Second Life & Virtual Reality

We are getting closer to hands on. The Oculus Rift is to release in the first quarter of 2016. At this point I think the first round of pre-release technical challenges has been met. So, any possible delay would be from manufacturing and supply problems.

Now that the Samsung Galaxy S6 is in production the supply of display screens for the Oculus should be adequate.

Unity and Unreal, game engine platforms, are both announcing support of HTC RE Vive. This means game developers can move away from having to develop support for the various VR headsets and use the support provided by Unity and Unreal. This saves developer’s time and means new games will move through the development pipeline faster. 

Steam’s plans for VR created the HTC Vive hardware. The semi-confirmed release date for HTC Vive is November 2015.

Going the HTC Vive way presents one with the coffee table problem. You probably have noticed the Star-Trek holo-decks are empty when the image is off. Imagine a coffee table on the deck that you can’t see as you move through the room. Ouch!

And… what happens when one tries to sit on a virtual chair? I think I’ll want to remain seated for most of my VR play… My point being that there are many problems yet to solve with VR.

The Gear VR from Samsung went on sale (retail US$199) May 8th. This is the one that uses a Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge for the display.

As VR apps and hardware appear the pressure is on for High Fidelity (HF) and SANSAR ( = SL2 – Next Generation Platform – NGP) to have a world out. We know that a beta version for NGP is coming soon. The HF alpha is open now.

It looks to me like the hardware will arrive before either HF or SANSAR. This means the most complete world for VR is going to be Second Life™. I expect this to be true for all of 2015 and most of 2016, if not all. The challenge is whether Second Life will be able to hold those new VR-interested-members?

I think render performance is going to be a problem. I see more mesh bodies, body parts, and mesh clothes that have huge polygon counts and high render cost (Avatar Render Cost – ARC). Considering that a VR headset must have two images rendered I see the render cost on these devices as having a major impact… a negative one.

My hope is that the viewer’s render cost notices being talked about arrive soon enough to began having a remedial affect on Second Life designers and consumers. If not, we can expect people to visit Second Life, find it too laggy – which may even induce simulator sickness – and then they move on. First impressions are important. Making new members physically sick is going to make a really bad impression that is likely to be irreversible for all practical purposes.

When things are really bad, people complain. That means there is a huge potential for bad press. So, if simulator sickness is a problem in SL, I expect it will be all over the net.

far better to have loved

far better to have loved by Wendz Tempest, on Flickr

The high poly mesh bodies and clothes is not going to be something the Lab can just fix. The fix is mostly a psychological and educational one rather than a technical one. Getting people to avoid high poly clothes and mesh bodies is a matter of attitude adjustment and how users think. It is not an easy change and it will take time. Each day we’re further down a road that means future problems.

The Gumby like render (Render Muting) limits Oz uses helps and it is being added to the viewers. But, it is a setting new users will be unaware of. They will wonder why some avatars have a Gumby look. Also, will the general default setting for Gumby-render kicking in be set for the typical user? If so, what will that do to Oculus users? If set for the Oculus users, how annoying will that be for the non-Oculus user?

I believe it will take something in our faces to get the message across and change the behavior of SL users such that Oculus users will have a chance.  So, the pop up messages that your avatar render cost is increasing by X amount as you add attachments and/or that X number of avatars cannot see you because your render cost is too high, are needed as soon as possible.

VR displays are getting close. It is well past time to start thinking about what that means for Second Life.

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