Note: While the images in this blog post are from years ago, the content has been reviewed and updated for 2020.
If you’ve looked at heads, hands, poses, or other items in Second Life then you’ve the term Bento. But what is it exactly? And most importantly, why should you care?
No, it’s not the food packing craze! Project Bento is Linden Lab’s 2015 update to the avatar skeleton in Second Life. It added new joints, bones, and attachment points so creators have more options when designing content. This allows for smoother movement and greater customization of things like tails, hands, poses, animations, and faces. Creators have much more freedom using bento, though it’s also a more complex process. Thankfully as a consumer the most difficult part is selecting which product to purchase. A bento enabled viewer is required in order to see it in action. Most if not all viewers will have bento enabled by the time of this update (July 2020).
Bento allows Mesh facial customization by the customer like no other. You can purchase a bento head and adjust it yourself via sliders to get your own unique style. This allows for different personalities with simply one head. Once you start mix and matching skins and make up the possibilities are seemingly endless!
Bento has added 30 more bones to the face. More bones means more precision in facial animations. Animations in Second Life have always been improving upon themselves. With such a noticeable change in the facial structure we’ll notice a lot more realism in our faces. Catwa has created custom bubblegum animations for the Catya head that are a joy to watch, and that’s just the beginning. I can’t wait to see what products we’ll have in a year’s time.
Bento finally allowed avatars to move their fingers. Peace signs, flipping the bird, playing with our nails, it all became possible overnight. VISTA ANIMATIONS created their bento hands to get a head start on creating animations that utilize the new technology. Their groundbreaking Miriam Bento AO was a wonderful example of day to day hand movements fitting well into a regular Animation Overrider. The fluidity of the hands makes the entire body’s movement feel more natural.
Tails, Ears, Poses, and More!
Now that bento has been out for a few years, we’ve seen lots of applications that just weren’t common when this article was originally written. Lots of tails now use bento to make more realistic and varied movements. Ears are using bento for positioning, even on mesh. Many poses utilize bento to include facial and finger animations into their product. Even some adult companies make bento parts for 18+ avatars.
As time went on, bento became a staple in many users’ lives. I’m glad to see it’s become second nature for many instead of a source of confusion as it once was.