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Saturday, May 3, 2014

High Fidelity - The Next Facebook, or the Next Second Life?

For all of you virtual world fans out there, there's a new kid on the block.  It's called High Fidelity, and it's a startup company with a lot of talented and visionary people associated with it.  Perhaps the two biggest names in the mix are Philip Rosedale, the creator of Second Life, and Peter Diamandis, the driving force behind the X-Prize Foundation.

Haven't heard of that?  The $20M prize purse offered by Diamandis and company resulted in SpaceShipOne becoming the first vehicle to carry a man into space, return, and do it again within two days.  That feat, in turn, led to Virgin Galactic and its SpaceShipTwo space tourism venture.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but Peter Diamandis makes history.  I don't mean he gets his face in the history books a lot, I mean he MAKES history.  He's what the corporatespeak guys call a "change agent."

And of course, Rosedale's vision resulted in Second Life, the biggest, oldest, and (in your correspondent's humble opinion) the best virtual world to date.  He's been involved in a couple of other startups since...not as successful, but even visionaries don't hit a home run every time.

This time, though, he, Diamandis, and the team at High Fidelity might just knock another one out of the ballpark.

High Fidelity is a concept for a virtual world.  ("Oh, yawn," I hear you say.  "Been there, done that, have the virtual T-shirt.")  But THIS virtual world could, maybe, do away with a lot of the shortcomings that plague SL and its brethren.

High Fidelity envisions a world where you become immersed, connected to your avatar and your world like never before.  Using things like the Kinect motion sensor, Leap Motion's gesture-based controller, and the Oculus Rift VR goggles, your avatar could move the way you do, look where you point your head in real life, and mirror your facial expressions.

It would be a wide, wide world, with the capacity for millions, not thousands, of concurrent users, with little or no lag.

It would be a world for creators, but with in world building tools far superior to the geometric primitive shapes of Second Life.  Instead, it will be based on "voxels."  A voxel is the 3D equivalent of a pixel...in fact the word is a mashup of "volume" and "pixel."  Voxels are a different, and some say better, way of representing 3D objects and worlds in digital space.

The name of the venture, High Fidelity, shows what they're working toward:  a much more realistic, immersive experience on all levels: the quality of the world, the quality of the avatars who inhabit it, the performance of the supporting system...everything, all of it a big step up.

It's very early days yet.  Everything is Under Construction.  But if you want to follow the latest news, or even get involved in the project, here's the website: https://highfidelity.io/

For a more detailed look at the state of development, see Inara Pey's post here: https://modemworld.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/high-fidelity-running-the-client/ 

Depending on the basic philosophy underlying how these new technologies are structured, the resulting product could be an anonymous world like SL, where you are free to be whoever and whatever you want to be, or it could be more like a 3D Facebook, in which an avatar that's close to the Real Life "you" meets and interacts with friends and colleagues from all over the planet.  Maybe it will be something in between, although (not being a visionary) I don't see how.  But however it turns out, the prospects are exciting.

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