February 27, 2007 4:45 AM PST

Integrated voice coming to 'Second Life'

Second Life users who want to chat up those cute avatars across the virtual room can soon try to lure them over with voice rather than text.

Next week, Second Life publisher Linden Lab plans to unveil a small beta trial in which, for the first time, people will have access to integrated voice chat.

The company plans to launch the beta for all users by the end of March, it said.

Until now, Second Life users wanting to communicate with one another have had two basic choices: text chat--either personal or in a group setting--or the use of a third-party voice application like Skype.

But starting March 6, a limited number of people will be able to try out the new integrated voice chat, either in group mode--in which anyone with the feature enabled will be able to hear voice conversations in their immediate proximity--personal voice chat, or group voice chat.

"I will be using it a lot, an incredible amount."
--Terry Beaubois,
Montana State University

The latter two options don't require people to be near one other to have a voice conversation.

And because Second Life is a virtual world in which almost all land is privately owned, Linden Lab plans to give land owners the power to decide whether to turn on voice on their property.

For many Second Life users, integrated voice has been one of the most wanted in a long list of sought-after features. That's because it can allow them to have conversations that are more natural and free-flowing than in text, and potentially more reliable than a third-party option.

"I will be using it a lot, an incredible amount," said Terry Beaubois, the director of the Creative Research Lab in the College of Arts and Architecture at Montana State University. "It can actually extend your functional use of Second Life. When I'm in Second Life talking to someone with a headset, I can go longer periods of time before I feel like I have to take a break."

To be sure, Second Life isn't the first virtual world to integrate voice chat. In fact, There.com has had that feature since late 2003.

By comparison, many Second Life residents have been clamoring for voice since its launch in 2003, and especially since There.com launched the feature.

Until now, Linden Lab had been vague about if and when it would incorporate voice directly into the Second Life client software.

But with the proliferation of Skype and other applications like TeamSpeak or Ventrilo--which people often pipe into Second Life and into online games like World of Warcraft--the technology has appeared to be more possible. And it seemed more like a matter of when--not if--Linden Lab would get on board.

"We've been working on this for quite a while," said Joe Miller, Linden Lab's vice president of platform and technology development. "I think there was some skepticism that we'd be putting something out this soon. It's been in the works for 8 to 10 months in earnest. Voice has been viewed as a key missing piece to the overall solution."

Of course, as any Second Life user who has been around for a while knows, new features can be buggy or break other features.

But that's why Linden Lab plans to beta test voice with a small group of users for several weeks before making it available in a grid-wide beta in late March.

The technology is being provided by two Linden Lab partners: Vivox and DiamondWare.

Miller said voice will be free of charge to everyone during the beta and will work on any computer that can currently run Second Life. Afterward, mainland property owners and island owners who pay the current $295 monthly maintenance fee can use the feature on their property for free.

See more CNET content tagged:
Second Life, voice chat, virtual worlds, voice, client software

18 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
SiteSticky chat has had Voice chat since 1999!
Netdive SiteSticky chat has been offering Voice chat since 2001!
Well Full-duplex firewall enabled since 2001 and semiplex since 1999. And SiteSticky offers Avatar chat and is being used by millions of people & businesses worldwide so it is well tested.
So how is it any news then that SL is going to offer Voice chat shortly!
And best of all SiteSticky is instantaneous to use, requires no 20MB download of software, you can try it here for yourself:
www.sitesticky.com
Posted by Dean_Ansari (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And Traveler has had it since 1996
How is that any post that tries to one-up the article fails to mention that Traveler pre-dated SiteSticky by 3 years with full 3D avatar chat in full-duplex and with proximity based volume control?

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.digitalspace.com/products/traveler.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.digitalspace.com/products/traveler.html</a>
Posted by TravP (6 comments )
Link Flag
Stability first, features later
&gt;&gt;Of course, as any Second Life user who has been around for a while knows, new features are often buggy or their implementation breaks some other feature.


Ever hear the phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" ? In SL's case, the system itself is broken and no attempts to fix it are being made- instead more and more new features are being added without any effort to fix the core itself.

You can add all the bling you want on a Ford Pinto with a dead engine, but all you'll end up with in the end is a shiny and pretty... dead car.

Personally, I don't want to hear the voices of those I'm chatting with. Hey- check out that cute girl AV there with the baritone voice and rather disturbing sounds in the background of their channel- um... no thanks. I'd prefer that they stay silent for my sanity.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Its not just gender you have to watch out for
My experience of chat rooms adding voice (when that was a new feature) is that it opens the door wide open to abuse based on race, ethnicity, sex and anything else someone decides to infer from the sound of the voice. So no more hiding your southern drawl or upper crust accent behind a QWERTY keyboard.

Not that you're going to want or be forced to to talk with such people, but you can say good bye to a lot of anonymity you might otherwise have. I guess the old excuse of "no microphone" will still work for a long time, hopefully until someone comes up with real time software to synthesize or disguise a voice.
Posted by whogrant (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Vista Ultimate is $400
Yet you excluded it from your comparison.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ignore that post
I posted it under the wrong tab.

PS. Voice chat might have been a news worthy feature to add back in 1998.

Voice chat has been a standard feature in several online games for many many years now.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Link Flag
enough with the second life stories
if you need news why not visit /. ?

i mean really are you guys that desparate that you need to have 2 second life articles a week?

Or are they paying you to build hype?

KieranMullen
Posted by kieranmullen (1070 comments )
Reply Link Flag
CNET has undisclosed buisness relationship
CNET has an undisclosed business relationship with Second Life and salesforce.com.

There may be other I am not aware of.

Online reporters and journalists are granted many of the same rights as real ones, but are not required to adhere to the same set of ethics when reporting.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Link Flag
I agree, enough already.
Nobody cares about the latest advances for no-life losers. One or two articles is funny -- it's always amusing to see how lame some people can be. But this is getting really old.
Posted by fcekuahd (244 comments )
Link Flag
Hear Hear!
Please CNET, Please! Enough Second Life news. The more I hear about it the less I care.
Posted by Siegfried Schtauffen (269 comments )
Link Flag
personally...
Second Life is overrated. From time to time I play Entropia Universe(<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.entropiauniverse.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.entropiauniverse.com</a>) which has a lot more options, better game play, real world currency(not to mention ATM cards so you can take out the money you earn in-world) and just recently they launched in-world banking so anyone can become a bank and loan out money to users with interest rates. Just my thoughts.

and P.S. I do not work for MindArk(owners of Entropia). I'm just a happy user. :D
Posted by dondarko (261 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SL TOO MUCH
I mean, I thought I'd reply to story simply to add a more distinct post in the hope that eventually someone on this damned sight might notice an interesting phenomenon: there's way too much SL stuff and way overhyped.
I mean come on, plenty of 3d software has had the same features - and aside from those already mentioned SideSticky, Traveler I think it was, as already stated, nearly every game has voice nowadays. Looking at EVE Online, and SCO as well!
If this site is going to continue to portray itself as peddling news, and not simply a focused lens on the same product again and again, acting as a sounding box for showing the world new features for a pretty poor application, then its really got to get it's act together.
Posted by CortalUX (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I Second the Motion
As one of the first subscribers to There.com, a *very* similar online avatar realm as SL, I'm amazed to read a story about SL getting voice. There.com had it back when I first started playing it in 2003. I agree, why so much coverage of one particular online game/world, when World of Warcraft completely dominates the MMORPGs in terms of population, popularity, and income. Yet I see SL stories every other day. Enough.
Posted by jlhatch (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
More and more MMORPGs need this!
All other MMORPGs out there, like World of Warcraft, are based on text-chat. Although most guilds will force their members to install 3rd party software like Ventrilo or Teamspeak because playing a game while typing to talk kinda sucks.

But playing a game and speaking with voice chat is a lot better!

But since these MMO games do not force voice chat, it's optional. Sometimes Teamspeak and Ventrilo don't work either.

But the best thing about voice chat is it shows who you really are. When you hear someones voice, you can see if they are nervous, or in a good mood, a bad mood... and best of all: IF THEY ARE A GIRL OR BOY IN REAL LIFE! hehe.

Don't you hate meeting someone in a MMO game that is either a girl or boy, and then if you are lucky enough to speak with them in voice chat, you find out they are the opposite sex? Well voice chat eliminates that from the start!

Go Second Life! I heard enough "weird" stuff from this game where guys pose as girls. At least Voice Chat will slowly stop these weirdness bit by bit.
Posted by jonathan_a (286 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Relax - Remember the Newswires
Most news organizations pick up stories and/or ideas from the major newswires, e.g. Associated Press and Reuters. Since Reuters has a dedicated SecondLife presence, more stories come across the wire about SecondLife.
Posted by sloban (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Nice
I think that's a pretty good feature I have SL teen will they have it for Teen? I hope they do cause it will have a better effect but it might be a little bit to much reality!
Posted by saifi450 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Voice chat will be the end of Second Life
If VC becomes the norm in Second Life, most core users will abandon it.

While there are some people who use the environment as a real life extension to chat with their real life friends. Most core users are into it for the fantasy, and to explore different identies. This will not be possible once participants are forced to use their real voice. The free style role playing and creativity that has been the magic of SL will cease.

For the most part, I do not believe that a majority of players want this feature. VC is available now, if people wanted to use it, they would be using it now as it is free and easy to obtain. Yes most over big online RP games have it, the fact that SL did not have it is one of the things that set it apart, in a good way.

Privacy issues are going to be another big problem. What is to stop anyone from recording conversations and using them at will for any purpose they like. I dont know how others feel about this, but that threat alone is enough to keep me off the grid.

In addition, it is easy right now to report verbal abuse because it can be viewed and exposed. Now, Unless the Lindens are planning to tape every word spoken on the grid, victims of abuse will be put in a postition where they have to prove there is a problem and have no way to do so.

I wonder if the people at Linden have really thought this through or if they really even understand the environement they have created.

I wish them luck, they will need it.
Posted by IsmyLife82 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.