Pursuing the Holy Grail of Second Life in Virtual Reality: A New Solution Using Firestorm and SteamVR

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Obligatory image from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

I first heard the news from Wagner James Au of the long-running Second Life blog New World Notes: someone has come up with a new way to navigate SL in a VR headset!

OK this is pretty amazing: Someone named Peter Kappler quietly created code to run Second Life in VR via Firestorm and Steam VR, and then posted the source code online. “It’s not a fully working Firestorm,” he allows on his YouTube, “there is still a lot to do. The file I posted is a source file in C++ for coders that wish to maybe work on a VR version for Second Life.”

There have been at least two other attempts to create a VR port for Second Life, but performance has not been impressive — Linden Lab had an experimental client of its own, but discontinued supporting it due to lack of decent frame rate. The demo video…suggests Kappler has come up with a fairly decent port; better yet, by open sourcing his code, he’s encouraging other developers to improve it further.

Here’s the eight-minute demo video Wagner refers to (there’s no sound):

Now, there is no guarantee that this open-source solution (which relies on SteamVR and the Firestorm viewer code) will be able to attain the high framerates required to avoid VR sickness. But it does look somewhat promising!

Second Life was never intended for VR; the platform is simply too dated to support it. Any solution will be a kludge at best. But I do find it interesting that people keep pursuing the Holy Grail of SL in VR, anyways. I wouldn’t mind trying this out myself, just to see how well it works.

Thank you for the heads-up, Wagner!

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VR is NOT Dying: Members of the Virtual Reality Group on Facebook Respond to My Blogpost on Drift0r’s YouTube Video, And Set the Record Straight

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Not too long ago, I wrote a blogpost about the video which avid VR gamer Drift0r posted to YouTube, which outlined his take on the state of virtual reality in general, and VR gaming in particular. The blogpost and video were controversial and I got a lot of feedback. (For the record, I myself did NOT say that “VR is dying”, like Drift0r did in his video. I said, and I quote, “Virtual reality may not be dying, as this YouTuber asserts, but it isn’t looking overly healthy, either.”)

Well, nowhere did I receive as much feedback as I did when I cross-posted that particular blogpost to the very active Virtual Reality group on Facebook, with over 47,000 members.  I got by far the biggest and best responses overall in this group. The members are great bullshit detectors overall, and I learned a lot by reading through the comments.

So many people made so many well-reasoned arguments that I wanted to post a follow-up on this blog, with a compilation of the best positive and negative comments. Where I explicitly received permission, I have attached the person’s name to their comments; otherwise, the comments are anonymous.

And yes, it would appear that this triggered a lot of people who got upset. I get that. From my perspective as a still-learning-the-ropes blogger (and a NON-gamer), I found that Drift0r’s video raised some interesting points I had not previously thought about it and merited more discussion. I got that back in spades! Thank you to everyone who responded.

One commenter shared a TED Talk by Los Angeles sculptor and street artist Zenka explains why she thinks VR and AR will have a huge impact on society:

I can recommend this inspiring 15-minute TED Talk unreservedly.

Some commenters thought my blogpost was clickbait journalism, plain and simple:

Such a clickbait title… of course its not dying. Sure, some in the industry have a goal that goes beyond the Moon… but how do you go from unreached goals to “VR is dying!”? Thats just stupid and wrong. VR is steadily growing and obviously not going away.

“Clickbait”? Well, maybe (I certainly did try to choose a title that would make people click through to read the article/see the video), but “journalist”?!?? Hardly. I do not consider what I do on this blog and what a professional journalist does to be the one and the same thing. I am an amateur VR enthusiast, and I do try to be as accurate as possible on my blog, but sometimes I miss the mark. This just happens to be one of those times.

A great many commenters took exception with the premise of Drift0r’s video that “VR is dying”. Here’s just a sample of opinion:

Although I can see how many in the game industry have reasons to complain. VR training for the cooperate sector is booming, we continue to get more and more clients and create experiences that are not only useful but really help people gain a better understanding of the task they plan to perform in the real world. We save companies millions of dollars in on sight training and offer something beyond games. The VR market is filled with people with complaints but it’s usually because they were too cheap to buy a quality setup. Not everyone drives a Ferrari, not everyone lives in a million dollar house, new tech requires financial investment and to think that over night everyone would buy a high end VR headset is just silly and unrealistic.

No its not all of VR. VR is starting to take off in the education sector. Now think about that for a minute. We are getting kids into VR early and done right it builds a fanbase.

Thank god our clients don’t agree with this article! There’s a lot more to VR than just game applications. Just ask the military, hospitality, healthcare, transportation, real estate, automotive… etc industries. Obviously the writer of this article needs to get out of the house more often.

And of course, in writing up my original blogpost, I had completely forgotten about the many good and useful non-gaming applications of VR, such as education and healthcare (e.g. the treatment of phobias). This was definitely an oversight on my part, and I’m sorry!

Raphael Baker commented:

I found his video raised all the cliche rhetoric I’ve heard over the past few years. He opens with a false statement about VR was supposed to go mainstream and it went downhill from there. His statements won favour largely with non-VR gamers who dislike VR and also people like himself who are unable to distinguish between quality VR titles versus unregulated amateur pish flooding steam. Even his critique of popular VR games was largely DECEPTIVE and unrepresentative of quality VR titles.

The problem is there is too much of that kind of crap posted about VR and people who don’t know better are easily swayed.

His whole speech was built on a false narrative that gaming VR had a course set for total mainstream infiltration within 4 years. That is absolutely insane but people just buy it automatically.

Those who understand VR including its much longer history than post oculus era; know that not even gen 2 will see mainstream adoption. 

Gerald Ferreira said:

So Here is my opinion – Posts like “VR is Dying” is attracting a lot of attention and people who is willing to invest in VR reads this bull, and then decide not to invest into VR because of bull post like this. In the end it is more damaging to the market than the clicks one receive for posting “VR is dying” articles. I am doing very well in the VR space, I have more clients that I can handle at the moment. My prices are good and my clients are happy and see the value, my biggest clients is marketing agencies, banks, entertainment and education.

Another person added:

If you want to be a successful social media blogger today, I guess you’re on point. If you want to write without using trendy blanket statement headlines and actually care to shed light on a medium you are (I hope) enthusiastic about, you have some work to do. Like Gerald Ferreira says, this type of clickbait is what turns people away from the medium.

Follow some actual VR streamers like Derky Sprawl or Rowdy Guy. Read some Jaron Lanier or Jeremy Bailenson for pioneer reference and history. Do your homework.

And I mean all that in the nicest way possible because you clearly enjoy writing and the industry needs good writers, but don’t confuse sensationalist backlash with constructive criticism. I look forward to your writings either way.

One person talked about how smartphone-based VR really did nobody any favours in terms of setting user expectations:

honestly talking from experience id blame mobile phone vr…while kind of cool at first.. it was one of the main reasons i didnt even care to try the more expensive ones like the rift…but after getting into projection mapping and 3d as well as augmented reality …i decided let me give this a try …..and now im hooked…but yea those cardboard / half ass VR devices i believe is sending the wrong msg while kind of cool im not spending all that money…even tho the rift and Vive are way beyond that level…honestly the way i feel right now about it i can shut up to people about it…so ive been doing my part to educate people that VR is more then just games.

This was a major discussion point 2 – 3 years ago. The general point being ” is smartphone VR good enough to be an entry point into VR, or is it going to sour the perception. ” Here we are a few years later and so far I’m going to say Sour the Perception. This is from talking to people at festivals showing high-end VR, and just talking to people far outside of the tech bubble in general.

Many whom I’ve talked to that had tried smartphone VR cases thought “what’s the point” and didn’t look any further.

Also as a VR dev who targeted the smartphone VR market for at least one published project: It’s very difficult to know if the software is working right across the hundreds of devices that are listed as good enough to play it. So one person might get a great experience with it, while the next it doesn’t play right.

And a few commenters said that they agreed with what Drift0r was saying:

I’d say VR is dead right now. But will make an awesome comeback in a few years, it’s inevitable. But currently my Vive is more used as a tool than a gaming system. I use mine for 3D modelling/creation, and VR racing. That’s about it. if I didn’t do simulation racing, I would probably regret my Vive purchase. Gotta say I’m quite disappointed with the softwear/gaming side of VR.

Yup. I was just in a meeting and brought our headset in. Client was like “I like it on a tablet, but hate those helmets”.

It’s got a long way to get, imho. Until the resolution is on par with HD it’ll struggle. No idea when that will be, but seems years away at the current rate.

He has some pretty valid points in my opinion. But I’d layer it with this lens… he’s talking about “desktop VR.” The one with the wire that costs a minimum of $1k to get into (for the average user). In that case, he’s on target. Sales of those machine/headsets/games are pretty disappointing when compared to traditional AAA title sales. That’s the folly of the whole argument… the market for desktop VR is desktop gamers with a budget. That’s all there is to say about that, really.

The real VR market is emerging right now… the one without wires, where the consumer experience is controlled like Android/iOS – by designers, not engineers. The one where the experience is so smooth that one person buys several (price point) so their friends can join them in the fun.

It’s not about games, though that’s important. It’s not about GPUs and specifications or which CPU is the most amazing.

It’s about the feeling that the user has when they put on the headset for the first time. That is the next generation of VR… and it’s beginning now.

One man, Robert Long, even shared his inspirational story of how he has lost 200 pounds so far by using VR games as exercise:

VR is going to be big. Sure it has had the most hype of all tech ever made. Well aside from quantum computers lol. It can take as long as it likes. Once Gen 2 comes out it will shake things up. The tech just needs to match the hype. And it is starting to with the new added tech such as suits that give feedback and even neural connections that move when you think to move. The 1-way end of course. But 2 way is going to change everything. The ability to send and receive signals with the CNS. But that 2-way tech is a long ways away from reality. Right now its limited thanks to the bulky head displays and huge controllers. But it is getting there. Point is. Once the tech is solid cheaper and they see people living inside their virtual avatars instead of real life they will get jellyfish and everyone will want them. Those graphics just need to match 4K and up and that will attract more people. Plus once more software companies get involved in making AAA games for VR only. That is when it will force people to get one. But the mobile units are doing pretty good to get people to get involved and want more VR stuff. So just sit back and relax. It will happen. I dropped over 200 pounds using VR. So if it can do that for people. You would be surprised how well it will do this upcoming year. With all the mobiles they have coming out that are pretty decent.

Not gonna lie. I have always dreamed of VR stuff my whole life. I see its bad and good areas. And sure we don’t come close to the hype at all. But the issue is not the tech really because it works fine for gen 1 consumer level. It is coming along at least. The issue is the games atm. They are nice and all but they really don’t make any VR only titles that are considered AAA games that everyone wants to play. The first place to sign a deal with a VR tech company that releases best sellers on consoles and they make it VR only and hype the living shit out of it to the point that you dream about playing it and hate those that do. That would be when I see VR taking off and getting the consumers and money they need to merge other tech needed to get it to where it needs to be. But like all guesses on what is coming it’s all best guess. Just like science. But so far I am happy. I was going to die and now I am healthy thanks to VR. Do you know what its like to have anxiety issues for a few months because you are healthy and don’t remember what its like to be healthy?. Well VR got me out that fat man prison I built for myself. So I love VR even more. But the point is my 2 cents and all. I think it is doing just fine. The price tag on the tech is a major issue atm. Like the vive pro. That 1600 bucks for a pretty decent setup is why people laugh at VR right now. Because no games that would even make you consider putting that kind of cash out does not exist. Say they created Red Dead redemption 2 for VR only. You can bet your ass people would be playing the hell out of it and showing it off. Next thing you know that Christmas everyone has VR. And we hit the next level for progress in the field. But like I said. Just my 2 cents lol.

And for the record yes I was being hard on myself. The car wrecks did cause depression and not being able to get around added to me getting to like 500 pounds. But at least I got only like 70 pounds to go and I am back where I was before the wrecks! And VR helped me do that. Gen 1 tech did that. I can’t wait to see what gen 2 tech can do.

https://www.vrfitnessinsider.com/robert-long-looses-138-pounds-playing-beat-saber-and-hes-still-going/

So, it seems pretty clear to me that VR still has a lot of life in it! VR is far from dying. Thank you to all the members of the Virtual Reality group on Facebook for the reality check!

A VR Gamer/YouTuber Delivers a Gut-Punch Reality Check to Virtual Reality Gaming: It’s Not Just Social VR That’s Struggling to Take Off, It’s the Entire VR Industry

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Someone posted the following YouTube video to the official Sansar Discord channel today. It’s a mixed-reality video recorded on a green-screen set constructed by Drift0r, a VR enthusiast and avid gamer, within his own home (which should tell you quite a bit about what level a fan he is of virtual reality).

But he certainly does not pull any punches when it comes down to dissecting exactly what’s wrong with the current state of virtual reality in general, and VR gaming in particular:

Now, this is not some VR dilettante; this is what I would consider a hardcore VR gamer who has made a sizeable investment in both the computer hardware and software, not only to play VR games but to record videos of himself doing so. He’s also a popular YouTube personality with over 1.3 million subscribers. And he says in the description of this particular video:

Virtual Reality has been struggling to catch on and go mainstream for almost four years now. I personally am a huge fan of VR and own the Rift, Vive, & PSVR; but I have to face the fact that VR gaming is dying. This video goes over the current major issues with VR gaming and offers some suggestions on how to fix them. I show off Beat Saber, Sprint Vector, Doom VFR, Sairento, Gorn, Creed, Raw Data, and several other games in mixed reality too.

For someone like this to be saying that VR is dying, and to suggest that full mainstream acceptance of VR may lie 20 to 30 years in the future, instead of the 5 to 10 years most VR market forecasters are predicting, should give a lot of companies working in VR serious pause (including those firms building social VR platforms). This guy is the consummate insider, somebody who should be leading the cheering section, telling us that things are not okay with the current state of VR gaming, at least.

The dirty secret of VR gaming overall, let alone social VR, is that very few people still own a VR headset. The vast majority of people playing VR-capable games and visiting VR-capable virtual worlds are not using a VR headset; they are in desktop mode. And it’s not just social VR that is struggling to attract paying customers, it’s the entire VR industry that is facing the reality that most people aren’t adopting the technology. As Drift0r explains, the hard, cold truth of VR gaming is that the games are selling in numbers that are pitiful by desktop game standards.


So, what does this mean for Sansar, High Fidelity, and the other social VR companies? It means that they should be wary of over-focusing on virtual reality to the exclusion of desktop users. Linden Lab smartly made the move to integrate text chat in Sansar for both desktop and VR users, something that Philip Rosedale has been notably loathe to do in High Fidelity (although I understand that text chat is included in the HiFi client, but disabled by default).

Virtual reality may not be dying, as this YouTuber asserts, but it isn’t looking overly healthy, either. I’ve already blogged about a couple of social VR projects that have fallen on hard times waiting for virtual reality to become more popular (Anyland and, more recently, Virtual Universe). The advent of the attractively-priced, standalone Oculus Quest headset might ignite the VR marketplace, but the forecasters have been wrong before.

So, what do you think? Feel free to leave a comment here with your thoughts and opinions. Or, even better, join us on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server! Over 150 people who are passionate about social VR and virtual worlds are talking about this and other topics every day. And you’re invited to join our discussions!

UPDATED: Which Social VR Platforms and Virtual Worlds Will Benefit from the Upcoming Standalone VR Headset Oculus Quest?

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As many of you already know, Oculus is releasing a new, standalone VR headset, the Oculus Quest, sometime this coming spring, 2019. Priced at just US$399, it is sure to be a popular option for people who are interested in VR, but who don’t want to purchase a more expensive VR headset solution like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

The Oculus Rift is meant to fill the space in the Oculus product line-up between their entry-level, lower-powered standalone VR headset, the Oculus Go, and the Oculus Rift, a VR headset with Touch controllers which requires a high-end Windows gaming-level PC with a good graphics card to run. (Unfortunately, there is, as yet, no satisfactory native virtual reality hardware solution for Apple Mac users, although there are native Mac desktop clients for virtual worlds such as High Fidelity and Sinespace.)

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If the Oculus Quest becomes very popular, those social VR platforms which can run on the Quest hardware may gain an advantage over those which require a full-blown VR headset and a higher-end computer.

I think it’s safe to assume that Facebook/Oculus properties such as Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms (or at least some version of them) will be available for the Oculus Quest on its launch date. Social VR platforms with simpler avatars and spaces, which already run on the Oculus Go (like AltspaceVR, Bigscreen, and vTime) will probably also be available for the Quest.

Surprisingly, Rec Room, TheWaveVR, and VRChat are not among the social VR programs that are currently available for the Oculus Go ( I searched for them on the Oculus Go apps store and could not find any mention of them.) It remains to be seen if the companies behind those three products will release versions which will run on the more powerful Oculus Quest.

In a discussion thread over on the official High Fidelity user forums, HiFi CEO Philip Rosedale stated back in October:

We are definitely going to get High Fidelity running on as many standalone devices as we can, and we love the Quest. VR will not find a large audience until the Quest and other devices (like the Mirage and Vive Focus) become widely available.

Talking to Oculus about the process now… stay tuned.

When asked for to provide a more recent update, Philip added:

Yes, we are working on the Quest, and hope to have High Fidelity ready to run on it for launch! Very high quality device.

I also don’t know what Sinespace’s exact plans are for the Oculus Quest, but Adan Frisby, their lead developer, said on a Facebook comment when I cross-posted this blogpost over there:

We’ll be fine with it too – anyone doing Android support will have an easier time of it.

So it looks like High Fidelity and Sinespace will indeed both be working with the Oculus Quest, if not right at launch date, then shortly thereafter. This gives them both an advantage over Linden Lab’s Sansar, which very likely will not be able to work with the Quest. There’s still a lot of data that has to get sent to and from a VR headset to properly render Sansar experiences (especially for any experience which has global illumination enabled), which would probably completely overload any standalone headset, regardless of what processor it contains and how much memory it has (the Oculus Quest is supposed to ship with 64GB of storage for programs).

As I often say: interesting times ahead! Let’s hope that the Oculus Quest makes a big splash and brings even more people into VR. A rising tide lifts all boats, and many social VR platforms would benefit from greater consumer awareness and uptake of virtual reality in general. And I promise to cover all of it as it happens on this blog!

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

UPDATE Dec. 14th: Adeon Writer posted the following to the VirtualVerse Discord server (VirtualVerse is the successor to the long-running SLUniverse forums):

VRChat was just announced for the Oculus Store. While it already worked with Oculus on Steam, [the] OculusSDK version of VRChat means it will almost certainly be ported to Oculus Quest when it comes out, making it the first metaverse-style game available for wireless/unteathered/portable VR.

Thanks, Adeon!