Halloween in Sinespace: Come to the Zombie Ball, on Wednesday, October 20th, 2021!

Don’t forget the Fireside Chat with Matthew Ball about the Metaverse Road Map, coming up in Breakroom on Thursday, October 21st, 2021…more details here.

Your Zombie Ball hosts, Mimi Marie and Spiral Silverstar

Beware! The Undead have awoken! Come celebrate with us zombie style in the virtual world of Sinespace. Come hungry for blood and for brains! Can you find the only cure for the zombie infection?

There will be dancing to Halloween music provided by DJ Spiral, costume contests (including an ugliest zombie contest!), a mirror photo booth, giveaways of Gold (Sinespace’s currency), plus random gifts from no less than 14 generous Sinespace creator sponsors!

The Sun Temple Crypt (site of the Zombie Ball)

The uprising begins at 5:00 p.m. PST/8:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, October 20th, 2021, at the Sun Temple Crypt on Island Fun in Sinespace (just click the Explore button in the Sinespace client software, and search for ‘island fun”, as shown below:

Here are a couple of videos (no sound) of the specially-created venue for the event, to give you a taste of what to expect:

If you have never visited Sinespace before, this is the perfect starting point for your journey—an opportunity to meet the wonderful community of people who make Sinespace such a friendly and welcoming place! Here are step-by-step instructions on how to get started. And, if you’re looking for something to wear (or perhaps a full zombie avatar), may I suggest the Sinespace Shop? But even if you don’t want to get dressed up, come anyways—we’d love to see you! Happy Hallowe’en!!

This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here). 

Second LIFE Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Gifts from the October Round of the SWANK Event

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Steals, Deals & Freebies group yet? I will be posting EVEN MORE news and tips on finding fabulous freebies and bargains in Second Life than I post here on the blog! More information on this brand new SL group here.

The October round of the SWANK shopping event is upon us, and there are literally hundreds of gifts for you to pick up! You’ll need to join the SWANK group for free to get all the gifts.

Here’s what you are looking for (it might be larger or smaller, and “hidden” as part of other Halloween decorations, depending on the vendor booth):

The SWANK shopping event is one of the big ones, sprawling across an entire sim! Here’s the promo video for the October round (they call it a pumpkin “hunt”, but the pumpkins are in plain sight in almost all cases—it’s hardly a hunt in my books!).

Once again, I am trotting out Second Life supermodel Vanity Fair to model some of the gifts which I particularly liked. (My main male alt, Heath Homewood, will do the honours for the menswear gifts.) Because it’s such a large event, I have included exact SLURLs for all the gifts I mention in this blogpost, to save you time.

This starry black Wicca dress is a gift from Zoom (SLURL); the top and skirt are two separate pieces, so you can mix and match! This comes in sizes to fit Maitreya Lara, Slink Hourglass, and Belleza Freya mesh bodies.

From the Firelight booth comes this curly Natalie hairstyle, which comes with a 3-colour mini-HUD as shown:

GGVG’s present is this simple, elegant black Bella ballgown, which comes with the ruby brooch and earrings shown. This gown comes in sizes to fit Maitreya Lara; Slink Physique and Hourglass; and Belleza Freya, Isis and Venus bodies.

This cute cropped sweater from COSMOS comes in two colours, red and grey, and in a multitude of sizes: Maitreya Lara; Altamura; Belleza Freya, Venus, and Isis; Slink Physique and Hourglass; and the Meshbody Classic/TMP and Legacy.

The gift from the Park Place Casuals booth is this sassy Attitude T-shirt, which comes in the following sizes: Maitreya Lara; Belleza Venus and Freya; Slink Physique and Hourglass; Tonic Curvy and Fine; Voluptuous; Ocacin; three fitmesh sizes (S, M, L); and three classic sizes (S, M, L; an alpha is included).

One of three gifts from Hawker’s House is this Mia top and matching skirt in caramel. This outfit comes in the following sizes: Maitreya Lara; Belleza Freya and Venus; Slink Physique and Hourglass; Tonic Fine and Curvy; Ocacin; Voluptuous; three fitmesh sizes (S, M, L); and three classic sizes (S, M, L).

You can snap up two different colours of this sequined Shelly party dress for free at two different locations at the SWANK shopping event: seafoam blue (as shown below), or purple. Sizes include Maitreya, Belleza (Freya, Isis, Venus), and Slink (Hourglass and Physique). These dresses are courtesy of the WILD store.

There are three men’s gifts available from the Hawker’s House booth! The first gift consists of two separate pieces, this olive overshirt/T-shirt combo and the blue jeans, which come in Belleza Jake, Signature Gianni, Slink, and fitmesh/classic sizes:

Heath is wearing both the second and third Hawker’s House menswear gifts in the following picture: the Barton sweater and jeans (the outfit is all in one piece, in sizes to fit Belleza Jake, Slink, and Meshbody Classic/TMP bodies, plus fitmesh and classic sizes), paired with the Trailblazer boots (which come in one unrigged size; you’ll need to alpha out your feet to wear these).

And the men’s gift from 69 Park Avenue is a generous fatpack of these casual shirts, which come in eight different colours and patterns as shown:

The SWANK shopping event ends on October 31st, 2021, so hurry down before it ends…happy freebie shopping!

Editorial: Second Life Still Has Way, WAY Too Steep a Learning Curve for New Users—What Can Be Done to Fix the Problem?

This week, I did something that I have not done in years: introduce a friend to Second Life.

This friend (who shall remain nameless) was not new to social VR and virtual worlds. He explores countless metaverse platforms and navigates them with ease, so he is not your usual, casual newbie. And, of course, I have over 14 years of experience in Second Life, and I have visited and written about over 160 different social VR platforms and virtual worlds over the past four years, so I am no spring chicken either. In short, we are both experienced, übergeeky metaverse citizens!

My friend was curious to explore BURN2, the virtual Burning Man festival in Second Life, and used the following instructions to get started, download and install the standard Second Life viewer, and select a starter avatar. In fact, he was up and running so quickly, that when I met up with him, dressed as 1970s man (one of the most recent lineup of starter avatars), transistor radio in hand and dancing away at one of the BURN2 stages, I thought for sure that it would take no time at all to upgrade his avatar from the classic, system options to a fully mesh version.

How wrong I was.

And the experience was a real eye-opener to me, and illustrates what is still one of the biggest problems in Second Life: setting up a mesh avatar is an exercise fraught with confusion and frustration, and it’s just too steep a learning curve for people (even metaverse experts!).

Our first problem was that I was trying to walk him through the process, using voice chat instead of text chat because that is what my friend was most used to (voice chat is standard on most social VR platforms). However, we ran into problems because I was using Firestorm (as most experienced Second Life users do), and he was using the standard SL viewer. So, I asked him to download and install the Firestorm viewer so that I could walk him through everything step-by-step, but for some reason he could not get his microphone to work with the Firestorm viewer (it worked with the SL viewer). Then, I downloaded and installed the standard SL viewer, but by then we decided that I would talk him through the process via cellphone.

All told, from beginning to end, it took us about an hour to walk him through the following process:

  1. Teleporting to the London City sim, and picking up the Altamura Robert dollarbie mesh body and a set of clothing for it from the Freebie Warehouse there;
  2. Unpacking and setting up the Robert head and body, and explaining how the various options on the HUD worked;
  3. Unpacking and wearing a starter wardrobe, showing him how to remove the parts of his body under the clothing;
  4. Teleporting to Tuty’s to pick up their free male Bento animation override, and explaining how AOs worked.
My avatar, Vanity Fair (left), at the end of our hour-long odyssey to get my friend (right) set up with the Altamura Robert body and a starter outfit. It was an eye-opening experience! (He took this picture. And I *still* didn’t have time to explain how you can control the lighting, so he could get a brighter shot!)

I am just so used to using SL that I breezily expected that it would take us 15-30 minutes, tops. WRONG! And it made me realize just how hard it can be to get up to speed in Second Life, especially if you want to set up a mesh avatar for the first time.

Over the 18 years of its history, content creators have built empires by extending and jerry-rigging the original, system avatar in ways that are simply not that easy to learn. Newbies are not familiar with all the terminology we casually toss around (sims, Bento, HUDs, AOs, alphas, etc.), and I learned that just because you’re completely familiar with the newer social VR platforms, that knowledge does not necessarily translate to older virtual worlds like Second Life! For example, I have heard, time and again, from people who are so used to being able to control their avatars using their VR headset and hand controllers how strange it is to have to use prerecorded animation overrides! These newer users look at what SL has to offer and are not nearly as impressed by how far Second Life has come over the past 18 years.

Sometimes, it is highly instructive to step out of our preconceived notions of how things work, and helping out my friend this week has made me realize that there’s still way, waaay too steep a learning curve for Second Life. The question is: what is to be done?

I do know that Linden Lab has been throwing themselves at this problem for years (they even introduced a line of mesh starter avatars, which were incompatible with all the major brands of mesh bodies, and were later removed from service). And, of course, the creators of mesh heads and bodies were only too happy to fill the void, providing dozens (perhaps even hundreds) of different brands which may or may not play well together—to say nothing of the headache of shopping for mesh clothing to fit these bodies! I now have a renewed appreciation of just how daunting a task that can be for a new user, and why so many newbies throw up their hands and walk away from SL in disgust and frustration, never to return.

And I must confess that I have no easy answers. Most brands of mesh heads and bodies do provide free demos, and extensive online help, even videos (and of course, there are hundreds of YouTube videos to help walk people through the entire process of setting up a mesh avatar for the first time). And there are countless places scattered across the grid, to help newbies get their bearings and pick up some freebies along the way to help them get started without spending any money (I mention many of them in this blogpost, which I endeavour to keep as up-to-date as possible).

Perhaps there is no solution. Perhaps it’s just a part of “leveling up” in Second Life that you need to work your own way through this process? I don’t know. I’m quite sure the team at Linden Lab discuss this often amongst themselves, too. Is there even such a thing as a good, non-brand-specific, tutorial for people who want to upgrade to 100% mesh?

If any of you reading this have any insight or ideas, I’d love to hear it! Please feel free to leave a comment below, thanks!

The Virtual Reality Universe Project (VIRUP): Swiss Researchers Release New Software to Explore the Universe in VR, Using a Massive Astronomy Dataset

Explore the universe in a new software program! (photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash)

There’s a new way to explore the universe in VR! A news report from the Phys.org website today, by Jamey Keaton, states:

Researchers at one of Switzerland’s top universities are releasing open-source beta software on Tuesday that allows for virtual visits through the cosmos including up to the International Space Station, past the Moon, Saturn or exoplanets, over galaxies and well beyond.

The program—called Virtual Reality Universe Project, or VIRUP—pulls together what the researchers call the largest data set of the universe to create three-dimensional, panoramic visualizations of space.

Software engineers, astrophysicists and experimental museology experts at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, or EPFL, have come together to concoct the virtual map that can be viewed through individual VR gear, immersion systems like panoramic cinema with 3D glasses, planetarium-like dome screens, or just on a PC for two-dimensional viewing.

“The novelty of this project was putting all the data set available into one framework, when you can see the universe at different scales—nearby us, around the Earth, around the solar system, at the Milky Way level, to see through the universe and time up to the beginning—what we call the Big Bang,” said Jean-Paul Kneib, director of EPFL’s astrophysics lab.

According to the official website for the VIRUP project:

Science communication is key for sharing research discoveries to a wide audience. The goal of this project is to provide the most modern dynamical view of our Universe through one of the most modern communication techniques : Virtual Reality (VR).

For this purpose, we are developing a new multi-platform VR environment called VIRUP which allows users to travel through space and time, ranging from the solar system and the outer confines of the Universe, to the nearby stars, the Milky Way disk and the Local Group…

VIRUP is specifically designed to display outputs of cosmological simulations with up to several billion particles, while ensuring a high frame rate per second, essential for a comfortable VR experience.

In addition to standard VR systems, VIRUP is also compatible with specific immersion systems like the ones provided by the Experimental Museology Laboratory (EM+):  the panorama, the half-cave or the dome.

VIRUP is a C++/OpenGL/Qt flexible Free Software built on top of a custom-designed graphics engine. The code can be downloaded directly from GitLab.

What seems to set this project apart from previous attempts (and apps) to explore the universe in virtual reality is the size and scope of the data involved. Jamey Keaton says:

Downloading the software and content might seem onerous for the least-skilled computer users, and space—on a computer—will count. The broader-public version of the content is a reduced-size version that can be quantified in gigabytes, a sort of best-of highlights. Astronomy buffs with more PC memory might choose to download more.

The project assembles information from eight databases that count at least 4,500 known exoplanets, tens of millions of galaxies, hundreds of millions of space objects in all, and more than 1.5 billion light sources from the Milky Way alone…

To be sure, VR games and representations already exist: Cosmos-gazing apps on tablets allow for mapping of the night sky, with zoom-in close-ups of heavenly bodies; software like SpaceEngine from Russia offers universe visuals; NASA has done some smaller VR scopes of space.

But the EPFL team says VIRUP goes much farther and wider: Data pulled from sources like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in the United States, and European Space Agency’s Gaia mission to map the Milky Way and its Planck mission to observe the first light of the universe, all brought together in a one-stop-shop for the most extensive data sets yet around.

So, if you’re geekily inclined, you might want to start here to learn more about the VIRUP software, and how to get started. The GitLab for the software is here.

The Andromeda galaxy (photo by Guillermo Ferla on Unsplash)