He argues that the change in the medium and the technology with virtual reality is so profound that it’s unlikely that the same big companies will dominate it, thus creating business opportunities for new companies (like HiFi!). He compares the shift from flatscreen computer use to virtual reality as being similar to the change from radio to television in the last century.
Philip Rosedale is a true pioneer and visionary, without whom we literally would not have the metaverse landscape that I love to blog about! Even though I am still somewhat annoyed at how High Fidelity chose to handle the sudden pivot away from their original consumer audience, I can certainly understand and appreciate the company’s need to establish a beachhead in one area (remote business teams) and then use that as a base to expand into other areas. VR needs more time to mature. As he says in this interview, HiFi was early to the game. The pivot was the best possible corporate strategy to keep the company moving ahead and generating revenue while waiting for millions of consumers to adopt VR (and eventually, they will).
I do admire Philip and I wish him and his team at High Fidelity the very best (even if I do deliver the occasional critical editorial on this blog).
In retrospect, I realize that I have been more than a little cranky this week (here, here and here). So I will be taking the rest of this week off from blogging. I need to find some happier things to do which don’t trigger me. I’ll be back sometime next week.
UPDATE July 12th: My main avatar, Vanity Fair, has just been banned from Second Life and the SL Community Forums for three days, for (and I quote) “abusive behaviour”. So apparently, Linden Lab just bitchslapped me back.
I had a friend (fuck, all right, one of my alts) post my status update to one of the Tilia forum threads which I had originally posted to, and it was promptly removed (along with any responses to it). Fine. Let Linden Lab censor me. Let them ban me. At this point, I am beyond enraged.
I still stand by everything I wrote in my original blogpost. Linden Lab did absolutely the wrong thing by deleting users’ legitimate questions about Tilia, and I am still really pissed off at them for doing it. Banning me is just throwing gasoline on the fire. At this point, I am incredibly disappointed and disenchanted with Linden Lab.
I am taking an extended break from this blog. I do this because it’s fun, but it’s not fun for me anymore. I’ve had it, and I need a longer break.
SECOND UPDATE July 12th: Well, obviously, somebody spoke to somebody, because I have been rather swiftly (and unexpectedly) unbanned from Second Life and the SL community forums. I am now sitting at the Tilia Town Hall, and I am really liking what the Lindens are telling me. And I finally have an answer to my question about what the Tilia account inactivity fee will likely be (answer: probably less than 3 dollars). And all you have to do to avoid that fee is simply log in to your account on the Second Life website at least once a year. Good. Finally, we are getting some clearer answers.
BUT… I am still rather angry at Linden Lab. And I’m just tired of blogging. I’m feeling burned out. I am still taking a break, maybe a longer one this time. My hardworking producer Andrew William is still working on editing upcoming episodes of the Metaverse Newscast, many of which are set in Sansar, and those I will blog about when we release a new episode to YouTube (we’re still aiming for one per month). But don’t expect much other output from me for the next month or two.
I suffer from a chronic form of clinical depression, and my depression is mostly a learned response to bottled-up anger which accumulates over months and years. After many years working on myself in therapy, I can now accurately identify when I am feeling angry instead of suppressing it, but I still need to learn how to deal with it more effectively, and especially to STAY OFFLINE when I am upset. I owe Ebbe Altberg and his team at Linden Lab an apology for my diva hissy fit. It wasn’t pretty and I am ashamed of myself.
Frankly, I am feeling rather disenchanted with both High Fidelity and Linden Lab at the moment (which is ironic, since all the episodes of the Metaverse Newscast to date have focused on one or the other platform). It’s a clear sign that I need to step back for a bit, and that Andrew and I need to broaden the scope of the Metaverse Newscast to include other popular social VR platforms, such as VRChat. We also want to cover smaller projects such as NeosVR, and niche platforms such as Engage.
I’m still feeling cranky, and I’ve been completely overreacting to things all week, and it’s a clear sign that something is wrong is wrong with me. I just need to take a break, this time a real, longbreak from blogging. Take some time away from social VR and virtual worlds. I hope you all understand. But even if you don’t, I am still taking that break. I’m sorry, but I need to do this to recharge.
Numerous people have posted the following YouTube video to various social media and community forums in the past few days: a classroom presentation by Philip Rosedale at the University of Washington in Seattle on May 21st, 2019, as part of their Reality Lab Lectures series.
Philip is a pioneer and a visionary, and he is an engaging speaker, leading his audience through a history of how he became enamored and involved with virtual worlds and virtual reality, and how he built Second Life, founding Linden Lab in 1999, and then, in 2012, starting his new company High Fidelity. You need to watch this; it’s great! (There are a few minor sound issues with the video.)
In response to a student question, he talks about how High Fidelity is working on an app where you can take a single photo of a person and create a 3D avatar from that (at the 43:30 mark). I love this idea (especially since I happen to live a long way away from the closest Doob full-body scanner!), and I hope that HiFi has not dropped this project in their recent pivot to the remote business teams market.
He also says that they already have a version of High Fidelity that runs on the Oculus Quest (at the 1:00:25 mark), but he’s not sure when they will release it. The company may decide to allow people to sideload the app, which would get around having an official release on the Oculus Store.
I’ve been up since 5:00 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I’ve been thinking about the most recent two blogposts I’ve written about High Fidelity (here and here). I have been harsh and direct, and while some readers have congratulated me for my frankness, others have expressed their dislike of what I have written. I feel somehow as if I am contributing to the general sense of malaise in social VR just by writing those two articles.
It brings me zero joy to watch HiFi struggle to reinvent itself, and it brings me zero joy to watch HiFi’s userbase as they feel confused, upset, angry, and betrayed by a platform they have invested so much into over so many years.
But (as the tagline of my blog states) this blog is about “news and views” (viewpoints). What is going on with High Fidelity is newsworthy, and I do want to continue to share what I really think and feel about what I am reporting on. Otherwise, I am just a corporate shill, a PR parrot. I want to have the freedom to report on news and events in the evolving metaverse, to praise and criticize the various companies as I see fit.
Second Life must have been a strange anomaly, that neither its founders nor the current Linden Lab appear able to replicate.
And I would agree. Even the visionary Philip Rosedale is having trouble making lightning strike twice.
I predict that the social VR/virtual worlds/metaverse industry overall is going to go through some pretty rough waters. The initial honeymoon period (if there ever was one) is OVER. The idealism of the many metaverse company builders is coming face-to-face with an ugly, stark reality: that it is going to take more persistence, more creativity, and more innovation to build products which more than a handful of early adopters will use on a regular basis.
All I can do is to continue to cover everything that happens, as best I can.