Ebbe Altberg, the CEO of Linden Lab (the makers of Second Life and Sansar), recently gave an interview to Tonya Hall of ZDNet:
A couple of quick facts from the fifteen-minute interview:
Ebbe Altberg’s previous employment history includes stints at both Microsoft (12 years, working on Microsoft Office) and Yahoo! (where he was a senior vice president);
Last year, Second Life users cashed out $64 million in earnings;
Second Life has had over 200,000 virtual marriages in its lifetime!
Ebbe spends the bulk of the interview discussing the in-world economy of Second Life and Sansar (which Linden Lab is currently building based on the lessons learned from the 16 years of experience the company has gained by operating Second Life). He also talks about recent corporate branding partnerships in Sansar, such as Monstercat, Sanrio (the brand behind the Hello Kitty phenomenon) and Levi’s.
It’s clear that Ebbe wants to pursue more corporate partnerships and branding opportunities with Sansar. One thing that puzzles me is that this video, posted on Sept. 24th, 2019, had only had 22 views so far on YouTube! So please give it a watch, and spread the good word. Thanks 😉 perhaps we can send a few more companies Ebbe’s way, to strike a few more deals!
Australian YouTuber Brad Laurie (a.k.a BlockchainBrad) has just published another in-depth interview with Somnium Space CEO and virtual world entrepreneur Artur Sychov, who has decided to embrace blockchain technology for his social VR platform. Brad’s YouTube channel focuses on various blockchain projects, and the 80-minute conversation is obviously mostly about blockchain, but it’s still quite understandable by crypto newbies like me!
The interview is quite wide-ranging, and Brad asks Artur about comparisons between Somnium Space and Second Life (still the most popular and economically successful virtual world) and Decentraland (another blockchain-based virtual world which is still in closed beta). Artur says that Linden Lab’s founding CEO, Philip Rosedale, has helped advise him on Somnium Space.
Also, unlike Decentraland, Somnium Space will be the second VR-capable blockchain-based virtual world to launch (after Cryptovoxels). Decentraland does not support virtual reality, and is unlikely to do so anytime in the near future. And the graphics in Somnium Space will definitely be a step up from the voxel-based graphics of Cryptovoxels! I am quite looking forward to seeing what Somnium Space 2.0 looks like when it launches in October or November of this year.
Brad asks Artur about Somnium Space’s “Live Forever” feature, of which I have been skeptical in the past on this blog. Artur explains that Somnium Space will offer to record everything you do and say in VR on your parcel of virtual land, and then apply AI to it. Artur says that if you die, you can then have this second version of you that your children and grandchildren can visit. He states that AI is progressing so quickly that within 10 to 15 years, it will be difficult to determine what is really you and what is AI. Upon questioning from Brad, he admits that nobody else has tried to do this before. (And I am still skeptical that this will work. The amount of data storage to save everything your avatar says and does over days, weeks, months and years will be quite substantial, and will likely become overwhelming to work with.)
Somnium Space is holding an Initial Land Offering (ILO) starting October 6th and running until October 13th, where 4,500 parcels of virtual land will be auctioned off in partnership with OpenSea. (Bidders will have to have a Ethereum cryptocurrency wallet like MetaMask.)
In every other social VR platform and virtual world to date, you are not allowed to transfer your avatar and purchases to other people as part of the platform’s terms of service (although Second Life does allow you to leave your avatar and its inventory to another person via your will). Artur talks about how the use of blockchain in Somnium Space will allow users who are banned from Somnium Space to resell everything they own to other people who can use it, at whatever prices the market will bear. This is quite a novel idea for a virtual world!
Brad also asks about the cryptocurrency to be used in Somnium Space, and Artur replies that they are working on finalizing the details on it. He states that they will comply with any current and future governmental rules and regulations on cryptocurrencies, trying to stay ahead of the curve.
Artur says that Somnium Space currently has a dozen software developers at work on the platform, with extensive in-house expertise on virtual reality and blockchain. And Somnium Space will soon release a version of the client for Oculus Quest wireless VR headset users.
You can follow Somnium Space on Discord, Twitter, Telegram or Instagram. Artur Sychov also hosts an Open Mic event every Saturday at 22:00 CEST (Central European Standard Time) in the Somnium Space amphitheater, for users to learn more about latest development news and to have their questions answered by the CEO himself.
VICE interviewed Syrmor (a.k.a. Canadian VRChat video maker and livestreamer Sherazee Syrmor) in a recent episode of VICE News Tonight:
If you’ve never heard of Syrmor before or viewed his work, this video is an excellent introduction to who he is and how he got into the habit of interviewing various people he encounters on the social VR platform VRChat.
The interviewer and he share a joke in this VICE News video that he has become “the Beyoncé of Virtual Reality”, because he is now so well known for his video interviews that he can’t venture out in public without getting accosted by his fans! Syrmor tells the interviewer that he receives thousands of emails from people who want to be interviewed for the videos in his series.
Syrmor notes the most memorable experiences he’s ever had in VRChat and the subject of one of his most recent videos. The subject explained that he was a kid suffering from epidermolysis bullosa, or “the butterfly condition,” a lifelong genetic disorder that makes your skin as “fragile as a butterfly’s wings.” (In some cases, it can even lead to amputations.) Everything, from crawling on your hands and knees to taking a bath, can be very, very painful. He told Syrmor a story about daily battles with the disorder through the guise of a sprightly Piglet avatar.
“What really got me is that he talked about his dad very highly, because his dad is his caretaker. I said something like, ‘Your dad sounds like a cool guy,’ and he actually got his dad on the microphone,” says Syrmor. “Having this very burly, 40-year-old male voice coming through Piglet in virtual reality, talking about his son’s disease, and what life was like for him, was just not something I ever expected to encounter in video games.”
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).