Friday, 2 April 2010

Pros and Cons of Virtual Reality Part One

Part One of this post is to give a little background into virtual reality and Second Life. In part two I will dig a little deeper.

That's me above. Well, the virtual representation of me or better known as my "avatar" named LillyBeth Filth.

Strange name? 
Well, I thought it was funny at the time.
LillyBeth was derived from my real first name Elizabeth and what my Mum used to call me as a child.
Filth on the other hand was one of the default names from the drop down menu at the time of registering my new account, I was amused to see it there as an option and as I had no intention of actually staying in SL around that time, I didn't take my name seriously at all.

I am a member of Second Life and have been since 2004.

Second Life or SL as its better known with its members is a virtual world created in 2003 by Linden Labs. 

SL will probably go down in history as one of the first attempts of creating virtual reality. 

Having watched a movie called Surrogates recently I couldn't help but notice how the films characters look and behave like avatars in SL, and not in a good way either.

In SL you can be anything you want to be from an 8 foot busty blonde to a baby in a pram or even a dog. 

There are cultures and sub cultures created within SL which range from Gor (fantasy based masters and slaves with a sexual theme) to furies (animal avatars which again has a strong sexual theme) 
Of course, hard core members of these cultures may be offended by my simplistic description so I apologise in advance if I have not given credit to the more in depth social dynamics of such cultures.

People in SL can also get married, buy a home and even have babies which I won't get into at all !

SL's uniqueness is the fact it has its own economy meaning members can buy and sell the SL currency the "Linden Dollar" for real money on the Linden Currency Exchange

People make Linden Dollars in all kinds of ways but mainly by creating and selling content. 
Content in SL is the virtual version of almost everything you can buy in your real life but for a lot less.
Cars, houses, clothes, underwear, pets to name a hand full. 
But additionally you can buy animations, so if you wanted to dance like a disco diva in one of SLs many clubs you would need to buy the animation to do so.
Want to scuba dive under the ocean? You need to buy the correct animation and indeed the correct equipment to do so.
It's not that you would drown under the virtual ocean of SL (of course) but to "feel" the experience you need to look the part.

Even walking, running and flying can differ depending on which animation you buy and from whom. 

Want a new hair style? Buy one.
Want some new Ugg boots? Buy some. 
Want a realistic looking body complete with photo realistic sexual organs? Yep, you guessed it.. Buy one!

Oh, and going back to animations, you can also have sex in SL by buying very detailed and realistic animations from fellow members. 
Animations are made in programs like Poser but there are also SL based programs that allow you to create gestures and animations for your avatar too,  which of course you can then sell to others.

Clothing is created in programs like Photoshop and 3D applications like Poser or Daz and seriously, the list is endless as to what people make and others buy in SL and as you can see, if you have the time and skill to develop such content you have the potential to make real money from it.

I do not use SL for social reasons, I don't "play" SL. My role within SL is business. 

I own a texture store which was established in 2004 shortly after SL came out of beta.

SL often gets bad press with people saying its members are losers and basement dwellers and I guess thats true for many,  but it's no different from those people who spend their days playing any online game such as WOW or Eve Online or even console games like The Sims , etc. Moderation is key. 

And to defend SL, it's really NOT a game. There are no points, no winners, no losers... Ok maybe a few losers ... lol.. But it's really important to separate SL from online "games" 

Running a business in SL requires the same tools you would need to set up an e-commerce website on the internet.
Skill in creation whether that is learning to build in SL, learning the script (code) for SL or  learning a software program such as Blender, Photoshop, gimp , etc.

Commitment, self motivation, patience, marketing, customer care, and the willingness to work long hours, much longer than your standard 9 - 5 job for sure.

Be prepared to work 60+ hours a week, which I sometimes do and only 10% of my working time is spent actually logged into SL.

SL for some is a 3D social platform and for others a place to be creative and for a small minority a place to turn your creative skills into a real income. 

When SL opened it was no more than terrain, no houses, very simple basic avatars, no nice clothing or hair and we all walked around like ducks due to the lack of good animations. 

The SL you see today is down to all of its members creating everything you see around you. 
The scripting/code to make a car drive or a vending machine take and refund money and deliver products to the customer.
The clothing avatars wear, the houses they buy and spend time in, the textures that bring a building to life, animals, trees, plants, boats, cars, planes and even solar systems were all created by SL users and NOT by the creators of, Linden Labs. In order to truly appreciate that reality you need to see it and experience it.

And for those that mock users and say "get a real life!" I ask you this:
How many hours a week do you spend socialising in Facebook or Myspace?
How many hours have you lost playing games on Facebook? 
Even crappy text based games like Mafia Wars?
How many of you have "Cartooned" your profile pictures to create your own Facebook avatars or paid a dollar for some 2D picture of a Birthday cake to send your friend on their birthday?

Facebook is by all intents and purposes a very primitive version of Second Life. 

You just haven't caught up with us yet! 

But it's coming.

Linden Labs are already making plans to launch SL on Facebook as an "add on"
So you can still chat and play games with your long distance friends.
Only imagine doing so a 3D environment were you can create realistic avatar, chat in your own house,  play your music into that same house and invite your friends off Facebook over.
Go shopping for virtual clothes, buy a dog, walk it, go sky diving, play bingo, or golf.

If it all sounds a "bit much" now, I can assure you in 5 to 10 years people who do NOT use virtual reality in some form or another will be in the minority.

Here are some screen shots from Second Life to give you an idea of the potential and creativeness of its users.

Just remember everything you see in these pictures from the avatars to buildings, vehicles and landscapes were all made by us losers and basement dwellers.

The Look Of Virtual Reality

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