Philip Rosedale Addresses Silicon Valley VR, Demos High Fidelity

Philip Rosedale has delivered a pretty interesting presentation to the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality group. Aside from giving a decent demo of High Fidelity, Rosedale has a bunch of interesting points to make and even throws up a new definition of virtual reality:

Virtual Reality: A Sensory Experience in which the results of our actions are consistent with our past experiences

It’s an all-encomassing definition, but it’s one that works well in context of the other points he makes. Have a watch for yourself, but do note this is a pretty rough recording and apparently there will be a better version supplied down the track:

What’s your take? Would love to hear your comments.

Philip Rosedale spruiks new venture, talks down Second Life?

If you’ve followed the exploits of Linden Lab’s former CEO and current Chairman over the past year or so, you’ll know he’s been off creating something new. The New York Times has run a profile on that venture, Coffee and Power.

That venture seems interesting enough and leverages heavily the virtual currency model used for Second Life, in this case to purchase or receive payment for goods or services.

It’s very similar to a bunch of other services, though it seems a solid community is already being built up. Whether you need a garden gnome restored, someone to crochet an octopus for you or a Powerpoint presentation created for you, it can all be purchased.

What interested me most however, was this paragraph:

While he is still chairman of Linden Lab, the company that created Second life, Mr. Rosedale talks about that venture in the past tense.

“The problem with creating an immersive 3-D experience is that it is just too involved, and so it’s hard to get people to engage,” he said. “Smart people in rural areas, the handicapped, people looking for companionship, they love it. But you have to be highly motivated to get on and learn to use it.”

Assuming the quote is accurate, is that the message you want coming from the Chairman of your Board? There’s nothing in the statement I’d disagree with factually, but it still seems an interesting approach from someone who’s been aligned with Second Life from the beginning.

Over to you: a skewed story or an indication of malaise at the very top of Linden Lab?

Linden Lab CEO starts to turn the ship

For Second Life residents, this time of year usually generates a lot of interest due to the Second Life Community Convention. There’s no shortage of that interest this year given the tumultuous year to date and the return of Philip Rosedale to the CEO role. In a fairly relaxed presentation, Rosedale laid out Linden Lab’s plans for the remainder of this year and into 2011. Some of it he’d covered previously in communications on the official Lab blog and in-world, but there was also plenty of new information. Highlights included:

  • A rebuttal of press and resident perceptions that Linden Lab are financially challenged, emphasising that the Lab have been profitable “for years” and that they remain on a “stable footing”
  • An outline of the strategy-setting process undertaken on Rosedale’s return to the CEO role (not surprisingly there was no substantive comment on the previous CEO or layoffs) – the aim is now to make Second Life “Fast, Easy and Fun”. There was an admission that currently the platform isn’t meeting those aims on a regular basis
  • The tactical plan for delivering the faster, easier and more fun Second Life involves:
    • a “back to basics”  approach to identify fundamental flaws in user experience and to fix them – lag being the biggest target.
    • a focus on “winning back the lead” that involves further innovation in-world around content creation, with the promise of software updates as often as weekly, to deliver a much-improved Viewer in addition to background improvements
    • working on “the economy” in a way that ensures growth and makes digital content delivery easier – removing the ‘box on the head’ syndrome that new residents can experience
  • Specific improvements promised by end of 2010:
    • Fixing latency of group chat and problems with region crossings / teleports
    • The time from logging in to being able to effectively use Second Life will be improved by a factor of two
    • Reducing crash rates further
    • “Markedly change” the number of avatars per region – the actual increase isn’t being committed to at this stage, but the intention for 2011 is to deliver “big, big jumps”
    • Controls on avatar complexity in order to help deliver the previous four points
  • A second list of longer-term commitments:
    • Second Life mesh-based content now that bandwidth and highly complex prim constructions make it an option performance-wise (a beta-version will be available for testing by year’s end)
    • A more sophisticated naming system including elimination of the surname restriction and further name customisation options
    • Background downloading of Viewer update
    • Teen Second Life is officially on schedule for termination, with 16 and 17 year-olds allowed to access the main grid given the clearer boundaries around adult content
    • A nod to the iPad as a potential Second Life delivery platform

You can watch the full 45-minute presentation plus all the follow-up questions below – it’s worth listening to the Q&A session as it covers key areas like Search problems, interoperability :

The take-home message from the presentation? Philip Rosedale is certainly back in the company with a vengeance, and the announcement of the roadmap and proposed changes is encouraging. That said, the Teen Grid closure and avatar complexity controls are likely to generate significant debate.

Rosedale said himself in the presentation that delivering the promises is what counts – there’s been no shortage of promise previously, with some of it delivered. The ratio between the two needs to get to 1:1 for Second Life to have a fighting chance of long-term survival. The most encouraging aspect is that Linden Lab’s CEO seems to understand that this is likely the last big strategic route change they can make before concerns on Second Life’s viability become an urgent issue for the company.

Over to you: what stands out for you as the positive and negative aspects of the Lab’s proposed direction?

Make your predictions: Philip Rosedale’s next venture

Linden Lab Chairman (and former CEO) Philip Rosedale has let the Second Life community know he’s scaling back his day-to-day involvement with Linden Lab’s operations to focus on both his Chairmanship and a new venture. Not surprisingly he’s coy about the new venture, so it’s a perfect juncture for some speculation and hyperbole.

Fire away: what do you think the new venture is likely to be?

I’ll start off with both a conservative and a radical suggestion:

1. Conservative: a new business-centric virtual environment spin-off is created, that in no way leverages off Second Life.

2. Radical: Philip becomes CEO of an oil company to transition it to a renewable energy startup.

Over to you!

Linden Lab’s CEO steps aside

According to a Reuters story, Philip Rosedale (SL: Philip Linden) is standing down from his role as Linden Lab CEO. From what I can see it’s a Bill Gates-like decision of getting away from the day-to-day burdens of running a company to focus on wider issues.

If anything, this is likely to help the company and the initial response seems to be positive. I can’t see any fundamental shift in Linden Lab’s approach beyond getting some more discipline in its business operations. If the new CEO can achieve that discipline whilst maintaining Linden Lab’s relatively good transparency, there may be promising times ahead.

What do you think? How’s this likely to change Linden Lab and Second Life?

Other coverage:



Second Life Herald

Terra Nova

Virtual Worlds News

Sydney Morning Herald

Previous Posts