Second Life Voice Set To Leave Beta - InformationWeek

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Second Life Voice Set To Leave Beta

Users of the 3D world on Thursday will see voice included in the default client software starting around 3 p.m. Pacific.

Linden Lab says it plans to take voice out of beta and make it a part of the default Second Life viewer at about 3 p.m. Pacific today.

All points of the service are now voice-enabled by default, although people who lease server space in Second Life -- called "landowners" in Second Life jargon -- have the option to turn voice off on their parcels.

Users who log in to Second Life after about 3 pm will be asked if they want to download an optional upgrade. If they say yes, they'll get the voice client downloaded to them.

Voice has been available as part of the beta Second Life viewer -- called a "First Look" viewer -- since June 13. Some 45,000 people have tried the voice First Look, said Joe Miller, VP of platform and technology development for Linden Lab, which develops and operates Second Life.

Linden Lab began beta-testing voice on beta area of Second Life -- called the "beta grid" -- in the spring, and began activating parts of the main areas of Second Life -- called the "main grid" -- June 13, in small pieces. The last part of Second Life was lit up for voice June 27.

Voice has been somewhat controversial with the current Second Life community, with many users saying they prefer to use the current method of communication -- text chat. Those users fear that people who won't use voice in Second Life will be relegated to second-class citizens. Linden Lab has large communities of deaf and autistic users, who have been particularly concerned.

But Linden Lab counters that voice will help open Second Life to large numbers of users who prefer not to communicate in text chat -- including people with arthritis and other people who have difficulty typing.

Miller said voice will open Second Life to new kinds of entertainment and activities. Live and recorded streaming music is already extremely popular in Second Life; using the voice client, we'll see the rise of karaoke, comedy clubs, and other voice performance.

Linden Lab plans to continue to add features to voice after its launch on Thursday.

At some point following today's launch, Linden Lab plans to add controls to voice to allow moderators to control public-speaking events, selectively opening and closing the microphones of people participating in a voice conference.

Users will be able to sign up to get machine transcriptions of voice sessions, available within minutes after the end of a voice session. "These won't be usable for high-stakes legal documents, but other than that they're quite readable, and quite accurate," Miller said. "The technology has come a long way."

Other features to be added sometime after launch: Users will also be able to leave voicemail messages for each other, and also download recordings of sessions as MP3 files.

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