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Inside High Fidelity, the virtual reality successor to 'Second Life'

May 21, 2014 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Adi Robertson / The Verge

A crude hint of how physical connection could invade the online world

As virtual reality gains steam, the question of virtual worlds is never far behind. Philip Rosedale is best known for online community Second Life. But since last year, we've been watching for news on High Fidelity, a new project meant to blend his previous work with cutting-edge telepresence technology. The system, announced in 2013, was compared to the OASIS of Ready Player One: a series of worlds connected to each other by a central network and economy, provided -- obviously -- by Rosedale himself. At the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Conference in Mountain View, we're seeing the first hints of what that could mean, as well as a sense of the many hurdles left to jump.


Where Second Life is housed on hundreds of thousands of Linden Lab machines, High Fidelity worlds would be distributed across the user base. "We could potentially go from 600,000 or so servers to 600 million," says Rosedale. If you're on one world, you can see others in the sky and travel between them, watching blocky Minecraft-like environments resolve to detailed landscapes as you get closer. As computers advance, so will the possibilities. "The virtual worlds of the future are going to look like Pandora from Avatar. And once we can build things in those worlds, I would assert that even people who are passionate about VR, here, have no idea what is coming," he says. "We're going to be arguing over the price of real estate in the forests of Pandora."

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