Second Life is Looking for Beta Testers for its New Puppetry Feature: Control Your SL Avatar’s Face and Upper Body Movements Using Your Webcam!

This afternoon, Linden Lab (the makers of virtual world Second Life) made an announcement:

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could animate your avatar in real time? What if you could wave your arm and your avatar could mimic your motions?  Or imagine if your avatar could reach out and touch something in-world or perform animations?  Linden Lab is exploring these possibilities with an experimental feature called “Puppetry.”

We have been working on this feature for some time and now we are ready to open it up to the Second Life community for further development and to find out what amazing things our creators will do with this new technology.

The code base is alpha level and does contain its share of rough edges that need refinement, however the project is functionally complete, and it is possible for the scripters and creators of Second Life to start to try it out.

The animated GIF I copied from the Linden Lab announcement didn’t work in my blogpost, so I downloaded the video from their tweet below:

Now, Second Life is not the first flatscreen virtual world to announce such a feature (that would be Sinespace; I wrote about their Avatar Facial Driver back in 2018). At that time, Sinespace said that facial coverings such as glasses might interfere with the tracking. However, four years have passed and I have zero doubt that the technology has improved!

Linden Lab goes on to explain how the Puppetry technology works:

Puppetry accepts target transforms for avatar skeleton bones and uses inverse kinematics (IK) to place the connecting bones in order for the specified bones to reach their targets.  For example the position and orientation “goal” of the hand could be specified and IK would be used to compute how the forearm, elbow, upper arm, and shoulder should be positioned to achieve it. The IK calculation can be tricky to get right and is a work in progress. 

The target data is supplied by a plug-in that runs as a separate process and communicates with the viewer through the LLSD Event API Plug-in (LEAP) system.  This is a lesser known functionality of the Viewer which has been around for a while but has, until now, only been used for automated test and update purposes.

The Viewer transmits the Puppetry data to the region server, which broadcasts it to other Puppetry capable Viewers nearby.  The receiving Viewers use the same IK calculations to animate avatars in view.

For more details about the Puppetry technology, take a look at the Knowledge Base article Puppetry : How it Works

To my knowledge, this marks a major change in how avatars move in Second Life. One of the things which the newer generation of metaverse platform users (much more used to social VR platforms like VRChat) have found odd is that SL avatars rely so much on the playback of pre-recorded animations. (Keep in mind that SL does not support users in VR headsets, as it cannot reach the necessary frame rates to avoid VR sickness! There have been valiant attempts made over the years, however.)

If you are intrigued by this development and want to test it out for yourself, here are the details (it does sound as though you will need to be a bit of a computer geek to participate, at least in this open beta test period!):

The Puppetry feature requires a project viewer and can only be used on supporting Regions.  Download the project Viewer at the Alternate Viewers page.  Regions with Puppetry support exist on the  Second Life Preview Grid and are named: Bunraku, Marionette, and Castelet.

When using the Puppetry Viewer in one of those regions, if someone there is sending Puppetry data you should see their avatar animated accordingly.  To control your own avatar with Puppetry it’s a bit more work to set up the system.  You need: a working Python3 installation, a plug-in script to run, and any Python modules it requires.  If you are interested and adventurous: please give it a try.   More detailed instructions can be found on the Puppetry Development page.

We look forward to seeing what our creators do with the new Puppetry technology. Compared to other features we have introduced, it’s quite experimental and rough around the edges, so please be patient!  We will keep refining it, but before we go further we wanted to get our residents’ thoughts.

We will be hosting an open discussion inworld on Thursday, Sept 8 1:00PM SLT at the Bunraku, Marionette, and Castelet regions on the Preview Grid.    We’re also happy to talk about this at the upcoming Server User Group or Content Creator meetings.  Come by, let us know what you think, and hear about our future plans!

I for one will be quite excited to test this new feature out!

Comparing Second Life Basic, Premium, and Premium Plus Accounts: How Do You Choose What’s Best for You, and What Is the Best Value for Your Money?

This blogpost helps you figure out the best way to spend your pennies on a Second Life account!

It’s the hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer, and I must confess that I haven’t felt like blogging (or doing much of anything) these past few weeks. I’ve been watching lots of Netflix (Umbrella Academy season 3, yay!), testing out responses to various text prompts on DALL-E 2, and sending forth my small army of Second Life alts in a blitzkrieg campaign of pillaging all the fabulous freebies at the SL19B Shop and Hop event before it ends on July 10th. Trust Auntie Ryan; this is the single biggest haul of freebies you will ever see at any one shopping event in Second Life! 😉 So go now!!!

As part of the Second Life 19th Birthday celebrations, Linden Lab (the company who makes SL) has announced a brand new, second level of premium accounts for users, called Premium Plus. There’s been a lot of discussion in the official Second Life community forums (and elsewhere) about this, and so I thought it was time to take a bit of a deep dive and look at all three levels of SL accounts: Basic, Premium, and now the new Premium Plus, in an effort to help people figure out what’s best for them.

PLEASE NOTE: All prices in this blogpost are in U.S. dollars; you’ll have to do your own currency conversions if you use Canadian dollars, or whatever your local currency happens to be. In my case, the conversion between the stronger American dollar and the weaker Canadian dollar always makes me wince in pain!

Signup Bonus and Weekly Stipend

Basic accounts have no signup bonus or weekly stipend (i.e., an amount of Linden dollars which Linden Lab pays you). If you upgrade to Premium, you receive a L$1,000 signup bonus, plus a weekly stipend of L$300. If you choose to upgrade to Premium Plus, you get a L$3,000 signup bonus and a L$650 weekly stipend.

Please note that you must stay at your Premium (or Premium Plus) level for 45 days before you receive the signup bonus; this is prevent people from signing up for one month, collecting the bonus, then downgrading back to Basic!

Avatar Legacy Names

Basic accounts are what everybody gets when they first sign up for Second Life. You need to come up with a single-word name which is unique, and since Linden Lab dropped the first name-last name avatar naming system for new signups a decade ago, believe me, you are going to have to be very creative to come up with a good single-word name that isn’t already taken!

This name is known as your legacy name. You do need to understand the difference between your avatar’s legacy name (the name you chose for your avatar when you created your Second Life account) and your avatar’s display name (which you can change to pretty much anything you want, one change per week). Most Basic users are quite content to set up a display name and be done with it. If you want to create a first name and last name for your avatar, you will have to upgrade to either Premium or Premium Plus (for at least one month) in order to do so.

Here are my step-by-step instructions on how to change your avatar’s legacy name, written in April 2020, before Premium Plus was announced.

I did some quick calculations, and I discovered something surprising: if you have an avatar whose name you want to change, it’s actually cheaper to do if you upgrade your Basic account to Premium Plus, than it is if you upgrade to Premium!

  • Premium (1 month): $11.99 + Cost of Name Change $39.99 = $51.98
  • Premium Plus (1 month) $24.99* + Cost of Name Change via Concierge $15.00 = $39.99

*This is a time-limited promotional price. Afterwards, the price is $29.99 monthly.

So, if the only thing you are interested in is creating a first name and last name for your avatar, you could upgrade that account to Premium Plus for one month, submit a concierge request to pick a first name and last name, then downgrade your subscription back to Basic! (Yes, if you change your legacy avatar name, you do not lose it when you go from Premium or Premium Plus to Basic. You also don’t get the signup bonus, obviously.)

Also note that the last name you can choose for your avatar is limited to whatever choices are on the list of available last names at the time you make your request.

Number of SL Groups You Can Belong To

A big difference between the three levels of Second Life accounts is the number of groups you can be subscribed to at any one time. Many Basic users already are well familiar with the dance of unsubscribing from one store group in order to join another, once they hit the limit! In worst case scenarios, you might have to unsubscribe from a group with a group join fee, and then have to repay that fee to rejoin that group later. It’s obviously not ideal, and so both Premium and Premium Plus do offer you more group slots.

  • Basic accounts: limit of 42 groups
  • Premium accounts: 70 groups
  • Premium Plus accounts: 140 groups

So a freebie fashionista like Vanity Fair, who keeps bumping up against the 70-group limit because of all the store groups she belongs to, is a good condidate for an upgrade to Premium Plus! (And I am considering it.)

An interesting fact is that, if you have a Premium account subscribed to more than 42 groups, and then downgrade to Basic, you can still stay subscribed to all the groups! You will not be forced out of any groups. However, you will not be allowed to join any new groups until you bring your subscriptions down below 42! I assume the same applies to Premium Plus.

Priority Entrance into Full Sims

A nice perk (and one that comes in quite handy at times!) is that Premium and Premium Plus users get priority access to jam-packed, full sims, while Basic users have to wait until the number of avatars on a sim goes below a certain level before they can teleport in. (There are automated tools like the free Teleporter Hammer you can use, but if the sim is full, you still might be waiting for hours or even days to get into some overcrowded, popular sims!)

True story: there was once a time-limited 10th anniversary sale at Junbug, a wonderful vintage, historical, and fantasy womenswear store, where everything was priced at only L$10 each! The Teleporter Hammer was not working for me at all, despite days of trying, and I was so absolutely desperate to get a certain avatar (with a Basic account) into that store sim to so some bargain shopping, that I upgraded her from Basic to Premium for one month, just to get her into the sale!

Free Land Allowance and Linden Homes

Basic accounts get no free land allowance. If you want to get a free Linden Home, or want to purchase a parcel of land on the SL mainland, you must upgrade from Basic to Premium or Premium Plus. (Note that most Basic users simply rent land from estates created by landlords on private sims in Second Life. The downside of this is that, if your landlord suddenly closes shop, you lost your carefully decorated home—although you will probably get all your home decor returned in one big lump!)

  • Premium: 1,024 m² free land (which can be used for a Linden Home if you wish)
  • Premium Plus: 2,048 m² free land

Linden Lab has been busy creating a new continent full of sims with Linden Homes in a variety of styles over the past few years (for example, I picked up a lovely Victorian home on a landscaped parcel for an alt when I upgraded her from Basic to Premium in order to change her legacy name). LL has announced that they will be releasing 2,048 m² Linden Homes at some point in the future, as another incentive for you to upgrade, but nothing is currently available.

For example, if you upgraded from Basic to Premium Plus, you could use half of your 2,048 m² free land allowance to pick up a lovely Linden Home, and use the other half to “buy” (actually, lease) a 1,024 m² plot of Second Life mainland for a second home or a store.

Also, Linden Lab has announced a new concierge service, called Choose Your Linden Home, where you can submit a support ticket instead of trying your luck with the Second Life website, hoping to find the type of Linden Home you want, in the location you want!

Note that, unlike legacy names, you do not get to keep your free land when you downgrade from Premium or Premium Plus back to a Basic account!

Various Fees

In order to prevent abuse of resources, there are fees associated with various actions in Second Life. For example, Basic and Premium accounts have to pay L$100 to create a new group, while Premium Plus users can create groups for only L$10 each.

Uploading images, sounds, and animations costs L$10 each if you are a Basic or Premium member, but are free if you are a Premium Plus member. For example, if you are a content creator, or you use a wardrobe system which allows you to save a picture of each outfit, it might be worth it to splurge on a Premium Plus account!

If you wish to create a single event listing in the SL calendar, it costs L$50 for Basic users, L$10 for Premium users, and free for Premium Plus users. Basic users cannot create recurring (i.e., weekly or monthly) events, but Premium users can do so for L$50, and Premium Plus users can do it for free, so if you run a club or store and create a lot of events, it’s likely worth the upgrade to Premium Plus!


This is just a summary of the comparative benefits of the three levels of Second Life accounts. For more information about Premium Plus, you can read the official announcement from Linden Lab, from which the following comparison table comes:

Inara Pey also has an excellent blogpost summarizing the particulars of Premium Plus, with charts and tables comparing Premium and Premium Plus, including a few of her own personal observations.

BE A MOLE! Linden Lab Is Seeking Avatar Clothing Creators, Riggers and Avatar Makers for Second Life

I’m currently swamped with work for my full-time paying job as a university librarian, but I wanted to take a quick moment to post that Linden Lab is hiring! Here’s the post:


We are seeking clothing creators, riggers and avatar makers (skin, hair, makeup, accessories)!

Are you a talented clothing or avatar creator looking for work? Can you put your hand into creating standard and “way out there” outfits? Are you a master of rigging? Do you have a great PC and internet connection that you can run on at a high draw distance, decent FPS and will handle all that various content creation tools?

Essential Requirements:

  • Clothing Creators adept at using Substance 3D Painter, and experience with Marvelous Designer and Adobe Photoshop 
  • Riggers and Avatar makers adept at using Blender/Maya/ZBrush/Cinema 4D and rigging for Dev Kits and the Second Life Starter Avatars 
  • Skills in making textures and materials. 
  • Mesh optimization and creating strong LOD.
  • Own a laptop, desktop or Mac, capable of running Second Life at High and Ultra settings with a minimum draw distance of 256.
  • Good internet connection with good FPS.
  • All of your work must be your own and original.
  • Be reliable, dedicated and work well as part of a team with lots of different personalities.

Bonus Experience/Skills:

  • Avastar, Avatar/Animesh rigging. Experience making decor and accessories.
  • Creating animations.
  • Experience working with quadruped Avatars/Animesh.


If you think you fit the bill and want to join the LDPW, with a dynamic team of wonderful creators, working on exciting projects, then please email derrick@lindenlab.com and provide us with a portfolio and examples of your work. 


Here are some questions and answers from the Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) list, taken from the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW) wiki:


Is this a volunteer position?
The moles are paid an hourly rate.

How do I apply?
Send a resume to Derrick Linden at derrick@lindenlab.com – please include your areas of expertise and any links, screenshots or other information you would like to have considered so we can see recent examples of your work.

Do the contractors keep the rights to their content?
In order to maintain the rights to reproduce the content and to make some of it available via the Library, Linden Lab is purchasing full rights to content created by the mole builders.

What’s all this about moles?
The contractors use accounts with the last name Mole, which references a bit of graffiti that appeared in the original city Regions long ago … “Beware the Mole People!” Of course, those moles who wish to make their primary account names known are certainly free to do so.


It sounds very much that one of the tasks which those hired will be working on is a new set of Second Life starter avatars, which are refreshed every so often. But of course there might be other projects, too. If you meet the qualifications (and I know that many of you do), then please consider applying to be a Mole in the Linden Department of Public Works!

Yes, you can be a Mole!

UPDATED! High Fidelity Invests in Linden Lab, the Makers of Second Life, and Philip Rosedale Rejoins Linden Lab as a Strategic Advisor

The Second Life website (image source)

Today, Linden Lab (more formally known as Linden Research, Inc., the makers of Second Life) dropped a press release:

High Fidelity announced today that it acquired an interest in Linden Research, Inc. (“Linden Lab”), the pioneering developer of the virtual world Second Life. The deal includes a cash investment and distributed computing patents. Members of High Fidelity’s metaverse team are joining the company, and Philip Rosedale, who is a founder of both companies, is also rejoining Second Life as a strategic advisor.

The transaction will help Second Life further scale its operations and strengthen its commitment to growing an innovative, inclusive, and diverse metaverse where its inhabitants’ ingenuity drives real-world value for themselves and others.

“No one has come close to building a virtual world like Second Life,” says Second Life founder and High Fidelity co-founder, Philip Rosedale. “Big Tech giving away VR headsets and building a metaverse on their ad-driven, behavior-modification platforms isn’t going to create a magical, single digital utopia for everyone. Second Life has managed to create both a positive, enriching experience for its residents — with room for millions more to join — and built a thriving subscription-based business at the same time. Virtual worlds don’t need to be dystopias.”

High Fidelity is the company Philip Rosedale founded after leaving Linden Lab. Its first product, an ambitious social VR platform called High Fidelity, failed to catch on and was shut down in early 2020. Its successor product (also called High Fidelity) is a 3D spatialized audio system for use in other metaverse platforms. So, when I’m talking about High Fidelity (HiFi for short), I always make sure to indicate whether I am talking about the company itself, its former social VR product (the old High Fidelity) or the new 3D audio product (the new High Fidelity)!

The website for the new High Fidelity (image source)

Wagner James Au, writer of the long-time virtual worlds blog New World Notes (from whom I first learned about this breaking news), has this to say:

Just got this message from Philip Rosedale, about the future of Second Life:

“I’m not back full-time, but it feels great to get to be talking to Lindens about design! I think the vital thing to focus on is demonstrating that a virtual world can scale to greater capacity while being inclusive and fair and safe for humanity.”

Exciting and welcome news, indeed! I will update this blogpost with more details as I acquire them. Stay tuned!

UPDATE Jan. 14th, 2022: The Wall Street Journal, in an article titled Second Life Founder Returns to Take On the Metaverse (archived version), reported yesterday:

Philip Rosedale in 2003 launched the online game where players using avatars can hang out, socialize with other players and make purchases. Second Life is a forerunner of the virtual worlds that big tech companies are now trying to create and that are often referred to as the metaverse. Mr. Rosedale is returning to the company he left in 2010 to serve as a strategic adviser and shepherd its expansion as the metaverse gains wider traction, he said in an interview…

Mr. Rosedale said that the business models underpinning some of the current tech giants, such as tracking user behavior to target ads, would be potentially harmful in the metaverse, which is more immersive than current digital platforms. “I think that there is a real genuine, existential risk associated with how that gets done,” he said.

Second Life may have had a head start on some of the metaverse companies it aims to compete with, but to some extent is the underdog. Second Life rolled out before Facebook was founded, but has hovered at around one million users since 2008, according to a company spokesperson. Meta’s Facebook, Instagram and other services sported more than 3.5 billion monthly users combined, according to its most recent earnings. Epic Games Inc.’s Fortnite videogame and game company Roblox Corp. , which are also making moves in the metaverse, have many times the number of users that Second Life has.

Brad Oberwager, chairman of Second Life parent company Linden Research Inc., said he is working with Mr. Rosedale to inject momentum into the business. Second Life already offers the ability for people to withdraw money from in-game sales into the real world, a feature lacking in some other emerging metaverses, which should attract users, he said. Coming upgrades focused on further improving the social and economic components of the game, such as the avatars and digital marketplace, promise to drive user growth, he added.

The Wall Street Journal article goes on to state that “Mr. Rosedale is bringing with him to Second Life a small cadre of developers, a number of patents and an unspecified financial investment from the company he founded in 2013, High Fidelity Inc.”

In an interview with c|net, titled Second Life founder returns to revamp his original metaverse, Philip goes into a little more detail:

Rosedale is going to be a “strategic adviser” for Second Life, while his company High Fidelity looks to infuse Second Life with some new ideas, simultaneously working on other ideas for future tech, including – at some point – VR again. “We’re announcing that we’ve shifted a group of seven people, some patents, some money. We’re investing in Second Life, to keep working on Second Life,” Rosedale told me. “Two of those patents are moderation in a decentralized environment patents, which is really cool.”

The reason for the shift is that Second Life still makes money and still has a considerably larger community than most VR platforms: It’s had over 73 million accounts created since it launched, and estimates of active users hover around 900,000. Rosedale sees the shift as solving problems while VR hardware still gets thought out. 

Despite the seeming success of the Oculus Quest 2, he still doesn’t think it’s enough. “The headset is so broken that it’s going to actually take, I think, five years to get to something that’s good,” he says, “and we as a startup would neither survive, nor would it make sense for us to sit around for five years.” He sees building up Second Life as a better platform that will be VR-optional until that magically perfect hardware arrives. 

The entire c|net article is well worth a read, by the way. This news has also been covered by publications such as The Verge, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and CoinTelegraph.

Honestly, the more I read, the better this sounds! I think this is exciting news for both Linden Lab and High Fidelity, and I wish all involved every success in this endeavour.