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Second Life Gets . . . A Second Life

For those who have ventured into Second Life, exploring the landscape and meeting others via their avatars, the wonder of a virtual world—complete with advertisements, music jams, and new buildings being constructed—are an amazing sight.

But with success comes constraint, and the limitations of Second Life’s virtual environment have been a long-standing cause for concern. The underlying technologies, perfect for initial Second Life growth, have strained under the site’s success. Some of the more obvious limitations are gathering size (despite the desire to host large parties there is a limit of less than 40 avatars joining at one place) and the video infrastructure (which has been nicely described as was the equivalent of cables held together by Band-Aids and duct tape).

Origin Digital, which announced recently its Odaptor platform for transcoding and delivering content, has taken on a part of Second Life’s video challenge.

"Think of us as a cable company for Second Life," said Origin Digital CEO Darcy Lorincz, "We’re putting an infrastructure in place that allows Second Life to deliver quality video content, without putting additional strain on its technology infrastructure, in QuickTime video or whatever format they need."

During a recent interview at IBC, I asked whether Second Life had approached Origin to find a solution or whether Origin’s initial customer base had been content owners.

"We were approached by the media companies," said Lorincz, "who wanted to have a good experience delivering consistent quality content to those using Second Life. Our approach takes care of the underlying architectural problem in the system and guarantees a better customer service experience for the consumer."

While Origin’s customers in Second Life are media companies, when asked whether the analogy of being a cable company carried forward into being a "walled garden," Lorincz said that Origin’s application service provider (ASP) model meant that it could be used for either user-generated content or more protected content.

"Second Life does not distinguish between types of content the ASP delivers," said Lorincz. "So we can choose to be more secure or open, designed to match the work flow of the customer, and Second Life’s player serves up the content without differentiating it."

"This of it this way," Lorincz continued. "Second Life builds the TV (the player) while we build out the physical plant. Just like a cable TV head-end can receive satellite signals, play videotapes or DVDs locally, or use a live studio shot, our system can ingest content from either the end user or the media company, depending on the need, and transform it into content that is viewable within Second Life."

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