Second Life CEO Ebbe Altberg speaks about their VR project, ‘Sansar’

by Upload • August 7th, 2015

The leader in user-created virtual experiences wants to make sure they maintain that standing. Upload’s Nick Ochoa got the opportunity to sit down (fireside chat style) with Linden Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg, to discuss what is being hailed as the WordPress of virtual reality. In development for two years now, Sansar essentially allows people to create virtual environments on a platform without all the technical know-how.

With a background in both visual art and computer science, Ebbe’s involvement in VR was somewhat foreseen. At Middlebury College, he would often go back and forth making visits to both the computer lab and the art studio. He jokingly recalls going back and forth between printmaking and coding.

Immediately after introductions, Ebbe touches on the high barriers to entry and technical rigor required to create VR experiences. Ebbe’s thesis throughout the interview is that you shouldn’t need to be a tech guru to create a VR experience. Linden believes that by eliminating some of these barriers it will enable users to focus on the design of the experience rather than the technical language behind it.

Sansar is being developed as a separate platform from its now 12-year old cousin Second Life partly because Linden could not get the frame rate up enough to create a smooth and comfortable VR experience. Built from the ground up, Sansar enables users to create quality virtual experiences by taking care of horizontal capabilities such as hosting, social and monetary support. Things might be a bit technical at first given some of the complexities of 3d modeling in Autodesk’s Maya (3D computer graphics software). However, everything afterward can be published with simply a push of a button which -in doing so- includes a link that can be shared and explored by others. This “Platform approach” is why many draw the comparison between Sansar and WordPress. Ebbe says that Sansar is “built in the spirit of Second Life but doing quite a few things differently.”

In regards to monetization, last year alone Second Life users cashed out of $60 million USD by creating and selling virtual content and experiences. One woman made $1.2 million USD or 300 million “Lindens” selling computer generated dresses. Compared to its cousin, land in Sansar will be cheaper and more abundant. However, instead of charging users upfront, Sansar will be making up the difference by capitalizing on the transactions made and taking a sales tax of the platform’s total GDP. This strategy will allow for meaningful infrastructure expansion and lower the financial barrier to entry.

Even though they are only a few weeks away from bringing aboard a few hand-picked test users, they are still about six months from a beta program and about a year away from any sort of formal launch. Linden has plans for Sansar to be in many devices including mobile. In the words of Ebbe, Linden Lab is “trying to build a Platform that will last decades” in what he sees as the “final medium for creativity.”

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