Earlier this week on Tuesday August 18, Linden Lab issued a press release saying that their next generation virtual world, currently called Project Sansar, was ready for testing and stated a "small number of volunteers have been exclusively invited" to help out.
Linden Lab stated they plan for Sansar to be able to be used, when ready for full release, by handheld devices, as well as being compatible with VR headsets such as Oculus Rift. They touted the next generation virtual world as able to "empower people to easily create, share, and monetize their own multi-user, interactive virtual experiences, without requiring engineering resources. ... eliminating the complicated challenges that today limit the medium to professional developers with significant resources." They did not go into detail as how this would be different from Second Life.
Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab's CEO (known inworld as Ebbe Linden), talked about "Lowering the barrier for VR experience creation. ... Project Sansar will do for virtual experiences what WordPress has done for the Web."
Slated for general availability in 2016, Project Sansar will democratize virtual reality as a creative medium. It will empower people to easily create, share, and monetize their own multi-user, interactive virtual experiences, without requiring engineering resources. The platform will enable professional-level quality and performance with exceptional visual fidelity, 3D audio, and physics simulation. Experiences created with Project Sansar will be optimized for VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, but also accessible via PCs and (at consumer launch) mobile devices. Users can explore and socialize within Project Sansar experiences through advanced expressive avatars, using text and voice chat.
“We want to lower the barrier of entry for VR experience creation,” said Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab. “Project Sansar will do for virtual experiences what WordPress has done for the Web: empower a broad range of people to create with professional quality and reach global audiences. By greatly expanding who can create virtual experiences, Project Sansar will also extend the value of VR to a wide variety of use-cases — from gaming and entertainment to education, architecture, art, community-building, business meetings, healthcare, conferences, training, and more.”
The small group of initial creators invited to help test Project Sansar will create 3D content using Autodesk’s Maya® software and will export their creations to the new platform. At consumer launch, Project Sansar will support a variety of third-party creation tools as well as native building options, so that creators can work with their preferred software.
In the coming months, Linden Lab will welcome additional creators and content partners to Project Sansar as new features are added to the platform and testing expands.
Linden Lab is also currently recruiting talented engineers to join the team developing Project Sansar. More information about working for Linden Lab, current positions, and applications can be found at lindenlab.com/careers.
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Daniel Voyager and Inara Pey have also reported about the announcement. "The Verge" also did an article, though it's choice of words, "fading from public view, was a virtual world in its own right," could be interpreted as saying Second Life was dead and closed.
Both Daniel Voyager and Inara Pey posted about a youtube in which Ebbe Linden discusses a few details about Sansar: https://youtu.be/2mQj7TpE-Wc . Inara also wrote an analysis of the talk.