Category Archives: Other Worlds

High Fidelity update users with a quarterly report

HF-logoHigh Fidelity have issues a progress report for the second quarter of 2015, which has been circulated to users via e-mail and made available as a blog post.

In the report, they highlight recently achievements / work, including:

  • The fact that they’ve been hiring-in new talent (and are still looking for more). It should be noted that the talent is restricted to employees, either. At the end of May, Professor  Jeremy Bailenson of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University  and Professor Ken Perlin both joined High Fidelity’s growing list of high-powered advisors
  • The instructions and video on setting-up the stack manager to run your own High Fidelity server has been updated, with the promise that next up will be an ability to optionally allow you share your server resources with other nearby users who need extra capacity
  • The ability to track and capture head movements and facial expressions with a regular webcam, as an alternative to needing a 3D camera
  • The arrival of the High Fidelity Marketplace, where you can drag and drop content into your server, and also to upload content you want to share with others. This is currently a sharing environment rather than a commerce environment, but the promise is that the commerce aspect will be coming soon
  • Commencing work on implementing distributed physics, building on top of the open source Bullet physics engine, with the aim of having low latency for interactions while maintaining the same state among participants – such as when people in different locations are playing Jenga or billiards together
  • The ability to import web content into High Fidelity – static web pages, videos, interactive web pages, etc., complete with a demonstration video and the promise of figuring out the best ways to allow the different types of shared browsing that people are going to need
  • My personal favourite: zone entities, skyboxes and dynamic lighting with spherical harmonic lighting and optional sync to real-world day/night cycles

Also in the Next Steps aspects of High Fidelity’s development is the intriguing promise of avatars with soft bodies, which are capable of interacting physically, or as Philip Rosedale puts it in the blog post, “imagine sword-fighting, for example”, while being driven by hand controllers such as those coming with the HTC / Valve Vive or for the Oculus Rift. This also links back to the work going on with the physics engine as well, which has, as Mr. Rosedale explains in the blog post, an added level of complexity within High Fidelity due to the distributed nature of the platform, and the need to maintain consistency between players as to what is happening, where things are, who is controlling what, and so on.

For those wishing to keep abreast with the key points of what is going on with High Fidelity, but who do not necessarily have the time to jump into every blog post that comes out, these updates are a useful means of tracking core events within the platform.

High Fidelity moves to “Open Alpha”

HF-logoIn what is not an April Fools joke, the rumours of an announcement having been doing the rounds for the last few days, High Fidelity  announced on April 1st, 2015 that they are throwing wide the gates on an “Open Alpha” phase for their nascent virtual worlds platform.

The announcement came in the form of a blog post from Philip Rosedale, which reads in part:

This is a very early release, and High Fidelity is still very much a work in progress.  The look and visual quality is far from complete, and big things like avatar movement animation and physics are still not in place.  There are lots of bugs to fix, and content formats will continue to change.  But enough systems are now functional to make us feel that High Fidelity is useful for some types of work, experimentation, and exploration. Having run a small and controlled early alpha to iron out the really show-stopping bugs, we’re now eager to engage a larger group and recruit open source contributions from other developers working on building the metaverse.

The post is full of a lot of useful information for those who have been waiting to slip into Hi Fi and find out what it might be about – such as how to obtain the Interface (client) to access worlds within Hi Fi, and how to download the Stack Manager, should you wish to create your own world.  Both the Stack Manager and Interface currently require one of Windows (7 with SP 1 or later), Mac OS X or Linux, although the blog post notes High Fidelity is working on a GearVR / Android version as well.

In mentioning both the Interface and the Stack Manager, it’s worth noting that there are also a number of tutorial videos available which may also be of use, including one covering downloading and installing the Stack Manager and another on running the Interface for the first time (although this doesn’t include downloading and installing it). I’ve added the URLs for the all of the tutorials at the end of this article.

Another aspect of the platform that’s mentioned is that of the Marketplace, which was also recently featured in a High Fidelity video. However, before you get excited about buying / selling goods on Hi Fi, keep in mind the platform doesn’t as yet have any for of currency / token / micro-transaction support. Thus, the marketplace is purely for freely sharing creations with other Hi Fi users – although the company again notes that getting a payment system sorted out is also on their list of priorities.

The most important thing to remember, should you opt to try High Fidelity out for yourself, and haven’t kept up with the news, is that it is very alpha. This means that it is not going to look like Second life in any way shape size or form, and the Alpha is about getting a feel for things, participating in High Fidelity’s development. As such, change is to be expected, as Philip Rosedale warnings in the blog post:

You can expect continuous and substantial changes as we complete new features; we will likely break content as we continue to design and experiment.   The transition from ‘alpha’ to ‘beta’, which we expect will happen over a year or so, will signal greater stability in the content formats.  But as an open source project with contributions from many developers and with a broad set of features working, we think the time is right to open things up completely for early use.

Obviously Hi Fi also doesn’t run the same way as SL or OpenSim, so there will be a lot of nuances you’ll need to get used to. It’s also currently very small – although the High Fidelity home page may help you get started with finding places to visit (see Up and Running on the home page).

There is also a lot of good stuff in the platform as well which may be fun for some people to play with – the physics system works, 3D audio is operational, there is support for some bleeding-edge VR technology (for those who have the necessary toys!), and so on. The blog post includes some animated GIFs of some of the physics capabilities in action. models can also be imported (.FBX format), and JavaScript is the scripting medium.

If you are interested in giving High Fidelity a try, please do make sure you read the blog post in full, as it will help to give you a better feel for what you can expect. You can also catch a series of videos from the High Fidelity team on their You Tube channel.

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Going Inworldz with Seanchai Library

Seanchai Library's presence in Inworldz opens at 12:00 noon PDT on Saturday, March 28th, 2015 at the Community Library

Seanchai Library’s presence in Inworldz opens at 12:00 noon PDT on Saturday, March 28th, 2015 at the Community Library

At 12:00 noon PDT on Saturday, March 28th, Seanchai Library opens their latest presence in a world beyond SL; this one being Inworldz. The new centre (https://inworldz/region/Sendalonde/217/144/28) is located on Sendalonde, or “Peaceful Heaven”, in Inworldz, the home of the Community Library there. It occupies a small parcel on the east side of the region, across a bridge from the imposing build of the Community Library.

With Seanchai new already well established in Kitely, where they have a central home world as well as number themed “satellite” worlds for storytelling and which has most recently seen them launch their new Explore the Arts series with the highly successful Explore The Great Gatsby, I asked Caledonia Skytower, one of the driving forces behind Seanchai today, what prompted the move to Inworldz and the Community Library.

The imposing design of the Community Virtual Library in Inwroldz

The imposing design of the Community Virtual Library in Inwroldz

“Well, they asked us, nicely!” she replied, with a smile. “More than once, as well, so it was clear they wanted to build a relationship with us, and saw in us something aligned with their own core values and they reached out to build a connection.  I admit, I was a little slower on the uptake that Shandon [Loring, Seanchai’s chief storyteller] was.”

Not that invitations were enough; there were  a number of meetings between Caledonia and Shandon and Alexina Proctor and Prax Maryjasz, co-founders and directors of the Community Library in Inworldz, along the way. These were used to exchange and discuss ideas, along with opportunities for collaboration explored, with Alexina and Prax both being aware of the Seanchai Library’s evolution as a result of their own time in SL.

The Community Library offers rich resources and facilities for residents: reading rooms, social spaces, information kiosks and - and pictured - a theatre - for just a part of the facilities which can be discovered when exploring

The Community Library offers rich resources and facilities for residents: reading rooms, social spaces, information kiosks and – and pictured – a theatre – for just a part of the facilities which can be discovered when exploring

Another factor that played a hand in things is the degree of ebb and flow of users between SL and Inworldz, with many people moving freely back and forth between the two, having a foot in both camps.  “This includes Seanchai performers as well,” Cale said to me. “Aoife Lorefield, as an example, and Lani Kaikalani both have a presence in Inworldz, as does Rosslyn Guardian who read at Seanchai way back when.”

Inworldz also has its own rich culture of events, which the Community Library, under Alexina and Prax’s leadership has been busily plumbing, so there is the opportunity for Seanchai Library to offer an additional stage  on which voices can be heard – and which may additionally attract those who do move between SL and IW to come along to both Seanchai and Community Library events.

The Community Library's cafe area

The Community Library’s cafe area

Indeed, the Community Library in Inworldz has become something of a nexus for language & arts based programming; presenting a means by which literature, storytelling and the arts can become a vital, functional part of virtual communities in a wide range of roles. Founded in 2011, it has has enjoyed steady growth and success, initially being associated with the Elf Clan, but more recently having relocated to better fulfil its growing role, and to meet the needs of wider networking within the world-wide virtual community as a whole – such as through the new links with Seanchai.

And it is networking which also played a role in Seanchai’s decision to add Inworldz to their growing virtual worlds presence, again as Cale explained. “Part of Seanchai’s success has been our ability to build and maintain networks and synchronistic connections between other like-minded/intentioned venues and programs.

Another view of the Community Library in Inworldz - with Seanchai Library's new presence visible of the far side of the stone bridge

Another view of the Community Library in Inworldz – with Seanchai Library’s new presence visible of the far side of the stone bridge

“We actually tried to build a relationship that had the potential to become like what the Community Library in Inworldz is, but it became readily apparent very quickly in the exploratory process that the fit wouldn’t work.  Such things are not failures, they are self-defining. We walked out of that situation into a series of conversations which eventually lead to really motivating us to develop an OS presence, to piloting Explore, and to taking this current step. That’s all good stuff!”

Seanchai’s presence in Sendalonde will be instantly recognisable to anyone who had visited their base in either SL or Kitely – and deliberately so. It gives their presence in IW a familiar look and feel, and while it may look modest when compared to something like the 4-region homeworld on Kitely, it nevertheless allows Seanchai to offer  a number of potential use spaces in the parcel beyond the main storytelling floor.

Seanchai's centre in Inworldz sits comfortably nestled on the east side of Sendalonde, and is connected to the Community Library via a wooden bridge

Seanchai’s centre in Inworldz sits comfortably nestled on the east side of Sendalonde, and is connected to the Community Library via a wooden bridge

The layout is also in keeping with Seanchai’s plans for their initial time in Inworldz. “We’ll be starting once a month (probably the final Saturday of each month – but that is not cast in stone),” Cale told me. “We still have to balance maintaining programming in SL and Kitely, and I am the first one to say that ‘more is not always better.’ Of course, Shandon and I would long-range like to make our livings producing programming like this on virtual platforms – but there are limits to how much is possible until the time comes that we can do this full time AND pay bills!”

For the opening event, Shandon Loring will be reading the inaugural story, a piece from his Hilo Tales collection of Hawaiian stories. Caledonia will then read a selection from her own story, Gorak the Gobbler. So, why not join them for this special opening event – and while there, take time to explore the facilities at the Community Library; they really are quite exceptional!

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Microsoft co-founder backs High Fidelity with US $11 million

HF-logoIn what is its largest round of funding to date, High Fidelity, Philip Rosedale’s virtual work start-up, received an additional US $11 million in a round lead by Vulcan Capital, the investment company founded and run by Ex-Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

This marks at least the second time Vulcan Capital has made an investment in VR technology recently. In October 2014, they were a part of a US $542 million round of investment in Magic Leap, the company developing a new augmented reality system, with an eye potentially on VR applications and virtual worlds as well.

The news of the funding was broken by TechCrunch on Wednesday, February 25th, after papers confirming the funding round were filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Philip Rosedale later confirmed the news to Techcrunch, after the technology journal had placed an enquiry with High Fidelity on the matter.

Rosedale then went on to make a more public announcement on the High Fidelity blog, which included a fun and informative video on matters featuring himself, HiFi co-founder Ryan Karpf and the ever-popular Emily Donald. As this is unlisted on YouTube, I’m respecting High Fidelity’s wishes and linking to it, rather than sharing it via embedding, although I am sneaking in a still from it.

The US $11 million funding confirmation from High Fidelity includes a short video from Ryan, Emily and Philip outlining the investment news, what it means for the company and mentioning job opportunities at HiFi (image source: High Fidelity)

The US $11 million funding confirmation from High Fidelity includes a short video from Ryan Kampf, Emily Donald and Philip Rosedale, outlining the investment news, what it means for the company and mentioning job opportunities at HiFi (image source: High Fidelity)

The blog post leads with the statement:

We are happy to announce today that we have raised an additional $11M in funding, in a new round led by Vulcan Capital and with participation from other new and existing investors.  This is certainly great news for us, but also great news for the overall VR ecosystem as we continue to see more and more validation from the investing community that VR presents enormous opportunities.  With this investment, we will be able to substantially grow our team as we continue to develop and release our open source shared virtual reality software.

The amount raised is more than that had been achieved during both the first and second funding rounds for the company. These occurred in April 2013 (US $2.4 million) and March (US $2.5 million), and were largely lead by True Ventures and Google Ventures. In the video, Ryan Kampf gives some idea of what this latest round immediately means for High Fidelity:

The next step for us is going to be moving to a more open alpha stage to let you guys come in and create a lot of cool content that you see around you. We’ve had a lot of fun making it, and we look forward to seeing what you guys can create as well.

The video also covers the fact that High Fidelity is still hiring, with Emily Donald pointing people to the company’s job page, and her e-mail address.

Definitely worth smiling about: Philip Rosedale's High Fidelity gains a further US $11 million in funding

Definitely worth smiling about: Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity gains a further US $11 million in funding

Following the March 2014 US $2.5 million round of funding, which came on the heels of Facebook acquiring Oculus VR, I idly speculated whether or not it might have put High Fidelity – until then point regarded as being something of a “stealth start-up” in the eyes of the technology media – more firmly on people’s radar. If it wasn’t the case then, a further US $11 million now should certainly do so. And that’s not just good for High Fidelity.

As Rosedale notes in the quote given earlier in this article, this latest investment in High Fidelity does much to further validate the VR / VW ecosystem as a whole as an investment opportunity. That’s got to be good news for any company working on a new VW platform / environment, and which may want to explore wider options and opportunities for possible funding in the future, even if it’s not necessarily a start-up like High Fidelity.

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