Linden Labs invites first group of creators to new Sansar platform

Press release: Linden Lab Invites First Virtual Experience Creators to Project Sansar Testing

SAN FRANCISCO –  Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life, today announced that a small number of creators have been exclusively invited to be the first to help test its new platform for virtual experiences, codenamed Project Sansar.

Slated for general availability in 2016, Project Sansar will democratize virtual reality as a creative medium. It will empower people to easily create, share, and monetize their own multi-user, interactive virtual experiences, without requiring engineering resources. The platform will enable professional-level quality and performance with exceptional visual fidelity, 3D audio, and physics simulation.

Experiences created with Project Sansar will be optimized for virtual headsets like the Oculus Rift, but also accessible via PCs and — at consumer launch — mobile devices.

Users can explore and socialize within Project Sansar experiences through advanced expressive avatars, using text and voice chat.

(Image courtesy Linden Lab.)

(Image courtesy Linden Lab.)

Drawing on more than 12 years of unique experience running Second Life, the largest-ever user-created virtual world, Linden Lab will make it fun and easy for Project Sansar users to create social virtual reality experiences, eliminating the complicated challenges that today limit the medium to professional developers with significant resources.

Project Sansar will allow creators at all levels to focus on realizing their creative visions, without having to worry about issues such as hosting and distribution, multi-user access and communication systems, virtual currency and regulatory compliance, and other challenges associated with creating, sharing, and monetizing virtual experiences today.

“We want to lower the barrier of entry for VR experience creation,” said Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab. “Project Sansar will do for virtual experiences what WordPress has done for the Web: empower a broad range of people to create with professional quality and reach global audiences. By greatly expanding who can create virtual experiences, Project Sansar will also extend the value of VR to a wide variety of use-cases — from gaming and entertainment to education, architecture, art, community-building, business meetings, healthcare, conferences, training, and more.”

The small group of initial creators invited to help test Project Sansar will create 3D content using Autodesk’s Maya® software and will export their creations to the new platform. At consumer launch, Project Sansar will support a variety of third-party creation tools as well as native building options, so that creators can work with their preferred software.

In the coming months, Linden Lab will welcome additional creators and content partners to Project Sansar as new features are added to the platform and testing expands.

Linden Lab is also currently recruiting talented engineers to join the team developing Project Sansar. More information about working for Linden Lab, current positions, and applications can be found at lindenlab.com/careers.

About Linden Lab

Founded in 1999, Linden Lab is best known as the creator of Second Life, the largest-ever 3D virtual world filled entirely by the creations of its users. In 2013, the company expanded its product portfolio with Blocksworld, a lighthearted build-and-play system on the iPad for kids and grownups alike. The company is currently developing a new platform for virtual experiences, code-named Project Sansar, which will democratize virtual reality as a creative medium.

For more about Linden Lab, its products, and career opportunities please visit LindenLab.com.

Press Release

This is a press release, contributed by an outside company or organization and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of anybody at this publication. Read about how to write a press release here. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/HypergridBiz.

  • lmpierce

    Nice illustration…

    This press release is trying to say a number of things that people may like the sound of, such as, “The company is currently developing a new platform for virtual experiences, code-named Project Sansar, which will democratize virtual reality as a creative medium.”

    In the first place, Second Life already does this:

    “We want to lower the barrier of entry for VR experience creation,” said Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab. “Project Sansar will do for virtual experiences what WordPress has done for the Web: empower a broad range of people to create with professional quality and reach global audiences. By greatly expanding who can create virtual experiences, Project Sansar will also extend the value of VR to a wide variety of use-cases — from gaming and entertainment to education, architecture, art, community-building, business meetings, healthcare, conferences, training, and more.”

    But if the goal is to lower the barrier of entry even further, while improving capabilities, at least along technological lines, the next paragraph does not bode well:

    “The small group of initial creators invited to help test Project Sansar will create 3D content using Autodesk’s Maya® software and will export their creations to the new platform. At consumer launch, Project Sansar will support a variety of third-party creation tools as well as native building options, so that creators can work with their preferred software.”

    There is nothing easy about learning Maya (or 3ds Max or Modo or ZBrush or Blender). Tools like that are very challenging to learn well, and will not be learned well by the average user. Will content built by such tools set a new, much higher build standard? And if so, how does that ‘lower the barrier of entry’? Higher standards create other kinds of barriers – just ask students trying to get into medical schools versus students getting into humanities degree programs.

    The one area that suggests greater access is in the ability to see and interact in the world with a variety of devices: “Experiences created with Project Sansar will be optimized for virtual headsets like the Oculus Rift, but also accessible via PCs and — at consumer launch — mobile devices.” As Maria reported in her recent article on Bright Canopy, there is technology that can mitigate the requirement to be seated at a high-end computer. But is Linden Lab really innovative here?

    The only detail in the press release that sounds like a humanistic step forward is expressive avatars. Which is a double-edge sword… while it might be great to see real expressions, that furtive frown of disapproval that previously went unseen may be captured and broadcast quite convincingly. This will be a capability worth looking forward to, as long as it comes with a check box that allows the user (democratic freedom) to turn it off.

    I must admit however, I’m very, very curious to see where all this goes!

    • Ebbe protested adamantly in the SL forum when I suggested that Sansar sounds like it is based on Highfidelity’s technology and general approach. Sansar was completely different, and a completely different company too. :-))

      • Xmir, Lawrence – I’m with you guys.

        I actually had a few doubts about running the release since it seemed both self-serving and and clearly wrong.

        Obviously, there’s nothing “democratizing” about Maya!

        And people might complain about SL graphics, but that’s not the reason they’re leaving.

        • They also went for Maya on the mesh beta, so that is pretty predictable, but of course – as you say, not exactly an enabler for “democratizing” content creation.

          To what extent the release is wrong is a bit hard to say in that they know the facts and we don’t.

          Where I feel they are not sincere is on the point of when SL will be shut down, as IMO it does not compute it will be run in parallel for a long time.

        • lmpierce

          I’m glad you ran the release because it’s still an interesting development. As XMIR notes, we don’t have all the facts yet. But I must say, looking at the illustration and the environment it implies, my skepticism mounted rapidly. But of course, as I understand it, a press release lends itself to self-serving statements, although that aspect is usually better woven into the tapestry of promotion. This particular press release is just so clumsy and full of misdirection, only a complete virtual world neophyte would be unreservedly impressed… but maybe that’s the idea?

        • Dharma Galaxy

          Face it. The real Hypergrid business is three years away. The OPENSIM “Core” developers are still lost in “platform.” We need to first get rid of them — then there is a chance this will still be the way to go. If we don’t do that then something else will win without question.

          Basically, the hardware is overtaking the software. I’ll end up going with neurons I cannot understand at this rate.

          • Han Held

            >The OPENSIM “Core” developers are still lost in “platform.” We need to first get rid of them
            It’s BSD licensed; find a virtual world Theo DeRaadt and then do what he did with NetBSD… 🙂

          • Dharma Galaxy

            The next revolution (with guns) will be over copyright. Not interested in forks. I want to see some signs of understanding that if I live long enough I live there. I don’t see that.

            Things are beginning to move fast enough I can’t wait for handwaving.

            (P.S. CRISPR)

          • Han Held

            >The next revolution (with guns)
            Stopped reading right there.
            “All I can tell you is brother you’ll have to wait”

            I suspect it’s gonna be a long one.

          • Dharma Galaxy
      • lmpierce

        Your comment reminded me of the Twix ads: https://youtu.be/w0QpPNcT-J4

        • I’d never seen that commercial before, but yeah! 🙂

      • Dharma Galaxy

        And unless they both address the small grid they will both die — riddance to them.

  • Cinder Biscuits

    Sounds like Blue Mars 2.0, tbh. I also find it interesting that they refer to Second Life twice as a virtual world and yet don’t seem to refer to Sansar as a world at all. Just a “virtual experience platform” which would make it more akin to OpenSim in that one would be able to create a world or a their own limited walled environment. I wonder which it is.

    It all seems old hat in the end though. Don’t throw your baby out with the bathwater, Ebbe.

    • Don’t knock Blue Mars. Graphically, it is still way ahead of anything else out there even though it basically stopped development four years ago.

      • Cinder Biscuits

        Exactly my point. Visual appeal isn’t enough to capture the market, and if Sansar looks better than Blue Mars what does Blue Mars have left?

        • Dharma Galaxy

          Um…”capture” is the correct word. LL had the market and failed to capture it.

          The only market that counts now are small grids of one or two people. If you chase anything else you are dead. (There will be a few “Meeting places” but they will be few and far between.)

        • Blue Mars has nothing left from a commercial standpoint. It is still up, but they are basically owned and operated as an experimental platform by Ball State University IDIA Lab. Nothing has been put up in the past 12 months — they did put up some interesting sites including the Roman Pantheon in 2014. I still like to go there and film machinima at times.

    • Dharma Galaxy

      Too late…the baby was gone 2 years ago….May as well flush the bathwater too.

      They continue to to fixate on the graphics and not the life we had 10 years ago. Let them go away and rot.

  • How good will Sansar look in terms of realism and graphic artistry? One blogger mentions Unreal Engine 4.0 which would be an incredible leap over Second Life. I have my doubts. First of all, there will be little company-provided content, just a platform. This is what High Fidelity is doing and High Fidelity looks like something from 1998 in the Alpha Phase. Second, how good can graphics look if they have headsets, mobile devices, and legacy PC’s as platforms — with bandwidth constraints? Third, does the premium on avatar interactivity — realistic facial expressions, etc. mean cartoon-like avatars, especially since appeal to the Facebook crowd is going to be paramount (like it or not, Facebook acquisition for many billions is what Linden Lab and High Fidelity are hoping for). I have a feeling that Windlight / emerging Mesh-centric Second Life is still going to be the best looking Virtual World Experience for quite some time.

    • Cinder Biscuits

      Sansar is not built on UE4, it uses the Havok Engine.

    • Dharma Galaxy

      Does this really matter?

      • For me yes. Visual is everything.

        • Dharma Galaxy

          So….It matters a whole lot to a tiny minority. ok.

          I must admit I am not impressed with VR as an idea. Good presence is all I need.,

          • lmpierce

            Don’t you consider photorealistic graphics a part of good presence? Thinking about modern blockbuster films, the highly realistic special effects clearly increase presence (along with compelling direction and writing). VR depends very much on the visual aspects (and audio). Other media work differently. For a book to be immersive, the writing must be very good at stimulating the imagination, while for music, it’s all auditory (although live music often compliments the audio with impressive visuals).

          • Dharma Galaxy

            No, and I stopped watching movies before I stopped watching TV. I do Opensim and occationally SL now. I also do not use voice. Photorealistic graphics would just get me into the uncanny valley for no reason other than to waste money on hardware which would be better spent on movement.

            Worry about getting all the bone movements right and a nice pretty cartoon.

          • Well then you clearly are the scant end of the demographic VR is even for, if you’re even counted at all. If you have no use for it, why are you here?

          • Dharma Galaxy

            Don’t worry. I’ll show you your heart beating as you die. Problem for you will be that there will be no monitor.

          • I want to quote in the future in my blog. Thanks for this comment !

      • Resoundingly YES in this demographic. Avi dev is big business and people spend thousands of dollars in that market. The era of toon avis is ending rapidly with near photorealistic rendering of avis and NPCs in video games and movies. We know that the tech is there for realistic worlds, elements and people. This is primarily why HiFi is going without any fanfare – their avis look like ridiculous deformed cartoons. When someone from SL who has a gorgeous skinned, well built, professional avi, there’s no way in hell they’re going to give that up for an ugly toon avi.

        It’s wholly relevant and important.

        • Dharma Galaxy

          Give me a photorealistic dragon avie and then I’ll listen — though not very carefully. I need to worry about quantum computing and being absorbed into the Net.

  • Dharma Galaxy

    Time to completely flush LL. I simply am not interested anymore.

  • do they still maintain their TOS appropriating our IP rights?

  • The main reason why LL would want to shut down SL as soon as possible and for good is its tainted image. In most geos there is the image of SecondLife = pixel sex and often the kinky type. Ebbe commented on that in one of the most recent video interviews – on why everyone was so hung up about it.

    This (public) image is seen a a major inhibitor for business development.

    • The public image of Second Life has been a complete disaster for Linden Lab. But there are many more reasons why Second Life has not grown in terms of user numbers since 2008, and sex and public image is only one part of that equation. We can go on and on with the other reasons here. The incredibly high price of land and a new economic structure will help- but I feel the main reason is incredible difficulty of mastering the viewer interface. Every Second Life user of some period knows at least one other person who tried Second Life based on their recommendation and gave up after two attempts since the learning curve is so difficult. The war is lost when Firestorm has to suggest taking classes to learn how to get the most out of using a viewer– it needs to be instinctive, or it won’t grow.

      • I agree with you on all that, but for LL the main business priority is to get out of the pixel sex business they are perceived to be in. With this perception it is impossible to develop a family oriented product – even if it is new, or one that is taken serious in business and EDU. This is also the reason no content will transfer.

        Because of this priority SecondLife will be closed short time after Sansar is launched as a 1.0 product.

        • They simply can’t just close Second Life immediately — they made a commitment to keep it open. The PR would be disastrous, My guess is we are looking at at least three years before such a move would be made. Besides, it is a cash cow for them. Second Life still makes a profit since the fixed cost investment has been made, and the upkeep minimal. Now, if Linden Lab is acquired in the next 18 months – a possibility which i put a 50% probability on happening — all bets are off.

          • > they made a commitment to keep it open

            Cynically the only commitment is what is written in the TOS section 1.2

            “The Service exists only as long as and in the form that we may provide the Service, and all aspects of the Service, including your User Content, are subject to change or elimination.” http://www.lindenlab.com/tos

            There will be a longer public beta period for Sansar, but when they come to a version 1.0 launch the closing will come relatively fast. They need to move the cash cow to Sansar, even at the expense of the old customer base (which they really don’t want).

            The PR will be more of the kind “pixel sex site closed” so there will be no public outcry, except for with a portion of the current customer base.

            They can easily soften the blow by making it possible to export content for use elsewhere such as OpenSim grids.

          • Here is what Ebbe said on June 20, 2014 during the Sansar announcement to the question “Does this mean we’re giving up on Second Life?
            “Absolutely not. It is thanks to the Second Life community that our virtual world today is without question the best there is, and after 11 years we certainly have no intention of abandoning our users nor the virtual world they continually fill with their astounding creativity. Second Life has many years ahead of it, and in addition to improvements and new developments specifically for Second Life, we think that much of the work we do for the next generation project will also be beneficial for Second Life”. That is the only thing I have to go on — that, and the admission Second Life makes money funding the rest of the company.

          • If he said something else, the company would be out of business within a few weeks. Nobody would invest or spend a dollar in SecondLife.

          • Talla Adam

            I agree Ebbe had to say all that and I read it too but, at the end of the day, Sansar is going to be just another Linden product like any of the others Humble produced before he jumped ship. Admitted it will be a very advanced video gaming platform and aimed at the Garry’s mod community as well as Second Life but if the SL community dig their heals and refuse to move over in any great numbers then I don’t see LL have any choice but to keep their flagship product open indefinitely. I think the stakes are actually quite high and I agree with Eddi Haskell, a buyout is a distinct possibility given what Facebook was prepared to pay for Oculus Rift, and not forgetting Yahoo’s buyout of Cloud Party either. Zukerberg has stated he is interested in virtual worlds.

            But anyway, I really think the Lab is aiming for an Entropia type world where companies can build a whole virtual experience in a mini grid, or planet where the proprietors can charge good money for the gaming be it a role play adventure or some kind of combat land/sea/air shooter while renting out land parcels for virtual living and trading – yes, clubs and porn too! But also education, showcasing and any other brand pusher.

            If it takes off then I can see the island/planets exchanging hands for huge sums just as they do in Entropia Universe. Sansar is all about big money in my view and likely ripe for corporate buyout at some point if it proves a money spinner. I don’t know about High Fidelity but never say never given the sums being invested by corporate giants like Microsoft. It could easily go the same way.

            The think people in Second Life and Opensim have to ask themselves is do they really want their virtual life and work to be bought and sold on a grand scale like that? All I’ve ever hoped for, and come close with Opensim, is a 3D web where I’m free to do my own thing however I want at a reasonable price, to give freely if I want to, to trade some if I want to and to just build, play and socialize as part of my escape from the real world when it suits me. I don’t really want to be someone else’s pawn.

          • Sansar is going to be Linden Lab’s next generation hallmark product and is different from their previous small diversions. It is also going to be the replacement of SecondLife.

            Facebook buying Oculus Rift does not mean they will manage to commoditize it with their Facebook audience, and particularly not since the Rift requires investment in pretty hefty hardware while the average Facebook customer is happy with a mediocre web browser, tablet or phone.

            Facebook has been rather hostile to the idea of virtual identities as we know them from SecondLife both because unidentified accounts brings a lot of potential liabilities to the table but more important because they are hard to monetize through tracking and ad exposure like Facebook currently do.

            As Maria pointed out in an article a couple weeks back, sex is the fastest growing segment in virtual reality, and Facebook is nowhere near being interesting in pursuing this as it would quickly erode their (family based) customer base.

            Microsoft is going nowhere in this space. The last time they “invented” something was about the time of Clippy. Microsoft has no future in the consumer market at all. – Sorry.

      • lmpierce

        We had an experimental Web viewer from Linden Lab some years ago, but it was frustrating. After all, once the viewer is learned, its capabilities become expected. A simplified viewer must either automate a number of functions, or leave them out.

        Honestly, I’ve never related to complaints over viewer complexity. It’s no more complicated than MS Word, and millions of people use Word every day for professional and personal communications.

        Most things worth doing have something of a learning curve. If we oversimplify, we also miss out on the affordances that make an experience rich, compelling and gratifying.

        What would probably help, however, is if some of the control interface could become more gestural than intellectual. There would still be a learning curve, but the long-run effect could be greater engagement. Already available for many years is the SpaceNavigator, and just that simple device transformed my experience of moving and building in a virtual world by substituting unnatural keyboard and sliding mouse actions and selections with more natural twisting and turning and lifting wrist movements. That’s a personal preference, but my sense is that gestural controls is the next big thing in virtual worlds.

        • Or how about just an interface for people who never want to create content, film high-send machinima, or do anything really advanced — the potential Facebook crowd which is always held as a mass-market goal? Any interface for a mobile device will probably be simple for Sansar, so maybe this is in the works already. BTW- Word 2010 is still incredibly confusing to me, even though I can photoshop and do all sorts of cool graphics things and use Quark so you do have a good point! It all depends on what you need to do and need to spend time learning.

          • lmpierce

            That makes a lot of sense. That was the intention behind the SL Web viewer. The problem is, even just for visiting, the processing overhead and bandwidth requirements are high. And it’s hard to imagine how a richer environment is going to be more readily portrayed unless technology such as what Maria wrote about (Bright Canopy) is used. It’s not building capability that bogs things down. And with the current viewers, just as with any software, people can simply ignore the features they aren’t interested in – to use my example of Word, I simply never go into the Table of Authorities panel, so if it’s complicated, I don’t worry about it.

  • The money to be made is quick acquisition by Facebook or Google or Microsoft or someone else. It is logical that Facebook buys a virtual world and related technology to complement their Oculus purchase. And if Facebook buys one, Google is next. This I think is the primary thinking behind launching Sansar. I will be very surprised if sex is as big a part of Sansar as it is of Second Life. The owners of Linden Lab have had as their goals to either go public or sell to a company like Facebook for many years — and the launch of headset centric Sansar makes perfect sense from that standpoint. Second Life never overcame the bad PR — and incredibly complicated interface which limits usage — to give it acquisition potential.

  • Susannah Avonside

    All interesting stuff. However, I also have my doubts about the wonderful graphics. I’m sure for those on high end hardware the experience could be amazing, but as most, if not many current users of Second Life can’t access the present ‘inadequate’ graphics of Second Life because they access SL on pretty basic consumer hardware then much of the point of high end graphics is going to be wasted. Plus, the need for the platform to be accessible on mobile devices is going to impose it’s own constraints. There is still no mobile device that comes anywhere near adequate performance, and it seems unlikely that it ever will. Tablets have been around for some years now, as have netbooks, and there has yet to be one that I would consider as a serious contender. The idea is a nice one, and I would be seriously interested should a half decent one come out, (which means it runs Linux, of course :P). There is also the huge elephant in the room that LL will want to capitalise on their investment, which means it will be expensive. I’m sure that both Sansar and High Fidelity will have their fanbois and gurls, but in all of this OpenSim still has a huge advantage in that it’s very accessible technology that provides a great starting ground for anyone with a creative bent. There is a lot of rubbish talked about graphics, and whilst they are nice, they are not the be all and end all. Active Worlds is still going strong. I may give High Fidelity a go once they get real about Linux. However, I do find myself in agreement with XMIR when he suggests that Second Life won’t be long in the world of the living once Sansar is properly open for business. I remember the reassurances when Sansar became generally known about, as many in SL were somewhat panicky. As others have noted, many have invested quite considerably over their time in Second Life and will be loathe to lose it all, as they most certainly will – not that they really owned it in the first place, did they?

    For my money, OpenSim still has the edge, and come what may, it will remain, in my opinion, a viable training ground for those who eventually wish to go off and do stuff in other places, such as High Fidleity/Sansar, assuming they are still around in 10 years time. I know that great things are predicted for VR, but I’m old enough to remember it the first time around, in the early 90s, and I don’t think that this time it will be any less a fad than it was in the early 90s.