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 — 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,, 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 – 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 Korolov