[Interview] Founder of $600M Virtual Economy Bets on VR
We got a chance to sit down with the founder of Second Life. In this interview, Philip Rosedale shares what he learned from making a virtual economy that generates over $600M in value every year. Get the full interview with So Tech Insider.
Philip Rosedale: High Fidelity is what I'm working on now. And that is basically an open virtual world like Second Life, but totally designed from the beginning for headsets. And you know, we're right in the middle of waiting for these headsets to come out and get more consumer friendly. So it's pretty fun stuff. We've spent about the last five years working on a lot of software to create this new VR platform.
Will Mason: Very cool. Which headsets are your eyes on and which headsets do you see succeeding in the industry going forward?
Philip Rosedale: Our experience is a high-end experience and it's based on getting people together in a space and letting them interact and have natural interactions. And do things like teach or ride roller coasters or whatever they want to do. We have built for the high end headsets, so we run on the Oculus Rift and on the HTC Vive. We don't run on the Oculus Go. We don't run on the Samsung Gear. And we don't run on Cardboard. We're excited about the new headsets that are coming out that do all the things that the PC headsets do. But they don't require a PC. So they let you walk around the room and track you as you move around. And they let you use your hands.
Will Mason: Which headsets, other than the Oculus Quest, are you referring to?
Philip Rosedale: The Quest obviously is one of the really exciting launches. But HTC has also launched and is going to continuously update their own very comparable product, which is called the Focus.
Will Mason: In designing your next set of virtual worlds, what have you been keeping in mind and what have you been doing to outpace your competitors? Like Facebook, who is developing "Spaces," "Venues," and other apps like that?
Philip Rosedale: Well, the big thing I think we're doing -- and this is what I learned from Second Life -- is to shoot for the moon. The impact of VR on society is going to be much bigger than what anybody thinks. In other words, the way VR is going to be used for things like virtual travel, virtual vacations, meetings, and school classrooms. Such as you read in Ready Player One, if you read that great book -- those applications are so big that we are soon going to have a billion people using VR in the same way that we have billions of people today using the Internet. And so, I think the thing that we're going to do right is we're designing something from the beginning that is designed to have Internet scale. Meaning you run your own servers and almost everything is open source. It's a very different kind of an architecture.
Will Mason: And so, the takeaway is that the privacy issues that we've seen with companies like Facebook, that have kind of come to light here recently, wouldn't be an issue if the architecture of the system is built correctly?
Philip Rosedale: The privacy issues that have dogged social media in the last couple of quarters-- it's difficult to imagine how much worse those problems would be if they were done wrong in VR. For example, when you walk into a server. When you walk into a VR space, you can recognize a person just from their body movements. And if you're wearing one of these headsets, your body's motions are being tracked. And so, everybody will have a cookie that is you whether you want them to or not. Other things like your mood, for example, can be seen through the motions of these VR devices. Then of course your voice and who you're looking at... and where you're standing. All these things are potentially recordable. And I think the only way that we can safely get to all of us using VR every day is if there is a distributed approach where nobody has all the data associated with your use. You might go into one server and I suppose that server might or might not track you. But that data is distributed over so many different sites that no one place has it together.
Will Mason: That is an awesome take on solving the privacy issues that we've seen as of late. So, once you've overcome this privacy issues and you have your virtual economy rolling, what in your experience with Second Life, do people spend money on in those virtual economies? What do people care about? Is it different than the real world or is it very similar?
Philip Rosedale: It's pretty similar. Second Life still has about a $600 million a year GDP economy. People in Second Life make about $65 million a year making and selling things to each other. So, big big economy. The largest things are clothes, hair for your avatar. You know, things related to how you present yourself to other people. Furniture is a big one. You know, if you build a conference room in VR, right? You want to put chairs in it. And you're going to buy your chairs from, let's say Herman Miller Digital Chairs. It's amazing how we've discovered through Second Life and High Fidelity that we imagine the world the way we imagine it. And so when we go into virtual worlds, we value and and approach things in much the same way…