I had a chance today to try the Second Life voice beta.
The demo requires a separate download, and only certain sims on the beta test grid are currently voice-enabled. I know that Spaceport Alpha and NMC and enabled. Apparently Abbotts, Lusk and Pulveria, are also voice-ready too. I’m sure the list will grow quickly.
When you speak a green wave form appears above your head. It fades to grey and vanishes when you stop, and goes red when you’re hurting other peoples ears. Here is Algernon complete with wave form…
And a bunch of people trying it out at Spaceport Alpha…
Some observations about voice chat:
- The waveform thing is nice, though rather basic. I don’t get the sense that it reacts to what is is being said. Rather, it gives a hint as to whether the avatar below is speaking quietly or loudly. Even having a hint of who might be speaking is useful though, and I found I could normally work it out even when some people just had an open mike (rather than using push-to-talk).
- The audio quality is crisp, but the 3 second (ish) delay leads to some strange satellite delay effects and odd pauses in conversation.
- The audio is stereo, and sensitive to distance. The connection between someone’s location and their voice is nice and obvious.
- … at least until you move your camera. Your virtual ears are affected by the position and angle of the camera, not your avatar. This means that you can listen in on remote conversations, but also that you stop hearing your local conversation when you focus elsewhere.
- Puppies get confused and playful when you put on a headset. The lead was very appealing to my 6 month old pup. A couple of us were racing to see who could have the first dog ‘speaking’ in Second Life.
- Despite the green waveform, it’s strange to be standing still with your hands still while you talk. However, this is being addressed. From the Voice Beta page…
This build also gives you the ability to “wear” an initial set of “speech gestures”. These speech gestures are randomly selected from nine different animations based on the intensity of your voice. These Gestures are currently located in your Library’s Gesture Folder (under “Speech Gestures”).
- There are three gesture “sets” of three gestures each for low, medium, and high speech intensity levels.
We will refine and add to the set of nine speech gestures in the next few builds.
I’ll be interested to see how this develops, and what other new features get added. I suspect that mute, which is currently not implemented, will be an important one.
I like it. I don’t think it will ever be my favourite way to communicate and I’m undecided how much I’ll use it, but it’s nice to try these things out.