When I can this week, I’m attending the VWBPE conference in Second Life and on the OSGrid. The keynote talk today was given by Philip Rosedale, CEO of High Fidelity and founder/previous CEO of Linden Labs.
He began by talking about the book Ready Player One, which I haven’t read yet. Guess I should, eh?
Much of his talk was about the restrictions of our current ways to move and communicate in virtual worlds and how we are so constrained by the mouse and keyboard. With today’s limitations, it is challenging and there is a steep learning curve to have rich communication.
Here are a few key points that he explored that resonated with me:
Hardware – He spoke about going beyond the mouse to use other devices, like the Oculus Rift, which gives presence and more degrees of freedom (Rosedale describes the Oculus that will eventually be released as “just unbelievable”). He also talked about the Razer Hydra controllers being used for High Fidelity now, that allow people to talk with their hands, and the STEM system from Sixense, which allows upper body movement and grabbing objects.
Latency – An important consideration is what amount of latency can occur before the “magic” is lost, whether in the perception of presence or for interpersonal communication. 15 milliseconds is about the maximum latency that allows two separated musicians to play together, which is a model he used for considering remote interaction. For two people having a conversation, reasonable latency is closer to 100 milliseconds. Unlike 15 milliseconds, that’s technically possible! (Rosedale said that our cellphones now have about 500 milliseconds of latency — no wonder I hate talking on mine — and Skype with video is about 250 milliseconds.) 100 milliseconds is the ping time halfway around the world, so if that can be done consistently, we should be able to have natural interactions no matter the distance apart the conversants are on Earth.
Identity – This is fascinating to me. Rosedale talked about identity being more customizable in future shared worlds and that it won’t be like it is in Second Life now, where we each have one identity that floats above our heads and can be used as a way to look us up in a directory. Also, there is a need for a validated identity, to verify who you are to coworkers or as a student attending a class. He posted about this in a thought-provoking recent post on the High Fidelity blog.
Exchange/Marketplace – Rosedale described the future as many connected virtual worlds, far larger than anything that exists today, and a need will exist for commerce and portability of goods from one world to another.
Scale – He mentioned how the amphitheater he was speaking in could fit thousands of people, but because of the constraints of the virtual world, only a few hundred could really listen and interact. I showed up before the event began, yet this was my “seat”:
I hovered in a nearby region so that I could zoom in my camera to view the event, but I had to open the livestream in a browser window to hear the audio and I could see none of the text chat. Here’s part of the amphitheater audience from the speaker’s point of view:
The future of virtual worlds will need a new way of using cloud computing (or a similar framework) to enable enough power for scaling that will be necessary.
A member of the audience asked if High Fidelity will make Second Life obsolete, and the answer seemed to be no. In the audience was Ebbe Altberg, the new CEO of Linden Labs, who will be speaking later in the conference this week.
Bottom line: New devices will allow mainstream users to enter virtual worlds, because they won’t face the learning curve of the first generation. Communication will be more interactive, with physical contact and movement that isn’t constrained by the keyboard and mouse. Technology needs to provide low latency and massive scale.
Good talk. Can’t wait to hear more!