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Linden Lab Opens Beta Version of New VR World to Public

Linden Lab, the company that built and developed Second Life, is well on to its next chapter as it opens up a “creator beta” of Sansar, a new social VR platform, to the public.

Sansar is initially being supported on two high-end VR platforms, the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, and can also run in 3D/360 on Windows PCs, so access is not being limited only to consumers with virtual reality headsets.

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Anyone with the right technical set up can enter Sansar for free under a basic set-up, though consumers can also buy additional capacity and customer support to creators through paid subscriptions that start at $9.99 per month.

Linden Lab said Sansar initially is comprised of a virtual Atlas that contains “hundreds” of VR experiences. Examples of those environments include Apollo 11- Sea of Tranquility, an experience from Loot Interactive that aims to create a “realistic and true-to-scale recreation of the Apollo 11 moon landing site.” Another one, Valencia (from Theanine) is a “surreal city with sprawling skyscrapers that defy the laws of physics,” while Secrets of the WorldWhale (from Teager) lets users explore an “eerie world on the back of an ancient whale and discover hidden treasure.”

Linden Lab said each “instance” of an experience is currently set up to allow more than 35 concurrent avatars.

Sansar also supports customizable avatars, and has partnered with Speech Graphics to provide what it calls “accurate avatar lip-syncing and facial animations” that enter play as users speak into the microphones on their head-mounted displays or audio headsets. Sansar also aims to emulate hand and arm movements by integrating IKinema’s middleware.

Similar in some ways to Second Life, the new Sansar world features a wide array of environments that are underpinned by an electronic economy whereby users can buy and sell digital items in “Sansar Dollars,” the unit of trade for the platform. In the beta creator version, for example, users can buy an astronaut suit for a female avatar for 500 Sansar Dollars, or a western hat for a male avatar for 100 Sansar Dollars.

“Sansar democratizes social VR,” Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab, said in a statement. “Until now, complexity and cost has limited who could create and publish in this medium, and Sansar dramatically changes that.”

Linden Lab started to seek applications for its creator preview in May 2016, hopeful at the time that a commercial rollout would happen by the end of 2016.

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Linden Labs is pushing ahead with Sansar amid hopes that social VR is set to reach the next level as next-gen platforms become more mainstream.

AltspaceVR, a social VR startup that included Comcast Ventures among its backers, announced last week that it was shutting down on August 3 after the startup’s attempts to secure a new round of funding fell through.

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