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30 years of VR and Virtual Worlds

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Talk given at the University of Washington Reality Lab with my background, inspirations, Second Life, High Fidelity, and thoughts about the future of VR and AR.

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30 years of VR and Virtual Worlds

  1. 1. VR AND VIRTUAL WORLDS 30 YEARS OF WORK, SO FAR… Philip Rosedale Founder, Second Life Co-Founder, High Fidelity
  2. 2. Inspiration Early Experiments Second Life High Fidelity Thoughts on the Future…
  3. 3. 1984
  4. 4. 1991
  5. 5. So Second Life Grew Add picture of map and inset of live view 1992
  6. 6. So Second Life Grew Add picture of map and inset of live view 1994-1999
  7. 7. 1999
  8. 8. So Second Life Grew Add picture of map and inset of live view 1993
  9. 9. So Second Life Grew Add picture of map and inset of live view
  10. 10. So Second Life Grew Add picture of map and inset of live view
  11. 11. So Second Life Grew Add picture of map and inset of live view
  12. 12. Learnings from Second Life: Collaborative Live Building is fun Creative Economies can work “People are basically good” - Pierre Omidyar
  13. 13. 2012 Speed/Latency
  14. 14. <100 milliseconds to anywhere
  15. 15. Good Conversation requires <150 milliseconds delay
  16. 16. Parts List for the Metaverse: • 3D Audio • Big Crowds • Reputation • Payments • Connected Servers • Live Editing • Infinite Level of Detail • Programmable Matter
  17. 17. Hardware Challenges: (The Quest is good, but not good enough, yet) VR • Typing • Read Text • Wear all day AR • See-thru • Real-world location (respecting privacy)
  18. 18. Where is the Killer app? • Meeting new people isn’t enough anymore • What game do we all want to play? • EDU, but not on this hardware • What about working together?
  19. 19. It’s not all about gaming. Entertainment E-Commerce $100B $2.2T $4.4T $6.3T $7.6T Education TravelVideo Games
  20. 20. Really?
  21. 21. The Next Screen
  22. 22. As big as earth, and editable.
  23. 23. 1050 Instructions per second A Trillion Trillion times faster than today

Editor's Notes

  • I grew up in love with electronics and building things. I started with simple transistor circuits that made bird chirping sounds, and by the time I was in middle school I was making things like electronic music synthesizers and starting to program computers in Basic and Pascal, starting with a Timex-Sinclair that I got for $20 at a swap meet near our house. In 1984 I read this Scientific American article by Stephen Wolfram about automata, and I wrote the basic code to evolve a 1-D automata as is shown in the images. But it was too slow to look cool, so I figured out how to re-write it in assembly language on my aunt and uncle’s Apple IIe computer. This early exposure to the idea that computers could generate irreducibly complex patterns like that was inspiring and something I never forgot.

  • Afew years later, Windows had come out, and my friend Brock had one of those Mandelbrot set viewers where you could zoom in on a tiny bit of the image and watch the computer re-draw the mysterious new landscape found in those few pixels. We zoomed in over and over again until we ran out of precision and the screen turned to blue, then calculated how large the original image would now be, compared to the tiny tile we were staring at – and it was about the size of earth! As with the earlier automata, the idea that such beauty and staggering complexity could be encoded in a simple formula and expanded to be explored into the memory of the computer made me begin to dream about digital worlds in the same way most kids thought about space exploration.
  • Conway’s famous ‘game of life’ is a type of 2-dimensional automata, and people have come up with arrangements of the blocks that
  • Later, around 2006, I finally saw starlings at Brighton Beach in England, where we had an office. The idea that such amazing patterns could form with a few thousand birds has made me wonder what it would look like if there were instead a few million.
  • UC Berkeley installed Dactyl Nightmare around 1991. I flew up with my friend, spend all the money I had playing it maybe 4 times, and then stayed around and interviewed other people playing it to see what they thought.




  • Around 1992 I built a motion platform that took up most of my garage in San Diego, having just gotten out of college. Like an omni-directional treadmill, but sort of a nordic-track on top of a lazy susan, that could move to stay under your feet, always. Maybe. I didn’t know how I would do the headset.

  • So second life did grow and grow, and is the background is our own satellite image of some 40,000 machines, being used by millions of people, containing tens of terabytes of digital content, millions of screenshots and videos, and an internal economy of more than $600M per year in digital goods created and sold between the people there. I could show you pictures for weeks, and never even begin to capture it all.

    But now let me look at a few parts of Second Life today that I think are signposts for the likely future of virtual worlds.
  • So second life did grow and grow, and is the background is our own satellite image of some 40,000 machines, being used by millions of people, containing tens of terabytes of digital content, millions of screenshots and videos, and an internal economy of more than $600M per year in digital goods created and sold between the people there. I could show you pictures for weeks, and never even begin to capture it all.

    But now let me look at a few parts of Second Life today that I think are signposts for the likely future of virtual worlds.
  • So second life did grow and grow, and is the background is our own satellite image of some 40,000 machines, being used by millions of people, containing tens of terabytes of digital content, millions of screenshots and videos, and an internal economy of more than $600M per year in digital goods created and sold between the people there. I could show you pictures for weeks, and never even begin to capture it all.

    But now let me look at a few parts of Second Life today that I think are signposts for the likely future of virtual worlds.

  • Now another piece of good news that the earth is the size that it is. Because the delay imposed by modern routers is rapidly approaching zero, the one-way latency for a packet to get half-way around the earth is approaching the speed of light in optical fiber… which is… you guessed it… 100msecs. And in fact this is very

    So if we do it right, we can use virtual worlds to connect everyone on earth in a face-to-face experience in which the delay for most things - certainly chatting or even throwing things back and forth - is unnoticeable.


  • So it turns out that in 2003, the ITU made a pretty careful analysis of how much one-way latency people were willing to tolerate in an audio conversation, in response to the rise of Voice over IP.
    The ITU made a study in 2003 of what one-way delay was acceptable for telephone communication and basically their report (which is consistent with our own findings) was that less than 150 milliseconds was pretty OK.
  • Our first prototype, the experiment that in many ways was the start of High Fidelity, was this gadget: we put a gyro and accelerometer - the same sort that are in the Oculus Rift or your iPhone - on a pair of glasses so that we could capture the motion of the head and use it to drive a very simple avatar.

    Here is what that looked like:

  • And the result of that is what you see in this video, was a big part of what made us start the company. The feeling of looking at this very simple avatar so accurately copying your exact head movements with very low delay was very powerful and exciting.

    Fast forward to today, and we’re experimenting with capturing both the head and hand as part of both animating your avatar as well as manipulating the world, and that is what you see in this next video.

    <audio down>
  • And the result of that is what you see in this video, was a big part of what made us start the company. The feeling of looking at this very simple avatar so accurately copying your exact head movements with very low delay was very powerful and exciting.

    Fast forward to today, and we’re experimenting with capturing both the head and hand as part of both animating your avatar as well as manipulating the world, and that is what you see in this next video.

    <audio down>
  • And the result of that is what you see in this video, was a big part of what made us start the company. The feeling of looking at this very simple avatar so accurately copying your exact head movements with very low delay was very powerful and exciting.

    Fast forward to today, and we’re experimenting with capturing both the head and hand as part of both animating your avatar as well as manipulating the world, and that is what you see in this next video.

    <audio down>


  • <audio down>

  • Now another piece of good news that the earth is the size that it is. Because the delay imposed by modern routers is rapidly approaching zero, the one-way latency for a packet to get half-way around the earth is approaching the speed of light in optical fiber… which is… you guessed it… 100msecs. And in fact this is very

    So if we do it right, we can use virtual worlds to connect everyone on earth in a face-to-face experience in which the delay for most things - certainly chatting or even throwing things back and forth - is unnoticeable.


  • Will this change be good for us? Second Life and early experiences in VR suggest that it certainly will be. At this recent load test we were able to get 430 people together in one place. There were groups from Russia, Israel, the far east, south America - all in the same town square, able to hear each other. I met a group there of guys who had met online and come to the event together - from Russia, The Ukraine, and Belarus. Fundamentally, VR will be able to make the world a much smaller place. What happens if people in russian and iran and new york and texas can stand face to face and look in each others eyes, and shake hands?
  • Taken together, VR will impact markets that are hundreds of times larger than video games.

  • Now another piece of good news that the earth is the size that it is. Because the delay imposed by modern routers is rapidly approaching zero, the one-way latency for a packet to get half-way around the earth is approaching the speed of light in optical fiber… which is… you guessed it… 100msecs. And in fact this is very

    So if we do it right, we can use virtual worlds to connect everyone on earth in a face-to-face experience in which the delay for most things - certainly chatting or even throwing things back and forth - is unnoticeable.


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