Everyone is curious about what the avatars in the Next Generation Platform (NGP), or SL2, will be like and what we can do with them. Now we have some clues. High Fidelity is working on their avatars and has just release a set of improvements. See: Creating and rigging an avatar with Blendshapes in Makehuman. The information is somewhat compatible with the current Second Life™ and I suspect a hint of what is coming for SL2 or the Next Generation Platform.
This is a great video for designers. You’ll find references to a number software tools I have not heard mentioned in relation to Second Life. Some of those look to be handy for SL.
At the 6:00 time mark we start to see the things that are missing from Second Life. HyFy is using shapes, morphs. We have those as part of the SL Avatar. But, we cannot change them or import our morph-shapes into SL. AvaStar now lets us use those morph-shapes for our design in Blender. But, that is about all they are good for. But, HyFy is giving users control of morphs.
So, we will likely be able to have much more control over the avatar in NGP. This means things like facial expressions can be designed by users. We have some of that in the new mesh bodies and heads in SL. But, as it is in SL we are very limited. Mesh heads don’t talk… well… not using the efficiency of morphs, which is the industry way of accomplishing such animations.
Also, we see that the user has control over the skeleton. This is something we have been wanting in SL for some time. Since HyFy is putting this control in, it seems reasonable to me that Linden Lab will be doing something similar with NGP.
I notice the skeleton in the video has a single control for the toes. So, that avatar cannot wiggle its toes. But I did notice what I think is individual armature controls for the fingers. So, that avatar can play the piano. In HyFy one could change that however they want. So, you could make wiggly toes.
We are unlikely to see this freedom in SL, but I am betting we are very likely to see it in NGP.
Since we can make morph-shapes for the avatar in HyFy, it follows that we can use the same morph-shapes for clothes. I expect that to foreshadow what is coming for NGP.
It does occur to me that we quickly run into a compatibility problem. The skeleton I make may not match the skeleton you make. The same is true of avatar skin. Your skin is unlikely to use the same UV Mapping as mine nor will your avatar use the same morph-shapes.
This means that in the marketplace there is going to be the possibility for lots of confusion. We will have to match up our clothes and avatar by brand/designer. It is possible that the market will settle down as things usually do. The historical example is in video media, the old Beta and VHS formats, will VHS winning out for consumers and Beta for professionals. But, that took some time. So, if things do start to standardize, it will take some time. I don’t really expect it to ever standardize.
This then brings up the consideration of what the Lab may do in regard to this complication. We are seeing complication in SL with mesh bodies, clothes, skins, appliers… there is a growing verity of mesh bodies that clothes makers have to design appliers for.
Will the Lab allow that chaos in NGP? It would probably be smart of them to let us, the free market, decide which avatars and clothes systems are best for us. But, will they? IS it enough of a problem that it will keep people out of NGP? If the Lab thinks so then they may try to do something to limit the problem.
Only time will tell…
But, lots of new users are having problems with the mesh starter avatars verses the classic avatars. How will the Lab deal with that mistake?