Lab Chat #1: Ebbe Altberg – General Q&A

Concerning Sansar Introduction

This page is a part of the transcript of the Lab Chat interview with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg (in his alter ego of Ebbe Linden) held in-world on Thursday, November 19th, 2015. In particular, it covers the general Q&A session at the end of the recording, in which Ebbe addressed questions from the audience.

If you have arrived at this page first, or wish to read other sections of the transcript, please use the navigation links at the top of this page, or in the Quick Links below to vist other sections of the transcript, including the introduction.

 

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Jo Yardley, Ebbe Linden and Saffia Widdershins
Jo Yardley, Ebbe Linden and Saffia Widdershins

Advertising and marketing Second Life and Sansar

Will Linden Lab continue to advertise and promote Second Life even after Sansar has been released? And will that budget remain the same as it is now, or will Second Life share that budget with Sansar?

Yes, we will continue to advertise Second Life because there will be things Second Life can do quite a ways beyond Sansar opening the doors, that Sansar can’t yet do. And in the beginning, we will spend more of our energy acquiring creators that can then go acquire users for their experiences. Maybe less so focusing in the beginning on creators that will create something and then expect us to deliver customers to their experience.

Over time and as volume begins to happen, and as people discover more things, we will obviously do what we can to make it easy for people to discover other experiences, and start to figure out how to move people around all the experiences that could be relevant to them.

But in the beginning it will be very focused on acquiring creators that can creation creations that will have the ability to attract audiences without the expectation that we’re going to provide all of that.

As for how the budget will be distributed, it’s too early to tell. I mean, we don’t know yet when Sansar will have what types of growth rates; we can put all kinds of charts of the walls that show lines going up and to the right with all kinds of different angles. But until you actually do it, it’s a lot of speculation. So I think it’s too early to tell what the transition might look like, or the two being there side-by-side. you know, how many users will choose to go from Second Life to Sansar, at what rate, at what time. So i think we just have to start, and then play it as we start to see things.

But I would expect to see us to continue to maintain Second Life from a marketing perspective, and development, etc., for a long time after Sansar starts to reveal itself.

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Is there an official name for Project Sansar yet?

 

No, we have not. We’re getting close to the end. Oh my God, it’s a really painful process, and no matter what we do, there’s always going to be some people who go, “What?! What’s that name?”

After a while, you start to look at all the options you have available to you where you can get a dot com, and you can get this and you can get that, and it doesn’t mean something horrible in Spanish, etc. Then you only have so many options, and at some point they start looking like things that could be anything. Ultimately, it will probably be a word that can be anything, and then it’s up to us to actually craft it to become something, rather than the expectation that it’s going to be completely obvious right from Day 1.

It has to be something you can spell in lots of languages, you can pronounce it in a lot of languages, and then at the same time it can maybe give you a hint or an idea of what’s there, without being just super boring and obvious like, “virtual VR worlds”.

We’re quite far down the process; we’re down to a shortlist, and we’re now working with a team to make sure that its vetted as far as the usability of those names across markets, that we can get rights to them, etc. So I hope we’ll have it soon; before the end of this year. So, it’s ongoing, but its still a ways for the product to reveal itself.

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Sansar Scripting Language and Tools to Promote Experiences

 

What programming languages will Sansar Support, and will it support LSL?

We’ve said for a while now that the scripting language for Sansar will be C#, so you will have a modern language and you can use modern IDEs, like Visual Studio, to programme these scripts. I’m looking forward to seeing how tight we can make the integration so that you can really walk between the work you’re doing in Sansar and to a proper code editor, back and forth in a fluid way and giving people real tools for debugging, etc.

Linden Scripting Language will not be supported as-is. I’m guessing someone will try to do some kind of converter; we’re not actively working on such a beast. but C# is where it starts. And it might be there are other languages that, over time, could be supported, because we’ll be on a runtime that could support more than just one kind of language. But for now, we’re focused on making sure we get a good API and C# out there as soon as possible.

We have some basic scripting capabilities in Sansar today; we run around with our avatars and shoot cannon balls just to test things, but there’s still a lot to do to make that extremely scalable, extremely performant, extremely secure, but with a real, proper programming language like C#.

If you want creators to provide the audience in Sansar, will you be providing tools like Steam doe, to promote your experiences?

You mean like get placed in a directory of some kind? Over time, I’m sure, yes … We want to think about how we can collect the right kind of metadata associated with an experience so that we can easily surface this experience in various ways, whether it’s from external search engines. We want each experience by default to have an associated web page so that each experience can actually get SEO traffic, and have its own landing page, and then over time figure out how we can make it easy for creators to customise those landing pages or ultimately to provide their own if they’d rather have highly sophisticated websites that can lead people into these experiences.

And that metadata is what will ultimately help us with search, with creating directories, and then ultimately at some point also once we get to a certain volume we can start to infer, “Hey! I’ve seen you like these three experiences. Well, maybe you’ll also like these four other experiences, because we’ve noticed other people who also like those, also like these.” and try to help people discover experiences.

But you have to get to a certain volume for those types of things to make sense; but if we start with making sure we get the right data collected in a good way for each experience, then we can start to apply those things on top of that.

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Why can’t we have mirrors in Second Life, and will Sansar have mirrors?

 

The basic prim-based mirror capability only works with ALM disabled on the viewer, and is said to incur significant rendering overheads
The basic prim-based mirror capability only works with ALM disabled on the viewer, and is said to incur significant rendering overheads

I don’t know yet. I know mirrors is kind-of complicated. I don’t exactly know why, but I can sort-of understand why it’s complicated; when you think about how you have to handle lighting. but we’re certainly going to support a whole lot more, over time, capabilities in our rendering engine than Second Life could.

We’re actually re-writing the rendering engine that we have in Sansar right now yet again, because we realised the flexibility by which we could add more quickly on top of the architecture we had would constrain ourselves down the road. So we just made the decision that we’d do it right, so a small team with really talented people is cranking away on that, and that should be done in the end of Q1 time frame.

So that will flip Sansar from being on the current renderer to a new renderer. That new renderer will also be able to take advantage of hardware on a per-platform basis, so Direct X on Windows platforms and Metal on iOS platforms, etc., so that we can be even more performant. And then as well, gives us more flexibility to pile features on top, whether it’s things like water or atmospherics; all kinds of things that we all want.

But when each one of those features will actually arrive? I don’t know. I just know that it’s going to be possible. As far as mirrors, I don’t know for sure; it’s kind of a unique problem in of itself and i would have to ask some people if we expect mirrors.

Someone said about third-party developers have worked out a way of doing mirrors[1]. they would need to talk to linden Lab developers about doing that. It would be fun to have.

I would love to have them, especially in VR, because when you’re in the world and to be able to see yourself. personally I think a first-person view in VR makes more sense, for me at least; but that all depends on the experience and it’s up to the creator and users and various use-cases.

I don’t know it you need to be able to get dressed and see my appearance in front of me, rather than do an out-of-body experience and move to look at myself, makes a lot of sense.

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How will IP and copyright infringements be handled in Sansar, and will the Lab get tougher on infringers in SL?

We have a couple of people here [in the audience] and that’s pretty much all they do, is act on these sort of requests. and obviously, we have to build a system where it’s easy to take content down when it’s found to be infringing for whatever reason. So that’s a core capability. If you’re dealing with user-generated content [UGC], this is just an ability to have to have; to efficiently manage the process of take-down requests, being able to investigate those, and then taking action on those, and make sure that all the various parties are correctly informed about these actions and why.

And the people working on that right now don’t necessarily have the best tools they could have, and they could probably be a lot more efficient if we streamlined some of the tools they use. So that is something that we will just have to do. You just can’t get away with a user-created platform like this without those capabilities.

As to whether we need to be more strict than we are already today, I’m not sure. I think the team we have today is doing a fantastic job as it is, so I’m not sure if we need significant changes there right now. Although I know the team would love to have the improvements to the tools they have to use every day to do their jobs.

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Encouraging Second Life Creators to engage with Project Sansar

 

There are several 3D worlds being built right now: high Fidelity, Google, Facebook, Oculus Rift, etc. The advantage Linden lab has in Second Life is the content creators in Second Life, and they could bring them with them. The greatest creative tem in 3D world right now is here in Second Life. How are you trying to take them with you and not have them divide their work over all these worlds?

Well, one thing is that we obviously try to continue to make Second Life better and better, so that people don’t find reasons to leave. And I think the team has done a pretty good job lately, whether it’s new avatars or better performance, and we’re going to continue, and continue with some of the things that I spoke about earlier.

And the other one is to make the opportunity to participate in Sansar to be something that would be more convenient and easier to do than in any other competitive choices that are out there. Certainly, it would be easier for you if you could just wholesale throw your content over and it would just work as you want it on Day 1. but unfortunately, we have to take a – call it a backward compatibility break – in order to move into the future; so we couldn’t offer that directly.

Hopefully you guys will understand that if you work with mesh, if you maybe start to sharpen your C# skills, then you will have assets and skills that will be completely relevant for you to get up and going quickly in creating in Sansar.

Like I said earlier, we do want to find some way to make it not too burdensome for creators to participate in both Second Life and Sansar simultaneously. So we’ll think about what the right model for that is. But we obviously want to make sure that we retain all these incredible creators we have on Second Life, whether they decide to remain in Second Life or play in Sansar or both.

The creator is our primary customer, and our job is to make creators work on our platforms more than any other.

In acquiring creators from Second Life to Sansar. Can there be any way to help make the transition eaiser for existing business owners in the way of some sort of business insurance plan or reduced tier until the new economy gets going?

Yeah, that’s what I was talking about earlier. I think we need to offer something unique and special for our existing customers in Second Life when it comes to access and cost associated with Sansar. To give you the time to transition over, a reasonable time frame, without having to get hit with full costs on both sides. I think that’s something we have to figure out. More to come on that.

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Will it be possible to do voice and text chat simultaneously in Sansar (i.e. voice-to text transcription)?

This question has come up quite a few times before. I think the text-to speech and speech-to-text conversion process is getting better and better and better. And whether it’s a service offered by Google or by Microsoft – I mean, we’re certainly not going to write that converter ourselves – but services are available on the market at some price, where it wouldn’t be too hard for us to plug in to one of those services so that you could have speech-to-text or text-to speech conversion.

And now we’re even getting what you’re getting in Skype; some day here you’ll be able to have two people talking to each other in different languages and have it converted on-the-fly; which would be really cool, as well for people from different countries being able to speak their local language but understand each other.

I think those things will all come; it’s not something we’re working to solve, but I think once the pricing and the availability of those capabilities are out there in the market – which I think they are already out there, I just don’t know if they’re in the price range yet for us to be able to use them wholesale across the whole system without incurring extra fees when it’s maybe not used that often. So we would have to introduce those.

But I don’t think those are going to be particularly difficult to do. It’s probably more of a timing and pricing / cost thing, than a technical thing.

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Building Communities in Project Sansar

 

The hard part for me is that I’m part of a community of people, not a business. How can an existing community be served under a Sansar model?

So what’s the social infrastructure? how do you belong to a community? how do you manage a community? How do you leave a community? How do you find a community? and then how do community leaders manage communities, communicate with communities, organise communities. There’s a lot of things around those things that I think are going to be powerful over time, and we have to decide ….

… There’s possibilities of things we can do, and there’s possibilities of how we can integrate with other platforms for some of these things; but we will have some sort of social fabric where you can have connections, call them friends, and over time you have to figure out how do I group them, and what actions can I take with these group? Can I mail these groups, can i chat with these groups?

So there’s a lot we want to do there, but it’s clear to us that obviously allowing people to form communities and belong [to] and manage communities is a critical piece of a social product. I mean, this is ultimately a social product. So making it easy for people to have social experiences and manage their social relationships and communities is going to be critical, absolutely.

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Project Sansar Personas

 

You mentioned at SL12B, you mentioned that Sansar users may have multiple personas for accounts allowing us shared inventory. Will these multiple personas be able to be simultaneously logged-in, such as for a group photo or video, etc?

I’m not sure about that last piece. we’re trying to make it so that it’s easy for users to manage multiple personas. I mean it’s not that easy in Second Life; you have to go all the way out, you have to create a new account, you have to log back in… Is it easier for me to swap them because I’m going to different contexts or different experiences where it makes sense for me to have a different persona.. and in some experiences, the persona – what your avatar looks like – will be dictated by the creator of an experience.

I mean, if you’re coming into my game or into my world, here are your options for what you can look like, what you pick. and it’s up to the creator to choose. If you’re coming into my space thing, you’re going to be an astronaut, you can’t come in here as a hippy in flip-flops; it’s going to be braking that experience.

So how do we make it easier for people to bop in and around all these experiences and manage these personas without having to create all these alt accounts, and then the alt accounts create headaches for our users and they create headaches for us to. with all these accounts, it’s hard to keep track of what they’re for. So we’ve built the notion of these personas into Sansar platform from the beginning.

When we choose to expose the front-end to manage multiple personas is still TBD. We’re building it with the idea that you can have multiple personas, but I have no idea if you can actually be in-world in each of these personas simultaneously for a group photo like that. It sounds like the answer is no, in my head, but I haven’t heard that come up before, so that’s something for the team to speak to.

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How are Second Life and Sansar working with Oculus Rift and with mobile? Will Google Cardboard be supported?

Clearly, we’re working very closely with the Oculus hardware and making sure that Sansar experiences are smooth and comfortable with as current Oculus hardware as we can possibly have. and we will be working with other HMD, or head mounted display, vendors as well, to make sure that we work with those.

Once we get to the mobile stuff, like Gear VR, or the Cardboard stuff; that’s where you start to be in a really difficult place. So I would say that from a technical complexity of what content can you run in a rich, immersive way, I would say the easiest is probably PC, then it’s Oculus maybe, then it’s mobile, and then VR mobile is the most difficult because you have the burden of stereoscopic. You have to render everything twice, you have to do it at a high frame rate, you have to deal with the fact that the content created by users who are not necessarily creating content with that type of target platform in mind.

I mean, on the Gear VR, you start to peak out at around 50,000 polygons. The experience we’re sitting in here, I don’t know what the polygon count is, but I’m pretty damned sure that it’s going to blow the 50,000 budget out of the water. So over time, we want to figure out how to make it possible for creators to understand what devices is their content even appropriate for. I mean, you can reach a point where we just say, “Sorry, you’re past the point of being a reasonable experience for Gear VR or Cardboard”; there’s too much going on: to many textures, too many polygons.

Then you back up from there, and you reach a point where you say, “Sorry, you’ve blown your budget for what’s possible on even a high-end gaming machine with an Oculus. You’re now in the domain of an exclusively PC experience.”

So, how do we make content creators understand what devices their content could possibly run on, is something we have to think a lot about. Over time, we’ll probably have to do runtime diagnostics to understand what experiences are actually performing in a reasonable way across different platforms , and then at some point maybe say, “Sorry, this experience can’t be entered into on this device, because you don’t have enough horsepower to have it function properly.

Whether it’s automated or hand curated in some form to basically say, “These are the experiences that you can run on a PC; here’s a subset of those you can run on an Oculus; and here’s another subset of that you can actually run on a Gear VR type of device”. That’s something we have to think through.

And on top of that, we’re trying to make sure we do what we can with automatic content optimisation and performance improvement stuff like automatic polygon reduction techniques to make content more performant across more devices. So we want to figure out how to educate the creators as much as possible about what they can expect about how their content can be consumed.

Clearly, the most users will have access to the least performant experiences. so you start with a Cardboard [device], then you go to a Gear VR. The more performant, the better the experience gets, the fewer the users you’re going to have that have access to that type of hardware.

We would love to make sure that users can create really fun cool experiences that even people on Cardboard and Gear VR can consume. But at the same time, if you want to have a really rich experience, especially a social, multi-user, rich experience, I don’t expect too much of that to happen on a Gear VR. I think then you’ll be on PCs and Oculus type hardware to get that level of immersion.

There’s a lot of other shortcoming too, with the mobile stuff not having proper tracking of where you are in 3D space, which sort-of forces you to create different types of experiences when you can’t have that instantaneous feedback of where you are positioned within 3D space like you can with an Oculus or a Vive or a Sony.

And it’s going to be over the next several years for VR hardware to reach a broad enough audience for that to be a primary use case for a lot of people. Which is why we make Sansar in such a way that you can consume it just as well on a PC or mobile as you can with VR hardware. And that’s going to be the case for quite a while, and some use cases will probably prefer to be done on a PC for quite a long time.

So I’m extremely bullish and extremely excited about VR hardware, but I’m also being quite realistic that it’s going to be many years before that is sort-of a huge market that you can address in a clean way. It’s going to be messy for a while, there’s no doubt. There’s going to be a lot of fragmentation with these companies, Google and Microsoft and Facebook. It’s probably just a matter of time before Apple comes out with something. It’s like the mess you have on mobile: Android, iOS.

At least there you’re just dealing with two, more-or-less; Microsoft is so far behind, you kind of focus on two kinds of platform. For VR, it’ll be quite a bit messier than that for a while before things shake out and we see who the winners will be that will capture a large audience and which ones will be the people on the edge who will never get a big audience.

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Concerning Sansar Introduction

Notes

  1. A means to create “fake” mirrors using water has been know for some time – see Zonja Capalini’s blog post on the subject from 2009. more recently, Zi Ree of the Firestorm team experimented with creating prim based mirrors in Second Life, and raised a feature request JIRA – STORM-2055. However, the approach was basic, and required user to run the viewer with the Advanced Lighting Model turned off, and was deemed by the Lab (and others) to be a technically expensive capability to implement (see the JIRA notes).