After nearly two years of anticipation, Linden Lab finally opened the virtual doors to the Sansar virtual reality simulation platform with the Sansar Creators Preview Open Beta, which starts today.
Linden Lab operates the hugely successful Second Life virtual-life simulation platform. After 14 years, Second Life still maintains a large user base, but the platform is long in the tooth and it’s not well suited for modern hardware, such as virtual reality. Sansar is a fresh start and a chance for Linden Lab to embrace the latest trends. The Sansar platform isn’t quite ready for prime time yet, but the company is opening the doors to anyone who’s interested in getting a head start on building content.
We’ve been waiting to hop into Sansar for a while now, and we expected to see the platform last year. Linden Lab first revealed Sansar (then known as Project Sansar) in September 2015. When we first spoke with Linden Lab CEO, Ebbe Altberg, about Sansar, he explained that the platform would offer a chance for anyone to create their own VR “simulation” that they could share with whomever they chose. Altberg also claimed that Linden Lab would release Sansar in 2016—a promise the company wasn’t able to deliver on.
In the nearly two years since we first learned of Sansar, we’ve seen very little of the platform, though Linden Lab has been busy putting the pieces together in the background. In February 2016, Linden Lab released the first set of screenshots of Sansar simulations, which gave a glimpse at the graphics quality of the platform's custom graphics enginer. In August 2016, the company selected the first round of creators to join the Sansar Creators Preview program to help seed content for the forthcoming platform launch. In January, Linden Lab rolled out the asset marketplace so Creator Preview members could begin to share the assets they’ve built, and make a little bit of money in the process. Linden Lab also formed an agreement with TurboSquid to offer hundreds of high quality professional 3D models for use in Sansar simulations.
The closed Sansar Creator Preview period worked out in Linden Lab’s favor. The company said it invited 2,000 creators to build assets and simulations on the Sansar platform, which resulted in the creation of 1,700 Sansar experiences for people to explore. With the Creator Preview open to the public, the number of Sansar simulations should increase quite a bit.
"Sansar democratizes social VR," said Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab. "Until now, complexity and cost have limited who could create and publish in this medium, and Sansar dramatically changes that. It's been inspiring to see the thousands of virtual creations that have already published with Sansar during our limited preview, and I'm looking forward to the explosion of creativity we'll see now that we’ve opened the doors in beta.”
Linden Lab tried to make the creation process simple enough for anyone to create a unique space. The Sansar simulation creator offers a drag-and-drop interface that lets you pull content from the asset store and plop it into your virtual space. You can also pull in custom assets from 3D modeling software.
Like Second Life, Sansar offers customizable character avatars that you can tailor to fit your personality. Sansar’s avatars, however, are much more advanced than those found in Second Life. Sansar avatars are coupled with IKinema’s full-body inverse kinematics technology to provide realistic avatar movements. Linden Lab also integrated Speech Graphics’ lip-syncing technology to offer real-time facial animation while you speak into your microphone.
Linden Lab said that Sansar is free to use, including the creation of your own custom space. Basic simulations would allow up to 35 concurrent avatars, but you can purchase additional capacity for as little as $10 per month if you wish to support more concurrent users in the same instance. Sansar also offers automatic instancing for when a simulation exceeds the maximum room capacity to allow you to share your simulation with an unlimited number of people.
The Sansar Creator Preview is now available in open beta for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PC users. Linden Lab didn’t say when it expects to release the full platform.