Sinespace Celebrates Its 3rd Anniversary: Highlights from Chief Product Officer Adam Frisby’s Keynote Speech

The virtual world Sinespace has been celebrating its third anniversary with a week of in-world events, culminating in a keynote address given today by the company’s Chief Product Officer, Adam Frisby.

I had a long online chat with Adam before his presentation today, talking about various new features coming soon to Sinespace, and the following are some notes I took during Adam’s talk (Adam was also kind enough to share his presentation slides ahead of time with me, for which I thank him profusely for making my reporting job so much easier!).

Adam Frisby’s Keynote in Sinespace

Adam started off with a report on what had happened with Sinespace in 2019. Sinespace’s development team has doubled in size. Among the features worked on were:

The company has also been very hard at work on improvements to the default human avatars in Sinespace (which is actually already in the live release now). This major update to the avatars offers more accurate (less stylized) human proportions, with a new, powerful system of custom slider shapes or “morphs”. (Adam says that no pre-existing clothing will be broken.)

A new set of universal skin detail maps will be added to the existing skin maps on the human avatars. Adam shared a slide of what the new skins will look like, and I must admit they’re rather impressive:

There will also be several improvements to avatar clothing: a new auto-rigging algorithm, and blend shape support (for example, adding features such as dress length sliders to clothing). Sinespace already has support for in-world cloth physics, as you can see in the video below, and this functionality is expected to be improved even further in future software releases.

It’s now very clear that, despite experiencing some significant problems with upgrading Sinespace to Unity to 2018.3 in the past year (“the hardest we’ve ever done in ten years with Unity”, Adam says), the platform has benefited greatly overall from choosing to use Unity as an underlying game engine. In fact, Sinespace is now working in association with Unity, which offers the company even better support and more access to Unity engineers.

After some problems in marketing in 2019 (they fired the external company that was doing their marketing after one particular fiasco), Sinespace has just hired a new Vice President of Marketing, Al King.

So, in summary, 2019 was a big year for the Sinespace team in terms of building the product (mostly behind the scenes) and getting ready for a scale-up. Adam admits that the team has learned some expensive lessons, but ones he prefers that they have made before the platform scales up. Sinespace has also been watching competing platforms make some mistakes too, and hopefully learning from them. (For example, Sinespace has wisely decided to postpone a launch on Steam.)

And among future projects is a big push to provide mobile support (Sinespace has a full-time team devoted to this now, and there is an Android beta app already up on Google Play). They also want to improve the built-in screenshot capability, integrating it with social media. Another focus is improving what they call “the first five minutes” experience of new users, to encourage user retention.

Oh, and I saved the best for last: a brand-new contiguous mainland with in-client parceling, streamed regions and content, and a very cool new feature—voxel terrain editing, including the ability to dig caves and tunnels and create islands in the sky! (And Adam stated in my earlier chat with him today that they have implemented voxels “properly”; these are not the simple cubes used by Cryptovoxels!)

Here’s a couple of brief video previews Adam was kind enough to share with me of the voxel terrain editor in action (the second shows the digging of a cave):

And you can build mind-bogglingly large terrains using this tool: Adam’s test parcel for the voxel terrain editor is 96,100 cubic kilometres. (Approx. 23,000 cubic miles): 131,072 metres by 131,072 metres by 5,600 metres in size!

Oh, and did I mention? There’s voxel water, too!

An example of voxel water in Sinespace

So, as you can see, Sinespace is starting to look better and better all the time! And they are busy implementing features that many other social VR/virtual worlds cannot yet match. I must commend Adam and his team at Sinespace for doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes on the platform, and patiently biding their time before a full-scale product launch (perhaps sometime in 2020?). I’m quite looking forward to seeing how the platform evolves over the next year!

November 17th Events in Sinespace and High Fidelity

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I am deliberately breaking my self-imposed vacation from the blog to announce two daylong events taking place in not one, but two different metaverse platforms this coming Saturday, November 17th! It’s going to be a busy day!

First, Sinespace is celebrating its second anniversary with a full day of events, including a keynote address by Sinespace’s lead developer, Adam Frisby, and a talk by game developer Warren Spector. Here are all the details.

And over at High Fidelity, there is the FUTVRE LANDS Virtual Reality Festival taking place. According to the press release:

FUTVRE LANDS is an entertainment festival without traditional festival headaches like long lines, heat stroke and sudden downpours. Free and open to the public, it offers the VR-curious an opportunity to venture into social virtual experiences. Anyone can access FUTVRE LANDS via a VR headset, desktop or Google Daydream-enabled Android device. The event lineup includes Oculus Rift VR headset giveaways, the fan-favorite “Last Avatar Standing” trivia game show—where participants earn High Fidelity Coin (HFC) cryptocurrency—and live performances headlined by five-time Grammy nominee Thomas Dolby (“She Blinded Me with Science”).

Full details on the festival can be found here.

(Aaand, I’m going back on vacation... )

What Adam Frisby Has Learned From Working on OpenSim

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Adam Frisby

Adam Frisby, a co-founder of OpenSim and the Chief Product Officer of Sine Wave Entertainment (the creators of the virtual world Sinespace), has written a very insightful article for the Hypergrid Business website.

Titled What I learned about virtual worlds by helping found OpenSim, Adam talks at length about some of the lessons he learned from building virtual worlds over the past 12 years, particularly his experience with OpenSim:

For a while, there were some big names adopting the project in droves. Nearly every major tech company had some involvement — or at least one employee contributing — to OpenSim at some point. IBM had an entire team of OpenSim developers and was running internal conferences using the project. During my involvement, the OpenSim software was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. In the years since, it’s found its way into many surprising places, from NASA to university courses.

It’s gratifying to see OpenSim still soldiering on 12 years later, in great part through the efforts of the educators who’ve embraced it, and through worlds like OSGrid, which maintains a small but dedicated user community, along with a host of other enterprises, projects and grids using the software.

And while OpenSim didn’t become the breakout success we hoped it would, I learned a lot from it, about building virtual world platforms — and what they need.

He stresses the importance of not reinventing the wheel:

Virtual worlds shouldn’t reinvent the wheel

This is true of Second Life and OpenSim, and numerous other virtual worlds and MMOs — attempting to build key features and functionality by creating them from scratch, when better options already exist.

At the time, the list of free or cheap 3D engines could be counted on one hand — Torque, Ogre3D, Irrlicht, etc. But today, we have dozens of fantastic high-end options, including Unity, Unreal, Lumberyard, CryEngine, and Unigine. If you were willing to shell out real cash, Unreal, CryEngine, id Tech and others have been available throughout.

Building your own graphics engine from scratch, however, is a dumb idea. It’s an insanely complex bit of software. Throw in a few thousand graphics cards and chips, various drivers, and you’ve got the recipe for a monumental headache on compatibility and support, let alone trying to stay up to date with the latest and greatest in 3D features. Trying to build your own is just going to result in you wasting a ton of talent reinventing the wheel.

Sinespace is built on top of the Unity engine, which allows it to leverage the usage of such cool, Unity-based tools such as Archimatix. Contrast this with Linden Lab’s Sansar, where Linden Lab has decided to develop their own engine. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches (for example, Sinespace has to scramble to fix bugs introduced by regular Unity updates, something that Linden Lab doesn’t need to worry about as much, since they control everything in-house).

Adam also talks about the importance of addressing non-Windows and mobile users:

Virtual worlds must be accessible — immediately

Even among gamers, the percentage of people willing to downland and install a client, then endure a time-consuming, multi-step login process, is vanishingly small. For the same reason, web and mobile access matter too. We know from our own efforts that if you want someone to download or install something, half of the people who sign up, won’t.

Today’s consumers don’t use desktops either – the web today is mobile, and I find myself using my phone more and more, switching only to my desktop to get work done. You need to be where the users are – and that, in my opinion, means friction- free and device-agnostic experiences.

I note that Sinespace is now available not only on the desktop (with versions for Windows, MacOS, and LINUX), but also for users in VR headsets (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality). They’re also currently testing viewers for both iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Sinespace even has a viewer that runs completely within a web browser (I’ve tested it and it works fairly well). And they are working on a client for OpenVR viewers for both Windows and Mac, too! I would have to say that, at this point, Sinespace is ahead of the competition in terms of mobile device and multiple platform support. They’ve got all the bases covered!

Offering lots of options for people to access your virtual world (particularly those which don’t involve downloading a client) gives you an advantage in an increasingly crowded market of metaverse products. And if you don’t believe that mobile-accessible virtual worlds are important, you really do need to check out both IMVU and Avakin Life. Both are very popular with children and teenagers, most of whom are on smartphones—and these children and teenagers are future adult consumers! Companies need to be paying attention to this segment of the market.

This is a very good article about virtual worlds from an industry veteran who is doing some innovative things in virtual worlds. I’d encourage you to go over to Hypergrid Business and read it in full!

An UploadVR Journalist Covers Sinespace

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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!

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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.