Jul 17, 2013

Great Expectations

The Oculus Rift and #SecondLife Hype


In a recent conversation with Mona Eberhardt, a number of topics came up about Oculus Rift and how it’ll do wonders for Second Life. Not that either of us believe that, but if you were to read Hamlet’s blog you would think otherwise. It would seem as though it is a foregone conclusion that Oculus Rift will be mass adopted and usher in a new golden age of virtual reality, but I am not so taken in by the hype.


Occulus in SL_001


After all, this would only be an accurate statement if Oculus Rift invented the first virtual reality headset, and it would be true if there weren’t any other long standing companies that offered virtual reality and augmented reality headsets. It’s not like Occulus is cornering the market or anything, and as a matter of course, it’s simply a new Head Mounted Display unit.


What makes this so special, then?


Well, the consensus is that it has higher tracking fidelity and also 1080p resolution. For what it is worth, I agree those are definitely advancements in the industry, but not for lack of being able to do it otherwise. There really isn’t much of an advancement here to speak of, other than ones that are inherent with technology already. The components got smaller, lighter and cheaper – but it’s not like Occulus innovated those advancements. Just like you can, they built something with off the shelf components and then raised a bunch of venture capital to up it to 1080p.


The hype of it all is a requirement, though. That is what happens when you’re sitting on $16 million USD in venture capital and need to make one hell of an ROI.


Yes, this HMD is impressive – that much I am conceding to (and always have). What I do not believe is that it will have mass adoption past a certain niche audience. Oculus Rift poses an interesting paradox in much the same way as NEO-GEO did in the 1990’s. NEO-GEO’s claim to fame was that it offered a home system that played arcade perfect versions of their games. This, as a result, made it absolutely superior to every home console at the time, and yet NEO-GEO did not dominate the market, even when they had a killer application.





The first issue was price, and truth be told the NEO-GEO was very expensive, as were the games. This was due to the fact that NEO-GEO as a home console wasn’t just porting or emulating those arcade games, it really was the same system as the board in the arcade cabinets. The cartridges for the games were essentially repackaged MVS cartridges that were used in the arcade cabinets themselves.


Had the price point been brought down to the median for home consoles during that time, there is a really good chance that you’d never know what Nintendo, XBox or Playstation were today.


In relation to Oculus Rift, they don’t exactly have a price-point problem. $300.00 USD for the Developer Kit is reasonable. What they have a problem with is that (like the NEO-GEO) they carry a pre-disposed stigma which they aren’t going to shake.


Without a “killer application”, Oculus is relegated to “early adopter” rich-kid toy. Second Life isn’t a killer application for Oculus any more than literally anything off the shelf at Vuzix or the original VFX Headsets (if they hadn’t essentially went under from the last VR hype collapse). The people who will actually use it for Second Life are that same niche Richie Rich demographic which is inclusive to some content creators. This is to say, the demographic for Second Life adoption is the same demographic that thinks nothing of dropping $300.00 USD for a technology toy they will not use outside of a niche experience. In relation to Second Life, a large portion of the user experience is not inclusive when you are wearing the Oculus Rift, and so for a majority of interaction and daily use (read: most of the time) your amazing HMD will sit on the desk next to your NEO-GEO.


Oculus won’t be the “de-facto” method to experience SL, but it will be one of those “something to experience at least once” before the novelty wears off sort of things.


We all had that one friend who had the high-end toys, and most of us never had those toys ourselves but that didn’t stop us from going over to that one friend’s house to play NEO-GEO, Sega CD or Atari Jaguar. We all knew that friend had a full Laser Tag set in the closet and a Teddy Ruxpin as well.


What Oculus Rift represents is that sort of mentality.


Yeah it’s really cool, and it’s probably really damned impressive. But even if they managed to give it away for free, everyone would have one and just as many in a niche would actually use it regularly while the rest of us would stick it in the closet with Teddy Ruxpin and our NEO-GEO.


What makes Oculus Rift amazing is also what

makes it a niche use for Second Life.


At the end of the day, Oculus takes into account maybe 10% of the interaction paradigm that is Second Life and just caters to that little slice while doing nothing for the other 90% of the dynamics involved.


It doesn’t have a built-in microphone, nor does it have speakers/headphones. The interaction paradigm is essentially cut off from the get-go because unless you are a touch typer, you are out of luck trying to chat in local, or respond to private IMs, or use group chat. Building with an Oculus Rift would be a nightmare scenario. Using the interface in SL may as well be a no-go just as well.



It looks great! But notice that he’s also blindly using the keyboard and mouse.



So, what the hell is Oculus Rift good for in Second Life?


It’s good for presentation in first person view. That is what remains when you take away the other 90% of the Second Life dynamic. Tourism and sightseeing as an all but mute participant.


That alone is an overwhelming feeling of isolation when you think about it.


Add in an additional mic headset and you might get to talk. Though there really isn’t much of a hands-free option other than push to talk (once again back to the mouse you can’t see) or leaving your mic wide open all the time.


The Oculus Rift represents a consumer of media (push media) mentality versus the asynchronous interaction (social prosumer) that Second Life actually is. This is to say that it caters to an immersive mentality that is natively contradictory to the paradigm of interaction that is Second Life.


Then there is some aspects of the technology which absolutely baffle me…


If this HMD was meant for gamers, and it’s well known that it heavily caters to FPS games, then they should already have understood the obvious design flaws in their product through actually doing 30 seconds of due diligence finding out how the average gamer plays their games.


Online, multiplayer, with a headset microphone and headphones.


With that list of criteria, Linden Lab and Oculus should know better than to hype the Rift the way they are doing without addressing the following:


1. Communication.

2. Interaction Paradigm in a real world use case setting

3. Actually building a product that incorporates multiple modes of sensory inclusion


Gamers want to chat, talk, hear the environment and feel immersed without breaking the metaphor of immersion. Oculus does wonders for making it look pretty and in first person but if we were to give it a report card it would be failing every other class.


It’s pretty much like getting an A+ in Art Class and an F in Social Studies, Math, and Language.


Now, the other issue I’m seeing here has less to do specifically with Oculus Rift and more with Linden Lab riding the coattails of hype in order to pull the “cool by comparison” PR trick.


NWN Rod Humble and Oculus

When Rod Humble makes the statement on the left (from nwn), you have to understand this is coming from the company that literally exists from feeding on a massive amount of hype, is the king of overpromising and under delivering, and has absolutely everything to gain from riding the coattails of Oculus Rift in the media in order to reboot their bad reputation.


This is akin to a celebrity that was the darling of the media going on an all-out bender and falling from the graces of mainstream media and public opinion, coming out of rehab and hanging out with Johnny Depp during the launch of Pirates of the Caribbean in hopes that hanging out with the cool kids will turn public opinion again and they will re-launch their career.


I suppose, in short, Linden Lab is hoping to be Robert Downey Jr, except that the difference being that Robert Downey Jr actually cleaned up his act, reinvented himself and didn’t dick around by trying to pretend he was a musician instead of an actor.


Which, unfortunately is the analogy for Linden Lab since they haven’t gotten out of rehab yet, are attempting to be a video game company, and in that denial and attention whore fashion are hanging out with Oculus and saying “Remember us? We’re cool again just like this Oculus thing!” – which bring up memories of Dr. Evil trying to prove he’s “hip”.


Here’s how it works in reality:


If Nintendo can’t convince you that a VR device, initially designed by Jaron Lanier, is the perfect fit for gaming and re-ignite Virtual Reality, then nothing short of a miracle is going to change that situation for Oculus Rift. Linden Lab is two-bits compared to Nintendo and Oculus sure as hell wasn’t designed by the guy who popularized the term Virtual Reality.


Oculus Rift is to Second Life what the Power Glove was to Nintendo.



Of course, all Linden Lab would have to do is design an amazing interface for the Oculus Rift which takes care of the massive oversight that is 90% of the interaction dynamic and -


C’mon, who the hell are we kidding?


Seriously… this is the company responsible for Viewer 2 and the only reason the TPVs follow suit with their Viewer 3 designs is because instead of actually designing a better viewer Linden Lab just decided to change the rules of the game and force everyone else to follow them through “shared experience”.


Enjoy your Power Glove, kids.




Jul 15, 2013

Strawberry Flavored

Monday Meme for Strawberry Singh


Lately, I’ve been caught up in a lot of project related stuff and haven’t had time to write a proper post like I used to. Aside from taking some general “time off” to enjoy Second Life a little and relax, I’ve had somewhat of a “mega-post” in the works now for quite awhile but it’s one that I’m taking my time on. That being said, I thought I’d get away from all the technology type posts and offer my answers for Strawberry Singh’s Monday Meme.



The Noble Storybook - Aeonix - Strawberry Flavored - July 15 2013_001

The Noble Storybook – A beautiful location to get out and relax



Aside from the fact that I (in all likelihood) have killed my keyboard from all the typing I’ve been doing over the past few years (research paper, academic book, project documentation, and even IMM3RSION), I now have to type a lot slower than usual and make a lot of corrections (back-tracking) because some of these keys just don’t type like they used to (which you probably saw coming). Being on a laptop, the keyboard replacement is a little more involved than just going out an buying a new one, and I’m not really inclined to use an external keyboard. In short, I’ve been reduced to the typing speed and accuracy of the average Second Life user, which I would suppose would come as a blessing to most people at this point since it means I’ve been brought down to mere mortal status.


Though, while I will say that the post in the works is really just a “New User Guide” for Second Life – things I would tell a newbie just stepping foot in-world for the first time to help them out getting acclimated to the social aspects and community, today I’ll focus on Strawberry’s Meme in the spirit of appeasing her desire to learn more about members of the community. Recently I was interviewed by Kara Trapdoor for one of Strawberry’s previous Memes, and I answered quite a lot of personal questions publicly, so I don’t see the harm in answering some more :)




Intriguing Questions

The most interesting kitten in the world



Cutest Desktop Evar



How do you deal with criticism?


Believe it or not, I’m actually quite open to it. My problem only stems from criticism that is based without merit or just openly malicious or willfully ignorant of the topic at hand. It’s one thing to make assertions with some sort of proper reasoning but making them based on speculation or faulty logic aggravates me because I believe most people in that case are being intellectually lazy, and thus wasting my time.


There are plenty of times people have made a compelling counter-point and I’ve changed my view on a subject or topic (my girlfriend does this all the time). At the end of the day, it boils down to constructive criticism or whether people are just being contentious for the sake of argument.


To that point, people who offer proper debate or are willing to take an opposing view for the sake of exploring a topic in entirety are fine by me. The way I see it, it’s fine to offer criticism but if you are bold enough to assert something is incorrect then you shouldn’t say so unless you’re prepared to offer something better to fill that intellectual void. Otherwise, you’re just bitching for the sake of doing so, and to hear yourself speak.


In constructive criticism, I’m usually open for discussion because I’m more often than not just interested in finding a solution, figuring something out, or doing better – and if you can offer a better viewpoint then I’ll change my mind in order to adopt the better answer. In criticism stemming from willful ignorance or simply for the sake of complaining while offering no better alternative, I tend to engage in debate under the premise that you’re wasting my time but I enjoy the deconstruction process nonetheless. This leads to the understanding that I approach those conversations in a mildly apathetic nature (and smirk) with the express knowledge that people are likely to throw a temper tantrum and storm away when their smoke-screen of pseudo-intellectualism is demolished.


Debate to me is the equivalent to intellectual sport. Don’t show up to the field of the World Series and try to pit the Little League against the home team.



What’s the most infuriating thing other SL residents do?


grows-own-potBy far, the most infuriating thing other SL residents do is engage in self-perpetuating drama and delusion. The problem stems (I believe) from people making a statement of intent (this is what I want) but then actively sabotaging that by acting in ways that would expressly forbid getting that. Usually this comes from a myriad of selfish or thoughtless behavior under the premise that the persona is disposable.


A lot of the time, this is why you see people who have abandoned their avatar and gotten a new one to start again, or use many ALTs (leading not just a double life, but such a high multiplicity as to boggle the mind). At the end of the day, I think setting the expectation to some inflated and delusionally high and ridiculous height of fantasy destroys any actual chance of things working out. It would seem we all want a lot from others but more often are unwilling to reciprocate. A lot of people try to meet that insane fantasy ideal in their quest to be happy and make somebody else happy, but more often than not it’s just unhealthy and leads to disaster. The bigger the height of delusion, the harder the ground hits you when you fall into a reality check.



Perfect Woman

You might want to lower your standards a bit, guys.



I’m a firm believer in the premise that nobody should have a Second Life if they are using it to replace their First Life. Second Life (to me) is a supplementary to my First Life and compliments it as an extension of self – much in the same way as you use any form of representative communication or interaction. I see my avatar in the same way as my picture on social media, my @darianknight tag on twitter, or even my video in Skype or a Google+ Hangout. Which is to say, just because you see a digital representation (video, picture, etc) doesn’t mean it is any less the real me being represented.


This is a digital accountability in an age of multiplicity of identity, and it keeps people (including myself) on the up and up (or at least more than a total free-for-all). Otherwise, having total anonymity breeds selfish and destructive behavior more often than not. That isn’t to say that everyone is incapable of acting like decent people when they know they could get away with anything… but looking at Second Life, is it any wonder a large majority succumb to their worst traits and readily justify it at the expense of others?


Therefore the most infuriating thing people do in Second Life is whine about situations they brought on themselves in the pursuit of trying to escape similar misery or situations in real life. You can’t really escape real life, and it won’t go away if you ignore it. What is worse is that despite their insistence that they are looking for something different – the same behavior that is ingrained in them will carry over into the digital world. Which is to say that if you’re in a screwed up situation in real life and it is the result of your action or inactions, insecurity, etc… you will repeat that more often than not in your digital form and compound the misery instead of mitigate it. To make matters worse, a virtual world will ultimate amplify your traits and personality, and so the repercussion is equally just as inflated.


Ergo, all of the drama in Second Life.


Perfect ManThe only other thing that really infuriates me in Second Life that other residents do, is go out of their way to add me to their contact lists and then they drop off the face of the planet not talking or regularly engaging with me. I hate [loathe] pulling teeth with people who are being vague and aloof. If anyone is curious why I suddenly removed them from my contacts list, this is usually the reason, with drama and bullshit being the number one reason. The less people engage, the more they become dead weight to me and I begin questioning why they are even on my contacts at all. The only other way to get put on the “you’re a total waste of my time” list is to bring your baggage to my doorstep, causing drama.


If I wanted to babysit a bunch of crying, whining, kids throwing temper tantrums, I’d open a day-care.


As an aside, after looking at the picture on the right, I believe the Perfect Man exists… but his name is Crap Mariner. He’s the only guy I know with a wind-up key.



Which SL resident would you most like to have lunch with and why?


I don’t think I have a single answer for this. There are a handful of SL residents I’d jump at the chance to have lunch with in real life if circumstances would allow it. How about I just tell you who those people are and we’ll go from there :)



Bryn Oh


Bryn Oh


As an artist, Bryn is possibly one of my favorites hands down. Even if I had to sign an NDA under the penalty of death and meet in an undisclosed location within an underground bunker, escorted by the Men in Black, I’d still do it just to have lunch with Bryn. I really would love to see the real life artworks Bryn is responsible for and discuss them over lunch… What can I say? Bryn impresses the hell out of me.



Bevan Whitfield




I regularly talk with her in skype anyway, and we’ve known each other for a few years now. She’s a brilliant, witty, and sexy woman with a personality that is contagious. She just sort of draws you into a vortex of fluffeh hair and awesome that cannot be denied. Plus I wouldn’t have to get top secret clearance to do so (unlike Bryn). That being said, I put Bevan in the category of Carmen Sandiego.




Strawberry Singh


Strawberry Sighn



She’s a very busy woman and I tend to be caught up with real life as well. Regardless, I always enjoy the chats we have and I’m a big fan of her in-world photography work. I don’t think lunch with her would be anything overly intellectual, but instead just a relaxing outing with casual conversation. Still quite enjoyable nonetheless from the woman who sang me Happy Birthday





Pooky Amsterdam





She waited her whole life to be this busy! Pooky is probably the equivalent of a power-executive in Second Life and Real Life. She’s always doing something really interesting and engaging with machinima and in-world shows. Her penchant for intellectualism shows in The 1st Question, and she inspires others with her ability to find the best in everything.




Crap Mariner


Crap Mariner


I’d imagine this lunch to be in a diner somewhere and the conversation to be either nonexistent or full of satirical/sarcastic witticisms. Despite his rough exterior, and often cantankerous behavior, I think Crap is a really great guy and a closet softy with his cats :) In the end, we can all have our unfiltered trains of thought that lack the social graces of being politically correct or wearing kid gloves, (definitely I’m included with this more often than not), but Crap to me represents an unrepentant reality check and raw stream of consciousness that is refreshing even when it stings. He just calls it like he sees it, and I really wish more people could be that honest with themselves and others instead of sugar coating.




Mal Burns


Mal Burns



One the hosts for InWorld Review, and of course other shows throughout the history of Second Life such as Crossworlds and Grumpy Avatars. I’ve had the pleasure of being interviewed by Mal a couple of times in the past, and today I am a regular on InWorld Review (as I find time). Mal Burns to me represents a sophisticated pimp (seriously, have you seen his purple suit and top hat?). He’s knowledgeable about a lot of things, and more importantly carries a genuine curiosity about virtual worlds and related news. I would imagine a lunch with him would amount to a similar sort of situation as happened on Crossworlds except there isn’t really a constraint and we could talk freely. I’m sure without the limitation of television format, Mal and I would have one hell of a discussion over lunch!




Who would you say is your “anti” role model?


This is definitely a personal question to me, but one I will answer nonetheless. My “anti” role model is actually my father. He has some qualities that he excels at but it somehow got buried in the mountain of narcissism and arrogance. A habitual cheater, my mother and him divorced when I was two years old, and he again got a second divorce for essentially the same thing later on. I don’t really know if he changed his ways or whether his third wife just tolerates it and turns a blind eye.


I don’t entirely dislike my father, but I learned from him how not to be on very many levels.




What was something you used to enjoy, but was ruined for you?


Snapple Peach Iced Tea and Peanut Butter. When I was younger, my mother one summer managed to get a great deal on a number of cases of Snapple Peach Iced Tea and brought them home. At first, I loved it… but as the summer wore on it got to a point where just the smell would make me sick. To this day, I have a low tolerance to Peach Iced Tea. As for Peanut Butter, when I was really little, my grandmother would make us all Peanut Butter sandwiches when we were hungry. Problem was, she bought peanut butter by the bucket wholesale.


You can imagine how much peanut butter I had as a kid…


To this day, I’m not a huge fan of peanut butter except in low quantities and once in a blue moon depending on what the food is. For instance, the opposite is true for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Reese’s Pieces, which I will fight you to the death for.








What’s something you want to do that you’d be embarrassed to tell other people about? 


Well, if I told anyone then clearly I’m not too embarrassed to talk about it, now am I? In all honesty, the things I would do (even embarrassing) I’d suck it up and stand by it. I would play off a manicure and day at the spa with cucumbers on my eyes and an avocado mask like a boss.


That’s just how I am.




What’s the oddest term of endearment you’ve ever used or that someone’s used for you?





Team Rocket, in reference to my girlfriend’s cleavage. Feel free to guess where Meowth is at.






Have you ever fallen in love with another SL resident?


Isabelle and Will



For better or worse, I have. I think a willingness to fall in love is worth the possibility of heartbreak. After all, you’ll never find love if you’re always giving half a heart or less. When you find real love, all the trial and error before hand becomes worth it. You’ll never really want another person in your life again when it happens, and if you’re lucky they will feel exactly the same. It’s the sort of feeling that says “I can’t imagine my life without you in it”.


When it happens, and it’s the real deal… you no longer worry about the past because all you can think about is the future with them, and they’d have it no other way.




Describe a time/event in your slife that you’re nostalgic for.


I suppose I’m a bit nostalgic for the days when I’d be constantly booked for a show or interview. Truth be told, that’s not really a Second Life thing but more of a fluctuating scenario throughout my professional career. I go long stretches off the radar and of little or no interest in the popular circles and then suddenly I manage to do something or be involved with something that everyone wants to know about. So then I spend a year or so essentially being popular and in the spotlight again until it dies down.


The upside to this is that I have had the opportunity to meet some really amazing people over the years and instead of always being on the spot and constantly mobbed, I get the downtime to actually spend with people in private. I mean, some of my favorite times in SL are just hanging out in Bryn’s skybox and watching her work or chatting. Spending time around Bevan when she’s not terribly busy, and so on. The slow periods are just as important to me as the spotlight because it allows me to sincerely enjoy the time I spend with the people I’ve met :)




What’s something sweet you’d like someone to do for you?


I’m a sucker for the spa and massage therapy. This comes from the high stress environment I’m accustomed to and also that I am a long time sufferer of migraines. I’ve worn my body down quite a lot over the years and now I pay for it every time it is damp and raining, or through the stress accumulation that I tend to just keep under wraps. My muscles get sore a lot as a result.


When I was younger, I used to go to a spa regularly like clockwork to keep this in check. The massage therapy kept me de-stressed, the migraines wouldn’t be as frequent, and I wasn’t nearly as sore all the time.


The sweetest thing somebody could do for me would just to give me a back massage or plan a spa outing together. To me, it shows a little empathy and sincere caring. In relation to Second Life, I think a virtual spa would be awesome – like Pura Vida Wellness Resort, but only with the bio-acoustic massage, because it’s not very relaxing to me reading RP text otherwise.


I suppose a better equivalent would be to do an ASMR type relaxation session live if they are good at it (soft spoken, etc). Just as awesome and super sweet is if they set up a LiveNinja session with one of the ASMR personalities… because some of them can really knock me out.