Tag Archives: Second Life

Ebbe Altberg talks Second Life, Sansar and VR to Bloomberg

A promotional image for Project SANSAR

A promotional image for Project SANSAR

On June 15th 2015, Ebbe Altberg participated in a Bloomberg Advantage podcast with hosts Cory Johnson and Carol Massar, discussing what is going on with Linden Lab in the run-up to the Second Life 12th anniversary celebrations.

The interview, which is some eight minutes long, unsurprisingly focused more on VR and its pcoming consumer focused headsets, together withe the Lab’s Next Generation Platform (codenamed Sansar) more than it did on Second Life, but what is said makes for interesting listening.

I’ve embedded an MP3 of the interview below, together with a transcript of the core discussion for those who prefer to read than listen. The transcript picks -up from the 28 second point into the interview, following general introductions. Breaks in the transcript, indicated by “…” are where the conversation includes asides or comments outside of immediate interest.


Cory Johnson (CJ): I want to talk about what’s going on with one of the kings of virtual reality, Second Life.

Ebbe Altberg (EA): Yeah. Second Life is still doing very well. It’s this month having its 12th birthday…

Carol Massar (CM): OK for those who might not know what Second Life is, those from the East Coast (laughter) I’m raising my hand for everyone on radio. Just for other folks out there who might not know.

Bloomberg's Carol Massar and Cory Johnson talk VR, SL and Sansar with Ebbe Altberg

Bloomberg’s Carol Massar and Cory Johnson talk VR, SL and Sansar with Ebbe Altberg

EA: So, Second Life is a virtual world that we created, but all the content and all the experiences in it are created by the users. so it’s a little like the real world … So you have a huge range of experiences in their ranging from role-playing to education, to health to art, and music. Just like in real life, people like to have all sorts of things in their world, and users have created all these things inside of Second Life.

And there’s a virtual economy where users can buy and sell digital goods and services to each other, and last year alone, creators of content and experiences in Second Life cashed out $60 million dollars. So a lot of people make a living creating and playing in Second Life.

CM: Where do you want to take it?

EA: We’re like the pioneers in this area, and the world around us is starting to catch-up a little bit …

CM: Competition out there?

EA: Yeah, a little bit of competition, but also with all these virtual reality headsets, these HMDs from Oculus, etc., is going to allow us and many others to take it to the next level. So we’re really excited about what’s happening right now, and we’re been hard at work for well over a year, investing heavily in a new platform  from the ground up that will take advantage of virtual reality hardware as it comes out later this year and early next year.  So we want to make sure we remain in a leading position when it comes to virtual reality experiences.

CJ: Well let’s talk about this a little bit. So Oculus sort-of has mind share, at least. When people talk about virtual reality now, then tend to think of these goggle-like experiences from Oculus. [But] there’s been academic work, particularly out of Stanford, suggesting that game-play might not be the thing; that it’s so immersive that it’s exhausting. That people can sit in front of their Xbox or PlayStation for 4, 6, or eight hours, but that you can’t do that with Oculus. What do you think?

EA: I think you will be able to. Part of why people say that is because the quality quality of the experience hasn’t quite got there yet.

CJ: So you’re looking at an image where your mind and your eye have to do so much more work, that it’s physically exhausting.

EA: No … when you see the latest generation of these things coming out now, it is not that exhausting any more; it’s actually quite relaxing.  You put these things on, an you’re wherever you want to be; you can be anybody you want to be and anywhere you want to be. And it’s it’s going to be comfortable …

CJ: The thing about when you put an Oculus goggles set on … first of all, the software right now is kind-of boring. The stuff that I’ve seen isn’t really gripping. It’s like, “Oh, this is cool. Imagine what you could do with it…”

EA: Did you try the Crescent Bay and the demos that came with it?

CJ: I haven’t done that.

EA: OK, so [with] the latest generation … you’ll forget about the hardware, you’ll forget about these pixels in front of you. You’re just there.

CJ: What is the experience you’re experiencing with that?

EA:  They’re still passive; they’re still basically playing things for you, that you watched. And you will have video-like experiences, but in 360; so you’re inside the video, rather than looking at the video, all the way to like what we do, which is social interaction and doing things like we’re doing right now in the studio, just hanging-out, meeting with people.

CM: Well, let me ask you Ebbe, I’ve been at Caterpillar and I’ve done their 3D world, or virtual reality world, where you pretend you’re in one of their big pieces of equipment to see how it worked and if the tools were in the right place. That’s my experience with it.  what about in a practical world? Are there applications that you guys are looking at?

A part of the interactive learning environment operated by Wendy Keeney-Kennicutt as part of the Texas A&M chemistry studies in SL

A part of the interactive learning environment operated by Wendy Keeney-Kennicutt as part of the Texas A&M chemistry studies in SL, and referred to in the interview (read more here)

EA: Absolutely, and they’re happening already today. Texas A&M is teaching chemistry in Second Life, and there are a lot of educational opportunities to teach …

CJ: How so? Is it, “pour this file into this beaker, but if it blows up, you’ll blow somebody up”? Or is it, you’re seeing the DNA or molecules?

EA: It’s a combination of actually doing lab experiments and pouring liquids and seeing what happens, as well as being able to interact with molecules, and you can sit on them, and you can do anything you want. So the ability to visualise information is way more powerful than reading it from a text book or watching it from a video.

CM: Is that potentially a big market there for you guys? Or Healthcare? We’ve just briefly toured around Seagull, and they’ve got a whole idea about what you’ve just called about; virtual reality and doing surgery, and having virtual reality to help a surgeon in that process.

EA: Yeah, it can can be for training, or it can help people with both mental and physical disabilities of all kinds. In Second Life already we have this older woman who has Parkinson’s; and because of Second Life she can run around, swim, fly, and exercise her brain. And because of that, she’s found that she has an easier way of moving in real life. So it can have a lot of really powerful impact on treatment or all kinds of phobias. I mean, right now here in our Lab, you can be on top of the golden Gate bridge and just get a sense of height …

In the interview, Ebbe Altberg indicates that one of the test VR experiences the Lab has developed for Project Sansar puts people on top of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco (view via wdievisionpans.com)

In the interview, Ebbe Altberg indicates that one of the test VR experiences the Lab has developed for Project Sansar puts people on top of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco (note: the above is not from Sansar, it is an image courtesy of wdievisionpans.com)

CJ: So, specifically, how do you manage the game play of Second Life? If you were to describe something that is the “common” Second Life experience now, and then what it would be like in this more augmented, 3D world of Oculus or whatever?

EA: Well, it’s taking immersion to a whole other level, where the brain starts not being able to tell the difference between what’s virtual and what’s real. And we take people through experiences in this next generation platform we’re working on – we’re calling it “Project Sansar” right now, it doesn’t have a final name. But you have people that are afraid of heights, for example, just getting really freaked out by being in the virtual space.

For example, Jeremy Bailenson of [the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at] Stanford … When he removes the floor underneath you in his Lab and tells you to walk this plank over this abyss, 30% of the people doing that in his lab cannot cannot walk the plank, it feels that real.

CM: I was thinking about the rides in Disney World or whatever; they can use this stuff.

EA: Oh yeah, they will!

CM: Cool stuff!

At his point the interview quickly wound down with the end of the podcast.

Again, not much is given away about the Lab’s Next generation Platform, and little is said in detail about Second Life. However, both Nassar and Johnson exhibit genuine interest in the subject of virtual environments and virtual reality, and to their credit don’t fall into the clichéd trap we’re all (or most of us at least) are so tired of hearing.

What is interesting to me is the the framing of the commentary around Sansar and the Golden Gate demonstration. This suggests that the Lab is creating something where the content potentially has a far higher level of fidelity than can perhaps be achieved with Second Life when placed within the immersive context of something like the Oculus Rift.

The message that Linden Lab is attempting to position itself as a major player in the emerging VR market does seem to be getting out. A recent report in Investor’s Business Daily, which estimates the potential market for VR / AR devices, etc., could hit US $62 billion by 2025, lists Linden Lab alongside of Valve, Magic Leap, Next VR, Jaunt VR and others as one of the private companies looking to carve itself a share of that market.

Second Life group list changes explained

A note of explanation. I first published on this update on Thursday, June 4th, PDT. However, that post was withdrawn out of respect of a request from Linden Lab that I not blog on the change at that time. Subsequent discussions with the Lab led to an agreement that I could blog in full on the matter once the change had been deployed across the grid. Hence this post.

Until now, it has been possible to open the details for any Second Life group you have joined and display all the information relating to that group, including the list of members.

However, with the new update, groups with 5,000 or more members will no longer display the list of members unless:

  • You are assigned the Owner or Officer role within the group
  • You are assigned an ability within the group which requires the members list to be displayed (e.g. you are able to assign members to assigners roles, or are able to eject / ban people from the group, etc.).

Instead, and until corresponding changes are made to the viewer, all you will see on opening the members list as a message stating “Retrieving member list (0 / XXXXX)” – where XXXXX is the total number of members in a the group, as shown in the images below.

The back-end cange currently on the server RC channels means that group member lists will not load (or may be truncated until the change is fully deployed) for those groups wil more than 5,000 members

The change to the logic on accessing group member lists for large (5,000+ members) groups means that the members list will no longer display for members of the group, unless they are assigned either the owner or officer role, or an ability that requires they can view the list.  Instead, and for the time being, the above message (illustrated using both the LL and Firestorm viewers) is displayed – click for full size

This update has been made for a number of reasons, including:

  • Where very large groups are concerned, the full list of members has rarely completely loaded into the viewer – it has only seemed that the list has loaded
  • Tests have shown that in order for very large groups (e.g. tens of thousands of members) to load can take on the order of 10 or more minutes, during which time no other activities within the viewer can be carried out
  • Opening the members group list for large groups can result in performance impacts elsewhere (notably in group chat, as we’ve seen with changes made to that service recently).

In particular, the update is related to additional changes the Lab intends to make to the viewer-side code for group management, as Oz Linden, the Lab’s Technical Director for Second Life, explains:

It turns out – and this was one of the reasons we made the change on the RC channel – because we weren’t really sure what it would affect. But it turns out there are a bunch of places in the viewer, where the viewer triggers these requests for all the members of a group where it’s not even going to use the data … So some of those requests are kind-of bogus and not helpful, and we’re going to be making a set of changes to take those out, and replace them with something more focused.

Do note, however, that this change is not in any way connected to the recent increase in the number of groups Premium members can join, and it is believe that around 600-700 groups are affected by the change.

The initial deployment of the update on the server RC channels on Wednesday, June 3rd gave rise to some concern, notably:

  • The message currently displayed by the viewer suggests that rather than the member’s list being prevented from loading, it has simply stalled or perhaps timed-out, which could result in elevated support calls
  • The change breaks a lot of ways in which a group’s members list is used – see BUG-9393
  • In particular, the change means that people unable to see the members list can no longer ascertain which owners / officers are on-line and in a position to assist with any group-related issues which might occur.

Acknowledging some of these points during the Server Beta User Group meeting on Thursday, June 4th, Oz said:

 There are some things we need to do in the viewer to make some of these changes clearer… those changes will be made as soon as we can … In the mean time, if large groups want their officers to be reachable, they may want to put something in the description to help with that.

Further to this, and in relation to making information on group owners / officer visible to all members of an affected group, and on improving the currently-displayed message in the viewer, Oz further stated during the TPV Developer meeting on Friday, June 5th:

We will find a way to make that information available in the fullness of time [owners / officers], but it probably won’t be real quick … We’re going to fix the problems, but it’s going to require building some new interfaces for things like, “show me who the officers are”.

There are certainly going to be some bug fixes for the viewer coming quite quickly, quite probably in the next maintenance viewer, not the one that will get released next week [week #24]  but the next one, that will clean-up how things look. You’ll actually get a positive indication that you can’t see this list, or whatever. But we’re still fiddling with that.

Thus, while the changes to large groups may initially seem a little confusing, they are part of a larger attempt to improve group management functions within the viewer, and the Lab does recognise that more needs to be done to make key information within groups clearer to members.

In the meantime, please remember this change only affects those groups with 5,000 or more members, and does not prevent those assigned roles / abilities that require them to be able to see the group’s member list. Groups with less than 5,000 members remain unaffected by the change, and all members will continue to be able to see the group members lists for these when viewing a group’s information.

Lab seeks assistance with improving land bans in Second Life

secondlifeDuring the Third-Party Viewer Developer’s meeting on Friday, June 5th, Oz Linden raised the subject of making improvements to the current way in which land bans  – both region-wide and for parcels – are presented and managed within Second Life.

In doing so, he invited open-source developers to work with the Lab to help improve how the ban functionality is presented through the viewer, and how it works in general, indicating that those wishing to provide assistance would be able to work with the Lab to improve the viewer-side tools while the Lab’s developers work on the simulator end of things.

His comments came at the 17:58 minute mark of the video from the meeting, which was recorded by Chakat Northspring, and I’m providing his core comments  in audio and text below for reference.


One thing that I wanted to talk about was ban lists; and i’m referring to ban lists for land here. Right now … we certainly don’t have a good mechanism for managing the ban list. That is for looking at it and figuring out who are the least important people on it that you can get rid of to make room for more, that sort of thing.  I am putting out a general call for people to think about, and especially to contribute to implementing an improved ban list management mechanism.

Oz Linden - looking for open-source developer support for improving land ban management capabilities in Second Life

Oz Linden – looking for open-source developer support for improving land ban management capabilities in Second Life

At this point, several suggestions were put forward – such as having a note field in the list where the reason a person has been banned can be recorded, and / or adding a means by which a ban can be specified for a length of time before expiring, etc. Oz then continued:

So here’s what I’m really most interested in getting, is somebody who is interested in doing the UI and front-end work, in collaboration with us doing the back-end work for an improved ban list managed interface. So I’m putting out a call for volunteers and if you volunteer and want to put together a specific proposal,  we will evaluate whether or not we can get that much work done on the back, and how quickly, and do all that good stuff.

So that’s an opportunity to make all land owners think that you’re a wonderful person, and of course it comes with the usual inclusion in the contributor’s list and all that good stuff that goes with that.

Open-source contributors willing to assist in this work should probably, in the first instance, contact Oz through the usual channels to indicate their interest.

Second Life: changes to viewing group members’ lists

Due to a missed communication from the Lab, which indicated a preference on their part for this issue not to be blogged about, this post has been withdrawn, at least until such time as I can resolve matters with them.

Updated: Further to a discussion with Oz Linden on Friday, June 5th, there will be an updated report on these changes available on Tuesday, June 9th 2015.