Free Vivox for all

Note: Vivox now has an online form that OpenSim grid owners and hosting providers can use to request access credentials.

Merry Christmas, grid owners — Vivox is now available, for free, to any grid owner.

You get the same voice as in Second Life — with lip synching and directionality and speech indications.  Hosted by Vivox. Sets up in minutes. Transparent to your users.

Just send an email to Kamal Jain or one of his associates at Vivox at [email protected] — tell him I sent you.

It’s part of their plan to reach out to the small guy.

This is not to be confused with the deals that Kitely and Avination have with Vivox — those are separate, corporate agreements.

Boston-based Vivox Inc. is currently the gold standard of in-world voice, used not only in Second Life, but also in EVE Online, EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies, DC Universe Online and in many other massively online multiplayer games. The company reported 60 million users as of October of this year.

But with rare exceptions, OpenSim users have been too small too bother with. Until now.

“Vivox is ready to work with any OpenSim operator out there,” Kamal Jain, Vivox’s director of network operations, told me. “From my point of view, nobody is too small for us.”

For example, he said, he got an email from a guy who got together with a few of his friends. “He said, ‘I have a 20-person OpenSim grid — can we get voice?’ and I said sure, and set them up.”

Normally, a 20-person grid isn’t a potential customer for Vivox. In fact, all the OpenSim grids put together are just a drop in the bucket for the company.

So OpenSim grid owners have been experimenting with a variety of other options instead. Some set up Freeswitch or Whisper-Mumble servers. But Freeswitch — well, for grids, it really sucks. Quality is awful, it cuts in and out, no directionality, no volume adjustment for distance, no lip synching. Whisper has all that — potentially — but it isn’t integrated with the viewers yet. Other options include Skype, Web meeting services, and Ventrilo  — but they are even more difficult to use and don’t integrate well with in-world activities.

For business and education users in particular this has been a nightmare. For role playing games, voice is less of an issue — in fact, voice can be a distraction to the process of getting in character. And nothing ruins the mood faster on a romantic date than suddenly hearing the hot young girl you’re with say something in an old guy voice.  Or vice versa!

 

But trying to hold a meeting is hard enough in a virtual environment without having to talk all your users through a second, separate piece of software just to get voice to work.

So anyway, OpenSim is growing — someday, it might even become commercially interesting for a company like Vivox. Until then, the company decided to help out the community by offering the Vivox service for free.

“This is what I’m doing to give back to the Opensim community, to help foster growth and adoption of OpenSim,” Jain said.

The voice service is hosted on Vivox private cloud servers in Boston — grid owners don’t have to install any software or run their own voice servers. And Vivox is already integrated with all Second Life-compatible viewers, so there’s no work for users at all. If they know how to use voice in Second Life, they’re all set.

All of the standard Vivox features in Second Life — directionality, lip synching, speaker indications — work the same way in OpenSim.

However, grid operators won’t get the same level of support or service level agreements that they would if they had a commercial agreement with Vivox.

Jain added that hosting companies and grid owners who want to have a formal agreement, with support and SLAs, can talk to him as well, as Avination and Kitely already have.

How it works

After you talk with Vivox, they send you a few lines to add to your OpenSim configuration file — the Vivox server name, address, user name, and password.

Don’t believe me? I’ve got it running on my little Hyperica mini-grid.

Just chilling, listening to myself talk.

Oh, it’s so  nice. Having the little indicator bars appear over my head. Being able to go into private chat with folks. Sure, I have had my share of troubles with voice in Second Life. But not having it at all was so much, much, much worse.

I’m already making plans for the coming year — I will train my employees on a new workflow management system in our virtual office. I’ll hold regular office hours. Maybe throw some parties. Get the Hypergrid Entrepreneur Group back together. Start a fitness club. Or a book club. Or a mystery writers’ group. Or a virtual garden club — we show up with original flowers or plants, have contests, share plants with one another. Maybe run some hypergrid tours.

And once other grids roll it out… I’ll be able to hypergrid teleport over to FrancoGrid, sit in some little Parisian cafe, and listen to French people speaking French around me. Or teleport to the Russian grid, OpenSim.ru, and practice my Russian.

Live music will be possible without work-arounds. We’ll be able to have talk shows with a live studio audience. We’ll be able to film machinima in OpenSim — and drama students will be able to act in virtual plays.

People can get together and sing Christmas carols.

Feel free to teleport in to my grid and check it out for yourself — hg.hyperica.com:8022. I’ll be around during the day next week — I’ll post my holiday office hours on Twitter (@MariaKorolov) — so stop by for a chat if you see me in-world.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • Merry Christmas Maria and thank you for lots of good information all the best for 2012

  • Wow.. For the record our conversations with Vivox went in a drastically different direction and quite frankly I am very confused by this current change of heart

  • Merry Christmas Maria and a happy new year. You do a wonderful job!

  • Anonymous

    Merry Christmas, everyone.

    Please allow me to clarify what Maria has written, as “Free Vivox for all” is a bit misleading, and we don’t want any uncertainty.Vivox is a business, and to that end we work with customers and partners to forge commercial deals so everyone can hopefully make some money.What I am doing is creating a pool of resources to make them available to small grid operators who qualify by their size and/or non-profit status.These voice resources will allow small grids to offer the best integrated voice solution in the world to their users, but they will share the following traits:* Non-disclosure and terms of service agreements must be signed.* There will be no support.* There will be no SLA.* There will be no premium features available, such as voice morphing, voicemail, PSTN integration, etc.* The resources will be shared by all users of all grids taking advantage of this offering, so while the odds are small, naming and other resource conflicts are possible.Those missing things above are only available with commercial terms, which we are happy, as always, to arrange.

    Kamal

    • Thank you for getting back to my email. I am glad that Vivox has developed a more acceptable program for small business.

      • Anonymous

        I look forward to working together!

    • I don’t see any issues there Kamal, it certainly is in line with what people should expect for a no-charge service branch- you don’t (and shouldnt) get the premium resources or customer support that others PAY for.

      When you use the term “grid operator” I think in opensim the term starts with the single person running a couple of regions either as a stand-alone with HG, or connected to a public grid such as OSgrid, on up to the operators of a 10,000 region grid such as OSgrid.
      I will read the responses to this thread as they come in.

      • Anonymous

        WesternPrarie, thanks for your comment above.

        Also, thanks for your email. Unfortunately, my reply to you bounced.  Please email me if you have a different email address I can try contacting you through.

        • Thank you Kamal, I recently swopped a domain with a sub domain and the webmail sometimes defaults to the previous setting. I will send again.

          • Anonymous

            There is something in your domain forwarding/relaying which is causing the email to violate our domain’s SPF record origin restriction, so I forwarded the email from my personal account – hope you got it.

          • I did Kamal, I will process the forms and get back to you shortly, thank you so much for your attention.

  • Great deal! What a christmas present to the OpenSimulator community. Thanks a lot to Vivox and Kamal putting his time into that route.

    As long as the participating grids won’t use manually generated region uuids there should be no resource conflicts at all. The shared model will work fine as long as the qualified grid operators use the shared resources reasonably.

    Having only the basic features (already including full SL voice functionality) with a free offering is more than perfect.

    Everybody needing the complete product with support, SLA and premium features should have no problem with setting up commercial terms.

  • Oh this is GREAT! I just visited your region and yep, you get voice bars overhead 🙂
    I just wrote Kamal
    Heck, I wouldnt even mind paying a reasonable/nominal fee for the voice but I understood all along they mainly dealt with entire grids such as SL, and that the annual fee was very expensive. Dealing with individual region owners would be much more work, but even if they did and charged say, $9.95 a month, or maybe $24.95 a quarter or something, I could see doing that.

    In Sl I used voice mostly for my  weekly Native Indian stories and legends readings, another fellow uses voice for speaking/voice/acting workshops as a non profit too, but voice options mubles/freeswitch in opensim doesnt work well at all, and I had to discontinue my events.

  • Quick reminder to folks activating Vivox for the first time on your region. If you updated your .ini file and it’s still not working, check to make sure you have voice enabled in THREE places — your region, your parcel, and your user.

    Kitely has full details on this here: http://blog.kitely.com/2011/12/23/happy-holidays-kitely-supports-vivox-voice/

  • Paul Emery

    It is unclear to me from the thread if osgrid will be able to take
    advantage of this offer to enable Vivox. BTW i have been able to use
    mumble/whisper on both a stand alone and my regions on osgrid. On the
    other hand not having to mess with tweeking each users client would be
    very nice.

    • Kamal did say that non-profits are included in the offer, and OSGrid is a non-profit. However, the voice has to be enabled on a region-by-region basis, so, from a practical sense, all OSGrid would be able to enable for voice would be their plaza regions. 

      Maybe they can talk to Vivox and get code that they can pass along to their members on request … or the individual hosting companies that run many of the OSGrid regions can reach out to Vivox and get the codes. 

      But the codes can’t just be published — the way, say, that OSGrid publishes the OSGrid-enabled version of the OpenSim software, because there are account names and passwords involved.

      • Anonymous

        The best way to do this for OSGrid is to have each grid owner/operator contact me to get set up.  Once a grid on OSGrid is setup for the regions which will have voice chat enabled, it just works (we’ve tested it).

        • Kamal —

          I think you mean region owner or manager. 

          A grid is made up out of regions like a chess board is made up out of little squares (or a website is made up out of webpages). 

          OSGrid is a single grid with — as of today — 10,222 regions on it. Most of those are home-based regions, only on occasionally. Another big chunk are run by hosting companies — SimHost, Dreamland, Nova, Oliveira, and a few others. 

          Region owners who rent their regions from a hosting company should probably contact those vendors, who’s in turn contact you.

          I don’t think you’ll be getting a lot of calls from individuals running home-based regions — they would mostly be using their regions for homesteads or building — though I could be wrong. But there are also plenty of non-profits and schools with lots of land on OSGrid who are running their own regions and who’d probably benefit a lot from having voice.

          Several other grids operate in a similar way — ScienceSim, New World Grid, FrancoGrid, and some smaller grids. You’re going to see the same kind of mix there, though at a smaller scale, as on OSGrid — grid-run plazas, third-party professionally hosted regions, home-based regions, and regions run by schools, companies, or nonprofits.

          When hypergrid teleports become more commonplace and reliable, we’ll probably see a lot of the latter spinning off into their own mini-grids, but until then, being part of a larger grid provides community, content, and other benefits.

          Meanwhile, thank you again for pushing this through! OpenSim has been waiting a long time for reliable voice and this is a great holiday present!

          • Anonymous

            Maria, you are correct; my terminology was wrong.

            The net effect is still that region owners or managers should do what you have stated.

            Thanks for setting me straight.

          • Paul Emery

            Technically speaking, it would seem that the organization/person that has access to the opensim.ini file (usually the person responsible for installing and hosting the opensim.exe file as you suggest) would be the person that would have the relationship with Vivox. Is that what Kamal has in mind?

          • Anonymous

            Paul, yes and no.  The person who will edit opensim.ini certainly needs the information, but the relationship might be between Vivox and that person, or possibly with their customer.  At the end of the day, what’s important is that we have an agreement with someone which says whoever gets the credentials and server information from us agrees to the terms of service, and not to divulge that information to anyone else other than those who would need it to configure the service.

          • “I don’t think you’ll be getting a lot of calls from individuals running
            home-based regions — they would mostly be using their regions for
            homesteads or building”

            While I do building as well as use part of my regions for personal entertainment- I run my 6 regions in OSgrid mainly for education purposes, I/they are not registered as an official non-profit/tax exempt 501 C entity, however that doesn’t discount the end purposes.

             Besides, I don’t accept donations as a non-profit and do not as a result- issue receipts for tax deduction purposes.
            In SL  I had 4 regions for this, and despite the rents and contributions from member/players (it was in large part Western 1860s role play there) I usually paid around $300/mo out of pocket to meet the $590/mo tiers.
            Voice was not allowed on the ground.

            However, I scheduled out of character voice based events once a week consisting of native indian story and legends readings to a group of people as part of a cultural/education event.

            Running them now from a home server I don’t have that cost, and the focus has shifted mainly to education puposes and away from “role play.” Besides not having the role players I did, I also don’t have voice to do the events with on my own regions with the appropriate atmosphere already there.

            I hesitated a little to sign up with vivox only because I know they are a business and hope to expand into opensim, but in my case the use would be so minimal- once a week events, and also assuming anyone even shows up at all- I don’t know if it would be cost effective for me to pay a fee for vivox if later they come up with a price structure for the little guy and it’s $29 a month/region or something. I don’t like to take advantage of anyone or mislead them into thinking that I’m going to expand into a mini grid and purchase a fee-service.

            But vivox would be the perfect solution for now with the limited offer, and I am friends with a fellow who teaches voice classes on a walled garden grid and is not happy there with how things are going. This may be a solution for him and his group in OSgrid.

            I’d be happy to test it out, schedule events and see where it goes.

          • Anonymous

            I encourage anyone who is interested in trying it out.  Non-profits and educational organizations will likely always have special standing over everyone else, but as long as there is a viable OpenSim open source community, I will do all I can to ensure some kind of free voice service for that community, with the caveats mentioned previously.

          • I know there is a business decision there, but regardless- that is very kind of you and Vivox  Kamal, this is extremely encouraging and I’m pleased to see this happen, and hope it works out for all parties involved.

  • this is phenomenal and a wonderful contribution to the OpenSim community
     
    thanks Vivox! and your based in Beantown? dang, i’m only an hour away =)

    • Anonymous

      Yes, Boston — and, we are looking for some good engineers if you know of any that might want to work with some really cool stuff.

  • Anonymous

    Arno B.: You sent me an email to sign up for the service, but every reply I sent back to you, with or without attachments, from corporate and personal email accounts, all bounce back with an error from “Dr.Web (R) Daemon”.

  • Dreamland Metaverse is first hosting provider to offer Vivox voice to its customers: 
    http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/2011/08/dreamland-metaverse/