VR headsets to play.)

New Omnidirectional Treadmill for Walking Around Within Virtual Reality

This is a very interesting video showing off a new omnidirectional treadmill which allows you actually take steps and walk around in virtual reality experiences! Apparently, this treadmill actually appears in the movie Ready Player One. According to the description in the YouTube video from Adam Savage’s Tested channel:

We step onto the Infinadeck, the omnidirectional treadmill seen in the movie Ready Player One. This treadmill lets you walk freely in virtual reality, in any direction. We learn about how it works and give our impressions on the state of the technology today

They actually talk about using this 500-lb. rig for fitness applications and firefighter training. Very cool—and probably also very expensive! (No price for this product has been announced yet.)

It would be so cool to be able to walk around inside Sansar experiences or High Fidelity domains, though!