New ‘Sansar’ Video Glimpses More Virtual Worlds Made on the Social VR Platform


Sansar is the next-gen virtual world platform from Linden Lab, the creator of Second Life (2003). Due to launch in Spring 2017, Sansar is a new take for the company on virtual worlds, this time built from the ground up with support for virtual reality.

There’s no denying that Linden Lab did some things right with Second Life, a $500 million GDP in 2016 is a testament to that. But they also did some things wrong, even Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg will admit.

“Between the Creator and the Consumer, Second Life never really settled on which was our primary customer,” Altberg told Road to VR in an interview at the company’s San Francisco headquarters in January.

That realization is the basis of Sansar, which represents an entirely new take on virtual worlds for the company. Unlike with Second Life, the Linden Lab is shifting away from having a single massive virtual world, choosing instead to set itself up as an enabler of creators by making Sansar a platform, rather than an all encompassing virtual landscape. More like the ‘WordPress of social virtual spaces’, the company readily compares.

That means that users will not ‘enter the world of Sansar‘ any more than they would ‘visit WordPress’ to find content online. Instead—much like accessing a website via a URL that’s built atop WordPress—users will seek out and choose to visit individual virtual worlds built atop Sansar.

Open vs Closed Metaverse: Project Sansar & The New Experiential Age

Sansar is made to serve creators, Linden Lab says; it’s the creators who will build virtual worlds that serve users and customers. At least that’s the hope.

Unlike Second Life, Sansar is built from the ground up for virtual reality. That means everything from teleporting locomotion to native support for VR motion controllers. And while the most advanced creators will build complex virtual worlds that are imported from third-party tools, Sansar does offers users the ability to acquire, rearrange, and remix pre-made assets from inside Sansar itself, including while in a virtual reality headset.

Since inviting the first creators to start building inside of Sansar all the way back in 2015, the company has kept a tight grip on what virtual worlds inside of Sansar actually look like.

A new video released by Linden Lab today (heading this article) showcases some of the first worlds made by creators who were granted access to the platform’s preview. In Spring 2017, the company plans to open the doors so that anyone will be able to download the platform and explore the worlds therein.

During my interview with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Alterberg back in January, I got to tour some of the virtual worlds build on Sansar:

Giant Movie Theater

The first place I saw was a movie theater. A massive screen sat in a vast outdoor expanse with the night sky overhead. The seats in front of the screen were mostly covered over in windswept sand; as if there was once a huge theater that had deteriorated long ago, save for the screen, seats, and a huge flight of stairs leading down to them. The screen itself really felt massive (I’ve seen a number of other movie-theater VR experience that for some reason didn’t give a good sensation of scale). The screen was streaming a video from YouTube and the audio was playing throughout the entire space. Altberg said creators will soon be able to set virtual sound sources in Sansar so that the theater could have virtual speakers from which the sound originated.

Photogrammetry Tomb

Next was an Egyptian tomb which Altberg said was a real space that had been captured with photogrammetry. As we explored the tomb’s hieroglyphic-covered corridors together it became apparent that Sansar has 3D positional audio built it, allowing me to easily tell where Altberg was even when I wasn’t looking at him. That’s important not only because it helps your mind map the space and people around you more easily (which adds to immersion), but also because in multi-user scenarios, it’ll be much easier to tell who’s talking (which is also helped by automatic lip syncing).

Videogame Village

The next space we visited was a beautiful world that looked like a mashup between the Ocarina of Time (1998) and Jackson’s Lord of the Rings aesthetic. It was a bright and cheery village full of green foliage and earthen homes built into the sides of hills; a series of small foot bridges arched across the roofs of one home to the next. The space was very dimensional, with little paths winding up hills here and there, taking us to comfortable nooks enclosed with trees. The space had a definite stylized videogame look to it, but even though it wasn’t aiming for realistic visuals, it was probably the most charming and beautiful place I saw during my tour. In the center of town we came across a big monument of a cutlass that was sticking tip-down into the ground. Water cascaded down from the handled in ordered lines, and poured into pools at the base of the monument. Although the entirety of this virtual space was uninhabited at this stage, it called out to be the starting point of a great adventure.

Learn more are Linden Lab’s Sansar ambitions in our deep dive interview.

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.

Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Michael Davidson

    This is truly beginning to look amazing; a true meta-verse is being born.

  • Xron

    Ye, hope they won’t dissapoint us. looks great.

  • OgreTactics

    Haven’t received a key yet, but from what I see…this is of course what ANY engine especially the likes of Unity or Unreal should be. I’m glad there’s finally a 3D search/drag/drop engine for VR, although graphics seems to be limited and I’m not you can import assets or materials.

    I remember having seen some similar drag’n’drop engine in the past, I wonder how this one fares

  • Foreign Devil

    Wish they would open up the Beta already! I’m looking forward to creating CG worlds/assets for this . . Hopefully it’s a bit faster to learn than games engines like UE4.

  • Sansar will fill a gap in the industry for more simpler drag n drop world design, we can see that from the video. That’s a good thing for the education and training sectors which can bring things together quickly on a multi-user platform. If you need more control or bespoke design then Unity / UE are the obvious next step options but they come with a steeper learning curve and possibly higher long term investment. I was not that impressed with the graphics in the video and heavy use of fog in almost all the shots but then this is early days before people can become masters at it. Still watching with interest.

  • Skippy76

    VRChat is already ahead of the game, excellent social interface with fun games and environments. Totally custom avatars and a great community.

  • Guesty

    Funny that British accent talking as if a revolution is a good thing, when the networking is always going to screw up the graphics. That’s why they are not calling it 3rd Life!

    • CazCore

      Second Life was one of the worst product names in all of history.
      They certainly learned that over the past 14 years.

  • Nigerian Wizard

    I’m eager to see the insane amount of autism that spawns from this. If you think goth anime furries were bad in Second Life, then you are in for a treat.

  • DinoHunter

    I don’t believe Sansar will ever come out to the public. this company if full of shit. Been 5 years they been saying its gonna get released soon. It never does!

    • CazCore

      1 month later….. open beta :)