Aside from the usual way of connecting to Second Life © (SL) on a personal computer, applications are available for connecting on the grid via mobile devices. SL Enquirer has previously reported on Pocket Metaverse for the iOS; now we will look into the Android OS and the Lumiya application. Stareyes Galaxy got herself the application and went out to test it on SL.
There are many times in life when I might want to stay in touch with my SL friends while having no access to a computer. Often, in public places, WiFi is available for free and sitting down with a cup of coffee having a chat with friends could easily be done with a mobile phone.
Lumiya is an authorized third-party viewer (TPV) for mobile Android devices. The TPV list for Android includes two other viewers as well, “LittleSight” and “Mobile Grid Client” but Lumiya seems to be more prevalent than the other two among Android users. Lumiya can be found in the “Google Play” store and it costs USD 3.46 to download. The client is 5.20 Mb in memory, so it is really a light weight application.
I tested Lumiya on an LG Nexus phone, which should provide a good performance. Unfortunately, for this article, I did not have access to an Android tablet, which might have brought on another dimension to the interaction.
The Lumiya web page says: “Stay connected with your Second Life friends while on the go. With Lumiya, you can send and receive instant messages, teleport to your favorite locations, participate in local chat, manage inventory and even see the virtual world around you in 3D.” This is a lot to promise for such a small screen. I contacted a colleague, Orchids Zenovka to help me evaluate the user experience. With her in view, I had trouble with camera controls, as all I could see, more or less was myself with my back toward the screen. I had to glance at her slightly sideways. There is a little lag with all clothing appearing a bit delayed on me, but this is pretty much the norm also for the PC experience. Apparently, I was rezzed correctly for others to see, which was confirmed by other avatars upon my asking them. Instant message (IM) chats were quite straightforward, although switching from one chat to the other required going backwards in the OS as all the shortcuts are not available for every user screen. All notices were intermingled with the IMs so it was hard to know which was which – but on the other hand, the notices showed more clearly than in the SL viewer, or Firestorm, as they stayed on in a permanent fashion. The chat can be done in a separate screen, or it can be overlaid as a semitransparent view over the 3-D view of your surroundings. Turning the phone sideways gives more lateral space to the view. The arrow keys shown on the screen can be used either for walking or changing the point of view but the usual SL way of “camming” is now done by swiping the touch screen.
There is one view that lists all the objects in view. It is theoretically possible to interact with these, but sometimes it may be hard to know what is what. Another screen has the familiar mini-map view with all the people in range. Other map features do not really show in this view. The most useful screens therefore are the 3-D view and each individual chat screen.
I tried a more challenging social situation, trying to go to a dance venue. There were maybe ten people there and it was really difficult to walk to the entrance and after that to see any of the avatars properly. Juggling IM screens was also a challenge and typing on the smartphone touch screen made my forefinger tired quite quickly. I did not even venture to try dancing at all, since for instance the pose balls I tried to reach did not show as individual objects that could have been touched.
The Android OS seems to have its internal typing predictor on at all times. I have seen this on tablets before and sometimes this is a boon, other times a frustrating feature. On the Lumiya application, typing on the screen, I found myself letting go of capitalization and punctuation quite quickly. I also started to resort to the suggestions given by the phone, typing standard language. Therefore, I felt my online persona change, which for me is quite annoying. Typing in another language presents an additional layer of difficulty, as the type predictor doesn't understand it at all and the language should be changed in the phone OS.
All in all, I found the Lumiya application to have the intrinsic value in the mobile connectivity for instant messaging on Second Life. For this feature alone, I would recommend it for Android users. On the phone-size user interface, the visual interaction is lacking in point of view and breadth of scenery and as a caveat I must say you cannot expect a full PC-style user experience on your mobile device using Lumiya. On a tablet these aspects of the viewer might prove the 3-D view to be more acceptable. Regarding messaging, it was revealing to see how the typing changed with the limited affordance of the IM screen, coupled with the operation system’s auto correction feature. Perhaps I haven’t realized that many people I talk with on SL may have to standardize their language due to this feature. Known as a stickler with regard to grammar and spelling, I may not be too quick to judge how others type, after this experience!
I wish to thank Orchids Zenovka, Justice Brentley, and Lanai Jarrico for their gracious help.