Second Life comeback: Founder does not rely on VR
In a surprise move, Second Life founder Philip Rosedale returned to his original Metaverse project as a consultant. He continues to rate the potential of social VR as low.
Rosedale wanted to launch the virtual reality metaverse with the social platform High Fidelity long before Facebook became Meta. Despite investing millions, his idea failed. According to Rosedale, the main culprit was the technically unfinished VR glasses.
Now, surprisingly, Rosedale is investing leftover money from High Fidelity in Second Life, his first Metaverse project. Here he sees growth potential again – independent of VR.
Is VR not diverse enough?
Rosedale doesn’t yet have a big growth plan for Second Life. But his former favorite technology probably won’t make the list: The ex enthusiast continues to view VR skeptically. Among other things, he is bothered by what he sees as a one-sided user group.
“There are tons of people buying the Oculus Quest 2, but that doesn’t mean there are many people using it,” Rosedale tells Protocol.
According to Rosedale, not everyone is comfortable being isolated in virtual reality and therefore blind to reality. “It’s going to skew gender, age, and everything else in terms of how people use the devices,” Rosedale says.
For example, if not all groups of people put on VR goggles with the same enthusiasm, this could lead to problems when using VR in the workplace. “60 percent of people will be very uncomfortable using them, and 30 percent of people will say, ‘This is great.'”
Meta also plans to make its own social VR platform, Horizon, accessible without VR goggles on the monitor sooner rather than later, even though virtual reality is currently the central focus.
Avatar meetings are still too complicated for Rosedale
Regardless of VR, Rosedale thinks communication through avatars “misses things” and isn’t as effective as, say, a Zoom call. “We’re just not there yet,” Rosedale says.
Social gaming worlds like Roblox or Fortnite are popular, he said, but alternatives outside of gaming are lacking. “Going to a concert or a work meeting, those experiences don’t really work yet.”
Rosedale believes a reboot for Second Life would be difficult because the platform has grown over some 20 years and with it the economic and social conditions. Any change could break these evolved structures. He, therefore, does not rule out a wholly new project.
Rosedale considers it important for Second Life to focus on the mobile market, which Linden Lab missed when it launched in 2003. Other improvements could include webcam-based avatar tracking, support for more avatars in the same room at the same time, and a communication alternative to conventional video calls.
In any case, Rosedale will not rely on an advertising-based business model for either Second Life or any new project. “If the metaverse is going to succeed, it has to succeed on the basis of economic success,” he said.