The first thought I had as this new Sansar video arrived in my inbox was how Linden Lab still seemed on track to deliver an accessible and very good looking product. As an increasing number of platforms scramble to lay their claim to the social VR space, Linden Lab steadfastly refuses to rush things, or deliver anything that looks half-baked. Yet in spite of that there haven’t been significant delays, and in the sometimes overhyped world of VR, delivering on one’s original promises can be a very exciting thing in itself.
The other thought that immediately followed was that I could practically hear the sound of collective outrage emanating from the faithful Second Life community as they heard Sansar described as something “unlike anything the world has ever seen before.” Not that it will stop most of them from being first in line to sign up for it, of course. Not only do those million or so SL users still put the platform to all sorts of creative uses, in fact, but many in the community were also chosen to join the highly skilled first batch of creators selected to put the closed version of the platform through its paces.
At the moment, however, they – along with the rest of us – will have to wait a while longer to get their hands on the platform. Sansar is set to remain in its invitation-only creator preview stage until Spring 2017, when it will go into open beta.
So while the two-minute video didn’t offer any earth-shattering new announcements, it does show plenty of stunning visuals, beautifully rendered movement, and impressive-looking UI. Apart from delivering a new slogan for Sansar (Created Reality) the voiceover generally reiterates all of the messages which its CEO Ebbe Altberg has been delivering ever since we first spoke with him for a fireside chat back in 2015 to discuss their plans for the Virtual Reality space. Over the years Linden Lab has continued to dedicate considerable expertise and resources to their budding VR platform, and it is probably fair to say we’ve been consistently impressed with the previews we’ve seen so far.
“No longer is VR limited to professional developers and engineers,” the narrator in the video promises. Users will be able to collaborate with other creators and innovators, re-create history, delighting friends, colleagues, customers and the entire world with their creations, she says.
In addition to the environments which we’re already familiar with from previous demos and screenshots, the video also showcases some action shots of the creator platform in action. The narrator tells us that it allows creators to easily generate, share and monetize content at the click of a button: “creators can upload original assets from common 3D formats, repurpose existing content, or get new assets from the ever-expanding Sansar store,” easily adding lighting, spatial sound and scripting and interacting with others through detailed avatars. We also get a glimpse of what the Sansar store looks like, with several items up for sale and prices listed in Sansar Dollars.
While it’s unlikely that trade inside this currently walled garden is booming (only a few hundred creators have been invited to the platform so far), Linden Lab is keen to build and populate a robust marketplace ahead of opening Sansar to the public. The ability to monetize is a cornerstone of the company’s strategy after all, much as it has been for Second Life – which still generates enough profit for the company to self-fund the development of Sansar.
Sansar continues to boldly claim it will transform the way we live our virtual lives from education and commerce to entertainment and live events.
“Get ready because the future of 3D creation and interactive social VR is coming,” she concludes as it’s revealed that the voice we’ve been hearing is in fact coming from an avatar sporting a t-shirt with the Sansar logo. There’s nothing unusual about her at first glance, but the lip sync is pretty impressive for those who know how hard that is to get just right. It’s something that Altberg and his team were particularly excited about when I met them in London last year – the way in which their tech can – regardless of what language you are speaking – coordinate your voice not only with your avatar’s mouth, but with the facial muscles and movement of their face so that it looks much more natural.
It remains to be seen how quickly this space will grow, but with improved headsets hitting the market in 2017 and prices already starting to drop, it looks like Sansar’s bet not to compromise on quality could pay off. While there are a lot of social VR platforms open to the public already, it is likely that consumers equipped with better quality headsets will also eventually crave better quality content, and this video confirms that Sansar certainly has the potential to deliver that.