Educators looking for OpenSim alternatives to Second Life are currently limited to ReactionGrid or Jokaydia Grid, which is operated by ReactionGrid — unless they want to set up their own grid or join a multi-purpose grid that’s about more than just education.
That changed this week when Houston-based FireSabre Consulting, a virtual world developer focused on educational and non-profit clients, launched its own Starlight grid.
Starlight will run on a later version of OpenSim than ReactionGrid, and will not be hypergrid-enabled to offer additional security to schools.
ReactionGrid and Jokaydia Grid are both hypergrid-enabled, allowing students to teleport out to other grids such as New World Grid or FrancoGrid, which may have adult content.
“We have security and copyright concerns about hypergridding,” said FireSabre president Fred Fuchs. ” We also expect younger residents to be part of our project.”
The grid will have voice, and is currently testing both Freeswitch and Whisper.
“We’re also looking at other options,” Fuchs added. “We hope to get feedback from our residents on which they prefer.”
The maturity level of the grid will be appropriate to a young audience, he said.
“We expect to include students as young as 11 years old,” he said.
Universities who have curriculum content designed for older students will be able to have access controls that restrict younger students from visiting, he added.
FireSable will upload existing OAR files — region backups — for its clients, as well as IAR files — inventory backups.
“Our policies are driven both by the need to preserve copyright of content creators, and to allow educators to backup their content,” said Fuchs.
Ready-made, free OAR and IAR files are available from a number of sources.
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Pricing and usage
The basic cost of a region on Starlight is $60, with support for 40 to 50 simultaneous visitors and up to 15,000 prims.
This is a slightly higher price compared to Jokaydia Grid’s $25 regions, but also offers better performance.
“We offer higher performance regions which feature both more prims and support for more avatars,” said Fuchs.
In addition to the high performance regions — which can hold as many objects as two or more regular regions, and many more avatars — educators will also be able to rent half regions and quarter regions.
Educators will also be able to rent space in existing campus parks if they need to hold occasional events.
“These will allow users without the need for a full region — or even quarter region — to affordably collaborate and host learners in a well-designed space with rich content and professionally-developed infrastructure,” he said.
FireSabre also offers a-la-carte support and consulting, as well as subscription services.
“FireSabre started as an SLDEV provider,” Fuchs said. “We’ve specialized in virtual world projects for education and non-profit clients since we started the company more than five years ago. We’re continuing that focus by offering a professionally designed, hosted, and tuned OpenSim grid for education.”
Moving out from Second Life
To help educators make the switch to OpenSim, FireSabre is offering a $100 region migration service for Starlight customers — and does not insist that the customers be the creators of each piece of virtual content.
“We require the clients own rights to, or receive permissions to copy all content out of Second Life,” said Fuchs.
Many educational institutions use content created by outside consultants, teachers, or students — so there is no one single creator name on each object. In addition, many builds are created using open source components or images. Both of these factors make it difficult to export content using the standard third party viewers.
“Content transfers are discounted for those who obtain a region or more on our grid,” Fuchs added. “We will look at doing content transfer for other kinds of projects, but prices and policies may differ.”
Educators interested in finding out more can sign up for the Starlight closed beta program here.
Applications are limited to individual educators, educational institutions, non-profits and NGOs, and governmental institutions such as outreach and education programs.
“Starlight is an education-focused grid aimed at schools, museums and other educationally-oriented non-profits,” Fuchs said. “It will also provide a home for those dedicated individual educators who have used their own resources to create virtual world resources for their students and other learners.”