High Fidelity Gets $35 Million in Venture Capital

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The technology news website TechCrunch is reporting today that social VR company High Fidelity is receiving 35 million dollars in venture captial funding:

High Fidelity, a social VR startup founded by one of Second Life’s original creators has bagged a $35 million Series D led by Blockchain investment firm Galaxy Digital Ventures. Also participating in the round were Breyer Capital, IDG Capital Partners, Vulcan Capital and Blockchain Capital.

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UPDATED: Seven Things That High Fidelity Does Better Than Sansar

It’s only natural to want to compare two of the newer, VR-capable social virtual worlds: High Fidelity (founded in 2013 by Philip Rosedale), and Sansar by Linden Lab (the company founded in 1999, also by Philip Rosedale, before he left to start HiFi; the current CEO is Ebbe Altberg). With similar roots, the two virtual worlds have a lot in common, but there are still some significant differences between them. Earlier this year, I recently posted an infographic comparing the two platforms (which I probably need to update).

Now, my preferred virtual world happens to be Sansar, but there are some areas where High Fidelity still has an edge over Sansar, at least right now:

Making friends: You can “shake hands” with another avatar and they are automatically added to your friends list in HiFi. Very natural and very cool.

Paying an avatar: You can pay or “tip” an avatar directly from the tablet UI in High Fidelity, something you can’t do in Sansar.

Spectator Cam: This is a very useful and fun tool. The Spectator Camera is a camera you can use, along with recording software such as Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), to record or livestream what you and your friends do in High Fidelity. They even had a film festival in HiFi consisting entirely of videos recorded using this device! I went to the premiere, it was great fun!

Blockchain: High Fidelity stores currency, object information, and identity on the blockchain. It’s a new, relatively untested technology which some feel is problematic, but Philip Rosedale has embraced it boldly. Sansar has decided to go in a different direction with a commerce system very similar to its flagship product, Second Life.

In-World Building Tools: High Fidelity does offer you the option of building items in-world, in a way very similar to the “prim building” in Second Life. It’s still a crude tool, but it works. There’s no such ability in Sansar, nor is one planned as far as I know. Most content creators in HiFi and Sansar do decide to use external tools such as Blender or Maya (or even Windows Paint 3D!) to create content, then import it.

Have I missed any other advantages to High Fidelity over Sansar? Please let me know in the comments, thanks!

UPDATE 7:32 p.m. Alezia Kurdis on the HiFi user forums reminded me of one thing that High Fidelity has that Sansar doesn’t—your avatar can fly! Thanks, Alezia!

UPDATE May 15th: Expert HiFi avatar creator Menithal comments on another feature that High Fidelity has that Sansar currently lacks—custom-rigged avatars! (Sansar has decided to go in another direction with avatar customization with its integration with Marvelous Designer, but you cannot design, create, rig and script customized avatars like you can in High Fidelity and VRChat):

You also have a lot more control over custom avatars;

  • On the fly Scripting and scripts that can run only on your client
  • CUSTOM avatars, not just customizable ones with attachments
  • In-world freedom to do things

Let me give some examples:

You can manipulate object behavior on the fly, instead of relying on things to occur: Like in this silly video where i just experimented with Attaching a camera to the end of a stick, then making it physical. I also bound my track pad to change my emotion state on the fly while in the HMD.

Avatars can also be, honestly a lot more expressive, in HiFi compared to Sansar, due to the ability to have completely custom shapes instead of attachments, which also are completely doable (my coat is an attachment I can change on the fly)

There also is quite alot of flexibility of creation of addons: like the clap script, allowing you to clap while in HMD. Scripting it self extends the possibilities to be quite large:

Or even cast a spell using gestures and vocal control, if you have the scripting know-how. This also demonstrates me switching out my attachments via a script.

Or if you have an avatar with many bones, you can create an avatar specific customizer

This ofcourse has gone even further and allowed the use of flow bones in High Fidelity, where bones are simulated as well by others touching them.

Then there is

  • Running
  • Flying

And everything can be done while in HMD, without having to jump on and off it. A lot of the features are way deeper than the surface.

Thanks, Menithal! Although I must note that you can indeed run in Sansar…but flying would be nice to have *sigh*

Strawberry and Drax Take a Tour of High Fidelity with Philip Rosedale

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Today, Philip Rosedale, the visionary founder of Linden Lab and creator of Second Life, conducted a tour of his new VR-capable virtual world, High Fidelity, for Strawberry Singh and Draxtor Despres.

This is another of Strawberry’s continuing series of visits to virtual worlds other than Second Life. She had visited High Fidelity for the first time a month ago. Back in February, she had also paid a visit to Sinespace, on a tour led by Sine Wave Entertainment’s Adam Frisby.

Philip said that currently, the High Fidelity company consists of 55 people, and about 20,000 people have created user accounts so far in High Fidelity. He said, in response to a comment from Drax that most High Fidelity users are probably American, that British/European users actually make up the largest block of HiFi users.

Philip talked about a piece of code you can add to your HiFi client, called Mirror Mode, which allows you to see a copy of your avatar in-world, to see what you are wearing, etc.

The group started at the Zaru domain, and from there they went on to visit the following domains:

Each HiFi domain runs on its own server; High Fidelity is a distributed open-source virtual world. Philip said that they built the architecture so that anybody who wants to can put up their own server, which means that it can scale upwards much more easily than a centralized system. He also hinted that you might be able to access High Fidelity on your phone someday soon!

Here’s Strawberry’s livestream of the tour (she was experiencing some technical issues with lag, and she did crash at one point):

Drax also did a livestream of Philip’s tour (one of the cool HiFi features he demonstrated was the ability to befriend another avatar simply by shaking their hand in-world):

High Fidelity and JanusVR Announce the Virtual Reality Blockchain Alliance

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Remember that blogpost I wrote, way back when, about the idea of the Universal Avatar? Well, we seem to be one step closer to that today.

Philip Rosedale, the visionary founder of Second Life and CEO of High Fidelity, has just announced that JanusVR and High Fidelity have founded the Virtual Reality Blockchain Alliance (VRBA), “a group dedicated to establishing a universal digital identity built on the blockchain and outside the control of any specific corporate entity.” He goes on to say:

As a member of VRBA, Janus will host a node of the High Fidelity blockchain and have the ability not just to read from the ledger but to register assets and record transactions on it as well.

As a member of VRBA, Janus will recognize avatar identities created in High Fidelity, and equally personas created within Janus will transfer to High Fidelity. Users of both services will be able to control what information they share or keep private for each experience and tailor how they present themselves. Together we’ll add more features to our identity platform to help build trust as people traverse VR.

Soon High Fidelity users can bring their virtual goods to Janus, along with ownership rights — the precursor to avatars and property moving effortlessly from world to world.

Janus is also developing a Blockchain Explorer that will allow people to view and render their assets, regardless of which service they used to buy them. You’ll no longer have some of your stuff on one platform, some of it on another. It’s just your stuff, everywhere you go.

High Fidelity Coin (HFC) is our cryptocurrency for peer-to-peer transactions and purchases on the High Fidelity Marketplace. Janus will soon support HFC in its digital wallet, meaning anyone will be able to purchase Janus content using HFC. We’re creating a kind of ‘HFC free-trade zone’ between all the virtual worlds on both platforms.

JanusVR, a decentralized service which re-imagines webpages as collaborative three-dimensional webspaces interconnected by portals, also had a statement on their website of this new alliance. It states:

Fundamentally, Janus builds a universe of virtual worlds from the decentralized platform of the web itself. The use of blockchain technology is the next logical step, as it provides a meaningful solution to an important problem: portability of identity between virtual worlds. Such portability enables many new capabilities, for example: avatars that provide a consistent appearance between worlds, or enabling transactions with cryptocurrencies or any other kind of digital asset, with transactions occurring in-world or even between-world. All of this data will exist within a decentralized, public, secure network that will itself allow open exploration and visualization (something we are very enthusiastic about working on).

Of course, there’s still a bit of skepticism in some quarters about how well blockchain technology will stand up in actual virtual world use. It’s a fascinating debate, well worth following. Philip Rosedale is obviously a big believer in the blockchain. Maybe his bet will pay off.

And maybe—just maybe—the day of the Universal Avatar isn’t as far away as it once appeared to be…

Philip Rosedale Schools a Decentraland Promoter

The level of hype over blockchain-based virtual worlds in general, and Decentraland in particular, never fails to amaze and amuse me. Sansar user Theanine alerted me to this gem of a tweet by Barry Silbert, who appears to be a cryptocurrency cheerleader, and the absolutely perfect response from High Fidelity’s Philip Rosedale:

Decentraland Hype vs Reality 23 Feb 2018

Damn! Barry got told. And Philip is right; High Fidelity is well ahead of Decentraland.

It would appear that Barry is quoting directly from this rather strange article from WT VOX, titled Fashion For Digital Self – VR Environments For Self Identity Congruence. Here’s the quote in full:

Decentraland comes closest to the ‘Ready Player One’ virtual reality. Its advanced VR platform is powered by Ethereum’s blockchain and lets users create raw materials, construct buildings, objects, enjoy experiences, exchange goods and communicate. Even more, in Decentraland’s virtual reality world users can monetize content, such as goods, experiences, services and more complex applications.

What? WHAT?!?? Right now investors in Decentraland can’t do ANY of those things! You can’t even set foot in Decentraland right now!