Editorial: Will Sansar Survive?

Sansar is the reason I started this blog a little over four years ago, and it with a very heavy heart that I write this blogpost. As many of you know, I found that I had become too emotionally attached to what was going on with Sansar, and I had to step back from my previously comprehensive coverage of the Linden Lab-founded social VR platform, to gain some much-needed perspective and to be able to write about it dispassionately.

While the rumours of Sansar’s impending demise have been circling for quite a long while now, over the past few months, I have been hearing persistent gossip, from various well-placed sources, that Wookey-led Sansar is in serious trouble. I should rush to add that I have zero official confirmation of any of this, but every time I hear a new rumour, it seems to confirm what I have already heard from others. In other words, I am hearing the same thing from many different people.

Most recently, I’ve been told that the Wookey team is missing in action, both on the official Sansar Discord and in-world. I’ve heard that Sansar has lost big-name clients like Lost Horizon and Monstercat (although Sansar is still listed on the Lost Horizon Festival website). I’ve also heard that many people who used to be actively involved in Sansar have left, leaving for platforms as various and diverse as Helios, SapphireXR, and CORE (where I see many Sansar alumni chatting on their Discord servers).

My latest source tells me:

There hasn’t been a product meetup in monthsthey were all working like crazy on Splendour in the Grass…after that, crickets.

The marketplace for hosting live events has become extremely competitive, with social VR platforms competing with game companies like Fortnite and Minecraft to sign deals with artists and festivals, and to host concerts and other musical events. And if Sansar is struggling to do this during a pandemic, how will it fare when things return to (relative) normalcy, with a resurgence of live, in-person events? Can Sansar compete against better-funded companies to attract the kind of A-list talent which brings in audiences—and more to the point, can they get that audience to stick around and become content creators and community members after the music ends?

I am in a better position that most external observers to play armchair quarterback and try to pinpoint exactly where it all went so wrong, but I must confess that, like so many others (including numerous employees laid off in at least two rounds of wrenching, painful layoffs), I really thought that Sansar would succeed.

But the expensive bet placed by Linden Lab (and Philip Rosedale’s company, High Fidelity, which shut down a similar service in early 2020, and pivoted to a spatial audio product), is that there would be tens and even hundreds of thousands of people using high-end VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Valve Index to access social VR platforms boasting beautiful high-end graphics. It didn’t seem like such a risky bet at the time, but looking back, perhaps it was.

Certainly, part of the problem is that these companies spent millions of dollars and many years building platforms, only to find that the VR hardware market was evolving so quickly that they couldn’t keep up. I mean, the Oculus Rift is no longer being sold by Facebook, which decided to put all their eggs into the standalone Quest, which is selling like hotcakes—and which Sansar can only run on if you attach a cable from your Quest to your high-end gaming PC.

What does it take for a platform to catch fire, like VRChat and Rec Room? Again, I don’t really know the answer (although social media, particularly YouTube and Twitch, certainly played a pivotal role in at least VRChat’s ultimate popularity and success).

At a time when the metaverse has again become a hot buzzword tossed around by many companies, both big and small, who knows what will happen to Sansar. But I must confess that I am very worried.

EDITORIAL: 24 Hours in Second Life—A Wedding, a Light Show, and Some Choreography! (What the Newer Social VR Platforms Can Learn from SL)

As I have often said before, Second Life is the perfect example of a mature, fully-evolved metaverse, which the newer social VR platforms would be wise to study and learn lessons from. Just because it doesn’t support virtual reality does not mean that you can’t learn something from its 18-year history.

One of the ways in which I keep my finger on the pulse of Second Life is to head to YouTube, do a search for “second life”, then sort the results in reverse chronological order by the time they were uploaded (i.e. most recent videos first). Usually, I scroll back 24 to 48 hours to see what the latest SL videos are, and I always find something to delight and surprise me.

So I did this yesterday evening, and today I wanted to share with you three videos which perfectly illustrate all the wild and wonderful ways in which people are using Second Life. Platforms need to attract content creators, and in this SL has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations! See also this blogpost.

First, the newer social VR platforms need to ask themselves: Can you host a wedding? (In VRChat at least, the answer is “yes”.) Second Life weddings are big business, and you might be surprised to learn that there are dozens of wedding venues, many stores selling wedding dresses and bridesmaid outfits—and even businesses which specialize in making professionally-edited wedding videos!

Another question the newer social VR platforms need to ask themselves: Do you support particle effects? You can see the particle effects in Second Life at work in the fireworks in the previous wedding video, and here is another example of the creativity which can be unleased with the proper particle and light systems!

Finally, I ask the social VR platforms: Can you dance? Second Life boasts what may well be the single biggest selection of avatar animations on any platform (a quick search of the SL Marketplace pulls up tens of thousands of dances), which lets you unleash your inner musical director and create stage shows like the following:

So don’t be so quick to dismiss Second Life as antiquated and outdated! There’s life in the old girl yet! 😉 The creators of the newer social VR platforms might just want to spend a bit of time investigating, and get some ideas for new features or as-yet-unexplored new market niches in the metaverse!

Who knows? You just might yet entice a future wedding videographer, lightshow mastermind, or musical choreographer to your new platform!

How I Received—And Why I Turned Down—an Offer to Review the Pimax Vision 8K X Virtual Reality Headset

The Pimax 8K X virtual reality headset

It was exactly a week ago that I got the following email message, out of the blue:

Dear Ryan

Greetings from Pimax Technology Inc. I hope you are doing well.

My name is Scot Shen, and I am the marketing analyst from Pimax Technology Inc. Pimax is a technology company specializing in virtual reality hardware products, and our goal is to create a better immersive gaming experience for the majority of gamers. We would like to invite you to do a review on our product and post an article [to] ryanschultz.com If you are interested, we will send our products to you to experience.

At first I was flabbergasted, then suspicious (was this a scam?), then quite flattered, and I said yes. But then, after thinking about it over the past weekend, I wrote back to tell Scot that I had changed my mind, and would not be writing a review after all.

So why did I turn down a golden opportunity to test and write a review of this ultra-high-end headset?

In the end, there were three reasons that I decided not to have Pimax ship me one of their sample high-end VR headsets from China to try out and review. First, they wanted me to write my review within 7 days of receiving the device, which I felt was really too short a time to do a proper review (even though the paper I was supposed to sign, scan, and email back to them said that I had 30 days to do my evaluation).

Second, Pimax wanted to read (and presumably, approve) my review prior to my publishing it on the blog. Now, I pride myself on being an independent blogger, who presents the unvarnished truth and calls a spade a spade when I see it, and that particular stipulation made me a little uncomfortable. (Note that I do write sponsored blogposts for Sinespace, for which I am paid; however, I do not shy away from criticism when it is warranted, even with Sinespace! Also, I sometimes share a preview version of a blogpost with someone from the company I am writing about, to catch and correct any factual errors before I publish.)

But the third and biggest reason I said no was this: I simply did not want to go through the hassle of removing my Valve Index hardware, installing the Pimax hardware and software, testing it, and then uninstalling everything again (and probably still leaving bits and pieces of software on my PC). I finally have everything set up just the way I like it, and I really, really don’t feel like fiddling with it (at least, until I decide to throw out my ratty old sofa and set up a room-scale VR environment in my living room, which is still my plan at some future point).

A younger man might have jumped at the opportunity, said yes, and leaped with glee and alacrity through all the hoops, but I am far from a younger man. In fact, I was a bit surprised that Pimax approached me. Although my blog has grown in popularity, and more and more often lately, companies are approaching me to write about their platforms and products, I still don’t consider myself a virtual reality “influencer” (gah, how I despise that term!). I write mainly about a specific, niche subset of virtual reality called social VR, and frankly, I am the very furthest thing from a gamer—which is the target market for this device, as mentioned in the first email I received from them. Somebody’s not doing their research here, folks.

Pimax seems to be conducting a vigorous grassroots campaign to encourage people to write reviews about their Vision 8K X Virtual Reality Headset, which is admittedly a very expensive product (US$2,056.95) from a company which has received some rather scathing reviews for its poor customer service.

I leave you with a unbiased 20-minute review of the Pimax Vision 8K X conducted by Sebastian Ang of MRTV (who compares it with the Valve Index, which I own):

I’m actually quite content to let the truly hardcore, bleeding-edge virtual reality hardware vloggers and bloggers (like Sebastian) fuss and fidget with all the latest bells and whistles. And this will remain primarily a blog about social VR—not VR hardware. (Sorry, Pimax!)

Editorial: With ABBAtars, the Era of Avatarism Has Truly Arrived

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 550 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the companies building it. Come join us! More details here.


Not too long ago, there was an interesting and wide-ranging discussion on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, about a March 3rd, 2021 article on Medium, written by Greg Fodor, titled The Rise of Avatarism. In it, Greg wrote:

Avatarism is a movement to recognize and protect the fundamental human right of freedom of form. Like freedom of speech, freedom of form is a claim on an endowed right to free expression. And like the right to bear arms, it is a right which will suddenly gain relevancy after specific technological breakthroughs.

Specifically, freedom of form is the right to choose the form in which you are seen by others...

Soon our physical form will become subservient to one or more virtualized ones. Fully controlling how we are seen by others will become more accessible, frequent, common, and culturally accepted, and be less like a radical, life-altering event, and much closer to how we think of changing our clothes today.

He mentions that some people choose plastic surgery or body modification to permanently change their real-life physical appearance, something to which I can attest. My dirty little secret is that I am obsessed with the dumpster-fire-train-wreck of the Botched Surgeries subReddit community, where I am routinely appalled by the horrible, botched plastic surgeries that people put themselves through in real life—butt implants that stick out like shelves, facial filler that gives unnaturally sharp cheekbones and chins, eyebrow lifts that make people look like they should speak Vulcan, and breast implants that look like overinflated balloons that are about to pop at any second. (WARNING: If you visit, you might need eye bleach afterwards! Consider yourself warned! I constantly come away from that Reddit community feeling much better about myself and my own body, though.)

Greg argues, though, that with the advent of consumer XR technology (virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality headsets, and eventually, glasses), we are at the cusp of an era where we can change how people see us, but in a less permanent way:

Soon our physical form will become subservient to one or more virtualized ones. Fully controlling how we are seen by others will become more accessible, frequent, common, and culturally accepted, and be less like a radical, life-altering event, and much closer to how we think of changing our clothes today…

Today, many are benefiting from virtualized avatars or by completely overriding their physical forms. Avatar chat apps and online games have allowed millions to embody avatars…

Meanwhile, phone-based augmented reality is taking off, letting people experiment with fully overriding how they appear to others. Snapchat filters, AR-generated clothing, and celebrity deepfakes are getting more and more sophisticated and accessible to your average person…

All of these point to a wider trend of virtualized, avatar-based representations becoming widely accepted and embraced.

(By the way, speaking of phone-based AR, you can check out my adventures with feeding Second Life avatar selfies into the WOMBO and Reface apps here.)

I’m not going to directly quote a lot of Greg Fodor’s thought-provoking article; you can go over and read it yourself. It’s a 15-minute read, and well worth it, as he raises some interesting philosophical and theoretical questions about the topic. For example, will we reach a point where someone actually goes to court to assert their right to freedom of form, i.e. how other people are required to see them? (For example, a Dutchman recently lost a bid to legally lower his age by 20 years.)


I was pondering all this when yesterday, news dropped that the Swedish supergroup ABBA (one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with an estimated 150 million records sold worldwide) had reunited after 40 years, and were releasing a new album in November.

The four members of the group spent five weeks being recorded in motion-capture suits for an upcoming series of London concerts produced by George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic studio, which will feature Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad as holographic avatars, pictured as they would have appeared at the height of their fame in 1979. Yahoo! News reports:

The 10-track album, ABBA Voyage, will be released on Nov. 5, and the new songs will also be performed during a virtual concert residency that will open at a custom-built arena in East London on May 27, 2022. The “revolutionary” show, also titled “ABBA Voyage,” will run six nights a week and will feature ABBA holograms — cleverly known as “ABBAtars” — and a 10-piece live band playing 22 of the Swedish superstars’ greatest hits. 

The ABBAtars were designed by Industrial Light and Magic (the visual effects company founded by George Lucas), and more than 850 people employed motion-capture technology to recreate band members Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s “every mannerism and every motion” from when they were “in their prime.”

ABBA in their motion capture suits

You can see a bit of these avatars at the tail end of this new music video:

I still vividly remember the live Lindsey Stirling concert I attended in Wave as a highlight of my social VR experiences in 2019, where the electronic violinist wore a full-body 3D motion capture suit and special VR gloves, which allowed her to completely animate her avatar in Wave, from her head down to her feet (including each individual finger on her hands), as she played and danced! Unlike Lindsey, who played a live concert and steered her avatar directly, the upcoming ABBA concerts will consist of prerecorded avatar hologram playback to the music (performed by a 10-piece live band).

Truly, when the members of a band can appear on a physical stage as they were 40 years ago at a concert series, we have entered the age of avatarism! We may yet witness things which we never would have ever dreamed possible in the past. As Greg Fodor says in the conclusion of his article:

Avatarism is about the sudden arrival of transformative, new answers to a universal question: how should others see you?

If you think the answer is a simple one, one day you might just look back and yourself, and smile at your naïveté.